Things to Do in Southeast Michigan

The suburbs of southeast Michigan, outside of Detroit, are a destination worthy of any traveler’s time. Don’t limit yourself only to the city if you find yourself in this area of the Midwest.

20900 Oakwood Blvd, Dearborn, MI 48124, USA
At Greenfield Village, part of The Henry Ford, the goal is to recreate what life was like in the early days of the United States of America. That goal is more than accomplished through the historic structures, activities, and even the work of the actors and employees who populate the 240 acres that make up the Village, which was founded on October 21, 1929. It’s not just American history that’s highlighted, as some structures, like the Cotswold Cottage and the Swiss Cottage, represent the cultures of other countries. Every year the Village also hosts the World Series of Historic Baseball. There are working farms, and craftsmen still create with traditional methods, such as glass blowing and metalworking. Inventors and important historical figures are also highlighted, such as the Wright Brothers, Henry Ford himself, Thomas Edison, and Abraham Lincoln.
Greenfield Village, Dearborn, MI 48124, USA
The Henry Ford Museum is a vast playground for history buffs, children, and couples looking for an unusual date. The collection that was started by Henry Ford himself now contains an estimated 26 million artifacts in displays and collections that both educate and inspire. Highlights include: the Rosa Parks bus, John F. Kennedy’s limousine, a working vintage diner, steam engines, the only Dymaxion House in existence, original Model Ts, and scores of other vintage American and imported vehicles, among them the Weinermobile. Don’t miss Abraham Lincoln’s chair and the Wright Brothers’ plane as well. Children four and under are admitted free, tickets for youth five to 12 are $12.50, and adults are $17.00. Packages are also available that include overnight stays and many restaurants and cafes are on site, with much of the produce used grown on-site in the attached gardens. An IMAX theater is also attached to the museum. Plan for at least a day in the museum, as anything less wouldn’t quite do the vast collection justice.
29110 Franklin Rd, Southfield, MI 48034, USA
What sets Pizzeria Biga apart from other Italian restaurants and pizza parlors is the care that goes into their menu and the daily creation of the dishes and pizzas that exit their kitchen. Yet that same care starts long before the wood fired ovens are even lit. Head chef Luciano Del Signore developed a type of yeast with which to make his dough that allows for the absence of sugar, the inclusion of a probiotic, and results a perfectly charred Napoletana pizza pie. Many who struggle with gluten and wheat sensitivities will likely find that his pizza doesn’t bother them. Small plates and an excellent craft beer menu are also tempting but the pizza is the real star of the simple yet extensive menu. I also enjoyed their arugula salad, meatballs, and risotto balls. The large selection of toppings really pleased me as well. However, it’s the basil ice cream and the house-made pistachio gelato that I am still craving days later.
19949 West 12 Mile Road, Southfield, MI 48076, USA
Right on Evergreen Road in the middle of Southfield, in a busy section of office buildings and hotels, the Mary Thompson Farmhouse and still-working farm presents a chance for the visitor to imagine exactly what life was like before the skyline became dominated by steel and glass. For many years, Mary was a school teacher in New Jersey and Florida. However, later in life, she lived in the farmhouse and it was bequeathed to the city upon her passing, with the stipulation that it be forever preserved. It’s truly unusual for a historical site because of the working nature of the property and its proximity to such a thriving urban center. Tours are available and more information can be obtained by calling (248) 354-4711.
245 South Eton Street
Head Chef Brian Henson was recently named Chef of the Year by the Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association. He heads a kitchen that serves a restaurant known as one of the premier dining destinations in Metro Detroit. A former train depot, it bears comparison to a similar restaurant in Birmingham, England. An underground wine cellar provides an intimate space for a group to commemorate a special occasion, or a quiet meal away from the main dining areas. The cigar lounge is ideal for after work, and in summer the best place to enjoy a meal at Big Rock is on the outdoor patio or stone terrace. Big Rock brews their own beer in an adjoining 1,950-square-foot space. An expertly assembled wine list is also available.
419 S Main St, Royal Oak, MI 48067, USA
Bastone Brewery occupies a corner in downtown Royal Oak that includes not just the Belgian brewery and dining room, but also the underground bar, Craft, as well as Vinotecca wine bar and a Belgian-inspired menu in the restaurant, Monk. As the name suggests, beer is brewed on site, but that’s only one of the many reasons you should get yourself to Bastone for an evening of good drinks, great food, and a lively atmosphere.
410 S Washington Ave, Royal Oak, MI 48067, USA
The Morton brothers opened Lily’s in 1999 in the spirit of their grandmother, who greatly influenced them to a love of food and an appreciation of family. Modeled after her home, the dining room is a cozy place to spend an evening enjoying fine food cooked with love, surrounded by the ones you love. Menu highlights include Stuffed Pork Chops, steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels with Huntsman Cheese and Salmon Hash and Eggs. Sunday Brunch is a favorite with locals.
215 E 4th St, Royal Oak, MI 48067, USA
Just one block east of bustling Main Street, Royal Oak Brewery is still in the middle of the action. With six to seven fresh beers on tap daily, Royal Oak is a local favorite, and quite popular with visitors to Michigan as well. No doubt this is in part because guests can interact with brewer Tom Selewski while enjoying a pint of the house ale or lager.
215 W Troy St, Ferndale, MI 48220, USA
Rose Szwed has been leading lively and engaging bus tours with ‘Step On’ in Michigan and Ohio for more than 10 years. I recommend the tour of Detroit’s historic East Side neighborhoods, which includes homes on Lakeshore Drive and a tour of Belle Isle. Lunch is also provided and typically takes you on a tour as well, featuring one of Detroit’s most unusual locations.
The Chamber Music Society of Detroit plays at a revolving list of nine venues in Southeast Michigan during a series of events throughout the year, such as the Sunday Recital Series, Signature Chamber Series, Listen at the Library, and CMSD in Depth. Fans of classical music should not miss the chance to catch a performance of this world-class group that has been performing since 1945.
575 South Eton Street
Located in Birmingham’s emerging Rail District, Griffin Claw is the new home of the Big Rock Chop House brewmaster, Dan Rogers. A traditional outdoor biergarten is the best place to enjoy a flight or sample a few different beers during the warmer months. The indoor taproom welcomes locals and visitors year-round.
39221 Woodward Ave, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304, USA
On the first Friday of each month, Cranbrook’s Science Institute is open free after 5:00 p.m. It’s a chance to roam with dinosaurs, gaze at stars through powerful telescopes, chill out in the ice age exhibit, learn more about the history and cultures of American Indian peoples, dig into anthropology, study minerals, and better understand water—amongst a few other things! It’s a diverse collection of learning experiences unlike any other place in Michigan. It’s remarkably hands on, and, while targeted at children, incredibly fun for adults as well.
39221 Woodward Ave, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304, USA
The Cranbrook Educational Community is one of the most revered names in Michigan, and under the umbrella of that name is an art museum, a secondary school, a graduate program, the institute of science, a research center, and historic homes with extensive gardens. The Cranbrook Art Museum was one of the earliest institutions in the U.S. to feature contemporary art. A few of the more recent exhibitions have included the works of George Nelson, the Italian design factory Alessi, and Danish ceramist Anders Ruhwald. There is also an annual graduate students’ art show. Even the building that houses the esteemed museum is worth a visit, with its mixture of neoclassical, art deco, and contemporary architectural details.
29101 Greenfield Rd, Southfield, MI 48076, USA
A fresh movement has begun in Detroit, where urban gardens are replacing empty lots and chefs are sourcing food from vendors close enough that they can walk to pick up their produce. However, Lorraine Platman was using local ingredients and cooking fresh, healthy food long before the current trend was even a seed in the ground. Southfield is the location of the original Sweet Lorraine’s, though she now has more than one location in Southeast Michigan. Each carries her signature decor, bold and bright with hand painted murals by local artists, and her unmistakeable menu. Start by ordering the Grilled Tenderloin Steak Salad with artisan bleu cheese, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, spiced walnuts, organic greens, and Sriracha hot chili aioli. For a main, try the Traverse City Chicken and Gorgonzola Pasta sautéed with Michigan cherries, spinach, and spiced walnuts. Because she started with baked goods, dessert should never be skipped when you dine at Sweet Lorraine’s. Unless you want to make your dessert her fabulous ‘mac n’ cheez’ with truffle and mushrooms! If you’re in need of a great brunch, Sweet Lorraine’s delivers on that as well. The Cancun Burrito Scramble and New Orleans Frittata are terrific choices. Lorraine has also paid attention and now offers full menus of gluten-free options. There’s something for everyone and the lively atmosphere will ensure a memorable evening.
28123 Orchard Lake Rd, Farmington Hills, MI 48334, USA
There are museums and centers scattered around the United States that deal with the tragedy of the Holocaust. What sets the Farmington Hills Holocaust Memorial Center apart from other such establishments is that here, the focus is on highlighting the stories of great strength, courage, and righteousness that also need to be told. For more than 25 years the center has been educating area school children, locals, and many, many visitors in a positive and affirming way. It gives those who visit the center the chance to pause and reflect while carrying something away from their experience that may change their lives for the better. It doesn’t downplay the horror of the Holocaust, instead it respectfully tells the stories that so many other places and people have not.
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