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Signature City Detroit

Program No. 21851RJ
Detroit has the nation's only floating post office and created its first stretch of paved road. Come join our experts for an insider's look at this fascinating city.
6 days
Rating (4.9)
Activity Level
Starts at

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DATES & starting prices
May 14 - May 19, 2023
Starting at
Aug 6 - Aug 11, 2023
Starting at
Sep 10 - Sep 15, 2023
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Oct 15 - Oct 20, 2023
Starting at
DATES & starting prices
May 14 - May 19, 2023
Starting at
Aug 6 - Aug 11, 2023
Starting at
Sep 10 - Sep 15, 2023
Starting at
Oct 15 - Oct 20, 2023
Starting at

At a Glance

Explore Detroit's important role in American history and experience the city’s comeback for yourself. Learn about Henry Ford, who invented the assembly line but also was one of America's most important benefactors of innovation and preservation of American history. Delve into the story of the Great Migration of African Americans who flocked to the city to work in the automotive industry. Discover how the wealth of the city transformed it into a center for the arts, at the Detroit Institute of Arts, one of America's most important art museums and trace the origins of the Motown Sound and the musicians who made it. Experience firsthand how businesses large and small have taken on the entrepreneurial role of rebuilding Detroit and the dynamic energy of the city, the revitalized river-front, newly renovated historic buildings and the spirit of Detroit moving forward.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Walking and standing in museums and on field trips for up to 2 hours, over 2 miles, per day.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Explore the Detroit Institute of Arts, including Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry fresco cycle and other highlights.
  • Learn about Henry Ford and his legacy at the Eleanor and Edsel Ford Estate, The Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village and the Ford Rouge Factory.
  • Examine the Great Migration, Detroit’s African American history and the Music of Motown.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Karin Risko
Karin Risko is the founder of a local excursion company that shows off the rich history of Detroit and southeast Michigan. While the former history teacher is inspired by the past, Karin keeps abreast of all the exciting new developments that are turning Detroit into a popular destination. She's also the co-author of “Michigan Civil War Landmarks,” a History Press publication, which was released in April 2015.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Karin Risko
Karin Risko View biography
Karin Risko is the founder of a local excursion company that shows off the rich history of Detroit and southeast Michigan. While the former history teacher is inspired by the past, Karin keeps abreast of all the exciting new developments that are turning Detroit into a popular destination. She's also the co-author of “Michigan Civil War Landmarks,” a History Press publication, which was released in April 2015.
Profile Image of Samuel Donald
Samuel Donald View biography
A native of Detroit, Samuel Donald has a love for music and his community. After teaching in Detroit area schools for more than a decade, he founded Youth City, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing students with professionally organized programs in music and career development. Currently, he is co-producing the six-part documentary, “Detroit Music,” which intends to educate local youth about notable musicians who grew up in the same neighborhoods. Samuel previously worked as the road manager for Detroit artists David and Delores Winans.
Profile Image of  Robert (Robin) Boyle
Robert (Robin) Boyle View biography
Robin Boyle is a professor of urban planning at Wayne State University, and has served as chair of the Geography and Urban Planning Department, and later as associate dean. Born and educated in Scotland, Robin worked as a visiting professor at several international schools including the Melbourne School of Design in Australia. For more than 30 years, Professor Boyle was also a member of the UK Royal Town Planning Institute. Recently, he completed a study of surface transportation options between Detroit Metro airport and downtown.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum
by Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
Book by Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
Detroit: The Dream Is Now: The Design, Art, and Resurgence of an American City
by Michel Arnaud
Detroit: The Dream Is Now is a visual essay on the rebuilding and resurgence of the city of Detroit by photographer Michel Arnaud, co-author of Design Brooklyn. In recent years, much of the focus on Detroit has been on the negative stories and images of shuttered, empty buildings—the emblems of Detroit’s financial and physical decline. In contrast, Arnaud aims his lens at the emergent creative enterprises and new developments taking hold in the still-vibrant city. The book explores Detroit’s rich industrial and artistic past while giving voice to the dynamic communities that will make up its future. The first section provides a visual tour of the city’s architecture and neighborhoods, while the remaining chapters focus on the developing design, art, and food scenes through interviews and portraits of the city’s entrepreneurs, artists, and makers. Detroit is the story of an American city in flux, documented in Arnaud’s thought-provoking photographs.
Hidden History of Detroit
by Amy Elliott Bragg
Discover the Motor City before the motor: a muddy port town full of grog shops, horse races, haphazard cemeteries and enterprising bootstrappers from all over the world. Meet the argumentative French fugitive who founded the city, the tobacco magnate who haunts his shuttered factory, the gambler prankster millionaire who built a monument to himself, the governor who brought his scholarly library with him on canoe expeditions and the historians who helped create the story of Detroit as we know it: one of the oldest, rowdiest and most enigmatic cities in the Midwest.
Recollections The Detroit Years: The Motown Sound By The People Who Made It
by Mr Jack Ryan
The Motown story involved many people including writers, singers, musicians, disc jockeys and professionals who built the foundations of "The Sound Of Young America". Coming from Detroit and spreading to the entire world, Motown and its unique sound won the hearts and the love of millions from its start in 1959 until today. Relive the magic, the music, the love and the fabulous dancing in "Recollections The Motown Sound By The People Who Made It."
Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story
by David Maraniss
It’s 1963 and Detroit is on top of the world. The city’s leaders are among the most visionary in America: Grandson of the first Ford; Henry Ford II; influential labor leader Walter Reuther; Motown’s founder Berry Gordy; the Reverend C.L. Franklin and his daughter, the amazing Aretha; Governor George Romney, Mormon and Civil Rights advocate; super car salesman Lee Iacocca; Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, a Kennedy acolyte; Police Commissioner George Edwards; Martin Luther King. It was the American auto makers’ best year; the revolution in music and politics was underway. Reuther’s UAW had helped lift the middle class. The time was full of promise. The auto industry was selling more cars than ever before and inventing the Mustang. Motown was capturing the world with its amazing artists. The progressive labor movement was rooted in Detroit with the UAW. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech there two months before he made it famous in the Washington march. Once in a Great City shows that the shadows of collapse were evident even then. Before the devastating riot. Before the decades of civic corruption and neglect, and white flight. Before people trotted out the grab bag of rust belt infirmities—from harsh weather to high labor costs—and competition from abroad to explain Detroit’s collapse, one could see the signs of a city’s ruin. Detroit at its peak was threatened by its own design. It was being abandoned by the new world. Yet so much of what Detroit gave America lasts.
Driving Detroit: The Quest for Respect in the Motor City
by George Galster
For most of the twentieth century, Detroit was a symbol of American industrial might, a place of entrepreneurial and technical ingenuity where the latest consumer inventions were made available to everyone through the genius of mass production. Today, Detroit is better known for its dwindling population, moribund automobile industry, and alarmingly high murder rate. In Driving Detroit, author George Galster, a fifth-generation Detroiter and internationally known urbanist, sets out to understand how the city has come to represent both the best and worst of what cities can be, all within the span of a half century. Galster invites the reader to travel with him along the streets and into the soul of this place to grasp fully what drives the Motor City. With a scholar's rigor and a local's perspective, Galster uncovers why metropolitan Detroit's cultural, commercial, and built landscape has been so radically transformed. He shows how geography, local government structure, and social forces created a housing development system that produced sprawl at the fringe and abandonment at the core. Galster argues that this system, in tandem with the region's automotive economic base, has chronically frustrated the population's quest for basic physical, social, and psychological resources. These frustrations, in turn, generated numerous adaptations—distrust, scapegoating, identity politics, segregation, unionization, and jurisdictional fragmentation—that collectively leave Detroit in an uncompetitive and unsustainable position. Partly a self-portrait, in which Detroiters paint their own stories through songs, poems, and oral histories, Driving Detroit offers an intimate, insightful, and perhaps controversial explanation for the stunning contrasts—poverty and plenty, decay and splendor, despair and resilience—that characterize the once mighty city.
Detroit: A Biography
by Scott Martelle
Detroit: A Biography takes a long, unflinching look at the evolution of one of America’s great cities, and one of the nation’s greatest urban failures. It tells how the city grew to become the heart of American industry and how its utter collapse—from 1.8 million residents in 1950 to 714,000 only six decades later—resulted from a confluence of public policies, private industry decisions, and deep, thick seams of racism. And it raises the question: when we look at modern-day Detroit, are we looking at the ghost of America’s industrial past or its future?
River Rouge: Ford's Industrial Colossus
by Joseph P. Cabadas
In 1914, Henry Ford ordered the construction of a small plant at the confluence of the River Rouge and Detroit River in what was then the rural community of Dearborn, just outside of Detroit. Eventually, that small pilot plant grew into the gigantic 1,100-acre River Rouge Complex, the most famous auto factory of the twentieth century, renowned as the home of Ford's "vertical integration." In 1999, Ford's great-grandson and Ford Chairman Bill Ford III announced that the company would reinvent the complex as the auto factory of the new century, scheduled for completion in 2004. Like "the Rouge" itself, this illustrated 90-year chronological history of the complex will provide a sprawling view of the evolution of automaking and industrial technologies, as well as the exciting new concepts the company is incorporating into the current redesign.
10 Reviews
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4.9 Average
(5) Review left 10/29/2022

What a terrific tour of Detroit and surrounding areas we just experienced! Sue was a fantastic group leader and we could feel her love of the area as she showed us around town. Our bus drivers, our local guides, our hotel, our restaurant meals and the sights and sounds were great. This was a very memorial five day adventure.

(5) Review left 10/25/2022

We would highly recommend this Signature City adventure. You will not be disappointed with the variety of learning adventures and excellent instructors. It is surprisingly easy to get around the downtown hotel area on foot or by car. It is clean, safe and full of gorgeous old buildings.

(5) Review left 10/22/2022

Detroit, a city of glamour and very current!

(5) Review left 10/02/2022

A fine introduction to the "new" Detroit. I think I got a good flavor of the city, its residents and its history.

(5) Review left 9/17/2022

Great trip for history buffs!

(5) Review left 8/14/2022

I enjoyed visiting The Food Field and learning about how this non-profit group is feeding the community with fruits and vegetables. The Motown Museum was very enjoyable and I learned some things that I was not previously aware of. I also got to view at the Rouge Factory how an F-150 Truck is put together on a moving assembly line. I had the benefit of exploring Greenfield Village. I also had the advantage of visiting Edsel and Eleanor Ford House and Garden. I also appreciate the visit to the Charles H. Wright Museum. With my free time in the evening I was able to go see on opening night Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations. I had see this show previously but enjoyed it again with my friend, as well as three new Road Scholar friends in the city where the group started. As a bonus at the end of the show the writer of the show, Dominique Morisseau, came out from backstage to talk to the audience as well as their longtime manager, Shelly Berger, and the sole survivor of the group, Otis Williams. What a special treat their appearances were.

(4) Review left 8/13/2022

A very interesting program that will change the way you see Detroit and get you thinking about city revitalization programs. Great variety of experiences.

(5) Review left 8/12/2022

Detroit is so interesting and has so much to see. You cannot imagine how great a trip it is. The only thing I did not like was the hotel. My room was not cleaned the entire time and the breakfast was very boring and limited.

(5) Review left 5/31/2019

Forget your preconceived notions about Detroit. For most tourists, it is "off the radar," but definitely worth a visit. The Road Scholar program is a great overview of the city and some of it's major attractions. Highly recommended.

(5) Review left 5/25/2019

Detroit?! Who would want to go to Detroit? The answer is you if you are interested in learning how cities deal with extraordinarily difficult circumstances and survive. And we can't forget Motown. You will be amazed by how modest Studio A produced the marvelous sounds of the Supremes, the Temptations and many others.

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If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.