Things to Do in Detroit
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Travelers to Detroit may notice some signs of the city's economic challenges, but they'll also see the results of a decade-long revitalization effort and a proud, richly diverse city (anchored to a metro population of 4.4 million) determined to come out stronger.
Downtown's 3.5-mile Riverwalk follows the Detroit River past the gleaming towers of the Renaissance Center (pictured), home to General Motors and the Detroit Marriott Hotel. To the northwest, Woodward Avenue passes the Tigers' and Lions' stadiums. The fabulously reinvented Detroit Institute of Arts is among the museums clustered in the Cultural Center, while farther north, the Motown Historical Museum traces the city's musical legacy. The area's biggest draw is The Henry Ford, in Dearborn.
Click ahead for more information on some of our favorite attractions in the Detroit area. Want to share your own ideas? Leave a comment below!
More information: (800) 338-7648; visitdetroit.com
Detroit Institute of Arts
Detroit's recently renovated art museum is one of the finest in the country, boasting world-renowned collections and a historic series of Diego Rivera murals. The sheer breadth of the Detroit Institute of Arts' collections is staggering, and the museum does a great job of displaying pieces in a way that emphasizes the human relevance of each piece.
Among the museum's best-known art is Detroit Industry, a series of murals done by Mexican artist Diego Rivera in the 1930s (pictured). The work was commissioned by Edsel Ford, son of Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford, and depicts the history of Detroit's auto industry and labor force. (313) 833-7900; dia.org
The Henry Ford
This world-class destination in Dearborn, Henry Ford's hometown, includes the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. Henry Ford had the means and desire to collect iconic American objects and buildings, and in the 1920s, he opened the museum and village to share his treasures with the public.
The museum showcases remarkable artifacts, such as the chair in which Lincoln was sitting when he was assassinated and the bus from Montgomery, Alabama, in which Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat for a white man. Greenfield Village offers seven living history districts, including Thomas Edison's New Jersey laboratory. At the Ford Rouge Factory, visitors can learn about the Ford assembly line and watch trucks be put together at the clip of one every 60 seconds. (800) 835-5237; thehenryford.org
Motown Historical Museum
The unassuming house that gave birth to the Motown sound is now a museum preserving the relics of that groundbreaking era. The house ceased serving as Motown's base of operations in the 1970s, but much remains as it was before owner Berry Gordy abandoned it for Los Angeles digs. The basement recording studio is intact, complete with the original piano, drums, microphones--even a makeshift echo chamber.
Displays at the Motown Historical Museum showcase original costumes, photos and record sleeves; a film narrated by Gordy relates how his $800 investment became $20 million in just seven years. It's a truly American rags-to-riches story of raising a young family upstairs while turning neighborhood kids into superstars in the basement. (313) 875-2264; motownmuseum.com
Walking and architectural tours
Explore Detroit's history and architecture on a variety of tours that introduce visitors to structures such as the Guardian Building (pictured) -- an unparalleled example of Art Deco design that drew on the talents of more than 40 artisans (many from Michigan) to create the murals, tilework, mosaics, stained glass and other decorations. Tour organizers include Detroit Experience Factory ((313) 962-4590; weknowdetroit.com) and Preservation Detroit. (313) 577-3559; preservationdetroit.org
Campus Martius Park
Along Woodward Avenue, this manicured 1.6-acre green space is the centerpiece of the city's downtown revitalization, with eating areas, art exhibits, films in summer, concerts, and ice-skating in winter. (313) 962-010; campusmartiuspark.org
Edsel and Eleanor Ford House
Edsel Ford (the only child of Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford) and his wife built this country manor in the 1920s to resemble a collection of Cotswold cottages. From its setting on Lake St. Clair to treasures like the 2,000-year-old Han Dynasty wine jar in the Gallery room, everything about the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House is first class. Located in Grosse Pointe Shores, 15 miles northeast of Detroit. (313) 884-4222; fordhouse.org
Detroit Tigers' Comerica Park
This intimate ballpark combines some bells and whistles with simple fun. Gates open an hour and a half before game time, so there's plenty of time to check out the concourse walk of fame, get dinner at the Big Cat food court, or let the kids ride the tiger carousel or Ferris wheel. Deals? Comerica Park offers $5 hot dog meals, and parking in some lots also is only $5. (313) 471-2255; detroit.tigers.mlb.com).
Sports fans also can head to Ford Field for Detroit Lions games and other events (877) 212-8898; detroitlions.com) or to The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills (about 30 miles north of Detroit) to cheer for the Pistons. (248) 377-0100; palacenet.com
As many as 45,000 shoppers browse for food, flowers and baked goods on Saturdays at the historic Eastern Market, which traces its roots to 1891. (313) 833-9300; detroiteasternmarket.com
North America's largest polar bear exhibit, the Arctic Ring of Life, has an underwater observation tunnel and ranks among the most popular areas at the 125-acre zoo northwest of downtown in Royal Oak. Other major exhibits at the Detroit Zoo include Australian Outback Adventure, where a winding path takes visitors through a habitat with red kangaroos and wallabies, and the Penguinarium, home to king, macaroni and rockhopper penguins. (248) 541-5717; detroitzoo.org
Cranbrook Educational Community
Located in suburban Bloomfield Hills, this unique campus of buildings and institutions created in the early 1900s includes an Arts and Crafts-style mansion (pictured) and 40 acres of lovely gardens, plus an art museum with works by Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. The Cranbrook Educational Community campus is a National Historic Landmark. (877) 462-7262; cranbrook.edu