Detroit Travel Guide: More than a Motor City

by - July 30, 2017

One may believe that there is a travel guide to almost every major city in the world. That is not so. I noticed it when I flew a few years back for a week to Detroit. I dug out Amazon and Lonely Planet with no success. I did not find the Detroit travel guide that I was looking for. So what happened to Detroit and why is Detroit abandoned and is not really in the race when it comes to popular destinations in the US?

Detroit is not one of the classic cities in which people prefer to travel. It is synonymous with cars, boats, big companies and factories rather than being an exotic holiday destination. It's a pity because Detroit has a lot to offer, which makes a stay exciting, relaxing and worthwhile. Detroit now boasts of countless bars, restaurants, and theaters.

If you look at the geographic location of Detroit, the travel heart can be a bit stronger. Located in the North East of the United States on a huge lake, Detroit is at a stone's throw from Canada. Therefore, I have a little Detroit travel guide in this article.

On arrival in my beautiful apartment in Detroit, there was one Detroit travel brochure lying on my dining table. Quite wonderfully, I finally found that I had something in my hand! It was and still meant a hipster guide to Detroit. It is not that I actually read line by line of the guidebook and devour it but sometimes it is simply handy to have one. To remember and perhaps get a little additional information.

So I asked my landlady where I could buy exactly this and she gave me an address in Midtown that led me to the shop. They told me what I have just stated that there was not a single travel guide about Detroit. The last one was decades old! Detroit was usually summarized in a few paragraphs. That's exactly what they wanted to change.

I took the brochure home with pleasure and am happy with it. There are also beautiful Instagram accounts that allow you to track the city of its different moods. It was a holiday in the big city but was extremely relaxed. There was no time hassle, and we discovered the many beautiful or even lesser known beautiful corners of Detroit and I never slept before 12 midnight.

The Detroit Lake gets covered under a thick layer of snow and ice in February. And we absorb the feeling of life that radiates the city. In front of my door vibrates life, which surely gets stifled in the winter. In the morning young mums drink coffee and eat the burgers. The smokers meet in front of my window on a dump, and the beer garden groans.

Nevertheless: engines first

Ford, Chrysler, General Motors. Even if this trio no longer exists today, it has determined the history and the rise of Detroit. Autographs have been given in this city and are also written on. Every January, the NAIAS or the North American International Auto Show takes place, where the latest developments of the manufacturers are presented to an astonishing audience.

The show is impressively accompanied by many events in the city, such as the Woodward Dream Cruise Parade, where the connoisseur can admire historic muscle cars. For those who love cars and are interested in engines, January is the ideal time to travel. But beware, whoever has been there, would always like to go back!

Into the pure nature

Enjoy water sports? Then take off and fly to Detroit! The immediate proximity of the city to the Great Lakes guarantees a lot of leisure time for everyone who is not water-loving. Lake Erie is around the corner, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior are wonderfully integrated into extensive round trips. Even the neighboring Canada can be reached quickly over a bridge or through a tunnel. Toronto or the Canadian side of Niagara Falls is just 250 miles away.

Boating, swimming, water skiing, fishing, everything is possible here and everything is allowed. Do not forget the hiking boots, the bicycle helmet or the riding trousers. The sport and leisure facilities are really varied there.

Downtown Detroit

Although Detroit is the starting point for excursions, it is also nice to stay in the city and enjoy the sights. At the Detroit International Riverfront, you can spend at least a whole day effortlessly. The waterfront promenade runs along the Detroit River, on the opposite side of which is the Canadian town of Windsor. Huge cruise ships from all over the world anchor in the Detroit Dock.

From here the visitor can see the Belle Isle, a small island that has a public bathing beach, a small botanical garden with a focus on orchids as well as pretty shops and snack bars. You can spend a whole day relaxing on the beach, in the historic aquarium, or at the picnic site overlooking the Canadian side of the river.

Whether you like it or not, you will pass the Hart Plaza, which can make the visitor addicted to Detroit by night. The huge square is in front of the skyline of the city, which is reflected here in the water. There is almost always something going on there, either an organized event or casual gatherings of street artists, jugglers, and musicians.

In this respect, the plaza is bestowed by the Chene Park. This is an amphitheater, which seats around 6000 visitors. On warm nights there are open-air concerts. Detroit has the nickname Motown, which warmly welcomes music fans. The music scene of the city, however, does not remain stuck in the past, however successful it may have been. In the meantime, there is also an international rapper scene in Detroit.

There is always something going on at Campus Martius Park in the city center. Besides concerts in the summer and an ice skating rink in the winter, cafés, shops, and restaurants are scattered all around. The Detroit Institute of Arts offers one of the largest art collections in the United States and the legendary Motown Museum, transform the visitors to Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and the Jackson Five.

Not to mention the 125-year-old Eastern Market, where countless farmers offer their products on Saturdays, while artists and artisans offer their work on Sundays. Anyone traveling with children will have a great time at the Detroit Zoo, on a trip with the leaderless People Mover, an elevated railway system or at the Michigan Science Center, a science museum for children.

Detroit decline without Henry Ford

Ford was one of the outstanding entrepreneurial personalities the US has ever had. No visit to Detroit is complete, which leaves out the sights around Henry Ford. In addition, the Henry Ford Museum in the suburb of Dearborn is one of the most famous US museums ever. Even if you are not interested in motors and conveyor belts, you will find exciting exhibits here.

You can see the car, in which John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963. Or the camp bed where George Washington slept. Ford was not just an entrepreneur, he was also a collector. Much of what is related to the history of the United States has been brought together to the Detroit Museum. For example, he had the Thomas Edison laboratory and the Wright Brothers workshop removed and rebuilt in the surrounding Greenfield Village.

For a week, I enjoyed the road trip along the Great Lakes in Detroit! Even though I almost had to be alarmed by many crazy headlines just before leaving, I am very happy that we were actually there and everything went on as I imagined. For a week I had quartered in Detroit, at the MotorCity, the D, Motown to look at the city from a different lens, and simply to feel like Americans, and not like tourists.

Christmas and New Year in Detroit

We were in Detroit around the Christmas and New Year week. So the whole week was marked by celebrations for the 31st December. So I threw my plans spontaneously overboard and plunged completely into the festivities. At noon we went to the Detroit Historical Museum. In the evening we went to the church, which organized a small celebration and was open for an extra long time.

Detroit Tourism Safety

Of course, I asked myself before, whether Detroit is safe enough to stay here alone. Would I expose myself to any potential danger? Is a stay meaningful here? Can you take anything from this city at all? Is Detroit feasible with a child?

I saw a permanent police car presence. It was essential for me, however, to have a cozy, safe and well-located home base, where I feel comfortable. A hotel cannot offer it in this form for me. So I booked my apartment. It was cheap and beautiful. It is one of those apartments, which the owner refurbished a few years before decay, rehabilitated it with love and left all the striking elements intact.

I can affirm Detroit was a great stop on our trip! In this city, it is extremely important to hire a private car due to missing and unreliable public transport.

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