Stepping Out: Detroit

By Mariette Williams

The birthplace of the automobile industry and Motown music, Detroit is a wonderful city to visit in springtime, as the city defrosts, restaurant patios open, and flowers bloom. The downtown district has undergone a recent revitalization, and an influx of bars, restaurants, hotels, and stores—with more to come—has energized the city. From sports events and museums to farmers markets and soul food restaurants, Detroit will keep you busy.

Motor City museums

Often ranked among the top 10 art museums in the United States, the Detroit Institute of Arts features a stellar collection in over 100 galleries as well as an atrium with dramatic wraparound murals by Mexican artist Diego Rivera. An exhibit of images by British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor opens in May; his photos, taken in London and Accra from the ’50s onward, show street life, music scenes, fashion, and more.

Music lovers will appreciate the Motown Museum, centered in the home turned recording studio where some of the greatest artists in the country, like Marvin Gaye and the Temptations, recorded their hit songs. The museum, open for tours only (book ahead), has expanded into nearby Motown-era houses and recently reopened after completing the second phase of a planned music center.

A visit to Detroit should also include a stop at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village, the largest indoor–outdoor museum complex in the country. If you’re not a motorhead, no problem. The museum preserves iconic items in US history like Abraham Lincoln’s chair from the Ford’s Theatre, the bus in which Rosa Parks would not be dismissed, and a presidential limousine used by three presidents. Outside the museum is Greenfield Village, an 80-acre park where you can ride in a Model T or steam-powered locomotive, enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride, or tour dozens of restored historical buildings, including Thomas Edison’s laboratories, transported from New Jersey.


With temperatures hovering around a delightfully crisp 50 degrees in the spring, visitors can spend their days at any number of outdoor attractions. Top venues include the 125-acre Detroit Zoo, with more than 2,000 animals (its penguin facility is the world’s largest), and the Eastern Market, a sprawling farmers market with food stalls, art vendors, antiques, and crafts. Another refreshing stop is Belle Isle, an island park near downtown, for walking, biking, picnicking and, if it’s warm enough, kayaking or canoeing. The nearly 1,000-acre park is also home to the Belle Isle Nature Center, where you can observe and find out about birds, frogs, bees, and more.

Sports and entertainment

The beginning of baseball season is a great time to catch a Tigers game at Comerica Park; if hoops are more your speed, take in a Pistons game at Little Caesars Arena. Anime and comic-book fans can save the date for Motor City Comic Con, a three-day gathering in May.

On the menu

A delectable way to support Detroit’s rich African American community is through discovering its many Black-owned restaurants. For casual dining, Baobab Fare offers East African dishes, including Burundian mbuzi, slow-roasted goat served over coconut rice. For southern comfort food like fried chicken and BBQ ribs, try Bert’s Marketplace, well-known for its live jazz and comedy shows. For brunch, The Block has tasty dishes like strawberries-and-cream French toast and shrimp and grits, and for a more upscale dining experience, head to IVY Kitchen + Cocktails for rib-eye steak, seafood chowder, and a delicious vanilla bean cheesecake. DW

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