Updated: Jan 12, 2019
A year ago I would have scoffed at those who called Detroit cool. Now, I eat those words. A city characterized by its resilience—and, most recently, its resurgence—Detroit offers design-forward hotels, world-class restaurants and an after-dark scene to definitely be seen. Out of a once-bleak past, optimism and creativity are driving Detroit forward. Don't miss the opportunity to experience this phoenix rising.
Where to stay
Detroit Foundation Hotel
The Detroit Foundation Hotel is the kind of place that you'd visit whether you were staying overnight or not. Whether you grab a drink at the lobby bar, catch a local musician performing or snag a coveted ticket to a Chef's Table event in The Apparatus Room, the vibe here is undeniably magnetic. If you are planning an overnight trip to Detroit, definitely book a room here. Furnished with modern decor, the spacious rooms feel even more generous thanks to 12-foot ceilings and an open design.
The Siren Hotel
Once a music store, recording studio, and concert space, the former Wurlitzer Building—now home to The Siren Hotel—is experiencing its own revival. Compared to the DFH, rooms are more reminiscent of Manhattan-sized digs. But where sleeping accommodations lack in space, the hotel makes up for in charm. By night, guests can opt for a drink behind the curtained-off Candy Bar, located immediately off the lobby (see Where to drink, below). More of an early bird? Possibly the best vanilla latte I've ever had—and other caffeinated drinks —are served at Populace Coffee's lobby outpost.
What to see & do
Detroit offers countless activities for tourists to enjoy. On Saturdays, head to Eastern Market, the largest outdoor farmers market in the country, to shop local vendors selling everything from fruits and fresh flowers to authentic French crepes and local art. Eastern Market is also open on Sundays, Tuesdays and, during the summer, every third Thursday night.
Also in the Eastern Market District (and across much of Detroit, for that matter) are a stunning collection of murals, known as Murals in the Market. Artists from all over the world, including those local to Detroit, have transformed the walls of the district into a must-see destination.
I'd also recommend a visit to Belle Isle and the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory.
As for your options for getting around to these places, this is where Detroit could do better. For starters, if you're comfortable with public transportation, download the Detroit Department of Transportation app to help you navigate the local bus system. Alternatively, MoGo, Detroit's public bike share program, provides an eco-friendly and often speedier way to get around town. If you catch a rainy or wintry day, Uber and Lyft are also available in Detroit.
Where to eat
Wright & Company
This shareable plates spot keeps me coming back for more—literally. Trendy decor, second story views, and knowledgable bar staff make just popping in for a drink worth a few hours of your time in Detroit. Heads up: Wright & Co. doesn't accept reservations, so plan to wait if you're heading there for a meal, especially on weekend nights.
The Apparatus Room
Named for the space where firetrucks and their apparatus were historically kept, The Apparatus Room is more of a focal point of the Detroit Foundation Hotel than an accessory. Michigan-born chef Thomas Lents returned to his home state to create his version of a New American cuisine using ingredients sourced from the Midwest. The result has locals and tourists alike flocking to his restaurant. After sampling a dish from each of the courses, plus dessert, I’d easily come back again—and recommend that you do too. Be sure to make a reservation as soon as you confirm your travel plans.
Parks & Rec Diner
I'd be remiss to neglect mentioning this fantastic breakfast spot. Located in a Flatiron-esque building, Parks & Rec offers locally-sourced ingredients and house-made, well, just about everything—you too will have to restrain yourself from pocketing the rest of your house-made jam. It's a small space, so expect to wait on weekends. But if you can temper your appetite (read: hanger), you'll be happy you stuck around.
Where to drink
Apparatus Room at DFH
Venture in for a night cap in the Apparatus Room lounge—located separate from the dining room side—and you can expect twinkling lights, comfy chairs, gas-lit fires, and low tables meant for sharing with other patrons. As a self-proclaimed connoisseur of old-fashioneds, I was not disappointed with the Old Foundation.
Candy Bar at The Siren Hotel
A quick peek at Candy Bar's Instagram reveals a pink, velvety aesthetic. Once you've been ushered past the curtain (again, expect a wait on weekends), the decadence only gets sweeter—servers dressed in bowties and floor-length gowns, delivering carefully hand-crafted cocktails unique to the locale. This is a great spot to end your night before retiring to your room at the Siren.
... and elsewhere
If you're visiting Detroit during the warmer months, be sure to stop in at Kiesling in Milwaukee Junction to enjoy a handcrafted cocktail on their bistro light-covered patio. Visiting on a cold or rainy day? Choose from the plethora of board games and cozy up in one of their comfortable nooks. If you had your fill of shopping at Eastern Market, head to Eastern Market Brewing Company or Detroit City Distillery—both are a ten minute walk from the market.
The fine print: AWCity guides are not meant to be your comprehensive guide to a city. Treat these guides as if you asked me for my personal recommendations for where to stay, eat, drink, and play. Also, I've received no compensation for recommending these places, and I'll always let you know if that changes.