Often the first thing tourists think when they visit a new city is, “how do I NOT look like a tourist?” It’s a fair, completely understandable question. Yes, as a new visitor you absolutely should check out iconic destinations like the DIA and Campus Martius, but if you have a free day to play in Detroit the way the locals do, then this itinerary is for you!
From lunch to the late evening, here’s the optimal schedule for a tourist trying to hang with the locals — just don’t print it out and bring it with you, that is the ultimate tourist move.
Your Local Detroit Itinerary
10 am: Brunch at Honest? John’s
Honest? John’s is a cozy bar and restaurant in Midtown that serves a fabulous, home-style brunch. The vibe is welcoming and relaxed. It’s the perfect way to fuel up for the day without overdoing it. Try the delicious chicken and waffles or the mouth-watering corn-beefed hash.
11:30 a.m.: Walk down West Canfield Road
Your average tourist does not know about this strip of historic homes lining the west end of West Canfield Road in Midtown. You’ll often find locals taking their daily stroll admiring these beautiful Victorian homes that housed middle class families in the late 1800s. After you’re finished at Honest Johns, head north up Second Ave. and take a moment to walk down this granite-stoned street with honey locust trees touching above you.
12 p.m.: Walk up the Detroit International RiverWalk/ Dequindre Cut
Let’s stay active and work off a little bit of that amazing brunch. The Riverwalk might seem like a tourist destination, but it in fact is one of the most frequented spots by locals. The RiverWalk offers up some gorgeous sights, and a clean, well-maintained walkway thanks to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. Along the path you’ll see locals lounging in lawn chairs and blasting some funky tunes from giant speakers attached to low-riding bikes – no joke! There are all sorts of fun things to see on the RiverWalk (even a carousel and waterpark for the kiddies), so I’d be remiss not to include this on the schedule. And the Dequindre Cut is not far off from the Riverwalk – head through the Orleans Landing apartment complex you can walk through the green space that leads you right to Eastern Market. Be sure to admire the murals along the way.
1:30 p.m.: Eastern Market and Lunch
Head northeast and visit Eastern Market. Spanning six sheds and offering plenty of restaurants and shops, Eastern Market is one of the oldest and largest public markets in the U.S. With fresh produce, cool art, plant life, and antiques, the livelihood of Detroit can really be felt throughout its interconnected, vibrant sheds. Wander around, take in the smells and order a coffee or delicious pastry; there are plenty of vendors to choose from so you won’t leave disappointed. Try lunch at Supino Pizzeria, a local favorite serving inspired pizza.
3 p.m.: Belle Isle Beach and Hipster Beach
As Detroit’s most beautiful park, you are always going to see locals hanging around here, but the beach is where everyone goes for some river-view bliss at the edge of a hot, blistering city in the summer. Families and people of all ages frequent the large and lovely beach located on the north side of the island. A younger crowd often hangs at Hipster beach just around the bend near the lighthouse. There you’ll find a rope swing and beer drinking.
5:30 p.m.: Dinner at Yemen Cafe
Time to check out a city-within-the-city of Detroit, Hamtramck. Yemen Café is an absolute must for dinner, and it largely goes unnoticed by tourists. It’s affordable, filling and has a diner feel that evokes a feeling of home and familiarity. I recommend the Fasah, a delicious stew served piping hot in a stone bowl with your choices of chicken, beef or lamb. Fill up on garlic sauce, shawarma and rice and let’s get this night on a roll!
7 p.m.: Show at Planet Ant
While we’re in the area, get your entertainment fix for the night at one of Detroit’s best local and underground theaters, Planet Ant. Whether it’s improv or standup comedy, a play, or music, there is always a show to see at this intimate venue. It’s a great spot for locals and for getting a radar on local talent. Embedded right on the edge of Hamtramck’s picturesque neighborhoods on Caniff Street, this is a touchstone of the city for sure. Fun fact: Keegan Michael Key is an alumnus.
9:30 p.m.: Temple Bar
A Detroit staple often-frequented by locals, Temple Bar is the perfect late nightspot to drink, socialize and dance. The jukebox has everything from Janet Jackson to Johnny Cash, and the low ceilings and wood paneled walls and floors give the bar a grungy but sleek vibe.
10:30 p.m.: Marble Bar
A fantastic bar in Detroit’s Northwest Goldberg neighborhood for local DJs and music acts. You can dance the night away at Marble Bar if you please. It hosts a convivial crowd so you’re sure to make friends and the bar crafts delicious cocktails and offers a wide selection of brews.
11:30 p.m.: Green Dot Stables
One of the few eateries in the city open late, Green Dot serves perfect finger-licking late-night food located off Lafayette near the Ambassador Bridge. It’s mostly sliders, but the variety is out of this world. Try the Lansing Hot Chicken, the classic cheeseburger or the Korean slider. They also serve fries of the truffle, Cajun, poutine and venison chili cheese varieties. Not to mention sides like mac and cheese and sweet potato salad. The list goes on and on and you will not be disappointed ending your night here. The food is cheap and undeniably delicious.
Wow what a day we’ve had! Look at you, fitting right in with the locals knowing all the spots that are worth your money and time. There are plenty of hidden gems not listed. Ask the locals, and you’re sure to find some more well kept secrets of the city that are worth your time.