Women solo travelers, don’t miss this comprehensive guide to the best eats, art, and stays in Detroit, Michigan!

Thinking of traveling solo to Detroit? There is truly no better time to check out Motor City!

Hey there, solo travel lovers — Detroit is here and ready for you. Voted by TIME Magazine as one of the World’s Greatest Places, there is a growing global recognition that Detroit, with its rebirth, is a great getaway for travelers looking for something new.

I’ll be honest — it’s true that Detroit has the reputation of being sometimes unapproachable. The saying, “Lock the doors and roll up the windows,” has been a long-standing comment from visitors and residents alike. But the city is making a comeback and it is now gaining positive reviews for its attractions and safety.

If you haven’t added Detroit to your solo travel bucket list, you should. It’s a perfect getaway for a solo woman traveler looking for a new place for an adventure. Plus, it features luxurious hotels and charming attractions that rival other major US cities. I’ve explored many of them by myself.

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Solo Travel in Detroit: A Walking Guide

View of Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. Photo courtesy of Leslie Cieplechowicz.
View of Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. Photo courtesy of Leslie Cieplechowicz.

Detroit is a city with alluring parks tucked here and there, just waiting for a stroll.

International Riverwalk

One of the largest is the International Riverwalk, a series of parks spanning 5.5 miles, snaking from the Ambassador Bridge down to Belle Isle. The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, a 501(c)3 organization, realized early on the importance of preserving public access to the river and enhancing its beauty. The Riverwalk was voted number one in the country by USA Today in 2023 and is one of my favorite places to walk with my two shepherds. It is active 24 hours a day and well lit. At the numerous parks, security is a visible presence.

Cullen Plaza

One of the busiest places along this ribbon of land is the Cullen Plaza. With spacious parking and a building housing a food vendor along with restrooms, this park is a perfect place to see the beauty of the Detroit and Windsor skyline. The park also boosts a whimsical carousel with colorful water dwelling creatures that are indigenous to the Detroit River, just beckoning you for a ride. The Cullen Family Carousel was created by Briggs Design and handcrafted specifically for the Detroit Riverfront.

Belle Isle

Palm trees at the Belle Isle Conservancy.
Belle Isle Conservancy. Photo by Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash

An absolute gem of Detroit is Belle Isle, a 982-acre state-owned island park sitting in the Detroit River and accessible by the historic 2,193-foot MacArthur Bridge built in 1923 with its 19 arches. On the island are multiple biking and hiking paths looping around wetlands, forests, and historical Detroit architecture.

The James Scott Memorial Fountain, constructed in 1925 with a diameter of 510 feet, is guarded by stone lions and playful angels. The remains of the zoo still can be viewed along the wooded river path along with vintage casino whose facade harkens to a former time. Beaches and parks areas are strewn throughout the island along with a municipal golf course. The oldest aquarium can be found here with its intricate exterior and bright lime tile on the inside.

If you want to get lost in fauna from around the world, go to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory from 1904, the oldest in the nation.

Resting on the island is the old Belle Isle Police Station with large grand doors for police horses, built to maintain order on isle. In 1928, a dispatch was established, and radio calls were broadcast. In 2014, when the island was taken over as a state park, conservation officers and state troopers now keep the peace.

Another historic fixture is the Detroit Yacht Club, established in 1868, perched on the north side of the island. The building sits on its own man-made private island and was designed by George D. Mason, in the classic Mediterranean Revival style. Other features of the isle are a golf range, a historic casino, and the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, highlighting the history of the Great Lakes. On the northern side of the isle, I have captured the Detroit skyline along with the Ambassador Bridge highlighted by a rising sun.


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Campus Martius Park

Located in the heart of Detroit, Campus Martius Park is a lively public square framed by iconic skyscrapers which hosts events throughout the year, from ice skating in the winter to movie nights during the summer. I have photographed its beautiful bubbling fountain, rested on one of its benches, and just absorbed the vibrant city life. During the holidays, the park is festooned in Christmas lights that sparkle in the night and a large, decorated tree standing stately above its seasonal ice rink.

John King Book Store

Books lined up on shelves at the John King Book Store in Detroit, Michigan. Photo courtesy of Leslie Cieplechowicz.
John King Book Store. Photo courtesy of Leslie Cieplechowicz.

The John King Book Store  was established in 1965 in Dearborn, Michigan, and moved to Detroit in 1971. In 1983, King purchased an abandoned glove factory to house the store which currently holds over a million books.

I love browsing the aisles and smelling the old tomes. To walk into the store is like taking a walk back in time and leaving the digital age behind while immersing yourself in row upon row of printed tomes illuminated by the splices of light cutting through the heavy glass factory windows.

Interesting merchandise, such as antique statues and faded comics, nestle among the books, and the stairwells are decorated with artwork from local artists and old prints.

Glass cases bathed in soft light highlight antiques from eras past and the smell of forgotten memories permeates every level. The store harkens to crime movies of the past where the protagonist yanks a volume off the shelf and flips through its pages to solve a mystery. The John King Book Store is a delight for anyone who loves the feel and smell of old stories.

Monroe Midway

The Monroe Midway, at 22 Monroe Street, is a huge outdoor park with a roller rink, four half basketball courts, a multi-use sports court, and beautiful artwork from noted artists, such as muralist Phill Simpson and contemporary Olivia Guterson. There is no entrance fee and roller skating is only $13, including skate rental. Enjoy the fresh air or play under the stars while listening the songs spun by local DJs.


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Detroit Renaissance Center

Three black towers of the Detroit Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan. Photo by GV Chana on Unsplash.
Detroit Renaissance Center. Photo by GV Chana on Unsplash.

The Detroit Renaissance Center (for which construction began in 1971), with its three shimmering glass towers, is one of the most recognizable structures on the city’s skyline. Its hotel tower, now part of the Marriott, is still the tallest building in Michigan.

In 1996, the “RenCen” was purchased by General Motors and became the company’s headquarters. The complex is so large, with 14-acres of offices, restaurants, and shops, that it has its own zip code. I have ridden the exterior elevators up to the Highlands Detroit on the 71st and 72nd floors and enjoyed the panoramic view of the city while enjoying a cocktail.

Hart Plaza

Hart Plaza borders the Renaissance Center with the Detroit River flowing on their southsides. Opened in 1975, the plaza contains the famous Horace E. Dodge and Son Memorial Fountain, whose silvery circle spouts water onto the hot pavement to cool river walkers. Hart Plaza hosts numerous festivals throughout the summer, including the Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival, with its spectacular, striking display of vibrant fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July. A large, open amphitheater provides the stage and seating for these celebrations and its backdrop is a wonderful view of downtown.

Guardian Building

Another extraordinary building to visit in Detroit is the Guardian Building built during the roaring twenties. Its architect, Wirt C. Rowland, got inspiration from Native American and Aztec peoples to create a bold, colorful brick and terracotta structure whose splendid details are continued from its exterior to its interior. Shops are located inside, and while browsing what they have to offer, you can take in the arched ceilings highlighted with brilliant tiles and painted murals, crafted by over forty artists.

Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum

To take a step back into Michigan history, there is no better place than Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum. The village is in Dearborn bordering Detroit. Peer into the glass cases to learn about the automotive history of Detroit then head to the outdoors to enjoy a whole village set in early American times. The village sprawls across 200 acres and has such notable places as Thomas Edison’s workshop highlighting all his innovations and Liberty Craftworks where skilled artisans utilize authentic techniques to create gorgeous period pieces such as pottery and glasswork.


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Taste of Detroit: Where Solo Travelers Can Find Detroit’s Best Eats

Eastern Market

Bright mural in Eastern Market, Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Kenny Elshoff on Unsplash
Eastern Market, Detroit. Photo by Kenny Elshoff on Unsplash.

If you want a taste of Detroit, there is no better place than the Eastern Market.

Established over 150 years ago, the market is a wonderful place to savor the cuisine from the local restaurants, sink your teeth into sugary confections from the Milano Bakery, inhale the scents of colorful produce and vibrant flowers, or attend cultural events that promote local artists and businesses.

As you stroll through the market sheds, with the bustling crowds, gaze upon the numerous murals splashed upon the brick walls.

The market is open year-round on Saturdays and in the summer, on the weekends and Tuesday. Many of the businesses surrounding the market are open seven days a week where the locals buy their groceries or have a snack.

If you love gardening, in May, the market hosts flower day, where you can pick up flats and pots of every bloom you desire. The market is one of my favorite places to shop for fresh produce and meats.

Greektown

Greektown, located on Monroe Street, between Brush and St. Antoine Streets, is a vibrant cultural center with delicious food, a glittering Greektown casino, and historic Greek décor. You can stroll the street under sparkly white lights while inhaling the heavenly aromas of dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaves), and saganaki, a flaming Greek cheese that when lit by the servers is accompanied by an “Opa!”

You can the head on indoors, into the multistoried 1850s-era building with its tiers of shops bathed in golden light, hovering over the entrance of the casino. I have been frequenting this area for decades with my family. We love to go for the moussaka (eggplant and beef).

American Coney Island | 114 W. Lafayette

Another notorious food that Detroit is known for is the Coney Island hot dog, a frankfurter smothered in onions, cheese, and chili on a soft, white bun, one of my favorite indulgences.

American Coney Island steals the honors for being the first Coney Island restaurant in Michigan. With its bold, retro blue and crimson awning and black-and-white linoleum floor, you feel like you have stepped into the past when you visit.

Enjoy the classic coney cuisine with a side of crispy, golden fries while watching people stroll down the boulevard.

Louisiana Creole Gumbo | 2830 Gratiot

Louisiana Creole Gumbo established in 1970, is a hole-in- the-wall restaurant that is my favorite for authentic Cajun food from old family recipes. Grab some savory seafood gumbo, a delicious shrimp poboy, or some spicy jambalaya after checking out the Eastern market or cruising down Gratiot.

Mexican Town

Mexican Town, located at Bagley and 24th, sprawls down Vernor Highway around Waterman Street. It is a down-to-earth neighborhood with Hispanic roots extending from the 1920s. Here you can get a Latino infusion of culture and art along with traditional Mexican cuisine, from tacos to tamales. If you have a sweet tooth, the area hosts many bakeries who serve up divine concoctions such as tres leches cake, an ultra-fluffy sponge cake made with three milks and topped with whipped cream and cinnamon. Mexican town also has many beautiful murals adorning its buildings from famous Latino artists for your viewing pleasure.

Mom’s Spaghetti | 2131 Woodward Ave

Opened in 2021, Mom’s Spaghetti is the famous rapper Eminem’s creation. The name of the business comes from his hit, 8 Mile Road, a well-known road that serves as the border between Detroit and the northern suburbs. Serving homemade cooking, the restaurant has an earthy, retro style. You can grab a plate of spaghetti while gazing out at Woodward and the glimmer of the city lights in downtown.

Jacoby’s Bar | 624 Brush St

Built in 1904 which is emblazed across its exterior sidewall, Jacoby’s Bar lets you get your German on with its authentic biergarten. Under the warm glow reflected from the golden metal ceiling, select from the latest brews scrawled on the oval blackboard swinging overhead. I have sipped on a bottle while enjoying the cozy ambience. Sit at the bar stacked with liquors ready for shots, or crowd around a long table, biergarten style and make some new friends.


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Detroit’s Art Scene: Top Picks for Solo Travelers

If you’re an art lover (and even if you’re not), Detroit has a major art scene that’s not to be missed. From the gorgeous ceramics of Pewabic Pottery to the protest art of the Heidelberg Project and beyond, wandering the art of Detroit is a perfect activity for a solo traveler.

Pewabic Pottery

Pewabic Pottery is a National Historic Landmark founded in 1903 which is a haven for artists who specialize in pottery. The business attracts people from around the world and is famous for its ceramic tiles that can be found in historic buildings and homes around the city. Many of the tiles adorn my home’s walls. You can visit the organization and walk through their gift shop and gallery while peeking at the artists’ workshop and kilns.

Heidelberg Project

A much larger art installation, occupying more than is a city block, is the Heidelberg Project at 3600 Heidelberg St in Detroit. Created in 1986 by Tyree Guyton, who used discarded materials to create his installation, the creation was in protest of the the1967 riots, which led to the decline of the neighborhood. The artwork symbolized beauty in a place where many people had been afraid to walk. A theme throughout the outdoor exhibit is time, with clocks painted on the various sculptures and represent a time for a change. On the Dotty Wotty house, one of the largest pieces, the large colorful polka dots clinging to a white background symbolize the interconnectedness of all things. The Heidelberg Project continues to change and has attracted over 200,000 visitors.

Detroit Artist Market

The Detroit Artist Market is the longest running nonprofit gallery in the Midwest. Adorning its inner walls are numerous contemporary creations by local artists for sale. Started in 1932, the market has been a place that connects the community to beautiful art through its store and year-round events and exhibits.

Dabls Mbad African Bead Museum

Located at the corner of Grand River Avenue and West Grand Boulevard and encompassing two city blocks, the Dabls Mbad African Bead Museum is an outdoor exhibit displaying over eighteen installations created by the artist Olayami Dabls, whose works celebrate his African heritage. The pieces incorporate a multitude of media and are resplendent in strokes of color and shards of mirrors. You can park on the side street next to a house that has been transformed into an eye-catching sculpture that glitters as the morning sun hits it and then walk amongst the other pieces that vibrate with emotional energy.

Where to Stay: Tips for Solo Travelers

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There are numerous hotels located downtown within walking distance of many of the attractions or are just a short ride away on the People Mover. Many of the hotels are in historic buildings and boast beautiful facades and decadent lobbies. Here are just a few great places to rest your head.

Hostel Detroit | 2700 Vermont St

One of the most economical places to stay in any city, and ideal for a solo traveler, is a hostel. Painted with colorful murals in a quiet neighborhood, Hostel Detroit offers dorm-style bunk beds to rest your tired bones. Walk-ins are not taken and to access the building you need a code from your online reservation.

Double Tree Suites Fort Shelby | 525 W Lafayette Blvd

With its historic stone façade, friendly staff welcome you at the Double Tree Suites Fort Shelby. As you wait to check in, rest in the spacious, white lounge or grab something for your room at the hotel store. If you don’t feel like venturing out for breakfast, grab a favorite at the Motor City Kitchen within the hotel.

Hotel Indigo | 1020 Washington Blvd

In the heart of downtown, the Hotel Indigo reflects the heart of the Motor City with its Motown-themed deco. A cozy lobby and friendly staff greet you as you walk through the doors. Enjoy a room with modern furnishings and comfy beds.

The Atheneum Suite Hotel | 1000 Brush St

Nestled in the heart of the lively, happening Greektown, the historic Atheneum, with its beautiful marble lobby, is the place to stay if you want a little luxury. The hotel’s rooms are more economical during the week and are affordable with group of four.

Book Tower | 1265 Washington Blvd

For a more lavish stay, check out the nearly renovated historic Book Tower. The building boasts a three-story art glass rotunda with more than 6,000 glass panels and intricate, hand painted plaster ceilings. If you don’t decide to stay, the hotel is a beautiful place to visit to view outstanding architecture from the 1920s.

How To Travel Solo to Detroit

These are just a few of my favorite places to visit in the new must-see city of Detroit. I have frequented the city by myself many times and these attractions are in areas that are well traveled.

As with any city when traveling solo, I am more aware of my surroundings and have exercised greater caution. No matter where you travel, going solo means you need to rely on your own senses to stay safe. However, when visiting these sites, I have never felt fearful — and you shouldn’t, either!

I hope you will enjoy these places as much as I have and revisit Detroit over and over again, as a solo traveler, with friends, or however your next adventure takes you.