Chicago and Detroit have similarities that confuse many travelers who want to pick one destination over the other. As a traveler, you use many parameters to pick the best destination for your next summer vacation or a weekend getaway.
These include top attractions, public transportation, accommodation services, safety, and cost of services and goods. There may be more criteria, but these are what we will use to weigh these two top tourist destinations in the United States.
Read on as we look at the similarities and differences between Chicago, Illinois, and Detroit, Michigan. The information presented here will help you make the best decision!
Show Table of Contents
- Chicago vs Detroit Overview
- Detroit vs Chicago: Tourist Attractions
- Attractions and Fun Things to Do in Chicago
- Attractions and Fun Things to Do in Detroit
- Detroit vs Chicago: Safety
- Detroit vs Chicago: Transport
- Detroit vs Chicago: Cost of Living
- Detroit vs Chicago: Local People
- Chicago Style Pizza vs. Detroit Style Pizza
- Detroit Style Pizza
- Chicago Style Pizza
- Detroit vs Chicago: Weather
- Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears
- Detroit vs Chicago: Final Thoughts
Chicago vs Detroit Overview
Chicago vs Detroit, which one should you visit?
There is no direct answer here, and it depends on your preference. If you really want to know which is best, you should visit both!
We will be as comprehensive as possible, providing detailed insight into what both cities offer. Let’s start with an overview.
Chicago has about 3 million inhabitants and covers an area of about 606 square kilometers (234 square miles).
Chicago is a hub for music, comedy, and theatrical performances. You can never get bored in this city because of its rich entertainment assets and vibrant nightlife. If you are not in the theater, you can stroll around the Mag Mile, visit its world-class museums, or go shopping.
It has a beautiful skyline with skyscrapers protruding into the sky and Lake Michigan on the backdrop.
See Related: Where to Stay in Chicago: Best Areas & Neighborhoods
Detroit is one of the bigger cities in the United States, sitting in the 27th place on the list. It is located in the Midwest state of Michigan and covers an area of 370 square kilometers (119 square miles).
It does not have nearly as many people as Chicago. Detroit has only 661,193 residents as of the 2022 census, which is a drop from the previous year.
Detroit is also called The Motor City. The name originated back in the early 20th Century when it became the global center of the automotive industry.
Motor City is known for its many attraction sites. Do you want to know how they compare to Chicago? Continue to the next section to find out!
See Related: Best Places to Visit in the Midwest
Detroit vs Chicago: Tourist Attractions
The primary factors when choosing a travel destination are the attractions and things to do there. To start our comparison of Chicago and Detroit, let’s look at epic scenes and fun activities you can engage in when you visit any of the two cities.
Attractions and Fun Things to Do in Chicago
Chicago has many notable attractions. We cannot list all of them because of the sheer number! However, we will highlight the most popular and must-see features that bring tourists to this city. Notably, you must have heard of Navy Pier and Millennium Park.
These are just the tips of an iceberg. The city has more for your eye than these two. You can spend less and explore more of the best attractions in Chicago with Chicago CityPASS.
You can add the following to your list of things to do or places to visit in Chicago:
- Art Institute of Chicago
- Millennium Park
- Navy Pier
- Adler Planetarium
- Museum of Science and Industry
- Willis Tower SkyDeck
- Buckingham Fountain
- 360 Chicago Observation Deck
- Field Museum of Natural History
- Lincoln Park
- Shedd Aquarium
- Lincoln Park Zoo
- Chicago Riverwalk and Lakefront Trail
- Oriental Institute Museum
- The Rookery Building
- Chicago Theater
- North Avenue Beach
- Maggie Daley Park
- Wrigley Field
- Magnificent Mile
See Related: Chicago CityPASS Review
Attractions and Fun Things to Do in Detroit
Many fun things you can do in Detroit exist and places you can visit when you come to this city. The art museums, shopping, sports, entertainment, and many other outdoor activities are all at their peak in this city. The following is a list of top attractions in Detroit.
- Detroit Institute of Arts
- The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant Tour
- Show Me Detroit Tours
- Motown Museum
- Michigan Science Center
- Detroit Zoo
- Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
- Dime Store
- Detroit Historical Museum
- Guardian Building
- Eastern Market
- Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
- Campus Martius Park
- Detroit Riverfront
- Comerica Park Tours
- Ford Piquette Avenue Plant Tour
- The Whitney
- Belle Isle Park
- Cliff Bell’s
- Detroit Princess Riverboat
As you can see, both cities aren’t short of jaw-dropping features, interesting attractions, killer nightlife, and captivating sceneries. You can engage in an endless list of activities at either destination.
See Related: Best Places to Travel in Your 20’s in the US
Detroit vs Chicago: Safety
Your safety comes first. We cannot guarantee it in either of these cities, but going with the crime rate data, one is seemingly safer than the other.
With assaults, shootings, and homicides on the rise across the United States, Detroit city has been in the spotlight for some time. Its crime rate as of 2020 stands at 2,248.4 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. That made it rank second, behind only Memphis. It is way much higher than the national average.
On the other hand, Chicago has a relatively low crime rate. It stood at 3,926 per 100,000 people as of 2020. That is lower than Detroit but still higher than the national average.
These statistics may depict the two cities as unsafe for tourists, but that is not the case. You can safely visit any of them and complete your trip successfully if you avoid dark corners where the bad guys are. Daylight robbing and other crimes are rare. So, just ensure you stay safe.
Also, you may consider insuring your trip in case anything does go wrong. It is vital if you come outside the US or another state. Your current insurance may not cover you when you cross state lines or country borders. Check out TravelInsurance.com or InsureMyTrip to stay on the safe side.
Detroit vs Chicago: Transport
Both cities accept local and international tourists. The cities have international airports that accept international flights. The ticket costs for the two will not vary so much because they are neighboring states. Check out the available flights and prices from your country at Skyscanner.
Once in Chicago or Detroit, you can use public transport from the airport to your hotel or rental. Luckily, Detroit and Chicago have a luxury and budget hotels like the Warwick Allerton Chicago and The Inn on Feery Street for all budgets and tastes.
Both cities are large in size. So, strolling around is out of the question if you want to explore the best things they have to offer unless you are just out in the streets close to where you stay. You can use public transport to commute through the cities. But if you have a little more on your budget to spend, you can rent a car. Navigating the cities is easy and more convenient if you have a private means of transport. Make your reservations at RentalCars.
You may not need public transport or rent a car if you are on a fixed trip organized by a tour company. They will likely pick you up from your hotel room each day and bring you back at the end of the day. That is the best option for first-timers in either Detroit or Chicago.
Detroit vs Chicago: Cost of Living
Generally, the cost of living while visiting is higher in Chicago than in Detroit. A person in Chicago needs about $220 to cater to daily needs. That is double the amount you will need if you choose Detroit. The average daily cost here is about $110.
The chart below summarizes the average price of various services and commodities in Chicago and Detroit. Please note that these can significantly vary depending on where you access them.
Detroit vs Chicago: Local People
When traveling to a place for the first time, your concern should be the people you will meet there. The personalities and characters vary from one locale to the next and can be a primary factor in decision-making.
From my experience, Chicago’s population mainly consists of extroverts.
They are outgoing, talkative, and social. Interacting with them is easy because they also tend to be enthusiastic and seek excitement. You can easily make new buddies at restaurants, bars, and other social spaces. Chicagoans tend to keep a stable, positive mood in different circumstances.
Detroit people are also friendly. In fact, there are not many differences in their characters compared with the Chicagoans. The only thing you may need to be ready for is a greeting. These folks are fond of waving, nodding, or talking to anyone on the streets.
The two cities are also culturally diverse. Chicago, for instance, consists of 32% non-Hispanic whites, 33% non-Hispanic blacks, and 29% Hispanics. The population consists of 36% Black Americans.
On the other hand, Detroit’s population consists of Black, French, Belgian, German, Hispanic, Polish, Greek, Italian, and Middle Eastern Americans.
See Related: Unique Places to Stay in Chicago
Chicago Style Pizza vs. Detroit Style Pizza
When it comes to the food scene of these big cities, deep-dish pizza is one of the most commonly ordered foods in the two cities. And since you plan on visiting either Detroit or Chicago, it is better if we compare how their pizzas differ.
One visible difference between Detroit-style pizza and Chicago-style pizza. The Detroit-style pizza is rectangular-shaped, and the Chicago-style deep dish pizza is round.
Both are deep-dish pizzas, which is where the rivalry truly intensifies. I have no horse in this race – but you’d be mad not to eat a slice of either pie when visiting.
Detroit Style Pizza
Detroit-style pizza was created at Buddy’s Rendezvous and included on the menu in 1946. It is what we today know as Buddy’s Pizza, consisting of different restaurants found throughout the country. The inspiration for the recipe came from sfincoine, a focaccia-like pizza made in Italy by then.
Buddy’s Pizza never gained mass popularity until 2010, when it started selling at different outlets throughout the US. Pizza Hut also boosted it in 2021 when it added the Detroit-style pizza to its menu.
As mentioned, Detroit-style pizza is rectangular-shaped and is made from a high-hydration dough. Chefs add two and a half cups of bread flour and 1 cup of water for a crispy and chewy crust.
The Detroit-style pizza toppings include Wisconsin brick cheese and cooked tomato sauce. The sauce is added on the top at the center, in a signature “racing stripes” pattern. The Wisconsin brick cheese cubes go towards the edges and melt inwards as this thick pizza is baked. The Detroit-style pizza is traditionally topped with mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, pepperoncini peppers, onions, and pepperoni slices.
Chicago Style Pizza
Downtown Chicago has many restaurants and eateries that sell this deep-dish pizza. But how does it differ from the Detroit-style pizza?
This Chicago-style pizza is attributed to Pizzeria Uno. It first opened its doors in 1943, headed by an Italian-American restaurateur Ric Ricard. He was in partnership with an American footballer, Ike Sewell. The duo hired Alice May Redmond, who pioneered the Chicago-style pizza recipe.
This round deep-dish pizza requires flaky dough. The dough is made by mixing 4 cups of all-purpose flour, a cup of water, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 3 tablespoons of butter. The ingredients produce a smooth crust, which is about one and a half inches tall.
The Chicago-style pizza is topped with sliced milk Mozzarella, hot sausage, and tomato sauce. Optional toppings are mushrooms, bell peppers, Asiago cheese, onions, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
The baking temperature for Chicago deep-dish pizza is 425 degrees Fahrenheit and takes 35 minutes to be ready.
So, which one can you choose between Detroit-style pizza and Chicago-style pizza? It all depends on your taste preference. If you want one that looks and feels more like focaccia, Detroit-style pizza is the only option. And if you need a crumbly and hearty pizza, the Chicago-style pizza is a better option.
Detroit vs Chicago: Weather
Chicago and Detroit are in the neighboring states of Illinois and Michigan. That means they share many things regarding weather.
Chicago generally experiences warm, humid, and wet summers and freezing, snowy, and windy winters. It is partly cloudy in this city throughout the year.
Spring and fall are associated with both cold and warm weather. Plan your trip to Chicago between September and October or April through May when the temperatures are warm.
Detroit also experiences warm summers and freezing, snowy, windy winters. The temperature in the city varies from 6 degrees Fahrenheit to 91 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. The best time to visit Detroit is mid-June through mid-September for outdoor and warm weather activities.
Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears
The Lions and Bears are the football teams of the two cities. History has shown that when faced with each other in a match, the Chicago Bears have a higher chance of winning the game. That is evident in its remarkable record against the Detroit Lions in the recent game.
The Chicago Bears have won six of their last seven matches against the Detroit Lions. Check their head-to-head result history over the years. You will conclude that The Bears are in control here – sorry Lions.
Detroit vs Chicago: Final Thoughts
After considering all the factors that set Chicago and Detroit apart, which one is your favorite? It seems there is no clear winner here. Your decision still depends on personal preferences and a few considerations.
If you are on a low budget, Detroit is a more affordable city. If you’re after a bustling metropolis, Chicago is the one for you.
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- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.