A Perfect Two-Day Detroit, Michigan Weekend Itinerary

Michigan

Detroit, located in southeast Michigan, is the Great Lake State’s largest city. If you’re a first-time visitor to the Motor City and only have 48 hours, one weekend, you’ll only be able to hit the highlights. This two-day Detroit itinerary will make your introductions and leave you wanting a return visit.

When you think of Detroit, the city’s rich cultural heritage featuring the car culture, Motown music, and Detroiters’ grit—courage and determination despite difficulty come to mind. So, during your first-weekend visit to Detroit, you’ll want to sample some of their world-class museums honoring their automotive heritage, music, and art.

Here’s a two-day itinerary for Detroit for those who haven’t been before. It begins on Friday in the late afternoon and ends on Sunday morning.

Thank you to Visit Detroit for hosting some of the activities described in this article.

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Friday Late Afternoon

After traveling, you may not feel like starting with an activity on your first day, but Detroit has so much to offer, and a weekend is a short time to see it. I’ve put together this full two-day Detroit itinerary to highlight Detroit’s rich history. So, don’t waste time; go directly to the Detroit Institute of Arts. You can save time by checking into your hotel after dinner.

Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA)

USA TODAY’s 2024 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards named the Detroit Institute of Arts the best art museum in America for the second consecutive year. The collection of art features over 65,000 pieces in their permanent collection. Two of my favorite works of art here are the Van Gogh self-portrait and the Diego Rivera Detroit industry murals.

I found it helpful to take the one-hour guided tour that provides an overview of the museum. Then, I could focus on the areas I was most interested in.

Another way to quickly cover a lot of ground is to use The GooseChase app, a self-guided scavenger hunt. I found this a fun way to make discovering the museum a game. Using the app is an excellent way to make it attractive for the kids.

The DIA stays open on Friday evenings until 9:00 p.m., so this is the best place to start when you arrive on Friday. Check their website to be sure the hours haven’t changed.

Throughout the weekend you’ll find street art, that in some cases is as enthralling as the art found in the DIA. Keep your eyes open for art wherever you go in the metro area!

Piper’s Pro Planning: While you can park in the John R lot, download the Park Detroit app to easily add time to your meter remotely while using street parking.

Samaki, a pan flash-fried fish topped with tangy sautéed onions. A fresh corn salad, fried plantains, stewed yellow beans, and your choice of spiced rice pilau or coconut rice accompany the fish.
Samaki, a pan flash-fried fish topped with tangy sautéed onions

Dinner at Baobab Fare

Detroit has one of the most diverse culinary scenes in the state. You can sample flavors from around the world without leaving the city. Located on the corner of  Woodward Avenue and Grand Boulevard, Baobab Fare features the flavors of East Africa. Hamissi Mamba, co-owner, came from Burundi to Detroit to offer dishes from his home country. In 2024, Mamba was a semi-finalist in the James Beard category of Restauranteur.

I had the samaki, a pan flash-fried fish topped with tangy sautéed onions. A fresh corn salad, fried plantains, stewed yellow beans, and your choice of spiced rice pilau or coconut rice accompany the fish. The fish was a light yet filling meal. I couldn’t decide between the spiced rice pilau and the coconut rice, so the server suggested ordering half and half, and I was glad I had the opportunity to try both. Try the spiced rice pilau if you like a little zip with your rice. If not, go for the equally delicious coconut rice. It just depends on your preferences.

Mango Coco, a dessert pudding
Mango Coco, a Dessert Pudding

For dessert, I had the coco mango. The pudding-like layered dessert had coconut cream on the bottom, then a layer of mango coulis with fresh mango chunks, and finally, the chef topped it with lightly toasted coconut flakes for crispness. Since I love mango and coconut, this was the perfect sweet to finish my meal.

Piper’s Pro Planning: Check their website for the current schedule; however, Baobab Fare was open until 9:00 p.m. on Friday evenings at the time of this writing. They close earlier on other nights.

The Godfrey Hotel in Detroit's Corktown Neighborhood
The Godfrey Hotel in Detroit’s Corktown Neighborhood

Friday Evening

Check into the Hotel

Built on the former site of the Carhartt manufacturing plant in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, Corktown, the Godfrey Hotel Detroit is part of the Hilton Curio Collection. This luxury hotel opened in the summer of 2023, and the public areas feature large windows and crystal chandeliers.  

Check in Desk at the Godfrey Hotel
Check in Desk at the Godfrey Hotel

The hotel room offers ample workspace, which, as a writer, I always need. The upscale décor features a nod to the town’s car culture, with headboards resembling an old-fashioned car grille and round bedside lights reminiscent of antique automobile headlights.

Wind down for the day at  I|O, Godfrey’s rooftop bar, Detroit’s only rooftop deck with a retractable glass ceiling and walls. The venue offers stunning views of the city skyline.

Piper’s Pro Planning: Unlike many hotels, this venue doesn’t have a snack shop, so if you’re the late-night snacker type, be sure to come supplied.

Breakfast at Hamilton's
Breakfast at Hamilton’s

Saturday Morning

Breakfast at Hamilton’s

Hamilton’s is the restaurant inside the Godfrey Hotel. The Corktown breakfast is a nod to the neighborhood’s Irish neighborhood, serving two eggs, black pudding, beans, and a roasted tomato. I opted for the parfait, which included yogurt topped with granola berries, served with lavender honey. They also have a hearty all-American breakfast with eggs, breakfast potatoes, bacon, and toast.

As a nod to the site’s original purpose, servers wear Carhartt aprons and blue and white cloth napkins reminiscent of denim overalls.

Piper’s Pro Planning: If you are a Hilton Honors Diamond Member, you can have a $15 food and beverage credit or additional points. I always opt for the food and beverage credit, which, if there are two people in the room, increases to a total of $30. Ask at the front desk to be sure you have selected the food and beverage credit over the points. Also, have them explain how it works at the Godfrey, as it varies by property.

Ford Piquette Avenue Plant Museum
Ford Piquette Avenue Plant Museum

10:00 am

Ford Piquette Avenue Plant Museum

As I got my Ford Piquette Avenue Plant Museum ticket, I chatted with the ticket seller. Mentioning that I had lived in Michigan my entire life and had never visited before and had only heard of it in the last few years, she replied, “Yes, we’re one of Michigan’s best-kept secrets.”

After several years as a project manager in the automotive world, I knew the industry had secrets. And as the author of “Secret Michigan: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure,” I couldn’t wait to discover the secrets inside. And I did! I found the secret experimental room. But before I reveal more about Ford’s secret room, let me tell you about the building.

Secret Michigan Book Cover

Situated at the intersection of significant railways, with the shipping advantage of the Great Lakes and the then-new Erie Canal, Ford built his first new plant in 1904 in Detroit’s Milwaukee Junction neighborhood.

A Red Model T with a Black Roof
A Red Model T with a Black Roof

Architects Field, Hinchman & Smith patterned the three-story, Victorian-style brick building after a textile mill. The state-of-the-art factory was 56 feet wide and 402 feet long and featured over 350 windows, providing airflow and light to the automotive workers.

The first floor held the engine and axle assembly. Sub-assembly and machining were on the second floor. Finally, the third floor held drafting, chassis assembly, and the secret experimental room. In this secret room, a small team of men designed the Model T, which, as quoted by Henry Ford, was a car “for the great multitude.”

The Secret Experimental Room at the Ford Piquette Plan
The Secret Experimental Room at the Ford Piquette Plan

Ford has the northeast corner of the third floor portioned off as a room with 840 square feet. A padlock secured the door when it wasn’t in use. You were fired if you approached the door and weren’t one of the seven men on the team. In the spring of 1908, the Model T emerged as a working prototype.

Recreating the room was difficult, as there weren’t any pictures of the space. The Model T Automotive Heritage Complex researched through interviews, and now they revealed a replica of the secret room where workers created the Model T from conception to prototype. Approximately 12,000 Model Ts were built in the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant before they moved production to another site.

Piper’s Pro Planning: Take the hour-and-a-half guided tour, offered at 10 a.m., Noon, and 2 p.m. The tour may run over, so schedule plenty of time. You can always explore more independently if you want, but the docent tour provides tons of information to enhance your visit.

The Porktown Sandwich at Mudgie's
The Porktown Sandwich at Mudgie’s

1:00 p.m.

Lunch at Mudgie’s Deli

Located in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, Corktown, Mudgie’s Deli and Wine Shop is anything but old. I stopped by while in Detroit trying to find the city’s secrets; however, from the number of people eating lunch, this place is no secret, especially to the locals. And most likely not even within the state because Food Network named their salami and cheese classic, the Leggo, one of the “Best Sandwiches in America.”

They have many options on the menu, and being a first-timer, I couldn’t decide between the potato salad and the macaroni salad. I was leaning towards the macaroni, and the server mentioned how she loved the potato salad, so I had that. And I’m so glad I did! This is arguably one of the best potato salads I’ve ever had, and I don’t say that lightly. This vegetarian salad is house-made from red skin potatoes, red bell pepper, Granny Smith apples, celery, and whole grain Michigan beer mustard. However, the mustard was a background flavor and more for color. It’s not distinguishable for those who don’t like mustard. The portion size was generous, and I could have probably shared it, but I was glad I didn’t have to.

Then the star of the show was the Porktown sandwich—a house-smoked pulled pork, two slices of bacon, new dill pickle, smoked cheddar cheese, Mudgie’s coleslaw, and house-made BBQ sauce on brioche. I hadn’t heard of new dill pickles, which was a new experience. The server said they brine them in water instead of vinegar, and taste more like cucumbers than traditional pickles. They serve the new dill pickle spears with every sandwich so that you can taste it. 

This restaurant is worth making a special trip to Detroit just for lunch. I’m already planning a return trip with my daughter.

Mudgie's Wine Shop
Mudgie’s Wine Shop

Piper’s Pro Planning: While you’re there, pick up a bottle of wine from Mudgie’s wine shop. They feature wines from around the world. You’ll enjoy it later while relaxing at the end of the day.

Motown Museum a Stop on the 2-Day Detroit Itinerary
Motown Museum

Saturday Afternoon

3:00 p.m.

Motown Museum

Berry Gordy created Motown Records in 1959. Located inside the first headquarters of Motown Records, the Motown Museum features the original Studio A, where they recorded many Motown hits. Seeing the worn floor in the control room was fun, where producers tapped their feet to the happy music—literally wearing out the flooring. Artists like Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder started in Hitsville, USA.

Motown's Control Room
Motown’s Control Room – Notice the Worn Flooring

You’ll also find the apartment where Berry Gordy and his young family lived during the Motown Records start-up. Today, Berry’s sister, Esther Gordy Edwards, heads up the museum.

While video and audio recording aren’t allowed, take as many photos as you want.

Piper’s Pro Planning: Purchase tickets online before arriving. Docent-led tours are the only way to see the museum, but they make seeing the museum an authentic experience. Ticket times are available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the hour. Plan to arrive 10 minutes before your tour.

Explore the Detroit Riverwalk

In downtown Detroit, the Detroit Riverwalk stretches more than three miles along the Detroit riverfront, from the Belle Isle Bridge to Rosa Parks Boulevard. Voted USA Today’s Reader’s Choice for the Best Riverwalk three years in a row, you’ll find a lot to explore here.

Piper’s Pro Planning: Go to the website and download the brochure for the current season. The brochure will provide details for planning your visit.

Cocktails at the Ghostbar at the Whitney

David Whitney Jr., a successful lumber baron, built the David Whitney Jr. He was one of Michigan’s wealthiest men and Detroit’s richest. When he died in 1900, he was worth over $15 million. Today, the Whitney is an upscale restaurant serving dinner, brunch, and afternoon tea.

Located on the third floor of David Whitney’s Gilded Age home is the Ghostbar, which gets its name from Sarah Whitney, David’s deceased widow. The bartenders are more than willing to tell the tales of the Ghostbar. Their signature cocktail is the Witching Hour, featuring Valentine White Blossom Vodka, fresh lemon juice, Lazzaroni Limoncello, and Water Hill Blackberry Liqueur.

Piper’s Pro Planning: Check out their happy hour which is the best time to find discounts off their lounge menu items.

Detroit-Style Pizza at Michigan and Trumbull
Detroit-Style Pizza at Michigan and Trumbull

Dinner at Michigan & Trumbull Pizza

You can’t visit Detroit without experiencing Detroit-style pizza. The rectangular pizza with crispy corners and the ingredients layered on the dough in reverse order, ending instead of starting with the sauce. Michigan & Trumbull Pizza offers two categories, Detroit Red Pizza and Detroit White Pizza, with several varieties in each category. I chose the Detroit Red Pizza and the Cowabunga Supreme, which features red sauce, mozzarella, green bell pepper, mushroom, black olive, sausage, and pepperoni. I also ordered an impressive antipasto. The size was enough for at least four, and it featured arugula, mozzarella, pepperoni, ham, roasted tomato, banana pepper, black olive, pickled red onion, and red wine vinaigrette.

It has been a full day, so head back to the hotel after dinner, so get some rest.

Piper’s Pro Planning: This place is busy, so you may want to plan to take it to go. They offer counter-style service. I ate at a bar-style seat in the back of the restaurant, but you’ll find limited table seating. Look for a nearby park and enjoy it as a picnic during warmer weather.

Sunday Morning

Spiced Pear Bagel at the Congregation
Spiced Pear Bagel at the Congregation

Grab Breakfast at the Congregation

This coffee shop, known as the Congregation, once an abandoned church, has been transformed into a community gathering spot. I loved the bagel options they offered for breakfast sandwiches. I chose the spiced pear with granola bagel, which was refreshingly different. It started with a toasted New York Bagel spread with cream cheese. Then they topped it with sweet spiced pears and a sprinkling of pepita granola for crunch. I had it with a cup of hot cocoa for a sweet treat. They also have egg and cheese bagels and a veggie option.

Piper’s Pro Planning: While I found a seat, this coffee shop was busy. They have ample outdoor seating, so when the weather’s nice, you shouldn’t have an issue finding a place to sit.

Belle Isle Park

A 982-acre island park, Belle Isle Park sits in the middle of the Detroit River and is Michigan state park. The island is a great place for sun seekers and those that enjoy urban activities. I love how it combines urban attractions like aquariums and museums with outdoor activities, such as kayaking and paddle sports.

Belle Isle Aquarium

Belle Isle Aquarium is the oldest aquarium in the nation. The original green-arched ceiling makes you feel like you’re under the sea. Budget about an hour exploring the aquarium.

Ann Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory

The 13-acre Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory has five settings — the Palm House, the Tropical, a sunken Fernery, the Cactus, and Show Houses — featuring rotating plants. Photographers will want to spend extra time here.

Dossin Great Lakes Museum

Dossin Great Lakes Museum relates Detroit’s maritime history. You’ll find the anchor from the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in an outdoor display.

Piper’s Pro Planning: While all vehicles need a Michigan State Recreation Passport, you won’t need one if you walk. Also, admission to the conservatory and aquarium is free. There is a small admission charge to the Dossin Great Lakes Museum.

You won’t find a restaurant in the park, but during the summer months, food trucks are available. One final stop, if you’re looking for a quick bite before you hit the road, try American Coney Island or Lafayette Coney Island for another Detroit favorite—the Coney Dog. This is also a good lunch stop, if you’re on a limited budget.

If You Go

Getting There

Detroit, Michigan, is in the Eastern time zone and is in Wayne County. Detroit is the county seat. Most major US airlines serve Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) in Romulus. You’ll find flights on American Airlines, Delta, United, and many others.

Drive Times to Detroit

CityHours
Lansing, Michigan1.5
Mackinac Island, Michigan5
Traverse City, Michigan4
Chicago, Illinois5
Cleveland, Ohio2
Indianapolis, Indiana5
Drive Times to Detroit

Getting Around

The best way to get around Metro Detroit area is by car. If you fly in, you’ll probably want to rent a car. Some hotels have shuttles to the airport, casino, and within a limited radius of the hotel. But not having a vehicle will limit where you can explore.

Uber, Lyft, and the People Mover are options if you prefer public transportation. The Detroit People Mover includes 11 public stops, including the General Motors Renaissance Center and Greek Town. Enjoy the murals that you’ll find at each station.

Pin this to you favorite Pinterest Travel Board!

Amy Piper
Amy Piper

While Piper is a lifelong Michigander, she’s had adventures worldwide. Bomb-sniffing dogs chased her in the middle of the night in Bogota (working late), gate agents refused her boarding to Paraguay (wrong visa), and US Marshals announced her seat number on a plane while looking for a murder suspect (she’d traded seats). It’s always an adventure! She even finds exciting activities in her home state of Michigan, where she lives in Lansing with her husband, Ross Dingman, her daughter, Alexis, and two granddaughters.

BOOK YOUR TRIP

Let’s get something on the calendar! Here are some of Piper’s Pro Planning links to help you book your trip.

Plan your flight and book your airline ticket with these links:

Plan your overnight accommodations anywhere from national chains to private homes with:

Plan to save on all of your activities, from tours to attractions. These links will help:

Visit my resources page for more planning help.

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9 Comments

  1. Sonia

    I haven’t been to Detroit in many years–would like to visit the Motown Museum and give this itinerary a try.

    Reply
  2. Darla G

    Detroit has more to offer than I realized. Thanks for sharing this detailed information!

    Reply
    • Amy Piper

      And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

      Reply
  3. ROXIE YONKEY

    I can hardly wait to see Hitsville, USA. I heard about it through the grapevine, you know.

    Reply
  4. Ivan

    That’s an interesting twist on a pizza. And it looks good!
    Detroit certainly seems to offer a lot of cultural and historical treats too. I’m sure many will be happy to use this roadmap for exploring.

    Reply
  5. Liz D

    I might have to plan a trip to Detroit just for the food! Great choices.

    Reply
    • Amy Piper

      I can’t wait to do my birthday dinner at the Whitney!

      Reply
  6. Kristin

    Wow, I need to rethink some of my clearly incorrect thoughts about Detroit! Sounds like a great option for a weekend getaway.

    Reply
    • Amy Piper

      Yes, it has really rebounded. And there is so much to do this only is the tip of the iceberg.

      Reply

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Welcome to Follow the Piper! Discover interesting destinations, and practical planning tips for packing more travel into your everyday life.

Our founder and author, Amy Piper, is a freelance travel writer, blogger, photographer, and author specializing in luxury and multi-generational travel. She is a native Michigander who travels through the lens of a food lover and has been to 41 countries and 45 states.

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