There’s so much more to Detroit than what’s in the foreboding Chrysler commercials. It’s taken a beating in the press with the hard times that have befallen the auto industry, but still offers a vibrant culture: diverse restaurants, museums, architecture and lots of live entertainment. The fee to cross the border to Windsor, Ontario, is $4 cash.
Learn the stories behind America’s favorite songs at the Motown Museum — you might even get to sing in the famous Studio A. See America’s treasures like the bus where Rosa Parks made her historic ride, along with gleaming historic cars, at the Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village. Count on at least a full day to take it all in.
While Greenfield Village has several dining options, the most unique is Eagle Tavern, an actual 1831 Michigan tavern serving period local (60% local produce and meats) fare. You’ll find delicious offerings like juicy quails, whitefish, hard apple cider and Michigan corn liquor.
Nearby Dearborn has the largest Arab population outside the Middle East; count on it for authentic Middle Eastern food. Al-Ameer serves homemade specialties and fresh raw juices.
In the museum district, listen to rare music recordings on the gorgeous third floor of the Detroit Public Library. Learn about Detroit’s history and pop culture at the Detroit Historical Museum. The Detroit Institute of Arts houses a wide range of art in a setting just as glorious as its collection. Don’t miss the world-famous Diego Rivera mural. The museum hosts special brunches.
Windsor was part of the Underground Railroad and a bootlegging center during Prohibition. Learn about the heritage of Canadian Club whisky and taste its full line at the stunning Brand Center. Windsor also boasts the award-winning, family-owned Blue Danube, serving homemade Hungarian/Continental European cuisine at modest prices. Several veggies come from the owner’s garden. Hungarian wines are expertly matched to your meal by the glass, half-bottle or bottle. Legal drinking age in Canada is 18.
Sander’s is a 134-year-old dessert parlor that served the first ice cream soda. With several locations — including the tony suburb of Birmingham — their caramel tea cake is “must eat.” Mackinac Island fudge ice cream (rich vanilla fudge with chocolate chips) topped with caramel pear sauce redefines decadence. Scoops are HUGE.
Cadieux Café was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. A Belgian restaurant/pub, it has live music and featherbowling. Pegasus is a family-owned restaurant in Greektown, connected to the Greektown Casino, that’s open until 4 a.m. on weekends. Their spanakopita is creamy, not overcooked, and full of fresh nutmeg. Their saganaki (flaming cheese) has a choice of kasseri or the more pungent halloumi cheese. The Whitney is an elegant restaurant housed in a historic downtown mansion. Try their Detroit Opera Cake.
For a country feeling downtown, stay at the Inn on Ferry Street, a collection of six historic homes with different styles. Amenities include free shuttle service, breakfast and deep bathtubs.
Another great place to stay is the Best Western in Sterling. It has an ADA-accessible indoor heated water park with fun amenities for kids and adults. Its on-site restaurant features “the best Michigan has to offer” with specials like Game Night.