Detroit, the city that put the world on wheels, is more than just Motor City. Sure, it's the birthplace of the modern automobile, and the city where Henry Ford and company revolutionized the way the world works, but Detroit has more to offer the tourist than meets the eye. In fact, if you take into account Detroit's contributions to American music as well as its technology, it may just be one of the country's most influential cities.
The city that served as America's "arsenal of democracy" during World War II is also a musical powerhouse. Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye – these artists and many more contributed to Detroit's very own musical legacy: the "Motown Sound." Of course, the music doesn't stop there: modern rock and techno movements have seen a renaissance in recent years, at small local venues scattered throughout town.
Speaking of venues, here you can find some of America's best-preserved architecture: just head to the theater district – the country's second-largest – to spot palatial, 1920s-era movie houses and theaters, a rare find in this day and age. Just down the street, you'll find modern steel-and-glass automobile headquarters.
Sightseeing and culturally oriented things to do abound in Detroit. For auto fans, there's the Henry Ford Museum, with its vehicle collections, IMAX theater, and factory tour. There's also the Motorsports Hall of Fame, the Museum at the Detroit Science Center, and the Walter P. Chrysler Museum.
Located downtown, the Theater District boasts the historic Fox Theater, largest survivor of the lavish movie palaces of the 1920s, its vintage marquee glittering at night. If modern architecture is more to your taste, check out towering Renaissance Center. This group of seven buildings is the tallest in Michigan and its towering illuminated frame also lights up surrounding promenades after dark.
For slightly less urban scenery, hop on a charter boat and ride across and around Lake St. Claire for a relaxing cruise, or up the Detroit River to Belle Isle, which has a nice park and a spectacular view of the city riverfront at night.
The river is also the site of the roaring APBA Gold Cup motorboat races in the summer (a no-brainer given the city's affinity for engines). Other motor-centric events include the North America International Auto Show every January, where you can catch up with the latest concept cars and marvel at Americans' continuing love affair with cars.
Kids will dig a trip to the Detroit Zoo, one of the nation's oldest and largest. It's home not only to a diverse number of fascinating animals but rides and other captivating attractions, like Giraffe Encounter and the 4D Theater.
Shopping and Dining
Detroit's reputation as a blue-collar city shouldn't stop you from putting on the Ritz at a wide range of trendy shops and restaurants. Also, outside of Detroit in Troy, the Somerset Collection is a huge mall full of high-end department stores and boutiques like Nordstrom, Saks, Neiman Marcus, Tiffany, and Louis Vuitton.
Of course, the city also has a rich ethnically diverse heritage – easily accessible through Detroit's variety of "towns" – that shouldn't be missed. Greektown, for example, is speckled with restaurants serving everything from saganaki to gyros. The restaurants in Mexican Town have their own versions of homespun tamales, enchiladas and fajitas, while the nearby city of Hamtramck is known for its Polish restaurants.
For nightlife, the restaurants, clubs, and bars downtown on the riverfront reverberate with a melange of music and other after-hours entertainment. If theater's your bag, there are regular shows at the Fox Theater, with performances for kids and adults.
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