Let’s be realistic. The Motor City is not likely to be on too many people’s vacation bucket list. Visions of urban neighborhoods rife with crime, houses and buildings in dire disrepair, and a downtown to be avoided after nightfall, makes Detroit the kind of place travelers try to avoid.
But these outdated stereotypes are hiding a vibrant, rebounding city. The Detroit of today is not the Detroit of yesterday. As with any major city, there are, of course, still areas people are well advised to avoid. But, these days, there are plenty of other areas visitors, including families, can be comfortable frequenting.
Detroit has had an economic turnaround. Things are on the upswing. The downtown area has been given a facelift with renovated residences, new exciting restaurants, bustling nightclubs, and family-oriented activities. Add major league sports teams in the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL to the mix, and one could say Detroit has it all.
The “D,” as the downtown area is referred to, as opposed to the not too distant past, is safe to walk. There is no longer a need for anyone to have eyes in the back of their head. In fact, Detroit has been the only U.S. city to be named as a top-10 global destination for travelers.
So why not vacation in Detroit? There’s a lot to do. Here are some of them. Some are meant for singles or couples with no minions in tow, others can be enjoyed by the entire tribe.
Every Saturday vendors selling spices, flowers, and various cheeses and produce pack the halls with their wares. Any day of the week is good for browsing the many specialty shops and having lunch at one of the cafes on Russel and Market Streets.
A scaled-down market during June and October is set up on each Tuesday, and a huge craft fair with food trucks draws visitors every Sunday.
Street art is everywhere and the Eastern Market has become internationally known as a hot-spot for artists.
Motown Historical Museum
Detroit is well-known for a musical style that shaped an entire culture. Artists such as Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and countless other music legends, all got their start in this Motor City sound studio. The studio was started by Berry Gordy in 1972 with an $800 dollar loan.
Years later Motown moved its location to Los Angeles, but there is nothing like the thrill of stepping into Studio A and seeing where all the magic began.
The hour-long tour is packed full of original photos of the stars recording their hits, as well as fascinating stories told by one of the guides.
Detroit Institute of Arts
One of the finest art exhibits in the world is on display here. Taking up one entire room is Diego Rivera’s mural, “Detroit Industry”, which is a depiction of Detroit’s blue-collar history.
Here you will find Picasso’s, Rembrandt’s, Caravaggio’s, and pieces by every famous artist who comes to mind.
There are suits of armor, modern African American art, hand puppets, and much more scattered throughout the over 100 different galleries.
Plan an entire day for this visit, you’ll need it if you want to take in everything.
Baker’s Keyboard Lounge
For 80 years Baker’s Keyboard Lounge has been well known for filling the air with the sweet sounds of some of the best jazz music found anywhere. Just as seen in older movies, tables are clustered around a small stage where the best of the best musicians in town entertain their anxious crowd.
There is also a deco-style bar painted like piano keys where locals enjoy a cold beer or mixed drink and discuss the topic of the day.
Hungry? Not to worry. Dive into a plate of the yummiest soul-food to ever coat your pallet. Be aware, when a musician is performing, there is a $10 to $15 dollar cover charge as well as a two-drink minimum.
Belle Isle Park
Belle Isle Park is not your ordinary run of the mill park. It’s a 982-acre island in the Detroit River. There is a zoo, an aquarium, and a maritime museum. Other features include kayaking, walking trails, a half-mile long beach, and a conservatory.
As the largest city-owned park in America, it also features a 30-bay golf driving range and numerous monuments. The park is open year-round from 5 a.m., until 10 p.m.
Campus Martius Park
After a few rousing days of visiting the sites of Detroit, why take a relaxing day off and chill out at Campus Martius Park? The park is located right smack in the middle of downtown.
The Michigan Soldiers & Sailors Monument stands in the center of the park. When the weather is warm there is a beach at the foot of the park. During the colder months, there is an ice skating rink.
There are concerts on the park’s stage during the summer months, as well as a restaurant and a bar. This is the perfect spot to toss a blanket on the ground, pack a lunch, chill-out, and take life easy for a while.
The Fisher Building
For anyone interested in architecture, The Fisher Building will have their head spinning. Erected in 1928 by Albert Kahn, the man who built a good portion of the city, the building’s exterior is made from Michigan granite and quartz. The building’s interior is reminiscent of an Italian cathedral, rivals even the most elaborate one’s ever built.
The vaulted ceilings have been hand-painted and feature dazzling mosaics by Hungarian artist Géza Maróti, and the interior walls are made of sparkling marble. A stroll through the Fisher Building is sure to be inspiring and should be on every visitor’s list of places to see while in town.
So now that you are aware Detroit is not still the city of yesterday with the bad rap it always received, but rather has been hailed as the “Comeback City,” perhaps a new travel entry on your bucket list is in order.