Mike and I are both originally from Michigan (he’s from Grand Rapids, I’m from the U.P.), but it had been years since we visited Detroit. So when we found ourselves in that part of the state for Thanksgiving, we decided to make a quick trip of it.
Detroit has been going through an economic revitalization for years now, and our visit was long overdue. It’s now this fascinating mix of old-world extravagance and hard-won grittiness. It was easy to see that Detroit was once a very glamorous city…and not hard to imagine it’ll be there again.
6 Things We Love About Visiting Detroit In Winter
It ended up being the perfect little winter weekend trip. Cool places to stay, amazing restaurants, and some unique (yet world-class) attractions are part of the draw. A few of the places I had intended to hit were sold out (thanks to that revitalization I mentioned), but that just gives us some really good reasons to go back.
NOTE: If you’re currently planning a trip to Detroit, get your tickets to the Motown Museum in advance — they’re almost impossible to get otherwise. Same goes for a private tour of the African-American History museum.
1. Spend The Morning At The DIA (Detroit Institute of Art)
Getting to the DIA right when it opens (10AM on Sat & Sun, but 9AM during the week) is such a treat. The major crowds don’t start until closer to noon, and this is, without exaggeration, one of the very best collections of art in the US. It’s engaging enough that even my little guys enjoyed it. And there’s a really lovely spot right in the DIA — Kresge Court — to grab coffee and breakfast.
The building itself…is stunning. So many aspects of Detroit really feel like going back in time…and this is one of them.
We were also blown away by the Detroit Industry murals painted in 1932 by Diego Rivera. Photos don’t do this room justice. The DIA has docents walking around who are happy to give you the fascinating history — or Khan Academy has a great cheat sheet, too.)
2. Try Detroit’s Square Pizza at Niki’s
There’s traditional East Coast-style pizza, thin crust pizza and Chicago-style pizza…but did you know that Detroit has its own? Detroit-style pizza is thick (like Chicago-style), but square. This part is important because Detroit-style pizza also boasts a caramelized cheese crust and…whoa. It’s GOOD.
There’s obviously fierce debate over who makes the best Detroit-style pizza, but we love Niki’s. It’s been around forever (basically an institution by now), and GQ once named their feta pizza one of the best pizzas in the US. (The Greek food is good, too.)
3. Take a Peek Inside The Landmark Guardian Building
The historic Guardian building was built in 1929 and is an art deco extravaganza. Murals and tiles and a Tiffany clock — it’s jaw-dropping. There are free 30-minute tours on the weekends, but it’s worth a stop even if you only wander around.
4. See What’s Happening at Campus Martius, One of Detroit’s Downtown Parks
In the winter, Campus Martius is filled with lights, a charming (but tiny) ice skating rink, and a warming cabin (which is basically a fun place for happy hour). It was much too crowded for us to actually skate (oh hey, Black Friday), but it was a fun place to walk around.
Additionally, Cadillac Square (right next door) has some downtown Detroit markets with cool local vendors for some, uh, Detroit culture.
5. Stay At Detroit’s Foundation Hotel
Detroit’s Foundation Hotel is a firehouse that’s been converted into one seriously cool hotel. The location can’t be beat for exploring downtown, the restaurant is delicious, and the rooms are stocked with made-in-Michigan products. The staff is shockingly friendly and helpful (or maybe it’s just that Midwestern charm), and there are several places to hang outside of your room — something that’s always so appreciated when traveling with kids.
6. Have Dinner & Drinks at the Apparatus Room
One of the best restaurants in Detroit is the Apparatus Room, which happens to be riiiight in the Foundation Hotel. So. We ordered some room service for the kids, then wandered down to the restaurant for the easiest night-out ever. The food was delicious and the atmosphere managed to feel both special (like a true night out)…yet cozy.
Gosh, we had a good time. We’re already planning to go back next year…maybe make a tradition out of this? It was one of the most fun days we’ve had, and required so little planning or stress! Next time, though, I do want to hit the Motown Museum, the oldest aquarium in the country (on charming Belle Isle in the middle of the river), and maybe check out a salsa or jazz club. Or see a game! If you haven’t watched sports in Detroit…well. It’s something.
Anyone else in love with Detroit? Would love to know your favs, too….