When residents of Detroit, Michigan, talk about their city, the pride and pleasure they feel is obvious, and their passion for the city rubs off on visitors, like me.
This is a great jumping-off point for your exploration of Michigan. Here, you can eat until you’re full, shop until you drop, and soak up all the art and culture you desire.
Music History at Hitsville, U.S.A.
I took a short drive over to Hitsville U.S.A. and the Motown Historical Museum, where Berry Gordy started Motown Records in 1959. An unassuming property, from the outside it could be just another residence on West Grand Boulevard. Inside, it’s a different story. This is where history was made by some of the most famous recording artists of all time.
Here, in Studio A (formerly the kitchen) in 1964, The Supremes recorded “Baby Love,” which became a No. 1 hit in the UK. The Marvelettes sang “Please Mr. Postman” while Berry Gordy tapped his feet to the beat in the control room, wearing holes in the floor. And Stevie Wonder got his favourite Baby Ruth chocolate bars from the vending machine, still located just outside the control room.
Step Back in Time at The Henry Ford
My next stop, and a must-visit while here, is The Henry Ford. This is a living heritage museum, not just a stop for car enthusiasts. This rich and varied setting includes exhibits and pieces from U.S. history, from amazing inventions to awe-inspiring artefacts. Inside the Henry Ford, I saw a line of presidential limousines, including the one that JFK was assassinated in during a visit to Dallas in 1963. I boarded the bus and sat in the seat where Rosa Parks defied segregation – which was breath-taking – and saw the chair that President Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot.
Outside, in Greenfield Village, I stepped into an 80-acre time machine. In this easily accessible neighbourhood, you’ll find 83 authentic historic structures, including Thomas Edison’s laboratory, which is just across the street from the Wright Brothers’ workshop and around the corner from the home where Henry Ford was born.
Detroit Institute of Arts
Near day’s end, I visited the Detroit Institute of Arts, a cultural gem that includes more than 100 galleries. Located on Woodward Avenue – which, by the way, was the first road in the United States to be paved and the first to have a traffic light – the museum’s exhibits span from prehistory through the 21st century. Two of the most notable acquisitions are Mexican artist Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry murals and Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait, the first of his paintings to enter a U.S. museum collection.
Detroit has it All
As well as the quintessential home of cars and culture, Detroit is well known for its gaming, music and sports. From past to present, historic to hip, Detroit has got it. One of the best places to experience the vibrancy and energy of Detroit is Campus Martius Park, which dates back to 1788 and today is known as Detroit’s gathering place. I took a lunch break in this great urban park in the heart of the city.
And if you’re looking for a slightly slower pace of life, you can always stroll along the Riverwalk – more than three miles of pathways, parks and green space – or take to the water and relax on a boat while enjoying the city’s unforgettable skyline.
As you can see, a fun ride into Detroit’s past is just the beginning. Be sure to include Detroit, Michigan, on your next US-bound holiday.