This time of year, Americans usually beeline to spots with some sort of nature component like Yellowstone, Maui, and Ocean City. But why not steer clear of the crowds this summer, and consider an urban destination with outdoor appeal like Detroit?
Because while most people identify Michigan’s biggest city with its automotive roots and as the birthplace of Motown, Motor City brims with plentiful recreational, cultural, and culinary offerings. It’s a unique midwestern metropolis that’s ever-evolving, refreshingly diverse – Detroit is the country’s biggest majority-Black city – and sits along the Detroit River, which forms an international border between Canada and the U.S. On top of that, Detroit couldn’t be any easier to get to since it’s a hub of Delta Airlines.
Ahead, even more reasons why Detroit makes for a smart, yet under-the-radar destination right now.
Where to Stay in Detroit
Opened in 2019, this 129-room Shinola Hotel spanning two historic structures (a Singer sewing machine factory and former department store) and three new builds helped spark the revitalization of downtown Detroit. A beguiling mix of old and new, the public spaces and accommodations embrace a clean, minimalist aesthetic bumped up with original artwork, fresh pops of color, and of course, Shinola-branded accessories like turntables, clocks, and power strips.
Foodwise, there’s five distinct options for every appetite. But San Morello, the hotel’s flagship restaurant by chef Andrew Carmellini, is a must. One of the city’s top spots for rustic Italian cuisine, it offers rotating enticing seasonal specials like a pizza topped with sungold tomatoes and arugula pesto and roasted strawberry tiramisu. And just for summer: Mister Dips, the casual burger and soft-serve joint, is offering the Watermelon Mojo, a bracing frozen cocktail spiked with rum, lime, and mint.
Where to Eat in Detroit
As Detroit’s most exciting new restaurant, Baobab Fare specializes in homestyle East African cooking (Ugali, Kuku, and Samaki) and is owned by partners in work and life Nadia Nijimbere and Hamissi Mamba. After immigrating to the U.S. from Burundi in 2014, the couple worked tirelessly into building a business that isn’t just about eating well – it’s also a safe haven for fellow immigrants, and a place that truly welcomes everyone. Down the street is another noteworthy spot, Yum Village. Run by Nigerian-American chef Godwin Ihentuge, the fast-casual concept turns out terrific Afro-Caribbean and Western African dishes in a colorful, cheerful setting.
If sky high views, perfectly-grilled chops, and a swanky vibe is what you’re after, look no further than Highlands Detroit. Perched on the 71st floor of the RenCen, the panoramic space also features two other concepts, Hearth71 (reopening soon) and High Bar, which doles out refined, but approachable plates (the Wagyu Beef Tartare is exceptional) and an extensive scotch selection. And tucked away in the heart of Corktown is the impossibly charming Mink, the sister restaurant of the James Beard Award-nominated butcher shop and restaurant Marrow. Inside the narrow, cozy space which feels more like a gracious home than stuffy restaurant, guests can dig into a rotating tasting menu that celebrates the diverse bounty of the sea.
Since 2015, Central Kitchen has served as a downtown social hub with chef Christina Stanco’s comfort food with a twist (like báhn mí turkey burgers and sweet soy-glazed calamari) and eclectic design. (You can’t miss the intricate glass fixture suspended above the walnut-topped bar.) And because no visit to Detroit without tucking into some signature square pizzas with thick, cheese-laced crusts, check out city institution Buddy’s, Michigan & Trumbull, or Grandma Bob’s.
What to Do in Detroit
Stretching over three scenic miles, Detroit RiverWalk makes it more than easy to get outdoors. But no matter how you choose to spend time here – whether it’s biking, splashing in fountains, or riding the carousel – you’re guaranteed fantastic views of the city and Canada across the river. Detroit’s also home to lots of public parks, including Belle Isle, Beacon, and Grand Circus. And though it will take about a decade to complete, the highly anticipated Joe Louis Greenway, a 27.5-mile loop of trails connecting 23 city neighborhoods, broke ground last year. When finished, it will allow people to navigate the city safely and seamlessly.
One of the largest and most important art institutions in the country, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) boasts a world-class, diverse collection of over 65,000 pieces and has galleries dedicated to Native American, African, and Korean art. Another important cultural institution, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History traces the rich, stirring, and deeply important legacy of African American history with permanent and visiting exhibitions, and educational opportunities.
For some self-care and pampering, book a treatment at The Woodhouse Spa – Detroit. Black- and woman-owned since 2007, this spa located conveniently across the street from Shinola Hotel offers results-driven treatments like Deep Tissue Transformation massages and Hydrafacials, which feature a state-of-the-art device to remove impurities while bathing the skin with nutrients and moisture.