When residents of Detroit, Michigan, talk about their city, the pride and pleasure they feel is obvious, and their passion for the city rubs off on visitors, like me.
This is a great jumping-off point for your exploration of Michigan. Here, you can eat until you’re full, shop until you drop, and soak up all the art and culture you desire.
Music History at Hitsville USA
While in Detroit, one must visit an unassuming property where Berry Gordy started Motown Records in 1959. From the outside, Hitsville USA and the Motown Museum could be just another residence on West Grand Boulevard. Inside, it’s a different story. This is where history was made by some of the most famous recording artists of all time.
In Studio A in 1964, The Supremes recorded “Baby Love” in the former kitchen, and the song became a No. 1 hit in the UK. The Marvelettes sang “Please Mr. Postman” while Gordy tapped his feet to the beat in the control room, wearing holes in the floor. And Stevie Wonder got his favorite Baby Ruth chocolate bars from the vending machine, still in place just outside the control room.
Step Back in Time at The Henry Ford
My next stop was The Henry Ford. This is a living heritage museum, not just a stop for car enthusiasts. You'll see exhibits and pieces from U.S. history, including amazing inventions and awe-inspiring artifacts. Inside The Henry Ford, I saw a line of presidential limousines, including the one that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in during a visit to Dallas in 1963. I boarded the bus and sat where Rosa Parks defied segregation – a breath-taking experience – and saw the chair that President Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot in a theater.
Outside, in Greenfield Village, I stepped into an 32-hectare time machine. In this easily accessible neighborhood, you’ll find 83 authentic historic structures, including Thomas Edison’s laboratory, which is just across the street from the Wright Brothers’ workshop and around the corner from the home where Henry Ford was born.
Detroit Institute of Arts
Near day’s end, I visited the Detroit Institute of Arts, a cultural gem that includes more than 100 galleries. Located on Woodward Avenue – which, by the way, was the first road in the USA to be paved and the first to have a traffic light – the museum’s exhibits span from prehistory through the 21st century. Two of the most notable acquisitions are Mexican artist Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry Murals and Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait, the first of his paintings to be included in a US museum collection.
So Many Places to Explore
As well as being the quintessential home of cars and culture, Detroit is known for its gaming, music and sports. From past to present, historic to hip, Detroit is full of must-see destinations. One of the best places to experience the vibrancy and energy of Detroit is Campus Martius Park, which dates to 1788 and today is known as Detroit’s gathering place. I took a lunch break in this great urban park in the heart of the city.
And if you’re looking for a slightly slower pace of life, you can always stroll along the Riverwalk – with nearly five kilometers of pathways, parks and green space – or take to the water and relax on a boat while enjoying the city’s unforgettable skyline.
As you can see, a fun ride into Detroit’s past is just the beginning. Be sure to include Detroit on your next US-bound holiday.