Detroit Travel Guide
Detroit, also known as the Motor City and Motown, located along the Canadian – American border, is home of some of the most incredible architecture, art, and small businesses in the entire country. After declaring bankruptcy in 2013 in the largest public debt settlement case in history, the city’s government was revitalized and corrupt politicians were ousted. New laws were enacted to protect citizens, the city’s culture, and much of what makes Detroit, well Detroit, and as a result the city is experiencing economic growth and prosperity that is unrivaled in its long and storied history, with new businesses like Google, Pfizer, and others bring in thousands of new jobs, and much needed opportunity and income to the area.
Headed upwards without an end in sight, Detroit is being revitalized and completely overhauled, and the entire world is taking notice. Buildings that were once burned to the ground and left to rot have been cleared away to make room for new housing opportunities and the city’s crime rate has dropped significantly. Parks and public spaces are being filled with art, flowers, and trees making the city more beautiful and inviting than ever, and new small businesses are opening up and thriving every month. There’s never been a better time to visit and explore Detroit.
Explore this vibrant, fascinating city that’s rising like a phoenix from the ashes of corruption and corporate exploitation to reclaim its rightful place as one of America’s most storied, beautiful and exciting places to visit. In 2018, Lonely Planet even ranked Detroit as the number 2 best place to visit in the world!
How to Get There
Detroit is home to one of the best and most efficient airports in the world, DTW. Parking is always plentiful, there are shuttles that take travelers from parking lots to their terminal every few minutes, and going through security is a breeze. The staff at DTW ensure that everything runs smoothly, the security personal and respectful and personable, and the airport facilities are always clean. Whenever possible, we fly out of, or into, DTW, because it’s always painless. DTW is home to every major and many minor airlines. They also recently entered into a partnership with WOW airlines offering direct flights to Iceland for $300 per person round trip, which means Detroit can be a great layover if you’re heading to Iceland.
Once in Detroit, parking is plentiful and driving through time is simple using a phone’s GPS system, as everything is clearly marked. The city also recently introduced a number of public transport initiatives by introducing Bird electric scooters into the city, and a bike sharing program where visitors and residents can check out a bike from any of the nearly dozen bike rental spots around town. Pick up in one location, and drop off at any other.
The People Mover, an elevated, automated train that runs past 13 stops around Detroit in a continuously operating 2.94 mile loop. It costs less than a dollar to hop on and hop off, and it makes getting around town a breeze.
Where to Stay
Detroit Foundation Hotel is a newer addition to Detroit, and has already gained rave reviews. It’s iconic red doors and brick exterior hint at the buildings history as a former fire station, and the set of the gym in “Real Steel’s” starring Hugh Jackman. The hotel’s bar, The Apparatus Room, is Detroit’s highest rated bar. Guests can even arrange to have the tailors of 1701 custom make a suit for them here during their stay.
Shinola Hotel just opened last year to thunderous applause and rave reviews. This hotel, an extension of Detroit’s very own Shinola timepiece and watch brand, is as elegant and refined as the timepieces made in Detroit and celebrated around the world.
Where to Eat
If you ask me, and most Michiganders, they’ll tell you Detroit’s food scene is the best in the state. Below are some of my favorite places to eat in Detroit.
Andiamo Detroit Riverfront (Inside Renaissance Center)
The Apparatus Room (Inside Detroit Foundation Hotel)
Brome Modern Eatery
Detroit Shipping Company
John Muer Seafood atop GM Renaissance Center
The Rattlesnake Club
Sinbad’s Seafood Restaurant
The Waterfront Wyandotte
Wright & Co.
What to Do
Belle Isle State Park & Conservatory & Aquarium
The Belle Isle State Park & Conservatory + Aquarium is one of many aspects of Detroit that has been revitalized in the past five years. We recently visited for the first time in five years and were so impressed with how well maintained it was and how healthy everything looked compared to our last visit. Belle Isle Grand Prix race is always fun to watch, and the isle has many more restoration projects planned in the coming years that will bring even more interesting things to see and do in the area.
Detroit Institute of Arts
Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, or DIA, to explore a massive collection of world famous art by Matisse, Pieter Bruegel, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, and many more. When the city of Detroit declared bankruptcy back in 2013 due to corruption and mismanaged finances, which was the largest public debt ever filed in the USA, estimated to be around $20 billion dollars, the city wanted to auction off the DIA’s incredible art collection to partially pay for the staggering debt. However, this idea was hotly protested by the citizens of Detroit, and art lovers around the world rallied together to help save this beautiful collection from being sold off by freeing it from being tied to the city after raising nearly a billion dollars, in what was called the “Grand Bargain”.
I remember being so concerned the city would take away this incredible learning opportunity and amazing part of Detroit’s legacy, and being so relieved when it didn’t happen. You can read more about this in this well written NY Times article, here.
Detroit River Walk & Carousel
Walk along the Detroit River and see sailboats floating in the peaceful blue waters, explore public art installations, and enjoy delightful street food along the way. There are a number of places to sit and look across the water towards our brothers and sisters across the boarder in Windsor, Ontario.
The Detroit Zoo is one of the most humane and impressive zoos in the nation. Here experienced, loving zoological staff provide the best possible care for many injured animals, or animals that couldn’t survive in the wild. They also offer hundreds of free educational opportunities throughout the zoo, and participate in many zero-waste and ecological conservation efforts throughout the year. It’s a beautiful place to see animals like peacocks, penguins, alligators and so much more, plus they have a beautiful aviary and conservatory, as well as a butterfly house.
Visit Detroit’s Eastern Market for a massive selection of handmade goods, local foods, street food, fresh flowers, Detroit merch, and so much more, all run by locals sharing their passions.
Fox Theatre, Little Caesar’s Arena, & The Filmore
There’s always something exciting happening in Detroit, whether it’s a home game from The Red Rings hockey team, a concert from world famous performers like Eminem or Shakira, or lesser known acts like Flogging Molly, search “concerts” or “Sporting events” in Detroit along with the date of your visit and you won’t be disappointed. We saw Shakira on her second show of her El Dorardo world tour at Little Caesar’s Arena, and it was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, plus we were in the first row!
Tiger’s Stadium Comerica Park & Lion’s Football Game
Sports lovers will adore the variety of sporting events happening in Detroit all year long. Check out the respective stadiums schedules to see what’s happening during your visit.
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
Another one of Detroit’s awesome museums, this museum is all about contemporary arts.
North American International Auto Show
This is one of my favorite events in the state, and my husband and I go every year. The NAIAS is a great place to see exotic luxury cars, futuristic concept cars, and everything in between during this Detroit based international car show, where industry leaders show off new technology, new body styles, and what’s coming in the auto industry in the coming years. Read my full post about the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, here.
Day Trips from Detroit
Iconic Buildings in Detroit
Ambassador Bridge to Canada
Belle Isle Conservatory
Detroit Public Library
Detroit Train Station
GM Renaissance Center
Little Caesar’s Arena
Safety in Detroit
When most people think of Detroit, they think of the high crime rate the city was infamous for nearly a decade ago, when it ranked in the top 5 most dangerous cities in the nation. Now, Detroit is a much safer place, and there’s almost no crime in the downtown area near the General Motors Renaissance Center where there is lots of pedestrian traffic. Like any major city, always lock your car doors when parking, don’t leave valuables in sight, and don’t wear flashy jewelry or flaunt expensive things.
Trust your gut and if at any point you feel unsafe, duck into a local shop or restaurant and either get help or wait until you feel safer. The people of Detroit are some of the kindest people in the world, and they will do whatever they can to help each other. People in Detroit take pride in their city, and its success is their own success, and because of this most people are actively trying to improve the city and its image, now that it’s on the upswing.
Belle Isle, Corktown, Eastern Market, Greektown Midtown, and West Village are the safest places in Detroit, and are significantly safer than other larger cities in the world. Nearly everything I recommend to do in this guide is in these 5 safe neighborhoods of Detroit, so as long as you stay alert and aware of your surroundings as you would anywhere, there won’t be any issues.
Like any other city, avoid walking alone at night, and stay out of dark alley ways, or anywhere that doesn’t feel safe, and you’ll be just fine.
Until next time!
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