Whether you’re a local or visiting from out of state or even an international guest, we’re here to say, “Welcome to Detroit!” and that shiny vehicles aren’t the only thing being talked about in the city. There’s plenty to see, do and eat – and if you haven’t been to Detroit in awhile (or ever), you’re gonna want some paper and a pen, cause you’ll have plenty to write home about.
You don’t have to go far from Cobo Center to discover just a taste of what Detroit has to offer. Here are just a few places you can navigate to around Downtown and Midtown using the QLINE, the People Mover, or your feet!
Less than 1/3 of a mile from Cobo Center, where the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is taking place, is one of Detroit’s most impressive views. The promenade within the Guardian Building (500 Griswold Street) features spectacular design and a world class mosaic celebrating Michigan’s rich history and contribution to America. Once you catch your breath it is easy to see why The Guardian is a National Historic Landmark. The Guardian is only the beginning of what Detroit offers attendees who are new to the city or need a break from the auto show. The only difficult choices will be which of Detroit’s sites, hotels and restaurants will fit into an already busy schedule. Downtown alone offers enough options to keep visitors occupied for many visits. Attendees from last year will no doubt recognize a new option within sight of Cobo Center’s front door – the Detroit Foundation Hotel (250 W. Larned Street). It’s a boutique hotel built on Detroit’s history and includes an impressive restaurant – The Apparatus Room – where locals and guests can meet for dinner, brunch or a craft cocktail.
How to Get Around
The QLINE is making Detroit more accessible. The station closest to Cobo Center is on Woodward Avenue at Congress St. Ride the QLINE up and down Woodward Avenue for access to oopular restaurants, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and other museums, and the new, Little Caesar’s Arena (LCA). The LCA has its own stop on the QLINE. Even when the Pistons or Red Wings are not in action, the arena’s many food options are open for business. Sports bars, Detroit-style pizza and a Kid Rock-inspired menu make LCA a destination any night of the week.
Where to Eat
Detroit will wow the pickiest palette and surprise the highest expectations. Downtown restaurants like Wright & Co. (1500 Woodward Ave., Second Floor) and Central Kitchen (660 Woodward Ave.) blend creative menus with special venues to ensure a memorable experience. Midtown restaurants like Grey Ghost (47 E. Watson Street), Selden Standard (3921 Second Avenue) and Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails (15 W. Kirby Street) are among the competitors for Detroit’s top restaurant each year. Take a pick, you cannot go wrong.
One of the things that makes Detroit great is that interesting food and drinks can be found for every budget and every taste. Watch any travel show or food tour of Detroit and the battle for Detroit “Coney Island” supremacy will be part of the story. The Detroit Coney Island is a chili dog usually ordered in twos. Situated side by side on the corner of Griswold Street and Michigan Avenue, American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island have loyal fans as serious as the Wolverines and Spartans. To really know for sure, try both. A newer Detroit tradition gaining similarly loyal fans is the chicken shawarma at Bucharest Grill. Travel west down Michigan Avenue or east down Jefferson Avenue and a Bucharest Grill awaits. Not the most authentic chicken shawarma in metro Detroit but perhaps the most addictive.
For Food & Fun
Several Detroit hot spots offer food and drinks surrounded by games. Just a few blocks off the QLINE’s Campus Martius station, Punchbowl Social serves complex cocktails, local beers and upscale pub fare in a modern game room. Bowling, pool, and darts are spread across a large space with several bars and a restaurant seating area. If a more traditional bowling alley is more your scene, mix it up with local Detroiters at Garden Bowl in Midtown. On the other hand, if arcade games like pinball, Ms. Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros would be a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the Auto Show, Ready Player One (407 Fort St.) and Pop+OffWorld (128 Cadillac) are arcade-themed bars just a few blocks from Cadillac Square.
What to Do
Luckily there is much more to do in Detroit than eat. State parks, public art installations and priceless, one-of-a-kind paintings, Detroit will educate as well as satisfy. Belle Isle is the state park that can be found in the middle of the Detroit River. Connected to Jefferson Avenue by the MacArthur Bridge, Belle Isle is only a few minutes from the RenCen and Cobo Center. Even in January, Belle Isle has a lot to offer. The Aquarium, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, and James Scott Fountain are open year round, though the Foundation is the one attraction slightly more impressive in the summer when the water is flowing. Nevertheless, the trip around the island and views of downtown and Canada from across the river are worth the drive.
If being on foot is preferred, a short walk through Downtown includes Campus Martius Park, Cadillac Square and The Belt. Campus Martius Park is the center of Detroit connecting Detroit’s major thoroughfares and hosting the ice rink and public seating. A shipping container turned bar overlooks the ice rink at one end and a fine dining restaurant with an impressive wine list, Parc, overlooks the other end. Across the street in Cadillac Square, winter shops and the “ski lodge” turn the pedestrian walkway into a cross between a friend’s cabin, a European biergarten, and an outdoor market. Just outside an enclosed bar with couches, fireplaces and board games are some of Detroit’s most creative stores. This winter popup is a must-see while in Detroit.
Just a few short blocks away from the Campus Martius QLINE stop or a quick walk from Cadillac Square is The Belt, an alley through the Z parking garage, that profiles street art, installations and concept pieces. The Belt also includes two of Detroit’s popular hangouts, Standby and The Skip. Walking through takes only a few minutes but delivers insight into Detroit’s attitude. If The Belt is not enough, each floor of the Z garage (both sides) features a unique mural from a world-renowned street artist.
Of course, Detroit is well known for world-class art, some of which is housed at the Detroit Institute of Arts. For instance, the DIA (5200 Woodward Avenue) has the Diego Rivera mural. The mural is the most popular piece in the museum and will not disappoint. This year the DIA also has a Claude Monet exhibit (through March 4). Be sure to visit the Kresge Court on the lower level for a full bar and menu and WiFi in a powerful space. A few blocks south, also on Woodward Avenue, is the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). Not limited to art, architecture and history also abound in Midtown Detroit too. Around the corner from the DIA is the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (315 East Warren). The Whitney (4421 Woodward Avenue) is an event space with history, great food (and ghosts). The Fisher Building (3011 W. Grand Blvd.) is an office space with shops and a theatre that features Broadway shows. Last but not least, the Motown Museum is right down the street on W. Grand Boulevard.
If that is not enough in the way of options, the Masonic Temple (500 Temple Street) is one of Detroit’s most iconic buildings. Tours are available, though the January 21st tour already appears to be sold out. Fear not, with all that Detroit can offer, the meals, views and surprises, coming for the NAIAS will have you already planning a return trip.
From January 26-28, anyone in Detroit for the Auto Show will get a second special event also in Downtown Detroit. The Detroit Winter Blast takes over Campus Martius and parts of Woodward Avenue and Michigan Avenue. Winter Blast activities include the Winter Slide, ice garden, and food trucks. A Detroit tradition, the Winter Blast offers entertainment for Detroiters and visitors of all ages.
For more information on sights to see, food to eat, and places to play, be sure to stop by the City Hub, powered by Quicken Loans, at Cobo Center, near Hall C across from the Detroit Shoppe.