Detroit Comes Out Tour

Celebrate Detroit’s Gay History

Walking Tour

Unique Experience

Decades, before rainbow flags blanketed the nearby suburb of Ferndale, the gay community in metropolitan Detroit, began its courageous journey out of the closet and into the public eye in the late 1930s at a trailblazing business located on a prominent street in Downtown Detroit.

Join City Tour Detroit on this fascinating 2-hour walking tour through the heart of Detroit’s LGBTQ+ history led by local historian Michael Boettcher and uncover the hidden stories and forgotten landmarks that played pivotal roles in the fight for equality and acceptance.


Trailblazing tour documents Detroit's LGBTQ+ history

Uncover the stories behind colorful figures in the movement

Tour researched and led by qualified local guide

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Trip Details



6% booking fee assessed on tickets booked online (You can avoid the booking fee by purchasing tickets via phone: 313-757-1283).

Departure time

11 AM


Saturday, July 27

Saturday, August 24

Saturday, September 28


2 hours

Group size

4 participants required for tour to run

Group size capped at 20

Participation Requirements

  • Enthusiasm to learn
  • Comfortable walking up to 2 miles and standing at various locations during narration


  • Narration by experienced and knowledgeable tour guide.
  • 10% discount on purchases at the City Tour Detroit souvenir and gift store

Not included

  • Guide gratuity

What to bring

  • Dress for the weather
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes
  • Bring water if needed

Number & type of staff for tour

One Professional Guide

Enjoy this fascinating 2-hour walking tour through the heart of Detroit’s LGBTQ+ history led by local historian Michael Boettcher and uncover the hidden stories and forgotten landmarks that played pivotal roles in the fight for equality and acceptance.

This walking tour provides historic context to Detroit’s Gay Pride Movement by visiting the places where the LGBTQ+ community gathered, socialized, and supported one another in a time when acceptance was scarce.

You’ll explore the landmarks still around and those long gone that served as important cruising areas and venues for protests where LGBTQ+ Detroiters made their voices heard.

You’ll hear the stories of colorful figures such as the charismatic “Prophet Jones,” aka “Messiah in Mink,” a local religious leader of national fame whose sexuality was an “open secret,” and the legendary jazz and blues singer Bessie Smith, whose songs about Detroit’s “buffet flats” captured the spirit of the time.

The captivating account of Johnnie Ray, the music legend mentioned in the hit song “C’mon Eileen” and dubbed the “Father of Rock and Roll” by Tony Bennett is another fascinating story you won’t want to miss. Ray’s electrifying performances and emotional singing style made him a household name, but it was the sensational headlines of his arrests in Detroit that shook the music industry and brought to light the vibrant and often hidden gay scene of the time.

Learn about several major figures from Detroit’s past who were undoubtedly gay but didn’t live in a time where they could publicly express their true identities.

This tour is more than just a walk through the city; it’s a tribute to the pioneers who paved the way for the freedoms enjoyed today. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the struggles and challenges faced by early LGBTQ+ Detroiters and their resilience in the face of adversity.

While learning about this oft neglected history, you can acknowledge and celebrate the progress that has been made, from the clandestine bars of the 1930s to the vibrant and open community we see today and draw inspiration from the past to continue the fight for equality and acceptance in our own lives and communities.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to walk in the footsteps of history. Come investigate where LGBTQ+ Detroiters first began fighting the battles that have given way to the freedom to live and love authentically today.

Book your spot on the “Detroit Comes Out” tour today!

Frequently asked questions:

Tours start and end at the City Tour Detroit office & souvenir shop located inside the beautiful Guardian Building, 500 Griswold Street, Detroit MI 48226.

Use the address 500 Griswold Street, Detroit MI 48226 for directional purposes.

Limited metered street parking is available on nearby streets. Make sure to download the ParkDetroit app to pay and extend your time while on tour.

There are numerous parking structures nearby including the Buhl Garage located across the street. You’ll need a phone to park at the Buhl Garage as they use a QR code.

Online parking assistants such as or help with locating nearby parking as well as reserving a spot in advance.

Tipping is not mandatory, but it is customary for a job well done. Gratuities are an extra thank you so the amount is entirely up to you.

This is a downtown Detroit historic walking tour focusing on Detroit’s early LGBTQ+ history. Tour has been researched and is led by a member of this community.

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