Because of its economic problems, Detroit got a pretty bad rap and became a symbol of urban decay, but economic revitalization is underway in some of its historic neighborhoods. Once one of America’s wealthiest cities, Detroit built up numerous attractions, entertainment venues, and sports stadiums. Now it’s becoming know as a place for cheap — really cheap — property and the place most likely to experience a renaissance. Before you cross Detroit off of your list of travel destinations, consider these 10 reasons to go to Detroit now.
Sources: economyincrisis.org, time.com, pbs.com, innonferry.wpengine.com, detroit.about.com, fodors.com, empowermentplan.org, heidelberg.org, thedeliciousday.com, huffingtonpost.com, businessinsider.com
Detroit has a musical legacy that literally changed America. It started in 1959 when Berry Gordy opened Motown, a recording studio that combined pop and soul to create a grooving music great for dancing. Both whites and blacks couldn’t get enough of Motown and, by uniting youth of all colors, the music is credited with helping to bring about racial integration. Over the years, Motown produced some of the top artists of all time, including Diana Ross and the Supremes, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Jackson 5, and Stevie Wonder. Today, the recording studio has been transformed into a museum.
If you want to see community spirit and passion, Detroit embodies them. Even though the city is blighted with vacant houses and debt, citizens are rallying to renovate neighborhoods. Rather than waiting for the government to take action, they are getting things done themselves through non-profit community groups. Using whatever tools they can get their hands on, community members are transforming vacant lots into community gardens and abandoned storefronts into murals.
In case you forgot that Detroit used to be prosperous, a stay at the Inn on Ferry Street will remind you. The inn consists of four Victorian mansions and two carriage houses. In the early 1900s, the neighborhood was mostly Jewish and in the 1930s, became home to prominent black residents who had established some of the major facilities for the then-segregated black population of Detroit. The inn has been elaborately renovated true to its original style, with stunning carved-wood banisters, Victorian turrets, and grand fireplaces.
It’s a quick-and-easy drive into Canada from Detroit. Commuters can cross through the Detroit-Canada Tunnel or the Windsor Bridge — the busiest border crossings into Canada from the U.S. If you drive northeast from Detroit, you can also cross into Canada on the Blue Water Bridge from Port Huron to Sarnia. These three crossing points make Detroit a good place to start a trip into Canada.
In its glory days, Detroit built many sport venues including the Comerica Park, Ford Field, and the Joe Louis Arena. With so many arenas in one city, Detroiters enjoy sporting events year round. Detroiters love their teams and you will feel compelled to join in with the crowds cheering them on.
There is no doubt that Detroit is a city of innovators. For proof, consider its Empowerment Plan. Faced with the problem of homeless women freezing on the streets in winter, a non-profit group designed a coat made from a sleeping bag that can be worn during the day and slept in at night. The coats are made by homeless women who are paid to learn how to manufacture and produce them.
Greek Town can be seen as a symbol of multicultural Detroit, as well as a testament to America’s immigrant roots. The area that is now Greek Town was first settled by Germans in the 1800s but, by the early 1900s, a wave of Greeks immigrants began to move in. They established many businesses. When their neighborhood was put at risk during a redevelopment project in the 1960s, the community banded together and succeeding in keeping the historic neighborhood intact. The annual Greek Festival, started in 1966, is a testament to survival.
You’d be surprised at what urban blight can do for the art scene. Detroiters have taken it as an opportunity to show off their creativity and transform entire public spaces into works of art. The best-known Detroit art project is probably the Heidelberg Project, which started when a military veteran returned home to find his street in decay. As an act of protest, he painted some of the houses in the street with bright colors and dots. Over the years, the other houses turned into more elaborate works of art. Detroit also boasts many outdoor sculptures, street murals, and the Detroit Institute of Arts museum.
Did you know that Detroit has a large Middle Eastern community with a vibrant culinary scene and eateries competing to sell you delicious food like kebab, kafta, and tawook? Or maybe you like Mexican food. Just head to Detroit’s Mexicantown for authentic fare. For a cheap eat, try the legendary Detroit Coney dogs. Or check out the historic Detroit Eastern Market which serves an estimated 45,000 people every Saturday with fresh produce, seafood, gourmet condiments, and specialty foods.
If you are a struggling writer tired of scraping money together for rent each month, then maybe you should take Detroit up on its offer of a free house. Through its Write a House program, a struggling writer may be given a free house as long as they stay in the house for 24 months. It is part of Detroit’s plan to revitalize its neighborhoods. Detroit has also launched many initiatives aimed at helping people purchase and renovate homes.
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