Seeing Detroit as my new home wasn’t something I had ever imagined. My husband accepted a new job, and we were relocating to Detroit from LA, which was a huge change, to say the least!
At first glance, the persistent gray clouds and the neglected and abandoned buildings overwhelmed me. It felt like a forgotten city. Over time, though, I grew to appreciate the endearing spirit of this iconic all-American city. Detroit embodies resilience and grit. You can’t help but feel an allegiance to Detroit after living here.
Detroit is a place where we’ve had it pretty tough, but there is a generosity and a well of kindness here that runs deep. -Mitch Album
Over the year, I learned a lot about Detroit and wanted to share some key takeaways. If you are ever planning to visit or move to Motor City, take a look:
The Architecture of Detroit is Distinctive and Unique
The city itself is very concentrated, with Woodward Avenue’s main drag running through its center. There are many striking art deco buildings scattered throughout the skyline. I found the Campus Martius area downtown to be charming. In the winter, the city builds a skating rink. Christmas markets are set up to create a village feel.
There are many impressive buildings to see downtown. Two of my favorites are the Fox Theater and the Detroit Athletic Club. Detroit feels like an old stately city that’s undergoing a major renaissance. Renovation and construction are always happening downtown.
The Neighborhoods are Eclectic and Vibrant
We explored many neighborhoods, including Corktown, Midtown, West Village, and Rivertown. Corktown is funky and cool. The restaurants are trendy, and the crowd is young and hip. Midtown has the feel of a more established residential neighborhood with all of the amenities in place. We often went to restaurants in West Village. West Village feels very urban like someone took a block from a quaint West Village Street in Manhattan and placed it in Detroit.
We lived in Rivertown, a neighborhood that abuts the Detroit River. Rivertown has a few restaurants but fewer than the other neighborhoods we frequent. A nice attribute of Rivertown is that you can walk along the path (Riverwalk) all the way to the Renaissance Center, which opens up to the downtown city core.
Something I love most about Detroit is that it hasn’t been entirely gentrified. Many areas feel original and authentic, with local cafes and shops, giving Detroit abundant personality and flare.
Loft Living in Detroit is Spectacular
If you are looking for a loft for sale in Detroit, you will be shocked by the number of very interesting lofts on the market. Many old warehouses and factories are being converted into incredibly chic lofts with city views. It almost feels like a mini-Manhattan!
When we were looking at lofts, we liked several that we saw. We were shocked by the choices on the market. We ended up buying in Rivertown, as mentioned. The loft was incredible, and we really enjoyed the experience of living in it.
Detroit has a Vibrant Foodie Scene.
We were surprised by how many choices we had in terms of dining. So many great new restaurants were popping up at every turn.
The creative spark of Detroit really shines through in its food scene. There are so many restaurants; it’s hard to keep track. The daring interiors of the restaurants, paired with equally bold menus, make for a fun city to dine in. Restaurants are reinvented from old abandoned buildings of all kinds.
Here are a few of our favorites….
This is a go-to in Detroit. Selden Standard is a classic neighborhood restaurant that we frequented while in Detroit. We loved the Vegetable Carpaccio, and the Octopus is so good. The servers are also so friendly. You feel like you are a welcomed neighborhood member when you walk in the door.
This is a cool, ultra-chic restaurant in Corktown. I feel that this restaurant exemplifies the artistic vibe of Detroit, down to the antique plates they serve your meal on. The environment is cozy, and it feels like you in someone’s swanky house. The cocktails are so good, too!
Marrow is a great neighborhood restaurant in the West Village neighborhood. They specialize in farm to table, and have a built-in butcher shop for those interested. The cocktails, inventive cuisine, and neighborhood feel kept bringing us back. We highly recommend!
Boutique Hotels are a Highlight of Detroit
When we first moved to Detroit, we stayed at the Shinola Hotel for two weeks. The hotel is impeccably designed. The rooms are so comfortable and chic. I didn’t want to leave! San Morello is a bustling restaurant located in the Shinola Hotel. The food is great, and the scene is entertaining. They also offer a delicious breakfast every morning.
Detroit does such a great job with boutique hotels. When our family visited us for Thanksgiving last year, they all stayed at The Siren Hotel, which didn’t disappoint. It’s also very artsy and cool while also very comfortable.
My husband and I liked going there to have brunch at Karl’s. Karl’s has a retro-diner vibe, and the menu is eclectic. We both agree the pancakes are incredible. I mean to die for! Definitely check out The Siren if you are ever in Detroit.
Speakeasy Bars are Popular and Very Fun to Visit
I’ve never been to a city where speakeasy bars are so popular. Something about the clandestine nature of them makes them feel more fun and adventurous than the typical bar. We often went to the Evening Bar at the Shinola Hotel. An expansive cocktail list mixed with the dark, sumptuous interiors always makes for a fun night. Also, the Candy Bar at The Siren Hotel is dazzling. You feel like you’ve been whisked away to someone’s decadent parlor. The drinks are also very well made. We would rank these experiences at the top of our list for visitors coming to Detroit.
The Detroit River is Turquoise, Really!
One Sunday morning, we decided to drive around and explore areas of Detroit. We decided to head to Belle Isle to check it out. After driving over the bridge, we headed toward the main attractions – the Aquarium, Nature Center, and the James Scott Memorial Fountain.
However, the highlight of this trip to Belle Isle was actually looking outward to see the Detroit River and the city skyline. The view really highlights the river’s vibrancy and the diverse, eclectic city skyline.
The Museums Alone are Worth the Trip to Detroit
The Henry Ford Museum is one of the best museums in the country. If you ever spend time in Detroit, make sure you take an extra day and spend it at this museum.
I’m not even interested in cars, and I found this museum fascinating. A large collection of presidential cars are lined up in the main atrium, including John F. Kennedy’s limousine. You can also see the Rosa Parks bus and Abraham Lincoln’s rocking chair.
I enjoyed seeing the old Model T and learning about the history of that car’s development into the cars we drive today. You can actually feel the spirit of innovation when you are at this museum. After visiting, I also felt a sense of pride in Detroit for everything that has been accomplished. It is an American treasure and a city we need to protect and be very proud of.
The DIA is a stunningly beautiful museum with an impressive collection from all around the world. In fact, it’s ranked in the top six museums in the United States.
My husband and I attended a free guided tour during our first weekend in town. The tour was excellent. A highlight is the Detroit Industry Murals, painted by Diego Rivera. The collection of murals pays homage to Detroit’s industrial surge dating back to the 1930s. You could easily spend two full days exploring the museum.
Shortly after landing in Detroit, I became a member of the DIA in hopes of getting involved in the city and meeting new friends, which I highly recommend. I attended a luncheon with a very informative curator. I would sometimes visit Kresge Court, a lively, bustling cafe in the museum where I enjoyed spending time reading or working on projects.
Seeing Detroit as Full of Many Holistic Choices
I love practicing Kundalini Yoga and was surprised to discover how accessible classes were in Detroit. There are many Detroit options- way more than I could ever find in the Boston area.
The access to high-quality yoga is on par with what I have experienced in LA. There is even a dedicated Iyengar Yoga studio in the suburbs.
If you are interested in Reiki, meditation, acupuncture, etc., you will easily find what you are looking for in the Detroit area.
I was happy to see many vegetarian and vegan restaurants, as well.
The Creative Energy in Detroit is Easy to See and Feel
Sometimes you have to look past those grey cloudy skies to find it, but you are certain to discover Detroit’s very own unique, distinct vibe. There is strong creative energy. You can feel it while walking down Woodward Avenue or heading over to Eastern Market, where there are over one hundred murals for you to enjoy.
The many murals scattered throughout the city speak to Detroit’s powerful history as a beaten-down city that refuses to give up. The art reflects the unyielding spirit of this city that has endured more than its share of setbacks.
The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain – Lord Byron
Living in Detroit inspired me to begin writing and exploring creative outlets. I got hooked! The creative expression felt through art and music is a way of life in Detroit.
In pursuing writing classes, I spent a lot of time at the Detroit Writing Room. Stephanie Steinberg, the founder, is dedicated to supporting Detroit and providing a space for people to learn, work, and explore their writing skills. I enjoyed my time spent with her.
If you ever have the good fortune of spending time in Detroit, make sure you give it a solid chance. It may not blow you away at first sight, but it will pull at your heartstrings. You will come to respect and revere it. And you will always find yourself rooting for Detroit.
For more travel inspo, see here.