Most people don’t think of Detroit as a cultural destination. They would be wrong. The museums and other sites are on the level of New York or Chicago. Here are five that you must encorporate into your Detroit trip.

1. The Henry Ford

The Henry Ford houses the private collection of the Ford family. Countless cars, airplanes, trains, and other items of pure Americana greet visitors. Travel back in time with furniture from an earlier era. Watch advertisements, and gaze on iconic symbols of America from the turn of the century until now. 

When you are done, walk next door to Greenfield Village, the Colonial Williamsburg of turn of the century America, complete with a baseball field with players using equipment from back then. It’s a bit pricey, but worth it!

2. Cranbrook Institute of Science

There are science museums all over. What sets this one apart – besides it’s wonderful collections and rotating exhibits – is the people. I spent Eclipse Day at Cranbrook, milling with thousands of people waiting to look through the observatory telescopes. I settled on the grass outside for the zenith, and witnessed the museum Director, Mike Stafford, engaging with visitors. He even gave his eclipse glasses to a family without. His staff were walking around offering sunscreen to visitors unprepared for standing outside (myself included). Trust me, this does not happen at most museums out there. 

If you are planning your trip to Cranbrook, I spoke with Mr. Stafford about upcoming exhibits. The museum will host a chocolate (!!!!) exhibit this fall, and then one on Rome in January. After that, the works of Leonardo Da Vinci will be featured, starting in July. Pretty great stuff!

3. Detroit Institute of Art

This is a tale of what might not have been. When Detroit was in bankruptcy, the city was facing the possibility of having to sell the incredible collection of the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) to pay bills. The community came together to save it, and it’s a good thing they did! While smaller than the Met, the museum is every bit as impressive.

The highlight for me is easily the Diego Rivera Mural Room, floor to ceiling murals featuring the Detroit worker. Powerful, masterful, and unique!

5. Woodlawn Cemetery

As you may recall, I have a fascination with old cemeteries. This one is no exception. The monuments are mostly classical, featuring white marble and columns. The lawns are manicured, and the mausoleums are beautiful. Some of the Detroit greats are here, including the Ford family and the Dodge brothers.

However, in a small chapel near the front of the property, you will come across a tomb that everyone will want to pay homage to: that of Rosa Parks, icon of the Civil Rights movement. I’m glad to have been able to pay my respects.

5. Motown Museum

I love Motown music, and this is where it all started. Two connecting houses on Grand Avenue form the Motown Museum, though I hear there is a larger facility being built. You can only get in with a guided one hour tour, so you might want to get tickets early.

The museum traces the roots of the record label from its start, with music and memorabilia from all of the greats. The tour guides are filled with personality, and encourage guests to sing along with their favorite hits!

Detroit really has something for everyone in its cultural attractions. Plan a trip here, and enjoy this incredible and surprising city!

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