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8 Attractions to Enhance Your Detroit Auto Show Experience

by Lisa Diggs

The North American International Auto Show has once again descended upon Detroit, and visitors to the city are coming from near and far. The show itself is always unique as new automotive creations and innovations are unveiled in Detroit like nowhere else in the world. The city is also on display so here are 8 ways to make your visit just as unique as the show.

 
Ride the People Mover
Aptly named, the People Mover is an above-ground rail line that transports riders to different areas of downtown Detroit. Its fame may soon be eclipsed by the QLine, a modern street car set to operate along Woodward Avenue, but its value downtown remains. There is a stop right inside Cobo Center so it makes a great starting point for departures away and back to the main event. In total there are 13 stations on a nearly 3-mile loop around the downtown area. Take the full loop around to get a feel for the city, then stop and try your luck at Greektown Casino, visit the GM headquarters, get a close look at the city’s stadiums, or take in a meal in the seemingly endless supply of amazing eateries along the way.    
 
Linger in Campus Martius Park
In the summer, this center of the city retreat is home to beach sand, a fountain, and outdoor concerts, but in the winter it transforms to include an ice rink that is even larger than the famed Rockefeller Center rink. The area also includes a Hard Rock Café featuring tributes to Detroit’s many musical superstars. Tremendous options for food and drinks can be found at Parc, Central Kitchen, Townhouse, Grand Trunk Pub, and Dime Store. During the weekend of Jan 20-22 Campus Martius will also be home to a winter festival complete with a giant slide, an ice bar and maze, zip lines, roasted marshmallows, and music galore.
 
Choose a Side in the Coney Battle
A very quick walk from Campus Martius will take you to the heart of one of Detroit’s best-known battles: American VS Lafayette. American Coney Island was opened by Gust Keros in 1917, after having operated a hot dog cart on the corner of Michigan and Lafayette for a few years. Not long after opening the restaurant he brought his brother to America. His brother then opened Lafayette Coney Island right next door, and a legendary sibling rivalry, with chili on top, was born. It’s hard to find a Detroiter who doesn’t have a preference for one over the other. Luckily they’re so close by that you can try each and weigh in yourself.
 
View the Murals of Eastern Market
Hop in your vehicle, grab a cab, or summon an Uber and head to Eastern Market, one of the oldest and largest year-round markets in the country. Saturday is the best day to go, as Sheds 2-6 are open for public sales by vendors from throughout the region. That said, any day you go, you’ll be awed by the art and scrumptious foods that abound. In recent years artists have been creating incredible murals throughout the district, and old and new restaurants are a staple. Longtime favorites include Roma Café, Russell Street Deli, and Vivio’s (known for their Bloody Marys). Supino Pizzeria, La Rondinella, and Antietam are among the newer, highly acclaimed additions to the area.
 
Shop and Take in Art in Midtown
Midtown, arguably the most bustling, popular neighborhood in all of Detroit, is teeming with hot spots, cool shops, and art stops. It’s home to Wayne State University so it has a bit of a college town vibe. HopCat, Jolly Pumpkin Brewery, The Whitney, and Selden Standard are standouts in a dreamy field of culinary destinations. Famous for making watches, bikes, and so much more, Shinola’s flagship store can be found here. City Bird, which is filled with Michigan-made treasures, is uniquely Detroit. You can even pop into musician (and native son) Jack White’s Third Man Records. Consider a stop at the Detroit Historical Museum, which includes spectacular automotive-related exhibits as well as a tribute to local musicians including Kid Rock, Eminem, Madonna, Bob Seger, and Stevie Wonder to name but a few. Of course no visit is complete without heading to the Detroit Institute of Arts to take in Diego Rivera’s frescos, which honor Detroit’s auto workers.  
 
Venture to Belle Isle
Just a quick trip up Jefferson from Cobo Center, this gem nestled between two great nations is now an official State Park. The designation has meant some improvements to what was already one of the city’s true delights. Water will not be flowing from the famous Scott Fountain at this time of year, but it’s still a magnificent sight, as is the skyline of Detroit with the river in the foreground. Among other attractions, the island boasts an aquarium, nature center, conservatory, and the Dossin Great Lakes Museum.
 
Try Your Arm at Fowling
For a truly unusual experience, make your way to Fowling Warehouse in nearby Hamtramck and try out this goofy sport, born out of bowling and football. The object of the game is for teams to be the first to knock all their opponents pins down by throwing a football at 10 bowling pins which are positioned in a triangular format. It’s tougher than you think, and a whole lot of fun. The site also includes a bar for those who desire a little liquid courage before picking up the ball.
 
Take a Seat at the Henry Ford Museum
If you’re visiting Detroit from a ways away, be sure to allow time to make it to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn (about 15-20 minutes by car from downtown). Amazingly you can climb aboard and have a seat on the actual bus where Rosa Parks took her famous stand. You’ll see the car that carried JFK, Lincoln’s theater seat, and a multitude of sights with historic and innovative relevance. Car lovers will especially enjoy the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, to get a glimpse into the city’s automotive past, present, and future.  
 
There is so much to see, taste, and do in Detroit, and things are changing so rapidly, that I can almost guarantee discovering something new with every visit. Enjoy your Motor City adventure. 
 

 


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