Independence Day getaways: Detroit

From the July 3, 2014 edition

I was once driving with my brother-in-law, Dino, a lifelong Detroit resident, through Kentucky when he spotted — for the first time — the ridiculous “Florence Y’all” water-tower off I-75. He joked that if Detroit had a water-tower to introduce the city it would read “Detroit Motherfucker!”

Sure, Detroit is gritty and urban, known for its economic woes and being the Motor City (or just a pit in “that state up north” by uninformed OSU fans). But the truth is Detroit is a great city with loads of fun times — spectacular live music venues, art and cultural institutions, mouthwatering restaurants and featherbowling.


What is featherbowling you ask? Only the most awesome activity ever. Imagine combining bocce, horseshoes and curling in one game. Basically, you roll balls (oddly-shaped, fatter versions of cheese wheels) at a feather on the ground about 60 feet away with the goal to be the closest ball to the feather. If you play once, you’re hooked, and Cadieux Café is the only place in America with featherbowling.

Foodie fun

Detroit has an incredible food culture. Make sure to check out hot spot Slows Bar BQ in Corktown, which offers smoked goodness from baby back ribs and beef brisket to smoked turkey and garlic sausage. Also in Corktown is St. CeCe’s, an eclectic, upscale — but cozy and inexpensive — pub featuring modern American scratch cooking. For breakfast, you must hit up the mod diner Toast of Ferndale. Also, make sure to experience some of the city’s expansive ethnic restaurants and the Eastern Market, an outdoor and much larger version of the North Market.

Detroit Rock City

Detroit has a musical legacy as strong as any city in the U.S.; home of Motown, The Stooges and The White Stripes. The many fantastic venues and clubs throughout the city — too many to cover properly here — have something to do with that. Saint Andrews Hall is similar to our Newport Music Hall, only more gorgeous. The Majestic is one of the coolest clubs in the country, hosting the hottest bands in either its theatre or Magic Stick space, plus it has a bowling alley, café, pizza shop and rooftop patio bar. For a swankier night, check out Cliff Bell’s, an authentic jazz lounge that originally opened in 1935.

Arts and culture

The arts sector is one area Detroit has seen a big resurgence in the last few years. The city has received national attention for its arts, and for good reason. Two of the most well-known establishments are the Detroit Institute of Arts, a 600,000-plus square-foot museum with more than 100 galleries, and the Motown Museum (aka Hitsville U.S.A.), a house where Berry Gordy Jr. and crew recorded the label’s biggest hits — you can actually touch the piano Marvin Gaye played for “What’s Going On.” There’s also a ton of galleries featuring local artists. A good place to start is Detroit Artists Market and the Red Bull House of Art inside the Eastern Market.

Motor City

Obviously, Detroit’s a car town, and the North American International Auto Show in January is the big automotive event of the year. But a couple of other events are even more exciting. The Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix in May is an Indy car race on the picturesque Belle Isle. The Woodward Dream Cruise in mid-August showcases thousands of muscle cars all along Woodward Avenue, Detroit’s version of High Street.