Rust Belt on the Rise: Detroit

by  Tommy Burson | Dec 26, 2013
Detroit / Sean Pavone / iStock

Most of you probably recognize Detroit from its so-called "post-apocalyptic" ruins. At first glance, it's easy to be taken aback. The city's not the cleanest. It's not the prettiest. And while many focus on the city's murder rate and recent bankruptcy, Detroiters remain stoic and optimistic. In fact, it ranks among the happiest cities in the U.S.. From burgeoning art installations to urban gardens, artisan markets, trendy music scenes, and hot dogs done right, Detroit’s dusting off its reputation and clamoring for attention. In a city known for its recent descent into nothing, here a look into its best “somethings:”

See high art for low prices...
While Detroit’s government flounders, its art scene flourishes. At the Detroit Institute of Arts, for only $8, you can gaze into one of America’s most impressive art collections, including gems by van Gogh, Diego Rivera, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Picasso. But Detroit’s art doesn't all stem from traditionalist perspectives. There’s also the Heidelberg Project (located on Heidelberg Street), which Tyree Guyton transformed two city blocks into a free, massive outdoor art installation, or the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit ($5), which has garnered international acclaim. Due to low rent prices, artists have been flocking to Detroit for years. To see what they've been up to, check out the Third Thursday, by Art Detroit Now, where 62 stores, cafes, and galleries stay open late to showcase special art openings, exhibits, and programs. This happens on the third Thursday of every month. It’s part of a growing artistic movement in Detroit that shows no signs of slowing.

Head to market...
Opened in 1841, Eastern Market, decorated with paintings of produce and livestock, is the largest historic public market in the United States. On Saturdays, forty-five-thousand people head to the historic district in search of fresh produce, meats, fresh-cut flowers, homemade jams, and colorful crafts. All of these treats fit any budget, from flat-broke to wealthy connoisseur. Within a six-block radius, over 250 independent vendors, from Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario, Canada, share their harvests with the city of Detroit.

Go to the great outdoors...
Fit with a conservatory, aquarium, and lush greenery, Belle Isle – located in the middle of the Detroit River, off McArthur Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Canada – is the perfect escape from a day in the city. Enjoy a walk along the scenic trails surrounded by both the skyline and frolicking deer. Also located on the island are breathtaking botanical gardens, twenty greenhouses, and a soothing lily pond. Ever think you’d see a palm tree in Detroit? You’ll find one here for the wonderful price of $0.

Have a Coney dog...
Lafayette of American? This isn’t a question to answer lightly in Detroit. Both spots – Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island – serve up a cheap, classic hot dogs topped with a generous portion of chili. These dogs go for about $2. Opened by competing brothers at Michigan Ave. and Lafayette Ave., the rivalry has even been featured on Food Network and The Travel Channel. You can’t take a trip to Detroit without grabbing a Coney dog...or, well, two Coney dogs.

Head straight to Corktown...
The shuttered Michigan Central Station may be one of the nighborhood's most recognized landmarks, but Corktown is on the upswing. From the neighborhood’s new distillery – the first in Detroit since Prohibition – to the famous Slow’s Bar-BQ, Corktown is giving Detroiters delicious dishes, one-of-a-kind art, and hope for its future. With live music venues, cozy art galleries, and cheap bites, no Detroit trip is complete with a day, or four, in this neighborhood. When you arrive, hop on a bike tour ($25 or $35 including bike rental) with Wheelhouse Detroit and explore the its Victorian houses and historic buildings. Then go for generous sandwiches (around $10) from Mudgie’s, or cheap burgers and brews at Nemo’s.

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