Yes, Detroit is bankrupt. Yes, Detroit has had significant population decline in the last two decades, (but with a population of just over 700,000, it is still the 18th largest city in America, so it’s far from a ghost town). Yes, Detroit is still awesome. Yes, you should visit.
I, like 99.9% of the people you will meet that were born and raised in the city, am a fierce defender of my hometown. As most readers know, Detroit gets a bad rap from crime statistics to the most recent ruling that it is eligible for bankruptcy protection. I, like many of my friends still love my city and encourage people to visit to put the stereotypes to rest.
Having traveled the world, visiting 42 countries and countless cities, I am here to tell you that Detroit is an awesome place to visit. From the winning sports teams (Lions 7 – 5, Pistons 10 – 10, Red Wings 31 – 15, Tigers 93 – 69) & the endless cultural events in the summer to the auto show & the concerts, Detroit has a lot to offer its visitors (not to mention the coney dogs, Faygo pop & Better Made chips).
Now some people say to me, “if you love Detroit so much, why don’t you live there?” Unfortunately, given my line of work, I am living abroad until I can find something else that suits me. If you give me an opportunity to choose between Rome, my current home, and Detroit with the same job and income I will pick Detroit HANDS DOWN. Yes, you can quote me on that.
During the first eight months of the year, I had the opportunity to work from anywhere and while this meant I was frequently continent hopping, I chose to spend 30 uninterrupted days in the city to blog about it and tell the world why Detroit is great. You can see the many posts in the June and July 2013 section of my blog.
Without further ado, the top four things to do in Detroit.
1. Stay in the downtown/midtown area and rent or borrow a bicycle.
Detroit is a massive city (142.9 square miles!) and you generally need a car to traverse it’s wide streets, but in the spring, summer and early fall, I recommend using a bike. This is why I fell head over heels in love with the city. Most of the awesome things to do are concentrated in downtown/midtown. Because biking is becoming so popular, there are plenty of places to park your bike at restaurants, museums and markets. I find biking in the city to be quite safe though there are not many bike lanes. Stay all the way to your right or get on the sidewalk.
If you are in town on a Monday, be sure to check out Slow Roll which is a massive group of cyclers that get together and ride around the city in the evenings, usually averaging about 12 miles. Be sure to check out the Dequindre Cut, a old railroad line that was converted into a greenway with colorful graffiti on the walls. It is a great place for a bike ride and/or a run.
As far as lodging, there are plenty of options from hotels & AirBnB to couchsurfing & hostels. You name it, you can find a place to lay your head.
2. Do a coney dog tasting.
Coney dogs, hot dogs topped with beanless chili and onions, are a key staple of the Detroit diet. Though I do not indulge in them, I prefer chill cheese fries, any visitor must give them a try. Two places that I recommend are American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island, which are next to each other. The long standing rivalry between the restaurants has been featured on Food Wars and Man vs Food.
3. Watch a major league game.
Three of Detroit’s four major league teams are actually based in the city with the Lions and Tigers playing right next to each other at Ford Field and Comerica Park, respectively. The Red Wings play on the riverfront at Joe Louis arena, while the Pistons play about 45 minutes north of downtown in Auburn Hills at the Palace. While the Lions have yet to win a championship, the other three teams all have claimed more than one title and offer great spectacles for any visitor.
4. Visit the Eastern Market on Saturday.
Detroit’s Eastern Market is the largest historic public market in the US and on Saturdays an average of 45,000 people head to this market which lies northeast of downtown. From flowers and organic food to food trucks and music, the Eastern Market has something for everyone. Whenever I am home in the spring, summer or fall I head to the market with friends or family on Saturdays. It is open in the winter but I am not a fan of leaving the house during Detroit winters if I’m in town.
5.Check out the art.
Detroit has an amazing art scene. For basics, you should start at the Detroit Institute of Art, one of the largest collections in America. This institute houses Picasso, van Gogh & Diego Rivera works of art, among others. There are several art galleries in Detroit, one of my favorite being the Red Bull House of Art, located in the Eastern Market. Red Bull House of Art is an art incubation project that supports up & coming artists, and puts their works on display. Every couple of months they have an opening with free drinks, including Red Bull of course, a great DJ, awesome art and an eclectic crowd. You also have the Heidelberg Project, an outdoor installation & 3rd Thursdays where 60 galleries, cafe and boutiques stay open late. Suffice it to say, Detroit’s art scene is one that everyone should discover.