Detroit’s top-rate galleries, creative restaurants and urban parks are worth visiting year-round, but you’ll have a very different experience of the city at different times of year.
The Motor City is a real four-season destination – which means sun-baked summers, breezy, shower-dappled springtimes, bright fall colors and winters beneath a blanket of snow.
Whenever you visit, you'll find that Detroit’s diary is packed with musical jamborees (celebrating everything from jazz to techno), plus high-profile sporting events and family-friendly festivals. Here’s a month-by-month guide to the best times to visit the Motor City.
The low season (January–February) is the best time for budget travelers
You’ll need a warm coat (and probably some snow boots) if you’re going to brave Detroit in the winter. But, if you can handle the frosty weather, this is the most affordable time to take a trip to the Motor City, and there's a certain magic to seeing Detroit buried under a cloak of snow. Hotel prices are at their lowest and you can find off-peak deals at attractions across the city. Events such as February’s Winter Blast (now relocated to the suburb of Royal Oak) celebrate the chilly season too.
Shoulder season (April–May & November–December) is a great time for museum hopping and festive cheer
By April, spring has definitely sprung and it brings moderate temperatures, low humidity and smaller crowds than peak summer. You can expect the odd, damp day in April and May, but it's easy to escape the rain in one of the city’s world-class museums, from the Detroit Institute of Arts to the Michigan Science Center.
Come November, the mercury plummets and there’s a very good chance of snow, but the city sparkles with a packed roster of holiday events marking Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
The high season (June–October) is the best time for festivals and outdoor activities
The Motor City really shines in summer. Days are warm, sunny and moderately humid, with temperatures typically peaking at around 82°F. Detroiters spend their time lazing in parks, listening to live music by the river and biking the city’s excellent greenways.
The cultural calendar glitters too. There are art fairs, fashion shows, music festivals and more. With the sheer volume of things to do, Detroit is at its busiest (and priciest) at this time, but with the city's myriad museums, galleries and green pockets, there’s plenty of space to spread out and escape the crowds.
Detroit typically rings in the New Year under a blanket of snow. ‘Tis the season to bundle up and explore the city’s cultural and historical institutions – big hitter venues such as the Henry Ford Museum (in the suburb of Dearborn) see smaller crowds at this time of year.
February is chilly and snow-cloaked, but a series of cultural and family-friendly events bring warmth to the season. Fat Tuesday is marked by Pączki Day, when Detroiters gorge on traditional Polish pączki doughnuts (the city has the second-largest Polish population in the US, after Chicago). Then there’s the Winter Blast festival, which sees snow slides, an ice rink and live music come to the suburb of Royal Oak (or Downtown – check the current location before you come).
Key events: Pączki Day/Fat Tuesday, Winter Blast
Temperatures inch upwards in March and the city slowly begins to defrost. An eclectic roster of events brings Detroiters out of hibernation. A highlight is the Marche du Nain Rouge, tipped as Detroit’s answer to Mardi Gras, centered on a parade of brashly colorful floats and elaborate costumes, all designed to see off the Nain Rouge, a Detroit demon that’s said to bring bad luck to the city. The Motor City Blues Festival brings big names to the historic Fox Theatre on Woodward.
Key events: Marche du Nain Rouge, Motor City Blues Festival, St Patrick’s Day Parade, Greek Independence Day Parade
If you’re a sports fan, April is a great month to base yourself in Detroit. The Detroit Tigers' Opening Day sees the city’s beloved baseball team take to Comerica Park for the start of the season. Temperatures are mild, but the weather remains changeable – don’t stow away your raincoat just yet.
Key events: Metro Times Blowout, Detroit Tigers Opening Day
Blooms and beats define the Motor City in May. Locals embrace rising temperatures with the Movement Electronic Music Festival (did you know Detroit is the birthplace of techno?) and the Eastern Market Flower Day sees the city's fabled marketplace overflowing with floral color.
Key events: Movement Electronic Music Festival, Eastern Market Flower Day
As June rolls in, and temperatures climb upwards, the best place to be is beside the Detroit River. The Detroit River Days festival brings everyone down to the waterfront for music from local artists, street food and kids’ amusements. The city goes all out for Pride too, with rainbow-colored celebrations at Hart Plaza downtown.
Key events: Detroit River Days, Ford Fireworks, Motor City Pride Festival
Temperatures typically peak in July and in the center of town, Campus Martius Park is buzzing with life. Folks soak up the sun, sinking their toes into the sand at the temporary man-made beach (usually installed in May). American Independence Day is celebrated across the city with everything from fireworks to cookouts.
Key events: Fourth of July fireworks
The warm temperatures linger into August, when the city hosts the Belle Isle Art Fair, a free show that sees fine art, photography and sculpture take over Detroit’s island park.
Key events: Belle Isle Art Fair
Football kicks off again in September, with sports fans gearing up to cheer on the Detroit Lions for the season. It’s still warm enough for the Tour de Troit Ride, which sees hundreds of cyclists roll through the city on a 25.6-mile circuit.
Key events: Detroit Jazz Festival, Tour de Troit Ride
The sunny days hang around well into October in Detroit, as fall takes hold of the city. Fat pumpkins nose up to shop windows in preparation for Halloween, and the hockey season kicks off, with the Red Wings returning to Little Caesars Arena. Fall is a great time for day trips from Detroit, too; quaint cities such as Plymouth and Rochester Hills are awash with cider mills and orchards offering apple picking.
Key events: Detroit Free Press Marathon, Fash Bash, Dally in the Alley, Halloween celebrations
Temperatures take a nosedive in November and the city shows the first signs of the approaching holiday season. Towards the end of the month, an ice rink springs up in Campus Martius Park and the America’s Thanksgiving Parade sees mammoth floats, marching bands and costumed Detroiters troop through Downtown.
Key events: America’s Thanksgiving Parade
Jack Frost has Detroit in an iron grip in December, but festive cheer brings a definite coziness to the city streets. Attractions like the Detroit Zoo are flooded with lights, there’s a glittering, Rockefeller-style tree in Campus Martius Park and the stores along Woodward Avenue bustle with shoppers. There are lively, firework-filled New Year’s Eve celebrations right across town too.
Key events: Noel Night, Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village, New Year’s Eve
You may also like:
Best day trips from Detroit: 5 quick getaways for beer, birdlife and Bavarian architecture
The best free things to do in Detroit from art deco architecture to edgy street art
Experience the Great Lakes on one epic road trip