5 free things to do in Detroit

Walkers stroll on the Detroit RiverWalk.
Walkers stroll on the Detroit RiverWalk. AP

Detroit certainly has had its financial woes as the largest U.S. city to undergo bankruptcy. But that doesn’t mean visitors have to break their own banks to experience some impressive attractions.

Here are five things you can take in for free.

▪ Detroit Riverwalk. Time was when the shores of the majestic Detroit River, which separates the city from the Canadian city of Windsor, were mostly industrial and uninviting. To make matters worse, Windsor’s waterfront was verdant, pleasant and pedestrian-friendly. Then Detroit finally got some sense — and some big donations — to remodel its front door and create the Detroit RiverWalk. Years of work have transformed much of it for recreational use. And it now includes William G. Milliken State Park & Harbor near downtown. The RiverWalk promenade is popular with walkers, runners and bicyclists, as is the perpendicular Dequindre Cut, which runs on an abandoned rail line.

▪ Eastern Market. Eastern Market’s foods, flowers and other products require opening the wallet, but the sights, sounds and smells — and sometimes samples — cost nothing. The six-block public market with more than 250 vendors has been operating east of downtown since 1891. The market is open several days a week at certain times of the year but it’s especially popular on Saturdays.

▪ Tiger Stadium. The Detroit Tigers left in 1999 for Comerica Park and the last portion of the stadium was demolished in 2009, but die-hards can still run the bases and see some of the stadium’s decorative fencing and a flagpole at what’s now known as Ernie Harwell Field. The field in Detroit’s historic, reviving Corktown neighborhood is named after the team’s longtime and beloved announcer.

▪ Campus Martius Park. For all that has been cast aside or torn asunder in the city founded by the French in 1701, a significant piece of its past has been revitalized and redeveloped. Campus Martius is a 1.6-acre park that opened in 2004 where the historic Woodward and Michigan avenues converge. The classic downtown square has a fountain, skating rink and serves as the perennial home of the city’s Christmas tree and winter carnival featuring a massive snow slide, rides and live music.

▪ Heidelberg Project. Artist Tyree Guyton founded the interactive outdoor art installation in 1986 on Heidelberg Street as a commentary on urban decay. The interactive sculpture park on the city’s east side mixes vacant houses and empty yards with artistic themes, and has become famous over the years for the exhibition featuring shoes, clocks, vinyl records, stuffed animals and other found or discarded objects. Many of the homes have been destroyed by a series of mysterious fires in recent years, but there are still tours, art exhibitions and other events.