Summertime may be a few months away, but planning for it can begin now. In case you find yourself looking for fun things to do in Detroit this summer, we’ve put together a list of summer events in Dearborn and Detroit that will have you considering making the city your annual summer getaway. Whether you’re a lover of the arts, a connoisseur of good food and wine or a sucker for some fun festivals, we’ve got something to satisfy everyone.
While it may be best known for giving rise to Motown, there’s a lot more to Detroit than meets the eye — and more and more people are starting to recognize this truth, as proven by the fact that the Lonely Planet travel guide named it the second most popular city to visit in 2018.
A rich and colorful history, a variety of fun festivals, gorgeous warm weather and a multitude of summer events in Detroit all continue to make it a late addition to millions of travel bucket lists. The city’s rising popularity and the myriad activities can seem overwhelming, so we’ve put together a quick list of the best things to see and do in Detroit in the summer.
Here are some of the places you can visit and things you can do in Detroit in the summer:
- Detroit Riverfront
- Belle Isle Park
- Motor City Parade
- Ford Fireworks
- Detroit Jazz Fest
- Mo Pop Festival
- Breakfast at ASHE Supply Co. or Selden Standard
- Lunch at Mercury Burger & Bar or TRIA – Inspired American Cuisine
- Dinner at The Skip or SavannahBlue
Warm Weather Activities
Detroit is one of those cities in which you can spend all day at the beach and all night on gorgeous patios. Plus, it’s full of museums, historic sights and activities for fun family days or quiet, romantic nights. Here are some summer ideas to consider.
Whether you’re the sort of person who likes to be lazy and relax on a hot summer day or the kind who loves movement and activity, you’re bound to find something to entertain you at the Detroit International Riverfront. The waterside stretch features a vast selection of restaurants and retail shops, a marina, a cruise ship dock and multiple hiking and walking trails.
If you’re the sort who needs to get a run in every day, even on vacation, the 5.5-mile Riverwalk is ideal for you. The 62-foot-wide path will allow you to explore via foot or wheels and stretches from Ambassador Bridge in the west across to Belle Isle Park in the east.
If you’re looking for things to do in Detroit during the summer and find it difficult to decide what you want, the harbor-front is your best bet, as it’s full of something for everyone. It’s even home to a number of the city’s summer festivals.
Belle Isle Park
If the crows and bustle of the riverfront get too overwhelming, you can always just follow the Riverwalk east to Belle Isle Park, an island park situated right on the Detroit River, which spans 982 acres. Aside from the usual half-mile of beach and opportunities for kayaking available on glorious summer days, the park is also home to several attractions, including the Belle Isle Aquarium, the Belle Isle Nature Center, the Belle Isle Conservatory and even a municipal golf course.
We could probably give you an entire list that consists of nothing but events and attractions on this multipurpose little tourist attraction.
Summer events in Detroit are abundant, and your biggest challenge may end up being picking which ones you want to attend. From innumerable music festivals to year-round events that are more fun in the summertime, these activities will have you wishing there were a few more hours in the day — or at least a few more days in summer!
The number of fun things to do in Detroit in the summer is always increasing, but one thing that remains is the city’s dedication to celebrating itself and its awesome citizens with options like:
- Motor City Pride is less a simple parade and more a weekend-long celebration of the LGBTQ community. Held on the second weekend of June, Motor City Pride is one of the largest Pride celebrations in Michigan and has called Detroit home since 2011. It has evolved to include more activities aimed at all ages, from kids and college students to families of all shapes and sizes.
- The Ford Fireworks have been around for more than 60 years under various names, most popularly the Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival, which was a joint birthday party for Canada and the United States at the end of June. The festival has since split into two separate celebrations — Windsor Summer Fest and Detroit River Days — but the celebratory fireworks remain the main attraction for both sides of the border. Head down to the Detroit Riverfront to watch the 30-minute fireworks show. Or, if you’re able, cross over to Windsor, Canada, and see the fireworks lighting up the gorgeous Detroit skyline.
The music festivals that take place in July and August are some of the best things to do in Detroit in the summer, but two take the cake:
- Detroit Jazz Fest is the big one and often features some of the most renowned jazz musicians as headliners. Previous participants have included legends like Sonny Rollins, Wynton Marsalis and Dave Brubeck. The celebrated event closes off the summer by scatting and jiving through Labor Day weekend.
- Mo Pop Festival is a great choice if jazz isn’t your cup of tea or you’re looking to get groovy earlier in the season. The fairly new music fest highlights indie rock, hip hop and pop music — and will allow you to sample some of Detroit’s finest cuisine. As of 2015, the small festival — which has been compared to Coachella and Lollapalooza — moved from suburban Sterling Heights to take place closer to Downtown Detroit, at West Riverfront Park.
Food, Glorious Food!
If you’re a foodie, you’ll be glad to know that Detroit is also full of mouthwatering cuisines that range from high-class creations to comfort food and everything in between. Whether you’re enjoying a delicious Detroit-style pizza or opting for a quiet, upscale dinner, using outdoor seating is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Detroit in the summer, and you should take advantage of it with every meal:
- Breakfast: Start your day off on the right foot by taking in your morning cuppa at ASHE Supply Co. in Downtown. This quirky coffee shop features a great outdoor seating area and ensures that its coffee is ethically sourced while being out of this world. Prefer to sleep in and take it easy? The Selden Standard is the go-to place for a hearty breakfast or brunch.
- Lunch: Load up on carbs and comfort food at Mercury Burger & Bar, which is famous for its juicy, delicious burgers. The thick milkshakes are just as famous, and there are even options for alcoholic milkshakes, all of which you can enjoy indoors or outdoors. But if you’re looking for something a little more upscale for your midday meal, TRIA is the way to go. The restaurant uses the best seasonal ingredients from Michigan and boasts a patio that’s heavenly during the warm summer months.
- Dinner: Close out your day with a cozy meal while still making the most of summer at The Skip. With a tropical theme all year, you may be inspired to start a conga line or have a limbo contest. For a more traditional dinner, try Savannahblue. Northern soul food meets a classy yet casual atmosphere for a unique Detroit dining experience.
Dearborn’s Little Secret
If the hustle and bustle of the metropolis gets you stressed, try exploring Detroit’s suburb, Dearborn. Featuring a rich history and dozens of family-run retailers and restaurants, Dearborn is a stone’s throw from Detroit, making it the perfect place to stay. Plus, you can take part in the many summer events in Dearborn and punctuate your days with breakfast, lunch or dinner at TRIA.
With outdoor and indoor seating, daily specials and a rotation of barrel-aged cocktails, TRIA is the perfect spot to start or end your days in Dearborn and Detroit. Make your reservation now and get in on Dearborn’s little secret!