Flint #MittenTrip: A Guide to Understanding the Rust Belt

Flint #MittenTrip: A Guide to Understanding the Rust Belt

During Michigan summers, most people are concerned with how to get on the lake (any lake) during the precious available weekend moments. Although I love a long day at the beach as much as the next person, traveling to and experiencing Michigan’s Rust Belt cities is just as compelling a reason to pack up the car and take a #MittenTrip to a new place.

In my many travels from Detroit to different parts of Northern Michigan, I’ve driven through Flint, but aside from a quick stop at Tenacity Brewing a year ago, I’ve never spent more than a pit stop’s worth of time in the city. As a resident of Detroit, I am overwhelmingly aware that a city is way more than its news headlines, so I was excited to spend a weekend exploring Flint with my favorite travel companion and an open-mind.

Friday

After a long day of work in Detroit, my best friend and I packed up the car, tuned into 105.1 The Bounce, and made the seemingly short drive to Flint. Arriving at Knob Hill Bed and Breakfast, we were greeted warmly by the proprietors’ neighbors who were using the space for a large family party. After taking a moment to settle in, we decided to escape the bustle of the house and find something to fill our grumbling bellies.

Knob Hill Bed and Breakfast in Flint. Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.
Knob Hill Bed and Breakfast in Flint. Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.

Before heading on the #MittenTrip to Flint, both my friend and I did some polling of our friends on social media for recommendations. Taking one of these, we decided to go to Soggy Bottom Bar. A twist on traditional bar food, we were happy with the selection and the drinks were delicious. After an Old Fashioned (or two), and a hearty meal, we decided to call it a night because we were hoping for a day packed full of exploring on Saturday.

Flint #MittenTrip Guide - The Awesome Mitten
Soggy Bottom Bar – photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.

Saturday

Our first full day started with a delicious breakfast that was ready for us at 8 AM, accompanied by a warm greeting by one of the owners, Diana Phillips. We spent some time chatting with her about Flint, Detroit, and other parts of the Mitten State before heading out.

We had several recommendations to get us started, but we knew that our first stop had to be the Flint Farmers’ Market because it had appeared on almost everyone’s list. When we arrived at 9:30 AM, we were taken by the friendly nature of the vendors and the bustling indoor and outdoor market. There were several vendors for produce, dairy, and other odds and ends. Similarly, there were t-shirt stalls, resale clothing spots, a restaurant, and our favorite, a children’s toy seller called Whimsicality. After wandering around for a while, we bought some caffeine encouragement from Hot Cups and started plotting the rest of our morning.

Flint Farmers' Market was the perfect place to start our Saturday. Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.
Flint Farmers’ Market was the perfect place to start our Saturday. Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.

In our travels to and fro, we had noticed a couple shops that we wanted to check out. The Local Grocer was an adorable grocery store offering natural and mostly local food items. It was fun to wander, but we weren’t ready for lunch just yet. Being avid readers and ridiculous collectors of books, we were very intrigued by Totem Books. A bookstore of the predominately used variety, we were in our version of what a heaven might look like. There were genres upon genres of well-organized and meticulously placed books. We probably could have spent hours looking through all of the fascinating finds, but our wallets could only handle so much torture. While we were visiting, there was a children’s reading group going on complete with dirt cake snacks from the cafe.

Jonathon Arntson enjoying the selection at Totem Books. Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.
Jonathon Arntson enjoying the selection at Totem Books. Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.

Our bed and breakfast host had suggested that we try Hoffman’s Deco Deli for lunch because it is attached to a great antique stop, Carriagetown Antique Center. We decided to really work up an appetite by wandering the variety of finds in the store before settling on a couple beautifully made (and rather delicious) sandwiches. We chose to indulge in The Whiting and The Mott (both an ode to Flint), but I’d have to say that any choice on Hoffman’s menu would have been a good one.

Lunch was this delicious Hoffman's Deco Deli sandwich. Photo courtesy of Jonathon Arntson.
Lunch was this delicious Hoffman’s Deco Deli sandwich. Photo courtesy of Jonathon Arntson.

After that scrumptious lunch, we knew that we needed to rest for a bit and really get ready for one of the experiences we were most excited for: the Flint Cultural Center. I could go on and on and on about the amazing experience we had on the Cultural Center’s campus, but that will have to wait for another time. The Flint Institute of Arts was full of beautiful art and absolutely the right size to enjoy comfortably in a couple hours. We then went across the street to the Sloan Museum, where we enjoyed the current special exhibit about insects and took hilarious selfies with the giant replicas of a grasshopper and praying mantis. The real draw of the Sloan Museum, though, is the vast collection of Flint history concerning its Rust Belt legacy. After we were through with museums, we gave our feet a little rest and enjoyed the Longway Planetarium presentation of earthquakes.

The several museums and features at the Flint Cultural Center. Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.
The several museums and features at the Flint Cultural Center. Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.

After plenty of intellectual stimulation, we were pleasantly surprised to find that Applewood Estate was still open for another hour. The Mott family has a storied history in Flint, and this year, the Ruth Mott Foundation has chosen to open the grounds to the public every weekend during the summer. With a variety of programming, tours of the house, and plenty of spaces to explore, the estate is a beautiful reminder of the city’s history.

View of the expansive Applewood Estate. Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.
View of the expansive Applewood Estate. Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.

Before heading to downtown for some evening entertainment, we drove through a few of Flint’s neighborhoods to get a better grasp on the landscape. I was taken by the winding roads, beautiful architecture, and striking similarities to my home in Detroit.

We always struggle to settle on where to eat dinner, and our Saturday evening in Flint was not any different. To avoid any overwhelming commitments, we decided to try several options for drinks and snacks. 501 Bar Grill and Churchill’s offered markedly different options in food, drinks, and atmosphere, but both were enjoyable in their own right. For a little different option, we also enjoyed Table and Tap. I had a delightful beer cocktail of half Latitude 42’s The Bangin’ Mash stout and half Short’s Brewing Strawberry Shortcake. I definitely could have indulged in a few too many of those if I weren’t already so tired after a full day in Flint.

Sipping on a Bangin' Berries at Table and Tap. Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.
Sipping on a Bangin’ Berries at Table and Tap. Photo courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.

Sunday

After another amazing breakfast from our hosts, it was time to head back to Detroit. We wanted so badly to go kayaking and explore some Genesee County Parks, but the rain wasn’t interested in entertaining our plans. We grabbed some caffeine from the Flint Crepe Company and started the journey back home.

Coffee at the Flint Crepe Company. Photo courtesy of Jonathon Arntson.
Coffee at the Flint Crepe Company. Photo courtesy of Jonathon Arntson.

What are you favorite stops and places to explore in Flint? Let us know in the comments!

Special thanks to our sponsors for making our #MittenTrip to Flint possible: Shorts Brewing and Live Love Michigan.

  • Awesome post about Flint! As a resident, I love seeing people appreciate us, especially now, and as an author, I’m loving that it warranted an entire article! 😀 Things aren’t perfect here, but we’re trying. 🙂