Diego Rivera's Detroit
The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is a beautiful museum. It's a real shame not more people get to appreciate it. Founded in 1885 and with a recent expansion completed, it's a joy to wander around the galleries, taking in the beauty of the building as well as the art. Rivera's murals of the auto industry are spectacular. And it gives you an insight into a part of Detroit's history. For more information on the DIA, visit: www.dia.org
I'm a big fan of Detroit and I know it's not a popular destination to go - but for someone who's looking to find something a little off the beaten track, Detroit will surprise you. It helped that I couchsurfed when I was there meaning I got to stay with locals (fabulous ones at that too) who could give me great recommendations. I ended up at their house with another couchsurfer which made for a happy coincidence as it meant we could explore the city together.
Friday music at the DIA
There's music too! The DIA features some great events including live music on Friday nights and Sundays.
Detroit is a big city - and yes, there are indeed lots of buildings are abandoned with areas looking like they're being reclaimed by nature… (pretty cool, I think!)
But there's also a lot of life in it. I found locals bubbling with creativity (it helped my couch hosts were artists themselves!) and people motivated to make a life in Detroit work - and work their way. They're taking over plots of land and making gardens and creating art out of what other people would initially think should just be bull-dozed. They're thinking out of the box and will inspire you to also! One Michigan local is even trying to gather support to turn one section of the city into a zombie theme park - we'll just have to watch this space to see if he succeeds...
Most of the tourists I met were people living in Toronto or Chicago and driving down, which made me realise that it could make for a pretty great side trip if you're headed to either of those cities too.
Interested in a visit?
The DIA is just one attraction worth a visit. Here's a few more suggestions I reckon will help you have a great Detroit experience. Enjoy the wilds of Michigan at Belle Isle Park. It's not a manicured beauty of a park but that's part of its charm. Try one of the numerous walking trails and if you're keen on a little botany, check out the conservatory there. See a game of baseball at the Tiger Stadium and eat a Coney Island hot dog - it's a Detroit institution.
A Detroit Coney
A Coney Island hot dog (or Coney for short) is a hot dog topped with a meat chili (minus the beans), freshly diced onions and mustard. It ain't haute cuisine but it is rather tasty! Two of the most popular restaurants to have one are on Lafayette Boulevard -Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island. We went to American Coney Island for ours, which had the added appeal of that all-American diner experience.
Saturdays have to include a visit to the Eastern Market. It truly is alive and kicking with people streaming in from all over the city and the suburbs to buy fresh produce, eat well and enjoy the entertainment... even be part of it too! Try some BBQ ribs from one of the stalls and take a seat whilst you're entertained. There was a Prince impersonator when I was there as well as people getting thoroughly into Karaoke on the street. I didn't sing but I had a good dance and learnt to do the Cupid Shuffle.
A Saturday must-do
One of my favourite things I did in Detroit is to see the Heidelberg Project on and around Heidelberg Street. Started over 20 years ago by local, Tyree Guyton and his grandfather. The project continues today so it's constantly evolving as locals from the community build on the work. It's art and it's a political statement too. A statement about how this neighbourhood had been left to deteriorate. Tyree, his grandfather as well as children in the area began painting the houses in bright colours and sticking found objects on them, the pavements and even on the trees on the streets.
Heidelberg Project in pictures
Strange things grow on trees
If you're headed to Chicago or Toronto, it's thoroughly worth driving over to Detroit for a few days - try and do it over a weekend so you can visit the Eastern Market too…
Let us help you on your way. Get a quote on Detroit car hire, Chicago car hire or Toronto car hire.