Where to go in Detroit and Chicago?
January 1, 2013 3:14 PM   Subscribe

Where to go during a trip to Detroit and Chicago?

My boyfriend and I are going to be in Detroit on January 4th and in Chicago on the 5-7th. If you have a limited amount of time and wanted to better understand the character of the two cities, what types of activities would you recommend?
posted by _cave to Travel & Transportation around Porter, IN (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak from experience, but the DIA and Belle Isle are on my to-do list in Detroit. The Institute of Arts has one of Diego Rivera's murals, "Detroit Industry"; having seen others in Mexico City, I expect it's quite impressive.
posted by ktkt at 4:02 PM on January 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Get an Italian beef sandwich at Max's Italian Beef or Portillo's.
posted by ignignokt at 4:09 PM on January 1, 2013

Chicago Sketchfest is happening while you are here and this is a theatre and comedy town. (My group is performing on the 5th.)
posted by Uncle at 4:29 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you don't mind spending a little time in the cold, go walk around Millenium Park and see the Cloud Gate, spend some time watching the ice skaters, and have lunch at the Park Grill. Then head over and spend the afternoon walking around the Art Institute Museum.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:30 PM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

In Detroit, I second the DIA -- the Diego Rivera murals are a masterpiece.
posted by LonnieK at 5:02 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

The DIA is, indeed, great. Drive down Woodward to the river, maybe head back up Grand River to just drive around and see the city.

If you like cocktails, head up to Corktown to Sugar House, being sure to take a gander at the old train station while you're there. It is, and always will be, gorgeous.
posted by ldthomps at 6:06 PM on January 1, 2013

More clues about what interest you would help here. If you're a big museum person and are interested in American Industrial history go check out the Henry Ford in Dearborn. The DIA is a great museum and mid-town Detroit is a pretty interesting area these days. Like beer? Check out Motor City Brewing.
posted by leslies at 7:04 PM on January 1, 2013

For a truly uniquely Detroit experience, I can't recommend the Motown Museum enough. It's about half an hour from the airport, right by midtown Detroit. The tour lasts about 90 minutes, and all of the tour guides are really fun without being annoying (and I have a remarkably low tolerance for "fun" tour guides).
posted by Etrigan at 7:20 PM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: A little more on our interests: We both like historic districts, interesting architecture, museums, beer, and theater, so these suggestions are pretty good for our interests. I'm also kind of interested in visiting Chinatown in Chicago, so I don't know if anyone has any suggestions about good places to go there (DC's Chinatown is pretty lame). Recommendations for particularly scenic/ photogenic places would also be great for both cities.
posted by _cave at 7:25 PM on January 1, 2013

The Chicago Architecture Foundation does great tours. I'd suggest a walking tour.

Check out the Chicago Reader and Time Out Chicago for cultural events, including theater.

The Hopleaf bar and restaurant is a great destination for beer fans. The neighborhood of Andersonville, up and down that strip of Clark St., is interesting and walkable. Around the corner is the funeral home that houses the Neo-Futurarium, where you can catch Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:00 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

If in downtown Detroit, make sure to visit the Guardian Building. It's one of the most impressive Art Deco/Mayan revival building in existing, and the lobby is incredible.

And if you have time, Preservation Wayne does one heck of a great architectural walking tour.
posted by kaszeta at 8:01 PM on January 1, 2013

Seconding the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Take one of their Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio Tours. You can attend a service at Unity Church if you're there on a Sunday; cost of the collection plate is cheaper than the tour price.

Also, check out the Chicago Cultural Center - changing exhibits, contemporary art, lots of programs. A visitors center is in the building, so you can get some pointers there (tons of info).

Oak Park is a great neighborhood to walk around and see Arts & Crafts architecture. There are tours but also you can self-guide. That's where the Wright Studio is located, too.

You like beer and you're going to Chicago; you should arrange for a MeFi meetup with Chicago MeFites. They also like beer (or at least hanging out where beer is served) and they are a fine bunch of people, friendly and interesting!
posted by Miko at 9:05 PM on January 1, 2013

In Detroit, (if you're a meat-eater), definitely go to Slow's and try...well, anything. It's so delicious. The Henry Ford is a lot of fun (injection-mold your own Abe Lincoln head, anyone?) ...you might also appreciate the Cranbrook Museum of Art, in addition to DIA. You could also go to Ann Arbor and check out U Michigan's gallery, wander around downtown, maybe catch a show or a reading. There's a great old diner there, the Fleetwood, if you're into characters and dives. The Dawn Treader is a fantastic bookstore.
posted by Bluestocking_Puppet at 7:37 AM on January 2, 2013

Yay Chicago!

Regarding the Chicago Architecture Foundation tours: in case you are skeptical, don't be. I am the kind of traveler who generally doesn't like tours and prefers to independently wander. But the CAF architecture tours are quality, really giving you a sense of how/why the city looks that way as well as tidbits about interesting buildings. The boat tour (which is not offered at this time of the year; otherwise I would recommend it to you) is usually considered a must-do experience even for those who live in Chicago, and the walking tours are excellent as well.

- Hopleaf seconded. Mussels/fries + beer = nom deliciousness.
- Map Room is a pub/tavern in Bucktown that has an amazing selection of beer. Fun geography/map theme too.
- Goose Island was the best-known local microbrewery, but has since been bought by Anheuser-Busch; but their two brewpubs in Wrigleyville and the Clybourn area are sort of independent still. I've been to the Clybourn pub and they serve beers there that are brewed on-premises, not available commercially. The flight of beer is pretty good.
- Revolution Brewing out in Logan Square is another local brewery that I like. Food is prety standard gastropub fare (burgers, etc.) but I believe the beer served is also brewed on the premises.

Chinatown: err, I'm Chinese-American and from the Los Angeles area so I tend to find Chinatown a little run-down and small. But IIRC the DC Chinatown is even smaller so maybe you'll find Chinatown interesting. In any case there are two parts, broadly speaking, to Chinatown. The mall north of Archer was built more recently, while the Wentworth Ave corridor south to the Stevenson Expressway has a much more traditional, and shabbier, feel.

Random suggestion:
I have pretty similar interests to you (like beer, architecture, historic districts). Let me make a somewhat left-field suggestion. If you have a full day to spare, I would recommend walking the length of Clark St in Chicago, weather permitting (with a couple of detours as indicated below). This would give you a very good flavor of what Chicago is like and a good cross-section of the city. It's also safe throughout; I'm not as familiar with the northern parts near Rogers Park, but if there are two of you together I wouldn't worry.

If you walk the length from south to north, you'd be able to hit up the following neighborhoods:
- Chinatown (Clark starts at Cermak Rd, in the heart of Chinatown)
- the South Loop, which is rapidly becoming (or has become) an upscale residential area. The Clark/Roosevelt bridge has a nice view of the Roosevelt L and the skyline if you like photography.
- the Loop, so you can get the "downtown skyscraper" feel for Chicago.
- River North/Gold Coast: the ritzy commercial area. You may want to cut over to Michigan Ave here as that is the Fifth Avenue/high-end shopping district of the city.
- Lincoln Park, one of the city's lakefront jewels as well as lots of historic residential architecture. The section of Fullerton Pkwy from Clark to about Orchard is one of the most beautiful sections of Chicago three- and four-flats in the city, in my opinion.
- Wrigleyville. Not my cup of tea at night, but Wrigley Field is a historic baseball field if you're into that (architecture?). Between Diversey and Addison you can use Broadway instead which has a lot of cute storefront shops and is very pedestrian-friendly
- Andersonville, as mentioned above, which is the home of Hopleaf, the Swedish-American museum and lots of cute independent stores.

I like the Clark St walk because it's generally very pedestrian-friendly throughout, with the exception of the section in the South Loop roughly between 18th and Roosevelt (there are sidewalks, but it's just a little windswept and barren), is very safe, and gives you a really nice cross-section of Chicago and what the downtown and different neighborhoods are like.
posted by andrewesque at 7:59 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding andrewesque - there isn't much to see in Chicago's Chinatown, but if you do get down there, you can have any number of excellent meals. You can do endless research if you want to, but my quick recommendation would be to go to Lao Sze Chuan and order Tony's 3-Chili Chicken, Lamb with Cumin Powder, and whatever else looks interesting to you. There's another Lao Sze Chuan in Uptown (near Andersonville), and I think both locations deliver.

That said, you can find excellent restaurants in nearly every neighborhood mentioned. Here's a map of Great Neighborhood Restaurants as compiled by Chicagoland restaurant forum LTHForum.com, which I'd recommend poking around.
posted by ndg at 9:32 AM on January 2, 2013

Response by poster: Right now we're planning on going to Hopleaf in Chicago on Saturday the 5th at around 8-ish, since a bunch of people recommended it. I'll post this on IRL, but if you're in the area and want some beer please join us.
posted by _cave at 11:33 AM on January 2, 2013

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