Nestled just north of Detroit is the hip town of Ferndale. Known for its thriving LGBTQ community, Ferndale packs a vibrant arts, music, food and nightlife scene into just 5.5 miles. Beyond the rainbow flags and trendy shops lies historic architecture, close-knit neighborhoods and a progressive community spirit.
1. Wander Down 9 Mile for Shopping, Art Galleries, Coffee Shops and More
The heart of downtown Ferndale centers around 9 Mile Road. This Main Street area packs the city’s best shopping, galleries, coffee shops and cafes into an easily walkable stretch.
Browse the records and memorabilia at famous Easy Street Records, an institution for metro Detroit’s music scene. Dive into classic and indie reads at Pages Bookshop. Pop into the clothing and gift boutiques like Dot & Moose and Marais.
Stop for an expertly-pulled espresso at Astro Coffee or oozing grilled cheese at Como’s. Don’t miss tastes of the Mediterranean at Assaggi or modern Mexican fare at Imperial Taco.
Keep an eye out for colorful murals covering building facades up and down 9 Mile. From drinking and dining to galleries and boutiques, an afternoon strolling this Main Street gives you the perfect taste of Ferndale.
2. Catch a Show at The Magic Bag or The Loving Touch
The Magic Bag: 22920 Woodward Ave, Ferndale, MI 48220
The Loving Touch: 22634 Woodward Ave, Ferndale, MI 48220,
Ferndale’s music scene really shines at its two historic venues: The Magic Bag and The Loving Touch. Catch local and national rock, indie and alternative acts and comedians in an intimate setting.
The Magic Bag opened in 1965 and still has its kitschy circus theme and red-and-white striped exterior. Order a craft cocktail and take in shows in the dimly lit main stage and lounge areas.
Right next door is the neon-lit The Loving Touch, host to DJ dance nights along with bands and stand-up shows. With affordable tickets and big-name bookings, these two venues are at the core of metro Detroit’s live music and comedy scene.
3. Explore Ferndale’s LGBTQ Nightlife
Ferndale is unofficially considered Michigan’s “gay capital”, with one of the largest LGBTQ communities in the state. The modern movement took root here in the 1990s, with LGBTQ-friendly clubs and businesses sprouting up downtown.
Hang out with Ferndale’s vibrant LGBTQ community at popular clubs like the industrial-themed Bench Warmer’s Pub and jazz lounge Five15 . Don’t miss drag brunch on Sundays at Affirmations, the hub for community services and advocacy. Grab drinks on the patio at popular farm-to-table restaurant Toast.
During June’s Motor City Pride festival, downtown Ferndale becomes a sea of rainbow flags and lively celebrations. Ferndale’s pride past and present is worth experiencing.
4. Explore the Downtown Parks
Downtown Ferndale has two adorable pocket parks that are perfect for an afternoon stroll. Geary Park contains a gurgling cistern fountain along with flower gardens, iron benches and lush greenery.
Right behind the shops on 9 Mile lies Withington West Park, an oasis with flower beds, winding paths and wooden gazebos connected by archways. Don’t miss the expansive outdoor patio at Public House restaurant, overlooking the park.
Cowley Park on the east side of downtown hosts a weekly farmer’s market during warmer months. Come here on weekends to browse produce, flowers, baked goods and crafts from local vendors against a backdrop of vibrant murals.
5. Bike or Rollerblade Down the Hilton-Woodward Bike Lanes
Ferndale is known as one of metro Detroit’s most bike-friendly cities, thanks to dedicated bike lanes like those along Hilton and Woodward. Gear up and take a spin down these routes, a fun way to explore Ferndale.
Cruise along Hilton Road north of 6 Mile where you’ll pedal past Craftsman bungalows and Queen Anne Victorians in the pleasant neighborhoods. The Woodward route takes you right through the heart of downtown, past restaurants, shops and cute restored homes.
Rent a bicycle or blades from Wheelhouse Detroit and don’t forget your helmet! The flat roads and designated lanes make sightseeing Ferndale on wheels easy and enjoyable.
6. Experience the Woodward Dream Cruise
Each August, Ferndale transforms for the world’s largest one-day car event: The Woodward Dream Cruise. On this day, thousands of classic cars cruise down the Woodward corridor from Ferndale to Pontiac.
In downtown Ferndale, Woodward Avenue closes to traffic and fills up with pop-up car shows, vendors, music stages and more. Watch the parade of vintage Mustangs, Corvettes, Cadillacs and other rides pass right through the heart of the city. The energetic, retro atmosphere is palpable during Dream Cruise weekend.
7. See a Show at the Ringwald Theatre
Address: 290 W Nine Mile Rd, Ferndale, MI 48220
Formerly a dilapidated porno theater, the Ringwald is now home to Ferndale’s vibrant theatre scene. Expect edgy and thought-provoking contemporary plays and musicals from local theatre groups like Go Comedy! Improv Theater and Who Wants Cake? Theatre.
With its small sub-100 seat theater, you get an intimate experience with avant garde productions at the Ringwald. Keep an eye out for special events like fundraising galas and cult movie screenings. Supporting local theatre at this little gem helps the arts thrive in Ferndale.
8. Get Outdoors at Ferndale Upper Rouge Trail
Just across Woodward Avenue from downtown lies a 2.5 mile stretch of the Ferndale Upper Rouge Trail, part of the Detroit metro system. Here you’ll find walking paths, meadows, wood bridges and river access points – a peaceful natural oasis.
Walk, jog or bike the paved paths as they wind through open fields and shady oak groves along the Rouge River. Keep an eye out for kingfishers, turtles and herons as you get some fresh air minutes from downtown Ferndale. The trails connect to larger systems heading north and west for longer adventures.
With its hip bars, historic homes, cultural diversity, independent businesses and natural areas, Ferndale offers so much to experience within its 5 miles. Use this guide to dive into Ferndale’s industrious past and vibrant present during your visit.