Last month my husband and I took a weekend away and visited Detroit. We picked Detroit because it is close to my in-laws, who were heroes and kept the kids while we had a little break. It wasn’t initially a particularly strategic choice – it was simply an easy drive and a place to explore for a couple of days. However, after spending two days and nights there, we fell in love with the city and will definitely plan return weekends there.
For many – us included until recently – it’s not a place that comes to mind for a weekend destination, but consider adding it to your list. It’s got a major airport and is easy to get into and out of. Plus, while it’s a city that has experienced it’s share of setbacks, it’s in a season of revitalization right now and you can feel that energy, grit and excitement everywhere you go. The city is anchored with stunning architecture reminiscent of its booming days from the early 20th century. That history is now coupled with vibrant murals throughout downtown, extensive growth, a bustling downtown and a diverse population, with no shortage of quickly-moving young professionals. There’s an energy and determination that you can feel throughout the city that is grounded in a pervasive sense of optimism. We have much still to see, eat and drink in Detroit, but we hit a few must-visits spots during our time there. Here are a few things you’ll definitely want to add to your itinerary for your weekend in Detroit.
Go to a Detroit Tigers Game at Comerica Park
Comerica Park is a great MLB park. It’s downtown, intimate yet plenty big, provides great views of the skyline, has delicious food and even has a carousel and kids section. You can’t help but be a Tigers fan when you’re in the park (although I might have felt differently if they’d been playing the Cardinals). They lost pretty badly and aren’t having a great year, but the fans were still there and engaged, and you could feel the gritty determination of the city in the rhythm of the park. We went for a Sunday afternoon game, and it was the perfect way to spend a summer day.
Take a Kayak Tours of the Canals
I had no idea that Detroit had a canal system, but there are quite a few of them that were built to connect homes and businesses to the Detroit River during the city’s boom years. Now, they provide a unique flavor to neighborhoods north of downtown and give a number of residents easy access to the Detroit River.
We did Detroit River Sports‘ sunset kayak tour of the canals. For two hours, we paddled through the canals – with a few stretches on the Detroit River. Amidst the paddling, our guides shared some of the history of the area and of the specific homes that we were passing. It was fascinating, beautiful and a relaxing way to see a different part of the city. Plus, it gave us a glimpse of the area that we knew nothing about and a chance to be on the water. Detroit River Sports did a great job, and they’re even opening a farm to table restaurant soon, which will let you pair a kayak tour and a locally sourced dinner. We’ll definitely be trying that the next time we’re back.
Visit the Historic Corktown Neighborhood
Corktown is Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, and it gets its name from the Irish immigrants that made up the majority of the neighborhood in the 1850s. Most of these immigrants were from County Cork, hence the name, and moved to Detroit in the 1840s at the time of the great potato famine. It’s a beautiful area to stroll through to appreciate the history that it represents, and there are also a few great restaurants to provide you some sustenance during your journey. Unfortunately, Lady of the House was closed, so that will have to wait for our next visit. However, we had a great lunch at Mudgie’s. It’s in the heart of Corktown, is in a beautiful old building and has a charming and cozy patio. It was the perfect spot to take a break amidst our walking tour.
Browse at John K. King Bookstore
Just between downtown and Corktown is the largest bookstore I have ever seen. It’s a five-story warehouse packed completely full of used and rare books. They hand you a map when you walk in so that you don’t get completely lost between their million or so books. There was everything from dollar copies of children’s books to rare and valuable first editions. We spent a couple of hours exploring the space and left with a bag full of books. It’s unlike any bookstore I’ve been to, and it’s a different and delightful way to spend an hour or so on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Allow Plenty of Time to Eat and Drink
Detroit’s food scene should not be underestimated, as restaurants, bars, coffee shops and bakeries throughout the city are all bustling and beckoning for your time. Every place we visited was a great experience – with lots of fresh food, unique flavors and inviting atmospheres.
We got a recommendation from a local to try Sister Pie. It’s a drive from downtown, so we visited on our way out of town. It was a well worth it. They’re busy baking in front of you, and they pride themselves on unique combinations. The peanut butter paprika was my favorite. We were too late to get an egg-on-top gallete, which we’d heard a lot about, but the muffins, cookies and character still made it well worth the trip.
We had dinner at Grey Ghost. With a name alluding to the rum running days on the Detroit River during Prohibition, it’s not surprising that it has great drinks. It’s known for its cocktails, butchery and hospitality, and all three were great. It’s located a short walk from downtown in yet another historic neighborhood. We enjoyed taking in the feel of the area from the patio, and while the entire meal was great, the dessert was one that will go on the “all-time bests” lists.
I love a good coffee shop and especially enjoy the luxury of enjoying a great coffee while getting a feel for a new city. My favorite of Detroit was Dessert Oasis. It had a local feel, both a delicious latte and good drip coffee and, perhaps most importantly, great views of the city. We sat at the counter at the window for a while and enjoyed watching the afternoon pace of the city. A couple of takeaways from this time: there are a lot of young professionals in the city and wireless ear buds are a requirement.
When we planned our trip to Detroit, we thought it’d be an easy spot to enjoy a couple of days without the kids. I had no idea that it was such a unique and inviting destination. Despite what you might imagine, Detroit is a bustling and thriving metropolis full of history, great architecture, local food and a pervasive energy. If you haven’t been recently, put it on a your list for a great summer weekend getaway.