"Detroit just needs a little love," said the waitress chatting with my husband and me at Baker's Keyboard Lounge on 8 Mile in Detroit. The beleaguered city doesn't get much love. But it's time to replace the images of crime and strife with one of the grassroots spirit sweeping the city.

Michigan's son Henry Ford famously said history is bunk. Real history, he said, was made by ordinary people doing extraordinary things who changed the world. Now that hundreds of thousands have bolted the Motor City, the ordinary souls that remain are leading an extraordinary charge to re-invent their town.

Yes, problems persist. Abandoned buildings mar the gorgeous Art Deco cityscape. Graffiti is abundant, and working streetlights are sparse in some neighborhoods. And we've all heard about the crime. But a growing few are defying the odds with some really cool projects that make this an exciting time to visit.

Yoga studios, organic bakeries, galleries, creperies, coffeeshops, bookstores, breweries, pizzerias, and even a Whole Foods are springing up. A boutique hotel constructed of shipping containers is underway. A watch builder employing former auto workers is putting American-made on the high-end map (with a brand new flagship store to boot). Meanwhile, Detroit's historic legacy still thrives.

The Art


While headlines scream about threats that the DIA may face an art sell-off to pay Detroit's creditors, dedicated staff are making this outstanding museum worth a trip. Beyond the important works of art, like the first Van Gogh in a public US museum and a Diego Rivera fresco, the museum draws crowds for events like Friday Night Live, when you can take in live music ande dine on tapas in their stunning, just-renovated Kresge Court.

Don't miss the Heidelberg Project, a groundbreaking outdoor art project where the houses themselves stand as works of art. Less famous but equally intriguing are the compelling "Iron Teaching Rocks How to Rust" installations outside the MBAD.

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