Detroit Michigan cityscape

Welcome to Motor City! (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Rev Up the Excitement in Detroit, Michigan

Detroit, Michigan, used to get a bad rap. Two decades ago, the city was virtually empty, devoid of urban life, as many residents had flocked to the suburbs and entire neighborhoods sat empty and crumbling. But in the past decade or so, all that began to change.

Young people are returning to the city in droves with their families in tow, great restaurants are firing up their burners, third-wave coffee shops are brewing java in the morning and hip bars have begun shaking up creative cocktails.

New streetcar lines and an emphasis on bicycling, highlighted by the new Dequindre Cut greenway, have added some verve and made Motor City come alive with pedestrians and cyclists.

And with this injection of energy has come a new wave of travelers, eager to experience the independent shops, inventive restaurants and upstart art scene. As the new poster child for urban renewal, Detroit might surprise you in the best possible way.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Go Museum-Hopping on Cass Avenue

French toast with bacon and berries
Start the day with a hearty breakfast. (Photo: Marriott International)

Begin your morning with a hearty breakfast. Joe Louis Southern Kitchen, named for the Detroit boxer, puts a Southern accent on the first meal of the day with bananas Foster French toast, gravy-smothered biscuits and shrimp and grits.

It’s always good to get a primer on a new place, and city museums are a perfect way to do just that. Make the 15-minute walk to the Detroit Historical Museum, where you’ll see how much the city has changed over the centuries.

From there, it’s a perfect segue to the Detroit Institute of Arts next door. The museum is famed for its auto-industry-themed murals by Diego Rivera, but that’s not the only thing to marvel at. The museum houses more than 100 exhibition rooms with art from all over the world. Some other highlights include works by Van Gogh, Rubens, Monet, Bellini and Picasso.

Pop around the corner for lunch at Ima, a hip izakaya with a dynamite Japanese-style fried chicken sandwich and udon that’ll haunt your daydreams. Then it’s back on the museum circuit. Further your art fix with a trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, or if you have kids in tow, haul them to the Michigan Science Center, where they can run wild trying out the hands-on exhibits.

When your stomach starts to signal it needs food, do it a favor by heading to Marrow, a meat-centric eatery that serves a five-course prix-fixe menu centered around the restaurant’s in-house butcher shop. After dinner, head to nearby Spot Lite Detroit, a venue that marries craft cocktails, avant-garde art and music with a DJ, all under one roof.

Saturday: Pedal Through the Parks

Join the foodie hipsters for breakfast at Dime Store, an all-day brunch spot serving up some seriously inspired fare, such as corned-beef omelets, Korean-inspired duck hash and raspberry French toast.

Black bicycle near trees
Explore the city by bike. (Photo: Marriott International)

Now that you’re fortified and filled up, rent a bike at one of the many MoGo bike-share stations (or walk) and explore the Dequindre Cut, a 2-mile-long, car-free paved pathway that is an ideal greenway for walking and cycling. The erstwhile railway line is also spiked with ample amounts of public art from local artists, so allow plenty of time to stop along the way and admire the creations.

The path goes through several neighborhoods, including the Eastern Market, which should be your next stop for today.

The neighborhood comprises 43 acres of goodness anchored by the eponymous marketplace, a bevy of stalls packed with people selling produce, food, arts and crafts. Grab lunch at one of the stands along your route, or head to nearby Midnight Temple for riffs on Indian street food staples.

After browsing in the market, it’s time to put a little bit of soul in your day. Visit the Motown Museum, an institution dedicated to the style of music and record company Motown, which put Detroit on the musical map.

Artists and groups such as the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight & the Pips all went through Motown. The museum takes you on a fascinating trip through American popular music from the 1960s to the present.

For dinner head over to Selden Standard, a chic, smart New American restaurant with craft cocktails. Some of the menu highlights include roasted chicken, grilled duck sausage and a roasted carrot salad. Then grab a beer and while away your night with pinball and Pac-Man around the corner at Barcade.

Sunday: Dine on Detroit-Style Pizza

Trail view near Belle Isle
Hike the trails at Belle Isle. (Photo: Getty Images)

Park yourself at Rose’s Fine Food, a restaurant in East Jefferson that serves up seasonal breakfast fare like buckwheat pancakes and potato doughnuts.

Then drive about 10 minutes to nearby Belle Isle Conservancy, a 982-acre park and island that makes a lovely escape from urban Detroit. This verdant swath of land is etched with walking and hiking paths for ambling your way around. There’s also a beautiful 1904 conservatory, a museum, a nature center, a golf driving range, a beach and an aquarium.

You cannot leave Motor City without trying some of the famed Detroit-style pizza, so next you’ll drive about 20 minutes for a slice (or three) at Pie-Sci. The square slices, topped with tangy tomato sauce and gooey cheese, are thick and crispy.

Along the way, stop at nationally acclaimed Sister Pie for some sweet treats, and take a detour to the Heidelberg Project, where a local artist has spent decades transforming a block of tired houses into a vibrant fever-dream of an outdoor art project.

After you’ve had your fill of Detroit-style pizza, stroll around historic Corktown, an atmospheric neighborhood that is home to the city’s recently redeveloped Michigan Central Station. This is the oldest still-existing district in the city. Stroll the streets, taking in the historic row houses built in Italianate, Queen Anne and neo-Gothic architectural styles.

Close out your three days in Detroit with dinner at Saffron De Twah, a chic, lauded spot that does excellent modern, halal Moroccan cuisine.