When Detroit filed for bankruptcy in 2013, the immediate future looked bleak for the city. However, Detroit surprised everyone with a quick financial recovery that has earned the city the nickname America’s Comeback City.
Today, the city boasts low unemployment rates and a development boom for both downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Fresh initiatives like a new streetcar service, a city park and a variety of entrepreneurial projects keep the city bustling.
Groups can learn about this inspirational turnaround on a city tour. Locals passionate about Detroit lead these sightseeing tours to share knowledge and love of the Michigan city.
These tours come in a variety of topics and types. Whether groups feel the spray from the river on a laid-back cruise or sample the latest concoction from the city’s brewery boom, all will leave with a new appreciation for the Motor City.
Feet on the Street
Many groups like to explore a new destination with their stomachs, which Feet on the Street can arrange with its Come Hungry, Leave Happy tour. The tour enables participants to savor locally made delicacies at the Eastern Market, such as pickles, chocolate, salsa, lava cake, hummus and pizza, among others.
“The Come Hungry, Leave Happy tour is one of my favorite tours because you get to meet people and you get to eat. And what’s better than that?” said Deanna Majchrzak, media relations manager for the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau. “You visit the different vendors of the Eastern Market to meet the owners and sample some of the food.”
The tours relate behind-the-scenes facts about the market and its stunning art murals, with additional stops at a nearby art gallery, jazz club or letterpress shop.
Frequently booked tours from Feet on the Street also include food crawls through other parts of Detroit and creatively themed tours such as Prohibition and All that Jazz, Historic Homes, and Diversity in the D. The 13-year-old company can also customize tours to fit a group’s needs.
Detroit Experience Factory
Groups can gain insight into Detroit’s past as well as its innovative present during a tour with the Detroit Experience Factory. The nonprofit tour company runs 28 different public tours; most are free.
“They have a very knowledgeable staff,” said Majchrzak. “They are very plugged into the city. They are a great resource for group tours.”
Founded in 2006, the company strives to present information that can’t be found on Google. It offers a range of walking tours, step-on tours and pub crawls and operates Detroit’s Downtown Welcome Center.
The popular Best of Downtown tour outlines the billions of dollars in development seen in recent years for the city’s downtown and beyond. The two-hour tour passes through major developments, local shops and recently renovated residential areas. Other highlights are Campus Martius Park, the Guardian Building and Capitol Park.
Groups can choose from several other themed tours, among them the Hidden City Bus Tour, for a glimpse into the secret societies and exclusive clubs across the city. The Downtown and Beyond tour examines the collaborations going on in the community to turn distressed neighborhoods into thriving areas.
Similarly, the Detroit Innovation Tour sheds light on Detroit’s current reinvention. Guides provide insider perspective on how Detroit’s past opened doors to the cutting-edge projects now in development all over the city.
Diamond Jack’s River Tours
Captain Bill Hoey frequently introduces new visitors to Detroit with a relaxing cruise past the city’s impressive skyline of new and historic buildings. The family-owned and -operated riverboat tour company offers cruises aboard three ships, including the Diamond Jack, which formerly served as a Mackinac Island Ferry vessel.
The miniship sails regularly for two-hour narrated cruises of the Detroit River, for both the public and private tour groups.
“You can enjoy the open water and a view of downtown and Windsor, Canada,” Majchrzak said. “On a nice day, you can see both sides of the river easily. You also get to see many landmarks, like Belle Isle and the Ambassador Bridge.”
Tours also pass by the GM Renaissance Center, Manoogian Mansion and Historic Fort Wayne. Passengers can purchase soft drinks, beer, wine and snacks on the tour while learning about how Detroit was dubbed the Paris of the West during the Gilded Age. Guides also point out various landmarks and interesting tidbits about each one.
Diamond Jack’s River Tours can accommodate groups of up to 250 at a time with the addition of two ships it uses primarily for group tours and private charters. Groups can opt for a catered meal of barbecue, Italian, Mexican and various other cuisines for private events.