It’s time once again for the North American International Auto Show, which will take the Motor City by storm January 20th-28th. Cars are of course the stars of this annual extravaganza, but with the ever-changing cityscape of Detroit, it is also a phenomenal time to explore the metropolis. Here are 8 ways to make the most of your time in the city, during the show and beyond.
Admittedly in a city built on the sale of automobiles, public transportation has taken a back seat. That recently began to change with the launch of the QLINE, a modern street car that operates along Woodward Avenue. There are twelve stops along the route that runs from Grand Boulevard in the New Center area to Congress, which is closest to Cobo Center. It provides an easy way to check out the trendy shops and restaurants of Midtown, explore the Detroit Historical Museum, or visit the Fisher Building. It is worth noting that the Grand Circus stop provides an easy connection to the Peoplemover, an elevated tram that makes a 3-mile loop around the downtown area. The Peoplemover has a stop directly in Cobo Center, home to the auto show. Riding the QLINE requires a pass, which can be purchased at each station or online. A 3-hour pass is $1.50 or for $3.00 you can get a pass good for an entire day.
Any excuse to visit the captivating halls of the Fisher Building is a good one. This National Historic Landmark was designed by architectural genius, Albert Kahn, whose work can be found all around the city. The Art Deco style building opened its doors in 1928, the same year in which radio station WJR became one of its first tenants, and it still operates from the building to this day. It is also home to retailers like Pure Detroit, where you can find a variety of locally-produced goods and sometimes even get a tour of the building. It also features the 2,089-seat Fisher Theatre, which is hosting a production of The Bodyguard during auto show week. The musical, based on the famous movie by the same name, features R&B star Deborah Cox in the lead and includes smash hits like Queen of the Night, So Emotional, One Moment in Time, Saving All My Love, Run to You, I Have Nothing, I Wanna Dance with Somebody, and of course one of the biggest selling songs of all time – I Will Always Love You.
One of the latest additions to America’s greatest sports town is the Little Caesar’s Arena. Home to both the Red Wings and the Pistons, as well as playing host to multiple concerts, it is a venue that is sure to be hopping all year round. Both teams have home matches during the auto show, if you want to soak up the game day atmosphere. The arena is also currently offering some tours. If you don’t have time for either, but still want to take a gander, consider dining in one of the attached eateries like Sports & Social Detroit, Mike’s Pizza Bar, or Kid Rock’s Made in Detroit restaurant. Each will give you a glimpse inside the new venue.
Campus Martius is Detroit’s downtown playground, and as much fun as it is in the summer, it is arguably even more magical in the winter. The concert grass is converted to an ice rink that is even larger than New York’s famed Rockefeller Center. You can bring your own, or rent skates on the spot. If gliding on the ice is not your forte, perhaps shopping is. The holiday markets in adjoining Cadillac Square will be open Thu-Sun. Beverages and board games can also be found in the heated Cadillac Lounge Tue-Sun. There are also some tremendous local food and drink options within walking distance like Parc, Central Kitchen, and Grand Trunk Pub.
You can learn a lot about a place by the art it cherishes, and Detroit is no exception. Look up and walk into buildings to enjoy the city’s phenomenal architecture and all the work being done to preserve it. Seek out murals. They are around nearly every corner, and can especially be found in The Belt and Eastern Market. At the top of the museum list is a visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts to take in Diego Rivera’s frescos, which honor Detroit’s auto workers. Nearby MOCAD and Detroit Artists Market are also worth a stop. Of course, few art forms have meant more to Detroit than music. You can even pop into musician (and native son) Jack White’s Third Man Records, where vinyl records are being pressed. Consider a stop at the Detroit Historical Museum, which includes spectacular automotive-related exhibits as well as a tribute to homegrown musicians like Kid Rock, Eminem, Madonna, Bob Seger, and Stevie Wonder to name but a few. Of course no magical musical tour would be complete without heading to Hitsville USA, the little house where Barry Gordy built an empire upon the Motown sound.
Visit the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle
Head up Jefferson Avenue from Cobo Center, and you’ll find the bridge to Belle Isle. The entire island is a State Park, juxtaposed between the City of Detroit and Canada. In addition to natural beauty any time of year, it is home to an aquarium, nature center, conservatory, and the sometimes overlooked Dossin Great Lakes Museum. Before Michigan was known for cars on our roads, it was, and remains, known for boats in our lakes. The museum galleries feature exquisite models of sailing ships and commercial vessels, and a glimpse into the state’s maritime history.
Take in the Pixar Exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum
A quick hop, skip, and jump from downtown, is the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn. The venue is currently hosting a temporary exhibit called The Science Behind Pixar, which is a look behind the scenes of the company that brought us Toy Story, Cars, Finding Nemo, Inside Out, Coco, and many more stunningly-animated films. This interactive exhibition showcases concepts used by the artists and computer scientists who help bring Pixar’s films to life. It is divided into eight sections, each of which focuses on a step in the filmmaking process to give you an unparalleled view of the production pipeline and concepts used at Pixar every day. If that isn’t dazzling enough, permanent attractions at the museum include the actual bus where Rosa Parks took her famous stand, presidential vehicles, and Lincoln’s infamous theater seat. Car aficionados may want to take the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, to learn more about Ford’s processes as well.
Save some money, while exploring the city by getting the D Discount Pass. It is FREE and saves you 20% or more on entrance to some of Metro Detroit’s most-loved attractions, including the aforementioned Henry Ford and Motown Museums (affectionately known as Hitsville USA) as well as the Michigan Science Center, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Outdoor Adventure Center, and more. The pass can be sent to your email or phone instantly by applying here. It is good until December 31, 2018 so start your Detroit adventures during NAIAS and explore more throughout the year.
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