DETROIT — Detroit, Michigan – just a short drive over from Windsor, Ontario – is an up-and-coming spot for travellers with a sense of curiosity and thoughtfulness, looking to experience genuine, authentic, and iconic experiences all in one city.
With approximately 1.3 million visitors from Canada annually, Detroit over the past few years has created a sense of revitalization, telling a new story of what defines the city.
Christopher Moyer, Senior Director of Communications at Visit Detroit, spoke to Travelweek during a recent press trip, to discuss both what’s new and upcoming as well as what the Canadian traveller can expect to see when coming to the metropolis.
“We anticipate that now that the border is really back open, Canadian travel is going to significantly increase and for us, we’d love to have our neighbours come and join us. In 2023 we have plans to open our arms up and welcome more Canadians from any province to come down,” says Moyer.
His message to Canadian travel agents? “If you want your clients to have an experience that makes them more curious and more excited about travel, just know that Detroit is the place to be.”
SO MUCH TO DO
Detroit offers experiences in all directions, from its music, and its art, to its food and automotive heritage.
That wide range of experiences helps when it comes to trip planning, says Moyer. “Travel agents are able to figure out what really speaks to their client when planning a trip to this destination.”
For instance, the Detroit Institute of Art, located in midtown, features over 100 galleries, and is considered a gathering place for locals and visitors. Visitors can purchase a day pass and revel in the diversity of the museum’s collection, among the top six in the nation featuring 65,000 works. Visitors can also attend one of the many events the DIA hosts to engage its people with art, programs, and resources.
The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is another must-see, inviting visitors of all backgrounds to learn and understand the history, life, innovation, and resilience of African Americans throughout history. Visitors can purchase a day pass and the museum is open to the public year-round. For over half a century, this museum has told the stories that inspire, educate, and change lives through the power of learning about the history and culture that surrounds the city.
“Detroit is one of the largest black majority cities in the country and there’s been a significant amount of investment in the community. This has also led to a reintegration of the city in a very harmonious and beautiful way,” says Moyer.
Fun fact: Detroit is the only UNESCO City of Design in the United States and one of only 43 in the world. The city takes creativity to new levels, not just with the DIA, but also all around the city with murals and more. Travellers can spend a day exploring the Eastern Market, located in the heart of Detroit, with many vendors selling fresh produce, full of plants and flowers, and lots of art and culture. Visitors can also explore The Belt, a culturally redefined alley in the heart of downtown Detroit, home to many murals and installations by artists of local, national and international backgrounds. Art really is one of the defining features of Detroit, telling the stories of people and showcasing much of the talent within the community.
In terms of the food scene, Baobab Fare, an East African Restaurant owned by Hamissi Mamba and Nadia Nijimbere, a husband and wife duo from Burundi, is a great new spot that showcases delicious food and celebrates an investment in the community and a commitment to its people. Opened in March 2021 amid the pandemic, the restaurant offers up East African dishes and specialties that have brought the couple joy to make and share with others after fleeing Burundi and gaining asylum in 2017. More details are at https://www.baobabfare.com/.
Two James Spirits, located in Corktown, was the first licensed distillery in Detroit to open following Prohibition. It offers a tasting room where guests can try flights and cocktails made with craft spirits produced in-house. It’s a great experience for those with knowledge in high quality spirits. Visitors can also schedule a tour and take home a bottle or two of Two James Spirits.
Other restaurant openings are Lincoln Tap, Eastern Market Brewing Co.’s brand-new production facility in Royal Oak, marking Michigan’s first fully self-pour taproom; Basan, a Japanese robota grill restaurant inspired by Asian street food; and Rosemary & The Byrd, a new café and cigar lounge headed by Chef Maxcel Hardy who won Detroit’s 2021 Restaurateur of the Year.
One of the major attractions in the city, and one that’s busy year-round, is the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. An engaging way to explore some of America’s greatest innovations through authentic artefacts and collections, the museum allows visitors to purchase a day pass so the whole family can explore the inspiring and well-told stories of so many of the inventions we know today. More than 1.7 million visitors annually experience the venues, including not just the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation but also Greenfield Village, the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, Giant Screen Theatre, and the Benson Research Center.
NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CITY
Motown Museum, known for its iconic artefacts, photographs, and memorabilia from Motown Records, has just completed phase one and two of its US$55 million expansion project. Construction is currently underway on the third and final phase of the project, involving a 40,000 square foot theatre and exhibit space. Completion of phase three is expected in 2023, and the museum remains open for visitors in the meantime.
Visitors can hear all the interesting stories from tour guides, and stand and sing in the spaces where some of the greatest music of all time was recorded. The new Rocket Plaza offers an outdoor gathering and performance space for the public and visitors to make a day of the experience. See motownmuseum.org for more.
Running from Oct. 2, 2022 – Jan. 22, 2023 at the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) is the ‘Van Gogh in America’ exhibit, which includes 74 paintings by van Gogh, including many of his famous works and celebrating the DIA as the very first museum in the country to purchase a painting by Van Gogh. More details are at https://visitdetroit.com/event/van-gogh-in-america/.
Fisher Theatre, also known as the home of Broadway in Detroit, will host the record-breaking and award-winning Hamilton, Nov. 15 – Dec. 4. To celebrate its 60th anniversary season, other upcoming shows include: Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, Dec. 6 – 18, 2022; Les Misérables, Dec. 20, 2022 – Jan. 8, 2023; BeetleJuice, Jan. 30 – Feb. 12, 2023; and Jagged Little Pill, Feb. 13 – 26, 2023.
The Music Hall for Performing Arts and shows at Soundboard at Motor City Casino Hotel also have many upcoming shows scheduled for the rest of the year. Visitors here can see great performers and fun holiday-themed pieces.
“If you want a music experience, it’s really important to note that seven genres of music were either invented or improved here in Detroit. Motown, techno, and electronica were invented here and jazz, gospel, and blues have significantly improved here and had great resonance. So, if you’re a music lover, visiting Motown is a must as well as seeing the Underground Techno Museum and the many shows we have happening year round,” says Moyer.
The Cambria Hotel Downtown Detroit, located at 600 West Lafayette, is set to open in December 2022, with a total of 158 rooms, 18,000 square feet of event space, a golf simulator, rooftop bar, and the Detroit Taco Company Bodega. See cambriadetroit.com for more info.
Godfrey Hotel, a $74 million, 227-room boutique hotel development in Corktown, is back under construction after a long delay that occurred during the pandemic. Expected to open in 2023, this hotel will have seven floors, a chef-driven restaurant, ballroom, and what developers are saying will be the largest rooftop bar and lounge in Detroit.
Hudson’s Site, in development since 2017, is set to reach approximately 685 feet in 2023, making it the second-tallest building in Detroit. This project, set to be officially completed in 2024, will include hotel, dining, entertainment, office, residential and event space.
For more information on all of Detroit’s upcoming events and developments, visithttps://visitdetroit.com/. All photo credit to Felicia Byron.