Detroit Is Broke: 5 Reasons to Visit

by  Alex Schechter | Jul 19, 2013
Detroit / Sean Pavone / iStock

In a surprising development yesterday, the city of Detroit announced it was filing for bankruptcy, with an estimated total debt of approximately $18 billion. Intense scrutiny will be directed at the finance-addled city as it sets out to rebuild its economy; here, we take a quick look at why now more than ever, Detroit is worth a visit:

1. With its unique location along the Detroit River, which connects Lake St. Clair to Lake Erie, one of Detroit's most impressive features is the Detroit Riverfront. The scenic five-and-a-half mile long promenade bypasses a marina, multiple parks, shops and restaurants, and is home to several major events and festivals annually, such as the North American International Auto Show (held every January in the Cobo Center).

2. Detroit's historic role as the epicenter of the US automobile industry is well-known. The Henry Ford Museum ($17 admission) contains an impressive 200 vehicles, including the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile and the 1961 Lincoln Continental in which JFK was assassinated. And coming up at the end of the month is the family-friendly Maker Faire (July 27-28), during which hundreds of inventors show off their latest creations, from robots to rockets, and everything in between.

3. If you'd like to contribute to the city's regrowth and find a place to sleep, Detroit ♥s U Guest Home is an AirBnB-listed guest house that channels a portion of its proceeds into organizations that benefit locals. The $199/night rate gets you 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and a wonderfully cozy living room with a fireplace and (yes) a dancing pole. Meanwhile, if you haven't yet warmed up to the AirBnB fad, rates at DoubleTree Fort Shelby are down to $159 – making for some of the cheapest waterfront hotel views in town.

4. When it comes to exploring Detroit's expanding art scene, the Detroit Institute of Arts (which houses an original Diego Rivera mural, and hosts a popular film screening series) is as good a place to start as any, though there are other gems to be found. On the east side of the city is the Heidelberg Project, an open-air art project by Tyree Guyton that turned a dilapidated row of houses into a colorful art exhibit.

5. First-timers to Motor City are often advised to sign up for a guided walking tour of the downtown area. And with good reason: there's no better way to get acquainted with the city's unique assortment of pre-Depression era buildings, Underground Railroad stops, Motown landmarks, public art, and, of course, the famous foodie haven Eastern Market. A popular choice is D:hive Detroit, whose "Free Insiders Walking Tour" (Saturdays from 2-4 pm; free) includes a visit to Campus Martius Park, the Guardian Building, the Theater District, and more.

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