When we told people that we were going to Detroit, Michigan for a getaway, everyone looked at us and asked why? That’s a fair question with all the media Detroit has been getting these days. It’s a city that has lost many of its manufacturing jobs and over half of its population in the last few years. People either moved away or simply abandoned their houses for greener pastures. Detroit even filed for bankruptcy this past summer as it struggled to stay afloat.
However, as savvy travelers, we’ve found that times like these are the best time to visit a destination. During our stay in Detroit, everyone welcomed us. People were eager to tell us about their city while we took photos of monuments, and they gave us smiles and waves as we walked the streets. Detroit wasn’t the place that we had heard about so much in the news, but was a quiet city whose people are eager to rebuild. And they are doing so by turning to tourism.
We started our tour by booking accommodation at the DoubleTree in downtown Detroit. They offer a free shuttle to anywhere within the city limits and we took advantage of the ride to some of the funky neighborhoods for cool eats and treats.
Our first stop took us to Corktown where we photographed the famous abandoned train station. The Detroit Central Depot was closed in 1988 and was at risk of being torn down, but now this 18-story relic of Motor City has escaped destruction by housing film shoots and attracting tourists for fantastic photo opportunities. It’s just one of many beautiful pieces of abandoned architecture around the city.
Corktown is one of the up-and-coming neighborhoods of Detroit with urban dining choices like Slows Bar BQ. This slick restaurant was packed at 12:00 noon sharp and we made it just in time before the lines started to form. The name lives up to the hype, as their slow-cooked meats will melt in your mouth as you dip each bit in your choice of five specialty sauces.
The hottest spot in town for a cup of joe is just a few doors down at Astro Coffee. All the cool cats stop for a latté fix here before getting on with their day and then they all come back at night for cocktails next door at the Sugar House.
Viewfinder Tip: Make sure to bring your passport since there are $5 Shuttles over to the Windsor Casino in Canada.
The Detroit Riverfront is an excellent way to spend the afternoon. Rent some bikes at Wheelhouse and ride out to Belle Isle. The riverwalk follows the Detroit River passing by the famous Renaissance Towers where General Motors has its headquarters. As you stroll along the paved pathway you can sneak a peek at Caesars Palace Casino across the river in Windsor Canada.
Outdoor concerts, green spaces, the history of Detroit, and concession stands will keep you entertained as you sip a smoothie and explore another side of the city.
Most people hold their breath when they think of downtown Detroit, but it is easy to navigate this part of the city that has lots to see and do. We took the Detroit People Mover around the downtown core at a cost of 75 cents per ride. It circles above the city and lets you off at many of the major stops.
We got off at Woodward Street and checked out the historic theater district. I was actually a little giddy when I first laid eyes on the Fox Theatre. Built in the 1920s, it’s one of five historic theaters built by William Fox (the other four being in Brooklyn, Atlanta, St. Louis, and San Francisco).
How could we not check out Comerica Park just across the street? Home to the Detroit Tigers, one of the winningest teams in baseball, it definitely leaves an impression with its giant tigers standing guard. Just down the street is Ford Field for NFL Football and if you hop back on the Detroit People Mover then you can be at Joe Louis Arena in less than five minutes.
Detroit has a strong history and it starts with cars. The Henry Ford Museum (a short drive to Dearborn) takes you through the years of the American automobile. Music played a big role here too, and the Motown Museum will take you through Hitsville USA. Home to the original site on West Grand Boulevard, it pays homage to the legacy of Motown Records. If you are an art lover, the Detroit Institute of Arts collection is among the top six in the US. Founded in 1885, it has grown to housing 100 galleries in 685,000 square feet!
People may not be flocking to Detroit like other U.S. cities, but there is a culture and food scene that is thriving. We’re believers that if neighborhoods like Corktown, Midtown, and the Eastern Market remain funky and true, then Detroit will survive and turn into one very hip, urban destination.
What are some of your favorite overlooked destinations?