Destination Detroit: By Segway Or On Foot, Tours Get You Acquainted With The City

DETROIT — Ever seen downtown Detroit from aboard a two-wheeled Segway? You can.

Segway tours of the city "let you cover more distance than you would walking. But you still get up close and personal," says Jeannette Pierce, cofounder of Inside Detroit, a nonprofit tour company that will offer them starting April 24. "We do the RiverWalk, and it's really fun."

Meanwhile, Stewart McMillin has one aim: to share Detroit's hidden gems and history with visitors and locals.

"Some people haven't been downtown in 40 years. Other people know a lot and want to know more," says McMillin, who runs Stewart McMillin Tours, which offers outings such as black history tours and "Hooch, Hoodlums and Hoods" about Prohibition days.

In Detroit, there are dozens of tours that anyone can take on the spur of the moment, many as cheap as $10. They are not just for visitors. Detroiters can be tourists in their own hometown just by signing up.

The problem? Most people don't know the tours exist.

Tours engage people in the city's history, architecture and nightlife, those who love the city say. Most tours start up in early May, although some have already begun.

"We want to open the door to make people see there is tons to see and discover," says Pierce. "There is a lot of history, but new things are happening all the time."

Including the latest nightlife and restaurants. Popular tours include karaoke bar tours, restaurant tours and coney island tours.

"It's not just tourism. It's to have fun in your city in a new way you didn't expect to," says Terri Stewart, a guide at DTours, which offers heritage tours and nightlife tours such as "Midtown Pub Crawl."

Guiding tours is a business, but "I do this partly for the good of humanity, to show people what a cool city Detroit is," says Bob Goldsmith, owner of Detroit Tour Connections.

Some of the most popular tours are behind-the-scenes peeks at places like the vast, mysterious Detroit Masonic Temple with its ornate rooms and secret passages.

"People love the behind-the-scenes tours," says Tracy Irwin, director of exhibitions and programs for the Detroit Historical Society, which offers several such tours of landmarks every year.

People also love old cemeteries, churches and architecture. Detroit is a culturally rich city, but you have to know where to look.

"Most people who come downtown don't look up," says McMillin. "They look at parking meters and fire hydrants."


Here's a sample of scheduled tours that are open to all. Many of these companies also offer customized tours.

• Detroit Tour Connections

Offers different walking tours at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 6 p.m. Wednesdays from May 1 through Oct. 30; tours leave from the Westin Book Cadillac hotel.

Popular tours: "Historic Downtown Hotels" (May 12 and June 13), "Coney Island Hot Dog Tour" (July 4 and Oct. 3); "RiverWalk" (July 7, Aug. 1 and 11; Sept. 5), "Nudes in Downtown Public Art (July 18, Aug. 18).

Cost: $10; reservations required for large groups.

Contact:, 313-283-4332.

• Preservation Wayne

Preeminent architectural tour group focuses on the city's heritage. From May to October, it offers walking tours at 10 a.m. Saturdays and at 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays. All Tuesday tours leave from Campus Martius; Saturday tour locations vary.

Popular tours: "Eastern Market" (every Saturday), "Auto Heritage" (first and third Saturdays of the month), "Detroit Theater Tour" (Aug. 14), "Downtown Buildings of Albert Kahn" (every other Tuesday).

Cost: $10-$15; reservations required for parties of 10 or more.

Contact:, 313-577-3559.

• Inside Detroit

Founded in 2008, it likes to show off what's new in the city. It also offers Segway tours.

Popular tours: "Opening Day Breakfast Bar Bounce" (April 9), "Downtown Highlights Walking Tour" (first three Saturdays of the month starting May 1). Segway tours start April 24, then run Saturdays, Sundays and Thursdays.

Cost: Walking tours $10; Segway tours $70. Call for reservation information.

Contact:, 313-268-6562.

• Stewart McMillIn Tours

Longtime teacher and guide has been leading tours for 40 years; specializes in Underground Railroad, black history tours and more.

Popular tours: "African-American History and Culture" (May 6), "Downtown Detroit People Mover" (May 20), "Hooch, Hoodlums & Hoods" (Nov. 30).

Cost: Varies by tour; starts at $15. Call for reservation information.

Contact :; 313-922-1990 .

• Detroit Historical Society

Offers behind-the-scenes tours of Detroit landmarks, theaters, cemeteries and old churches.

Popular tours: "Masonic Temple" (April 17), "Palmer Woods Neighborhood" (May 22), "Woodmere Cemetery" (June 12), "Former Detroit Synagogues" (April 22), "Historic Houses of Worship" (May 3).

Cost: Usually $20 for members and $30 for nonmembers. Reservations required. If you join the Historical Society for $40, membership quickly pays for itself.

Contact:, 313-833-1801.

• DTours Detroit

Offers many kinds of tours, but the most booked are its nightlife, bar and karaoke tours.

Popular tours: "Eastern Market Pub Crawl" (April 9), "Midtown Pub Crawl" (April 10), "Karaoke Pub Crawl" (April 16), "Strolling Dinner" progressive dinner at four restaurants (April 24).

Cost: $15-$25 depending on the tour. Call for reservations information.

Contact:, 313-965-3313.