Detroit Day Trip Ideas for 2021

Modified: June 25, 2021 | Story by Rachel Wickremasinghe | Photos by Rachel Wickremasinghe & Bill Bowen

Traveling itself might be challenging right now, but travel planning doesn’t have to be.

So, what are your 2021 travel plans? How about a day trip to Detroit? We know it’s a hot spot for car culture. Yet, we could all also benefit from the healing effects of being surrounded by a bit of nature. But, how do we incorporate car culture into a day trip? And, what does Detroit got going as far as urban parks? Let’s find out.

Car Culture Day Trip Ideas

For pedal to the metal enthusiasts or simply metal enthusiasts, some ways to spend time with cars outdoors, pandemic pending due to local laws and safety, can include attending one of Detroit’s annual car events such as the Detroit Grand Prix, the Woodward Dream Cruise, or the North American International Auto Show.


Packard Proving Grounds

Perfect for old car enthusiasts, the Woodward Dream Cruise, said to be the world’s biggest cruise with classic cars galore, is scheduled for August 21, 2021. The cruise route is a 16-mile radius in Oakland County, northwest of Detroit. The Dream Cruise even has a new, official parking app call ParkStash!

Although NAIAS used to be held indoors in the middle of winter, from 2020 onward, the show is planned in warmer weather months next year. Motor Bella is more than just an auto show. It’s an experience and a tour through the innovative industry of mobility. Held at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac this September 21-26, tickets go on sale in July!

For history buffs, some ways to spend time with cars indoors, also pandemic pending due to local laws and safety, can include visiting the Henry Ford Museum, Ford Rouge Plant, or Packard Proving Grounds. All three locations are considered National Historic Sites.

The Henry Ford Museum has resumed operations and is hosting a Marvel exhibit featuring over 300 pop-culture artifacts through January 31 in addition to its regular features. Booking tickets in advance is encouraged. Ford Rouge Plant self-guided tours re-open January 21, 2021.

Located in Macomb County, 45-minute guided tours at the Packard Proving Grounds can be scheduled the same day if availability permits. Their website recommends “weekdays from 9am-3pm are best for group tours.”

So, day-trippers can see racing cars, cruising cars, new cars, and old cars, perhaps on the same day! Or, two out of four, at least.


Urban Park Day Trip Ideas

In addition to car-centric museums, factories, and events, Detroit has quite a few urban parks and other nature-based options to consider including in a day trip plan, both downtown and in the metro area.

For a good winter vibe setting, Campus Martius offers an outdoor ice-skating rink with warm and toasty rink-side fire pits. According to Detroit’s parks website, “skaters are required to wear masks or face coverings, as well as practice social distancing at all times, but the memories are unlimited.”

For an active setting downtown with Canadian skyline views, the Detroit Riverwalk is 3.5 miles long with quite a blend of green grass and pavement areas. An ultimate urban park, the Riverwalk is ideal for walking, running, and biking. Check the website for 2021 details regarding the Riverfront Run and Riverfront Days.

For an active setting in metro Detroit including places to walk, run, bike, as well as kayak, Hines Drive Park begins in Detroit’s neighboring city, Dearborn, and ends in Northville. Hines Drive is a Wayne County road and a conglomerate of parks. It can be a little tricky to access for those who don’t know the area. But once on it, it’s a two-lane, windy, figurative breath of fresh air to take a lazy drive on amongst the usual multi-lane, hustle-bustle, traffic grids of metro Detroit. Kayak rentals are offered at Newburgh Pointe during summer season weekends with reservations.

Up the alley for animal lovers, the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak excites and amazes visitors with the sights and sounds of its habitat variety, including the Arctic Ring of Life, “one of North America’s largest polar bear habitats,” and the Butterfly Garden inside the Wildlife Interpretive Gallery. The zoo, mostly an outdoor environment, is currently open and requires “all guests 5 and older wear masks at all times…” according to their site.

Belle Isle Conservatory 

Excellent for plant lovers, the Belle Isle Conservatory has a definite park-like atmosphere while refreshing the mind and body with its naturally purified air. The conservatory, mostly an indoor environment, “is an exotic and rare collection of plants from around the world.” Although presently closed to the public, it’s typically open Wednesdays through Sundays, 10am-5pm, with free admission and parking. See the website for 2021 updates for planning purposes.

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Mentioned Attractions And Venues

  1. 1
    Woodward Dream Cruise
    Woodward Avenue from Ferndale to Pontiac, Royal Oak, MI 48073
  2. 2
    The Henry Ford
    20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, MI 48124
  3. 3
    Detroit RiverFront Conservancy
    600 GM Renaissance Center, Ste. 1720, Detroit, MI 48243
  4. 4
    Detroit Zoo
    8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak, MI 48067
  5. 5
    Belle Isle State Park
    99 Pleasure Drive, Detroit, MI 48207
  6. 6
    Packard Proving Grounds
    49965 Van Dyke Ave, Shelby Charter Twp, MI 48317, USA
    (586) 739-4800
  7. 7
    The Detroit Grand Prix
    300 Renaissance Center, Detroit, MI 48243, USA
    (313) 748-1800