Why Detroit Is Now the Surprising City on Everyone’s Travel Short List
Lonely Planet just released its 2018 Best in Travel list, with Chile, Portugal, and Malta ranking in the top 10 countries to visit and Seville, Antwerp, and Detroit (at number 2) among the top 10 cities to check out. Motor City also made the cut on The New York Times’52 Places to Go in 2017. Yes, you read that right — Detroit is steadily becoming one of the coolest, most interesting cities to visit — in the world. With artists, chefs, and entrepreneurs taking advantage of the crazy-cheap real estate to tap into the city’s free-spirited vibe, Detroit is experiencing a cultural renaissance, and we’re here to tell you how to spend a weekend taking it all in. Time to brush up on your photography skills, stock up on your travel essentials, and get going!
Where to Stay
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The Inn on Ferry Street: Nestled in the city’s charming museum district — a block from the Detroit Institute of the Arts, to be exact — you’ll find the Inn on Ferry Street. It’s composed of four restored Victorian row homes and two carriage houses, with rooms that are appointed in that elegantly luxe way you want in a historic inn. Ferry Street offers a free shuttle service, complimentary WiFi, and cookies at arrival (just sayin’).
Detroit Foundation Hotel: Every city has its super-hip boutique hotel, and the Foundation Hotel is it for Detroit. Tucked into a converted former firehouse, the hotel is all clean lines, cool art, and comfy beds. (Seriously — the beds are insanely cozy.) You can borrow bikes from the lobby to cruise the city, only to come back to hit up an in-house yoga class or grab a drink in the hotel’s lobby bar.
What to Do
Detroit Institute of Arts Museum: Whether you’re into Romantic landscapes, Dutch masters, or modern abstracts, the DIA has you (creatively) covered. The Beaux Arts-style building is just as breathtaking as its world-class collection, and its 658 thousand square footage demands you block off an entire afternoon (day?) to properly see it all. You’ll definitely want to visit Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait (the first van Gogh to enter a US museum) and the site-specific Diego Rivera mural Detroit Industry.
Belle Isle Conservancy: Find yourself lost in a lush tropical paradise no matter the weather in Motor City with a visit to the Belle Isle Conservancy. The botanical gardens are divided into five houses — palm house, tropical house, cactus house, show house, and fernery — and each house has guide- and self-led tours. It’s free to get in, but the building is only open Wednesday through Sunday, so plan accordingly.
Eastern Market: This indoor market is the place to go if you want an undeniably delicious taste of Detroit. Open since the 1800s, Eastern Market boasts a selection of over 250 independent vendors selling everything from local honey to vintage clothes, as well as boasting a whole host of nearby stores, restaurants, and even a jazz club. The Saturday market is open year-round, with seasonal availability the rest of the week.
Where to Shop
Third Man Records: Jack White’s record label storefront is worth a visit, even if you aren’t an audiophile yourself. You can watch new wax get made in the pressing plant, time a visit with a live performance, or browse their selection of vinyl, books, clothes, accessories, and posters.
Eldorado General Store: Glittering crystals, smokey incense, embroidered caftans, and indie fragrances bedeck the shelves of this Corktown shop, making it a must-stop for the modern bohemians among us. The pieces come straight from owner Erin Gavle’s travels across America, so the selection always feels genuine and fresh. The vibe is warm and lived-in, with lots of dark wood accents and layered woven rugs… so give yourself time to stay awhile.
John K. King Used & Rare Books: With four stories and over one million used books for sale, the John K. King flagship is any traveling book-lover’s dream. The bookstore has no computerized inventory system to catalog its vast selection — instead, there’s an uber-knowledgable manager on each floor to guide you through the stacks if you need help. (But we recommend perusing on your own to find those hidden treasures.)
Detroit Is the New Black: Minimal, modern, and with just enough kitsch to feel cool, Detroit Is the New Black is the perfect spot to stop for those tourists who are looking to bring home something luxe but still local. Founded in 2014 by owner Roslyn Karamoko, the store succeeds in celebrating the city’s continual artistic revival while simultaneously offering casual-cool separates and accessories that bear the brand’s très chic logo.
What to Eat
Astro Coffee: Every it neighborhood has a flagship coffee shop, and Astro Coffee is Corktown’s. Opened in 2011, this cozy cafe offers locally roasted beans, organic sandwiches, and homemade pastries — all you could ever want or need in a coffee bar, honestly.
Parks & Rec Diner: Housed in a former city municipal building, Parks & Rec Diner is a small, bustling breakfast spot with a seasonal, locally based menu that shows lots of love for the gf/nf/v/vg among us. The P&R Poutine really gets extra with crispy fries, mushroom gravy, local cheese curds, and a crispy sunny-side-up duck egg. Or keep it healthy-ish with the I Yam What I Yam, a hearty bowl of fried sweet potatoes and home fries, Brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, and bourbon sauce with herbed nuts. They don’t accept resos, but do offer complimentary coffee in cute paper cups while you wait.
Gold Cash Gold: This Corktown restaurant combines farm-to-table menu offerings with custom, locally sourced aesthetic details for a flawlessly eclectic dining experience. And whether you stop by this former pawn shop for brunch or dinner, order the fried chicken (trust). The rest — from the painted eagle on the reclaimed wood floors to the creative cocktail menu, the stained glass installations to the sweet corn funnel cake — is just icing on the deliciously cool cake.
American Coney Island: Like any signature city dish worth its salt, Detroit’s hot dog game comes with quite the rivalry. Brothers Bill and Gust Keros opened American Coney Island together in 1919, but after a falling out, Bill opened Lafayette Coney Island right next door. They’ve been in competition ever since — and while we’re not one to pick sides, we suggest trying out the original when you go. The traditional coney dog features a soft bun, crisp hot dog, and meaty chili and is topped with yellow mustard and diced onions — the simplicity is what makes it so totally delicious. PS: Add a side of fries and a Vernors for a totally Detroit meal.
Do you have a must-see spot in Detroit we missed? Tweet us @BritandCo and tell us your favorite place!
(Featured photo via Getty)