The city of Detroit, Michigan boasts deep historical significance and breathtaking scenery with many parks, as well as the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. When visiting this iconic city, you might gravitate toward renowned attractions such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Historical Museum, and the Detroit Zoo. However, the city offers numerous lesser-known, yet fascinating points of interest to visit. Nearby most Detroit vacation rentals are amazing museums, architectural wonders, and beautiful parks and gardens. That said, check out the most notable hidden gems in Detroit.
1. Stony Creek Metropark
Lovely Stony Creek Metropark lies near Stony Creek Lake on the northern outskirts of metropolitan Detroit. The park features miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking. Near the trails, observe wildlife such as deer, wild turkeys, bald eagles, and ospreys. A Nature Center offers ecological exhibits and displays of live animals such as snakes, turtles, frogs, and fish. Park interpreters take you on guided hikes and canoe voyages through the park. The park also has two beaches on the lakeside and a rental facility for canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and rowboats. In the winter, popular activities include cross-country skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and ice skating.
2. Motown Historical Museum
Located on West Grand Boulevard in the New Center neighborhood of Detroit, the Motown Historical Museum commemorates the famous record label that helped launch many musicians to stardom. Featured artists at Motown included Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, the Supremes, and Gladys Knight and the Pips. Stand in Motown’s Studio A, where these and other amazing artists recorded their music. Peruse an extensive collection of photographs, costumes, records, and other memorabilia. Among the marvels are some of Michael Jackson’s stage clothing and props, and an 1877 grand piano used by the Funk Brothers and other musicians and restored with the support of Paul McCartney.
3. Edsel and Eleanor Ford House
The Edsel and Eleanor Ford House sits on Lake Shore Drive on Lake St. Clair in northeastern Detroit. This majestic 20,000-square-foot mansion and its beautiful lakeside grounds are open for guided tours. Among the amazing amenities in the mansion are antique wood paneling, stained glass windows, sterling silver kitchen counters, and secret rooms. On the walls are original masterpieces by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Diego Rivera, Renoir, and Cezanne. Around the lush, extensive gardens are a swimming pool, a man-made lagoon, a reflecting pool, a rose garden, and a playhouse.
4. Lake St. Clair Metropark
Lake St. Clair Metropark, also known as Metro Beach Metropark, lies on the western shore of Lake St. Clair on the northeastern edge of Detroit. The paved trail following the lakeshore is perfect for walking, jogging, and cycling. Watch warblers, hummingbirds, waterfowl, and many other species of birds in the meadows, woodlands, and marshlands around the park. Fish from the shoreline for bass, perch, walleye, and pike. Besides a long sandy beach, the park has a swimming pool with waterslides and a Squirt Zone Spray Ground for younger kids. To aid in your family fun, Simple Adventures at the Lake St. Clair Metropark Beach Shop rents stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and bicycles.
5. Pewabic Pottery
Pewabic Pottery lies on East Jefferson Avenue near the Detroit River waterfront. This iconic ceramic studio and museum is a National Historic Landmark, and its gorgeous tiles adorn many famous buildings in Detroit such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, and the Belle Isle Aquarium. Tours highlight the history of the studio and take you behind the scenes to watch experts making ceramics in the clay-making area, glaze room, and kiln room. The gallery displays some of the studio’s singular and magnificent artwork. The studio also offers hands-on workshops so you can try out the pottery-making process.
6. Ford Piquette Avenue Plant
Located in the Milwaukee Junction area near downtown Detroit, the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant is a museum within the factory that produced the first of the iconic Ford Model T cars. Besides replicas of Henry Ford’s office and the Model T designing room, the museum features over 40 vintage automobiles from the Ford Motor Company and other auto manufacturers from the Detroit area. Among the exhibits is one of the few surviving Model T cars that were built at the factory in late 1908. Other cars on display are runabouts, touring cars, town cars, and speedsters from 1903 to 1931.
7. Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, also known as the Belle Island Conservatory, lies on Belle Isle in the Detroit River between the city of Detroit and Canada. Established in 1904, it is the country’s oldest continually-running conservatory. The conservatory occupies a majestic Horticultural Building and adjacent grounds, and the collection is divided into five sections. The Cactus House features cactuses and succulents, while the Palm House has palms and other trees. The Tropical House displays plants that grow food such as figs, oranges and bananas. The Show House has changing displays of flowering plants, and the Fernery offers the humidity and cooler conditions to enable ferns to thrive. Outside is a lily pond garden as well as multiple green houses with orchids, bromeliads, and other exotic plants.
8. Dossin Great Lakes Museum
Located on The Strand on the Detroit River shoreline on Belle Isle, the fascinating Dossin Great Lakes Museum features exhibits on the maritime history of the region. The displays include the restored pilot house of the Great Lakes freighter S.S. William Clay Ford, a record-breaking hydroplane speedboat called the Miss Pepsi, a Coast Guard utility boat, and a number of historic anchors. Memorabilia and photos trace the importance of Detroit as a maritime city. The museum also houses one of the largest collections of model ships in the country.
9. Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
The breathtakingly beautiful Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge lies on the southern edge of Detroit amidst islands, marshes, and coastal wetlands on the west bank of the Detroit River. Activities in the refuge include observation of wildlife such as great blue herons, common egrets, spotted sandpipers, wood ducks, and many other species of birds. Offshore fishing and bank fishing at certain permitted locations yields smallmouth bass, walleye, and other game fish.
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