posted on January 18th, 2017

The reinvigorated city

The past few years have seen an emerging renaissance for Detroit — and there’s no better time to immerse yourself in the city than now. Pay homage to its automotive and Motown roots while making the most of the up-and-coming nightlife and culinary scene, plus offbeat market goods, iconic mural displays, Broadway-quality theater, and more.

Leisurely Saturday mornings are for brunch and browsing — and the Eastern Market (2934 Russell St) and surrounding area are rife for both. One of the oldest and largest year-round markets in the nation, every Saturday brings over 225 vendors peddling everything from fresh produce to artisanal goods. Nearby Russell St. Deli (2465 Russell St) is the place to go for all-day breakfast (Saturday only), including mouthwatering raisin bread French toast. If Saturday’s not your speed, the market also operates on Sunday, with a flea market and locally made goods. Outside of the weekend, the Tuesday Market features a scaled-down version of Saturday’s offerings, including plenty of fresh produce and baked goods, and special events like free yoga and cooking demonstrations.

A city classic. You haven’t truly experienced Detroit until you’ve eaten a coney: a hot dog smothered in chili and mustard. The ideal spot to experience this dish will vary based on which local you ask, but we’re partial to Detroit One Coney Island Restaurant (3433 Woodward Ave) — aka D1 Coney Island — and Lafayette Coney Island (118 W Lafayette Blvd). Pared-down menus at each offer your classic diner options, but the real star is the famous coney dogs and variations thereof. Choose wisely.

If a coney isn’t up your alley, Detroit’s cuisine scene has plenty more options hailing from all corners of the globe. Polish food is one such specialty — check out Polish Village Cafe in Hamtramck (2990 Yemans St), housed in a one-time hotel that was converted into the current cozy cafe in 1976, still serving authentic Polish dishes like kielbasa and pierogis today. For a little taste of everything, Halal Desi Pizza & Gyro (2200 Caniff St) is the street food spot of choice, serving up everything from New York-style gyros to South Asian-inspired pizza to Chinese fried rice. Want to keep it continental? Selden Standard (3921 2nd Ave) is an uber-hip American restaurant in Midtown, serving up fresh, locally-inspired small plates perfect for sharing.

After dinner, drinks are in order, and Detroit is up to the task, with equally enticing dive bars and classy watering holes. Cafe D’Mango’s Speakeasy (1439 Griswold St) falls into the latter category, a quirky downtown bar with live music. Cliff Bell’s (2030 Park Ave) is where you’ll want to head next, a classic jazz club with a swanky vibe that feels like walking back in time in the best way.

Not in the mood to class it up? Hit up The Old Miami (3930 Cass Ave), a neighborhood favorite originally established as a haven for Vietnam veterans, or head to Bronx Bar (4476 2nd Ave) for jukebox tunes and draft beer. For more on-tap options in a slightly less divey setting, check out Ye Olde Tap Room (14915 Charlevoix), which prides itself on its more than 280 draft beers as well as a fine single malt scotch selection. Also worth a mention is Northern Lights Lounge (660 W Baltimore St), a cozy spot for comfort food and specialties like trivia and karaoke nights, plus live music.

Nightlife in the D can take you as far into the wee hours as you care to go. To dance the night away, TV Lounge (2548 Grand River Ave) has an intimate atmosphere while El Club (4114 Vernor Hwy) offers an eclectic mix of live shows from alt-R&B to hardcore punk. After-hours, Grenadier Club (3101 McDougall St) and The Works (1846 Michigan Ave) are surefire hits open til 7:00 and 5:00 am, respectively. For something a bit more specialized, pop-up events are frequent in the city — The Old Miami, for instance, hosts a monthly 90s-throwbacks dance party that hits all the right notes of nostalgia.

Quintessentially Detroit, the RiverFront is undergoing a massive transformation, with many portions of the project completed and ready for your enjoyment. In warmer months, green spaces and gardens abound; in the winter climate, snowplay is the name of the game. Tying together several parks, wetlands, and more, strolling, running, or biking along the river yields views such as the Milliken State Park Lighthouse (1900 Atwater St), a 63-foot replica of the Tawas Point Lighthouse, the only Victorian-era style station on the Great Lakes.

The largest theater district in the U.S. after Broadway, the immaculately restored historic buildings host every type of performing art, from Broadway hits like Rent to Italian opera group Il Volo to Jeff Dunham’s comedic ventriloquist act. The structures housing these stages are worth a visit in and of themselves — the Detroit Opera House (1526 Broadway St), for instance, has been stunningly renovated to reveal a glittering interior, and the Fox Theatre (2211 Woodward Ave) is a cavernous 5,000+ seat homage to the performing arts.

Smack-dab in the middle of the city, Detroit’s best park is an island unto itself — literally. Belle Isle Park (2 Inselruhe Ave) hosts everything from an aquarium to a golf range to the majestic James Scott Memorial Fountain and Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse (the only one of its kind in the nation constructed of marble). On chillier days, seek warmth in the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, right in the center of the island. The magnificent glass building originally opened in 1904, making it the longest continually running conservatory in the U.S. It’s divided into houses including the Palm House, home to tropical trees, and the Show House, where flowering plants erupt in colorful displays.

What better place to worship at the altar of all things automotive than Motor City? The Public Show portion of the North American International Auto Show — running from January 14-22 and held at Cobo Center (One Washington Blvd) — is a one-of-a-kind exhibit of vehicles of every stripe, from souped-up supercars to full-size trucks, with several events highlighting the current and future innovations shaping automotive trends. The twice-daily parade features some of the most jaw-dropping vehicles, plus a smattering of local stars. A more formal way to admire the best in the business, the EyesOn Design Awards present awards for excellence in everything from concept cars to user experience.

To sample the best of Detroit’s culture and history, there are several museums worth a visit. Continuing in the Motor City vein, the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant (461 Piquette St) has been painstakingly restored as Henry Ford’s first factory, and marks the birthplace of the Model T. Another archetypal part of the city’s history, the Motown Museum (2648 West Grand Blvd) is housed in Berry Gordy’s legendary recording studio, where acts like the Supremes recorded and Smokey Robinson manned the recording console. Finally, the Detroit Institute of Arts (5200 Woodward Ave) houses many masterpieces, but the can’t-miss exhibit is in the Rivera Court, where you’ll find Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry fresco cycle — a stunning collection of murals depicting the laborers so crucial to the city’s automotive boom.

Virginia is equally enamored with words and globetrotting. Whenever possible, she likes to combine the two through travel writing to help other wanderers discover and fall in love with the world.