Detroit on $10 or less

How to enjoy yourself in the region on a low budget

Detroit on $10 or less

Sure, you've been there: You still have one week to last until your next payday, but you want to find a way to do something cheap — anything to get out of the house for a minute.

Luckily, Detroit's not Manhattan. No, it's not L.A., Chicago, San Francisco. None of the above. Detroit is Detroit, and there's plenty of things to do that barely scratch the surface of double-digit dollar territory. Consider this a no-Netflix guide; a way to barrel through your front door and say, "I'm going to do, uh, something today."

Catch a film at Cinema Detroit

The two-theater cinema at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Cass Avenue has seen a parade of operators since opening in 2011, but it's still rolling. Cinema Detroit serves up a sound palette of indie offerings; most recently, for example, it showed CitizenFour, the documentary on Edward Snowden. It also had a near-first run showing of Birdman, where Michael Keaton is in true-Keaton badass form. Snacks here are cheap, and the seats are just fine. If you'd rather not drive far, take a peek at the listings for the $1 theaters in Warren and Allen Park; there has to be something to see.

3420 Cass Ave., Detroit

Open: Seven days a week, but call ahead for listings or visit

Cost: $8

Ride your bike along historic Hines Drive

Know up front that Hines maintains a never-ending series of hills and turns, so, if you're not in the best shape, be prepared for a grueling task. But the 17-mile route that wends its way through Dearborn, Livonia, and Northville is downright gorgeous. It's hard to believe you're somewhere in suburban metro Detroit when you're cruising through Hines. Don't enjoy riding? Pack a lunch and a book and find a patch of grass to relax and enjoy yourself.

Location: find the various entry points and the route at

Cost: Free

Watch a Tigers game from the fence

OK, so it's not the best view, but there are some spots along the perimeter of Comerica Park that afford a shot of the ballgame inside. Don't believe us? Next time you're in downtown Detroit and the Tigers are playing, stroll on by. We guarantee you'll see some people standing on the ledge peering in. The Freep's Jim Schaefer took time during the Tigers' 2012 playoff run to interview these cats, and laid out how the deal works: "The trick is to pull oneself up onto the three-foot wall, which has a comfortable width for the feet, then grab the fence for balance. It's actually not uncomfortable, as proved by one man who stood in this spot — with a cane. Adventurous sorts boost themselves up another three feet with footholds on the fence itself." Schaefer noted that security guards, until publication of his piece, rarely hassle the onlookers. As it appears, that remains true: Since it's not for everyone, we can vouch that, on a nice day, chances are you'll see a few still taking advantage of those luxury seats.

Location: Comerica Park in downtown Detroit, whenever the Tigers play at home

Cost: Free

Open mic comedy at Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle

Some of the comedians might be downright terrible, but hey, it's a night out, and you'll probably get at least one laugh out of it. Mark Ridley's laugh factory has been around forever, and all the biggest names have dropped by at least once. Nearly every Wednesday, though, they open the stage up to anyone and everyone. Perhaps you need to laugh a little, or you actually have the guts to get up on stage and sling a few jokes, whatever you want, this isn't such a bad deal.

Location: 310 South Troy St., Royal Oak, typically every Wednesday, but check or call 248-542-9900 to confirm.

Cost: $5 for a ticket.

Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts

The DIA has always been a point of pride for the region, but that sentiment rang loud and clear over the past 18 months, when the museum's cherished collection almost went on the auction block due to Detroit's municipal bankruptcy. Well, the museum remains intact, and, because of a voter initiative that was passed in 2012, is still free for anyone from Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland counties to attend. Soak in the world-class pieces from Rembrandt, Warhol, van Gogh, you name it. Just sit there, grab a coffee, and people-watch. Most likely, someone's already doing exactly the same thing. If you have some spare change, see what's playing at the Detroit Film Theatre, where tickets are under $10.

5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit

Open: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 9 a.m.-10 pm. Friday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday


Cost: Free (for anyone in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties)

Go Fowling

Football and bowling, together at last. When we recently profiled the sports success story happening on the border of Hamtramck and Detroit, we were surprised to see the eclectic, diverse crowd on hand. As MT's Michael Jackman wrote, "It's a sport created by fans of automobile racing, but it has nothing to do with motors. It involves throwing a football, but no player is the receiver. The goal is to knock down 10 pins, but there's not a bowling ball, lane, or gutter in sight. And the prize for the championship is a can of sauerkraut." And, here's the kicker: It's $10 per head for unlimited games. Now, of course, that figure jumps once you factor in booze consumption, but it's a safe baseline to start for a cheap night out.

Happy hour on the top floor of the Renaissance Center

Coach Insignia appears incredibly daunting from the outside, as any restaurant on the 72nd floor of the Ren Cen probably should. There's a finer point worth noting: Coach has a happy hour, and, while it's not the best of such deals in town, the view the restaurant affords of downtown Detroit is the reason it lands on this list — even if you can only enjoy one drink over an hour or two. Consider it the equivalent of the former Sears Tower in Chicago or the arch in St. Louis. It's a beautiful panoramic shot. Coach offers a $5 burger on Wednesdays, 50 percent off Michigan beer and wine on Tuesdays, and $4 bottled beers on Mondays.

71st & 72nd Floor of the GM Renaissance Center, Detroit

Cost: $4-10

Hours: 4-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 4-7 p.m., 9-11 p.m. Friday


Buy a burrito and ride the People Mover

There's a scene in that documentary Detropia, where a guy is belting his lungs out on the Detroit People Mover. That scene sort of lends credence to the idea that simply riding the circular loop above downtown Detroit can be a good time. It's not cheap, it's affordable. We've said it plenty of times in MT before: The People Mover gets a bad rap. But, really: This isn't a bad idea! Try this one out: Located right off the Grand Circus Park station, Hot Taco is within earshot. If you're on a date, or you're flying solo and just want to relax, pick up a set of tacos, or a burrito for $6-$7, head to the People Mover station in the park, pay your 75-cent fare, and just ride. There's a good chance you'll see some of the most interesting characters in town.

Location: Hot Taco is at 2233 Park Ave., Detroit; it's open typically from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Cost: $8 for a burrito and a People Mover token.

About The Author

Ryan Felton

Ryan Felton was born in 1990 and spent the majority of his childhood growing up in Livonia. In 2009, after a short stint at Eastern Michigan University, he moved to Detroit where he has remained ever since. After graduating from Wayne State University’s journalism program, he went on to work as a staff writer...
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