When you think of American cities that are also must-see travel destinations, you instantly picture places like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Orlando. If you’re like many people, you probably don’t picture Detroit, and it’s easy to understand why. For many Americans, the name “Detroit” is synonymous with the concept of urban decay. Detroit is also the poster child when it comes to once wealthy cities that eventually fell victim to neglect and abandonment.
However, it’s important to realize that today’s Detroit is so much more than abandoned buildings covered in graffiti. The Motor City isn’t just a symbol of what’s most important about the American experience. It’s also currently in the middle of a renaissance and, as more and more people catch on, they’re adding Detroit to their travel bucket list. Here we’ll explore why you should definitely consider doing the same.
What to Expect from the Detroit Experience
Like other major U.S. cities, Detroit comes attached to its own unique character and vibe. It’s home to a wide variety of buildings, sculptures, theaters, fountains, and so forth. It’s also quite significant historically speaking. For instance, there’s a multitude of pre-depression era skyscrapers and other historic buildings to be enjoyed. Some have been converted into loft apartments or are now home to exciting new businesses. Many buildings are also listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
There’s also plenty to do in Detroit, as it’s far from the ghost town people tend to picture. Whether you’re into sports or biking, unforgettable culinary experiences or shopping, this is a city that has something to offer. Detroit is the largest city in the world to provide access to casino resorts. Malls, theaters, museums, and other attractions are also plentiful. You name an activity or an interest, and you can rest assured that Detroit has its own answer to it!
What’s the Weather Like in Detroit?
Like many other continental locations, Detroit features a changeable climate and a wide variety of weather conditions depending on the time of year. Summers in Detroit are short, but also often muggy and hot. Many Detroit summers also see the occasional strong thunderstorm.
Detroit winters are typically quite cold, as well as snowy. However, it’s highly unusual for snow to remain throughout the season. Springs and falls are relatively temperate and pleasant, making these the most popular seasons for out of towners to plan their visit.
Getting Around Detroit
Detroit has a rather unique street layout. Parts of it feature a wheel-and-spoke style, while areas closer to the river substitute the strip-farm style instead. Six major roadways radiate out from downtown Detroit in a spoke formation – Michigan Avenue, Fort Street, Grand River Avenue, Gratiot Avenue, Woodward Avenue, and Jefferson Avenue.
Since Detroit is a very large city that covers a lot of ground, many residents and visitors alike prefer to rent a car while they’re in town. It’s also worth noting that the Motor City really is incredibly auto friendly, just as you’d expect, thanks to its ultra-modern freeway system and plentiful parking. (Downtown’s Greektown Casino alone features an impressive 13-floor parking garage.)
If you don’t drive, or prefer not to rent a car, you can take advantage of Detroit’s abundance of taxi services, limo options, and shuttles instead. The Detroit Department of Transportation also provides residents and visitors with mass transit service within the city. Detroit does have an elevated rail system, but it’s important to note that it doesn’t service the entire city.
Because of Detroit’s unusual layout, many visitors and residents prefer to explore the downtown area on foot once they arrive. Bicycle is also a popular way to explore the city, so bike rental facilities are present. Because of the surge and subsequent collapse of the city’s auto industry, quite a few of Detroit’s streets feature multiple lanes going in each direction. That said, it’s not at all uncommon for cyclists to enjoy entire lanes to themselves, something that wouldn’t usually happen in most large American cities.
6 Great Reasons Why You Should Visit Detroit Now
As touched on above, Detroit is filled with experiences and surprises that are sure to impress even picky travelers. Here are just a few of the many reasons it should be on your radar right now.
It’s a must-see location for any serious music lover.
Detroit isn’t just the Motor City responsible for manufacturing some of the most memorable automobiles in history. It’s also Motown… as in the place some of the most iconic music ever written was born. Detroit is where Berry Gordy himself introduced the world to such greats as Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and the Jackson 5.
Detroit is definitely packed with museums that honor the city’s historic connection to music. However, it’s also an excellent place to take in live music. Come to town and partake in events like the Detroit International Jazz Fest, the Movement Electronic Music Festival, and the Downtown Hoedown, to name just a few examples.
It’s got some great experiences to offer beer lovers.
There are lots of American cities a beer lover might plan a pilgrimage to, and an awful lot of them are located in Michigan. Detroit is one of these cities, without a doubt, thanks to its excellent selection of pubs, bars, and restaurants.
Come sample the excellent wares from Detroit-based brewers like Motor City Brewing, Dragonmead, and Atwater. You can also sample other fantastic selections from elsewhere in Michigan at just about any Detroit eatery or bar.
Detroit is prettier than you probably think it is
Contrary to what some may think, Detroit isn’t a wall-to-wall sea of graffiti-ridden ruins and abandoned buildings. It’s also home to some truly beautiful urban locations. Take Belle Isle, for instance. It’s Detroit’s 1000-acre answer to New York’s Central Park, and it’s definitely a must-see that should be on anyone’s list. Come to Belle Isle and enjoy instant access to a golf course, a zoo, an aquarium, and a conservatory. It’s a great place to fish, jog, or bike, as well, complete with gorgeous views of the rest of the city and surrounding areas.
There’s also some truly phenomenal architecture to be enjoyed in Detroit. Come see (and photograph) such iconic structures as the Fox Theatre, the Whitney Building, or the Guardian Building. Are you a sucker for beautiful churches? You’ll love Ste. Anne de Detroit, the second oldest American Catholic church still in use.
There’s some great eating to be experienced.
Detroit isn’t just a great place to grab a beer or take in a little music. It’s also an excellent place to grab a truly memorable bite to eat. In fact, the food scene in Detroit is quickly evolving into something that’s well worth the trip in and of itself – a perfect mix of classic options and fresh new culinary finds.
Like many cities, Detroit comes complete with its own unique way of approaching familiar foods everyone knows and loves. (If you love nothing more than a great hot dog, you need to try a Coney dog from Detroit.) The city is also home to phenomenal steakhouses and chop houses. Its Eastern Market is also considered to be one of the largest and best farmer’s markets in the entire country.
Detroit’s history is full of famous firsts.
Detroit’s rich history is about a lot more than Motown and the automotive industry. A lot of famous firsts happened here. For instance, Detroit was the first city to build a concrete highway, as well as the first to install electric traffic lights.
It continues to stay ahead of the curve, as well. Today’s Detroit is filled to the brim with innovative ideas, irresistible restaurants, and blossoming new businesses. Whatever you like most about seeing a new city, you can bet Motor City has something to offer.
You can be a part of Detroit’s renaissance.
More people visiting Detroit from out of town means more people going back home and telling their social circles about what an amazing city it really is. When you plan a visit yourself and pour resources into the community by patronizing local businesses, you’re making yourself a part of the city’s exciting ongoing comeback.
Everyone wants to be part of something that big! This is your chance to not only do exactly that, but also to experience a vacation destination that’s truly unlike any other.
Detroit Has Lots of Free Things to Do as Well
Detroit isn’t just a great place to grab a craft brew, eat a fantastic meal, or spend an afternoon on the seat of a rental bike. There’s also plenty to do that won’t cost you a dime – perfect for the traveler on a budget. Make sure you add a few of the following to your to-do list.
Visit the Dequindre Cut
The Dequindre Cut is a positively gorgeous 1.35 mile path through one of the city’s most beautiful green spaces. It’s the perfect choice for a jog, a short bike ride, or an afternoon walk.
Hang Out at Campus Martius
In the middle of downtown Detroit, you’ll find Campus Martius, a huge beach-like area that’s excellent for hanging out or having picnics. You can even enjoy some local jazz while you’re there.
Check Out a Cider Mill
Michigan is the third-most prolific state when it comes to growing apples. That means it’s filled with cider mills, many of which you can visit for free.
If you’re into antiquing, then you’ll love Detroit. It’s the perfect place to while away an entire afternoon marveling at historic memorabilia and other cool finds. Make sure you check out the Detroit Mercantile Co. and the Detroit Antique Mall, in particular!
Stroll Through the Gardens at Cranbrook
Cranbrook is a Detroit academy that just so happens to feature some of the most beautiful natural areas in the city. The campus itself is 319 acres and includes lovely gardens, forests, and even a couple of lakes.
Visit Some Famous Graves
Did you know that Detroit is the final resting place of some of the city’s most significant personages? While you’re here, consider paying your respects to Hiram Walker, Son House, Rob Tyner, and Fred “Sonic” Smith.
Visit a Masonic Temple
The Masonic Temple in Detroit isn’t just the largest Freemason building in the world. It’s also a great place to explore and soak up some truly interesting information.
Spend Some Quality Time with Fido
Detroit is also home to a dog park that’s a must-visit for those traveling with their furry friends in tow. Rub elbows with local dog owners or just spend some quality time with your own pooch.
Get More Out of Your Visit
Of course, planning your itinerary well in advance to make sure you maximize your time in Detroit is a great idea. However, you can also ensure that you make the most of your visit to the Motor City by reading up on Detroit’s rich history before you arrive. The more you know about the city itself, the more you’ll appreciate everything you see there!
Arcadia Publishing is home to one of the largest collections of regional interest books on Detroit in the entire country. Each is written by a seasoned local expert, someone who is uniquely qualified to introduce newcomers to the city they know and love so well. Each volume is also filled with gorgeous vintage photography, little known facts, and fascinating personal stories you won’t find anywhere else.
Explore the fascinating backstories of Detroit’s diverse multicultural population with volumes on Jewish Detroit, Italians in Detroit, and more. Read up on must-eat Detroit cuisine, explore the intricacies of the city’s sports history, or read all about the good old days when you discover volumes on Detroit’s iconic automotive industry. Got your heart set on a couple of locations in particular? You can explore the backstories of multiple Detroit landmarks in astonishing detail as well.
With Arcadia in your corner, every nuance of Detroit’s fascinating history is right there at your fingertips. Start your own exciting journey today!