“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” This message from John Lennon never ceases to remind me how and when to let go. Luckily, Detroit is a city that brings that line to mind, as well. As I went about my way on my #MittenTrip, I was reminded that, even though I could have spent weeks planning the perfect weekend in Detroit, the city is what you make of it and sometimes spontaneity is more important than making ‘perfection’ a reality.
I was so excited to hit the road for Detroit that I decided to take a half-day from work, expecting that I’d be able to get in off of the four-hour drive from Traverse City with time to spare before visiting my first few stops. My car had different plans, though, as cars are sometimes wont to do after driving for awhile in the summer heat. I took a four-hour detour in Flint, got my Jeep towed to the nearest facility where it could get looked at the next day, and was joined by fellow #TeamAwesome members Jonathon and Joanna for a quick adventure in Flint before continuing on our way.
We swung by Tenacity Brewing for a much-needed beer and were excited to find their Pineapple Saison to be the perfect pick-me-up after what could have been a rotten day. From there, we ventured straight down I-75 to Batch Brewing Company, a long-awaited location that is easily making the best beer in Detroit. I tried the ‘Dr. Red Head,’ a delicious Irish ale, at the behest of the bartender who told me that proceeds from that beer’s purchase were this month’s benefactor for the Cabrini Clinic.
Realizing that I hadn’t eaten since leaving Traverse City, we decided to forgo the tantalizing food menu at Batch in favor of a stop at Green Dot Stables for small plates and world-famous Mint Juleps. The cocktails here are very reasonably priced and each item on the food menu comes in four-bite portions so you can try everything you want. After my first tasty Mint Julep, I switched over to a Monkey King Ale from New Holland to accompany my amazing Korean slider — peanut butter and kimchi is just too good to pass up! At long last, we beelined back to Hostel Detroit in the hopes that tomorrow would be a better day.
I woke from a fitful night’s sleep to the sound of rain on the roof — alas, my bike tour of Belle Isle with Detroit Bikes was not meant to be. My token local, Joanna, suggested Trinosophes for the perfect rainy day breakfast and my duck breast banh mi was a most certain pick-me-up. If you’re in the mood for something a little more traditional at breakfast-time, however, swing by The Hudson Cafe and catch a show at Trinsophes instead.
With my hopes to hop on a bike dashed, I had Joanna drop me off at the Michigan Science Center instead (read my full write up on it here). What a PERFECT rainy day activity for kids young and old! The museum boasts five theaters, 250 hands-on exhibits, three learning labs, and a host of incredible traveling exhibitions. I found myself wishing I had a few children to discover the museum with, but quickly found my goofy side by playing with the magic mirrors and robot lab. I was glad to be wearing my High Five Threads shirt honoring the Detroit Tigers, despite the fact that the game was rained out. In the end, I was glad it had decided to rain because otherwise I wouldn’t have had the time to explore the museum!
Just across the street from Mi-Sci is the Detroit Institute of Arts, a must-see for any patron of the arts. While my primary objective was to peruse Rivera and Kahlo in Detroit, I was excited to spend time in the Rivera Court examining Diego’s world-famous Detroit Industry murals. These pieces are a mainstay at the DIA for good reason – their larger-than-life portrayal of the Detroit automotive industry in the 1930s makes them a trifecta of art, history, and engineering appreciation. Always impressive (to me, anyway) are the African American and Contemporary Art exhibits as well. It’s easy for me to get lost in art museums, but those who enjoy history more should make the trek to the Detroit Historical Museum which is also in walking distance in the Museum District.
My museum triple threat was to come later when visiting the Motown Museum, but we arrived too late to join the last tour, which begins at 5pm. Instead, we opted for a latte from Anthology Coffee. Like most things in Detroit, Anthology is hidden away without a lot marking its location – once inside, you’ll know why you were searching in the first place. This spot is a dream for coffee lovers and coffee shop lovers alike – the quiet, low-key workshop area is perfect for getting your next paper done or article written. Don’t expect to get much more than coffee here, but know that your coffee is locally-roasted, fairly-traded, and hand-selected to be the best of the best. Downing my espresso quickly, I found the tasty pick-me-up I needed to keep exploring in the rain all the while setting to work uploading photos to Google Drive from my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with my Verizon Jetpack Mi-Fi (thanks Verizon).
As every woman knows, a rainy day is oftentimes best spent shopping. Jumping in the car again (and realizing just how lost and stuck I would have been without my local tour guide), we headed straight for the Peacock Room, a must-shop for vintage lovers and accessory lovers alike. Proprietress Rachel Lutz is making quite a name for herself in the Detroit retail industry and her shop inside the Park Shelton is packed to the brim with the most stylish lines of vintage-inspired clothing that this era has to offer. Knowing my pocketbook wouldn’t be too full after paying the auto shop for my Jeep, I walked away with the most adorable necklace instead of one (or fifty) gorgeous, albeit pricey dresses. We swung by Frida, The Peacock Room’s more modern sister shop just around the corner, to peruse one of the best collections of Detroit paraphernalia around, as well as an incredible selection of sweaters, tops, and socks. Lutz’s larger-than-life personality shines through in each piece she hand-selects for both shops and her taste is inspired and exciting. I’ll be stopping by again as soon as my pocketbook recovers.
Inasmuch as we once again realized we hadn’t eaten since early in the day, we dropped by Northern Lights Lounge, one of Detroit’s most diverse and comfortable bars. A quick Short’s Brewing Soft Parade made my auto shop bill even easier to swallow – the beer is deceivingly tasty and sometimes too tempting to resist. I probably could have stayed at the Lounge all night to discover some up-and-coming live band – the bar boasts the widest selection of entertainment, as well as the best karaoke, in the city. If lounges aren’t your thing, however, I highly recommend dinner at Republic, where the menu is as diverse as Northern Lights’ entertainment line-up.
The pièce de résistance of the weekend came in the form of communing with local youth. My trusty tour guide knew that my spirits needed to be lifted, but a check-in with Know Allegiance Nation is not just for those whose cars have broken down. One can find solace in the real Detroit through the monthly Illuminate Open Mic at Red Door Gallery in Detroit’s North End neighborhood. Here, you’ll be able to connect with local high school students who are learning to speak their own truths through music, breakdancing, and ‘spitting’ spoken word poetry. Over the course of a night that could have been spent exploring one of Detroit’s many local bar scenes or neighborhood dives, I was profoundly touched and emotionally charged by these students who know that now is their time. I’d highly recommend connecting with cultural events such as these to truly get to know how the city is becoming ‘America’s Comeback City.’
If you are indeed looking solely for dinner and drinks, however, the bars of Detroit do not disappoint. From Whiskey In The Jar in Hamtramck (Thrillist’s recently-acclaimed ‘Best Bad Decision Bar in Detroit‘) to Two James Spirits in Corktown, there’s a watering hole for everyone within the city limits.
I woke up in a beautiful newly-appointed room at the Corktown Hotel. While there are plenty of lodging options in Detroit, the Corktown Hotel is a reasonably-priced, comfortable option with both old and renovated rooms. Having spent the night before in the close quarters of Hostel Detroit, the hotel was a welcome respite – a good night’s sleep and sunny sky greeting turned my mood right around.
Although Uber is readily available in the city and biking the city has become easier than ever, I continued to opt for my trusty sidekick and tour guide all weekend long. She suggested Avalon International Breads for a quick breakfast of baked goods and iced coffee, which we enjoyed at tables just outside the co-op bakery’s front door. Avalon is a well-known local and organic enterprise and you can tell that each item is made with enough love to satisfy even the toughest of customers. Try the ham and cheese mini quiche and chocolate croissants if you don’t believe me. If you’re looking for a bigger Sunday brunch, however, swing by Honest ? John’s for a hangover pick-me-up.
No trip to Detroit is complete without a stop at Eastern Market, and the summertime Sunday Street Market gives visitors a glimpse into the artisan enterprises that so many Detroiters find passion and solace in. We perused stalls of art, t-shirts, vintage clothing, and antiques, walking away with a few items and more than a few yearnings for locally-made body lotion, tote bags, and fair trade trinkets.
Nearly just across the street is one of the entrances to the Dequindre Cut, where natural beauty meets the urban landscape to create a multidimensional paradise. We added our own piece of art (by way of Great Lakes Proud sticker) to one amazing mural. If only I wasn’t in a rush to pick up my car, I would have run to pick up a bike to spend the rest of the day exploring the Detroit Riverfront along the amazing urban greenway that begins at this point.
We caught lunch at Johnny Noodle King, where the traditional Japanese noodle bowl meets the Detroit creative spirit in menu items such as Southwest #2, Bacon Fried Rice and Kimchi Bloody Mary. For those in search of a less-ethnic lunch option, Mercury Burger in Corktown is a place where burger dreams are made of.
With plans cut short, I was bummed to be missing the monthly installment of Detroit SOUP, a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit in the city where microloans are offered to up-and-coming projects during a meal shared with community members from hither to yon. One of my favorite Detroit events, it’s easy to find and participate in a SOUP throughout the city – nine neighborhoods now contribute their own monthly SOUPs to support neighborhood-specified projects. It’s a beautiful way to end a trip to Detroit before hopping on the highway north.
When in Detroit, I highly recommend making determinations about your must-see stops prior than jumping in; otherwise, you might find yourself at a loss when making each decision for breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, and activities. Even though it didn’t go exactly as I had hoped, my #MittenTrip proved intriguing, enjoyable, and exactly what I needed. Since Detroit is a city of so many charms, it’s hard to squeeze everything in to one weekend — it’s my recommendation that you check back for another installment soon.
What’s one place we didn’t mention in this trip that is a must-see in Detroit? How could we plan a better trip to the city?