51 Free Things to do in Detroit

When you think of having a great time in the city, you likely also think the cost. Detroit is a breed all its own, offering a wide variety of things to do for absolutely nothing! This culturally diverse mecca is full of art and history. It’s true that there’s an inexplicable vibe that you just have to experience. Detroit is a city that has seen some seriously hard times, but it’s going through a rebirth, and it’s beautiful to watch and to be a part of. The city is preserving its rich past and developing a bright future all at the same time. There is something new to do every weekend, so why not go exploring? Here are 51 free things to do in Detroit.

  1. Check out MOCAD (Museum Of Contemporary Art Detroit), which showcases the best in edgy contemporary art in all forms.
  2. Go see the historic Pewabic Pottery (the landmark, the art, and the people who make it) in Detroit’s Jefferson Corridor.
  3. Rivard Plaza has a little bit of everything, including a carousel, a playground, and pretty cool granite map of Detroit.
  4. While you’re down there, walk the Riverfront, where you can look across the water to Windsor as you stroll.
  5. Explore the Detroit Institute of Arts. The building will leave you awestruck, the collection of art is breathtaking, and it’s all free to enjoy for residents of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties.
  6. Hang out at Campus Martius where there is always something going on! This oasis in the center of the city hosts an ice skating rink and fabulous Christmas tree in the winter, and a grassy lawn and sandy “beach” in the summer.
  7. Wander through Eastern Market. With so much to do, you won’t know where to begin! This series of historic buildings, complete with vivid modern murals, comes alive with local vendors and performers every weekend, rain or shine.
  8. Visit any of the fun splash pads the area has to offer! Heritage Park in Farmington Hills is one of the best.
  9.  Cranbrook Institute of Science is free on the first Friday of the month, after 5:00 p.m. Planetarium shows come at an additional cost.
  10. Tour the Sanders Chocolate Factory. This one’s a solid 40-minute drive from Detroit proper, but seeing the birth of this famous candy (and sampling it) is worth it!
  11.  Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum is a once in a lifetime experience. You won’t find anything so creepy and nostalgic anywhere else! It costs money to play the games, but seeing these things in person will be entertainment enough!
  12. Peruse any one of the area’s fantastic farmer’s markets. Farmington has a great one with tons of variety, entertainment for kids, and live music.
  13. Browse the Detroit Antique Mall, where you’re bound to find some pretty unique stuff.
  14. Travel back in time at the Detroit Historical Museum.
  15. Tour the most popular building in Detroit: the GM Renaissance Center
  16. Stroll Hart Plaza. Even if a summer concert or festival isn’t taking place there, the views of both Canada and downtown Detroit are stunning. It may be known for its massive fountain and sculptures, but it’s got grassy areas with shade trees, too, perfect for a picnic.
  17. If you have a Michigan Recreation Passport, Belle Isle State Park is free to enjoy. Complete with an aquarium, nature center, trails, playgrounds, food vendors, and even a sandy, waterfront picnic area some use as a beach, there’s no shortage of fun things to do there.
  18. Stop and smell the roses at Royal Oak In Bloom, the annual garden market with more than 60 vendors.
  19. Browse the Detroit Mercantile Co. where you’ll find both old and new treasures from around the state.
  20. Hamtramck Disneyland is a must-see! This outdoor art installation is situated atop two garages in a tightly packed residential neighborhood. The brightly colored, whimsical sculptures are the work of a retired GM employee who has passed away. The community is doing everything they can to keep his legacy alive.
  21. Enjoy Winter Blast, a free festival complete with music, games, and even marshmallow roasting, all in the heart of the city.
  22. Take a one of a number of tours with Experience Detroit. The city is full of fascinating art, culture, architecture, and history. Photography is welcome (and you’ll definitely want to bring a camera).
  23. The Detroit Jazz Festival is world renowned and has been celebrated downtown for more than 37 years! It’s a family and budget-friendly way to kick back on Labor Day weekend.
  24. Bicycle the Dequindre Cut, a two-mile, urban recreational path.
  25. Browse the Michigan’s largest used and rare bookstore, John K. King.
  26. Hang out in Greektown at sundown during summer weekends. Expect street performers, live music, and even activities for kids.
  27. Attend Dally in the Alley, Detroit’s largest community festival, that’s an art and music festival combined.
  28. Watch America’s Thanksgiving Parade live as it makes its way down historic Woodward Avenue, the same way it has since 1924!
  29. Then, go behind the scenes with a Parade Studio Tour!
  30. Catch a movie outdoors at New Center Park.
  31. Stroll the beautiful Detroit Public Library on Woodward.
  32.  Have your picture taken with the giant tigers outside of Comerica Park.
  33. Go to the Old Tigers Stadium.
  34. Check out the MBAD African Bead Museum, which includes 18 outdoor installations, the African Bead Gallery, N’kisi House and the African Language Wall.
  35. Take a group bike ride with Slow RollCritical Mass, or Fender Bender.
  36. Visit a cider mill. A short drive from Detroit, you’ll find both Franklin Cider Mill and Yates Cider Mill, and both are fall favorites.
  37. Volunteer at one of Detroit’s many fabulous non-profit organizations, like The NOAH Project, which stands for Networking, Organizing, and Advocating for the Homeless.
  38. Hang out in a “cat café.” Lounge with literal cool cats, who happen to be up for adoption, in Ferndale’s Catfe.
  39. Window shop the Rust Belt Market, a hip, warehouse space housing artist-made and vintage wares. It’s also an event space, coffee shop, and bar.
  40. Take a peek inside the Detroit Artist’s Market, a non-profit contemporary art gallery.
  41. Use the free WiFi inside Five15 in Royal Oak. The Drag Queen BINGO there may not be free, but this coffee shop, café, and retail store combined is chock-full of hilarious items guaranteed to make you laugh to the point of tears!
  42. See one of the world’s largest art dealers for yourself at the Park West Gallery. If you’ve ever taken a cruise, you’ve probably seen their on-ship galleries.
  43. Check out what’s happening at the Cobo Center.
  44. Kids Bowl Free is a program that gives children two free games daily all summer long at participating locations near Detroit.
  45. Sing your heart out at any one of Detroit’s epic karaoke bars, like Northern LightsOn the Rocks, or Dino’s.
  46. Get into the holiday spirit on Noel Night, an evening of horse-drawn carriages, family crafts, and musical performances in Detroit’s Cultural Center. 
  47. Watch the Ford Fireworks along the Detroit River in June.
  48. The Woodward Dream Cruise is uniquely Detroit. This car show (more like parade) brings in the most amazing vehicles from around the globe!
  49. Go sledding on any one of these awesome sled hills in Metro Detroit.
  50. Have your picture taken while fist bumping Joe Louis’ arm in downtown Detroit.
  51. Take a ride through Detroit on the People Mover. (At 75 cents, it may not be free, but it’s as close as it gets these days!)

So, what are you going to do first? Been to Detroit, or familiar with the city? Drop me a line below letting me know some of your favorite things to do there! And, if there is a free activity that should be on this list, let me know!

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