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« Detroit Moxie's Weekend Roundup | Main | The Summer of '69 »
Wednesday
Oct072009

40 Things to Do in Detroit Before You're Dead

For my 40th birthday, I give you this. 40 fabulous things to do in Detroit. This list is not exhaustive or complete, just a starting point. Some are kind of obvious, but have you been to them recently? Others, I hope, are new to you. I haven't been to all of them but they are all on my list. Get out there and see Detroit before you die.

1. The Guardian Building - This fabulous Detroit skyscraper features Art Deco architecture and Pewabic tiles. Free tours are offered Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

2. The Detroit People Mover - The automated transportation system circles downtown Detroit. Take a ride for just 50 cents and don't forget to check out the art in the stations.

3. Mexicantown - Go for the food but be sure to take a look at the local shops and public art. Also, they have taco carts!

4. Eastern Market - Stop by on a Saturday to pick up fresh produce and soak in the atmosphere.

5. The GM Renaissance Center - This iconic fixture of the Detroit skyline offers free tours Monday through Friday at 10 a.m, noon, and 2 p.m.

6. The Henry Ford (and Greenfield Village) - Explore America's past, inventions, and innovators.

7. Campus Martius Park - Billed as Detroit's Gathering Place, this small park celebrates Detroit's diverse culture. It's also exactly 8 miles from 8 Mile Road.

8. The Heidelberg Project - Tyree Guyton's colorful outdoor art installation is known worldwide.

9. The Whitney - The impressive former mansion is now an upscale restaurant. Ohhh, and they say it's haunted.

10. The Spirit of Detroit - Also known as the Jolly Green Giant, this sculpture by Marshall Fredericks sits in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center and looks best when donning a Red Wings jersey.

11. The Joe Louis Fist - This memorial to the Brown Bomber is located on Jefferson Avenue at Woodward.

12. Hart Plaza - Sitting on the banks of the Detroit River, this plaza is home to festivals throughout the summer as well as Noguchi's Dodge Fountain.

13. The Detroit Zoo - Actually located in Royal Oak, the zoo sits on 125 acres and is the largest family attraction in Michigan.

14. Pewabic Pottery - Founded in 1903, it is known for its tile and pottery in unique glazes.

15. Motown Historical Museum - Hitsville U.S.A includes the original recording studio, Studio A, where many Motown hits were recorded.

16. The Fisher Building - Albert Kahn designed the Art Deco skyscraper that contains the Fisher Theatre.

17. Belle Isle - The island park is located on the Detroit River and includes gems such as the Scott Fountain and the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory.

18. Michigan Central Station - This is extreme urban decay and pictures of the once beautiful building are everywhere but it is worth seeing in person.

19. The Dequindre Cut - The Cut is an urban recreational pathway built on the old Grand Trunk Railway lines. Before the transformation earlier this year, graffiti artists were known to tag in the desolate location. Much of their work has been preserved.

20. Detroit Institute of Arts - This Beaux-Arts building houses over 100 galleries. Vincent Van Gogh's Self Portrait and Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry fresco cycle are two if it's most famous pieces.

21. Greektown - It's always bustling in Greektown. Try your luck at the casino and then relax with some flaming saganaki. Opa!

22. Hamtramck Disneyland - This little bit of folk art is tucked in an alley near Caniff and Klinger.

23. Holocaust Memorial Center - Free guided public tours are offered Sunday through Thursday at 1 p.m. and are 2 hours. The Sunday tour ends with a half hour talk by a Holocaust survivor and visitors are encouraged to ask questions.

24. Lafayette Park - Designed by Mies van der Rohe, the 26 buildings are his only works in Michigan and his largest collection. Completed in 1960.

25. Ford Rouge Factory Tour - This is a self-guided five-part tour that includes viewing the final assembly process of the Ford F-150.

26. The Royal Eagle - Located on the grounds of the St. Sabbas Orthodox Monastery in Harper Woods, this Eastern European restaurant is unique. Only open for dinner on Thursday nights, call for reservations as they are often booked in advance.

27. Baker's Keyboard Lounge - This is the oldest jazz club in the world, they celebrated their 75th anniversary this past May. Miles Davis, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, and John Coltrane have all played here and they have great mac and cheese. Enough said.

28. Cafe D'Mongo's Speakeasy - Only open on Friday & Saturday nights, this place is uniquely Detroit. Part French café, part neighborhood joint, and part funky. Sshh, it's a secret.

29. MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit) - Opened in 2006, MOCAD offers workshops and lectures in addition to its exhibitions.

30. The RiverWalk - Enjoy the almost 3 miles along the Detroit River with splashing fountains, pavilions, a carousel, and many special events.

31. Detroit Historical Museum - Experience over 300 years of Detroit history. It isn't a secret that I love Detroit; I enjoy learning about the city and sharing it with others. This is the place to start to learn more about our hometown.

32. Belle Isle Ice Tree - You'll have to wait a few months to see this odd formation but if the weather is right it's well worth it.

33. Cocktail Hour at Michael Symon's Roast - You've heard of Roast, right? One of Detroit's most talked about restaurants? Well, Monday through Friday from 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm Roast has a fabulous happy hour with $3 dishes. I'm talking mac n' (goat) cheese, beast of the day taco's, and a burger served on an English muffin with a fried egg and bacon. 3 bucks! Also, drink specials.

34. Cranbrook Campus - An Art Museum, a Science Museum, all on a gorgeous suburban campus with House and Garden tours, as well. Check out Rock Around the Dome and Michigan Sky Tonight. More info about the Science Museum.

35. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History - This is the largest institution in the world dedicated to the African American experience.

36. Cadieux Cafe - Belgian beer, mussels, live music, and featherbowling. Featherbowling? It's kind of a cross between horseshoes and bocci. And this is the only place you can do it in the United States.

37. Majestic Theatre Complex - Bowling, bars, pizza, music, pool, and a restaurant. How can you go wrong? Why would you want to leave?

38. The Russell Bazaar - Located in the Russell Industrial Center, a converted Albert Kahn designed factory, is inspired by the street markets of Europe.

39. La Dolce Vita - If you don't know about this place, you won't know about this place. It's kind of hidden and kind of wonderful. Sunday brunch. Bottomless Mimosa's. Sounds good to me.

40. Cliff Bell's - Swanky is how I describe this art-deco night club. Stop by and enjoy some jazz while sipping on a martini.

My birthday isn't until Saturday and I hope you enjoy my gift to you. I am in the camp that birthdays are the most wonderful day of the year. And if there is one thing I like just as much as birthdays, it's Detroit. But I really like birthdays.

Be sure to check out 41 More Things to do in Detroit Before You're Dead and 43 More Things to do in Detroit Before You're Dead.

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Reader Comments (28)

Go Matt Dibble for Feather Bowling. I have a friend from high school who hangs out there all the time.

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJamie Favreau

When you turn 41 we hope you will add the Detroit Artists Market to your list!

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDAM

Jamie,
Cadieux Cafe is one of the places I haven't been to yet, but I'm looking forward to it!

Detroit Artists Market,
I did say that this list isn't exhaustive! I'll have to check you out soon.

October 8, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

I grew up in the Detroit burbs and have done many things on this list - but reading though it again. It kind of makes me want to book a trip home and explore my wonderful city and not just visit my parents in the burbs.

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterelise

Good list you have but you should have included the Dakota Inn Rathskellar, a Detroit tradition since 1933. Go now during Oktoberfest and you will swear that you're in Munich.

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndre

Great list and happy birthday! Hope you will keep adding to your list and check out Palmer Woods Music in Homes, jazz, classical and world music concerts (starring the amazing talent we have in the Detroit area) in the historic homes, magnificent mansions and architectural treasures in Detroit's Palmer Woods. The neighborhood community is just west of Woodward and south of Eight Mile. Check out palmerwoods.org.

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara Barefield

Happy Birthday! about halfway through so far. Tired yet? ;-) I hope that you have 3 times as much adventure and happiness in the next half as you have so far in the first.

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJuanita

The Guardian Building is one we've been talking about going to for quite a while...to take photos. I only had my little point-and-shoot when we did the Fisher, but the lighting is often less than primo in those places anyway. In any case, I've really been jonesing for the book about the Guardian Building!

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

What...no viewing of Tyree Guyton's Heidelberg Street Art Project?!?

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJane Meade

Thank you all for your comments and for stopping by.

Elise,
Yes, next time you're back in Detroit you should do some exploring. Detroit has a lot to offer, sometimes you have to look for it.

Andre,
I couldn't include everything but I am planning on a post in the future that is dedicated to restaurants and bars. I'll try and get to the Dakota Inn Rathskeller soon, hopefully for Oktoberfest.

Barbara,
Thanks for the comment and the birthday wishes. I'll check out your link, thanks.

Juanita,
Thank you!

Dominique,
The Guardian Building is quite fantastic. The pictures I took when we were there didn't come out too well, the lighting wasn't stellar.

Jane,
The Heidelberg Project is #8, it's on the list!

October 9, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

That guy in the middle of the Cadieux Cafe video sure is handsom :P

Great list Becky! We went down to the Dequindre Cut before it became visitor safe and what an amazing place it was then! Graffiti everywhere, in between all sorts of homeless shelters (one made completely of twine and thatch). They did a great job of keeping a good chunk of the graffiti throughout the new development. HIghly recommended.

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Dibble

Good list. Being an editor and writer, just a note that (it's) in #14 should be (its). You got it right everywhere else. Common mistake made by many...good way to remember: it's is a contraction of it is; its is a possessive from of "it".

Keep up the good work and happy 40th!

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLiz Cezat

Happy Birthday Becks!! Ssly, can't believe you're turning 40! Can you believe it's been 10 years since our "J" Days?

Anyway, I frickin LOVE this list. When my family came into town, we rode the People Mover around just to give them a glimse of the city. I love the People Mover. And, you know I LOVE Greektown.

Have a blast celebrating 40,
Bridgette

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBridgette

booklovers have to go to John King Books downtown...floors of used books in an old warehouse...I've never seen anything like it....

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKen

Matt,
Yes, the guy in the video is very handsome! I wish I had the opportunity to see the Dequindre Cut before but I'm happy with what they've done with it. And they are going to be adding more graffiti soon.

Liz,
That was a typo, thank you for pointing it out. I'm familiar with the rules. Glad you liked the list.

Bridgette,
Thank you! We've come a long way, baby! People, including me in years past, often make fun of the People Mover. Now, I love it and use it quite a bit when I'm downtown.

Ken,
Yes, John King Books is awesome! Thanks for reminding me, I'll have to check it out again soon.

Thank you all for the birthday wishes! Woot! I'm 40.

October 10, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

Great blog!
I am a Hamtramck resident and haven't heard of the Disneyland in the alley before! I'm going to see it today.

Your list is great and made me smile. I'm glad there's someone else that loves Detroit as much as me. :)

October 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSylwia

Sylwia,
Thank you! Have fun at Hamtramck Disneyland and come back and let us know what you thought of it. I have some ideas for future posts that focus on Hamtramck, as well.

October 11, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

Thanks for the shout out! We've posted this blog to our facebook fan page. www.facebook.com/hmczfc

October 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Dave,
You're most welcome and thank you for sharing it on Facebook. My husband & I look forward to taking the tour on an upcoming Sunday.

October 12, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

I love all of the big buildings and statues and sculpters/monuments all around the living parts of detroit
they are wonderful ... but anywho i just like them. . very... interesting

November 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermikayla gill

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