For people who like to explore the new, the up and coming, the yet to be discovered, the unbeaten path, the authentic and numerous hidden gems – Detroit might very well be the place for you. Here are 15 reasons to go now:
1. See Peregrine Falcons
Two things I didn’t know prior to February 2014:
- What a peregrine falcon looked like
- That there was the remotest of possibilities of seeing one in Detroit
Then I went on Pure Detroit’s free tour of the Fisher Building. (They give tours at the gorgeous Guardian Building as well, but a lot of it is outside, and my mom and I were having none of that in February. However, the enormous crowd of people who could hack it were proof of the wimps we were.)
The tour of the architecturally stunning Fisher Builiding is a must in and of itself, but the grand finale was going to the top floor to see the view of the city AND to come across the guy above who seemed just as interested in seeing us as we were in seeing him.
2. Captivate a 5 (and a 50) Year Old
Directly across the street from one of Detroit’s biggest attractions – the Detroit Institute of Arts – is an often overlooked gem – the Detroit Historical Museum. As its name suggests, the museum provides a thorough history of Detroit’s past; this includes reconstructed Detroit streets from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, a tribute to the music the world can thank Detroit for, a model assembly line (that actually assembles!), and the biggest hit – a huge model train guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser for both adults and children as it allows visitors to move the parts, pieces and trains around with the push of a few buttons.
3. Yoga for Those Who Just Want to Do Yoga
5,000 years ago I don’t think yogis imagined the yoga of 2014 – rooms packed mat to mat, with people in Lululemon trying to out cobra pose one another.
Disillusioned yogis of yesteryear would, however, rejoice in knowing about Shanti Yoga in Berkley. Here, there are no feelings of one upmanship or that you are in an Olympic competition, simply a vibe that you are doing something for your mind and body.
Shanti Yoga is yoga as it is meant to be – empowering, rewarding, chaos and pressure free.
p.s. Although I have never attended them myself, I hear rave reviews about their seminars and special events.
4. Meet the Guy Who Invented Dry Cleaning…
And the first woman to receive a patent and the first person to successfully perform open heart surgery and the person you can thank for being able to make long distance phone calls and the person you can thank for mobile refrigeration – all at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright African American History Museum exhibit on just some African Americans contributions to the world.
5. Deli Sandwich Art
Done are the days of the status quo deli for Detroiters. Today the Motor City has the “artisan deli” – Mudgies. As soon as you arrive you are greeted by Mudgies big windows with yellow and white striped awnings. Once inside, you are forced to make the grueling decision between their delicious soups, salads, sandwiches and starters – all of which are made with local ingredients.
Mudgies consistently wins “Best of Detroit” and for great reason; if you haven’t been there you truly must put it at the top of your to-do list.
One of my life’s most memorable afternoons was with my mom and David, sitting at a table in Calella de Palafrugell in Catalonia, Spain overlooking the Mediterranean. The lunch was Spanish style – hours long, multiple bottles of wine and delicious.
These lunches, my friends, are one of earth’s finest experiences.
If you are in Detroit and your lunch (or dinner) break is not long enough to jet over to Espana, may I suggest La Feria to enjoy gambas al ajillo (shrimp in garlic), espinacas con garbanzos (spinach and garbanzos), patatas bravas (Spain’s well loved take on French fries) and daily specials that will keep everyone coming back for mas.
7. Get Righteous Jewelry
Amy Peterson and Diana Russell have a gig that is this – by day Amy is a Detroit Attorney and Diana works in retail. By night (and by weekend) they collect the layers and layers of paint that fall from Detroit’s graffiti’d walls, and then employ disadvantaged women to help them make it into jewelry. The end result? Detroit women are educated on business skills, develop a sense of independence and get a huge sense of pride from making some seriously amazing jewelry. Check it all out here: http://www.rebelnell.com/.
8. Have One of the Best Friday Nights of Your Life
Looking for an amazing Friday night? Do this:
First: Go see a film at the Detroit Film Theatre – the movie venue in the back of the Detroit Institute of Art.
Second: Go to Kresge Hall, a converted space in the middle of the Detroit Institute of Arts, with (guessing) 80 foot high brick walls, old iron work, perfect lighting, couches for getting comfy, tables for those who prefer them and reasonably priced food and drink.
Third: Go to Friday Night Live – live music in the Detroit Institute of Arts main hall. We happened to be there on Valentine’s Day. It had reached capacity and the overflow of people were standing outside the entrance. Rumor has it a member of the Contours was singing that night. The mood was refreshingly festive.
All three are not to be missed.
9. See Where Peanut Butter & Chocolate are Truly Soul Mates
If the peanut butter and chocolate combo is something you find especially blissful, please do not read until the end of this and just go to Avalon Bakery near Wayne State University and get yourself one of the peanut butter and chocolate brownies.
10. Buy that Desperately Needed Gift
It is the day before (or the hour before) you need to go to the birthday, anniversary, house warming, etc., etc., etc. party and you have to bring a gift – but what?
Head to Cass and Canfield in Detroit for two fail safe options: Hugh and Nora. Hugh has a “classic, mid-century, masculine bent” aka “a tribute to classic bachelor pad style.” Personally I thought their Michigan Whiskey Stones, cubed rocks you put in the freezer to chill, and then drop them in your drink to keep it cold – were near perfect genius – as was everything else in the store.
Nora, in their words, features “Scandinavian housewares, Japanese pottery, Detroit jewelry and more” or “very fun, whip-smart and drop dead beautiful objects.” Both are guaranteed to take you from giftless to gift giving goddess.
11. See Where Gardens Are Built instead of Condos
If you want the inside scoop on the movement, if you need some gardening supplies or if you even want to brush up your green thumb, head to Detroit Farm and Garden (the Motor City’s only such store) for all of it!
12. No nonsense and delightful French food
Located in a bit of an inconspicuous location, Le Petit Zinc (slang for “local bar” in French) is as charming as it is tasty. Diners are sure to enjoy the small, cheerfully decorated space serving up magnificent French fare. If the tomato soup is on the menu may I highly suggest you partake in its chunky homemade wonderfulness. Le Petit Zinc also has a delightful terrace – we would have tried it out – had it not been February and had the Ratatouille and Assiette de Saumon Fume not stolen all of our attention.
Yet another example of Detroit’s depth and diversity? Hamtramack – a small city north of Detroit’s downtown that is the epicenter of the Polish community, and here Polish Village – “the best food west of Warsaw” is a must. It is located in the basement of what was previously a hotel. It is probably safe to recommend anything on the menu but I, of course, especially loved their pierogies.
14. Have High Tea with the Russian Monks
Smack in the middle of your everything-seems-totally-normal Harper Woods neighborhood is – The Royal Eagle a Russian Monastery (exactly what you were expecting right?)– that serves a tea 11 am to 2 pm Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The tea menu is gargantuan and organized from most to least caffeine. It comes with a lunch of beet soup (a Russian must-have), finger sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres all of which are served by a woman in traditional dress.
15. Be in a City Bigger than a Decent Number of Countries
Did you know that the size of Detroit could swallow San Francisco, Boston AND Manhattan -and still have about 20+ square miles to spare?? And did you know this does not even include Belle Isle, the Michigan State Park located in the Detroit River, which is even bigger than Central Park.
Another way to look at the ginormity of the Motor City? If it was a country, it would be bigger than 12 others (Malta, Grenada, and the Seychelles for example) and almost the exact same size as Barbados.
Want to learn more about Detroit? Get the best book I have read about it: Detroit City is the Place to Be.
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