1) Detroit Historical Society With so much to see and do, it’s surprising this recently revamped 80-year-old downtown museum doesn’t charge admission. (You will, however, pay $5 to park in the adjacent lot.) Although most displays focus on local history and nostalgia—a Motown tribute, a Lionel Trains exhibit, an Underground Railroad vignette and a re-created 20th-century Detroit streetscape—additions like the interactive Kid Rock music lab are sure to build a new fan base among younger generations. (313) 833-7935; detroithistorical.org
2) GM Renaissance Center Detroit’s most iconic landmark, the multiuse Ren Cen complex (and General Motors headquarters) commands 14 acres of prime downtown real estate on the Detroit River. Free one-hour tours detail GM’s symbiotic relationship with the city via stops at the tropical Wintergarden atrium, the GM showroom, boutique shops and the Circulation Ring glass panels connecting four of the statuesque towers. The pièce de résistance? Drinking in the skyline views from the 72nd floor of the Detroit Marriott at the end of the journey. (313) 567-3126; gmrencen.com
3) D:Hive walking tours Get an insider’s point of view on the developments taking place downtown and along the Woodward Corridor. D:Hive hosts free two-hour walking/People Mover tours on Saturday afternoons that will leave you in the know about Detroit fixtures like Campus Martius Park, the Theater District and the Guardian Building. If you don’t feel like walking, the “practically free” bus tour covers the same ground and then some on the fourth Saturday of each month for $10. (313) 962-4590; dhivedetroit.org
4) Detroit Eastern Market Teeming with sights, smells and tastes, the 1891 public market has 6 acres of open-air vendors. The food selection is impressive—cheeses, chocolates, produce, meats, wine, baked goods and the like—but you’ll also find crafts, pottery, jewelry, flowers, antiques and more. Wear comfortable shoes, and bring shopping bags (possibly a cart or wagon) for your purchases. The market’s open on Saturdays all year long and Tuesdays through the summer. (313) 833-9300; detroiteasternmarket.com
5) Slows BBQ The mouthwatering ’cue at this classy Corktown dining institution has earned Slows national praise and recognition. Try the Yardbird, a succulent, smoky sandwich of pulled chicken topped with mustard sauce, mushrooms, cheddar and bacon. If you can pry yourself away from the pulled chicken plus the ribs, brisket and pulled pork, the green beans and the Charles Bronson spinach salad are mighty good, too. (313) 962-9828; slowsbarbq.com
6) Campus Martius Park Locals gather year-round at the revitalized Woodward Avenue roundabout for open-air lunches, concerts and other outdoor activities. In the summer, enjoy the pretty gardens; in the winter, the ice skating rink sees plenty of action. With “dancing” water sprays, lights and music, the Woodward Fountain provides eye candy year-round. (313) 962-0101; campusmartiuspark.org
7) Pewabic Pottery If the tile looks familiar, it’s because you’ve probably seen it in places like the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, New York’s Herald Square, the Nebraska State Capitol, or locally at Comerica Park and People Mover stations. Founded during the turn-of-the-20th-century Arts and Crafts movement, Pewabic is known for its gorgeous iridescent glazes. Self-guided tours of the building are free, or pay $5 to learn about this Detroit product from a docent. (313) 626-2000; pewabic.org
8) Detroit Jazz Festival Each Labor Day weekend, a world-class music event sends off summer in style with musical performances at five outdoor stages downtown. Late-night jam sessions, fireworks, an array of vendors, and opportunities to mix and mingle with the musicians keep the party going throughout the four-day festival. It’s free to attend, but plan on shelling out a few bucks for food, drinks and parking. (313) 447-1248; detroitjazzfest.com
9) Astro Coffee Don’t expect any cookie-cutter lattes here. In the Corktown district, Astro Coffee turns ordinary cups of joe into something special with unhurried brewing techniques and top-quality beans from around the country. Try the Flat White, a cappuccinoish concoction the Australian owners serve as a nod to their homeland, along with the melt-in-your-mouth pastries and egg sandwiches. (313) 638-2989; astrodetroit.com
10) Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center With rates starting at $169, rooms at the landmark downtown hotel (one of the tallest in the Western Hemisphere) aren’t exactly cheap, but the riverfront location and the breathtaking views are worth every penny. A $30 million renovation planned for 2014 will put a new face on the guest rooms, meeting spaces and the M Lounge. (313) 568-8000; marriott.com/hotels/travel/dtwdt-detroit-marriott-at-the-renaissance-center
Photo credits: Kid Rock Music Lab by Ara Howrani/Detroit Historical Society, GM Renaissance Center by Vito Palmissano; Campus Martius Park by Paula Turner; Eastern Market by Bill Bowen; Slows BBQ by Bill Bowen.
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