the most detroity thing to do in detroit
July 23, 2008 9:31 PM   Subscribe

What is your favorite thing to do in Detroit (the Detroit-iest thing you can think of!)?

I'm going to be in Ann Arbor for a wedding with an excursion to the Motown Museum. I'll be limited on time in Detroit proper, but I was just wondering if there is any other fantastic thing I just HAVE to see while I'm there? I know Detroit is an insiders town, so spill the beans! I will not have a car of my own, but will be with others who have cars.

desired possible characteristics (does not have to fit all criteria):
greasy eatery
related to motown
interesting churches
where someone famous lived or ate or something
good beer
near the motown museum

if you like, i would also be pleased to hear your more general suggestions for ann arbor, as i'll have more time to explore there, following the above criteria or just any old thing.
posted by dahliachewswell to Travel & Transportation around Detroit, MI (25 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
If you can be in Detroit at night, see a rock show at a local establishment. There are lots of options every night. Shoot me an e- or me-mail with the weekend you'll be there and I might be able to come up with a specific recommendation.
posted by PhatLobley at 10:02 PM on July 23, 2008

I will not have a car of my own

There are many places in Detroit where you could take care of that.
posted by Autarky at 10:09 PM on July 23, 2008

red wings game?
coney island dogs?
posted by twiggy at 10:12 PM on July 23, 2008

Tigers game, eat a Coney dog at Lafayette Coney Island, drive around Corktown to see old Tiger Stadium get demolished (it's coming down right now!) and then slide down 15th St to the old Train Stadium. Eat in Mexicantown. Avoid the casinos.

Ann Arbor--your greasy eats emporia are The Fleetwood for 24 hr hangover food (avoid 5 to 7 pm before the night shelter opens--it's just too thick with people who are trying to nurse one cuppa coffee for as long as possible while exhibiting a panaroma of anti-social tendencies) or Crazy Jim's Blimpy Burger. (Caveat--I've lived in A2 for 22 years and never have been to Crazy Jim's).

Music/bars are the Blind Pig/8-Ball in Ann Arbor & the Elbow Room in Ypsi. Beers at the Corner Brewery in Ypsi and Arbor Brewing Company or Grizzly Peak in A2.

Cheap, funky but good Middle Eastern at Jerusalem Garden (A2).

The Earle on Liberty has an outstanding happy hour. They are one of the more upscale Ann Arbor restaurants, and they have a small plate/appetizer menu & with their wine list & martini specials, it's well worth it.

Dreamland Theater is a Uniquely Ypsilanti Experience (sort of marionette improv standup?)

Feel free to MeMail if you need more details.
posted by beelzbubba at 10:31 PM on July 23, 2008

Oh, and why should you bother with Ypsilanti in the first place? You mention unique. Ypsi has the most phallic water tower in the entire United States, just off of Eastern Michigan University's campus.
posted by beelzbubba at 10:38 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

From personal experience, I can definitely second beelzbubba's Detroit recommendations of Lafayette Coney Island.
As for good ol ace deuce, The Fleetwood and Jerusalem Garden are definitely some of my faves here. If you go to The Fleetwood, get the Hippie Hash. The hype is accurately delicious. Also, on State St there is an outdoors store called Bivouac spanning four storefronts. A TON of climbing, backpacking, running, camping, and travel gear there. Full Disclosure: I work there but have been in love with the store long before I started.
There's also a cool little alley on Liberty less than a block from state thats been completely painted over with murals and street art and all sorts of cool stuff. Worth checking out.
posted by andythebean at 1:14 AM on July 24, 2008

the mural in AA mentioned by Andythebean has been defaced, painted over part of it, sort of depressing (just happened a couple of weeks ago).

All of the suggestions for Ann Arbor/Ypsi are right on the mark... best place for beer is Arbor Brewing (a plus is that the owners purchase as much as they can locally and support a ton of great causes) If you are looking for outdoor stuff, and have time, you might consider a canoe trip down the Huron from Hudson Mills park to Ann Arbor. Fly fishing on the Huron is also great in the Ann Arbor area (contact me for more info on this if you're interested).

The Natural History Museum in AA is a neat place to spend the afternoon.

And, what, you guys forgot to mention Zingerman's Deli in A2??? What the Heck!
posted by HuronBob at 2:08 AM on July 24, 2008

Best answer: I used to live in Ypsi. For awhile I worked in Detroit and then went to grad school at UofM. Dreamland Theatre in Ypsi is great (and definitely unique), Sidetrack is a fun pub/restaurant in Ypsi. The Corner Brewery in Ypsi is also really cool (it's a former elementary school!).

As for Detroit - for beer, I'd recommend the Motor City Brewery. You could also try Baker's Keyboard Lounge - it's the oldest jazz establishment in the US and has great soul food. Hamtramck has some interesting eats and hangouts, too, including Under the Eagle for great Polish food. You could also head to Dearborn for Middle Eastern food. Dearborn has the largest Iraqi population outside of Irag and a thriving pan-Middle Eastern community overall. Middle Eastern and Polish food really represent Detroit to me.

If your companions know the city a little bit, I'd recommend the most Detroity things to see might be the Heidelberg Project, for a look at "emerging from the ashes" Detroit and the Edsel Ford House for a look at Detroit at the height of its power. You could continue to explore architecture by checking out the Mies Van de Rohe designed Lafayette Park in downtown Detroit.

Detroiters really like sports, so depending on what time of year this wedding is (right now?), you could go to a sporting event. I only went to Pistons game, as I'm a basketball fan.

Have a good time! I really miss that weird place!
posted by Slothrop at 4:06 AM on July 24, 2008

One more thing... The Henry Ford (this used to be called the Henry Ford Museum, but they made the name stupid for some reason) and Greenfield Village , these are next to each other in Dearborn... wonderful places if you're into history.
posted by HuronBob at 5:42 AM on July 24, 2008

If baseball is in season when you're there (they only take like one week off between the end of the Series and the start of next season, right?), catch a Tigers game. Comerica Park somehow manages to showcase the portion of the Detroit skyline that isn't decrepit and run-down. That and many, many statues of past Tigers greats adorning the outfield wall.

Seconding Mexicantown. Either the Mexicantown or Xochimilco restaurants, those two seem to be the best (I've eaten at one of them, but can't remember which it was - anyway the food was damn good).

Head to the Joe and check it out. Detroit is Hockeytown, right?
posted by caution live frogs at 5:47 AM on July 24, 2008

The Henry Ford (not at all fond of the new website) includes both the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. It's a cool place. You can catch a tour of the new Ford Rouge Plant from there as well, which would certainly be a very MotorCity thing to do.

Have lunch or dinner at Cheli's in Dearborn or Detroit (down by the Joe).

Take in a game (Tigers, Pistons, Wings) if the season is right. Skip the Lions -- it's not a good experience unless you're a fan of the other team (a friend has season tickets through work, and the only time they don't let someone else use the tickets is when the Packers or Vikings are in town).

I haven't been to Greektown since the casinos opened, but it might be cool to go there.
posted by jlkr at 6:39 AM on July 24, 2008

If you're into casinos, Greektown is pretty cool. Kind of neat just to walk around a bit.
The Detroit Beer Company isn't far from there.

You can have dinner or a drink at the top of the Renaissance Center .

Seconding Mexicantown as well . . there is a street comprised of almost entirely restaurants and I don't think any of them are bad.

If you're there on a weekend, there will almost definitely be something happening at Hart Plaza . It's right downtown, on the river and in the shadow of the Renaissance Center.

There are lots of churches, but I actually went to service at this one once just to see the inside. It was worth it.

The Heidelburg Project and Eastern Market and Belle Isle are my favorite things to do on that side of I-375 .

On other side, I spent most of my time in the Cass Corridor. Some good bars: The Bronx, Honest John's, Old Miami . Watch your car and your body in those neighborhoods at night though. I never had many problems but Detroit has a reputation that is partially deserved.

I'm partial, but taking a drive through Woodbridge is pretty cool. From Ann Arbor get off I-94 at the Trumbull Exit . . .drive towards downtown until you see the remains of Tiger Stadium.

have fun.
posted by nameless.k at 7:18 AM on July 24, 2008

Best answer: In Ann Arbor, please be sure to visit Zingerman's.

For Detroit, I have no idea how you could see the city without a car, and I'm a native. My list of very Detroity things to do would include the Lebanese businesses on Warren Rd. (some in Dearborn, I recommend Shatilla's for ice cream and pasteries, Golden and New Jasmin for bakery stuff and Al Amir's for food, but you can't go far wrong anywhere on that strip), the Detroit Historical Museum, Sindbad's off Jefferson for fish, Polish Cafe in Hamtramck for Polish food, Jacoby's downtown for German food and a trip to Eastern Market if you are there on a Sat. morning.

I'm afraid, though, that with limited time, you won't really be able to grok the city. If you've only got a couple hours, I'd recommend the strip of Lebanese businesses on Warren Rd. There is a lot of stuff there you won't see other places, and you can eat a lot of wonderful stuff for not very much money. You'll be less stressed than if you try to do Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village (wonderful place) in 2 hours.
posted by QIbHom at 7:35 AM on July 24, 2008

Thirding getting a couple dogs at Lafayette Cony Island. Try to go when it's busy if you can, lunch or around when the bars are getting out. Seeing those little Greek men work their magic is a thing of beauty.
posted by samph at 8:27 AM on July 24, 2008

Best answer: Cliff Bell's, a historic former speakeasy, had some really impressive decor, good beer and excellent musical acts the last time I was in town.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:34 AM on July 24, 2008

beezlbubba, the Ypsi water tower is actually the most phallic building in the WORLD!
posted by fusinski at 9:54 AM on July 24, 2008

Second Cliff Bell's. Go to the website and see what's happening on any given nights - as a bonus, on Sundays they have late night entertainment ranging from French banjo players to vaudeville burlesque shows.

If you like dive bars where the locals go, there's the Bronx on 2nd and Forest near the university. Jacoby's serves excellent beer, and excellent German food in a cool environment and is near downtown. Cass Cafe - artsy, good food.

A tip: if you park in the Greektown casino parking lot, validate your ticket inside at one of the machines, and you have free secure parking near downtown.

Detroit is safer than most people think, so don't be afraid to get out and walk around in the neighborhoods to some extent.

Hamtramck is also a must-see. It is a mixed bag of ethnic enclaves and has the highest ratio of bars to residents in America, I think. There are lots of neat places there to see bands - the Painted Lady, Small's and others that have escaped my memory. Also, good cheap and abundant Indian and Bengladeshi food.

I'm sure I'll think of more.

Qualifications: current resident of the abovementioned Woodbridge neighborhood.
posted by palindromic at 11:04 AM on July 24, 2008

Oh, and pick up a Metro Times if you want to know what's happening around town.

Not Real Detroit. No one reads that. :)
posted by palindromic at 11:04 AM on July 24, 2008

Best answer: I missed the part where you asked for artsy and near the Motown museum. Duh. The DIA, with its huge Diego Rivera courtyard is on Woodward--and a must-see, a short hop from the Motown museum--from there it's a short spin down Woodward to the Detroit Artists Market, the MoCAD, and C-Pop gallery. These are all in about a mile stretch of Woodward. Set in that same stretch is the Magic Cafe/Magic Stick/Majestic Theater complex, with music, good eats, a pool room--even bowling I think. That stretch of the Cultural Center is just north of the Detroit Tigers new ballpark, the Fox Theater, the Elwood, Traffic Jam & Snug (for killer desserts).
posted by beelzbubba at 3:54 PM on July 24, 2008

beezlbubba, the Ypsi water tower is actually the most phallic building in the WORLD!
posted by fusinski at 9:54 AM on July 24 [+] [!]

I didn't want to overstate my case.
posted by beelzbubba at 3:56 PM on July 24, 2008

Any kind of music. Also Cadieux Cafe for belgian beer, mussels and feather bowling. Hockey if it will be winter when you are there.
posted by kenzi23 at 5:49 PM on July 24, 2008

Best answer: Pewabic Pottery - Arts and Crafts pottery founded in 1903, still in operation.

Mariners' Church of Detroit, referenced in Gordon Lightfoot's song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"

Check out the architecture of downtown - some of the buildings are truly stunning.

Someone already mentioned it, but The Heidelberg Project is definitely worth a visit.

Make sure to drink some Vernors pop. Try a Boston cooler, which you can find at a Coney Island restaurant among other places.

If you like your pop super sweet, try one of the many flavors of Faygo. As a kid, red pop was a special treat.

If you're a shopper, or are looking for a souvenir of Detroit, definitely visit one of Pure Detroit's downtown locations. Since they're located in both the Fisher Building and the Guardian Building, you'll also have a chance to check out an amazing example of Art Deco architecture.

The Detroit Institute of Arts - the DIA - is perhaps most famous as the home of Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry" series of murals, but what you may not know is that the DIA is home to "one of the largest, most significant art collections in the United States".

If you like your art a little edgier, there's MOCAD, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

downtown Detroit links
Detroit neighborhoods
posted by splendid animal at 10:42 PM on July 24, 2008

lafayette coney island for sure. seconding check metro times. all the a2 recommendations above are good too. zingermans has amazing bread.

man i miss michigan.
posted by zennoshinjou at 6:04 AM on July 25, 2008

Best answer: I almost forgot my standard suggestion of my favorite thing in Ann Arbor:

Maya Lin's Wave Field

(It's #10 on this map).
posted by splendid animal at 9:24 AM on July 25, 2008

Response by poster: THANK YOU so much! these are some amazing suggestions, i have enough for a whole 'nother trip.

i'll post some feedback post-trip!
posted by dahliachewswell at 4:46 PM on July 25, 2008

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