Once you visit Detroit, you’ll learn it’s a massive city of rediscovery. Many people can’t see Detroit as more than an automotive manufacturing Mecca; reliving its glory years. But city officials are trying to change all of that. The City of Detroit, Michigan has gone through its share of decline and population loss; but now – during the city’s upswing, historic buildings are being renovated, the downtown is bustling once again, and Americans have a reason to believe in the Motor City again.
Before you pack your bags and head to the where, “We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes,” [the city’s motto] you’ll want to know more about it.
Downtown One of the benefits of Detroit is its pedestrian-friendly downtown. Downtown also happens to be city’s primary business district. The majority of the city’s skyscrapers stand tall in this district. There’s three casinos scattered about, a bevy of parks to stroll, and cultured entertainment in the second largest theatre district in America. Check out Russell Street Deli, Supinos Pizza, and Roma Cafe for good food. And if you’re a sports fanatic, three major league sporting venues (Ford Field, Commerica Park, and the Joe Louis Arena) are in this district too.
Midtown-New Center Detroit’s Midtown is home to several world class museums, art galleries, and well-known Wayne State University. The locals say it’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking for nightlife, bars, and restaurants. At night the area really comes alive. It’s a foodie paradise; especially if you have a pallet for the unique and unusual. Grey Ghost, La Feria and Selden Standard are rated high on locals’ lists. Be sure to visit Traffic Jam & Snug, a true gem since it’s opening in 1965. Their menu is as eclectic as the people who drop in for their in-house bakery, microbrewery, and dairy bar.
East Side Good ol’ East Side is the former blue color backbone of Detroit. It has an eclectic collection of neighborhoods which have gone through good and bad times. It might require a determined eye to find the many hidden gems worth checking. It’s easiest to check out this district in a car, because it’s so massive.
Southwest Side The industrial engine of Detroit is what Southwest Side is most known for, and has taken on a more trendy tone. Neighborhoods like Corktown and Mexicantown are both located here. And if you visit Mexicantown, check out Los Galanes for authentic food, tasty tortillas, and don’t forget about the margaritas.
West Side The West Side is Detroit’s huge residential area that’s best known for its historic neighborhoods and mansions.
Hamtramck-Highland Park Hamtramck and Highland Park are actually two cities that were never annexed by Detroit, but many say they still function as neighborhoods. Hamtramck has a large Polish population and is known for its numerous bars and restaurants. It sits north of just north of city center. Visit Polish Village Café, Krakus, for traditional polish dishes like golabki (stuffed cabbage).
A FEW NEIGHBORHOODS
Within these districts are some pretty interesting neighborhoods. Last month, the Neighborhoods, a news website and cable channel, was launched to specifically highlight Detroit’s very own neighborhoods. Aaron Foley, former Blac Detroit magazine editor, is charged with serving as editor. Below are just a few neighborhoods I highly recommend you visit when you arrive.
CORKTOWN The Southwest Side neighborhood got its name from early immigrants who established the neighborhood were from County Cork, Ireland; it’s Detroit’s oldest surviving neighborhood. Many view it as one of the city’s most vibrant. Finding a place to eat here isn’t a problem. In fact, make sure you stop by Onassis Coney Island, Brooklyn Street Local, Slows Bar BQ, Dime Store, or Katoi. The food selections are diverse enough to keep any foodie’s tastebuds throughly entertained.
GREEKTOWN Greektown is primarily roughly two city blocks helps to keep Detroit as one of the best cities with great neighborhood authentic ethnic eateries. You have solid staples like New Parthenon (which has been around for more than 40 years). Or how about Fishbones Rhythm Kitchen Café for the Motown version of great New Orleans cuisine.
DEARBORN Head over to Dearborn, which has one of the largest Arab-Americans populations in the country, and relish in shawarma, falafel, and hummus at establishments like Al Ameer, Sheeba, and Hamido.
While Detroit will always be known as Motor City, getting around the city can be done on four wheels or two. There are numerous travel tips to help you move about, but getting a car should be a part of your trip. The good news is renting a car in Detroit is not a problem. If you are able to bring your own, that’s even better. Detroit is a very car centric city, yet it’s still provide alternative forms of transportation, such as being able to get around on two wheels. Wheelhouse Detroit, and Detroit Bikes are great options.
If you happen to be in Detroit on a Monday, then you’ve got to participate in Slow Roll, Michigan’s largest weekly bike ride, for the last five years. Over 3,000 weekly hop on a bike and take to the streets.
Transporting across the 142.2 mi.² that make up Detroit, can be a challenge for those who don’t have a car or aren’t comfortable with biking. Thankfully, there’s Uber; and Skoots or The Detroit People Mover (for airport transportation). You can download there apps and quickly get around. Overall, if you’re expecting to do anything outside of the downtown area, having a car is most important.
WHERE TO STAY
If you’re looking to stay downtown there’s the 70-floor centrally located Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center (you can see Canada from your hotel room), the historic Westin Book Cadillac Detroit (opened in 1924), the must-see Crowne Plaza Detroit Downtown Riverfront (set along the Detroit River), or the glamour of the Aloft Detroit at The David Whitney (located within the historic David Whitney Building). There’s also Greektown’s very own Atheneum Suite Hotel (surrounded by good food and entertainment galore). But if you’re looking to be pampered, try the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Detroit Downtown – Fort Shelby (complimentary wi-fi and shuttles to get you throughout Detroit).
SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT
Visit an island
There’s an island you can visit: Belle Isle. It a 928-acre park-island that sits just across the Detroit River, and allows visitors a chance to bike or walk past various monuments and through exquisite gardens which shows the natural beauty it has to offer. The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Belle Isle Aquarium and Belle Isle Nature Zoo exhibit some of the awesome architecture to view.
Historic Fort Wayne Coalition
Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Riverfront
Michigan Sports Hall of Fame
Michigan Science Center
Diamond Jacks River Tours
MUST SEE SPOTS
Visit the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. It was served as a visual guide in celebration of African American history and culture since it opened in 1965. At various times there’s ongoing including like concerts, film screenings, lectures, and performances throughout the year.
Once you’ve done that, be sure you visit the Motown Historical Museum, Hitsville U.S.A. This is the original headquarters of Motown music. The spot is a former photographer’s studio, which was bought in 1959 by Berry Gordy, Motown founder. The early beginnings of Motown was here. All the Motown musicians you know of passed through its doors and walked through its hallways.
And it’s impossible to visit Detroit without visiting the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant because it’s the birthplace of Henry Ford’s Model T Automotive Heritage Complex. There were cars before the Model T, but this was the first successfully mass produced vehicle in America.
You also can’t go to Detroit without going to National Coney Island. The World Famous Coney Dog comes from here. Grab a traditional Detroit-style Coney Island hot dog, add some Chili, and your favorite condiments; but be warned, you may never leave if you do. You can find National Coney Island locations scattered across the city.
I’ll end this piece by saying I’ve left the best of Detroit for last. I went to Corktown’s very own, Slows BarBQ; and it is by far the absolute best BBQ in Detroit. And for those that know me personally, I LOVE BBQ! If it’s warm enough I suggest sitting out on their patio and take in the sights while you eat.
Yep. Detroit has a lot to offer; especially, if you have an open mind. Just remember, Go to Detroit!