Hometown Tourist

Recently I was asked to recommend some places to visit on a winter weekend in Detroit. The visitors were from Europe and would likely never have the opportunity to return. My mind swirled with ideas, so many wonderful things to do, see, and experience here! Too many…I needed to narrow it down to what could be done in a single weekend. I asked for specific interests, and music and museums came to the forefront. That and interesting places to walk around and take photos.

I know that the “ruin porn” of our city has international recognition, so I didn’t mention it as it seemed unnecessary. I also wanted to find more positive things to recommend…and so I did. In the process, I learned a lot about myself. I was able to recommend places that I have been to many times, or at least once or twice…but I found myself recommending “must see’s” that I have personally never seen.

I tried to narrow down even more to places that are particularly unique to Detroit, not just to America. I recommended many museums, but Motown Museum was at the top of my list. I’ve never been there. I mentioned this to a local friend who exclaimed that she’d just been there and it was incredible. I have now started a list of hometown tourist things to do. It does seem common for people not to visit the places in their own town that others travel from all over to see. I never saw myself in that light until now.

I’ve seen all of our professional sports teams play. I’ve seen some of the local college teams play. I’ve been to the really big museums and to the zoo. I’ve eaten at a lot of nice restaurants in the city. I’ve been to the public library (had to pay $10 as I don’t live in the city) to research my house. I’ve even been to all the TEDxDetroit events. But there is so much more I’ve not done.

So, I shot off a list and we agreed to meet up on Saturday night. I racked my brain for where we should meet, and one place rose to the top…Cliff Bell’s. It is an old-fashioned supper club where live jazz soothes your soul while you sip a fine wine or a perfect cocktail before eating a superbly prepared meal. It’s not the best place for conversation, due to the noise level, but that was a small price to pay for sharing this gem, restored to it’s original decor.

My visitors had spent some (unfortunately frigid) hours walking around Belle Isle. This was the very week when the state took over the care of the island under a lease agreement and turned it into a state park. Many improvements are on the way, but I did recommend two places that I particularly love...the aquarium and the conservatory. The aquarium, designed by Albert Kahn, has few fish at the moment, having been shut down during the downturn in the economy. A non-profit organization has poured love, money, and care into the aquarium since then, winning grants to make much needed repairs. Even so, the building is absolutely unique and there are no words to describe the incredible interior. It is shaped like a cross with vaulted ceilings covered in small, green tiles. Even pictures don’t do it justice, so I was pleased to hear that they had gone to see it in person.

We enjoyed our dinner, talking about all the other things they could see on a Sunday. The Diego Rivera mural at the DIA is one, such a unique piece of history. The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History has the largest collection of any such museum and has the most beautiful indoor space in all of Detroit inside it’s dome. The Henry Ford Museum is the country’s greatest history attraction, containing artifacts from all facets of American life. All of these wonderful places, I have been. So now to start a list of places I’ve not visited and must find time to do so:

  • Motown Museum
  • Arab American National Museum
  • The Heidelberg Project
  • Shinola
  • Good Girls Go To Paris

And the list goes on…

Find the Joy in the Journey…you don’t have to look far from home!


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