Are you a journalist who wants real food instead of three days of catered bullshit? Or are you a visiting enthusiast who wants to have a good time in Detroit without being robbed? If you're in town for NAIAS, here's an honest guide to having fun outside of Cobo Hall — besides meeting the Jalopnik staff, of course.
So, the Motor City, right? Where's all the automotive history?
If you want something to see, head to the Detroit Historical Museum for the region's largest collection of classic cars. It's in Midtown and across from two of my other favorites: The Detroit Public Library's main branch, a gorgeous older building, and, of course, the Detroit Institute of Arts. Yes, all of the art is still there. No, it has not been sold.
If you want something to read, then go to my favorite underappreciated automotive history collection in the city: The Skillman branch of the Detroit Public Library downtown (it's right off a People Mover stop), which houses the National Automotive History Collection. Do you want a repair manual for your 1936 Packard? It's there. Were you looking for press photos of the Pontiac Aztek concept? You weren't, but they're there. Nearly every documentation of the automotive industry, from dealer-training materials to press releases to product guides to mechanics' codes, is there.
If you've got time and the weather permits, you could also head 40 minutes out of town to visit Ypsilanti, an auto town in its own right. There, you can visit the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum, home to the largest collection of Hudson automobiles; the Michigan Firehouse Museum, which has a fantastic collection of old fire trucks; and Model Cave, a great store in downtown Ypsilanti which has a ton of model kits, new and vintage.
But I want to see the Packard Plant!
No, you don't. Why? Someone owns it now. You might get arrested. Or die. No, you really might die; there was a body found there last month. If you want to see an actual, working automotive plant with people that are alive, try the Ford Rouge Factory Tour in Dearborn.
Fuck it, I just want to do some real touristy shit where I don't have to move my car and not look at abandoned buildings.
Oh, just take the People Mover directly to Greektown (the automated voice says "Greektown!" when you get there), where you can gamble at Greektown Casino, get some decadent sweets at Astoria and get barbecue at Red Smoke without having to wait in line. If it's warm enough, a street artist can do one of those funny pictures of you.
Every bar to match your personality is in Greektown. If you want upscale Greek with good wine, head to Santorini Estiatorio. If you're a bourbon/whiskey-type with leanings toward indie sounds, go to Firebird Tavern. If you want to do an Irish car bomb and watch ESPN, go to the Old Shillelagh. If you want a margarita and a crawfish quesadilla, go one block from the People Mover stop over to Loco's.
And if you've been drinking too much and need something to either prevent or cure your hangover, go to Plaka Cafe and order a ton of cheap food.
Speaking of hangovers...
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