My most recent trip to Detroit happened because of some personal reasons, that being said it was an unexpected trip so my aim was to find the best budget-friendly places in the city. Thankfully, there are a lot of FREE and affordable places to visit in Detroit so I really felt like I saw and did a lot during the few days I was there. Don’t let Detroit’s reputation for abandoned buildings and crime discourage you! If you don’t stray too far from downtown you shouldn’t have to worry about feeling unsafe.
#1 Stay at Mint House Detroit
I would highly recommend staying right downtown to save on Ubers. A majority of the best places in Detroit are close to one another making it easy to walk or use an electric scooter. The people movers were still closed from COVID but they are due to open again in September of 2021. I stayed at Mint House inside of Philip Houze, which I would highly recommend! The rate per night wasn’t much over $100 and it was a roomy loft-style apartment. You can book through my link here!
Must Visit Places To Visit in Detroit
#2 Belle Isle Park
Out of all the budget activities in Detroit, Belle Isle has to be at the top for value. You could truly spend a whole day at Belle Isle Park, it’s so beautiful, and there is SO much to do here! I allowed 4-5 hours and that still wasn’t quite enough time to see everything! I already made a guide on Instagram which you can find here for a list of all the best spots in the park!
Getting to Belle Isle from Downtown
It’s too far to walk from downtown but you can rent bikes, scooters, or Uber. Biking was going to be the same price as Ubering so I went for the Uber, haha! I would also recommend Uber if you have limited time in the city. I had originally planned to ride by the Eastern Market murals and the Dequindre Cut murals so if you have the time, biking would give you the option for a scenic route, the eta is 25-35 minutes each way.
Best way to see everything
Once you get there I would recommend walking PAST the fountain, casino, and peace tower (visit these on your way back) to reach the conservatory and the aquarium. The conservatory and aquarium are both free but close early in the evening so don’t wait until the end of the day like I did or you’ll run out of time! I got lucky and had 30 minutes to speed walk the conservatory. Also, be sure to check google beforehand for their hours of operation because both are different.
There are also several trails and a public beach which I did not have time to get to but they are quite a bit further away from the rest of the activities but they didn’t seem as interesting as everything else I saw.
#3 The Monarch Club
Rooftop bars in Detroit are not a common theme but The Monarch Club does it right! It’s an elegant and old-school bar & lounge on the Penthouse floor of the Metropolitan Building. I wasn’t able to snag a reservation but we went anyway and got lucky with one of the last tables (they don’t offer bar seating)! For the cost of a drink you can enjoy a luxurious experience and city views– if seated inside you can easily walk outside on either of the two patios.
While the Eatori isn’t “cheap” per se, you can have a high-quality lunch or dinner experience for around $20, which compared to the majority of restaurants in downtown Detroit it’s a pretty good deal. I had the Pasta Amogi, the herb ricotta, and fresh basil on top were the touches that made this dish a winner. The other cool thing about Eatori is the attached market in the back end of the restaurant. They have a lot of local and unique grocery items and I ended up purchasing some flake salt for a recipe that I couldn’t find at my normal grocery store!
#5 The Highlands in the GM Renissaiance Center
The Renaissance Center is Detriot’s tallest and most iconic skyscraper so you would be doing yourself a disservice by not visiting it. Entering the Ren Center is free and there are plenty of scenic views of Ontario and the Detroit River just from the first couple of floors, not to mention the variety of shops and dining options within.
Visiting The Highlands on the 71st floor was one of my favorite budget activities in Detroit. Navigating there can be a little confusing since there are multiple towers, just look for signs for The Highlands and take the elevator to the 71st floor. Eating there was way out of my price range but grabbing a cocktail to enjoy the views was the perfect compromise, lol.
My Finding's Tip: If you're looking to dine you must have reservations beforehand. The menu is 3-course style so you pay a flat rate of $75 for the experience.
Best Budget Restaurants in Detroit
#6 Iggy’s Eggies
For breakfast, one of the best places in Detroit is by Iggy’s Eggies on W Grand River Ave. This spot is good for staying within budget because it’s an order at the window spot which means you don’t have to tip for table service! The featured menu item is the Build-Your-Own Eggie but they also have breakfast burritos, plus, burgers and sandwiches for lunch. I really enjoyed my creation for under $10.
#7 Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters or MadCap
After you’ve had breakfast at Iggy’s it’s time for some coffee at either Dessert Oasis across the street or at MadCap a couple of blocks in the other direction. Don’t get me wrong, Oasis was good but out of all the coffee places to visit in Detroit I’d have to give MadCap priority! It’s honestly is in my top 5 coffee shops of all time! However, if you’re trying to work on your computer Dessert Oasis would be my pick, it’s very spacious with outlets and they have chai lattes (MadCap doesn’t).
#8 Joe Meur Happy Hour
Joe Meur inside the Ren Center is not a place for those on a budget, however, I’m sure we can all make an exception for a good happy hour deal! It runs from 4-6 M-F at the bar. Here’s the link to their happy hour menu. Keep in mind they have a strict dress code, even though I was wearing a nice top and sandals the jean shorts didn’t fly. This is what led me to discover The Highlands which I mentioned earlier, so I’m kinda glad I was underdressed because I wouldn’t have had time to do both!
Best Budget Activities in Detroit
#9 The BELT
Walking through the BELT is a budget activity in Detroit because it’s FREE, and if you go during the day before all the bars on the strip open you can take some great pictures of the murals! At night, this is one of the main spots for bar hopping, live music, and restaurants. I went on a Thursday to check things out and it wasn’t the most lively but I imagine the weekend would be a different story.
#10 Detriot Riverwalk
The Detroit Riverwalk was named the best riverwalk in the country in 2021! Our Uber driver even said it was one of his favorite places to visit in Detroit. It stretches for 14 miles and includes access to several parks and plazas. Check out the full map here! To be time-efficient be sure to combine this activity while visiting the Ren Center.
#11 Campus Martius
After walking around downtown for a while you might want to stop and relax or eat at Campus Martius. The Woodward Fountain and Michigan Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument make the park a scenic spot, plus there is often there is live music in the evenings. The two restaurants are Fountain and Parc. We grabbed drinks (which were pricey) from Parc but I think Fountain would have been a little more affordable. Obviously, you could skip both to make this a free activity! 😉
I’d also like to mention that Monroe Street Midway, a rollerblading rink is right across from Campus Martius. It is rather new so it doesn’t come up on google but if you’re interested here is the address, 32 Monroe St. It’s open May 28, 2021 – Sep 30, 2021. If you’re reading this after this season you can check their website here for opening dates.
My Finding's Tip: If you Uber there will be quite a bit of walking involved so wear comfortable shoes and bring water, I forgot, but the vending machine saved my life!
#12 The Guardian Building
If you’re in the area I highly recommend stepping inside the lobby of the Guardian Building for a few minutes. It’s free of charge to enter making it another one of the budget places to visit in Detroit! The hand-painted tile work on the ceiling is truly beautiful and there is a nice mural of Michigan on the back wall.
I’m not the biggest museum gal but MoCad only recommends you donate $5 for entry. It’s a little bit outside of downtown but I decided to check it out because I had a free ride from my dad who came to visit me. Their website mentions that the exhibits are constantly changing so I knew my experience would be different than the pictures on Google reviews. Honestly, it wasn’t my style, I found a lot of the art a little creepy but it did bring up some interesting conversations in my group. However, if you like contemporary art it is definitely worth a visit. The pictures I’m sharing are of the few pieces I enjoyed.
#14 Walk Around Greek Town
You can easily spot the Greektown Casino from the outskirts of Greektown, so you’ll know you’re going in the right direction. You could make the casino a budget-friendly activity by sticking to the penny slots. 😉 As the name suggests you can find tons of Greek restaurants and businesses in the area. A lot of the restaurants stay open late which makes it easy to grab food after a night out. I like walking around this part of downtown Detroit because there are pretty lights, music, and murals to see. We tried The Greek which seemed to be the most affordable Greek restaurant choice. I’m not sure the gyro meat was very high quality, regardless, it was yummy! Oh, and the boiled potatoes were heavenly.
During the day there are a few beautiful churches to visit including Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Second Baptist Church (once a stop on the Underground Railroad), and Old St. Mary’s Catholic Church
#15 Walk on Woodward Ave | Comerica Park & Fox Theatre
There are a few famous spots on Woodward Ave which are cool to see in person. I really was surprised by how short the walk was, only 5-10 minutes from the main parts of downtown. We made sure to walk around Comerica Park to see the famous Detroit Tiger sculptures around the stadium, Ford Field where the Lions play is literally right behind it! On the other side of Woodward is the Fox Theatre, Little Caesars Headquarters, Hockeytown Cafe— a Red Wings themed sports bar–, Little Caesars Area where the Detriot Pistons play and where concerts are hosted.
Until next time, Rach
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