1. 36th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival (September 4-7)
It’s all FREE (I know, I’m excited too). One of the world’s premier jazz festivals, the Detroit Jazz Festival has five stages and 100 acts over four days, fireworks, late-night jam sessions, rare opportunities to meet the artists, and many more activities. Free shuttles depart from Wayne State campus, and, although the event is free, I definitely suggest bringing enough money for fish and chips and an ice cold lemonade.
2. Study in the Detroit Public Library
It’s quieter than the UGL and the architecture is beautiful. If you have time, you can even check out the historic documents. Very old, very cool.
3. Buy something at Wayne State University Farmer’s Market
Yes, they do hand out free samples of kettle corn. And yes, I’ve gotten enough free samples to fill an entire bag for free, but I plan on buying a bag this year to make up for a year of mooching.
4. Visit the planetarium in Old Main
Stargazing without going outside? Sounds perfect. Shows are usually toward evening hours and only happen on certain nights of the week. The times and dates are posted in Old Main.
5. Get lost in Old Main
It’s not just a freshman thing. There’s a reason people call it the “Hogwarts of Wayne State.”
6. Watch a Weekly Movie Series Film
Comfy seats, new movies, free admission…what’s not to like? Upcoming movies this fall include “San Andreas,” “Jurassic World,” “Inside Out,” “Minions,” “Ant-Man,” and “Self/less.”
7. See the Art Exhibits in Old Main
I’ve seen some very cool, very strange things there. I recommend it.
8. Attend 45th Annual Global Festival (September 23, 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
Wayne State University and the Detroit community celebrate cultural diversity through this 45th annual event. Feel free to stop by and sample various ethnic foods and learn about the international organizations on Wayne State’s campus!
9. Homecoming Game (October 10)
Show some Warrior spirit! Festivities include a poster contest, face painting, a photo booth, the Homecoming court announcement of King and Queen, and after-game activities. The game against Grand Valley State begins at 6 p.m.
10. Detroit Fall Beer Festival (October 23- 24)
Held at Eastern Market, the 7th Annual Detroit Beer Festival boasts over 600 craft beers from over 75 Michigan breweries. Tickets are now on sale, so grab a cold one and enjoy some incredible food from local restaurants!
11. Go to Greektown!
If you’re old enough to gamble, coming here is a must (but don’t worry if you’re not 21 yet). There’s free parking at the casino, a streetful of fabulous restaurants within walking distance from the casino, and over 100,000 square feet of non-stop gaming action. For the under-21-ers or those who don’t drink, come to Greektown for a night out with friends, catch a bite, and get some froyo. It’s a win for everyone.
12. Walk to Whole Foods
Pick a nice fall day and walk down Woodward to Whole Foods. It’s totally worth getting a hot (and healthy!) meal at least once a semester. Or you can get something like organic flax milk and vegan soy puffs. They have all your organic needs.
13. Detroit Artist Market
Also located on Woodward Ave, DAM showcases Detroit’s talent. As a nonprofit gallery for contemporary art, it shows the work of emerging and established Detroit and Michigan artists through exhibitions, sales, and related programs.
14. Eat at Slows Bar-B-Q
With multiple locations in Detroit, Slows is a staple of Detroit culture. Get the apple barbecue sauce with any sandwich of your choosing, and buy a huge mac and cheese. Enjoy!
15. Drink Starbucks While Window-stalking Passersby in Student Center
This is perfect for any season. There’s only one rule: if someone sees you staring, look away quickly.
16. Visit Mexicantown
Right at Bagley Street and Vernor Street, Mexicantown has amazing restaurants and bakeries. I definitely recommend La Gloria Bakery which features tamales, burritos, and (my favorite) churros.
17. Relax near the Wayne State’s Yamasaki Reflecting Pool
Sit on one of the huge stone slab benches, or you can even walk along it and peruse the sculptures. Think about life and such.
18. Gorge yourself at the Taco Truck
The Taco Truck is convenient, relatively cheap, and always there. The Korean beef tacos are great, and if you need an alternative, the Mac Shack truck is usually parked nearby.
19. Join an organization at Student Org Day
Just do it. Sign up for an organization that interests you and don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone!
20. Thanksgiving Day Parade (November 26)
There are very few places you can see an 80-foot floating clown (and very few places where you’d want to), but the Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit is always entertaining. But be sure to wear layers and bring hats and gloves.
21. Noel Night (December 5)
Well if you’re not sold on free cider and donuts, a myriad of artwork and creations by local artists, and the joy of the holiday season all in lovely Midtown, then I don’t know what to say.
Although not a major fan of modern art myself, I recommend swinging by the MOCAD (and bring an open mind).
23. Debate Over American/Lafayette Coney Island
Do you know which one is better? Find out!
24. Dally in the Alley (September 12)
Come enjoy life in the Cass Corridor with a free street fair in celebration of local musicians, artists, restaurants, and vendors! Check out more details here.
25. Ice Skate at Campus Martius Park
The winter season in Detroit is not complete without a night out in Campus Martius. You can skate, walk around Campus Martius, and buy a hot chocolate to fend off the winter weather.
26. Detroit Institute of Arts
I go to the DIA at least six times a year, and it never gets old. Only a short walk from campus, the DIA is one of the best museums in the country, and it’s right outside our door!
27. Tigers Game
Even with the (severe) losses we’ve suffered this season, it’s still fun to go to a Tigers game and cheer on our boys. Wayne State students even get discounts and free shuttle services to certain games!
28. Red Wings Game
Although the new $450 million arena won’t be completed until 2017, don’t miss out on a chance to see the Red Wings this season. Like certain Tigers games, student discounts exist for Red Wings games. Now go cheer on the Wings!
29. Lions Game
Although you might not be able to nab some great seats for the Thanksgiving game (come on, we’re poor college students), you should tailgate and support our team during the regular playing season. Plus, Ford Field is amazing.
30. See a Play or Musical at the Bonstelle/Hilberry
I saw “Boeing, Boeing” last season, and it was hilarious, perfectly cast, and overall brilliant. With the great student discounts, there’s no excuse for skipping out on performances this season. The 2015-2016 seasons at the Bonstelle and the Hilberry include performances of “One Man, Two Guvnors,” “The Great Gatsby,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” and “Oklahoma!” Check out the website for a more detailed list.
31. Detroit Historical Museum
Want to walk to streets of old Detroit, but you weren’t born in the 1800s? That’s all right! You can still do it at the Detroit Historical Museum. It allows you to journey through time, beginning at Detroit’s inception, and it answers any historical questions you may have about Detroit. You will be even more proud to call Detroit your home.
32. Visit MBAD’s African Bead Museum
A “major repository for African artifacts—including sculptures, textiles, pottery, and bead works dating back hundreds of years,” the African Bead Museum showcases countless cultures throughout Africa. There are even three art installations outside.
33. Michigan Science Center
You want to learn while having fun? Inspiring “curious minds of all ages,” the Michigan Science Center uses interactive programs, hands-on exhibits, and engaging activities to spark a lifelong appreciation of science, technology, engineering, and math.
34. Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Featuring music from timeless Sinatra, the legendary composer John Williams, and U2, to classical performances of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms, the DSO is sure to appeal to all types of audiences. WSU students can even get a Soundcard for $25 and get free access to concerts all season long!
35. Walk the RiverWalk
Staring at Canada is totally free, and you can do it all the time while walking the RiverWalk. Paved and friendly to bikers, joggers, and anyone who wants a peaceful day along the waters, the RiverWalk includes areas with a carousel, ice cream parlour, stone map of the world, and water fountains.
36. Hang Out on Belle Isle
There’s something for everyone on Belle Isle! The island is home to the Belle Isle Aquarium, a conservatory, a nature zoo, the Detroit Yacht Club, the James Scott Memorial Fountain, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and a golf course. Not to mention the amazing paths for biking and walking, Belle Isle even has a half-mile swimming beach. It’s the perfect place for a picnic, and you won’t be disappointed.
37. John K. King Used & Rare Books
If you’re a bookworm like me, this is the place for you. Be sure to visit the main store (of the three), which is a four-story warehouse full of cheap and used books. With books of every subject, it’s the perfect place to spend a day (yes, a full day). With over a million books in stock, John K. King books has become a favorite of celebrities like Jay Leno and Teller of the magic duo of Penn and Teller.
38. GM Renaissance Center
One of my favorite buildings in Detroit, the Ren Cen is host to a multitude of restaurants, the Marriott Hotel, and a car show that graces the first floor. Enjoy a spectacular view of the riverfront after riding the elevator up 72 floors to Coach Insignia (it’s expensive, so riding up the elevator for the view will suffice).
39. The Heidelberg Project
Created in 1986 by Tyree Guyton and his grandfather, the Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art project that aims to breathe life back into the abandoned buildings in their neighborhood. The project spans two blocks and displays houses decorated in a variety of manners, including one covered in colorful polka dots, another painted with numbers of varying sizes, and one adorned with hundreds of records.
40. Watch a Film at the Redford Theatre
First opening its doors in 1928, the Redford Theatre showcases old movies throughout the year. With Japanese-esque style architecture, a star-filled sky that gives the appearance of a movie in the night air, and the last remaining neighborhood theater with its original organ, the Redford Theater has earned its spot on the Wayne State Bucket List.
41. Spend a Day at Eastern Market
The largest historic market in the country, Eastern Market is home to 4.5 acres of the “freshest, most wholesome fruits, vegetables, specialty foods, art, and music— all undeniably Detroit.” If you like free samples, an open-air environment, tons of friendly people, and knowing that you’re supporting the local economy, this is the place for you.
42. Mercury Burger Bar
Offering over a dozen burgers, sandwiches of every variety, hot dogs, poutine, craft beers, and hand-made milkshakes, Mercury Burger Bar is the place for any foodie in Detroit.
43. Hart Plaza
Thousands of people come together for celebrations, concerts, and festivals held throughout the year at Hart Plaza. Check out the Horace E Dodge and Son Memorial Fountain in the center of the plaza, and be sure to take the short walk to the Spirit of Detroit and the Monument to Joe Louis (“The Fist”).
44. Go Antiquing
I recommend Eastern Market Antiques, the two-story antique store with about five or six rooms on each floor, or Showcase Collectibles, a vintage and curio shop in the Cass Corridor.
45. Green Dot Stables
With over 20 sliders to choose from (each $3 or less), you can mix and match your burger choices and choose from a wide array of cocktails, drafts, beer, and pops (also priced around $3 each).
46. Theatre Bizarre (October 17)
Step right up and buy your ticket to the self-proclaimed “singular, must-see annual event…unlike anything else on earth.” After finding it’s permanent home at Detroit’s Masonic Temple, Theatre Bizarre draws thousands of attendees for its costumed Halloween spectacular. Sound mysterious? Check out more here.
47. Find Detroit’s “Point of Origin”
Search for the bronze medallion embedded in the walkway. This marks the point of origin of Detroit’s coordinate system. (Hint: check out Campus Martius Park)
48. Bike the Dequindre Cut
Just over a mile long in downtown, the Dequindre Cut Greenway is a paved path that allows pedestrians and bicyclers alike to admire the often overlooked beauty and unique culture of Detroit.
49. Volunteer at a Detroit Non-ProfitWith over 120 non-profits organizations to choose from, you shouldn’t have a problem picking one and volunteering! A complete list can be found here.
50. Go Geocaching
Want to live out your “National Treasure” dream? Geocaching is a modern day active treasure hunt that allows you to use a GPS to locate hidden “caches,” or containers hidden by other participants. It’s free, and you’re not obliged to steal the Declaration of Independence.
51. Drive the Grand River Creative Corridor
Known as “GRCC Detroit,” the Grand River Creative Corridor is an art corridor and neighborhood revitalization project that highlights over 100 murals on 15 buildings. With over 45 volunteer artists from across the globe, who says graffiti can’t be art?
52. The Carr Center
This community-friendly center of arts and culture is “dedicated to making the arts an integral part of life in Metro Detroit.” The Carr Center promotes youth education, highlights gallery exhibits, and hosts private events.
53. Bowl at Garden Bowl
Built in 1913, this is one of America’s oldest active bowling centers. With 16 lanes and all original machines still in place, Garden Bowl is a must-see for all Detroiters.
Fowling is a football bowling pin game that combines elements of bowling, football, and horseshoes. To answer all your Fowling questions (because I’m sure you have many), check out the website.
55. Eat at Buddy’s Pizza
Praised as selling Detroit’s #1 Square Pizza, Buddy’s has been a staple among Detroiters since it first introduced the original Detroit-style pizza in 1946. I recommend the barbecue chicken pizza with an antipasto salad.
56. Ride the People Mover
Ride just for the heck of it! Encircling Downtown Detroit, the People Mover is an easy and inexpensive ($0.75 fare), albeit not necessary, way to get around the Downtown area.
57. Meridian Winter Blast (February)
Held in Campus Martius Park, this event features winter activities, live entertainment, and local Detroit restaurants for all ages. For more information about the event this coming February, here’s the website.
58. Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History
Come visit one of the world’s largest institutions dedicated to the African-American experience. Their mission is to “open minds and change lives through the exploration and celebration of African-American history and culture.” Don’t miss out on this experience!
59. Tour the Model T Automotive Heritage Complex
Ranked one of the top things to do in Detroit by TripAdvisor, this center marks the birthplace of the Model T. The heritage complex tells the story of Ford’s Piquette Avenue Plant where he designed the Model T and built the first 12,000 “Tin Lizzies.”
60. Take a Selfie at the Russell Industrial Center
The Russell Industrial Center showcases the state’s largest spray paint mural, conceptually described as a “Chimera composed of elements of each of the four major sports teams and aspects of Detroit industry.” The mural is amazing.
61. City Bird
This retail store is located in the Cass Corridor and is mere steps away from Traffic Jam and Snug. They carry housewares, jewelry paper goods, clothes, and home decor from hundreds of featured independent artists and designers. Also, check out Nest, which is located right next door.
62. Motor City Brewing Works
Selling a host of beers, ciders, wines, and sodas, Detroit’s oldest operating brewery is committed to producing hand-crafted superior quality beer. You can even take a tour of the facility!
63. Enjoy the Snow on Campus
Instead of bundling up and hurrying to class in the winter, enjoy the weather! Make a snow angel, build a snowman, throw a snowball at your friend (strangers don’t appreciate those type of gestures, however innocent), catch snowflakes on your tongue, etc. After that, you can continue to complain about the weather.
64. Traffic Jam and Snug
Established in 1965, Traffic Jam and Snug is one of Detroit’s favorites. It’s known from its in-house bakery, microbrewery, multi-level dining rooms, and a menu that features made-from-scratch dishes and award-winning cheeses and beer.
65. Jolly Pumpkin
This pizzeria and brewery presents hand-crafted artisan ales and eclectic pub fare that will satisfy any hungry student.
66. Sy Thai
With generous portions and affordable prices, Sy Thai is perfect for anyone who loves Thai food.
67. Source Booksellers
Self-described as a “unique niche of non-fiction books and unusual sidelines,” Source Booksellers hosts Mind/Body/Spirit classes, Tai Chi, belly dancing, book and author talks, poetry readings, and local plays.
68. Fio Boutique
Come out and support this locally-owned boutique that, in turn, supports and stocks items from multiple independent Detroit clothing and jewelry designers.
69. Third Man Records Store
Slated to open the day after Thanksgiving, Jack White’s Third Man Records is finally coming home to Detroit. You’ll have to wait a few months, but I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait.
70. Show Your Love for Wayne State
Say “hi” to friends, talk to new people, spend a day sitting in Gullen Mall and read a book, work out at the Rec Center, browse through Barnes & Noble, or hang out in the new Student Center. Show your love in little ways, and always be proud to be a Wayne State Warrior!
Well, these are just a few of the hundreds of things to do in Detroit. With this great start to your personal bucket list for Detroit, phrases like “I’m bored” or “I don’t know what to do this weekend” shouldn’t be part of your conversations. Discover hidden gems, add your own favorites, and pass on your intimate knowledge of Detroit to fellow students and your friends and family. Now, get started and fall in love with Detroit!