|Belle Isle Beach|
While the media seems to love discussing all that is wrong with Detroit, it is ignoring or oblivious or both - to all that is right.
Looking for reasons to go to Detroit? Here are 16 to get you started:
1. A Park (Bigger than Central Park) on an Island in a River between Two Countries
In 2013, Belle Isle, a 982-acre island in the middle of the Detroit River between the U.S. and Canada, became a Michigan State Park. (It was previously managed by the City of Detroit). While the State of Michigan performs its anticipated updates, visitors can enjoy, among many things, the historic botanic gardens,the most stunningly architected aquarium, arguably in the world and a drive around the island which grants views of the U.S., Canada, wildlife, downtown Detroit and boat and ships from Michigan and around the globe.
2. Genuinely Fabulous Coffee Options
The cappuccino at Pinwheel Bakery in Ferndale not only qualifies as solidly good, but for those interested, it can come paired with any number of their baked goods that sit next to the cash register and call to you.
Located in Midtown on Woodward, Great Lakes Coffee is yet another sign that Detroit is making a big turnaround. Housed in a huge, contemporary space with brick walls, Great Lakes has fantastic coffee, a full bar and amazing food (I had some kind of quinoa, tomato sandwich).
In the world’s conversations about what was, is and will be Detroit – there is one area consistently mentioned – a little corner of Corktown, a neighborhood near the former Tigers Stadium. The cornerstone of this area is Slow’s BBQ started by Phil Cooley who moved from New York to Detroit (see movie recommendations below to learn more about him) to make a difference.
Slows’s (written up in every publication that cares about food on earth), Cooley and the area in the immediate vicinity, have done nothing but get bigger and better since. One such example is Astro, a coffee shop, a few doors down from Slow’s. The Sunday morning we arrived, it was standing room only, with the exception of some sort of bench type contraption my husband, sister and I crunched our asses on to enjoy the insanely good egg sandwich and cappuccino.
3. Rogue Urban Putt Putt
Where Detroit may lack in the leadership department it greatly makes up for itself in the creativity department. Located on the corner of 14th and Dalzelle (very close to Slow’s BBQ and the former train station) some clever folks screwed ping pong paddles to the end of scrap wood, gather up what appears to be urban leave behinds and made a clever as hell golf course – for free and open to the public.
4. Visit the Farmers Market that Out Does All Farmers Markets
Originally founded in 1891, the Detroit Eastern Market welcomes an estimated 45,000 (45,000!) people looking to purchase fruits, vegetables, spices, meat, candy, fish, seafood, gourmet condiments and specialty foods every Saturday.
The Eastern Market’s significance is not just the food it puts on the tables of homes and restaurants, or the diverse crowd who rely on it or the multi-generations of families (mine included) who make a day out of visiting the market and its surrounding specialty shops and restaurants – it was also where Ulysses S. Grant was headquartered, part of the underground railroad, an ancient American Indian burial ground and the filming site of many movies such as Presumed Innocent and a recent Drew Barrymore film.
5. Best Middle Eastern Food on Earth
Little known fact about Detroit? It has the second largest Middle Eastern population in the world – outside of the Middle East. You know what this means? Outstanding food – with Pita Café being my most favorite of all. I want to live in a world where I can swim in pools of their garlic sauce, have an endless supply of their fattoush salad and kegs of their freshly squeezed juices.
VERY CRITICAL NOTE: You must go to the Pita Café in Oak Park. I have tried other locations, and they just don’t have the magic touch of the Oak Park location.
6. Participate in the Ongoing Coney Dog Battle
Detroit might be home to the most unique rivalry around the globe – a coney island (a hot dog covered with chili, onions and mustard) restaurant rivalry.
Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island are immediately next door to each other and are owned by two different people – who happen to be brothers. Urban myth claims a family fall out caused one brother to pack up his coneys and move to the bigger (some might argue aesthetically nicer) location next door – and open what is now American Coney Island.
Now, the ongoing battle of “which is better” is not only between two restaurants but between the entire metropolitan Detroit area. The answer to that question has divided families, broken up relationships and made people who don’t jive with your coney style – seriously question your IQ.
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