Planning a trip to Detroit? We’ve Got You Covered.

BY Taylor Rebhan

On top of its rich history, Detroit also has a bustling food scene with new joints opening up every weekend. To help you plan your upcoming adventure, we selected a handful of experiences for anyone interested in exploring the city’s culture like a native. While this list is only the beginning, it’s sure to give you a look into the true spirit of Detroit.


Pewabic Pottery Factory
Pewabic Pottery exemplifies a common theme in Detroit: craftsmanship. Started in 1903, the non-profit organization has been dedicated to enriching the city of Detroit through the beauty of its hand-made tiles. Pewabic artists spend their days making custom tiles for murals and buildings, giving designers the freedom to pick from their many glaze colors. Traveling to Detroit with a group? We’d recommend scheduling a tour of the factory which concludes with a hands-on workshop where visitors are able to create their own custom-made tile after understanding the unique process. Visitors are also welcome to sign up for the pre-scheduled Friday Night Out workshops, perfect for an unforgettable date night or a fun night with friends.


Eastern Market
Looking for a spot to pick up fresh and local goods? Join thousands of people at Eastern Market on a Saturday morning. With over 225 vendors on-site, visitors are bound to find the goods they are searching for. Ranging from smoothies and green juices to Detroit-based donut shops vendors are guaranteed to be helpful as you venture into the market. Crowds aren’t your thing? Stop by the scaled-down Eastern Market on a Tuesday morning or early afternoon where you can still find fresh produce and baked goods along with free Yoga or Zumba classes so you can indulge in those baked goods guilt-free.


Parker’s Alley
Tucked away in Parker’s Alley are a multitude of Michigan-based boutiques that surround the Shinola Hotel. The Lip Bar, Good Neighbor, The Velvet Tower and Détroit Is The New Black, to name a few—all stores that put quality over everything and their dedication truly shines through.  Parker’s Alley is a great place to see if you’re looking to step out of the hustle and bustle around Campus Martius while also still wanting to be immersed in the spirit of Detroit. When visiting Parker’s Alley make sure to check out the newly set-up Shinola Love Locks fence where visitors are invited to engrave a dial charm and hang a lock that was created in Commando Lock factory, located just 30 minutes north of Detroit in Troy, Michigan. The lock comes with two keys that couples can keep as a memento. After shopping and hanging your personalized locks, head over to Madcap Coffee for a delicious caffeinated (or decaf if that’s your thing) drink and consider purchasing their unique Ethiopian coffee beans to take back home.


Lafayette + American Coney Island (tell us what you think)
Join in on the long-debated, heated discussion and try a Coney dog from the two neighbor/rival Coney Island restaurants. Bring cash if you’re planning on heading to Lafayette as the restaurant only accepts cash payments. Make sure you leave room to try a dog from each spot so you can really feel like a Detroiter and hop in on the debate in the comments of one of Shinola’s Instagram posts. We’d recommend chasing the Coney dogs down with a Faygo Pop, a Motor City classic since the company was founded in Detroit circa 1907.


Belle Isle (picnic and watch the sunset on the city skyline)
You could also take those Coney dogs to-go and venture out of the hustle and bustle of the city onto the scenic Belle Isle. On a nice day, this 982-acre island is the perfect picnic spot where people from all over come to enjoy the tranquility and nature that populates the island. On a sunny day, head over to the beach and soak in some Vitamin D but if you don’t get lucky with the weather, you can spend some time in the Great Lakes Museum, the conservatory or the oldest aquarium in the country, all located on the island.  Belle Isle may be the best place to visit when the day is coming to an end as the sunsets at Sunset Point are unbeatable—it’s where people gather to admire the sun setting behind the city of Detroit.



Museums (DIA, African American History, Detroit Historical Museum, MOCAD)
Detroit is full of interesting museums to check out to get a closer look at the city’s rich history and culture. First, the Detroit Institute of Arts (open 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesday–Thursday, 9 a.m.–10 p.m. on Friday, and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. on the weekend), showcases over 100 art galleries, including Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry fresco murals. If you aren’t already on your way, the building itself is an architectural feat that is a must-see when in Detroit.

On the other hand, if modern art is more your style, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (or MOCAD) is the place for you. Open 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Wednesday/Saturday/Sunday and 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Thursday/Friday, MOCAD is a center for innovative, out-of-the-box art perfect for “adventurous minds.” The museum is home to a wide variety of creative exhibitions throughout the year, so it’s sure to have you coming back for more.

If you’d rather spend the day learning more about Detroit’s history, we suggest you check out The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, which is open from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday, and 1 p.m.–5 p.m. on Sundays. The museum has over 35,000 artifacts, with collections that highlight the African American experience, like the “Blanche Coggin Underground Railroad Collection,” the “Harriet Tubman Museum Collection,” as well as exhibits more specific to Detroit, like the “Sheffield Collection,” which outlines the labor movement in the city.

Our final museum must-see is the Detroit Historical Museum in the Cultural Center Historic District, featuring an in-depth history of Detroit (all the way from fur trading in the 1700s, to the industrial revolution, to the present day). You’re sure to leave with a new, in-depth understanding of Detroit’s past. The Detroit Historical Museum is open 9:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesday–Friday and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. on the weekends. 


John K. King Used and Rare Books (over a million)
Bookworm? John K. King Used and Rare Books is the stop for you. Home to over a million titles, you’re sure to get lost in this four-story building full of interesting and unusual books. After outgrowing both its first and second locations in Dearborn and the Michigan Theatre respectively, the shop moved to the Abandoned “Advance Glove” factory on West Lafayette Street. Right next door to the building, King keeps the most rare items in his collection. Unfortunately, these books are only available to see by appointment, so if you’re interested in this once-in-a-lifetime experience, book ahead by calling their number: 313-961-0622. To give you an idea of what exactly is behind these walls, some of their featured books include the Magna Carta in manuscript (circa 1300), a signed copy of Winston Churchill’s The World Crisis, a first single volume edition of Charles Dickens’ The Adventures of Oliver Twist, and the list goes on. These featured books sell for anywhere between $650 to $45,000. Whether you’re ready to buy a 13th century manuscript or not, John K. King Used and Rare Books is worth a visit.


Third Man Records
Third Man Records on Cass Corridor is the perfect spot if you want a taste of Detroit’s rich musical background. Third Man Records was founded by Jack White in 2001, releasing music primarily on vinyl records ever since. Their Cass Corridor location has an extensive record store for you to browse, a novelties lounge for you to relax and check out unique records, and even a vinyl record pressing plant where you can get an inside look into the production of the records they sell. If you’re especially interested in this process (because who isn’t?) Third Man Records offers tours of their pressing plant for only $15 dollars. Third Man Records is open 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Monday–Saturday and 11 a.m.–5 p.m. on Sundays. 


Detroit Architecture (Fisher Theatre, Guardian)
Detroit has many different pieces of architecture that are worth experiencing. Many of the most popular destinations for architecture fanatics are structures that have stood their ground from the early days of Detroit during the boom of the auto industry. Whether you’re a fan of theatre or not, the Fisher Theatre is a must-see when visiting Detroit. Visitors can purchase tickets to see a Broadway show for a night on the town while taking in the carefully-designed molding and details on the walls and ceiling of the theatre.

The Guardian building is also a hot spot for Detroit architecture (and where we became inspired for the name for our Guardian watch). The building sure has demonstrated its tenacity as it was originally built to house the Union Trust Company during the Roaring Twenties but unfortunately was completed in the year of the stock market crash. Saved by investors, the company bounced back and rebranded into the Union Guardian Trust Company explaining why the building is coined the Guardian building today. In the year 2019, the building is still a hub for commerce and is designed to promote innovation daily.


Dequindre Cut 
Get outdoors and explore sans car, Mackinac Island-style. The Dequindre Cut is a pathway exclusively open to bikers and walkers. Rent a bike or stroll down the paved path which takes pedestrians from East Riverfront to Eastern Market, and make sure to admire the artistic graffiti along the way. The path was formerly a railroad track so the historic buildings along the route allow visitors to take a step back into the past and picture what life was like in early-Detroit.

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