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Blog Entry

I Saw the Ballet! (A Visitor's Guide to Detroit)

Posted on: March 15, 2009 3:42 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2009 12:26 am
 

You’ve finally got those Final Four tickets!  For years, you said you would go and this is your  year.  Instead of San Antonio, St. Louis, Indy, or Atlanta, you got… Detroit.  Detroit is much maligned.  Some of it is well-deserved, but most of it really is not.

It’s true that the city now has less than 1,000,000 residents, but when you include its suburbs, Detroit is a top 10 media market.  Seriously, there are a ton of people around here.  It’s simply that most don’t live in the city. 

You would think that with those 4,000,000 people we would have a robust system of public transportation.  We don’t.  This is Motown.  We have cars.  Lots and lots of cars.  For the visitor, rent a car.  Apart from the few square block radius of downtown, you will need a car if you want to venture to other parts of the area.  Oh yeah, bring your passport too.

I’m going to separate this into two segments – day and night. Should you decide to spend your daylight hours in the bars and casinos, who am I to judge your decisions or cheer you on?


DAY


Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village   – When I was a kid in northern Michigan, my school took a trip to the Henry Ford Museum.  It was one of my favorite field trips of my youth.  History comes alive at this metro Detroit landmark.

Detroit Institute of Art – The DIA is one of the crown jewels of Detroit.  It is the nation’s fifth largest art gallery and recently reopened to the public after extensive renovations.   It has everything from Manet to Max.

Cranbrook Art Museum - Not to be left out is Cranbrook.    They have a more hands on approach and specialize in art for kids.

Ford Rouge Factory Tour - You’re in Motown.  Why not see how trucks are made?  This may not sound like a lot of fun, but this is a very interesting tour.  You learn a surprising amount about vehicle production and all that goes into it.  Tours run daily except for Sundays.

Renaissance Center - The Ren Cen, as the locals call it, is not just General Motor’s world headquarters.  It’s also home to a number of retail stores, boutiques, restaurants, and a movie theater complex.  One of my favorite restaurants in Detroit is located in the Atrium.  Check out Andiamo’s for an outstanding Italian dinner.  On the ground floor is GM World where visitors can get a look at many GM vehicles – old and new.

Detroit Red Wings - 2008 Stanley Cup Champions!  Detroit is the self-proclaimed Hockeytown.  If you’ve ever been to the old Boston Garden to see all of the banners hanging from the rafters, this is hockey’s equivalent.  Championship banners from the 50s with three banners from the last ten years trumpet the Red Wings’ long history.  The Wings happen to be in town on April 2 and April 5.  Scoring tickets won’t be easy so you will likely have to resort to eBay or Stub Hub. 

Lafayette Coney Island (118 W Lafayette Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226) I have no idea what this city’s obsessions with “Coney’s” is.  The suburbs are thick with them.  It’s an infestation of hot dogs smothered in chili sauce.  The problem is…they are really good.  Lafayette can argue that they are the original Detroit coney.  But American Coney Island which is located RIGHT NEXT DOOR will beg to argue.  Try it.  You will love it and hate yourself later.


NIGHT


Windsor, Ontario - Windsor deserves its own entry for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, you would be traveling to another country and this point needs to be reinforced.  You WILL go through customs so you must have a passport or birth certificate.  It is highly unlikely that the Border Agent will accept your sob story as proof of citizenship.  But if you make it across the Ambassador Bridge or under the Tunnel, you are in for a treat.

There are a lot of things to like about Windsor.  Their Little Italy section of town offers real Italian cuisine in Mom and Pop restaurants.  You can find anything from pizza on a paper thin crust to one of the finest meals of your life all on Erie St. 

At the intersection of Chatham St. and Ouellette Ave, Windsor has a decidedly different feel.  Here you will find the Windsor Ballet .  Except the dancers are naked.  And they serve beer.  Cheetah’s , the Million Dollar Saloon , and others are all available for your strip clubs needs.  Unlike Michigan, the dancers are allowed to get nekkid AND you can have beer.  There is a strict no touch policy enforced by men you don’t want to piss off.  (I knew a fighter from Kronk Gym in Detroit who made extra cash bouncing at these places.)

The politically astute would know that Canada does not have a trade embargo with Cuba.  What does that mean for you?  Cuban cigars.   A few tobacconists on Ouellette would love to introduce you to their little friends.  (Don’t try to bring any Cubans back across the border.  It’s illegal.)

Caesar’s Windsor - There is gambling in Detroit, but Windsor had it first.  Recently acquired by the Caesar’s Palace group, the Windsor Casino has been renovated and upgraded. With the positive exchange rate for American dollars, it’s a great place to wager.

While we’re talking about gambling, Detroit has three casinos to take your hard earned dollar.  All of the casinos have renovated and expanded with new hotels.  The Motor City Casino , Greektown Casino , and MGM Grand Detroit will all gladly compete for your gaming dollar.  While not as big in scope as their Las Vegas counterparts, each casino has all of the restaurants, spas, and other amenities you expect from a big time casino.

Of the three casinos, I’ve found MGM to be the classiest and the Greektown casino to be the most accessible.  Note that the table stakes will likely be raised while you are in town.  When Detroit hosted the Superbowl three years ago, the minimum table stakes were $25 most nights and $100 on Superbowl Sunday.

The gentrified area near the Fox Theater is called Fox Town in honor of its first tenant. Since the Fox Theater’s reopening, the area has seen a number of new residents.  Most notable among these is Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers.  Check out Cheli’s Chili Bar next to Comerica Park.  It’s a great place for drinks and a surprisingly good bowl of chili.  Across the street is The Hockeytown Café where all things Red Wings are on display.  Next door is the State Bar and Grill where I’ve never seen a bar tender give anything but a generous pour. Cliff Bell's is old Detroit personified.  Great jazz and stiff drinks await you in the watering hole that invented the bar stool.  Nearby is the Town Pump Tavern .  The Town Pump is an iconic bar with a great atmosphere.  Of the Fox Town bars, it is my favorite when heading to a show or the game.

The bottom line is that Detroit has a lot to offer its residents and its visitors.  I didn’t even mention the dive bars or the high end restaurants.  If you’re not having fun, you just aren’t trying.

 

Comments

Since: Jan 20, 2007
Posted on: March 20, 2009 8:16 pm
 

I Saw the Ballet! (A Visitor's Guide to Detroit)

Great job, sean!  I grew up in NW Ohio, around Toledo, which is about an hour from Motown.  We also took field trips to the Ford Museum and Greenfield Village when I was in school and I took my kids there a few years ago (actually more like several years ago now that I think of it) when we were out there visiting family and friends (I live in NY now).  We went to a Tigers game a couple of years ago - wish I would've had this info then.  It would've made it even better than just going to a Tigers game.  Thanks.




Since: Mar 29, 2008
Posted on: March 19, 2009 8:41 pm
 

I Saw the Ballet! (A Visitor's Guide to Detroit)

I made for a friend who gave me the idea for the post.

 

 




Since: Mar 29, 2008
Posted on: March 19, 2009 1:23 pm
 

I Saw the Ballet! (A Visitor's Guide to Detroit)

The one thing that I reget leaving off the guide was music.  I've always been impressed by the quality of performers and the number of outstanding venues available.  Blues, jazz, and some seriously kick ass rock and roll can all be found in the city.  I think some big name acts will be in town playng at corporate-sponsored parties.  For my money, you get a better show at the Magic Stick, Bell's, or most any bar in town.




Since: Jan 13, 2009
Posted on: March 19, 2009 11:48 am
 

I Saw the Ballet! (A Visitor's Guide to Detroit)

 

 Great informative post for the non-Detroiter coming here for the first time and you hit up almost all of the spots that are both great and easy to find which is good for a visitor to the city. 

The bottom line is that Detroit has a lot to offer its residents and its visitors.  I didn’t even mention the dive bars or the high end restaurants.  If you’re not having fun, you just aren’t trying. Dead on.  I am a Detroiter who also went to school in Chicago.  At that time, Detroit had 800,000 people to Chicago's 8 million and you are dead on.  Detroit has so much to offer in the way of culture.  Even most from the metro detroit area are unaware of all the treasures.  For any music fan coming to the city, just grab a REAL DETROIT or METRO and check it out.  There is always a show for each person every night.  I recommend heading just outside to Hamtramck where you can have a whole new cultural experience and locating yourself the Attic if you are a blues fan who wants a laid back environment and some great local musicians.  As you said, LaFayette has to be there.  I know NY has the actually Coney Island but LaFayette is well..wow.  Also, If you are here.  I must say go to Nikki's Pizza in Greektown as well as Fishbones.  Nikki's is a fantastic pizza place thats been around and Fishbone is a more upscale (wont turn you away for your dress) where you can get fantastic food and on the right nights, hear great jazz and blues.  I just hope that visitors keep an open mind while here.  You can choose to focus on the dillapidated buildings or you can choose to admire the beautiful developments that are beginning to branch in all directions around Wayne State University.



The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com