Founded in 1701 as “la Ville d’Etroit”—the City at the Straits—Detroit is one of the Midwest’s oldest cities. Originally a strategic Native American and French trading post, by the mid-19th century the city was compared to Paris because of its scenic parks and beautiful architecture. The 20th century saw Detroit’s evolution into the modern Motor City, the city that put the world on wheels.
With the growth of the auto industry, Detroit and its suburbs spread out across an ever larger geographical area, eventually making it one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas. Though primarily known for Motown and motors, Detroit is also one of the world’s busiest inland ports and a major steel producer. The Detroit River is linked by steamship to more than 40 countries; vessels ranging from ocean-going freighters to private yachts dock in the city’s protected harbor.
Metro Detroit is also notable for its ethnic diversity—visit Hamtramck for its excellent Polish bakeries, Dearborn for its thriving Middle Eastern community, or Mexicantown for its numerous restaurants. The city offers extensive opportunities for shopping, nightlife, and dining. First-time visitors are pleasantly surprised by Detroit’s world-class museums, theaters, art galleries, downtown eateries and clubs, well-run parks, and enthusiastic sports-fan culture. Talk with the locals, and you’ll get an earful on why Detroit is such a great city. Spend a little time here, and you’re likely to agree.
Founded in the early 18th century, the Midwest’s oldest city is a busy industrial center, producing roughly a quarter of the nation’s autos, trucks, and tractors. The riverfront harbor is one of the Great Lakes’ busiest ports. Downtown, a constant flow of traffic moves in and out of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and across the Ambassador Bridge, both of which connect Detroit with Windsor, Ontario, directly across the Detroit River.
Though Detroit nicknamed itself “Renaissance City” in the 1970s, it did little to deserve the title until the 1990s. A new mayor, new sports stadiums, and a host of new restaurants and nightclubs have helped to revitalize Downtown. Detroit’s glitzy theater district is now second only to New York’s Great White Way in number of seats.
Detroit is the Motor City, and everyone does drive. Many Downtown streets are one-way, and taxis are sparse; a detailed map is a necessity. The main streets into Downtown are Woodward Avenue (north-south) and Jefferson Avenue (east-west). Starting on foot from the riverside Renaissance Center, Downtown, you can move outward to east Detroit, with its burgeoning Rivertown neighborhood, and then on to the northwest side, the cultural heart of the city. Detroit’s elevated monorail, the People Mover (www.thepeoplemover.com), traces a 3-mi circuit around the Downtown area; trains stop at 13 stations at approximately 3-minute intervals.
Detroit Restaurant Reviews
Each wave of immigrants to Detroit has made a culinary mark: You’ll find soul food in the inner city, a vibrant Mexican community on the West Side, and Greek restaurants in Greektown. Detroiters often dine across the river in Windsor, Ontario, where a favorable rate of exchange makes for good values.
Detroit Hotel Reviews
In addition to those in downtown Detroit, accommodations are available in suburban Novi, Southfield, and Troy, with their high concentration of corporate headquarters, and in Dearborn, where the Ford Motor Company is based. Most hotels, motels, and inns offer reduced-price weekend packages.
Much of metro Detroit’s nightlife is centered downtown and in suburban Ferndale and Royal Oak, both home to numerous restaurants, bars, and clubs that are within walking distance of one another. The city’s nightlife is concentrated along Woodward Avenue between Jefferson Avenue and I-75. Metro Times, a free weekly available throughout the metropolitan area, has a comprehensive calendar of events. Also be sure to check the arts and entertainment sections of The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press as well as the “Events” section of Hour Detroit Magazine.
Thanks to the bustle at the Renaissance Center and edgy boutiques popping up around town, good shopping in Detroit is not as scarce as it once was—but the best bang for your buck is still in the northern suburbs. Check out Ferndale for funky boutiques, Birmingham for upscale shops, and Troy for one of the country’s best shopping centers.