Detroit : 2016

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Detroit has been in the news frequently lately. It’s historical significance as the birthplace of American ingenuity and manufacturing has been replaced with a tale of abandonment and urban decay. But, the city has been regenerating itself! Local businesses are returning and it has become a favorite of designers, students, and adventurers alike. I’ve been wanting to go for a few years now and finally got the chance during this past long Thanksgiving weekend.

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Michigan is a short trip from most places in the United States, but it’s best to get a direct flight right into Detroit. From NYC, it’s less than two hours and Delta was relatively inexpensive, even though it was a holiday weekend.

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It’s just a short flight from NYC, but I was able to take a quick nap before heading to the Aloft Detroit. The hotel is a perfect central location to walk around Downtown or take a short Uber ride, and a well-appointed adaptive reuse of the former David Whitney Building. We head for pre-concert drinks and bites at the Rusted Crow, and then walk over to the Fillmore Theater for a concert. The historic theaters are an amazing feature of Detroit, so make sure to book tickets to events ahead of time! Final stop of the night is the jazz bar, Cliff Bell’s, just around the corner for a nitecap and some more great live music.

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The Aloft always has a nice pantry open for all guests, so we load up on some hot coffee before heading over to the Westin Book Cadillac for lunch at the bar, The Motor Bar, since everything is closed for Thanksgiving. Afterwards we walk around Downtown Detroit- walking through the lobbies of the Guardian Building, Book Tower, One Detroit Center, One Woodward Avenue, Wayne County Building, Metropolitan Building, and the Penobscot Building. It’s really just best to wander around and get lost inside of these gems. Next stop was to watch the Detroit Lions game. Football is a sport here and if you can get tickets it’s a really fun time! Last stop before getting ready for dinner was at the Camp Martius grounds for ice skating and to see the Christmas tree. If you’re here during winter, definitely recommend it. Thanksgiving dinner was served was at Roast, really amazing steakhouse and just a short walk from our hotel.

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The morning started with a wonderful breakfast at the Parks and Rec Dinner. Breakfast is served all day, and they did a great job on the building rehabilitation. Next stop is at Shinola, the original location. They have made such a positive impact on the city and once you go, it’s easy to understand why people are so passionate about their products. There are many cute shops nearby too, perfect for some early holiday shopping. After walking around for a few hours, we head to the Eastern Market area. Unfortunately it was closed while we were there, but it was fun to walk around. We weren’t really that hungry, but just had to stop for a slice at the famous Supino’s pizzeria. We head back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. Pre-dinner drinks were at Queens Bar, with some great kitschy tiki decorations and an extra game of cards- I won, obviously! And late-night food at Wright & Company on the secret second floor above the John Varvatos building. Detroit really has amazing food brought on by the creative vision of these passionate chefs. Make sure to bring your appetite! We take the scenic route home to view the Christmas lights and work off some of those calories.

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Today was the last full day, but luckily we had an evening flight. We wanted to check out some of the abandoned buildings that have mesmerized me, but unfortunately a lot of them are blocked off and at the Packard Plant our driver wouldn’t let us get out because it didn’t seem safe. We at least got to drive by that building and also the Michigan Central Station. The good news is that it seems that they now have protective ownership and will hopefully restore these institutions to their former glory that they deserve. We head back to the hotel to pack our bags and get an Uber to the Henry Ford Museum. We first decide to walk around Greenfield Village. Really an amazing assemblage of American history and a variety of historical architecture. You can even get a ride in an old Model-T Ford! Right next door is the Henry Ford Museum and can’t recommend it enough. I learned so much about American innovation and the centrality of Detroit to many of these discoveries. They even had a refurbished dinner on the interior where you can grab a milkshake and some lunch. Sadly, we have to head to the airport, but this short trip definitely made me want to return for a longer stay next time!

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Detroit’s theater district is the second largest in the country, second only to New York City. Boasting an impressive 13,000 seats within a two-block radius, the theater district in Detroit is a cultural feat.

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Detroit is facing $20 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities.  That breaks down to more than $25,000 per resident.Back in 1960, the city of Detroit actually had the highest per-capita income in the entire nation.

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Detroit is well known for its long list of accomplishments in transportation innovation. One of the lesser known dates on that list is 1909, the year the Wayne County Road Commission built America’s first mile of concrete highway.

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If you’ve been to the Detroit Institute of Arts, you know just how incredible the museum’s collection is. It’s ranked among the top six collections in the United States. It also owns Van Gogh’s Self Portrait, the first Van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum collection.
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