The Best Cultural Sites in Detroit

New York and Washington D.C. may have more cultural institutions per square mile but Detroit has plenty to offer any visitor looking for something that’s not food-, drink-, or sports-related. Start the day at the Detroit Institute of Arts, a world-class museum that almost had to sell its paintings a few years back. Luckily, you can still enjoy your Rembrandts and Rodins in peace. Take in a play or an opera or learn about the stars. You’ll need more than a day to see the cultural sites here.

5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202, USA
New York, Washington D.C., and Chicago get a lot of the good press when it comes to the arts and art museums, but the Detroit Institute of Arts helps Detroit give these cities a run for their money. The diverse collection is spread out over 100 galleries and includes African, Asian, Islamic, and modern and contemporary art (and the list goes on). But don’t ignore the local contributions to the art world. Make sure you take proper time to stand before Diego Rivera’s enormous Detroit Industry fresco to give you some historical context before exploring the rest of the city.
Eastern Market, Detroit, MI, USA
The eat-fresh, know-your-farmer trend that’s sweeping the United States hasn’t skipped over Detroit. But lest you think Eastern Market is just like the pokey farmer’s markets cropping up all over the country, know this: Eastern Market is an entire neighborhood with a goal no less grand than becoming the food district for Detroit, and doing it in a way that retains the neighborhood’s intrinsic funkiness. There’s produce aplenty at the Saturday and Tuesday farmer’s markets, but if you miss one of those days, you’re in luck: The neighborhood is stocked with butchers, bakers, fishmongers, and everything else you’d need to prepare for your next city picnic.
5020 John R St, Detroit, MI 48202, USA
The Michigan Science Center is one of Detroit’s most kid-friendly museums. Located very close to downtown, right next to the Detroit Institute of Art, it has hosted traveling exhibits like Bodies but the permanent exhibits are more than enough of a draw in and of themselves. They are divided into Space, Engineering, Motion, Health and Nutrition, and Kids Town. This latter entertains children five years and younger so that parents with older children can roam the other areas of the museum at ease. On-site is also an IMAX theater, planetarium, and laser show.
3600 Heidelberg St, Detroit, MI 48207, USA
Detroit artist Tyree Guyton took a look around his neighborhood and was unhappy with what he saw. So he decided to do something about it. The Heidelberg Project, a public art display exploding across Heidelberg Street in eastern Detroit, is the result. The outdoor community art project draws from recycled material and found objects to pose questions about urban development and other social issues to viewers and visitors. The controversial installations have been razed by authorities twice; today, the Heidelberg shop tells the history of the project and its goals through guidebooks, DVDs, and other merch.
2648 W Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI 48208, USA
The story goes that Paul McCartney was in town for a performance when he decided to make a visit to the MoTown Museum. Entering the famed Studio A he was disappointed to find its legendary Steinway Piano was out of tune and desperately in need of restoration. Soon after, the museum received a call sharing the news that Mr. McCartney desired to cover the cost of restoration, the piano was picked up, taken to New York City where it was carefully restored by Steinway and debuted at a benefit performance a year later at which McCartney was present. Now, fully restored and back in Detroit at home in Studio A, the piano is just one of the many many artifacts on display for adults, children, and all visitors to Detroit to see and learn from. Music plays a significant role in the history of the city and the museum does an excellent job of preserving and sharing that history in a compelling, fun way.
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