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Detroit City Trip - Cranbrook and Guardian Building

Riverfront Park in Windsor and Detroit Skyline
Riverfront Park in Windsor and Detroit Skyline


DETROIT DAY 3: Detroit River Tour, Detroit Zoo, Cranbrook Art Museum and the Guardian Building

Start your last day with a cruise on the Detroit River courtesy of Diamond Jack's River Tours. Visit the 125-acre Detroit Zoo and the Belle Isle Nature Zoo. Enjoy a docent-led tour of the 1920s Art Deco Saarinen House, home of Eliel Saarinen, on Cranbrook Academy of Art's marvelous campus. Saarinen, Cranbrook's first resident architect, designed this extraordinary home, while Eero's mother Loja, the Academy's first head of the weaving department, wove many of the home's textiles. Wander the gardens, which are filled with lush plantings and statuaries. Then, stop at the Cranbrook Art Museum.

Cranbrook and some of its gardens
Cranbrook and some of its gardens
Enjoy lunch or dinner amid Old-World elegance at the elegant The Whitney, a 52-room mansion built in 1894. Exuding Victorian splendor, its Tiffany windows sparkle, wood wall panels are polished to perfection and a stately staircase leads to upper floor dining rooms as well as the third-floor Ghost Bar, a spectral place to enjoy a cocktail or two while listening to live jazz or guest DJs. In warm weather, take time to enjoy the extensive gardens.

An Art Deco marvel, the Guardian Building was nicknamed, after first opening in 1929, the "Cathedral of Finance." It's a wonderful mélange of textures, patterns and colors — tangerine-colored brick, pink granite, geometrical tiled windows and terra cotta flourishes — and that's just the exterior. The interior is a wonder, too, with large swaths of Detroit-made Pewabic Pottery tiles adorning the domed entryway, walls and ceilings. Notice, too, the Native American, Aztec and Arts & Crafts influences as well as vaulted, cathedral-like ceilings, murals and stained glass. Within, retail shops include Pure Detroit, selling music, vintage photos and handcrafted items, as well as Motor City Sweets & Treats, which specializes in iconic Detroit brands, such as Faygo Rock n Rye in a glass bottle, Vernors Ginger Ale, Germack pistachios, Alinosi's superfine chocolates and Sander's hot fudge topping. There's also the European-style Rowland Cafe named for the Guardian Building's architect Wirt Rowland.

Guardian Building in downtown Detroit
Guardian Building

Finish your stay with flourish. Michael Symon, who owns several award-winning restaurants in Cleveland, has hit the mark here with his 8,000-square-foot ROAST, a paean to the carnivore in us all. Symon's food philosophy revolves around artisan and heritage, whether it's meat, cheese or produce. And he's also about style and statement, hence the "roasted beast of the day," which is cooked on a wood-burning rotisserie. "Beasts" might include suckling pig, dry-aged porterhouse or duckling.

Then, make plans to return, for there's still a laundry list to do.

For more information, contact the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, 800-DETROIT,


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* Guardian Building image by Bill Bowen for

(Updated: 05/06/13 CT)

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