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The Box takes next week off, so regard this column as your March Madness early-bird primer. Clip and save.

The 2009 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament goes off on March 17 with games scheduled in eight sites scattered around the country. The winners meet in one of four regional tournaments to be held in Boston, Memphis, Indianapolis, and Glob City. But — and here’s the exciting part — the Final Four will be played in…wait for it…DETROIT, MICHIGAN, playground of America’s rich, and home to our automobile industry!

We’d better start planning your trip now in order to get the best prices. You’ll want to land in Detroit on Friday, April 3, for the early parties, then catch the first round of games on Saturday, be there for the Monday-night championship contest, and fly home Tuesday.

We’ll chart your trip from Lindbergh Field. I can get you a nonstop round-trip ticket on Northwest Airlines for $648.70, and I’ll throw in use of a restroom while in flight.

Too pricey? Okay, I can do lowball. Climb aboard American Airlines flight #692. You’ll leave San Diego before the sun comes up, change planes in Chicago, arrive Detroit at 4:55 p.m. local time. Same coming back. Only $336.39. Whaddya say?

Now, for a hotel. Check in April 3, check out Tuesday morning, April 7. Take a look at MotorCity Casino Hotel in, they claim, downtown Detroit. Enjoy the amenities of Vegas-style casino action and fine dining at the all-you-can-eat Assembly Line buffet. Lucky for you, they have a special going on in April: you can get all the above plus access to the D.Tour Spa for $499 a night. You’re going to love it. And MotorCity Casino Hotel is less than a two-mile walk from just a little bit beyond the beltway into downtown Detroit and Ford Field. Hint: it’s especially enjoyable as a night walk, strolling back roads, breathing in the bracing north country air, on the lookout for the first flowers of spring.

Too much money? All right, here’s a deal: the lovable Devonshire Motel and Restaurant at 39 bucks a night. And I’ll throw in a foreign country. Yes, the Devonshire is located across the river in the Republic of Canada, Windsor free state. They’ve got TV with remote control, off-street parking, running cold and hot water 24 hours a day, and free ice. On the map, it looks to be a pleasant six-mile jog and one border crossing to Ford Field. Give or take a mile, two at the most.

Don’t like foreigners?

No problem. How about the Ramada Inn Downriver on Eureka Road in Taylor, Michigan? It’s back in the U.S. of A, has free internet, spa tub, swimming pool, and goes for $55 a night. Even better, it’s a pleasant 13-mile hike to Ford Field and NCAA basketball action. Drink and eat all you want, you’ll burn it off on the commute.

Speaking of eating and drinking, let me tell you about a City Best Detroit winner, holding down their number-one ranking in the coveted family-friendly restaurant category. I give you, ladies and gentlemen, the Rainforest Café.

Rainforest tells us to “Imagine enjoying a meal, when, all of a sudden baboons start beating their chests and elephants roar…. The entertainment section of the meal also includes live parrots…” Blogger ikm92263 comments, “The volcano is a desert I highly recommend.”

The Rainforest Café is Detroit’s number-one family-friendly restaurant for a reason, and you can find it 30 miles and one microclimate north of Detroit, in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Not bringing the family with you? No problem. Stop by the Dexter Bar, home of the long pour. Sit back and enjoy happy hour and see what’s on the menu. Relax, you’re an easy nine-mile hitchhike from Ford Field.

But what if you don’t like their special? No worries. Go ahead and take your meals at the bistro voted best restaurant in Detroit by10Best.com. Located in charming Southfield, 20 miles northwest of the Motor City, the “…Bacco (Ristorante) is proudly named after the Roman god of wine. Murals dedicated to the profligate deity distinguish the dining room, promising certain pleasure in food and drink.” Be a gamer and splurge.

As for tickets. I can get you a single seat at Saturday’s semifinals for 241 bucks. Section 316, row 25. That’s the top row — the very top row — in the corner. Great sight lines. As for Monday night’s championship game, go ahead and take the same seat for $150. That’s $391 total, $100 less than one night’s stay at MotorCity Casino Hotel.

You can’t turn it down.

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monaghan March 12, 2009 @ 2:45 p.m.

What, Patrick, are you scared to recommend staying in downtown De-troit? There are hotels near the centally-located Ren Cen tower that have special guards in the lobby to make sure no non-resident rascals enter the elevators and a Kinko's business center where staff chats and ignores patrons while a kid moves a noisy vacuum cleaner slo-mo across the carpet. Detroit is an experience where nobody says, "Have a great day!" at the end of a service transaction .


SurfPuppy619 March 12, 2009 @ 4:45 p.m.

Detroit has the most delapidated DT of any major metro city in the US, by far.

And when a building gets gutted and burned out by fire-does the city make the owner tear the building down for safety and beautification reasons-NO, they sit there burned out.

Look at the old Tiger Stadium (yes, it is still standing!).

Place is in need of serious stimulus.


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