6 Memorable Cultural Experiences In Detroit

Nicknamed "Motor City" due to the major role that it played in the foundation of the American automotive industry, Detroit is a town that boasts a rich and dynamic cultural heritage. Whether you are planning a visit to the city, or simply interested in learning something new, here are some unforgettable local places and happenings to check out, listed in no particular order.

Founded by Esther Gordy Edwards in 1985, the Motown Museum takes the #1 spot on our list. This institution offers music lovers of all ages, races, and nationalities an opportunity to experience the place where the Motown sound was created. Home to an extensive array of artifacts, photographs, and other memorabilia, the Museum's mission is to preserve the legacy of the eponymous record company, and to educate and motivate people, especially youth.

At the Museum, tours are led by trained guides who relate the story of how the record label got its start, and how now-famous singers rose from obscurity to international acclaim. Visitors are given the chance to view the restored upper flat where Berry Gordy Jr. lived during the company's earliest years, as well as Studio A, where artists like The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, and more recorded music.

Up next, John K. King Used & Rare Books is #2. In business since 1965, this is one of the largest stores of its kind in America, with over one million books in stock. King, the proprietor, has handled a myriad of titles, autographs, and archives, including the works of auto barons such as Dodge and DeLorean, as well as sports stars, celebrities, and regular folks.

King states that his high school guidance counselor, Elsie Freitag, is responsible for the business's success. She was the one who steered King toward turning his passion for buying and selling used books and antiques into a profession. Among the store's categories are Americana, botany, architecture, and fine arts.

Moving on to #3, MOCAD is located in Detroit's vibrant Midtown neighborhood, and functions as a hub for the exploration of emerging ideas in contemporary visual, literary, musical, and performing arts. The institution is housed in a 22,000-square-foot former auto dealership that has been renovated to maintain its historic character. Its series of public programs includes lectures, musical performances, film screenings, literary readings, and educational activities for people of all ages.

MOCAD began in 1995 when Detroit Free Press art critic Marsha Miro and the late Susanne Feld Hilberry envisioned a new museum that would expand the city's contemporary creative community. By connecting to the national and international art worlds, MOCAD was intended to be a nexus for educating the public, and to play a critical role in helping regenerate the city. The onsite Cafe 78 is a community space that features locally roasted coffee, specialty teas, pastries, and a full bar service.

Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, which is #4 on our list, brings together musicians from all over the world to celebrate, preserve, and advance this classical genre. By showcasing performances and offering opportunities for educational engagement, the organizers of this event hope to enhance the cultural environment of the Great Lakes region for generations to come.

For two weeks each June, the festival puts on more than 20 concerts in southeastern Michigan. Over the years, the list of performers has included artists such as Peter Oundjian, Gilbert Kalish, Jonathan Biss, David Finckel, and a host of others. Performances take place at a range of downtown and suburban venues.

Moving on, the Detroit Zoo comes in at #5. This local institution's mission is to demonstrate leadership in wildlife conservation and animal welfare, as well as to provide a broad audience with educational opportunities that will inspire the appreciation and stewardship of nature.

Thousands of amphibians, mammals, birds, and reptiles are housed within the 125 acres of true-to-life habitats at the zoo. Here, visitors get the opportunity to come face-to-face with exotic creatures like gorillas, giraffes, and more. There's also the 33,000-square-foot Polk Penguin Conservation Center, which is the largest facility for penguins in the world.

Lastly, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History takes the #6 spot. For over half a century, this institution has dedicated itself to exploring and celebrating the rich cultural legacy of African Americans. Through dozens of permanent and visiting exhibitions, over 300 annual public events and programs, as well as education and research opportunities for adults, children, and visiting scholars, the Wright seeks to inspire people toward greater understanding, acceptance, and unity.

Home to the Harriet Tubman Museum Collection, as well as many other notable materials, the Wright houses more than 35,000 artifacts that pertain to the African-American experience. Among the Museum's vast programming is the Be Inspired series, which allows guests the opportunity to witness emboldening performances and conversations designed to spark creativity and drive change.