Kick off Your Automotive Detroit Bucket List at the NAIAS

Posing at the Mercedes Benz reveal party at NAIAS

The Automotive Detroit Bucket List

Detroit. It’s the “Motor City.” So much of Detroit’s history, successes, and world impact was (literally) driven by the automotive industry.

Ask any native southeast Michigander and I guarantee they have at least one connection to someone who works for the automotive industry. It’s part of the grit and future-forward mentality that makes us Detroiters. We’re kinda in this together.

If you’re a local and have never taken the time to familiarize yourself with this region-defining industry, shame on you. You don’t need to be mechanically inclined to appreciate and find fascination in the automotive industry.

So make this year the year that you go a little deeper when in comes to your knowledge of cars. Here’s my Automotive Tour suggestions that you can cross off your Detroit Bucket List this year. And kick it off at the Detroit Auto Show, also known as the North American International Auto Show.

Be starstruck at the North American International Auto Show

COBO HALL  |  January 14-22

While it’s important to know our history, it’s equally as important to know where the future is taking Detroit.

Sure, you’ll get to see the newest models and new releases of different cars, but you’ll also witness the future with high-tech concept cars.

Keep your eye out for buzzwords like “mobility” and “automation” and “self-driving” and “technology.” You’ll quickly learn that NAIAS transcends automotive and easily becomes a convention of technology and innovation.

A few things I recommend putting on your NAIAS to-do list:

  • Visit a life-size replica of Disney Pixar’s Lightning McQueen and learn how Detroit and the NAIAS inspired the Cars movies.
  • Talk to someone from Waymo to learn how Google is bringing self-driving cars to California & Arizona as early as February. This Feburary.
  • Experience virtual reality with the Acura NSX “drive.”
  • Get your photo taken with the #MichelinMoment 180 experience with Michelin.
  • Learn why steel matters at the SMDI Exhibit in the Grand Ballroom. Did you know that steel is stronger, greener, and safer when it comes to building your car?
  • Check out Kia’s new car, Stinger, and ponder if box-cars and hamsters are ancient history.
  • Check out the “of the year” winners:
    • North American Car of the Year: Chevy Bolt EV
    • North American Truck of the Year: Honda Ridgeline
    • North American Utility Vehicle of the Year: Chysler Pacifica

Discover the meaning behind Motor City at the Detroit Historical Museum

Detroit  |  T-F 9:30-4; S&S 10-5

Learn all things about Detroit history, but focus on the Motor City exhibit, which focuses on how Detroit claimed that Motor City title. Learn about the assembly line and industrialization and how it impacted the world.

Get industrial on a Ford Rouge Factory Tour

Dearborn  |  M-St 9:30-5

Henry Ford once said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” Learn more about the history of the assembly line and how the Ford’s revolutionized manufacturing. We’ve come a long way since the color black.

Find good views the GM Headquarters

Detroit  |  any hours

The Renaissance Center in Detroit is home to the headquarters of GM. This is one of the most iconic buildings in all of Detroit, with fantastic vantages of the city and our neighbor, Canada. Check out the concept car showroom, take a stroll on the riverwalk, and try to sign up for a RenCen tour.

Cruise along Woodward during the Woodward Dream Cruise

August 19  |  all day

Once a year, Woodward Avenue is lined with car enthusiasts watching a parade of proud car owners flash their finest autos. There’s music and street food and plenty of showmanship. Did you know that Woodward is the first stretch of  a concrete mile?

Tour the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House

Grosse Pointe Shores  |  M-F, various times

Learn even more about the Ford family, one of the most prominent families in Metro Detroit, who built their dream home along Lake Saint Clair to raise their family. My suggestion? Visit in the fall when the leaves are changing. They’ve had free entry on the evenings of their “instameets.”

Tour Meadowbrook during the holidays

Rochester  |  M-F, various times

Gawk at the splendor of the Dodge mansion and learn about the history of this family that contributed to putting Detroit on the map. You will be both amazed by the beauty of this home, but saddened by some of the tragic events that happened to the Dodge family.

My suggestion? visit for the Holiday Walk when the house is decorated for Christmas.


Although this list barely scratches the surface of all the automotive activities you can do in Detroit and and Southeast Michigan, it’s a good start. What other automotive industry activities would you add to the list?


This post was written in collaboration with SheBuysCars, who sponsored my visit to the NAIAS on the media preview days. 


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