How To See the Northern Lights
Many variables go into the appearance of the aurora, but the alert means the stars are aligning in your favor. At the time of publication, the SWPC's 3-Day Forecast projects a minimum of a G1 alert running from 2pm EST on September 27 through 8am on September 28. The alert again appears at 5pm the evening of September 28 and runs until 11pm under a G1 alert.
The northern lights are only visible when it's dark outside, so those earlier hours aren't much use to aurora hunters. However, if the forecast holds, there's a chance of seeing the display throughout the night of September 27 with a chance of seeing them over a more limited time frame the following night as well. The G2 alert goes into effect at 11pm EST on September 27 and runs until 5am on September 28. That is when it might be seen furthest south and be at its strongest for viewers further north.
For the best view, you need to get away from light pollution. It's incredibly unlikely you'll see them in a city, let alone a major urban hub like Detroit or Chicago. The further you are from city lights, the better.
An SWPC representative previously told Thrillist, "You need very clear skies, a good view of the northern horizon (no trees, buildings, or hills), and it needs to be dark." The northern lights, seen this far south, will likely be visible along the northern horizon rather than directly overhead. You need both cooperative weather and an unobstructed view to the north.
The key to crossing the incredible display off your bucket list is persistence and patience. Once you're in your spot of choice, you're going to need to be patient and keep your eyes on the sky. Just because it's not there one moment doesn't mean that it won't be soon. Likewise, if you see it, that doesn't mean it's going to be around all night. It's a bit like whale watching in that way.
You'll see the northern lights pop up from time to time in the northern US, but it doesn't happen often. As SpaceWeather.com notes, it's been a "summer without sunspots." The rarity of sunspots from June 21 to September 22 means there's been less aurora activity than there has been in other years. (That's partly because we are at a point in the solar cycle when the sun is less active.) That solar activity is key to the presence of the northern lights. (Get a full explanation of how that works here.)
So, get out into the darkness, see something amazing, and brag about it when you get back to work on Monday. You won't regret it. It's absolutely worthy of being on your bucket list.