DETROIT'S ENTERTAINMENT PLAYGROUND
Downtown is alive with renowned museums and theaters, casino hotels and a transformed riverfront. Championship sports, exciting nightlife and delectable dining offer endless options for things to do.
Popular attractions in the Downtown district include:
- Detroit Institute of Arts
- Detroit Science Center
- Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
- Detroit Historical Museum
- Motown Historical Museum
- Fox Theatre
- Comerica Park
- Ford Field
- GM Renaissance Center
- Campus Martius Park
- Cobo Center
- Joe Louis Arena
- Hart Plaza
- Detroit International RiverWalk
- Belle Isle
|Uncovering the Gems of Downtown Detroit
Detroit has plenty of aliases – Motown, the Motor City, Hockeytown and The D – and they all are part of who we are. Detroit has had a colorful past, but with recent transformations more visitors than ever are seeing what it's now like in The D. And they're finding that there are a multitude of gems to be found in Downtown.
New life has visibly breathed into the downtown area, and it is currently experiencing one of the largest urban redevlopment booms in the country. New businesses are finding homes in old buildings; from restaurants and retail to new lofts and condominiums, more young urban professionals continue to flock to the city to experience the sights, events, attractions, and to be a part of the renaissance. The people of Detroit have an undeniable love and sense of pride for this tried and true city, and it can be seen around every corner.
For stuff to do, downtown can't be beat. If you're a sports fan, take in a game at Comerica Park, Ford Field or Joe Louis Arena – all are just minutes away from each other. There are also plenty of sports-themed dining options to accompany your sporting spirit. Try Hockeytown Cafe, Cheli's Chili Bar or the historic Ellwood Grill. Of course, veteran sports fans will make the pilgrimage to American or Lafayette Coney Island, establishments that both lay claim to inventing Detroit's semi-official food: the Coney.
If Coney's aren't your thing, maybe entertainment is! Downtown Detroit offers many varied entertainment options while playing host to major theatrical and musical performances. Once downtown, visitors will find they are surrounded by the esteemed Michigan Opera Theatre, Music Hall, the Fox Theatre and the Gem Theatre and Century Club. If youngsters accompany you, don't miss the remarkable PuppetART Theater. Trained in the former Soviet Union, all members of the PuppetART troupe are masters of puppetry art theater, producing shows like nowhere else in the region.
In addition to the sports-themed food options mentioned, don't worry about finding finer fare in The D! Try Centaur behind the Fox Theatre or Small Plates for trendy tapas. Greektown is also a sure hit, with Pegasus and Niki's for moderate dining, or Mosaic and Sweet Georgia Browns for higher-end fodder. The stunning Coach Insignia on the top floor of the Renaissance Center offers great views of both Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Canada, while serving up delectable meal and wine offerings. Another great RenCen option is the local Italian favorite Andiamos.
Downtown is also great for an afternoon on the town. Start your day with a pastry at Astoria in Greektown, then hit the streets. A few don't miss destinations include the Guardian Building for the best in Art Deco architecture, Mark England DeMode for European fashions, Pure Detroit for the trendiest Detroit-themed apparel and Pangborn Design for one-of-a-kind ties and more. If you're into design, don't miss Mezzanine in Harmonie Park, which features high-end modern furniture and accessories. Finish off your exploration with some sake and sushi at the hip Oslo or find Cuban cuisine and salsa dancing at the vibrant Vincente's. End your evening with a sunset stroll along the nearby Detroit RiverWalk. Part of the new 31-acre Tricentennial State Park, the RiverWalk will ultimately stretch from Gabriel Richard Park near the MacArthrur (Belle Isle) Bridge to the Ambassador Bridge.
With a wealth of great venues, the music scene in this part of Detroit percolates. Both urbanites and suburban visitors regularly flock to clubs like Saint Andrew's Hall and the Shelter, as well as the larger Fillmore (formerly the State Theatre), to see an array of local and national musicians. Before and after the show, you can grab a drink at one of the many popular new watering holes. Near the theater district, try Cliff Bell's and the Park Bar for swanky Art Deco elegance, the Town Pump for corner bar cool, or Pulse for minimalist design. Jacoby's, closer to Greektown, is also ideal if you're hankering for a pint and some old-world charm complete with German sing-alongs. For a later night out, slide over to Envy or Esyleum Lounge where you can shake your groove well into the early morning hours.
Midtown is a neighborhood on the rise. There are new buildings, shops, restaurants and galleries, and most importantly, people. Gobbling up the numerous hip lofts and condominiums, more and more students, artists and urban professionals are making Midtown home. And why not? Both a college town and entertainment destination, Midtown is thick with museums, theaters, galleries, restaurants and coffee shops, all within a few blocks. This means you can cruise around without ever getting in a car.
One of the most popular things to do here is hit the museums, which are bountiful. Within two blocks, you can take in the Detroit Institute of Art, the Detroit Science Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Historical Museum and the newest hipster mecca, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). All feature special events, music and educational programs, making them a great entertainment option. For more consumerist fun, hit the neighborhood's newest shops like Bureau of Urban Living for minimalist home goods or Bob's Classic Kicks for specialty sneakers.
These attractions are enriched by the other entertainment in the area. Galleries like the Detroit Artists Market, C-POP, G. R. N'Namadi, Dell Pryor and the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit all host openings, live music and other events.
The theaters of Wayne State University offer contemporary and traditional theater in three performance spaces: the Hillberry, Bonstelle and Studio theaters. For film, try the Detroit Film Theatre, located in the Detroit Institute of Arts, which features the greatest contemporary and classic world cinema. Midtown is also home to the Garden Bowl, otherwise known as the Rock-N-Bowl, the nation's oldest (and most rockin') bowling alley.
Music and Midtown are also a must. The Magic Stick, hotspot of the Detroit rock scene, helped launch the careers of local bands like the White Stripes and Von Bondies, and regularly features critically acclaimed indie acts. You can catch more prominent performers at the Majestic Theatre, a venue infamous as the final place that escape artist Harry Houdini ever performed. For more polish, try the Max M. Fisher Music Center. The Max is home to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and also features a diversity of jazz, pop and even poetry performances.
Midtown is also a great place to come for food. For a quick bite, try Avalon, an outstanding organic bakery that also features magical sandwiches and foccacia, or the Small World Café, a student-favorite in the basement of Wayne State University's International Center. For more leisurely dining try Atlas Global Bistro, Traffic Jam, Union Street or the Majestic Cafe for creative American cuisine. If you'd like to add a bit of architecture to the pot, try The Whitney, a stunning gourmet restaurant located in an equally stunning 100-year-old mansion.
Detroit's New Center remains a bustling business area, home to the award-winning Henry Ford Health System, the Fisher Theatre and the entrepreneurial village, Tech Town. Artistic expression abounds in adjacent lofts and warehouses, that offer the appeal of being less polished as urban lovers stroll in and out to take it all in.
Whether you're visiting for the corporate side or the cool, one of the most prominent buildings to see in the New Center, and Detroit for that matter, is the Fisher. Designed by Albert Kahn, and considered one of his greatest achievements, the 30-story, Art-Deco beauty has been nicknamed "Detroit's largest art object." Notice the three-story, barrel vaulted lobby constructed with 40 different kinds of marble, the ornate plaster friezes and the inlaid wood elevators. You can also grab tickets to the Fisher Theatre, home to major musical and theatrical performances. While you're here, visit Vera Jane for exquisite lingerie and handbags, Pure Detroit for trendy Detroit-themed items, and the Detroit Gallery of Contemporary Arts for eclectic jewelry, fashion and home décor. One last worthy shop is the Biz-R-Collection across the street in the New Center One building, a 15,000-square-foot oasis of fab fashions and shoes.
New Center is world famous for one other destination: the Motown Historical Museum (a.k.a. Hitsville U.S.A.). Occupying two of the original houses owned by Motown Records, the museum is filled with rare photographs, gold records, costumes and other memorabilia. On your visit, take a second to pause and consider the immense talent that filled the rooms where you now stand – it's enough to give you goose bumps.
Food is also a strength of the New Center. Head to Cuisine for fantastic French dishes served up in a chic Victorian home, or the Grand City Grille for traditional American fare made even better by swank surroundings.
Nightlife in the New Center area is subtle. You have to know where to go, which is usually not overly publicized. The Tangent Gallery and Hastings Street Ballroom, both located in former warehouse space, host an infrequent schedule of contemporary musicians, performance artists and art exhibitions. Wear your jeans and vintage tees and dig out your chucky Ts and you'll blend in seamlessly. End your evening at the Northern Lights Lounge where you can hang with an eclectic mix of folk-young, old, suits and not-and reflect on this unique place called Detroit.
Each week, approximately 45,000 people flock to Eastern Market, a vibrant food-lover's bazaar covering 43 acres on Detroit's near east side. Wandering through hundreds of open-air stalls, you can commingle with urban hipsters and suburban shoppers gathering produce, fresh-cut flowers, homemade jams and maple syrups, and even a goose or rabbit. The stalls feature farmers from Michigan, Ohio and Canada, as well as importers and wholesalers from who knows where. The Farmers Market is open Saturdays 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Come early for the freshest treats or later when the bartering begins.
Beyond the farmer stalls, be sure to check out the shops – they're as good as any in New York and sometimes better. Go to R. Hirt Jr. for your pick of thousands of cheeses, oils, mustards and crackers. Wine novices and aficionados love Cost Plus, both for the vino and snob-free service. Here, you can get a great recommendation on wine under $5 or over $50, and be pleased as spiked punch with the product. Other Eastern Market must-hits include the Rocky Peanut Company for nuts and candies, Gabriel Imports for olives and other Greek treats, and Eastern Market Seafood for all kinds of meats and creatures of the sea. Rafel Spice is also heavenly. With bin upon bin of exotic spices and coffees, it's guaranteed to make your head spin and food sizzle.
Beyond food, Eastern Market also has feasts. Among the best is Russell Street Deli for freakishly good breakfast and lunch served up by creative folk. This place is small, and in most cases, you share your table, so mind your manners and remember how to converse. Flat Planet Pizza is also heavenly, serving up pizzas that are galaxies away better than local chains. For more traditional fare, hit Vivios for a burger and beer (or two or three as they regularly do here), Mike's Pita & Grille or the solidly good Farmers Restaurant. The newer Milano's Bakery Café is also worth visiting for solid deli fare, as well as other bakery goods. If you're craving more of a greasy spoon, Zef's Coney Island never lets you down.
Antiques are Eastern Market's second staple. Sift through the three packed floors of Eastern Market Antiques or the more selective Russell Street Antiques and Marketplace Antiques. You'll find vintage modern, art deco classics or just old and odd.
Evenings in Eastern Market are always a treat. Head to the renowned Roma Café for old-world Italian classics served up by older-world looking waiters. For lighter fare, try Sala Thai for firey food served up (appropriately enough) in a renovated firehouse. If a cocktail is more in order, head to Cutter's Bar & Grill where you belly up with the local butchers, bakers and warehouse workers. For a little rhythm with your beer, try the jazz hotspot, Bert's Marketplace Café. This Eastern Market landmark is a favorite of many a musician and jam sessions typically go into the early morning hours, when most workers in Eastern Market start their day.
A one-time dominate Irish neighborhood (hence the name), Corktown today is home to students and professors at the nearby Wayne State University and College for Creative Studies, historic home buffs who revel in the area's Victorian wonders, and other urban professionals who like hanging out in an increasingly lively neighborhood.
Voted Detroit's most walkable community by the Metro Times, Corktown lives up to this label. It's charming, clean and offers lots to do in little space. Book lovers make regular pilgrimages to the neighborhood's John K. King Books. Located in a former glove factor, this store features more than a million used and rare books. The only thing missing is the coffee bar, so bring your own.
Art is also big in Corktown and the Zeitgeist is a centerpiece. This gallery and performance space host regular openings, plays and special events, and is typically packed with the culturally cool of Corktown (of which there are many).
You'll see more of Corktown's culturally cool at night. With new restaurants and clubs, this area has become a destination for people seeking a night out in the city. Some of the most popular joints include Slow's Bar BQ, Nemos for burgers and beer, and the Balie Coreigh for upscale Irish pub fare.
A true Corktown experience always includes music. Hang with the rock elite at the Lager House, the place to catch the newest up-and-coming bands, or with younger scenesters at the Corktown Tavern, home of the increasingly popular Dorkwave parties. For more traditional tunes, check out Nancy Whiskeys or the Gaelic League-especially during March when Irish and drinking is always top o'mind. The Works is also the club à la mode, hosting some of the most popular DJs around.
Drive into southwest Detroit and it immediately feels warmer. It might be the brightly colored buildings, vibrant murals, or the sounds of salsa and merenge streaming from nearby homes, shops and restaurants. Regardless, it all adds to the appeal and makes visiting this unique ethnic community even more enjoyable. And there's loads to enjoy.
First, the shopping. With a growing economy, Mexicantown has an increasing number of retail destinations. Head to Algo Especial for specialty goods or Xochi's Gift Shop for authentic items made in Mexico, including jeans, cowboy boots and hats, as well as decorative home items. Don't miss Honeybee La Comena, a Mexican grocer stocked to the gills with traditional and specialty food items like cactus and mangos. It's also the best place to score an authentic piñata. Stop by the newly opened Mexicantown International Welcome Center where staff can point you to all there is to see and do in The D.
Mexicantown also features one-of-a-kind entertainment. Come Cinco de Mayo or Day of the Dead head to Mexicantown and watch the parades, enjoy the music and most of all, savor the cervazas and margaritas! The local Matrix Theater Company is another entertainment essential. Hosting original plays and puppet shows since 1991, the theater company profiles issues, playwrights and performers of the Southwestern Detroit neighborhoods.
The last must-do in Mexicantown is: eat. And eating options abound! With an outdoor patio and live music, Los Galanes is the best bet in warmer months. Xochimilco's, Evie's Tamales and Lupita's are also superb for homemade Mexican fare. For more Central American food, try El Comal--the pupusas and chuchitos are the best around. No trip to Mexicantown is complete without a treat, and La Gloria gives you plenty of options. Choose from fresh-baked cookies, breads, empanadas, orejas (ears), churros and more, and head home feeling as warm and sunny as you did when you arrived.