From Motown Records to the Ford Motor Company, Detroit is a city steeped in history. And its rich past is mirrored by a host of cutting-edge attractions that make the Motor City one of the most interesting urban centers in the country. Here’s a bit of what lies in store for anyone curious enough to explore Michigan’s largest city.
• Motown Historical Museum: Music legends were made in this modest Detroit house. At 2648 West Grand Blvd lies Hitsville USA—the home of Motown Records—which was founded by Berry Gordy in 1959. Many greats recorded here, including Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and Stevie Wonder, while other legends have contributed to the museum. Paul McCartney helped fund the restoration of Motown’s 1877 Steinway & Sons grand piano, which can be seen in all its glory. Whether you’re a music nut or not, the Motown Museum is a must-see.
• Corktown: One of the hippest neighborhoods in Michigan, Corktown is home to artists’ collectives and vintage stores that cozy up next to cool coffee shops like Astro and cocktail bars like the Sugar House, home to some of the finest mixologists in town. But the most famous Corktown venue of them all is the legendary Slows BBQ, a Detroit staple justifiably renowned for its exquisite brisket and baby back ribs.
• Cliff Bell’s: This sultry art deco jazz club first opened its doors in 1935. Entering Cliff Bell’s is like walking onto the set of a Fred Astaire movie. After extensive renovations in 2005, much of its ’30s glamor was restored and it’s now one of the places to see and be seen in Detroit again. Grab a happy hour cocktail at the gorgeous mahogany bar, or make a dinner reservation and enjoy the evening’s live jazz ensemble while perusing the excellent menu (the bison short ribs with polenta cake is one hot tip).
• The RiverWalk: A 5.5-mile promenade unfurling alongside the city’s spectacular waterfront, the RiverWalk boasts outstanding views of the Detroit River beyond. During the summer months, it offers a cooler place to exercise than the heat of the city, with locals flocking in their thousands to run, walk or cycle its picturesque course. There are plenty of way stations en route too: for eating, drinking and bike/kayak renting. For those visiting for the first time, there are also free RiverWalk tours given by the excellent Detroit Experience Factory.
• The Heidelberg Project: This huge—and hugely surreal—art project is the brainchild of pioneering local artist Tyree Guyton, who has been adorning houses on Heidelberg Street with found objects since 1986. His hope was to renovate the decaying neighborhood where he grew up into something colorful, creative and inviting, and over the decades transformed numerous houses. The most renowned, Dotty Wotty House, has been turned into a museum accessible by tour only, which must be booked at least two weeks in advance.
• Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation: Want a look at Detroit’s industrial and cultural past? They don’t call it the Motor City for nothing. Widely considered the center of America’s automotive industry, it’s here that Henry Ford birthed the idea of manufacturing affordable cars via an assembly line. Learn about that and more at Henry Ford’s sprawling museum. Visitors can see the limousine in which JFK was assassinated, the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and much more.
• Eastern Market: A one-stop, six-block shop of foodie heaven, and the largest historic market in the country, Eastern Market covers an enormous 43 acres, selling pretty much every kind of food imaginable—as well as hosting the largest open-air flowerbed market in the U.S. It can get very busy—some 45,000 people come here every Saturday—so if you need a breather, head to the Russell Street Deli, where a delicious breakfast menu is served all day, including their famous fresh hotcakes with toasted pecans and maple syrup.
Twenty-first-century Detroit is filled with surprises that are bound to intrigue and delight every curious visitor. Don’t pass it up!
© 2019 Silver Disobedience Inc.