Hear It From Locals

JOIN ME IN AN INTERVIEW WITH LISSA FROM DETROIT, MICHIGAN!

Lissa writes Roots, Wings and Travel Things – a family travel blog that focuses on helping children grow strong roots and beautiful wings through travel. Based out of Detroit, she and her husband have been traveling with their twins for nine years.

 

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Which is the best month to visit Detroit and why?

Oh my gosh, this is such a hard question. Michigan has four distinct seasons and they are all absolutely wonderful in their own right, so it’s always a great time to visit Detroit! We love summer because we can get to Lake Michigan for a day trip and we love winter because we can get up north to ski, but I’d have to say my absolute favorite month in Detroit is October. The temperature is chilly but not cold- perfect for wearing that favorite sweater and needing an extra cup of hot coffee. When the trees change, the colors in Michigan are simply stunning. There are so many natural areas in the city of Detroit that you can still experience the glorious foliage even if you stay within the city limits.

 

What are the different modes of transport available from the airport to the city apart from cab? Would you advise a cab over other suggested modes? 

Detroit doesn’t have a lot of cabs and there is very little public transportation. Your very best bet is to rent a car right at the airport. Uber and Lyft are also quite big here so those are great options if you don’t want to rent a car. But driving is by far the easiest way to get to and from the airport, and to explore the city while you are here.

 

What is the most convenient and favored transport of Detroit?

Hands down, without a doubt the most convenient mode of transportation in the
city of Detroit is renting your own car. Unlike other major cities, Detroit has never had a real public transit system. There’s actually a logical reason for this. Detroit is the home of Henry Ford and the mass-produced automobile. The Big Three automotive companies all have headquarters here and we have a rich history when it comes to owning automobiles. Because of this, most people here own their own cars and there was never as much of a need for public transit as there is in other big cities. However, Detroit is experiencing an incredible revitalization. People are moving back into the city from the suburbs, increasing the population within the city limits. There are so many things to see and to in Detroit that many people are visiting the city regularly for dining and entertainment, which wasn’t common until recently.

Detroit is addressing this increase in population by adding in some public transportation options such as the Q Line- but it’s routes are limited so if you want to fully explore the city a rental car is still your best bet. 

Biking is becoming quite popular within the city as well. We have a bike share program and a new scooter share program that are really great ways to see the city. I definitely recommend taking one of the many bike tours while you are here- they are becoming quite popular and are a great way to see the city! To know more you can read our post on biking in DetroitUnfortunately, Detroit is a big, sprawling city so a bike alone won’t allow you to see all of it.

 

What are the top three must visit places in Detroit?

The top three places to visit in the city of Detroit are Eastern Market, Campus Martius Park and The Henry Ford Museum of Innovation is actually just outside the city limit in the suburb of Dearborn.

 

Eastern Market is an amazing place to experience the true vibe of Detroit! Eastern Market, open every Saturday of the year, is the largest historic farmers market in the country- right in the middle of the city! There are 5 sheds covering 43 acres with hundreds of vendors selling fresh fruits and veggies, spices and sauces, freshly baked breads and pies and handmade arts and crafts. 

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Fresh produce in Eastern Market

 

Food trucks and street musicians abound and the Eastern Market District is also home to a large concentration of Detroit’s street art murals. There’s something for everyone at Eastern Market!

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Murals in Eastern Market

 

Campus Martius Park is another place that anchors the revitalization of Detroit.
There is always something happening at Campus Martius Park. In the summertime, the park is turned into a beach scene right in the middle of the city. With a giant sand pit, beach chairs and beach umbrellas, there’s also an open-air bar where people meet to hang out and have a drink. In the winter the beach is turned into an ice rink where you can skate under Detroit’s giant Christmas tree. There is an adorable little holiday market with vendors selling unique handcrafted gifts as well as hot cider and cocoa. All year long, food trucks congregate at Campus Martius for the lunch crowd and there are all sorts of games set up- from basketball courts to chess. The park is jumping from mid- morning through late evening, all year long!

 

Although this next must-see place is actually outside of the city limits (not by
much), I don’t think anyone should come to Detroit without visiting the Henry
Ford Museum of Innovation and Greenfield Village in Dearborn. Occupying the
same gorgeous property, the museum is an indoor space featuring the history of
innovation in America including Henry Ford’s infamous assembly line and Model
T while the Village is an outdoor location that takes you back in time. At Greenfield Village, you can ride the oldest continuously running steam engine in the United States or take a ride in a vintage Model T. The Village is home to an incredible collection of historic buildings, including Thomas Edison’s laboratory transported to the Village from Menlo Park, New Jersey and the Logan County Courthouse where Abraham Lincoln tried his first cases as a layer. Henry Ford designed both the museum and the Village as a way to preserve the history of the self-made man and the spirit of innovation that weaves intricately throughout the history of America. While you can easily spend two full days here, it’s still well worth a visit even if you only have an afternoon!

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Green Field Village Steam Engine

 

What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Detroit ? Do you
recommend any local tour operators who can help the visitors arrange so?

The day trips you can take from Detroit are literally endless! To stay in the state of Michigan, you can go in two directions- west and north!

If you take I-94 west out of Detroit, in three hours time you will run directly in to Lake Michigan in the small town of St. Joseph. Lake Michigan boasts 1,400 miles of pristine, fresh water shoreline. One could argue I’m a bit biased- but I’ve spent a great deal of time on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and I still say the beaches of Lake Michigan are some of the most beautiful in the country! The west side of the state is dotted with incredible beach towns. Each and every one is well worth a visit!

If you head north from Detroit, you’ll end up somewhere that Michiganders simply call
“Up North”. It’s not a specific location. In fact, I’d argue that “Up North” isn’t a location at all, but a feeling. It’s a “get back to nature, explore the outdoors, relax by a lake or campfire and let the worries of the world fade away” kind of feeling. Anywhere north of Lansing, our state capitol, can be considered “Up North” and there are dozens of small towns, lakes and beaches, ski resorts, bike and nature paths and campgrounds that epitomize the feeling that we call “Up North”.

If you have time for more than a day trip, you’ll want to go all the way north- and
beyond! At the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula you’ll find towns like Traverse CityPetoskey and Harbor Springs that are home to some of the most beautiful shoreline in the state of Michigan. In the summer you can explore Sleeping Bear Dunes and in the winter you can ski Boyne Mountain or Nubs Nob.

Drive a little farther north and you can take a ferry to historic Mackinaw Island. Mackinaw Island is another trip back in time. The island is accessible only by ferry (or snowmobile in the winter, but only for the few locals who live there year-round) and the only transportation on the island is by horse drawn carriage or bike! If you’re ready for a real treat, drive across the Mackinaw Bridge and enter the Upper Peninsula. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is quite possibly one of the most gorgeous and under-utilized areas in the entire United States. It’s far more than a day trip from Detroit, but it’s entirely worth visiting!

 

What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Detroit? What makes it so special?

The most celebrated holiday of the year in Detroit is actually Thanksgiving! Detroit is
home to America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, founded in 1924 by the J.L. Hudson Company Department Store. It shares the title of second oldest Thanksgiving Parade with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Traveling down Woodward Avenue, America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade highlights the very best of Detroit. Each year the parade company hosts a contest where local children can submit drawings of a parade float, selecting one drawing to be turned into an actual larger than life float that is featured in the parade! Detroit’s rich musical history is featured throughout the parade and the Christmas season kicks off with Santa arriving at the very end of the parade. America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is televised nationally but seeing the parade in person is a truly remarkable experience!

 

Which is the most happening area in Detroit and why? Would you suggest any bar or restaurant in particular ?

Detroit has a handful of really happening areas !

Corktown is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Detroit and it has a lot of fantastic restaurants. Slow’s BBQ on Michigan Avenue is a one of our favorite places to eat in Corktown. 

Downtown Detroit has all of our major sports areas, the Detroit River Walk, Campus Marius Park, and lots of new shopping with stores like Nike, Under Armor, Lululemon and Warby Parker. 

Midtown is another great area. Midtown is home to Wayne State University and our arts and cultural district. Here you’ll find the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Historical Museum, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Detroit Science Center. There are also lots of bars, restaurants and coffee shops in Midtown to enjoy. Our absolute favorite is Pie Sci, a Detroit pizza joint that offers some of the most unusual and delicious pizzas you can ever imagine! 

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The Detroit Institute of Arts

 

The Eastern Market District is another great place to be, especially on Saturdays. Aside
from checking out the market itself, be sure to grab a slice of pizza at Supino’s and taste
the freshly ground peanut butter at Germack’s!

 

Is Detroit a vegetarian friendly city? Where can one find amazing street food in the city?

One of the biggest things contributing to the revitalization of Detroit is the foodie scene here. There are a lot of great local chefs and chefs are starting to come in from other cities like NYC to open restaurants here in Detroit. You can find everything here- from vegetarian and vegan to gluten free to Detroit style pizza! 

We don’t have traditional street food served from carts, but we do have a good deal of food trucks. If you’re looking for a large selection all in one location, head to Campus Martius Park for lunch.

 

What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Detroit

As for savory– the Detroit style pizza is one of our most loved foods. There’s Chicago style pizza, New York style pizza and then there’s Detroit style pizza! Detroit style pizza is a rectangular shaped pizza baked in a pan and the sauce is on top of the cheese!

For sweet– it’s a food you can only get one day a year! The paczki (pronounced “poonch-key”). Historically, Detroit has had a large Polish population, particularly in the Hamtramak area, and the paczki is a Polish Fat Tuesday tradition. It’s a donut stuffed with filling and topped with powdered sugar and was a way for families to use up all of their sugar before the Christian fast of Lent. Unless you’re Polish, most people outside of Detroit have never heard of paczki- so if you’re here on Fat Tuesday you’ve got to give them a try!

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Paczki, the Polish doughnuts

 

Where to head for shopping in Detroit? 

My two favorite places to shop in Detroit are in the Eastern Market District and Downtown on Woodward.

Eastern Market and the surrounding shops offer a little bit of everything but
mostly specialize hand-crafted and local items.

Woodward Avenue is now home to some incredible shopping- more of what you’d expect to find in Chicago or New York City. You can shop at Nike, Lululemon, Under Armor, and Moosejaw. It’s really neat to see Woodward so filled with people while they shop and dine. The streets of Detroit used to be entirely empty- now Woodward Avenue is almost always full of shoppers and diners and people out enjoying the city!

 

Where to get the best exchange rates in Detroit? Do you recommend any particular bank for it?

The best exchange rates in Detroit are at the Duty Free shops just before you cross the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit- Windsor Tunnel.

 

Do you recommend any walking tours or travel photography tours in Detroit to the visitors?

There are a number of biking tours and walking street-art tours in the city. While I can’t recommend one in particular- I highly recommend checking them both out. There are many different bike tour companies as well as many different street- art tour companies. Both are really awesome ways to explore Detroit!

 

Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Detroit?

The DetroitCity App is a great resource. It has a directory of businesses and public parking options. Go Detroit! Is great for finding events, dining and nightlife. ARTOWN Detroit is an art app that will help you explore all of the public art installations in the city- and there are so many to see!

 

FOLLOW LISSA’S BLOG TO KNOW MORE ABOUT DETROIT. YOU CAN ALSO FIND HER ON TWITTER/INSTAGRAM/FACEBOOK/PINTEREST

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