It’s time to “Do The D,” according to Inside Detroit—this downtown welcome center offers tours that can be tailored to any interest, including African American history, churches, architecture and pub crawls. Tina Lassen, a contributing writer for Michigan Travel Ideas, writes about her tour that inspired Motown Remastered, a feature in this year’s guide.
Our tour starts in Campus Martius Park (less than two blocks from Inside Detroit’s headquarters) on Woodward Avenue. This green space sports plenty of cafe tables and chairs—popular with the lunchtime crowd—and a stage for musical entertainment. Many of the buildings in the downtown area are treasures, but you wouldn’t necessarily realize that from walking past. The Guardian Building, on Griswold, between Larned and Congress, is an Art Deco marvel of tile and Tiffany glass.
We walk a few blocks south and tour the RiverWalk, which feels like the city’s beautiful big front yard. It provides easy access to the city’s waterfront, with pathways, plazas, covered pavilions, harbors, parks and other green spaces.
Part of our tour focused on locally owned bars and restaurants. Some look a little dog-eared on the outside and others I wouldn’t have noticed if they weren’t pointed out, but these three gems are definitely worth a visit. Sweetwater Tavern, a highly recommended place for ribs just two blocks north of the Ren Cen (GM’s massive headquarters), sits in a neat old building with brick walls and high ceilings. The Grand Trunk Pub is a neighborhood bar near Campus Martius set in the old ticket office for the Grand Trunk Railroad, and Cliff Bell’s on Park Avenue is a movie-set perfect lounge hosting live jazz five nights a week.
After grabbing a bite to eat, I whiz across downtown on the People Mover (for just 50 cents!) to Comerica Park. The area surrounding the stadium was lively and action-packed the weekend I visited. Greektown—a thriving neighborhood—borders the sports district with ethnic restaurants, bakeries, markets and shops.
I could easily spend an entire day at the nearby Eastern Market. The original warehouse district hosts a weekly farmers market year-round on Saturdays; hundreds of vendors sell fresh produce and other goods. But to me, what makes the market special are the surrounding warehouse businesses. It’s fun to shop and buy in bulk at generations-old businesses such as Rocky Peanut Co., Rafal Spice Co. and J.L. Hirt Co. (a cheese shop).
Just west of the Eastern Market, Midtown incorporates Detroit’s Cultural District. Here, the museums, including the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, are must-sees and definitely worth the short drive from downtown.
Freelance writer Tina Lassen is a frequent contributor to Michigan Travel Ideas and has written extensively about Michigan in guidebooks such as National Geographic’s Guide to America’s Outdoors: Great Lakes.