The weather is colder as fall sets into winter, and our focus moves more indoors for the fun. Here are 24 inexpensive or free things to do in and around Detroit to make sure that even though you’re short on money you can still have a good time.

Scarf down a Niki Salad

The shawarma of Bucharest Grill is quickly joining the Coney and the Better Made Potato Chip in the hearts of minds of many Detroiters as signature food. It’s pretty inexpensive, but here’s another suggestion… A Niki Salad. It’s is the jam. Just $4.75 and has cabbage, feta and grilled marinated chicken breast with their dressing. Surprisingly filling. Multiple locations – website.

Noel Night

Noel Night
Noel Night Courtesy Photo

December 3rd is a bazillion events in one night. No matter what you like, if you’re in the holiday spirit, you’ll find something fun to check out on this evening. Woodward Avenue north of Warren and just south of I-94 will be closed, as well as there will be carolers, holiday displays and many open houses in the midtown area. Almost all of Noel Night is free. Carpool down to save on parking. Website.

Detroit Mass Mob

Via the Mass Mob Facebook page
Via the Mass Mob Facebook page

Here is a great way to support some of Detroit’s historic Catholic churches in a group with many other folks who are practicing their faith. Their next one is Nov. 20 at Most Holy Trinity. Facebook page.

Catch’em All at the Rencen

Walking through the Renaissance Center, especially on weekends, you’re going to find groups of people that if you look, you’ll see they’re all playing Pokemon Go! Together. It turns out there are a ton of pokestops so you’re loaded up as well as a home for Voltorbs, Magnemites, and more. Walk around the circular walk and catch all the Pokemon! Pro tip: Car pool with some fellow Pokemon trainers to save on parking. There are various restaurants and coffeeshops inside if you need to refuel while on your mission. Website – 100 Renaissance Center, Detroit.

The Detroit Institute of Arts


There’s an awesome short-term installation in the main entrance right now. It has changing exhibitions as well as familiar classics, this is always a good choice. If you live in the tri-county area – that’s Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County – general admission into great museum for free. Website – 5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit

Redford Theatre


This west side movie theatre from 1928 has been gradually restored and it’s really fun to see movies how they used to be seen. Not in a multiplex, but a neighborhood theatre. The interior is super cool, back when we weren’t just shoved into dark grey boxes with seats. Tickets are very affordable. Oh, if you want to check it out online first (in person is better), go here. Website – 17360 Lahser, Detroit.

Get a giant turkey leg

Yes, you read that right. At the Turkey Grill, they’re awesome and giant and $9. 8290 Woodward, Detroit – Website

Learn why Detroit’s the ship

The Dossin Great Lakes Museum is one of those place that folks don’t often think about but is very cool, especially if you’re into freighters, ships, and maritime history. You can see a grand room from the steamship the U.S.S. Detroit, and much more. Website – 100 Strand Drive, Detroit

Sanders Chocolate Factory Tour

Mmmmmm. Chocolate. Sanders is a name with a lot of history in our area. This free tour at the Sanders-Morley Factory lets you see inside the candy kitchen. If you do some planning ahead, you can do a guided tour that has more bells and whistles. Website.

Find the fish

Belle Isle Aquarium

Yes, it’s open and yes, they’re steadily making improvements to this Belle Isle historic landmark. Only open on Saturdays and Sundays. Website – 900 Inselruhe, Detroit

Warm your bones and see exotic plants

We miss 70 and 80 degree weather too, but inside the giant greenhouse, it’s always warm… even tropical or desert-like! The plants are stunning and the place has a neat history. Pair this up with the Aquarium next door. Website – 7000 Inselruhe, Detroit

Dance in Studio A

Motown Museum. Daily Detroit Photo.
Motown Museum. Daily Detroit Photo.

It always blows my mind how many people locally haven’t been to the Motown Museum. Well, admission for an adult is $15 – and if you have the D Discount pass (not just for out-of-towners), it’s 20% off. They’ve also started planning on a large expansion. Website – 2648 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit

Ogle at Detroit’s great buildings

Have done a couple of these. You get your choice of a free Guardian Building, Corrado Parducci, or a Fisher Building tour. Facebook events – Various locations

Detroit’s history is on display

You might have heard of their streets of Detroit exhibit, but there’s also a giant train set, various exhibitions (including on cars and Detroit’s contribution to World War II). Free with a donation box at the door. Website – 5401 Woodward, Detroit

See animals on wheels

A video posted by MOCAD (@mocadetroit) on

These creations are crazy, but cool. “The Spirit Of The Animals Is In The Wheels” by the pair of Artist and author Dave Eggers, along with metal artist Juan Martinez, is a herd of animal-inspired vehicles for this exhibition focused on the intersection of transportation and education in order to build awareness and solutions to transportation challenges faced by students. Free at the MOCAD. Website – 4454 Woodward, Detroit

Visit the beginning of the mainstream automotive revolution

It’s the birthplace of the Model T. The factory at one point faced the possibility of being demolished, but it now attracts visitors from around the world. $12 is the admission. Website – 461 Piquette, Detroit

Tour the amazing architecture of the Detroit Library

It’s a beautiful building that although you’ve seen the outside on Woodward, you need to see the inside to truly appreciate. There are free tours that will highlight their Pewabic fireplace, the Ernie Harwell room, and much more. You should register ahead of time. Website –  5201 Woodward, Detroit

Listen to bigger bands without breaking the bank


El Club is a newer spot on Vernor and is turning into a hot venue outside of greater downtown to see bands. Ticket prices vary depending on the show. Website – 4114 West Vernor, Detroit

Detroit Roller Derby

Detroit has four new home Derby teams this year with this growing sport. Get your tickets ahead of time and you’ll get a deal on one of the most beloved indie sports events around and you’re supporting local folks. Their season kicks off Saturday, Nov. 19 and they play at the Masonic Temple. Facebook Page.

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

If you haven’t stopped by here, you should take some time and check it out. It has a variety of exhibitions and events, including an upcoming show Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers. Admission to general museum is just $8. Facebook page – 315 East Warren, Detroit

Experience the outdoors indoors 


For just $5 you can check out the Outdoor Adventure Center near the riverfront. It’s cold outside, but it’s warm inside to learn about Michigan’s rivers and lakes, sand dunes, and stand in a full size Eagle’s nest. The site also has a lot of history behind it. Website – 1801 Atwater, Detroit

Arab American National Museum

There’s a large and thriving community of Arab Americans from various parts of the world and of different religions in our region. Learn a little bit about the history of this group of Americans and the contributions they’ve made. Just $8 for adults. Website – 13624 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn.

Visit a newly designated National Historic Landmark


The former home of automotive royalty, the Edsel And Eleanor Ford House was recently designated a national landmark. If you have visited before, you know why. For this season, the Christmas trees they put up are impressive, including ornaments from the 1950s. This is on the top end of this list at $12, but it’s memorable. Website – 1100 Lake Shore Road, Grosse Pointe Shores

Grab a cheap drink and get a good story at a dive bar

My Dads Bar Detroit Grosse Pointe Dive Bar

Here’s our list of 19 of them all over the city proper with as many stories as you can belly up to the bar for. Check’em out.

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