Amanda Williams wrote a great article here on the RoamRight blog last month about three places all travelers should visit in Middle America. Her choices of Chicago, St. Louis and Pittsburgh were good. I have been to all three and each have wonderful things to offer visitors. However, her article got me thinking about other places in the Midwest that are often underrated or undervalued as tourist destinations and as soon as I did I realized Detroit is the number one place I would recommend. It has been the recipient of a lot of bad press lately and it doesn't have the best reputation but a recent visit to the city showed me there is a lot more going on in Metro Detroit, meaning Detroit and the suburbs that surround it, than anyone is giving it credit for. So, here are five reasons that I believe you should visit Detroit, right now.
1. Craft Beer
Breweries abound within the city of Detroit and in the suburbs surrounding it. Some have been around for a long time but others are new. Traffic Jam & Snug in Midtown Detroit grows their own hops on the side of the building and has been happily serving patrons since 1965. Their Mitt Wit is a terrific Belgian Style Wheat Ale and I highly recommend it. Just across the street, Motor City Brewing is just one of the other breweries you'll visit if you book with Steve of Motor City Brew Tours; whether you choose to walk, bike or take the bus, he'll give you the best insight into Michigan's craft brew culture. For a little something different, visit Ferndale's B. Nektar Meadery to learn about honey wine. Craft spirits also are gaining in importance and bars like Sugar House, in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, are helping to lead the movement.
2. Urban Farming
One thing that is accurate in the recent reports about Detroit is that the city has a lot of empty lots and unused land after years of damaging house fires and unabated decay. What's left out of such stories is that all over the city those same vacant lots are now being turned into urban farms so that local residents, restaurants and chefs have easy access to fresh produce grown sometimes steps from their front doors. Some even have gardens on top of their buildings or homes in a 21st version of the Liberty Garden. This movement is helped by the group who manages Eastern Market (the oldest farmer's market in the United States) as well as several other organizations, and it has begun to revolutionize the restaurant culture within the city inspiring a whole new farm-to-table movement that has even prompted some chefs to migrate to the city from places like New York.
3. Downtown Development
Many businesses are moving to Detroit because the economic situation has caused an abundance of affordable real estate and other incentives that have caused a chain reaction of downtown development. Companies like Quicken Loans encourage employees to live downtown and bike to the office. This has spurred a larger than average availability of bicycles and a system that supports safe biking all over the city. New restaurants are opening downtown to serve workers, free concerts are occurring in the heart of the city and Campus Martius Park has opened a beach for use during warm months. All of these things, and more, not only benefit employees but visitors to the city as well.
Shinola is just one of the recent companies to purposely choose to do business in Detroit. Their watch manufacturing facility, where each item is assembled by hand, is in the restored Argonaut building downtown but their showroom is where the watches, bicycles and hand stitched leather goods can be purchased and it too is in the heart of the city. I visited multiple times and every time I did, it was very crowded. Also in Midtown are stores like Nest, City Bird, Nora, Hugh and Flo. All could easily compete with boutiques in cities such as New York or LA. Their owners have impeccable taste and curate collections that will entice any visitor to buy an extra suitcase for the journey home!
5. Art and History Museums
The museums in Metro Detroit are amongst the best in the world. The Detroit Institute of Arts on Woodward Avenue has Rodin's 'The Thinker', Diego Rivera's 'Detroit Industry' frescoes, paintings by John Singer Sergent, Matisse, Van Gogh, Degas, Rembrandt and so many more. Its weekly Friday Night Live! keeps the museum open late for live music, art-making workshops, drawing in the galleries, guided tours and much more. The Henry Ford is a collection that includes the history museum, a historical village and the Ford Rouge Factory tour as well as an IMAX theater. The museum is popularly called, "America's Greatest History Attraction" and with so much under one roof that it rivals the Smithsonian, that's not an empty claim. The MoTown Museum and Hitsville USA contain Studio A, Barry Gordy's apartment and a vast collection of musical memorabilia that helps to remind any visitor just how large a part Detroit played in the evolution of American music; it's incredibly enlightening. Cranbrook is a leading center for education, science and art with its graduate programs, contemporary Art Museum, Saarinen House and Gardens, natural history museum and Institute of Science. Together, they form one of the most unusual and incredible destinations for inspiration and learning that I have ever visited.
This is a time where travel to Detroit and travel within the metro area is more affordable and more accessible than ever. New hotels are opening and historic properties such as the Book Cadillac are reopening under the management of chains such as Westin Hotels. Head to the Visit Detroit website to learn even more!