I Heart My City: Laura’s Detroit

Freelance writer and editor Laura Bastian grew up in the Detroit area, and currently lives in Durham, North Carolina where she writes about travel, food, events, and business. Laura has spent time all over the world — from Hong Kong to Boston — but here are a few of her favorite things about her hometown, Motor City, USA. Agree, disagree, or elaborate by leaving a comment.

Check out Laura’s travel and food blog www.lauraontheloose.com or find her on Twitter @laurabastian1.

Detroit is My City

First stop: Eastern Market. (Photograph by Tocqueville 2012, Flickr)

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is to a Detroit Tigers game at Comerica Park. After the game, we grab dinner at Roma Café, an Italian restaurant near Eastern Market. Get ready for an old-school Detroit experience with brisk older waiters, white table cloths, and some tasty baked spaghetti.

Summer is the best time to visit my city because of Ray’s Ice Cream, Michigan cherries, and fresh-water lakes.

You can see my city best from the General Motors Renaissance Center. Free tours of the city’s most distinctive skyscraper are offered Monday through Friday at noon and 2:00 p.m.

Locals know to skip Woodward Dream Cruise and check out the Ford Rouge Factory Tour instead.

Pewabic Pottery, founded in 1903, is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

In the past, notable people like Aretha Franklin, Madonna, and Eminem have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the Detroit Institute of Arts, founded in 1885, and home to many important works, including Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry frescoes.

Diego Rivera's famous frescoes at the DIA. (Photograph by Jason Lacey, Flickr)

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that the downtown People Mover won’t move you very far. This is a driving town. Make sure you have some wheels at your disposal.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is at the Heidelberg Project, a postmodern outdoor art display on a blighted Detroit street.

My city really knows how to celebrate birthdays because of Sanders Candy & Dessert Shops. Nothing beats Sanders’ bumpy cake and milk chocolate hot fudge sauce over ice cream.

You can tell if someone is from my city if, when you ask them where they’re from, they immediately form a mitten with their hand to show you. Detroit is below the thumb, by the way.

For a fancy night out, treat yourself to a Detroit Symphony Orchestra performance and dinner in Greektown. Opa!

Downtown Birmingham, Michigan. (Photograph by Ian Freimuth, Flickr)

Just outside my city, you can visit Cranbrook House and Gardens. Tour the Arts and Crafts-style house and peaceful 40-acre gardens. While you’re in the ‘burbs, you can stop in Birmingham to walk the yuppified downtown. If you’re hungry, locals love the White Castle-sized burgers and crispy fries at Hunter House on Woodward Avenue.

My city is known for being down on its luck, but it’s really resilient and fiercely proud.

The best outdoor market in my city is Eastern Market. 

Toast in nearby Ferndale is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Lafayette Coney Island is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read the Metro Times.

My city’s biggest sports event is a Detroit Red Wings game. Watch it at Joe Louis Arena among rabid Hockeytown fans.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I stay in and order a pizza from Buddy’s. I’ve lived in both Chicago and New York City, but there’s nothing quite like a Detroit-style deep dish. Note that a Buddy’s pizza should always be accompanied by the signature antipasto salad.

To escape the crowds, I go for a walk along Lake St. Clair. I also enjoy driving along Grosse Pointe’s Lakeshore Drive, windows down.

Robert Graham's tribute to "The Brown Bomber," Joe Louis. (Photograph by Sean Davis, Flickr)

If my city were a celebrity, it’d be Joe Louis because the downtown sculpture of his fist is one of the best symbols of Detroit.

The dish that represents my city best is the Coney Island hot dog, a local delicacy that’s topped with meat chili, white onions and yellow mustard. Vernors Ginger Ale is my city’s signature drink.

The Detroit Institute of Arts is my favorite building in town because I vividly remember spilling out onto its steps from a yellow school bus during childhood field trips.

The most random thing about my city is the existence of abandoned mansions, a heartbreaking reminder of how much the city has changed.

The Majestic is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out the annual Movement Electronic Music Festival in May. Techno music fans know that Detroit is the birthplace of the genre.

The North American International Auto Show could only happen in my city.

The International Riverfront project has helped revitalize downtown Detroit. (Photograph by Lars Kjølhede Christensen, Flickr)

In the spring you should visit the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, where you’ll find all kinds of cool stuff, including Ford’s personal Model T and the Rosa Parks bus.

In the summer you should walk along the revitalized Detroit Riverfront.

In the fall you should indulge in apple cider and warm doughnuts at the Franklin Cider Mill, just outside of the city.

In the winter you should ice skate at Campus Martius Park.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Detroit Zoo.

The best book about my city is Detroit City Is the Place to Be, by Mark Binelli.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is ”Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. Even though native Detroiters know that “South Detroit” doesn’t officially exist, we still love this tune.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because Detroit’s story is a very American one, with its industrial past, sad struggles and fight to get back on its feet.

Related:

  • Check out our Detroit photo gallery to see iconic images of Motor City taken by photographer Melissa Farlow.
  • Read Rise and Shine Detroit, a feature article written by Andrew Nelson that appeared in the March/April 2012 issue of Traveler.

Comments

  1. Becki
    February 13, 2013, 3:30 pm

    Thank you for this spot-on overview! I get so sick of telling people Detroit is more than what they see on TV and in the documentaries. DETROIT RULES!

  2. Michele MTM
    Livonia, MI
    February 1, 2013, 6:31 pm

    The best thing about Detroit simply is that the people are friendly. A warm hello as you pass by a stranger is usually welcome in our town. Make sure to check out one of the many excellent middle-eastern restaurants dotting the suburban landscape, and don’t forget to buy some Faygo pop-a real hometown treat! (Vernor’s is now owned by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group of Plano, Texas.) Detroit also has a great live theater district, and don’t miss an opportunity to visit the Redford Theatre, owned and operated by the Motor City Theater Organ Society.

    Thanks for the article Laura, it’s always nice to hear about the good things about Detroit!
    http://redfordtheatre.com/

  3. Kim T
    Anderson, sc
    February 1, 2013, 6:19 pm

    “Grew up in the Detroit area” is key to this writer’s intereptation…those of us who actually lived in Detroit don’t have the bucolic fondness of a city we watched decay under a fuedal government filled with corruption or the dependance of an entire state to a sole industry. Writer currently lives in a state with lower taxes, less crime and is fortunate enough to make many Best places in the US to live lists. Yes… our memories of Detroit may be fond, and certainly every urban area has benefits…but don’t glorify what is happening to the actual residents of Detroit who face battle daily, no puff piece is going to aid them. This isn’t about tourism, this is a fight for survival.

  4. Saundra
    Durham, NC
    January 31, 2013, 11:43 pm

    Detroit is like no other city in the WORLD…/ I enjoyed this article immensely. Born and raised there, a child of the Motown Revues, and Boblo Park, and Belle Isle, just name a few. What makes Detroit GREAT is the people and the diversity. We’re a stones throw from a foreign country. A lot was covered in the article, but there is so much more…

  5. Carol Lane McCCoo
    Los Angeles,California
    January 31, 2013, 9:47 pm

    I’m moving back to Detroit very soon since retiring from the TV and film industry.Just wanted to say thanks for such an encouraging article.

  6. Casey
    Metro Detroit Area
    January 31, 2013, 8:19 pm

    Thanks for the great article. You captured a lot of Detroit’s best spots. This is the best way to counter the negative press. I’m working on the same on my blog: playtourist.wordpress.com

  7. Peter McManus
    Detroit. North of Midtown, East of Woodward Ave.
    January 31, 2013, 2:15 pm

    This is a very good article. I appreciate all the former Detroiters who have taken their time to sing our praises. But I must insist now is the time to invest in Detroit. Whether buying one of the many houses that they are essensually giving away

  8. Rob H
    Chicago NW Suburbs
    January 31, 2013, 12:09 pm

    Thank you for this article. Despite almost 30 years of residency this article opened some new ideas for places to see like the Rouge Plant, Campus Martius (named 225 years ago but never heard that until last year) and Fort Wayne. I brought back old memories of 80′s and early 90′s hanging out in the Warehouse District with college buds. Unfortunately, all those great places Rivertown Saloon, Woodbridge Tavern, Rinocerous Club, Soup Kitchen all got plowed under to relocate the casinos that never happened. Just did a pub crawl downtown and the city feels great.

  9. Andrew
    Detroit
    January 31, 2013, 9:39 am

    Great article, Detroit has so many great things… i live downtown and went to UDM,,, i actually got ideas from this article!

  10. Al Larese
    Livonia, MI
    January 31, 2013, 9:18 am

    Great article, but I’d say the only folks avoiding the Dream Cruise are the residents of the adjacent streets, plus non-car-lovers (who are THOSE people?). The Cruise is a week-long event which culminates in the “official” cruise which draws one million people from all over the world. For any car lover, attending is a definite must.

  11. Jeff
    DETROIT
    January 30, 2013, 12:38 pm

    My town, your town, Motown…it’s the place to be!

  12. John DETROIT George
    Artist Village Detroit MI 48219
    January 26, 2013, 7:01 pm

    Come to the Village…Artist Village DETROIT 17336 Lahser.
    Home of The Motor City Java House. Live Jazz and Open Mic…Every Saturday only $ 10.00 Dollars. Peace Always. John DETROIT George. 313-766-7578

  13. Rob Tomaszewski
    Petaluma, CA
    January 26, 2013, 2:15 am

    Thank you Laura. I could write volumes, but I will keep this one simple. Sanders hot fudge ice cream topping is the benchmark. I live in the foodie mecca of the San Francisco Bay Area, and no one has come close to that good. I did notice that our local upscale market has just added Sanders candy, and I’m goin’ for it.

  14. Ohil
    Chicago
    January 25, 2013, 8:35 pm

    When I tell people Detroit is my favorite city EVER…people look at me as if I said the wrong city. Especially people in Michigan. Detroit is a city of soul, pride, style and Detroit class.

    I currently live in Chicago and although Chicago has everything and more to offer, much more than my favorite city Detroit, I still say Detroit has a certain magic in the air that you will not find in any other city in the world. It may be virtually impossible to live in Detroit, but I spend as much time in the city as possible. I cannot live without my Miley & Miley shrimp! I LOVE DETROIT!!

    Detroit is America’s city.

  15. Steven Bogarat
    Jacksonville Florida
    January 25, 2013, 10:07 am

    I was raised in the Northwest area of Detroit and attended Schulze Elementary..Cass Tech and Mumford High Schools. Detroit was a perfect place to grow and thrive..great public education…wonderful libraries…museums…lakes to swim…amuserment parks..great restaurants.
    After vthe riots in 1967 we moved to Troy and Southfield. I graduated school and moved to New York. Every return visit was more and more upsetting…My family finally moved to Arizona and I went back to Detroit to visit friends. So sad to see the decay..the poverty..the crime..the burned out abandoned areas. I still visit 40 years later and always hope to see better happening.
    Let’s see what gthe next few years provide.

  16. June
    Montgomery County, MD
    January 23, 2013, 12:16 pm

    Detroit is the love of my life! I know it’s problems all too well and could go on for hours talking about the situation. However, as compared to here (metropolitan Washington, DC), Detroit is home of the regular people, and I am one of them. I always go down to Mexicantown and get a botanita from one of the restaurants. I love music in the Motor city and the list of famous musicians who got there start in Detroit is long. My favorite fish is pickerel and you can get it in Detroit. You can’t ignore the obvious, but Detroit will always be home.

  17. Doug Landry
    Boston
    January 19, 2013, 11:45 pm

    Abandoned mansions are “random”? Hardly. Racial strife and economic decay have a little something to do with it. I spent a few years at college in Michigan, and I have a fond place in my heart for Detroit. I travel back every few years. Although some things have changed for the better in 25 years, others have not – and have gotten worse. You only need to literally stand astride the Detroit/Grosse Pointe city line to see the stark difference between rich and poor in America. Detroit is not dead, however. Long live Detroit.