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Detroit City Trip

Detroit seen from the Canadian side
Detroit seen from the Canadian side

72-Hours in Detroit

By Jane Ammeson

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A seventeenth-century city strategically located on the Detroit River separating Canada and the U.S., Detroit — despite its struggles — remains a gem of a city. From its storied sports franchises, historic and cutting edge architecture and rich music history to an ethnic and culinary diversity of restaurants, plethora of museums and one of the largest theater districts in the country, Detroit really has it all.

Detroit's downtown neighborhoods buzz with hotel offerings from the palatial, Vegas-style MGM Grand Detroit (boasting a 100,000-square-foot casino, VIP suites, IMMERSE spa and the new Wolfgang Puck Steak) to the massive MotorCity Casino-Hotel with its high-tech rooms and pillow library. Those who prefer historic ambience should check out The Inn on Ferry Street located in the East Ferry Street Historic District near the cultural corridor of Midtown Detroit. Situated in four restored Victorian homes and two carriage houses, the inn features a gracious Gilded Age dining room where one can enjoy a cup of tea served on fine porcelain amidst late 1800s splendor.

With only 72 hours to spend, it's best to keep moving because Detroit is packed full of action, and you don't want to miss a thing.

DETROIT DAY 1: Detroit Institute of Arts, Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village

Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts
Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts

After breakfast at your hotel, take a step back in time to an eighteenth-century English country manor at the Virtual Table exhibit within the European Decorative Arts Gallery of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). The experience highlights the china and silver used during grand dinners centuries ago.

And it's what Graham W. J. Beal dreamt of when he took over the helm of the DIA more than a decade ago. Overseeing the $158-million revamp of the classic Beaux Arts-style building dating from 1927, Beal also kicked it up a notch with the addition of a permanent Islamic Arts exhibit that pays homage to Detroit's large Muslim population. The collection includes the largest surviving seventeenth-century Ottoman velvet summer carpet in the world, as well as displays of sacred Islamic, Jewish and Christian writings.

Learn more about the traditions of the Middle East in Dearborn, approximately ten miles west of downtown. It's known both as the city where Michigan's auto industry was born and as the area with the largest Arab population outside of the Middle East. While there, visit the Arab American National Museum, the first and only museum in the United States devoted to Arab American history, traditions and culture.

The Arab American National Museum is the first and only museum in the United States devoted to Arab American history, traditions and culture
Arab American National Museum

After your museum exploration, order sweet delicacies such as baklava, mamoul and mini roses — paper thin sheets of phyllo dough stuffed with a mixture of nuts and honey — at Shatila.  This Middle Eastern bakery and restaurant in Dearborn is also an ice cream shop (its best-selling flavor is pistachio).

Next on our agenda is the Henry Ford Museum. Ford's vision was to make a car affordable to the every-day working man and did so by creating his Model A and Model T cars that changed the way Americans traveled. But Ford was more than just a car guy; he had a passion for preserving American history and documenting the genius behind the country's great discoveries.

In 1929, he opened the Henry Ford Museum, a cornucopia of innovations used in the day-to-day lives of people throughout the ages. You will encounter the different types of stoves used over the past 300 years, displayed in a chorological order. You'll find exhibits on transportation, pewter and home arts. Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, created the energy-efficient and inexpensive Dymaxion House, which is open for walk-through tours. Meanwhile, in the exhibit "With Liberty and Justice for All," visitors can board the Montgomery City Lines bus where Rosa Parks refused to move to the rear and thus helped fuel the Civil Rights movement.

Soak up the charm of the 1930s at Cliff Bell's in Detroit
Cliff Bell's, a taste of the 1930s

Ford's other masterpiece of historical genius is Greenfield Village, where he moved homes of famed inventors such as Thomas Edison. It's also where you'll find his own farmhouse, the very place where Ford was born and invented the Model T.

For supper, dine like it's the 1930s at Cliff Bell's. In 1935, former rum-runner Cliff Bells opened his restaurant and jazz club in what was previously a speakeasy. In business for about 30 years, the building then languished until 2005 when a new restaurant and jazz club, Cliff Bell's, reopened after a major renovation that kept intact the parquet wood floors, barreled ceiling and mahogany bar. Enjoy the French-inspired American cooking while enjoying great music.

Continue to Day 2


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(Updated: 05/06/13 CT)

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