Bikes, Buses & Beers: Tour the Motor City

By: Amber Ogden | June 12, 2015
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When it comes to exploring the city of Detroit, I’m sure most of us stick to the same areas we know: sports stadiums, bars, restaurants and the like. But if you’ve never truly explored all of what the downtown area has to offer, who knows what you may be missing out on?

There are several local tour companies that will get you around the city safely, with some knowledge to boot. If you’ve got an adventurous side and an afternoon to spare, check out one of the following tour companies in the D:

Motor City Brew Tours allows you to practice the art of multitasking: a bike tour with beer! While you’re not actually drinking a beer while biking, you get the idea. This tour company offers guided bus, walking, boat and bike tours that focus on Michigan beer.

Two brand new tours have been added to the summer bike season, according to Steve Johnson, president and founder of Motor City Brew Tours. New tours include an Auto History Bike & Brew Tour that focuses on the Jefferson/Chalmers area with lunch and beer at Atwater in the Park. The second is Rise and Fall of the Purple Gang Tour, a history bike tour that highlights the famous prohibition era Jewish gang.

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“We focus on smaller group tours to offer a more personalized way to enjoy all of the great craft beer that Michigan has to offer,” Johnson said. “We are the only tour operator in Michigan offering guided bus, bike and walking tours that support Michigan breweries.”

If you’re looking for a great Father’s Day gift, consider taking your pops on the 4th annual Cruise & Brew aboard the Detroit Princess Riverboat on Sunday, June 21. He’ll get to enjoy a boat cruise along the Detroit River, as well as 25 different Michigan craft beers and hard ciders, from the likes of Bell’s Brewery, Founders Brewing Co., Dark Horse Brewing Co., New Holland Brewing and more.

Later in the summer, on Saturday, August 22, Motor City Brew Tours will launch a new walking brewery tour in Midtown that stops at Traffic Jam and Snug, Motor City Brewing Works and Jolly Pumpkin.

“On our bus and walking tours, we hope people come away with a better appreciation of all of the great beer being made right in our own backyards,” Johnson said. “On our bike tours, we want you to learn about the great history that Detroit has to offer. We also want to show you how bike-able the city has become in the last five years.”

You can schedule any of the above tours (and more!) by visiting the official website.

Show Me Detroit Tours offers daily sightseeing tours of the city, so if you’re hoping to take a tour mid-week, this is your best bet. Two-hour tours are offered at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily, and generally highlight greater downtown areas including Campus Martius Park, Greektown, Belle Isle, Eastern Market and more.

These tours are given in a seven-passenger van, and custom tours can also be arranged.

“What we like to offer is a variety of experiences in a short period of time,” Pat Haller, co-founder of Show Me Detroit Tours, said, noting that people often comment that they never could have seen as much of the city so quickly.

The tours aim to highlight hidden gems of the Motor City, giving a tour of the “pretty and the gritty.” Haller said that lately, she’s been having a lot of fun sharing The Belt, Z Deck and new art downtown, like Shepard Fairey’s mural.

Haller noted that Show Me Detroit Tours is the only local company that operates seven days a week, so you can book a small, personalized tour whenever it’s convenient for you. To do so, reserve a public or private tour by calling 313-444-2120 or e-mailing

Wheelhouse Detroit lets you explore the city by bicycle. No matter your destination, all tours begin and end at Wheelhouse Detroit. Typically, expect to bike 12 to 16 miles throughout a tour, besides the Eastern Market tour, which is shorter and approximately five miles.

This summer, Wheelhouse is offering three new tours, including Cigars in Detroit, a historical tour that also explores cigar bars of present day, Detroit Coffee Culture, which will point out coffee shops and how roasting and selling come together, and lastly, Historic Churches, which is in development and will make its debut later this summer.

“I really think that our tours are very experiential,” Kelli Kavanaugh, co-owner of Wheelhouse Detroit, said, noting that all tours are extremely informative and personal.

Urban Agriculture: Farm to Fork and Architecture are two of Wheelhouse’s most frequented tours, and the latter is led by a local architect who developed the tour. Wheelhouse Detroit partners with Keep Growing Detroit for the agriculture tour, which is offered through September and allows you to explore gardens and farms for a 12-mile stretch.

“I think Detroiters are extremely resilient, tough, funny,” Kavanaugh said. “They work hard and they play hard. Their stories are what makes (the city) more than a building, more than a sculpture.”

Check out the upcoming tour schedule. You can sign up for tours online, or by calling 313-656-2453.

Detroit Experience Factory, formerly known as D:Hive Tours, is a great way to get to know the city and connect with fellow Metro Detroiters. Last year alone, DXF took over 12,000 people on tours, and has taken more than 50,000 people on tours of the city of Detroit since launching in 2006.

This summer, there are several new tours available, including a Downtown Art & Architecture walking tour with Pure Detroit on Wednesday evenings at 5 p.m. and Fridays at noon. According to Matt Chung, DXF’s director of brand strategy, the Downtown & Beyond Bus Tour is one of DXF’s most popular, which takes place on the first and third Saturday of every month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Additional upcoming tours this summer include Neighborhood Tour with Bridge Magazine: Milwaukee-Junction on Saturday, June 27, STEM Detroit Kids Tour with Michigan Science Center on Saturday, July 11, and Walk Winsdor Tour with Model D on Sunday, July 12.

To book a tour, check out this section of the Detroit Experience Factory website.

Now that you know about several different avenues for exploring downtown Detroit, you’ll master the city in no time! Cheers to learning all about what the Motor City has to offer.