Skip to Content

Detroit RiverWalk Guide: Riverfront Trail

Detroit Riverwalk

Welcome to the Detroit Riverwalk

The acclaimed Detroit Riverwalk is a remarkable public space in downtown Detroit, is a must for visitors to the city.

By day, it is thriving with the innovative spirit of Detroit, MI, and by night, it turns into a stunning waterfront view of the lit-up city.

The Detroit Riverwalk stretches out for three and a half miles along the Detroit River, stretching from the Joe Louis Arena to Gabriel Richard Park.

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has been working hard to transform the riverfront into a place for family, tourism, and unique Detroit experiences.

A leisurely trip down the Riverwalk includes visiting scenic parks, eating at unique restaurants, and enjoying the variety of attractions and plazas that most east riverfronts don’t come close to offering.
This guide will help you get to know the Riverwalk and the Detroit riverfront from an up-close perspective.

detroit  river walk

Detroit Riverwalk Named Best by Readers Choice

The Detroit Riverwalk was just voted Best Riverwalk in the country by USA Today’s readers in the USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

The awards contest result is obvious when you walk down the Riverwalk. Not only is the experience worthy of the 10 best readers choice, but the surrounding area is the perfect setting to get a taste of the abundance of Detroit’s beauty and fun.

Get to Know the Detroit Riverwalk

River walks reflect the community that creates them. For the city of Detroit, that community is vibrant, diverse, and full of life.

One of the busiest waterways in the world, the Detroit River spans from Lake St. Clair to Lake Eerie. As you spend time strolling down the riverfront, you will have the opportunity to be a part of the Detroit public and experience the community firsthand.

The Detroit international Riverwalk used to be inaccessible; but gated off sidewalks, uncontrolled greenery, and abandoned lots have been turned into wide walkways, luscious gardens, and populated plazas.

This remarkable transformation has been in the works since 2003, and now, the Riverwalk attracts three and a half million visitors annually.

Detroit Riverwork Still Growing

The work isn’t over. When the Detroit conservancy’s project is finished, the western Riverwalk will be five and a half miles long and include even more green space, as well as spacious room for walking, biking, and fishing along the riverfront.

The Riverwalk meanders across historic districts that you can read about below. On your way along the river, you’ll also encounter sites like colorful carousels and beautiful fountains. Boats sail elegantly down the river, skyscrapers shoot up in the background, and a stunning view of the Detroit river is always around to enjoy.

Detroit Riverwalk

How to Plan a Day on the Riverwalk

The riverside walkway leads you through some of the highlights of Detroit, but if you want a perfect day around the Riverwalk, you’ll need this guide for the full experience. Here are some of the top things to watch for on your trip:

The Renaissance Center

For a taste of metro Detroit, follow the Riverwalk down to the GM Plaza and Promenade. Here you’ll find the Renaissance Center, a series of seven towering skyscrapers visible on the riverwalk’s route. You’ll encounter GM World, where you can experience up-close the latest General Motors auto show in their car showroom.

Also in the Renaissance Center, you’ll find restaurants, places to shop, and a 73-story hotel, the Detroit Marriott.

The Plazas

On your walk down the riverfront, you’ll run into a few extraordinary plazas that you’ll want to incorporate into your day.

Cullen Plaza

For a kid-friendly, family hangout spot, Cullen Plaza is the place to go. Cullen Plaza is where the Cullen Family Carousel spins with dancing swans and sea serpents and ecstatic kids riding their backs.

This area also includes a children’s playscape and beautiful, lush scenery and fountains. If you’re looking for a riverwalk bike ride, the best bike rental is here at Cullen Plaza’s Wheelhouse Detroit.

Hart Plaza

Hart Plaza, at the intersection of Woodward and Jefferson Avenue, is a historic place.

It opened in 1975 and has since been a venue for summer festivals, concerts, and other events. Within the fourteen acres of Hart Plaza is the famous Horace E. Dodge and Son Memorial Fountain, which lights up against a background of bright city skyscrapers when it gets dark.

detroit riverwalk

Detroit Parks to Visit

If you’re looking for parks in Detroit, the Detroit Riverwalk is your guiding path. Not only is Detroit home to Comerica Park, but also 308 other parks meant for fun, refreshing afternoons. Although this isn’t a complete list, put these parks on your Riverwalk list for a tour of the best:

Milliken State Park and Harbor
1900 Atwater St, Detroit, MI 48207

The 31 acres of Milliken State Park are like an island of green in the middle of metro Detroit. This space hosts many picnics on the lawn, fishing at the harbor, and the Milliken State Park Lighthouse.

Mt. Elliot Park
110 Mt Elliott St, Detroit, MI 48207

Recently renovated, this interactive park offers a lovely landscape, a kids water feature complete with water cannons and waterfalls, and cement walking paths. A nearby café makes this park the perfect place for a relaxing lunch.

Campus Martius Park
800 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Campus Martius is beautiful all year long. In the summer, enjoy the lush green space, flowers, and beach, and in the winter, enjoy the ice rink and the lit-up Christmas trees.

Gabriel Richard Park
7130 E Jefferson, Detroit, MI 48207

With a front-row seat to the Detroit River, this park will make you feel like you never want to leave. Don’t end your Detroit Riverwalk adventure without checking out the butterfly garden, the garden labyrinth, and the peaceful atmosphere of Gabriel Richard.

Belle Isle Park in Detroit

Belle Isle Park
99 Pleasure Dr, Detroit, MI 48207

Belle Isle is the most unique of the Detroit parks because it sits on an island off the coast of the Detroit Riverfront. The bridge to Belle Isle is called MacArthur Bridge and provides quick access from the mainland to the park. Once on the island, you can enjoy the Belle Isle Aquarium, the beach and boat house, Sunset Point, and even a giant slide.

Chene Park
2600 Atwater St, Detroit, MI 48207

Because it’s home to the Aretha Franklin Amphitheater, Chene Park has become one of the top 100 concert venues worldwide. Besides the Aretha Franklin, the park boasts a waterfront view and beautiful green space.

More Detroit Parks to Explore

Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park (formerly known as West Riverfront Park) includes trails that lead to West Jefferson Avenue.

Robert C. Valade Park is the perfect place for a family seeking beach time, a children’s musical garden, and a community barbecue pavilion.

The Dequindre Cut (also called Riverfront Fit Park) is a beautiful two-mile greenway for biking and walking. The Dequindre Cut Greenway links the East Riverfront, the Eastern Market, and other Detroit neighborhoods.

Ambassador bridge on the Detroit riverfront

More Things to See Around the Detroit Riverwalk

Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts has over 100 galleries to browse. This incredible art collection is a nice way to take a break from the busy activities of the riverwalk and enjoy the quiet contemplation of the DIA. The DIA also hosts Friday Night Live free concerts, movies at the Detroit Film Theatre, and multiple special events and clubs for a variety of ages. For more information before you go, visit their website!

Ambassador Bridge

You have to drive across Ambassador Bridge before you say goodbye to Detroit. This suspension bridge is famous for being the largest international suspension bridge in the world. Let’s just say the view of the river and city from the bridge is more than jaw-dropping.

The Guardian Building

Wayne County’s Guardian Building is a must-see skyscraper in downtown Detroit. As a National Historic Landmark, the Guardian represents the history of Detroit to many. It stands 40 stories high and is easy to spot with its bright gold-colored brick and ornate architecture. The inside is just as beautiful as the outside and you can just walk right in!

Detroit Michigan in Wayne County

Visit Wayne County

The Historic Fort Wayne Coalition is another historic landmark for an educational trip to Detroit. The fort was the first in Detroit to be built by Americans and holds almost 200 years worth of history.

You can explore the riverside Fort Wayne in Detroit Wayne County with a guided walking tour or on your own. Also in Wayne County is Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority.

This port authority is more than a government agency; it’s a mission to build up the community and raise awareness of the port’s economic influence. If you’re interested in maritime tourism activities, this is the place for it!

More to Explore in Detroit

A fun way to get to know Detroit is to inline skate your way through the city. You can start at roller skating rinks like Detroit Roller Wheels or Royal Skateland!

Downtown Detroit is full of opportunities. If you’re looking for unique restaurants where you can sample some Detroit-style pizza. You can also find colorful murals painted across alley walls, and days’ worth of shopping, visit the downtown area!

The Detroit People Mover is an elevated train that travels almost three miles around Detroit. You can enjoy an expansive view of the city and river from high above the streets while riding on the people mover.

For a more relaxed day, explore the Detroit Public Library, Detroit’s Botanical Gardens, and the Eastern Market in downtown Detroit.

You may want to check out the best beaches in the metro Detroit area, too.

Where to Stay in Detroit

With all that Detroit has to offer, it isn’t just a one-day trip. We have the perfect places for you to stay comfortably overnight! Check out these places to stay in Detroit:
• Robert Riverwalk Hotel
• MGM Grand Detroit
• Greektown Casino Hotel
• Detroit Foundation Hotel
• Airbnb in Detroit

It’s not hard to see why the Detroit Riverwalk was named best Riverwalk in America. The USA Today readers had a good point when they chose it.

After learning about the best of Detroit, it’s hard not to drop everything and book a trip. Whether you’re a quick 45 minutes away in Ann Arbor, or you’re flying in from across the country, a trip to Detroit is well worth the effort.

About the Author-
Kyrsten Newlon is a content writing and editing intern for Growing up in Kalamazoo, she wrote and read everything she could. Now, she is a student at Grace College with Journalism and Communications majors and an English minor. She has been published by Grace College, the Winona Lake Newsletter, Input Fort Wayne, and various online blogs. Kyrsten loves raising puppies to be service dogs, spending time in coffee shops, and adventuring through Michigan.