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Thursday
May072009

Tour the RenCen, it's Free!

My husband and I have a thing for tall buildings. He has a rational fear of them and I, like any good wife would, make him go to the top of them. I’m a bit evil like that. The first time I took him to Chicago we went to the top of the John Hancock. He was white knuckled and dizzy. Since then, he proposed atop the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas, and in Paris we made it to the top of the Montparnasse Tower and to the second stage of the Eiffel Tower.

So, it only seemed natural to go to the top of the RenCen (also known as the GM Renaissance Center). But here’s the thing, all those other places you have to pay to get to the top. However, the RenCen has a free, one-hour tour that ends up in the Coach Insignia Restaurant with breathtaking views of Detroit and Windsor.

GM Renaissance Center
Did you hear that? A free tour! It’s a great opportunity to see the city of Detroit and learn a bit about its history and layout. You’ll also learn about General Motors, the RenCen, and other historical buildings in the city. I’m going to say it again, people, it’s free! And it makes for a nice day out.

The tours run Monday through Friday at 10am, noon, and 2pm and no advance registration is required (groups over 10 will need to call ahead). When we went, there were only two other people on the tour, a young Italian couple. The girl was just as afraid of heights, if not more so, than my husband. Our tour guide, Ann Duncan, took care of them both, she was very personable and she was passionate about Detroit.

A few tidbits that we learned:

  • the RenCen has it’s own zipcode (48243)
  • the GM Wintergarden has free wi-fi
  • that you’ll have to walk around the glass walkway that connects the four towers 8 times to make a mile.

GM WintergardenThe fact that there were only 4 of us on the tour and that we were split between Metro Detroiters and tourists, got me thinking. I made a call to Kim Rusinow, who is the Tour Coordinator for the RenCen. She told me that 45,000 people take the tour a year; and in the height of the season, which begins in April, that they’ll see approximately 600-1200 people a month. She didn’t have an exact number on how many of those are Metro Detroiters or “hometown visitors,” as she put it. Kim did say, however, that they have “hometown visitors” on every tour.


Kim also told me something I didn’t learn on the tour, the Detroit River has it’s own zipcode too (48222). The J.W. Westcott II delivers mail to ships in the Great Lakes.

Summer is upon us, go and take the tour! Take your kids or your parents!

Have you taken the tour? Did you know it existed and that it was free?

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Reader Comments (9)

I vaguely remember hearing about the free Ren Cen tour, but never knew anyone who took the tour. Sounds like you had a great time, and hopefully hubby lived to tell the tale :)
The price is really right, isn't it?

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

I didn't know of any one taking it before us, either.

And yes, hubby lived and actually wasn't very scared this time. We need a taller building. The CN Tower, Space Needle, and Empire State building are on our list of ones to conquer. Oh, and the newly renamed Sears Tower, they're putting some kind of new glass floor in.

May 7, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

I think I have read about the tours on the People Mover. I am pretty sure they are listed but I am on it so much I never thought of taking a tour. I kind of like touring our hometown it is great to be introduced to things you may not have thought about seeing.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJamie Favreau

Yeah, I've seen the tour advertised on the People Mover too. I agree, I think there are many people who don't explore their own backyard. That's the main point that www.detroitmoxie.com is focused on.

May 7, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

I Remember when it first opened back in the 70s. We used to go there to just wander around. Believe it or not it was real easy to get lost. plus it had probably the most expensive drinks in Detroit.

Still worked out to be a cheap date though.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTim

There are many people in metro Detroit who don't realize the Ren Cen has free tours, so thanks for spreading the word! I highly recommend dinner or drinks at Coach Insignia. The view is amazing and service and food are top-notch! :)

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNikki

Tim, it's still real easy to get lost! When GM did the remodel, they tried to solve that problem by color coding the towers, but it's still easy to get lost there.

Nikki, I don't think many people in Metro Detroit know about the tours either, so that's what I'm trying to do, spread the word. Thank you for your comment. Coach Insignia is on our list. Maybe for our anniversary?

May 8, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

Those first two sentences just cracked me up!

I spent a lot of time working in the Ren Cen when I did displays (working with the Waterfront Conservancy) and couldn't believe the amount of things in there I could find, on any given day, that were new to me. We spent about two weeks in there and like Todd said, I was still getting very much lost by the end of our stint.
It's a great building in a great location... checking it out is a wonderful idea.

May 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Matt, glad I could make you laugh. It should be known though, that I'm not forcing him to go up these buildings! He made a decision to get over his fear of heights and I just hep facilitate that, but I'm still slightly evil.

Thanks for the comment.

May 8, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

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