Have you sensed a theme to my summer yet? I’m hitting up as many Midwest destinations as I can before I move away in August. Also, I love traveling solo to places that people don’t think I should, like Mexico City. Or Detroit. Yeah, I’m stubborn. And a bit contrarian. It’s genetic. This summer is just flying by, so I didn’t have time for an extended weekend, which is how I found myself with just 24 hours in Detroit. There are so many Detroit activities and attractions, I would highly recommend at least a 3-day weekend here. If I had more time, I would definitely make a return trip just to visit all the cool museums!
Detroit was founded in 1701 by the French (Cadillac) and became most well-known as the hub of the American auto industry after Ford opened his factory here in the early 1900’s. By 1950, Detroit was America’s fifth largest city, with 1.85 million residents. In addition to the auto industry, Detroit became famous for Motown Records, which was founded here in 1959, spawning superstars like the Supremes, Marvin Gaye and the Jackson 5. The 70’s oil crisis helped spur the popularity of smaller, foreign cars, which further hastens Detroit’s decline. Since it’s peak in the 50’s, Detroit has lost over 60% of its population, with over 30% of the remaining residents living below the poverty line. As recently as 2013, the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy. Fast forward to 2017 and Detroit made the NY Times 52 Places to Go list!
Detroit’s Rise, Fall and Renewal Tour
If you follow my blog, you know I enjoy tours. I think they are a great way to get to know the landscape and layout of a city, as well as get some local history. I joined Detroit Urban Adventures for their Detroit’s Rise, Fall and Renewal Tour. We met our tour guide, local attorney Bob, in the late afternoon and set off on a walking tour of the downtown area. Bob gave us really interesting insight into the rise and fall of Detroit as we strolled around viewing the signs of renewal all around us.
Bob told us about two major players in the Detroit real estate market: Dan Gilbert (Quicken Loans) and the Ilitch family (Little Caesar’s) who have bought up most of the downtown area and begun to renovate older buildings, driving up value in the downtown area. For someone who has only heard stories of the downfall of Detroit, I was surprised at the caliber of downtown hotels in the area. After a couple hours of walking around the downtown area, our tour concluded with a complimentary beer at Detroit Beer Co.
I met a woman from Detroit in Baja last winter, and she told me about this street full of art that attracts visitors from all over. The Heidelberg Project on Detroit’s East side was started by artist Tyree Guyton, who grew up on Heidelberg Street.
The Heidelberg Project’s mission is to inspire people to appreciate and use artistic expression to enrich their lives and to improve the social and economic health of the greater community.
There are a few blocks in the area, with “art” scattered throughout the neighborhood. I am firmly in the “left brain” camp, so I don’t really “get” modern or abstract art. Nevertheless, it was interesting to walk around and snap a few photos.
Detroit Street Art
I am sure you can find posts and/or tours to give you a sense of Detroit’s best street art. I had to mention it as it really stood out to me that Detroit is a city that values art. Even several of the high rise buildings in the downtown area featured large multi-story murals. Sculptures were also frequently sighted in the area. As I drove around Detroit, I often stopped to jump out and photograph different murals that I saw.
Bailey was particularly fond of this sculpture commemorating legendary Detroit boxer Joe Louis. (Okay, there was a piece of pizza up there that she was after!)
Campus Martius Park
Smack in the center of downtown is Campus Martius Park, a bustling park filled with fun Detroit activities. There’s even a beach! For those picturing downtown Detroit as a place to get murdered, taking a stroll through this beautiful green space will totally change your mind! In the winter, there is an ice rink, concerts in the summer and many restaurants are readily available with outdoor seating to take advantage of our super short Midwest summers.
Belle Isle State Park
A local blogger recommended Belle Isle as a good place to take my dog. What a fun island in the river! Since it’s a state park, the entry fee is $9 for out of state residents, but if you visit Michigan often, the annual pass is well worth it.
Belle Isle has a lot to offer including an aquarium, conservatory, zoo, museum and golf course! You could easily spend a full day at Belle Isle, especially if you have kids in tow!
Traffic Jam & Snug is a restaurant with a dog-friendly patio, located in the Midtown neighborhood, which seemed like a hip area to explore. I enjoyed a pasta dinner here while Bailey was lavished with attention by all the wait staff.
Near my Corktown hotel, the Detroit Institute of Bagels serves up delicious New York style bagels and has a spacious outdoor area where you and your dog can enjoy the Detroit skyline.
Trumbull and Porter Hotel
I stayed at the Trumbull and Porter Hotel for this visit. Located in Corktown, this artisan boutique hotel is rising from the ashes of a Holiday Inn popular in Detroit’s heyday. The hotel relies heavily on locally sourced goods and partners with many local businesses, like Detroit Bikes. There are still some upgrades to be made around the property, but the hotel rooms are very well done. I loved the crisp, minimalist decor, and my dog loved the cool concrete floors on a hot summer day!
The Trumbull and Porter Hotel also has great outdoor space. Behind the hotel is a courtyard that will soon be a music venue, art venue and beer garden. Some of the first floor rooms feature a patio overlooking a fire pit.
Trumbull and Porter is a good mid-range option close to the downtown area. Summer weekend rates range from $159-$209 per night. The Trumbull and Porter allows dogs, although the fee per stay is $100, which isn’t exactly “pet friendly” but it will do in a pinch (or for longer stays)
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I would like to thank Detroit Urban Adventures for hosting me on the downtown tour. These are solely my personal opinions/experiences and I was not financially compensated for this post.