The American Revolution. The Underground Railroad. Birthplace of the automobile. The Civil Rights movement. If you didn’t already realize it, The D’s a goldmine for history geeks.
The best way to explore Detroit’s historic sites is by taking a tour such as the ones offered by Preservation Wayne. The organization offers tours through the city’s Prohibition past, as well as Mt. Elliott Cemetery, which houses the city’s earliest settlers, founding families and other notable figures.
You can also take the self-guided historic sites tour available on experiencedetroit.com, which includes the Ford Rouge factory, Fort Wayne, Sainte Anne de Detroit church, Campus Martius, Motown Historical Museum and Ford Piquette Plant.
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is a definite must for history lovers, particularly for those interested in the birth of the automobile and the man whose dream put the nation on wheels. See how the car transformed American life; check out architect R. Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House; view Abraham Lincoln’s rocking chair (from the night of his assassination); and climb on board the bus where Detroiter Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, sparking the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. Separate from the museum but also a worthwhile stop, The Henry Ford’s Ford Rouge Factory Tour is the only Detroit automotive plant tour that is available to the public.
The city’s rich African-American history is underscored by the fact that it was a key stop along the Underground Railroad (Detroit’s codename along the legendary route was Midnight) and that Martin Luther King Jr. gave a first version of his I Have a Dream speech here.
The First Congregational Church of Detroit hid refugee slaves en route to Canada in its basement. It now houses the Living Museum and the Underground Railroad Flight to Freedom Program Tour, which gives groups of visitors a simulated experience of what it might have been like to be a runaway slave.
Visit the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to uncover more of the story of African-Americans in The D. Named for a Detroit physician committed to preserving black history, the museum houses the Harriet Tubman and Coleman A. Young collections, in addition to the permanent exhibit And Still We Rise: Our Journey through African American History and Culture which follows the journey of African-Americans across continents to present-day Detroit.
If you’re interested in Holocaust history, visit the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus in Farmington Hills for guided tours, which may include an opportunity to speak with a Holocaust survivor.
The Detroit Historical Museum is one of the oldest and largest museums dedicated to metropolitan history in the U.S., encompassing more than three centuries of metro Detroit history. Check out an assembly line, a 19th century street scene and more. Rotating exhibits focus on various themes in Detroit’s past, such as major retailers, Vietnam veterans and the Underground Railroad.
The D is called Motown for good reason. Music lovers visiting the area will be richly rewarded when they fill their itineraries with historic sites and fill their ears with the sweet sounds that defined generations – and continue to influence music today.
No audiophile’s journey to Motown is complete without a visit to the Motown Museum, the unassuming little building that launched some very big careers. (Allow us to name-drop: Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, Diana Ross, the Jackson 5… We could go on and on and on, but there isn’t enough space here.)
Catch even more Motown music fever with a Motown dinner cruise on the Detroit Princess riverboat. Docked in downtown Detroit, the Detroit Princess offers food, drink and live renditions of Motown favorites just about every weekend in the summer and fall.
Fast forward a few decades and you’ll find that The D is also the home of one of the most contemporary music forms, as the birthplace of techno music. The annual Movement electronic music festival celebrates the experience of electronic music every May in Hart Plaza.
Turn a few heads and class up your tour with a luxury vehicle – a limousine, luxury SUV or limo bus with Metro Party Bus and Limousine.