Weekend Getaway: Detroit Edition
*image above via Trumbull & Porter
Have You Heard? Detroit is the New Black
Even though I’ve never been a Detroit resident, I feel a connection to this city that many of my great grandparents called home when they immigrated from Ireland to the United States. My parents met in high school in Redford, Michigan (just outside of Detroit) and many of my relatives still live in the Detroit area.
I used to dream about moving to Detroit after graduating from college. I was studying Sociology at the time and digging into issues surrounding inequality, poverty, race, class, gender, etc. It was 2008 and the rest of the country was finally getting hit with the recession that Michigan had been experiencing for quite some time. Most people I knew didn’t consider Detroit as a travel destination or weekend getaway option. Instead, they would only visit for a Tigers game or pass through on their way to Windsor, Canada.
If you still think of Detroit in that light, then I have a big update for you. Detroit has blossomed into an incredible tourist destination. The city is dripping with culture, art, fantastic dining options and unique boutiques.
Detroit is a city worth visiting, my friends.
Not only for the reasons I’ve already mentioned, but for the abundant diversity and gritty, resilient spirit of the city that is energizing and inspiring even for its visitors.
When planning a weekend trip to celebrate our anniversary earlier this year, Nick and I both knew we wanted to go to Detroit. It’s a quick 2.5 hour drive from Grand Rapids and we are suckers for cities.
(Here’s a brief video I took on our drive to Motor City)
Travel by Bike!
One of our favorite things to do on vacation is to rent bikes for our main form of transportation. It allows you to experience the city and get to know its landscape in a much more visceral way than simply sitting in a car. (As an added bonus, you get to burn some of the calories you are consuming as you eat and drink your way through your travels.)
We discovered a new boutique hotel that recently opened called Trumbull & Porter and this hotel is a MUST for your Detroit weekend stay. Nick and I loved the beautifully unique way they designed Trumbull and Porter with a strong emphasis on showcasing local, Michigan talent. From their website, they write:
“The visionaries of the new Trumbull & Porter Hotel are proud to have worked with many talented Detroit- and Michigan-based design firms, contractors and artisans on this $9 million transformation. Among those featured include furniture from the iconic Herman Miller and vintage-style bicycles.”
They continue, “From the original mural created by celebrated Corktown artist Don Kilpatrick prominently above the porte cochère entrance, to the words of beloved Detroit poet David Blair on display in the lobby, this hotel is truly one-of-a-kind.”
You could spend your whole weekend at the hotel between the great dining at Red Dunn Kitchen and the beautiful outdoor music stage in their courtyard, but of course you will want to venture out and explore all the sights, sounds and tastes that Detroit can offer its visitors.
But first, be sure to sit in their lobby and slowly take in David Blair’s powerful poem, “Detroit While I Was Away,” which covers a lobby wall.
(Note: We also love finding budget travel options through airbnb.com. Use this link to get $40 off your first airbnb stay! If you use that link, I’ll receive a $20 credit–for full disclosure–so thank you in advance! #WinWin)
What to do while visiting Detroit?
There are many ways to spend a weekend in Detroit, so when you read our weekend itinerary keep in mind that this is just a small taste of all the fun and culturally-enriching experiences you can have while in Detroit.
And to just address the “elephant in the room”…I wanted to share that I never felt unsafe or scared while in Detroit. I only say this because some people asked me about this and I’ve heard my share of horror stories while growing up here in Michigan. Downtown Detroit didn’t feel any different to me than any other big U.S. city. Of course, I was always with my husband and we weren’t walking down dark alleys alone at night (duh). I know my “feelings” are subjective, but I was curious how I would feel and what I would see while visiting Detroit. What I experienced was a city that is rebuilding itself, a place that is bursting with innovation, vibrancy and culture.
- 5:30pm: Nick gets home from work and we drive the boys to my parents to stay for the weekend. YAY!
- 8pm: We check into Trumbull & Porter and LOVE the hotel in person even more than the gorgeous photos on their website.
- 9ish: After checking into our room, we walked over to Batch Brewing Company to grab a drink and a snack. We really liked their outdoor seating and overall vibe.
- 8am: Our bodies graciously allowed us to sleep in past our normal 6:30ish wake up time. (#PraiseHands) We had a mini-fridge in our room and packed along bagels and fruit to save some money on breakfast. We enjoyed grabbing coffee from the Trumbull & Porter coffee bar to go with our packed-from-home breakfast.
- 9:30am: Bike Tour de Detroit Begins! We set off by bike with a plan to bike through downtown Detroit, along the Detroit riverfront, to the historic Eastern Market, then on to Greektown with lots of stops, shopping and eating along the way.
- Late morning: Eastern Market and the surrounding district is an antique/thrifter’s dream. I have heard of the Eastern Market for years, but this was my first time ever visiting. Michigan.org describes this renowned market as, “one of the most authentic urban adventures in the United States. The Market and the adjacent district are rare finds in a global economy – a local food district with more than 250 independent vendors and merchants processing, wholesaling, and retailing food. At the heart of Eastern Market is a six-block public market that has been nourishing Detroit since 1891.” Nick and I had SO MUCH FUN walking through this massive market. We saw children dancing, men playing music and row after row of produce for sale. Surrounding the market, there are tons of antique stores and unique boutiques to browse. I could have kept shopping for hours, but Nick was more than ready to go find lunch after some shopping.
- Lunch: We wanted to get some authentic soul food for lunch and found the perfect spot. Bert’s Marketplace was highly recommended online and we could see why. We enjoyed eating our tasty food outside along the sidewalk in a sea of people with live jazz music floating through the air. It was like a giant Detroit barbecue party that you don’t want to miss!
- Afternoon: After soaking in our fill of all the sights, sounds and tastes of the Eastern Market, we hopped back on our bikes and took a ride to Greektown. we biked to Greek Town for dessert at Astoria before heading back to our hotel. (Side note: You MUST go to Astoria to eat the most heavenly baklava that ever has been made. You will seriously think you have died and gone to dessert heaven!!). And along the way, we also stopped at various landmarks along our route, like the beautiful Guardian Building, Detroit’s Cathedral of Finance.
- Evening: We rode our bikes back to the hotel to get ready for our dinner date. Nick picked out the restaurant, Republic (again based on positive online reviews). Our meal was absolutely amazing at Republic and the service was top-notch. After dinner we enjoyed some more live music in a nearby park. It seems that if you’re in Detroit in the summer, you are sure to hear live music nearly everywhere you go. I suppose you should expect no less from Motown.
Before heading back to Grand Rapids, we made a quick trip to the Belle Isle Conservatory, which features expansive picnic grounds, gorgeous fountains and a lovely botanic gardens.
*image above via https://www.belleisleconservancy.org
Then, we finished off our Detroit weekend getaway with a stop at Shake Shack (our first time there ever – YUM!) to grab a burger and fries before heading home. OMG…I can see why those burgers are so well-loved! Definitely worth the bazillion calories.
Have you traveled to Detroit (or perhaps you live there)? I’d love to hear your take on our visit!