Grab your passport. Your Detroit weekend getaway may want to also include a trip to Windsor, Ontario (Canada)—just two miles away from downtown Detroit via bridge or tunnel. It’s one of the many amazing things about the Motor City (the proximity to Canada). You might want to take in the shopping (your dollar is worth $1.30), pick up some only-in-Canada treats (like Cadbury candies imported from Britain), and more.
You can easily fly there including on Southwest Airlines (my favorite) or on Delta (which has a hub in Detroit).
You may want a car – after all this is the Motor City. Detroit has a great freeway system and you can go 70 mph even in town.
What to Do
The museums of Detroit are amazing and all close together in Midtown which is easily accessed from downtown via the new Q Streetcar or from the suburbs on the SMART FAST express bus.
The Detroit Institute of Arts (5200 Woodward Avenue) has a special exhibit now, Michigan’s Great Lakes photo exhibit. Also on display are selection of African American art works (Detroit Collects). Another current exhibit, Humble and Human, features Impressionist era treasures.
The Charles Wright Museum of African American History is nearby at 315 East Warren. It begins in Africa and into America with the horrors of slavery followed by emancipation. It is a stunning eye opener. Details at thewright.org.
Also nearby is the Detroit History Museum where you can learn about the historic city settled by the French in 1734 after being discovered in 1665. Indeed, it was a fur trading hub. The Museum also chronicles the city’s ups and downs including the 1967 riots. The D also has a rich music history which spans from the Motown Sound (The Supremes) to Eminem (aka Marshall Mathers) as well as the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin.
Beautiful Belle Isle State Park in Detroit is on the Detroit River. You can watch the ships go by or visit the Nature Center.
Birmingham is a cute suburb full of trendy shops and great restaurants. Like Royal Oak, Ferndale, and Midtown Detroit, it is very walkable.
Don’t miss drag queen bingo and drag Sunday brunch at the Five15 (600 S. Washington Avenue in Royal Oak). Next door is Pronto which features a fun bar and restaurant.
Down the road in trendy Ferndale (the gay suburb) you will find SoHo (205 9 Mile) which features a fun mixed crowd.
The Hayloft Saloon in Detroit is a lot of fun. Located at 8070 Greenfield, it’s a friendly and frisky crowd.
Out in Ann Arbor your will find the Aut Bar which is also a restaurant as well as the Necto nightclub.
Up in Pontiac you will find the Liberty Bar and Poutinerie which features music videos on Friday and Saturday.
Where to Stay and Eat
A former resident of Royal Oak, I stayed in Troy at the new Towne Place Suites (14 Mile and Stephenson) as well as at the Baymont Inn and Suites by Wyndham (a bargain hunter’s dream). Both are handy to the I-75 Chrysler Freeway and Royal Oak and Ferndale. Nearby is the Powerhouse Gym ($10 daily fee) and next door to them is the new Royal Grill (1467 W. 14 Mile in Madison Heights) which features great Lebanese food. Try the fresh carrot juice.
The Marriott Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit has great views. The new Shinola is supposed to be the new boutique hotel and is also downtown as is the fabulous Westin Book Cadillac. Downtown Detroit high rises are mainly from the 1920s and 1930s and have been revitalized to their former glory.
Corktown just south of downtown features great restaurants including The Mercury Grille which is known for its burgers and fries. Indeed, the fries are fried in lard.
Michigan roads don’t generally have left turns. Instead, they make you do a U turn. It’s called the Michigan Left.
Soft drink cans are worth ten cents deposit.
You will find great Lebanese food everywhere including food to go at gas stations. The region has a large population of Lebanese.
For more information
The LGBTQ publications include Metra Magazine which highlights the nightlife as does OutPost which bills itself as Detroit’s gay guide.
Between the Lines is now biweekly and occasionally runs my column. You will find them online at www.pridesource.com. They are Michigan’s source for LGBTQ news as well as an informative calendar of upcoming events.
The weekly in Detroit is known as Metro Times and has a lot of great entertainment ideas.
The D has been totally revitalized and is a must if you have not been there lately. Written off for dead by the naysayers, it has zoomed back to be an affordable, interesting, fun destination where you won’t have enough time for all there is to do. It is Midwestern friendly without the attitude of Chicago (or Toronto). You owe yourself a visit to the D.
*Bill Malcolm’s syndicated LGBTQ value travel column appears in publications from North Carolina to California. He resides in Indianapolis but has lived in Detroit, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland.