Skip the Trip: What to do in Detroit this Labor Day Weekend

Lauren Zyber

By on 08/28/20

Skip the Trip: What to do in Detroit this Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day weekend is coming up, and while that might bring the sadness that comes with the end of summer, fear not. We’re bringing you some of the best things to do in Detroit during Labor Day weekend so that you can still enjoy the summer, avoid the crowds, and not feel bad about your big weekend trip that might have gotten canceled. 

Of course Labor Day isn’t just about getting on the boat one last time before the kids go back to school. Labor Day is a national holiday that pays tribute to the American workers who fought for worker’s rights. Because yeah, there was a time in American history when kids worked in dangerous factories and people didn’t have protection from workplace risks and abuse.

We can thank the many people who striked and petitioned and fought for rights like child labor laws, 40-hour work weeks, paid time off, better working conditions, and higher wages. 

Yes, that’s a lot of good stuff to celebrate! So as we throw some hot dogs on the grill or go water skiing on the lake, take a second to think about the people who advocated for worker’s rights and made national paid holidays (like this one) a thing. 

So what are the best things to do in Detroit this weekend? Well, one of the reasons we love living in the city is because there are always fun things to do in Detroit—even during quarantine and the era of social distance. Plus, most are pretty cheap things to do for Labor Day Weekend, so you don’t have to break the bank on a big trip. Whether you get out in the city this weekend or any time in the year, we’re pretty sure you’ll have an amazing time. 

19 Fun Things to do in Detroit this Labor Day Weekend

1. Virtual Detroit Jazz Festival

We all know and love the Detroit Jazz Festival, which is a classic Labor Day weekend event in the city. And it still is happening this year, but to avoid the massive crowds it tends to draw, the festival will be virtual. You can stream live performances throughout the weekend on the festival’s website, on their app, or through other various channels. The jazz festival will showcase mostly Detroit area musicians, as well as performers from around the world. And yep, it’s free.

2. All the Belle Isle shenanigans

Belle Isle can certainly get busy on regular weekends whenever the weather is nice, so just be warned: it might be crowded. Try going early in the morning for a nice bike ride or run/walk around the island. You can also chill out at the beach, have a picnic in the grass or hit a few balls at the driving range. The conservatory and aquarium are still closed, but you can still enjoy the great outdoors. 

3. Hiking

If you want more exercise but need a little more space, go for a hike at one of the many beautiful hiking trails in metro Detroit. The trails are scenic and provide a perfect social distancing activity. 

4. Get ice cream

After all that exercise, you’re probably going to want ice cream. Didn’t exercise? That’s okay, treat yourself anyway. Not sure where to go? Check out some of our favorite ice cream shops in metro Detroit. And if you’re really bored, conduct your own official taste test and try them all (or at least some of them). Let us know which one is your favorite!

5. Explore the Detroit River

Have you ever ventured into the Detroit River, other than strolling along the river walk? Go on a new adventure and kayak around the Detroit River. Detroit River Sports offers kayaking tours of Belle Isle and morning, afternoon and sunset tours of the canal. Detroit Outpost also offers private excursions along the river and open paddles morning, afternoon and evening. 

6. Kayak down the Huron River

If you want to take a mini trip to a different river, head to Ann Arbor and kayak down the Huron River. You’ll get a little thrill going down the cascades. And then you can hit up all those good Ann Arbor ice cream shops, too! (Sorry not sorry I love ice cream). 

7. Visit the DIA

Rather stay inside? Lucky for you Detroit has some amazing museums that are open. The Detroit Institute of Arts is free for all visitors right now, but they’ll be charging again after Labor Day. Make sure you reserve tickets in advance and check out their changed hours of operation. When you get there, make sure you take in the Diego Rivera murals and check out the Frida Kahlo exhibit. Take a pic of your favorite piece and share it with us. We’d love to see what caught your eye. 

8. Check out the Marvel Exhibit

If you’re in a real museum mood, check out the new Marvel Universe exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. Make sure you reserve your tickets in advance (they sell out fast). While you’re there, check out the restored Rosa Parks bus, Abraham Lincoln’s rocker and other amazing artifacts. 

More noteworthy museums in the city include the Motown Museum, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the Detroit Historical Museum. Just make sure you get your ticket in advance.  

9. Visit Greenfield Village

If you’d rather do an outdoor museum, check out Greenfield Village, which is part of the Henry Ford Museum. Wander around the village and view historic buildings like Edison’s lab or the Wright Cycle Shop. Take a ride in a Model T or the train.

10. Tour the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House

Can’t get enough of those old houses? I feel ya. Take a tour of the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, right on Lake St. Clair. While the interior is amazing (like the American version of Downton Abbey), indoor tours are currently closed, but you can still tour the stunning gardens. 

11. Catch some outdoor music

If you’re really itching to be outside while listening to some free live music (and I don’t blame you, soak in the sun while you can), there are some fun places that feature live music outdoors in the city. Detroit Shipping Company has live music every Friday and Saturday in their “summer oasis,” and The Congregation also has live music every Friday evening on their patio. 

12. Take a stroll in the Zoo

You can’t beat a nice summer or fall day at the zoo. And lucky for us, the Detroit area is home to one of the best. This weekend, go for a walk through the Detroit Zoo. No matter how old you are, nothing beats watching the lions roar, the otters play, or the giraffes stick out their blue tongues. 

13. Go back to the drive-in

Fun fact: Michigan is home to the largest drive-in movie theater in the U.S.—and yes, it’s open. The Ford Drive-In, which is the closest drive-in to Detroit, is located in Dearborn and has 5 theaters. They’re currently showing some classics (like Carrie and Jaws) as well as some newer films. Each theater has a double feature, so grab some popcorn and make a night of it. 

14. Host your own movie marathon

Don’t even want to get in your car? Host your own movie marathon from the comfort of your living room. If the weather is crappy (which can often happen on Labor Day weekend), it’s the perfect time to catch up on all those movies you’ve been wanting to see. Bonus points for keeping it local: stream some of these Detroit classics

15. Bike a new neighborhood in Detroit

One of my favorite things I did this summer was the Monday night bike rides I took with my friends. We’d explore a new neighborhood each time, always finding gems everywhere we went. It’s a safe, socially distant (not to mention totally free) activity perfect for taking advantage of the last weeks of sunshine. Plus, you feel like you’re on a new adventure without ever leaving the city. Don’t have a bike? Rent one of the MoGo bikes throughout the city. 

16. Create your own tour

Have you ever taken a tour of your own city? Seems like something only out-of-towners do, but a guided tour can be a great way to learn more about the place you live in. Detroit is lucky to be home to awesome tours, but many aren’t operating right now. With a little research and a map, you can create your own tour of Detroit—plus, now that you’re in control, you can skip all the boring things you’d normally tune out. Maybe create a tour of Detroit’s best murals. Or try to find a few iconic, historic Detroit homes, buildings, or landmarks. Or take a tour of the best parks and gardens in the city. Whatever you want to find, go find it. 

By the way, if you do this, let us know. We’d love to see what you discovered!

17. Eastern Market

You can never go wrong with a morning spent at Eastern Market. It really is one of the best things to do in Detroit. Period. Whether you go on Saturday or Sunday, you’ll always find wonderful, local produce, flowers, food, and more. Just remember to wear your face mask and try to keep a safe distance from others in the market. Other than that, happy shopping!

18. Cocktails to go

Miss getting drinks at your favorite bar? Lots of places are offering cocktails to go! If you’re already in the Eastern Market area, hit up Detroit City Distillery. They have a great outdoor area in the street, but if you’d rather sip in a safer place, you can grab a cocktail to go. Kiesling in the Milwaukee Junction, Sugar House, Two James Distillery, and more also have some classy cocktails you can take home. 

19. Picnic in a park

Although you can’t take your carryout cocktail to a park (not yet at least), you can still enjoy a lovely picnic in a nice park or on Belle Isle. Pack a blanket, some sandwiches, fruit, cheese and crackers, or whatever tickles your picnicking fancy, and enjoy dining alfresco. 

What’s your favorite thing to do in Detroit? Let us know, or tag us on Instagram @purposejobs


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