Detroit is experiencing an inspiring artistic renaissance with artists flocking for cheap studio space and new museums popping up to add to the vibrant cultural scene.
If you want to dive into Detroit like a local, you need the scoop on the city’s hidden treasure trove of quirky attractions just waiting to be explored. From unknown masterpieces to riverfront activities, these attractions get your itinerary moving in the right direction.
You don’t have to travel to Vatican City to see an amazing ceiling that doubles as a work of art. While you’re in Detroit, stop by the Guardian Building, affectionately referred to as the city’s “Cathedral of Finance,” and look up. The Art Deco architecture and intricate designs on the ceilings of this National Historic Landmark are truly a sight to behold.
Speaking of great works of art, tourists may flock to popular museums like the Detroit Institute of Arts, home to various famous pieces that include a Van Gogh, but locals like to stroll through the Heidelberg Project, an outdoor art installation that spans two city blocks and stands as a powerful symbol of Detroit’s spirit of reinvention. The project kicked off in 1986 when artist Tyree Guyton went back to the street he grew up on and found an impoverished East Side neighborhood. He picked up his paintbrush and got to work transforming abandoned lots, buildings, and the streets themselves into enormous art sculptures. In 2016, Guyton announced he was dismantling the project and removing certain pieces to make way for Heidelberg 3.0.
Did you know that Detroit is home to the country’s biggest island park? The locals know it — and they make the most of it. They love going to Belle Isle Park for everything from golfing and biking along the riverfront to sunning on Hipster Beach during warm weather. This 987-acre park is home to tons of nooks and crannies to explore, including a Nature Zoo, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, and Belle Isle Aquarium, which is the U.S.’s oldest aquarium.
If you’re in town on a Saturday, be sure to make your way over to Eastern Market, a six-block public market that’s been around since 1891. If the Lions are playing, expect to find locals tailgating before the game. The market features local produce and more than 225 different vendors. There’s also local art to explore, including “Murals in the Market,” as well as iconic eateries like Bert’s Warehouse, which is part jazz lounge, part soul food restaurant, and 100 percent Detroit.
Savvy locals like to head to Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood. The area boasts a lively music scene with spots like Beehive Recording Company. Need a little pick-me-up? Grab a cup of Joe at Astro Coffee, a small cafe that highlights roasters from around the United States.
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