Dearborn, Michigan, is a small city with a lot to offer. Situated about 20 miles west of Detroit, Dearborn mixes the comforts of a suburban area with the nearby world-class cultural opportunities of a larger city.
The past decade brought millions of investments into the Detroit area for tech and automotive industries, dropping the number of vacant office spaces by 12% respectively. Many people show interest in investing in the area, both financially and as a place to live and work. New and old venues took on the challenge to provide unforgettable local sights that will keep you entertained with a list of fun activities to do and places to go.
Dearborn remains diverse and vibrant with up-and-coming art, history, culture, dining and nature scenes. This makes it a fantastic place to explore and learn. The number of fun things to do in Dearborn, Michigan, will keep you coming back again and again, so start with these 17 items and let your list grow from here.
1. Visit the Henry Ford Museum
You can’t complete a list of things to do in Dearborn without a mentioning the Henry Ford Museum. At one stop you receive a museum, historical village, factory and theater rolled into one. At the Henry Ford Museum, you can view vehicle models and take a freedom ride on the Rosa Parks bus. At Greenfield Village, you can view historical sites relocated from across the country, like the Wright brothers’ bicycle shop and Thomas Edison’s laboratory. You can take a factory tour, view films in an IMAX theater and let kids explore in outdoor play areas.
Stop by on the first Friday of every month for a “History Outside the Box” event, where staff members organize a show-and-tell session about their favorite collection materials. Your entire family will find something of interest here, making it an obvious stop.
2. Tour Henry Ford’s Fair Lane Estate
This historic estate, recognized as the final home of Henry and Clara Ford, is a picturesque 31,000-square-foot dwelling, sitting on 1,300-acres designed by renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen. When the Fords lived here, Henry used the laboratory spaces to develop new automotive ideas, while Clara devoted time to her beloved gardens. Although the estate is closed for renovations, it opens at select times to host workshops and showcase the progress. During renovations, you can take advantage of free things to do in Dearborn, like wandering the outdoor paths, streams and flower gardens on the property.
3. Check out the Automotive Hall of Fame
If someone in your family loves classic cars, you don’t want to miss out on this little spot. The Automotive Hall of Fame hosts both permanent and rotating exhibits celebrating the men and women whose innovations advanced the auto industry.
In one day you can go from seeing a mural depiction of the international influence of cars and culture to viewing presidential limos. You can learn about the long haul trucking industry, racing technology from the 1950s and the blind engineering prodigy who invented cruise control. Make sure to check out the aeropede, a whimsical creation that incorporates centuries of transportation advances into an imaginary flying vehicle. Whether you have a casual or love-affair interest in cars, you’ll enjoy this education spot full of eye candy.
4. Journey to Belle Isle
This beautiful island encompasses 982-acres in the middle of the Detroit River, between Ontario to the south — yes, you read that right — and Michigan to the north. Belle Isle packs an enormous array of attractions into a small footprint, offering parks, hiking and biking trails, ponds, a beach, a golfing range, a yacht club, an aquarium, a zoo, a museum, a nature center and a giant slide — among other fun options.
The aquarium boasts fish from locales all over the world, including Africa and South America, and the zoo hosts some cute fallow deer and a variety of aquatic wildlife, from mudpuppies to box turtles to tiger salamanders. Take your family on an outdoor adventure where something will certainly delight everyone.
5. Stop by the Detroit Institute of the Arts
Don’t miss this museum, which boasts over 100 galleries and many impressive collections. These collections include a diverse array of artwork, including work from European, American, African, Asian, Native American, Oceanic, Islamic and ancient artists. Current exhibitions include a collection of more than 40 Impressionist and post-Impressionist works and an exhibit exploring the history of professional baseball. The museum also houses works by Picasso, Van Gogh and other bright lights of art history, and there’s plenty of dynamic work by contemporary artists as well. Teachers get in for free.
6. Take a Tour With the Detroit Experience Factory
The Detroit Experience Factory, or DXF, is an innovative new organization in Detroit that seeks to change Detroit’s reputation as a harsh place to live. It helps visitors and longtime residents discover everything that contemporary Detroit has to offer.
A DXF tour is an interactive experience that chooses a theme — the Detroit art scene, its automotive heritage or exciting new dining options to name a few — and takes visitors on a journey to discover new places, meet new people and tap into the vibrant energy of the city. The friendly tour guides have a wealth of local information, and they are happy to field questions. Go on a DFX tour to receive a personalized, on-the-ground introduction to a side of Detroit most people haven’t seen.
7. Shop the Dearborn Farmers and Artisans Market
Does the thought of freshly picked berries, creamy local cheese, or flaky, homemade pastries make your mouth water? The Dearborn Farmers and Artisans Market, full of fresh produce, local meats and cheeses, flowers and baked goods, brings the community together every Friday to support local farmers, businesses and entrepreneurs. Check out the locally made goods like pottery, soaps and woodcarvings. Alternatively, experience things to do with kids like trying a food truck, enjoying the kids’ tent with games and face painting, or watch cooking and ice-carving demonstrations. Shopping the Dearborn Farmers and Artisans Market creates a great opportunity for families and individuals to invest back into the community.
8. See the Arab American National Museum
Dearborn houses people of many ethnicities, and as of 2010, it was home to the largest Muslim population in the United States. Many of these people are descendants of Lebanese and other Arab workers who came to live in Dearborn in the early 20th century, many drawn by the automotive industry. Others are more recent immigrants.
The Arab American National Museum celebrates decades of Arab-Americans’ culture, history and contributions to American life. View the beautifully crafted trunks and beaded shoes that 20th-century immigrants brought with them to America, or check out the library and its collections of books, films and graphic novels. On some Saturdays, the museum has English-Arab story time to help kids learn a few Arabic words.
9. Catch a Flick at Dearborn’s Ford Drive-In
For a throwback date night, or for something the whole family will enjoy, experience the largest drive-in theater in the world. Originally built in the 1950s, this drive-in theater boasts five screens and always plays a double feature. Bring plenty of snacks and bags of popcorn to create an unparalleled movie experience. If you own a truck, bring sleeping bags or camp chairs to lounge in the bed of the truck for a unique date night idea or family fun at the drive-in.
10. Stroll the Rouge River Gateway Greenway/Hines Park Trail
This beautiful trail system begins in Dearborn and winds its way to Northville, about 20 miles away. Here you’ll encounter scenic views and glimpses of the University of Michigan–Dearborn and the Fair Lane estate. Take the whole family out for a stroll, jog or bike ride through some of the finest natural beauty in the area. You’ll pass by playgrounds and picnic areas — plus there are multiple exit points if 20 miles feels a bit too long for a lazy Sunday.
11. Experience Detroit’s Riverfront Conservancy
You can stroll, run, bike or hang out with friends and family along this 3.5-mile stretch of Detroit’s eastern riverfront. Along the way, there are paths to explore and plazas, pavilions and parks to lounge in, and of course the river flows along gently in the background. You can participate in free tai chi and yoga classes, ride the carousel, take your dog on a pack walk or make a bowl or vase at the free plaza pottery classes. The Riverwalk also hosts an inspired event called “Read and Rhythm,” an early-childhood literacy program that provides free books, along with fun experiences.
12. Swing Through the Dearborn Historical Museum
This little museum, which celebrates its 90th birthday in 2019, preserves some of Dearborn’s military and civic history. One of its buildings is the old Detroit Arsenal Commandant’s Quarters, the oldest building in Dearborn residing in its original location. The home is furnished as it appeared in the 1800s, so visitors can experience the look and feel of the period. It also houses informative military displays.
The museum comprises two other buildings — one an old gunpowder magazine and later a home, and one a house dating from the pioneer days. Enjoy a free, informative guided tour, or stop by for evening talks and events like teddy bear picnics for the little ones.
13. Try a New Sport at the Fowling Warehouse
Located a little outside Dearborn in Hamtramck, the Fowling Warehouse makes a great place to experience the novel Detroiter sport of fowling, which combines football and bowling in the way that “frolfing” combines Frisbee and golf. After a long day of touring museums and lounging by the river, what better way to unwind than by lobbing a football at a set of unsuspecting bowling pins? The Fowling Warehouse is an excellent place to get up and moving while making unique memories with friends and family. You can bring your own refreshments or grab some beverages on site. Fowling is a game unlike any you’ve played before — don’t miss out.
14. Create Artwork at Painting With a Twist
When you arrive at the Painting With a Twist studio in Dearborn, you’ll receive a canvas and some paints. The instructor will lead you through the step-by-step process of creating the night’s painting — often a cute creature, gorgeous landscape or seasonal scene — while you enjoy adult beverages. During a stretching break, you may also have a chance to win a painting from a selection on display.
Instructors are friendly and encouraging, and the events calendar lets you choose a painting you love. Unless otherwise specified, night classes at Painting with a Twist are generally not kid-friendly, so if you have children, you’ll want to plan another event for them to do while you go out on your date or solo night out.
15. Grab Tickets for Go Comedy! Improv Theater
Whether you love improv comedy or hoping to try something new, Go Comedy! Improv Theatre is a cozy place full of laughter and good times. The shows are interactive, and there’s always something new to see. Sunday nights feature an open improv session, so stop by then and try your comedy skills onstage. The venue boasts a full bar and signature soft pretzels — try cinnamon sugar or cheese.
Wednesday and Sunday shows venture into R-rated material, whereas other shows are generally appropriate for a PG-13 crowd. You want to purchase tickets in advance as they tend to sell out fast, so make your plans early for a night of uproarious fun. Dearborn hosts many activities after the sun goes down, meaning you can plan an entire evening around a show.
16. Watch a Performance at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center
Make time to enjoy a musical, a theatrical performance, a comedy show or a summer concert or performance by the youth symphony. The venue also showcases a swimming pool, a climbing wall, a fitness center and a basketball court for those who need to burn off some energy. For a taste of truly local flavor after seeing the big sights around town, the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center can offer unique experiences a little off the beaten path.
17. Dine at TRIA – Inspired American Cuisine
To end — or begin — an adventure-packed day on the right foot, enjoy a unique culinary experience at TRIA. The handcrafted menu, casual atmosphere, cozy ambiance and locally sourced ingredients combine for a meal of irresistible flavor and an experience you won’t soon forget. Located in the beautiful, luxurious Henry Hotel, TRIA also offers a host of fine wines and craft cocktails to enhance your dining experience. Anyone can stop in — the rotating seasonal menu boasts a variety of dishes and flavors offering something perfect for every palate.
Make a Reservation at TRIA
Now that you know some exciting Dearborn, Michigan, things to do, make a reservation to secure a place at one of the finest restaurants Dearborn and Detroit have to offer. Our chefs, waitstaff, host — and everyone in between — will craft you a wonderful night.