The Best Free Views of Detroit's Unique Skyline — EHERG (2024)

Written By Eric Hergenreder

Detroit has one of the most unique and distinguishable skylines in America. Whereas most cities boast shiny modern glass towers, the Motor City touts its historic, gritty, and architecturally significant masterpieces. Despite needing a proper observation deck downtown, there are plenty of ways to find a nice view in Detroit. All the locations listed here offer beautiful views of the city that put the world on wheels, and they’re all free to access!

The Best Free Views of Detroit's Unique Skyline — EHERG (1)

This article was originally published on December 24, 2017. It has since been updated.

Sunset Point

The Best Free Views of Detroit's Unique Skyline — EHERG (2)

Let’s keep things simple by starting with a classic. Sunset Point is the kind of place where you can find people enjoying the skyline on any given day, no matter the weather. There’s a grassy area perfect for a picnic, rocks where the island meets the water perfect for lounging on to watch the sunset, and even a few park benches here and there. In addition to offering stunning views of Detroit, you can see Windsor’s skyline, the Ambassador Bridge, and the river flowing toward Lake Erie. This is one of two spots on Belle Isle on the list, so hold tight for the second!

Coordinates: 42.333214, -83.004691

Riverside Park

Sunset point offers unique views from the north, and Riverside Park holds down the south. Just beyond the Ambassador Bridge sits a freshly renovated park complete with benches, a playground, one of the best skateparks in the midwest, a dog park, and one of the finest views in the Motor City. Once a run-down park off the city’s radar, Riverside Park has been transformed into the perfect spot for a picnic, a first date, or photography. In addition to lovely sights, the mail boat docks in the center of the park, so you can watch it deliver mail, packages, and sometimes pizzas to freighters.

Coordinates: 42.312289, -83.079114

Z Parking Garage

The Best Free Views of Detroit's Unique Skyline — EHERG (4)

Although this view is constantly changing, the Z Parking Garage is still the best structure to check out the surrounding buildings. The construction of a new skyscraper on the Hudson’s Department Store site has shaken things up a bit, but there are views to be had 360 degrees around the structure. Commercial photography isn’t allowed, but this parking garage offers stunning views worth the trip to the top. So long as you aren’t horsing around, the security guards are typically extraordinarily nice. If you don’t like the view here, try a different parking garage!

Coordinates: 42.334373, -83.046465

Lake Muskoday

The Best Free Views of Detroit's Unique Skyline — EHERG (5)

Lake Muskoday on the far side of Belle Isle offers a unique view of the Motor City. The lake isn’t very deep and freezes in the winter, allowing ice skating and cross-country skiing. From the far side of the lake, you can see Detroit’s skyline peeking out in the distance. During sunset, it’s a beautiful place to be. In the spring, flowers are planted around the banks of the lake and shine bright yellow. The view includes the Renaissance Center, One Detroit Center, Penobscot Building, and more.

Coordinates: 42.349099, -82.967294

Windsor

The Best Free Views of Detroit's Unique Skyline — EHERG (6)

Whether it wants to be, Windsor is Detroit’s most unique suburb. Located just across the Detroit River from the Motor City, there are stunning views to be had from just across the Canadian border. It’s probably the best place to go for a panoramic view of the city, and its riverfront is well-maintained. To get to Windsor, take the tunnel or Ambassador Bridge. Don’t forget your passport or enhanced license!

Coordinates: 42.319474, -83.043715

The People Mover

The Best Free Views of Detroit's Unique Skyline — EHERG (7)

Okay–so this one isn’t free. But for just 75 cents, it’s a worthy addition to this list. The Detroit People Mover was completed in 1987 and is just under three miles long. It’s been considered a mass-transit failure from the beginning, but its windows offer a unique view of a city that wasn’t built to be seen via train. You’ll see historic buildings, the Detroit River, and beautifully designed stations.

Various access points

Hart Plaza / Detroit Riverfront

The Best Free Views of Detroit's Unique Skyline — EHERG (8)

Hart Plaza is the heart of downtown. Some could argue that it should be Campus Martius, but Hart Plaza connects the Detroit Riverfront to the rest of the city. Plus, it’s an important meeting place, especially in the summer. Music and food festivals call it home in warmer months, and the Riverfront is open year-round for walkers, cyclists, and tourists. The views from both parks are unique because most other vantage points on this list include water. The water is behind you from this angle, and the city rises before you. Whether you’re looking for a nice walk or a stunning view, this option has both.

Coordinates: 42.327394, -83.044224

Orchestra Place Parking Garage

The Best Free Views of Detroit's Unique Skyline — EHERG (9)

There aren’t many options for elevated views of Detroit outside the downtown core, but the Orchestra Place Parking Deck on Parsons is an exception. The deck services Orchestra Hall around the corner, and the top floors offer a panoramic view of the Cass Corridor and downtown. The view is slightly different after the completion of Little Caesars Arena, but it’s still worth it all the same.

Coordinates: 42.347600, -83.05980

The Spoke Streets

The Best Free Views of Detroit's Unique Skyline — EHERG (10)

If you’ve been to Detroit before, odds are, you’ve been on a spoke street. They’re the thoroughfares that jut out diagonally from downtown Detroit like the spokes of a wheel. Fort, Michigan, Grand River, Woodward, Gratiot, and Jefferson are all spoke streets. All six could be considered ‘stroads,’ a word for a dangerous, too-wide thoroughfare. This isn’t great for cycling or walkability, but it ensures there isn’t much in the way as far as a view goes. If you find yourself on any of the spoke streets, you’ll have a stellar view of Detroit. A favorite is Grand River between Warren and 14th.

Various access points

William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor

The Best Free Views of Detroit's Unique Skyline — EHERG (11)

Milliken State Park and Harbor is one of two state parks in Detroit. It’s connected to the Detroit Riverfront and Dequindre Cut and was the first urban park in Michigan’s State Park system. There used to be a big hill with stunning views of the Renaissance Center and downtown, which was renovated into a smaller hill that is more accessible. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic, a walk with a view, or just to hang out with a group of friends. It isn’t as crowded in the winter, which is a nice perk.

Coordinates: 42.332252, -83.027567

I-75 North Bridge

The Best Free Views of Detroit's Unique Skyline — EHERG (12)

As you cross the Rouge River and enter Detroit’s Delray Neighborhood on I-75, you’re greeted with a view of the City of Detroit in its entirety. Downtown shimmers in the distance, and the Arsenal of Democracy awaits you. Although you can’t get out of the car to enjoy this one, it’s worth noting if you’re coming in from the south or if you’re in the area and want to take a detour to enjoy it for yourself.

Coordinates: 42.287843, -83.136936

This list will be updated, so check back later to see what’s been added. What view in Detroit is your favorite?

If you enjoyed this article, check out my write-ups on historic buildings in Detroit here. If cars are your thing, I’ve got a page for that here. Thanks for reading!

Eric Hergenreder

A photographer, writer, and researcher based out of Detroit, Michigan.

The Best Free Views of Detroit's Unique Skyline — EHERG (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Tuan Roob DDS

Last Updated:

Views: 6160

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (42 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tuan Roob DDS

Birthday: 1999-11-20

Address: Suite 592 642 Pfannerstill Island, South Keila, LA 74970-3076

Phone: +9617721773649

Job: Marketing Producer

Hobby: Skydiving, Flag Football, Knitting, Running, Lego building, Hunting, Juggling

Introduction: My name is Tuan Roob DDS, I am a friendly, good, energetic, faithful, fantastic, gentle, enchanting person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.