As an airline pilot, I frequently transit Detroit Metropolitan International Airport, and I’ve found it to offer a vastly superior layover experience than many other airports I’ve written guides about.
As a bustling and growing hub, Detroit International Airport (DTW) offers many activities and amenities to make the most of any layover here. From massages to multiple sleeping options (inside the airport!), even a long layover will fly by here.
And whether you have a short layover or a longer one, it doesn’t matter – DTW has something for just about every traveler, both inside and outside the airport. It’s an easy transit hub (as long as you are flying on the same airline for both legs), and very streamlined.
So let’s start with what you can do inside DTW airport first, especially for those with a DTW layover under 4-5 hours.
Answered in this article:
1. How long should I plan to leave Detroit Airport on a layover?
2. Where can I put my suitcases if I leave the airport?
3. What are the top 10 things to do inside Detroit Metro Airport on a layover without exiting the airport?
3. What are the best places to see from Detroit airport on a layover (outside the airport)?
4. What’s the best place to nap on a layover at DTW?
5. How can I save time going through security at Detroit airport?
Top 10 Things to Do Inside Detroit Metropolitan International Airport (DTW) on a layover
If you have under 5 hours to transit/layover in DTW, it’s recommend you stay inside the airport. Though if you have CLEAR, which nearly guarantees a seamless and short experience passing through security, you could definitely shorten this timeframe and have more time to explore outside the airport.
1. Try out Delta’s Brand New Parallel Reality system – currently only available at DTW
If you’re lucky enough to be flying with Delta and you have little more than a moment of spare time, you’ll definitely want to try out Delta’s new Parallel Reality technology.
Though it sounds corny, it’s not a gimmick. This technology is truly very cool, and shows that Delta is piloting the future of flying.
According to Delta, “this mind-blowing technology allows multiple customers to each see personalized flight information tailored to their unique trip on a single, shared digital screen, simplifying their journey through the airport.”
If you want to read more about how it works, make sure to check out this link!
2. Feast on DTW’s diverse dining options
Whether you’re craving fresh sushi, a delicious sub, or excellent Italian cuisine, Detroit Airport has you covered.
One of my favorite spots for delicious Italian cuisine is Andiamo, located in the McNamara Terminal near Gate A22. They offer a delectable selection of pasta dishes, pizzas, and classic Italian entrees, all prepared with high-quality ingredients.
In the north terminal of DTW, my personal favorite restaurants are Mod Pizza and Anita’s Kitchen.
But the best food at DTW Airport? In my opinion, there’s no contest. Sora Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar is always my go-to for a delicious sit-down experience. They offer excellent sushi, udon noodles, chicken katsu, poke bowls, teriyaki, and many other authentic Japanese dishes.
3. Totally unwind with a massage – inside the terminal! (Complimentary for PriorityPass members)
Looking for an amazing way to make your next DTW layover as wonderful as possible? Check out Be Relax Spa for a tranquil oasis of complete relaxation and rejuvenation.
Located in both the North and McNamara Terminals, BeRelax Spa provides a range of massage and wellness services such as Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, and chair massage, allowing you to choose the perfect treatment to suit your preferences and time constraints.
The best part? Many of these services are free for PriorityPass members. As I’ve written before, a year’s membership can be offset in just a couple layovers – one of the best deals in aviation ever. The free services you can get as a PriorityPass member include:
- Be Back 15-minute Massage plus O2 (a US$38 value)
- Be Back 30-minute Massage (a US$38 value)
- Polish Change plus Hand Massage (a US$38 value)
- Be Feet on lounger 10-minute plus O2 (a US$44 value)
4. Walk the length of the terminal and enjoy the stunning architecture of the DTW Metro International Airport
No exaggeration, Detroit Metro International Airport is a piece of art, particularly the McNamara Terminal.
As you walk in, you’re treated by the aforementioned Parallel Reality technology, greeted by a beautiful waterfall, and enchanted by floor-to-ceiling windows offering splendid views on gorgeous aircraft (usually an Airbus A350).
And my favorite part – the bright glowing LED airport tunnel connecting DTW’s A and B/C terminals in the McNamara terminal.
All of this massive terminal space is walkable, providing miles and miles of room to stretch your legs and get your blood flowing during your layover. I’ve written many times about how this is one of the most important things you can do for your health while traveling.
5. Enjoy one of DTW’s world class lounges
The Delta SkyClub at the McNamara terminal in DTW is an excellent, large lounge with ample amenities to make your layover comfortable and convenient.
Offering a serene ambiance, plush seating, and runway views (from the A68 SkyClub, one of two at DTW), the SkyClub is a wonderful place to enjoy a complimentary drink while catching up on emails or savoring a moment of quietude.
The SkyClub in Detroit does offer showers as well in case you want to wash your layover away.
6. Make the most of your family time at one of DTW’s family play areas
If you’re traveling with children, head to one of the kids’ play areas in Concourses A, B, and C of the McNamara Terminal. Or if you don’t have kids but are feeling childish, you can play too.
The play areas at DTW are located near gates A8, A18, B20 and C6.
7. Enjoy a delicious local brew, right at the airport
Could this be the best way to enjoy a layover?
The best place to savor local craft beers at DTW is uncontested: the Atwater Brewery in the North Terminal near Gate D15 is it.
From hoppy IPAs to rich stouts, you’ll truly get a taste of Michigan’s brewing excellence right at the airport.
8. Shop to your heart’s content at one of many excellent brand stores inside Detroit Metro Airport
Detroit Metro offers a brilliant array of shopping options for those looking for a last minute gift, a way to pass time, or just some fun!
Fashion enthusiasts can explore luxury brands at Tumi and Swarovski, while McNamara Terminal’s Duty-Free Americas offers a chance to indulge in tax-free shopping for international travelers. Sports fans can check out PGA Tour Shop for golfing apparel and more.
Local treasures abound, too. Be sure to visit the Detroit!, offering a range of Detroit-themed merchandise that pays homage to the city’s rich history and culture. And don’t miss Detroit Street Lunchbox for authentic Detroit souvenirs and gifts that celebrate the city’s iconic spirit.
9. Enjoy delicious Italian espresso roast coffee
At illy Caffè in the McNamara terminal of DTW, coffee connoisseurs and travelers can find that delicious roast they need to bring them back to life – right at the airport.
illy is by far my favorite at DTW, and boasts a superb location in the direct center of the McNamara terminal, next to the gorgeous fountain.
10. Grab a nap with private rooms directly inside the terminal!
One of my absolute favorite things to do on a layover: grab a nap! There’s no better way to replenish your energy, especially on a long trip.
And Detroit Metro Airport has some of the best sleeping facilities of any airport in the country.
Between the superb, ultra-comfortable and quiet Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport located directly in the McNamara terminal (it even has its own private TSA security!), and a MinuteSuites with private rooms (and you get 1 hour free for PriorityPass Members), you have exceptional options for any duration of layover at DTW.
Top 10 Things to do Inside Detroit Metropolitan Airport (List):
- Have your mind blown by Delta’s New Brilliant Parallel Reality Technology
- Dine at one of DTW’s fabulous restaurants, like Andiamo
- Relax with a Massage (free for PriorityPass members!)
- Take a stroll across miles of beautiful terminal architecture
- Enjoy one of DTW’s world-class lounges
- Have some family fun at one of DTW’s Kids’ Play Areas
- Taste some Local Brews at Atwater Brewery
- Engage in Retail Therapy with many diverse brands
- Watch aircraft while enjoying fresh air from the Observation Deck
- Take a nap at a MinuteSuite – inside the terminal
Top 10 Places to Visit from Detroit Metro International Airport (DTW) on a 5 Hour or Longer Layover
Sporting true automobile history and pedigree, Detroit has a rich, intricate history that will make any layover memorable. Even though its reputation has been tarnished from the last major recession, Detroit will truly surprise you with its vibrant, inviting culture and surprisingly beautiful nature.
Here are the top 10 places to visit on a DTW layover, and just how long it takes to get there from DTW International Airport
1. The Henry Ford Museum
Learn about automotive history at The Henry Ford Museum, a captivating showcase of American innovation and history, featuring an extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits that celebrate the nation’s industrial and cultural heritage.
How to get here: The Henry Ford Museum is located approximately 15 minutes away from the airport by taxi or rideshare. If you have extra time and want to save some money, you can take the SMART bus route 261 ($2, takes about 40 minutes).
2. Explore Downtown Detroit
Discover the vibrant city center of downtown Detroit. Once here, you can visit the vibrant Greektown neighborhood, charming Corktown (the oldest neighborhood in Detroit), and the historic Eastern Market.
If you want to actually learn about the city’s fascinating history, make sure to sign up for a Detroit Spirit and History Self Guided Audio Tour.
How to get here: Downtown Detroit is just a 25-minute drive from the airport via taxi or rideshare. Alternatively, you can take the SMART bus route 261 into downtown (approximately 50 minutes) for just $2. Once
3. Motown Museum
Immerse yourself in the birthplace of Motown music, also known as Hitsville U.S.A., the legendary birthplace of Motown music. Here, you can explore the iconic studio and learn about the history of some of the world’s most celebrated artists and hit songs.
Admission is by guided tour only, and lasts for approximately one hour.
How to get here: The Motown Museum is only a 25-minute drive from the airport by taxi or ride share.
4. Detroit Riverwalk
Enjoy a scenic stroll along the Detroit River at the Riverwalk, with stunning views on Windsor, Canada just across the river. Rent a bike or simply enjoy the fresh air.
How to get here: The Riverwalk at Detroit is about 30 minutes away from the airport by taxi or rideshare.
5. Belle Isle Park
Experience nature and recreational activities at Belle Isle Park, a super beautiful historic park with lovely history and an awesome botanical garden.
How to get here: From DTW airport to Belle Isle Park is around 30 minutes away by car.
6. Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Bring your passport and experience a different country during your layover. Explore Windsor’s waterfront and cultural attractions – including a casino.
How to get here: Hire a taxi all the way to the border, or take a taxi to downtown Detroit and then the 2222 bus line to Windsor Transit Station.
7. Lake Erie Metropark
Enjoy nature and wildlife on the shores of Lake Erie, approximately 25 minutes from the airport. Rent a bike or kayak and enjoy the outdoors on your layover!
8. Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA)
If you’re an art aficionado, make sure to visit the renowned Detroit Institute of Arts, located approximately 30 minutes away by car.
It’s a surprisingly brilliant display of art.
9. Ann Arbor
Explore this vibrant college town known for its artistic community, unique shops, and the University of Michigan campus, approximately 30 minutes away.
It’s known as the nicest town in the entire Detroit area. In fact, many people come to Michigan for the purpose of visiting this incredibly cute city!
10. Cranbrook Institute of Science (Bloomfield Hills)
Delve into science and nature exhibits in a beautiful setting at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, around 30 minutes from the airport by taxi. You can even see a T. rex here!
The full list of top places to see from Detroit Metro Airport on a layover:
- The Henry Ford Museum
- Downtown Detroit
- Motown Museum
- Detroit Riverwalk
- Belle Isle Park
- Windsor, Canada
- Lake Erie Metropark
- Detroit Institute of Art
- Ann Arbor
- Cranbrook Institute of Science
How long of a layover do I need to explore outside Detroit Airport?
It really depends.
By aiming to arrive 2 hours before departure, you will allow ample time to return to the airport for your next flight. Traffic conditions and public transportation schedules may vary, so plan accordingly to make the most of your layover adventure in Detroit.
I would look at the transit times listed, double them for the return, add 50%, then plan more time to explore than you expect. In general, this means you’ll need a layover of at least 5 hours to get out and explore.
But you can save time and extend your layover activities by doing these things:
- Enroll in the new CLEAR system to get you through security, the best and fastest method. CLEAR has a 6 month free trial and is totally included with some credit cards; check with your bank. It’s totally worth it – and I say that as an airline pilot!
- If you don’t spring for CLEAR, check out TSA PreCheck. It always save time and hassle.
- Make sure you’re checked in for your next flight already, and don’t have any (additional) checked in baggage.
Where do I put my luggage?
Unfortunately, Detroit Metro International Airport does not offer luggage storage services. This means you’ll either have to chug your bags along, check them in, or use a storage service like LuggageHero.
LuggageHero offers affordable bag/luggage storage in several locations around downtown Detroit, as well as near the airport.