Guide to Labor Day in Detroit: Festivals, Events, Things to Do

Detroit, Michigan, the most populated city in the Midwestern state, has earned the nickname "Motor City" because of its strong connection to the auto industry. It's also where the famous record label Motown Records got its start in 1959. Music remains an important part of the Detroit culture, and the Labor Day weekend is a good time to soak up some of the creativity. Catch the renowned Detroit Jazz Festival or a show during the holiday weekend, as many musical artists perform in the area during this time. You'll also find the Michigan State Fair and a diversity of local events crafted to cover the entire weekend. It's a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy those last days of summer, so take advantage of the local parks, beaches, and water sports, whether you are a longtime local or a traveler passing through Detroit.

01 of 09

Soaring Eagle Arts, Beats & Eats Festival

Arts, Beats & Eats Festival

Arts, Beats & Eats

On the Friday through Monday of Labor Day weekend in Downtown Royal Oak, the annual Soaring Eagle Arts, Beats & Eats Festival promises its usual celebration, humanitarian efforts, and several stages filled with live entertainment. Among the more than 200 live performances are national music acts, local bands, and acts catering to children. The festival includes a juried fine arts show, and local restaurants and caterers cooking up great food.

Festival admission varies based on the time of day.

02 of 09

Detroit Jazz Festival

Detroit International Jazz Festival

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

For 40 years, the Detroit Jazz Festival has been entertaining people in Michigan. Presented by Quicken Loans, the event will be held in downtown Detroit on the Friday through Monday of Labor Day weekend. The festival will have continuous entertainment from national and local jazz greats.

There is no cost to attend, but VIP packages and donations support the continuation of the "world's largest free jazz festival." The Detroit Jazz Fest LIVE! app for mobile devices, tablets, and desktops allows you to watch livestream performances (for a fee). 

03 of 09

Hamtramck Labor Day Festival

Hamtramck Labor Day Festival

Hamtramck Labor Day Festival

For three days of Labor Day weekend, all ages are welcome at the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival—where all things Polish have been celebrated for 40 years. Located about 10 minutes south of Downtown Detroit in Hamtramck, the event will feature the beloved yacht race: push-carts that appear to be canoes, heading down Joseph Campau Street in a historic district. You also won't want to miss the Polish Day Parade, carnival rides, or the two stages of entertainment. The festival has traditionally offered food from several restaurants, a pierogi-eating contest, a pub crawl, and Polish dancers. 

The admission is free and the event even includes a free bike valet.

04 of 09

Michigan State Fair

Michigan State Fair

Michigan State Fair, LLC

For five days over the Labor Day Weekend, the Michigan State Fair will be held at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, about 30 minutes by car from Detroit. The second oldest state fair in the nation began its long run in 1849 and closed permanently in 2009 after 161 years. It was resurrected on a limited scale in 2013. As in days of old, the fair includes livestock exhibits, circus performers, entertainment tents, a beer garden, and the Moovin' thru the Midway 5K.​

Various ticket options exist. Free fair admission (not including circus or rides) is available for seniors, veterans, active military, scouts, and 4H members on Thursday. Children under 2 years of age get free admission to the fair and circus as long as they attend with a paid adult.


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05 of 09

See the Detroit Industry Murals by Diego Rivera

Detroit Industry Murals by Diego Rivera

Deb Nystrom/Flickr/CC BY-2.0 

One of the city's claims to fame is the Detroit Industry Murals from 1932 and 1933—now declared a National Historic Landmark—painted by Diego Rivera, the Mexican artist who was married to the also world-famous artist Frida Kahlo. Located at the Detroit Institute of Arts near Downtown, the 27 panels depict laborers at Ford Motor Company, humanity's spiritual and physical aspects, and the coexistence of life and death, among other themes.

Visit the famous murals in Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts, which houses one of the biggest and most important art collections in the United States. The museum is closed Mondays.

06 of 09

Catch Some Shows and Concerts


Steve McNicholas

At any given time throughout the holiday weekend, both indoor and outdoor Detroit-area venues host a variety of concerts and shows, such as music and comedy. On or near the Labor Day weekend dates, a diversity of musicians—including everything from Lenny Kravitz's retro style to guitarist and singer-songwriter Ted Nugent to the American rock band Steely Dan—are performing.

If you'd like a fun historical adventure, tour the Garden Bowl in Midtown Detroit, a landmark for more than 100 years. Not only can you use the 16-lane bowling alley that has been made modern, but you can catch a show in the lounge and sip on a drink from the bar.

07 of 09

Michigan Renaissance Festival

Michigan Renaissance Festival

Michigan Renaissance Festival

On weekends from mid-August through September, including Labor Day weekend, the family is sure to have some fun at the Michigan Renaissance Festival in Holly, about 55 minutes from Detroit. You get to eat an enormous turkey leg, let loose a cat call to passing crowds, watch a joust, and generally get saucy as you go back in time to the Elizabethan era—more or less—and experience life among the peasantry. Permanent buildings help create the illusion of 16th century England, while jugglers, comedians, and sword swallowers set the mood by providing their own unique brand of entertainment. Theme weekends might reflect a slightly different era or culture. 

Admission prices vary, with several reduced-cost options for college students, seniors, groups, and advance purchases. Children 4 and under are free.

08 of 09

Enjoy Local Beaches and Parks

Kensington Metro Park

Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority

The Metro Detroit area is a great place to enjoy a range of swimming and outdoor recreational activities during the summer season and Labor Day weekend. As might be expected, the Great Lakes State has plenty of opportunities to visit the local beaches and swim. From small swimming holes to jet skiing at Pontiac Lake to playing volleyball at Seven Lakes State Park to fishing on an island by Proud Lake, the Metro Detroit area has it all.

Metro Detroit area beaches and parks have different amenities and hours, including boat rental opportunities, so check individual beach and park websites for holiday schedules and updates.

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09 of 09

Enjoy Detroit Area Water Parks and Slides

Kensington Metro Park

Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority

If natural ponds and lakes don't provide enough excitement for you this summer, check out the many water parks and slides in Detroit and the surrounding area. For a family day full of fun and splashes, get sprayed at the Squirt Zone, or sunbathe and hop on a tube slide at Turtle Cove. If you are just looking to do some laps, you may want to venture out to one of the pools like the Fuller Park Pool or Buhr Pool.

Before you plan your day trip, see individual park and attraction websites for holiday schedules and updates, and information regarding on-site restaurants and other amenities.

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