City Guide 2019: Celebrate Culture Like a Metro Detroiter

Museums, bookstores, and cultural institutions that expand your intellectual horizons
Alaina Knox, Detroit

This may sound really corny but coming here reminds me that beautiful things exist without my help.

In a city defined by movement, moments of stillness can be hard to find. But when they do come by, it’s important to hold onto them. Not only because they offer an opportunity to reflect on all that’s happening around you, but also because they tether you to something bigger than yourself.

“I come out here to look at the water and find some peace,” says Detroit native Alaina Knox, who’s been channeling her thoughts through writing by the river at Belle Isle Park for several years.

For Vanessa Cicos, that place of solace is John K. King Used and Rare Books in Ferndale. “The independent bookstore is crucial for the intellectuality of an area,” she says.

Vanessa Cicos, Ferndale

There’s no comparison to being in a bookstore.

Spots like these — whether a slice of nature in a bustling city or an independent bookstore only known to a few devoted regulars — are not just sites of personal escape, but places to exchange ideas, emotions, and energies with those you may have never met but are somehow in cerebral communion with.

Here, a list of spaces across the city find those connections.

—Lakshmi Varanasi

Cultural Spots to Explore Locally

Photograph by Natalia Tortora


This minimalistic café carries book collections of prominent Detroiters, including activist Brad Duncan and Jim Kennedy. 1464 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 313-778-9258;

Dabl’s Mbad African Bead Museum

Eighteen outdoor installations tell stories of African material culture. 6559 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-898-3007;

Arab American National Museum

Opened in 2005, the Dearborn institution is the world’s first museum dedicated solely to Arab-American history. The museum tells stories relating to the rich culture through various forms of exhibits. 13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-2266;

Black Stone Bookstore and Cultural Center

Specializing in African-American books and general culture, this quaint independent bookstore also sells movies, CDs, and art, and has a study center in the back. 214 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-961-7376

Cranbrook Institute of Science

Full of interactive exhibits, the Institute of Science provides visitors with a better understanding of the ways that science impacts their everyday lives. 39221 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills; 248-645-3200;

John K. King Used and Rare Books

Run by its namesake since 1971, the business has two locations in metro Detroit, selling a total of more than one million books to local readers. Visit for locations

Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Housing more than 100,000 artifacts, this museum focuses on Classical, Egyptian, and Near Eastern archaeology and displays up to three special exhibitions every year. It also conducts outreach programs with local residents starting from kindergarten to retirees.
434 S. State St., Ann Arbor; 734-764-9304;

Literati Bookstore

More than a bookstore, this whimsical spot houses a café and regularly hosts author readings, book clubs, and poetry nights. 124 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor; 734-585-5567;

West Bloomfield Township Public Library

It’s a quiet place to relax or study, complete with wifi, a fireplace, and books for readers of all ages. It also won the National Medal for Museum and Library service, the nation’s highest honor for libraries, in 2010. 4600 Walnut Lake Rd., West Bloomfield; 248-682-2120;