With The Big Three — Ford, General Motors and Chrysler — headquartered here, it’s no secret why Detroit is called the Motor City. Whether you’re there for a long weekend or looking for an epic road trip, Detroit is a gear head’s Disneyland.
Even if you’re not an auto enthusiast, a trip down classic Americana may be just the cultural activity you’ve been looking for.
GM’s more than a dusty old factory
Ford may be the oldest dog in the park, but General Motors has one of the best dog houses. A quick walk from the Detroit Riverfront, the GM Renaissance Center offers striking views of the city’s skyline, waterfront, and Windsor, the Canadian neighbor. For first timers to Detroit, the free weekday tours at noon and 2 p.m. should be the first stop on your itinerary.
For the Ford lover in your life, the perfect gift is a ticket to the Ford Rouge Factory. A five-part series, the Rouge Factory Tour takes visitors from the observation deck to final assembly, as you watch an F-150 being built right in front of your eyes. To make sure you see the green deck at its peak performance, plan a visit mid-morning or afternoon in spring, around the lunchtime break.
Visiting The Henry Ford Museum is a right of passage for every tourist to Detroit. For a crash course in the history of the automobile, there are plenty of models on display, but you can make a car lover’s dreams come true by attending America’s longest running antique car show at Greenfield Village’s September Old Car Festival. The outdoor museum was a dream of Henry Ford’s and has been in Detroit since the 1940s, and the weekend tribute to vintage cars is spectacular. The best part? If you register your own vintage car early enough, you can have it displayed on the streets for all to admire.
Make it a NASCAR weekend
One drive down I-94 and it’s apparent that Motor City residents love driving fast. In the summer months, NASCAR reciprocates the love by hosting not one but two race events at Michigan International Speedway. Located about an hour and a half outside the city in the Irish Hills area of Brooklyn, the lake country fills up with eager race goers. While a drive that far from the city may seem silly, the perks of spending the day in a city with over 50 lakes in a 15-mile radius is hard to pass up.
Drive yourself down Memory Lane
You can look at car museums all day long, but hitting the open road in your own vehicle — American made or not — where it all started is pure Michigan. Experience Detroit offers a full day self guided tour to help get your trip started. Stops include a drive down the first paved road in the U.S., the first modern highway and directions to Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, the birthplace of the Model T. If you have the kids in tow, a quick detour off Davison Highway to see the giant Uniroyal Giant Tire is must, too.