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Checking Out Detroit

Motor City.

Hockey Town.


It’s gritty. It’s hard. It’s tough, and … it’s a heck of a lot of fun!

I’ve avoided Detroit city for well over twenty years, driving past it, around it and through it, never stopping longer than the time it took to figure out how to avoid it. That is, until last week.

It seems you can’t pick up a travel magazine without some write-up on Detroit’s “rebirth” or “rejuvenation”, as it is often referred to in the media. It was high-time I went to see this for myself. It’s not like I have far to go. A mere three and a half hour drive placed me in Windsor. From Windsor’s riverfront, our American cousins across the Detroit River can be waved at. It’s that close. So I crossed.

“What’s your biggest challenge?” I asked Deanna Majchrzak, Manager, Media Relations

Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“Perception,” she answered.

She’s right. It is indeed perception that has kept me away. Detroit has been given a bad rap over the years. And it’s that city that I had avoided. It was time to look beyond the abandoned buildings and the graffiti writing. With fresh eyes, what I found is a city working hard to put those days behind them. And they’re succeeding.

Roadwork and building restoration is everywhere. Midtown in particular, is brimming with activity. Along Woodward Avenue, midtown’s main thoroughfare, students bustle between classes at Wayne State University. The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) hosts exhibits like Monet’s, Waterlily Pond, Green Harmony. The Detroit Public Library, built in the 1920s, is the 20th largest library system in the United States. Together, these buildings (along with several others), form part of Detroit’s Cultural Center Historic District. Most are within walking distance of each other. All are certainly with an easy drive, with few parking issues.

The Inn on Ferry Street, a collection of four lovingly restored Victorian homes, and two carriage houses, is within an easy walk of the Midtown’s historical attractions. It’s also a great example of the architecture that is being preserved in Detroit.

The hustle and bustle of the area, is bringing new entrepreneurs to Midtown — people wanting to impact the change that is underway. Several new businesses have chosen this area to hang their ‘Open’ sign.

Coffee shops like Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company (3965 Woodward Ave), are serving up great coffee along with wines produced by small winemakers, using uncommon, indigenous grape varieties. Restaurants such as La Feria (4130 Cass Ave.), a tapas bar bringing a little bit of Spain to Detroit, are packed night after night. At 511 W Canfield St, find Traffic Jam and Snug Restaurant, brewing lagers with names like Dopplebock and Laganitas. Also on W Canfield (next to Traffic Jam), is Shinola, makers of fine watches and bicycles handcrafted in Detroit.

If, like me, you’ve skipped Detroit in the past, now may be the perfect time to stay awhile.

Here then is my list of the Top Five things to do in Detroit:

Have lunch in one of the newly opened restaurants. Detroit’s food scene is undergoing a renaissance . Keep your eyes, ears and taste buds open for new places to indulge.

Check out Detroit Institute of Art. There’s always something new here.

Ride the People Mover, just because. It’s inexpensive and you get to hang out with the super-friendly locals.

Take in a Detroit Red Wings game, even if they are playing against your home team. Make that, especially, if they are playing your home team!

Visit the Motown Museum. You’re in Motown—of course you have to visit.



Profile photo of Maria Yates

I'm a native of Portugal, now living in Toronto, Canada. My passion for travel has taken me throughout Canada, the Caribbean, the U.S. and several European countries. Cruising is my preferred method of transportation, but I'm not picky. I'm as comfortable having afternoon tea in a 5-star hotel as I am jigging for cod in a Prince Edward Island fishing trawler. My favorite sport is people watching and, oh ya, I love food.

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