The vibrant city of Detroit sits on the northern banks of the scenic Detroit River which serves as a border between the United States and Canada. The Detroit Riverfront has been undergoing renovations over the past couple decades in order to spruce it up from its not so pretty past. Today, the riverfront is an appealing place to be for things to do in Detroit, Michigan.
This is especially true in and near downtown. Here are some places along the riverfront that I would particularly like to take note of.
Let’s start with the riverfront in front of Detroit’s downtown. Hart Plaza is essentially the heart of downtown where people gather in order to soak in the beauty of the Detroit River and look up at the skyscrapers that towers above them. There are a few key features of the plaza to mention. The first is a statue of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac.
He was a French explorer who founded Detroit in 1701, long before the United States became an independent country. When it was founded, Detroit was known as Fort Pontchartrain au Detroit. Hart Plaza itself marks the approximate spot where Antoine landed in 1701.
Also found at the plaza is a sculpture that commemorates Detroit’s role as a sanctuary city for freed blacks who escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad in the 19th century. There are also two sections of the plaza that are shaped like circles. One of them contains an amphitheater where you can watch live performances. The other section houses the Horace E. Dodge and Son Memorial Fountain.
The fountain is made of stainless steel and has two legs topped by a 30-foot high ring. It sits within a circular black granite pool. The fountain contains three hundred jets and three hundred lights in order to produce spectacular water displays. While you are at the plaza, you may be able to see at least one or two cruise ships docked there like the MS Hamburg and the Yorktown.
At the southern end of the plaza lies the Detroit Riverwalk which runs right along the river. When you walk slight east of the plaza on the riverwalk, you will reach a group of close-knit towers known as the GM Renaissance Center. It is notable for being the world headquarters of General Motors which is one of Detroit’s big three automakers.
The complex contains a number of dining options available for you. Andiamo Detroit Riverfront and Joe Muer Seafood are by far the most well known options there. So, they are worth considering. Also worth checking out at the complex is GM World which houses a nice collection of cars on display.
On the riverfront in front of the complex is GM Plaza Promenade. When you are there, make sure to look down because you will notice some kind of painting that resembles a world map.
Milliken State Park and Harbor
If you are looking for somewhere more natural on the riverfront, you will want to check out Milliken State Park and Harbor. It is located about 1.1 miles east of Hart Plaza. You can reach the state park via walking or cycling on the riverwalk. This is the first urban state park in the US state of Michigan. It is notable for its lighthouse. The lighthouse is a scaled down replica of the Tawas Point Light in northern Michigan.
The state park’s lighthouse is about 63 feet high and is made of conical brick. It offers a unique vantage for you to take in the breathtaking views of downtown Detroit with the river in the foreground. Aside from the lighthouse, the state park is noted for its recently restored wetlands. There are paved trails throughout the park for you to take in the scenery.
Fishers will be pleased to know that there are opportunities for shoreline fishing at the state park. They can do so from the designated fishing platforms. If you are looking to eat lunch, there is a designated picnic area with sail-covered pavilions.
If you are looking to arrive at the state park by boat, there is a 52-slip harbor for you to dock your boat. You can follow along here or contact 1-800-447-2757 to reserve a slip at the harbor.
Belle Isle Park
Nature lovers will want to head out to Belle Isle Park. It is a large, scenic island park located within the Detroit River. The island park is around ten minutes or so drive east from Detroit’s downtown. It is accessed via the MacArthur Bridge. As you will see, it certainly is a world away from the bustle and hustle of downtown. This is the third largest island in the Detroit River.
There is an extensive network of hiking trails for you to enjoy the natural beauty that the island park has to offer including 150 acres of wooded areas and three lakes. Even though the island park is a whole different setting, it is close enough that you can get a breathtaking view of downtown Detroit. Oh and yes, you can go fishing on the shore while taking in the downtown views. How cool is that?
One of the island park’s attractions I would like to bring up is the James Scott Memorial Fountain. This is a majestic fountain to behold, especially when compared to the one from Hart Plaza which I mentioned earlier. This fountain is 510 feet across and its central fountain is capable of spraying water 125 feet into the air.
There are also 109 water outlets in the form of cute statues of dolphins, turtles, lions, and human figures. The fountain is shaped like a series of Vermont white marble bowls.
So, for things to do in Detroit, Michigan, consider spending some time on the city’s riverfront. Also, if you are looking for somewhere more epic in the area, you will want to head to Detroit’s neighboring suburb of Dearborn in order to visit the largest indoor/outdoor museum complex in the United States – The Henry Ford. My previous post covers this.
If you are looking for a place to stay overnight at in Detroit, I have got your back. Here is a hotel I would suggest for you.
Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center
Do you see the taller, circular tower in the center within the GM Renaissance Center? This is where the hotel is located. This is the third tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere and the tallest skyscraper in Detroit. It has 73 floors. Fuell is the hotel’s onsite restaurant for sit-down dining. Those of you who just want to order takeout food can head to Motor City Pantry which is also located onsite.
Additionally, Starbucks is also available at the hotel. A 24-hour fitness center is housed on the 40th floor of the hotel, allowing you to soak in some nice views during your workouts. Given how tall the hotel really is, you can imagine yourself being in a hotel room with sweeping views of downtown Detroit, the Detroit River, and even Windsor in Canada.
At the very least, you can expect to have WiFi, coffee makers, and mini refrigerators in your hotel room. The average rate for a standard room range from $229 to $462. You can head here to explore your booking options and/or check out some photos.
What are your thought? Are you looking forward to spending some time on the city’s riverfront? Feel free to leave a comment below.