100 Things All Detroiters Should Do Before They Die
Who says you need to travel widely to expand your mind? Sure, when the weather is as cold and crappy as it is these days, jetting off to some balmy climate has its appeal. But we have a multitude of cool things to do right here in town, things that have the opportunity to teach us more about who we are as metro Detroiters. Sprawling over three (or three-and-a-half to us) counties, our region has hundreds of must-do things to experience, to see, smell, hear and devour.
This list, capped neatly at 100 and presented in no particular order, is our determination of everything everybody should try at least once. We aimed for events that somehow round out and complete everybody’s Detroit experience. From sports to recreation to culture high and low, you might be surprised by what’s on our list that you haven’t done yet (there are more than a few MT staffers and Detroit natives heading out this week to knock off some items they can’t believe have escaped their grasp for decades). By the time you’d tried all of them, it’s our hope you’d have challenged some preconceptions (we all have ’em), rubbed elbows with new friends, and come out wiser.
We’re aware that everybody’s would be different, and we agonized over what merited inclusion and despaired over all the items that overflowed into our sprawling also-ran list. But that’s because the area is filled with so many things to do, they’d fill several hundred weekend outings. Consider our Metro Times bucket list to be a good starting point. Take a trip through, let us know how many you’ve tried (a PDF checklist for your fridge or office cubicle can be downloaded here), and let us know what you think we missed. Enjoy.
1) See Detroit as it used to look at Elmwood cemetery: As cemeteries go, Elmwood is a beauty. One of the oldest continuously operating businesses in Michigan, Elmwood has been packing them in since 1846. It’s the final home to mayors, moguls and many more first citizens of Detroit, as the eminent names on the markers and tombs attest. But it’s also one of the few places in Detroit where you can see the land as it was before the age of the steam shovel. Although it did get a treatment from landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the low rolling hills and even a segment of Bloody Run Creek flowing through are original features dating from time immemorial.
2) Stop, in the name of love, at the Motown Museum: The little house with the big history on Grand Boulevard wasn’t always a museum, but so many people dropped in at Hitsville after Motown left town that it was converted into what it is today: a music museum like no other. The offices and studios are now filled with historic exhibits documenting the rise of the house Berry Gordy built.
3) Spend a Saturday morning shopping at Eastern Market: One of the last large historic outdoor urban food markets in America, the market fills up with food-loving metro Detroiters on Saturdays. The sheds are undergoing remarkable upgrades, and it seems a new attraction opens up every month in the area. Now if we could just get people with double-barrel baby carriages to not stop four abreast and talk to each other in the aisles. …
4) Picnic on Belle Isle: There are so many things to do on Belle Isle, from nature trails disc golf to the conservatory to the museums to even Hipster Beach, suffice it to say even a picnic should provide an adventure. True Detroiters know: It’s always 10 degrees cooler on our city’s island park.
5) Eat a pastry in the Guardian Building’s mezzanine: The magnificent art deco building gets its Native American color theme from designer C. Wirt Rowland, who inlaid the 40-story treasure with colorful hues. But the interiors can be just as stunning. Drop in for a bite at the Rowland Café in the building’s mezzanine to see an almost psychedelic display of geometric shapes all around you.
6) See the Tigers, though your mileage may vary on Opening Day: Seeing the Tigers play at gleaming Comerica Park is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon or evening, from the quaint crack of the bat to the 10,000-megawatt display board. But on Opening Day, most of the errors are outside the stadium, where you’ll find hundreds of drunken baseball fans littering, puking, pissing and drunk driving all over downtown. On that, we call foul.
7) Eat, bowl and see a show at the Majestic complex: For nightlife, the Majestic is one-stop shopping. Visitors can park in the pay lot behind the building, then see national and local acts in three different venues, grab a slice, order a beer, look at art, sit down and dine, or even knock down pins at Detroit’s oldest bowling alley.
8) Ride the Critical Mass: The ride that departs from the corner of Trumbull and Warren at 7 p.m. on the last Friday of every month is a great way to meet cyclists, navigate the streets of the city in tandem with others, and maybe have a drink or two afterward. Yes, some riders are all sunglasses and spandex, but all experience levels are welcome at this genuine community event.
9) Belly up to the bar at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge: Not only is historic Baker’s the oldest continuously operating jazz venue in the world, having opened in 1934, it also hosts terrific live bands. But it also has a bar worth looking over. One national magazine declared it one of the best bars in the country, with its stylish piano keyboard design.
10) Watch an arena giant at DTE Energy Music Theatre (aka Pine Knob): The national acts this venue pulls in guarantees almost everybody will attend a show at one time or another, and the outdoor seating makes DTE Energy Music Theatre a blast in the summer. But older folks still get a thrill defying the corporate branding and enjoying a night at good ol’ Pine Knob.
11) See a Pistons game with a cool halftime show: While the Pistons we have may not be the glorious team of old, their home games still have action you just won’t find anywhere else in town. And with the Palace’s state-of-the-art sound system, a halftime show is a definite slam-dunk.
12) Visit the Burton Collection at the Detroit Public Library’s main branch: The Detroit landmark designed by not just one, but two Cass Gilberts (senior and junior) is a great place to do some research. But the Burton Collection, with its statue-studded, open two-story room, is the best place for genealogical research. It’s also most beautiful in the spring, when the trees on the lawn are in blossom on a misty morning, as seen through floor-to-ceiling windows. Who says bookworms don’t get out enough?
13) Tour the 19th century at Greenfield Village: The collection of historic buildings at the Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village is without parallel anywhere in the world. The old man himself paid to have these landmarks moved to the site piece by piece, and a walk down the street can be jarring: one moment the Deep South, the next stately New England, then merry old England. It’s also the only place in town where Model T’s regularly putter down the street, or where you can watch a game of old-time baseball.
14) See Detroit Industry at the DIA: If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for? Diego Rivera’s controversial mural depicts workers at Henry Ford’s Rouge Complex, with workers toiling over the assembly line, amid machines that look sort of like Toltec and Aztec deities. The murals have been reviled, praised, attacked and defended, but never ignored. Every Detroiter should spend at least a few minutes looking at this monument to the workers and technicians of the Motor City.
15) See, um, cars at the NAIAS: We may not be huge car guys, but we have to admit that thing we used to call the Detroit Auto Show is a big, big deal. This year, we saw international carmakers present their million-dollar exhibits in a newly regionalized and updated Cobo Hall. Everyone should see it once — even if once is enough.
16) Navigate through thousands of sunbathing country fans at Hoedown: Maybe you expected us to take some cheap shots at the Hoedown. Hardly. The biggest annual event in downtown Detroit, this hootenanny regularly draws as many as a million guests, and features acts from all over the country. For a region in which so many residents call the South the old country, the Hoedown brings on the twang something fierce. Yup. We reckon so.
17) Shit, just dance at Movement (and DEMF): Is there any downtown in the country that hosts this much techno? Heck no! With two big festivals in the offing this year, and probably a gazillion accompanying loft parties, club events, and other all-night sonic benders, thousands will descend on Detroit from all over the world. Join them and shake your ass off.
18) Cheer a team at Detroit Derby Girls: You don’t need to know a thing about the rules. Just pick a team and cheer on your colors. Even if you’ve never seen it before, you’ll soon be rapt watching these ladies of grace and fury roll down the boards — and hear yourself screaming.
19) Make out with a goth at City Club: For almost 30 years, an edgy dance scene has occupied the lower level of Detroit’s historic Leland Hotel. On some nights, this is Goth Central, just the place to find a languid, pallid hottie weary of this mortal coil.
20) Buy a black-and-white print of a penis at The Dirty Show: You gotta hand it to Jerry Vile: He turned a jerry-rigged art event into the biggest art event in town, with thousands attending over two weekends. Yes, sex sells, and The Dirty Show is the perfect place to buy that immodest piece of art to add a little slap-and-tickle to your walls.
21) Eat “The Triple Threat” at Slows Bar-B-Q: Slows was there first, not only trailblazing the sophisticated barbecue concept in metro Detroit, but staking a claim along a sleepy stretch of Michigan Avenue in Corktown a million years ago in 2005. These days, if you can get a seat, try “The Triple Threat” to conquer an entrée’s worth of bacon, ham and pulled pork put between bread and called a sandwich.
22) Seduce a mate at the Detroit Opera House: An opera is rich with seductive opportunities. Yes, the unhappy endings can be a bummer. But the rich interiors and lush staging excite the senses. The tragic stories and passionate singing inflame the emotions. Plus, nothing screams class quite as deafeningly as the opera, and your date knows it. No matter what you do later that night, that person you took to the opera will have to grudgingly admit that you at least aspire to culture.
23) Admire Orchestra Hall while watching the Detroit Symphony Orchestra: Seeing our DSO, under the baton of Leonard Slatkin, is a feast for the ears. And experiencing this in the historic gem that is Orchestra Hall instead of some modernist cube adds a note of pageantry not heard often enough.
24) Drink and parade through Corktown on St. Patrick’s Day: Ah, public drinking, thy name is Corktown — at least during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The organizers insist that the parade is a family event, and it is, much of it. But for exuberant tailgaters, thirsty bar crawlers and Charlie LeDuff, it is an excuse to get blitzed on green beer and go wild. How it all comes off so peacefully year after year is a little bit of Irish magic.
25) Get freaked the fuck out at Theatre Bizarre: About 15 years ago, the Theatre Bizarre crew turned the back yards of a few cheap houses along State Fair Street into a creepy circus midway, hosting the city’s most anarchic costume party every Halloween season. The city shut them down, but they’ve only expanded into a larger, crazier anarchic costume party in an established venue. The tickets are prized, and the experience is about as close as you can get to Burning Man without leaving city limits.
26) Take a fresh look at the Packard Plant: Some wag made a website claiming to tell you whether the Packard Plant was on fire that day (the joke being it was always on fire). Sure, it’s a symbol of the city’s decay. But not many people know that Packard closed the plant, which first sprang up in 1903, in the year 1958. By now, the auto plant has been closed longer than it was ever open. Bear that in mind when you drive past (or dirtbike through) the ruin.
27) Take a selfie in front of Michigan Central Station: Doesn’t it seem like every “social entrepreneur” online has that picture in front of that magnificent symbol of Detroit’s decay? Don’t let them hog the action! The imposing 1913 train station and office tower was built to last, just like the Corktown neighborhood that surrounds it. Take your snapshot, and then go on to photograph the small businesses springing up along Michigan Avenue so everybody gets the full picture.
28) Stand in the field of Old Tiger Stadium and imagine: Tiger Stadium, with its vertigo-inducing stairs, quirky seats behind pillars, and huge bleacher section, has dazzled millions. The only problem is that it’s not there anymore. But the field is, and, stadium or not, it’s still the ground trod by such immortals as Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg and Kirk Gibson. The site of more than 120 years of baseball, it remains hallowed ground.
29) See a silent movie at Redford Theatre: The atmospheric, Japanese-themed Redford Theatre still wows audiences with its imitation sky, its mammoth organ, and its crowd-pleasing programming, which runs from Hollywood classics to evenings of Three Stooges shorts. Once threatened, it’s a neighborhood jewel shined up nice and bright, thanks to the Motor City Theatre Organ Society.
30) See international cinema at the Detroit Film Theatre: Tucked away in the back of the Detroit Institute of Arts off John R, the Detroit Film Theatre has programmed a high-quality selection of hard-to-see films for a generation or more. On any given night, chances are high you’ll see a challenging work that provides plenty to talk about over drinks afterward. What’s more, the seating is very comfortable.
31) Meet a ton of artists at the Russell Industrial Center: Formerly the J.W. Murray Manufacturing plant, the Russell Industrial Center is exactly the kind of industrial-turned-artistic space that starry-eyed artsy-fartsy types are thinking of when they talk about Detroit’s changing economy. The sprawling complex is home to more than 100 artists, from glass blowers to clothing designers to screen printers.
32) See more Detroit bands than you can possibly imagine at Blowout: Yeah, it’s self-serving of us, but the Blowout has ballooned from a grungy little music festival dreamed up by our music editor into a sprawling event some say is the largest local music festival in the country. Far be it from us to snub that. The locations have expanded and the rules have changed a bit, but it’s the wealth of local bands slugging it out in metro Detroit basements that gives the show its heart.
33) Find yourself in a stranger’s house during Dally in the Alley: Has this happened to you? We lived down there once and our apartment just filled up with people during the annual Dally in the Alley. It’s when one historic block of the old “student ghetto” is cordoned off and given over to people hawking art, T-shirts, books, beer and, well, lots of shea butter and sunglasses. Front and center are the dozens of musical acts on several stages throughout the area.
34) Walk butt-to-nut in Royal Oak during Arts Beats & Eats: “Well-attended” simply doesn’t do justice to Arts Beats & Eats — it seems everybody in the tri-county area shoehorns themselves into downtown Royal Oak, joined in a joyous, if jammed, celebration of art, music and food. Join them and make it that much more crowded.
35) See a Red Wings game and throw an octopus: What? We can’t throw octopi anymore? Though the authorities discourage eight-legged creatures on the ice, the two-legged ones offer excitement enough. What’s more, this could be one of the last chances to experience the mid-1970s design of the Joe before Ilitch builds his new arena (and you help pay for it).
36) Get your groove on at Detroit Jazz Fest: Every year, Detroit hosts a stunning showcase of talent, with performances by notable jazz musicians with a smattering of tribute concerts. But it also gives musicians the freedom to launch innovative projects among the crop of jazz legends. It’s all rounded out by performances from some younger players who’ve made names for themselves in jazz, making for a balanced program that thrills jazz-heads and excites newbies too.
37) Drink in Detroit’s oldest bar, the Two Way Inn: For a while, the Aganowski family, which owned this fabled Detroit bar, was thinking of selling it and getting out of the business. But some savvy bartenders sensed an opportunity in Detroit’s oldest tavern. By their accounts, spirits have poured there since 1876, and some say ghosts roam the building. If so, you can hardly hear them over the din on the bar’s popular First Fridays, when history-curious drinkers get buzzed in — and buzzed.
38) Feel like a lumber baron at the Whitney: Because nothing says opulence like dining in the historic mansion of a lumber baron. With its 52 rooms, 10 bathrooms and 20 fireplaces, the three-story pink-granite edifice built for lumber baron David Whitney Jr. in 1894 has been one of Detroit’s most celebrated restaurants since 1986. The food isn’t too shabby either.
39) Try Detroit-style square pizza at Loui’s: Our restaurant reviewers once declared Loui’s the best deep-dish pizza in Detroit. The classic pizza parlor on Dequindre just north of Nine Mile Road has been winning awards and testimonials since it opened in Hazel Park in 1977. Not only is the pizza excellent, instead of pushy twentysomething servers and flat-screen televisions everywhere you look, you get hundreds of straw-covered Chianti bottles and waitresses in their second decade who call you “hon.” It’s enough to warm the coldest heart.
40) Make your choice — American or Lafayette Coney Island: In Detroit, skyscrapers come and go, but the venerable greasy spoon duo of American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island remain locked in eternal struggle downtown for coney supremacy. Century-old Lafayette is a cozy, old-fashioned diner where they holler your orders. Younger brother American is a bit bigger and more cafeteria-style. Both are homegrown culinary delights.
41) Find something that surprises you at John K. King Books: This former glove factory hard by the Lodge Freeway has more than four stories’ worth of books, and miles and miles of them. You’ll also find old periodicals, postcards and other paper ephemera, as well as a strong selection on Michigan history and even some remarkable collectibles in the back. In the digital age, the smell of all that paper is like incense to our noses.
42) Dress like Vinnie from Sponge at Showtime Clothing: Or Ricky or Timmy or any number of other Detroit rockers. Dan Tatarian has a reputation for decking out locals, especially those in a band or four. Once you enter his 3,500-square-foot rock ’n’ roll emporium, who knows what you’ll look like when you leave?
43) Have a drink at sunset at the top of the Renaissance Center: After a soaring, minute-long ride in a glass elevator overlooking Canada, guests can visit the upstairs bar at Coach Insignia, which affords 360-degree views of our international metropolis. At sunset, you can enjoy watching the turbulent oranges, blues and purples give way to the glittering lights — all from the tallest perch. It’s the one place one drink is guaranteed to get you higher than a kite.
44) Celebrate black history at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History: Painful but uplifting, filled with struggle and victory, the saga of African-American history has been on display for almost 17 years along Warren Avenue at the Charles H. Wright Museum. Over the years, the institution has hosted groundbreaking, controversial shows, plays by August Wilson and much more, but the core commitment to an underserved part of American history is what sustains it.
45) Try not to burn down the Heidelberg Project: Just stop. Whoever is systematically torching the lovingly decorated houses in this neighborhood-turned-art project, put your gas can away and leave artist Tyree Guyton alone. Because everybody in the region should drop in for an afternoon to see the otherworldly fantasyland, a kind of urban protest art, that has become an international destination.
46) Discover what the fuck feather bowling is: We love dropping in at Cadieux Café, the Belgian-themed bar on the far east side of Detroit. Sure, the mussels and frites are good, and the Belgian beers don’t disappoint. And when the stage is given over to Elvis impersonators doing Misfits covers, it can verge on the surreal. But best of all is the Belgian feather bowling that adjoins the bar, which most people know about but few have played. Hint: It doesn’t involve feathers.
47) Stroll, jog or bike down the Dequindre Cut: Between Gratiot Avenue and the Detroit River, an old, below-grade railbed has been turned into a trail of sorts, where joggers and cyclists puff past greenery and walls covered with colorful graffiti works. On a sunny day, once you descend into the cut, the city seems just a little farther away, a little of the country right by downtown.
48) Hit the Bloody Mary bar at the Bronx Bar: A former old-man bar, the Bronx is now anything but. It seems a new pack of 21-year-olds comes into the university-area bar every September. But on a lazy Sunday, drinkers can get a generous pint glass half-full of ice and vodka, then build their perfect Bloody Mary. Have one and you’ll want another, by which time you’ll need a restoring sandwich from the Bronx’s ample grill. Repeat as necessary.
49) See how many paczki you can eat on Fat Tuesday in Hamtramck: Some of our readers complain that “Paczki (POONCH-key) Day” is a contrived event, a reason to sell more jelly donuts every year. But as far as contrived events go, this is one hell of a contrived event, with huge tents, edgy polka bands, and paczki everywhere. It’s also a great excuse to watch loaded folks in the middle of a day-drinking spree spill in and out of Hamtramck’s bars.
50) Try chicken and waffles at New Center Eatery: Perhaps you’ve heard of this delicacy? Those in the know seem to agree that New Center Eatery offers the very best chicken and waffles in Detroit. Have some. The next time somebody mentions it you’ll be able to argue its merits.
51) See ICP at Hallowicked in Juggalo gear: Break out the Faygo and face paint for a night like no other. Outside the annual ICP Gathering, this is the biggest event for “the family” in the year. Witness two hometown fellas who built not just an entertainment empire but a fringe identity embraced by thousands across the world. And now they’re fighting the FBI? Woop woop!
52) Visit the abandoned Grande Ballroom before they knock it down: Though fans of the former ’60s rock venue would like to save it, things look grim for the Grande. In its heyday, under the leadership of radio DJ and promoter Russ Gibb, the stage was ground zero for rock ’n’ roll hippie culture. Now silent, it’s just another building along a fading section of Grand River Avenue, worth a look, a photo and maybe a dream.
53) See a hair metal show at Harpos and people-watch: This unusual venue is almost as tough as the east side neighborhood it abuts. For a generation, Harpos has hosted hard rock shows on its stage, and even the occasional punk band. These days, it’s mostly a headbanger’s paradise. But in an amusing bit of unintended irony, the hall’s colored and lighted 1970s disco floor is still intact.
54) Browse the art fairs in Ann Arbor: Commonly known as the Art Fair, the event’s official title is actually the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, and consists of four independently juried art fairs, taking place simultaneously and contiguously throughout downtown Ann Arbor. Which means that you’re sure to find just the right bit of flair to dress up your pad.
55) See more cars (but these ones are old) at the Woodward Dream Cruise: Some locals will tell you that the Dream Cruise is the bane of their existence, clogging up their neighborhoods and holding up traffic for hours. But, you know, bah humbug and all that. Fans set up their folding chairs and sit for hours as hot rod after custom car comes rolling by. If you like classic cars, it really is quite impressive, drawing in gearheads from all over the Midwest. But if you’d rather people-watch, you still came to the right place.
56) Play tic-tac-toe with a chicken at Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum: You can be forgiven for suffering sensory overload when setting foot in Marvin’s place, in Farmington Hills. There are lights, buzzers and bleeps coming from all directions in what can best be described as a carnival-like collection of electric and electronic games and exhibits. Turn left and you can play Family Guy pinball, do a 180 and you can play tic-tac-toe with a chicken. Chuck in a quarter, and it’ll tic with its beak before inviting you to tac. Then you can buy the postcard announcing what you just did.
57) View an ofrenda at Detroit’s day of the dead: Celebrate the Mexican tradition of ofrenda altars by visiting southwest Detroit on Day of the Dead. Traditionally decorated with ornate sugar skulls, flowers and favorite foods, mementos and pictures of the deceased, contemporary ofrendas are created as a way to pay homage to not only people but also places, moments in time, ideas and events that people feel are worth commemorating. Popular art at its purest.
58) Have an authentic taco al pastor in Mexicantown: Actually, you can have whatever you want in Mexicantown, but the al pastor, a taco of marinated pork, is something of a specialty for plenty of restaurants, including Taqueria Lupita, Taqueria Nuestra Familia, Los Altos and more, and these little babies usually cost $1.25 at most. To be really authentic, leave cheese out of it and crush a lime over the chopped white onions before crushing that thing.
59) Check out some sweet cribs in Indian Village: One of Detroit’s most historically affluent neighborhoods, Indian Village is home to some awesome mansions built by architects like Albert Kahn and Louis Kamper. Catch one of the community’s annual Home and Garden Tours for a peek inside some of these gorgeous homes.
60) Dispel stereotypes at the Arab International Festival: Too many Americans think of the Middle East as a monolithic place where everybody is the same. You couldn’t be further from the truth, and it’s actually remarkable to see the multitude of people from the Arab world all celebrating cheek-to-jowl at the Arab International Festival. And then there’s all that energy this immigrant community has brought to what was a fading Dearborn: A friend pointed out that, 40 years ago, you could have fired a shot down Warren Avenue and not hit a soul. Don’t try it today.
61) Make falling down look good while ice-skating at Campus Martius: We know: It’s no Rockefeller Center, but the rink at Campus Martius is close enough. (Heck, it’s bigger than Rockefeller’s — take that, dinky rink!) An annual tree-lighting ceremony kicks off the holiday season, and the park hosts the annual Motown Winter Blast as well, imbuing the ice with winter magic, and all in the heart of the city. Amid surroundings this grand, you’re a star even when you biff.
62) Take the Marche du Nain Rouge, and explain to everyone that the red dude isn’t Satan: See, in French, nain rouge means “red dwarf.” Now I know we tend to associate those with skin redder than L. Brooks Patterson with demons, but many argue that the nain rouge is more like an imp or leprechaun than Lucifer. Just with horns and a tail. Frankly, by the time you’ve marched in this costume parade and poured into a nearby bar to drink with revelers, you won’t care anymore. Thought up spontaneously several years ago, this costumed shindig draws droves of young Detroiters hoping to chase the city’s bad times away. Add to their numbers.
63) Go to Detroit Soup, and discover that soup is exciting: We know what you’re thinking: How great can a soup event be? In fact, soup has very little to do with the whole thing. Yes, you eat soup while listening to one entrepreneur after another pitch an enterprise, before all in attendance vote on who gets the evening’s take, which is that whole crowdfunding thing without computers. And there’s much more than soup on offer too, of surprising quality and generally very friendly to all dietary restrictions.
64) Visit U-Detroit bar and see the awesome Rod Stewart impersonator: Danny D walks around Detroit looking pretty much exactly like Rod Stewart — and he does a damned fine job singing like him too. Combine that with the suave surroundings of the UDetroit Café on beautified Randolph Street, and you have the makings of a sweet evening.
65) See a Lions game and drink at a tailgate party: Sure, drinking outside is not strictly legal, but the powers that be turn a blind eye to the fans gathering in parking lots all over downtown before the big game at Ford Field. And by the time the game is over, everybody usually really needs a drink.
66) Stop traffic in the Slow Roll: The Motor City? Try Detroit Bike City. For the past few years, the Slow Roll has attracted thousands of bicyclists and even more stares as the massive group meets weekly and rides through different neighborhoods. It may be annoying to stopped traffic, but, hey — they’re traffic too.
67) Sing “Schnitzelbank” 10 times in a given busy evening at Dakota Inn Rathskeller: The old-school German biergarten by John R & Six Mile is one of those hidden surprises awaiting the unwitting. Featuring German beer, German food and German song, you’ll sing along with the piano player and perhaps learn a bit of Deutsch while you’re at it.
68) See what ice cream can be at Shatila Bakery: If you have an ice cream jones, don’t just sate it, exploit it at Shatila Bakery, purveyor of super-premium flavors including apricot, mango, pineapple and — perhaps unique to Shatila — kashta. Don’t be confused by the fruit names — these are not sherbets but a mixture of fruit purées and butterfat, having that rich taste and velvety texture that only cream can bestow. You only live once.
69) Have a drive-through Christmas at Hines Park Lightfest: Wayne County gives us more than failed jails and bungling public officials — it also gives us Hines Park Lightfest, the longest, largest drive-through light show in the Midwest. Join the convoy of cars for $5, and see mile after mile of lighted displays heralding the holidays. But you don’t need to use fossil fuels for the trip, as bicycles have become more and more popular on the “drive,” and they make it easier to get off the road and enjoy the festival’s other attractions.
70) Visit Detroit’s Historical Museum: Fresh off a revamp, the Detroit Historical Museum boasts fresh exhibits, expanded display area, and absolutely free admission, so there’s no reason not to go. But unchanged by the renovations are the Streets of Old Detroit down in the basement, where you can trod cobblestones and see what the city looked like ages ago. Don’t pass up the past again.
71) Go on a D:Hive bus tour: Though it’s true that Detroit has tens of thousands of vacant buildings, it’s not all despair-inducing. That’s where D:Hive comes in. Passengers should prepare to see an upbeat, active, burgeoning Detroit they would never see on the shooting-filled evening news. Get on the bus.
72) Eat the mystery meat of the day at Green Dot Stables: At the Green Dot, you can get small but tasty “sliders” whose flavors dance all over the map. One could order shoestring fries and four of the joint’s exotic sandwich creations — ranging from corned beef to catfish to a Korean-inspired peanut butter-and-kimchi burger — for $15 plus tax. But the adventurous can try the “mystery meat” slider, a rotating daily special that can range from elk to beef tongue.
73) See art designed to resonate in Detroit at MOCAD: You won’t always see a whole lot of Detroit art at MOCAD, as the city’s contemporary art museum mostly draws in an exciting array of today’s international art stars. But the repurposed old warehouse off Woodward hosts programming intended to engage the people of this city, and it ranges from wall hangings to sculpture to film to music to performance art to such high-concept pieces as Mike Kelley’s “Mobile Homestead.”
74) See Woodward transformed into a holiday wonderland on Noel Night: It’s so cold in the D, but the first week in December, Detroit is transformed into a veritable winter wonderland with the annual Noel Night. It’s a great opportunity to get some gift shopping done, plus you can catch Christmas carolers, ice sculptors, horse-drawn carriages and more.
75) Check out Pewabic Pottery: Born at an Alfred Street stable in 1903, Pewabic Pottery is now more than 100 years old and a local, nay, national institution. Pewabic offers education, exhibitions, design and fabrication programs, classes, workshops, lectures, internships and residency programs for studio potters, as well as outreach programs, workshops, summer apprenticeships, and classes for gifted and talented students. (And you thought they just made tiles.)
76) Buy affordable art at the CCS Student Exhibition: The College for Creative Studies students spend all year making work for this end-of-the-year exhibition, and collectors come early to snatch up paintings, photographs, sculptures and more from tomorrow’s great artists and designers. The opening reception is a great opportunity to drink wine and check out the college’s campus.
77) See a play at the Detroit Rep: The Detroit Repertory Theatre, or “the Rep” as it’s often known, is tucked away on a depopulated stretch of Woodrow Wilson Street on the city’s west side. For more than a half-century, “the Rep” has staged several plays a year, including plenty of national premieres of topically important work. All productions have a prestige factor, with quality sets, pitch-perfect lighting design, and a tight technical ensemble that keeps productions at the Rep on-time and humming.
78) Attend an after-hours event at the Detroit Zoo: Sure, you can go to the zoo and see all of the animals. Yes, the polar bear glass tunnel is spectacular, as is the butterfly house. But why do what everyone else is doing? Instead, when the weather gets warm, hop on over there in the evening and watch a cool local band. Take a picnic basket. Shit, take the kids.
79) Watch the Polar Bear Club take an ice-cold dip: We can’t in good conscience advise you to jump into freezing cold water in the middle of winter, but we can suggest that you go and watch everybody else doing it. The air is cold enough in Detroit in January when you’re dry. God only knows what possesses these loons to get in the Detroit River when breath is visible, but they do raise money for charity, so, fair enough.
80) Salsa dance at Vicente’s: There are plenty of places in metro Detroit that offer dance lessons. Fewer places that offer Cuban cuisine. But there is only one place, to our knowledge, that offers both, and that’s downtown Detroit’s Vicente’s, where you can have ropa vieja and then, starting at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, get out on the dance floor.
81) Attend the Detroit Urban Craft Fair: There was a time when the words “craft fair” basically meant scrap-booking moms and little old ladies knitting bobble hats. Nowadays, craft is cool. This fair, at the Masonic Temple, features all manner of garments, items of jewelry and, yes, scrap books. Let’s face it — some things should never change.
82) Have what’s widely considered the best burger in town at the Redcoat Tavern: The Redcoat Tavern has been the bastion of a great burger seemingly forever. Located on Woodward Avenue a few blocks north of 13 Mile Road, this place is crowded every day at lunch and dinner — and usually in between. Thick, juicy, succulent, a Redcoat burger almost demands the use of extra napkins. They recommend a simple burger, but you can pile on as many ingredients as they offer.
83) Dress as your favorite comic book character at the Motor City ComicCon: Look, comic book guys: You probably spend 364 days of the year embracing convention and perhaps even conservatism. So when the Comic Con rolls around, screw it: Dress up like the Green Lantern and spend two months’ rent on the first appearance of Ghost Rider. Hit on a girl who’s dressed like Power Girl, obviously a professional model and waaay out of your league. But, who knows, she might admire your gumption. And your spandex.
84) Enjoy the fruits of over-the-top creativity at Maker Faire: It’s an annual delight that Maker Faire touches down in metro Detroit each summer. Past years have brought such dizzying joys as a moped racetrack, homemade windmills and a 60-foot-long metal dragon that breathes fire. The event also includes a local craft fair where you can take a bit of that creativity home with you when you depart.
85) Take the People Mover: At 75 cents a round trip, there’s no better way to provide visitors a tour of Detroit than the venerable People Mover. The art work — particularly that guy always there reading a newspaper — is fun, the view of the river spectacular, and the way Detroit’s wealth of architecture rolls by is nothing short of amazing.
86) Run for the border in the Detroit-Windsor Marathon: Whether you’re in it for the athletic feat or just a slacker content to sit on the sidelines, October’s annual international marathon is a unique experience. You get a space blanket and a banana at the end like a normal marathon, but this one takes you on a scenic 26.2-mile journey through downtown Detroit, Belle Isle, over the Ambassador Bridge and to, um, Windsor.
87) Rent a bike from Wheelhouse Detroit and ride the RiverWalk: Detroit’s riverfront has gone through some drastic changes in recent years. What used to be a post-industrial riverfront is now a pedestrian-friendly walkway with fountains, a carousel and, in the summer, tons of bicyclists. Renting a bike at Wheelhouse Detroit is a great way to cruise down the RiverWalk, and the group offers guided themed tours to other locations as well.
88) Take a carnivore to Inn Season Café and prove that vegetarian food is more than porridge: Inn Season is a frequent winner of Metro Times’ Best Vegetarian honors and a pioneering institution that dates back to 1981. The staff works hard to ensure diners are eating seasonal ingredients picked at the peak of freshness, and that the meals are season-appropriate, especially their specials, which ingeniously use whatever the bounty of the week is. And these are real meals that feel just comforting to meat-eaters and veg-heads alike. Prove those doubters wrong.
89) Sample some of the world’s best Belgian-style ale at Jolly Pumpkin Café & Brewery: The folks at Jolly Pumpkin know their stuff. The Ann Arbor café operated by this Michigan powerhouse turns out Belgian-style ales that routinely come out on top in worldwide competitions, often besting ales from Belgium itself. And the fare turned out by the joint’s kitchen is no afterthought, as creative and fun as the brewery’s stylish suds.
90) Geek out at Vault of Midnight: If one thing has become clear over the past couple of decades, it’s that toys and comic books are wasted on kids. That’s why you won’t find many people younger than 20 — though they are welcome — at the Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor. Rather, you’ll find adults drooling over the latest Batman figurine or an anime book that features a six-dicked demon. See what all the fuss it about.
91) Eat at the super secret sushi bar in the back of Noble Fish: This place is a treasure: A great, albeit tiny sushi restaurant tucked in the back of an unassuming Japanese grocery store. There’s usually a bit of a wait to get seated, but wandering the aisles of green tea, sake, Asian groceries and fanciful candies makes the time go by in a flash.
92) See college football at “The Big House”: Every team in the NCAA has a unique stadium that they call home. The good ones can have such an effect on a game that they’re considered the 12th man on the field. Michigan Stadium fits that bill neatly. This gargantuan stadium, home to the Wolverines, is the largest venue of its kind in college football, cramming in more than 100,000 attendees — and backing up area roads for miles — during every home game since 1975.
93) Fall Beer Festival: Thanks to the rise of craft brewing in Michigan, there are plenty of beer festivals all over the state, but the one we think everybody should attend is this glugfest, sponsored by the Michigan Brewers Guild in scenic Eastern Market. The proliferation of creative beers, with noses of hops and malt, and some surprisingly high ABV numbers, mean you’ll have to drag along a designated driver. By the time your beer tokens are gone you’ll probably be pie-eyed.
94) Buy vinyl at UHF: A relatively new store, UHF has still quickly become a favorite among metro Detroit bargain vinyl hunters. Though it is perhaps best known for its selection of new vinyl, it can also be relied upon for clean, used records, with plenty of reggae, dub and soul, but also a lot of metal, punk and indie rock. Who’d have thought this would be a must-do in 2014?
95) See hydroplane racing at the APBA Gold Cup: Are you an avid fan of hydroplane racing? No? Doesn’t matter: The APBA Gold Cup is a singular event. More than 100 years strong, it’s the oldest active motor sports trophy — and as good an excuse as any to spend a sunny day downing a few beers.
96) Buy a piece of local art for the price of a round of drinks at Motor City Brewing Works’ “This Week in Art” series: Several years ago, artist Graem Whyte started this series of Wednesday night art shows. Whyte has moved on, but the shows continue to showcase small, affordable, fun pieces from some pretty well-known local names. Over the years, artists have included Davin Brainard, Gwen Joy and Clint Snider, as well as the occasional reading or performance art event.
97) Booze and cruise on the Detroit Princess: As metro Detroiters, too often we give our city’s river short shrift. One of the best ways to enjoy it is on the Detroit Princess, which can take passengers on a scenic cruises under the bridges between Lake Saint Clair and Fort Wayne. On a hot day, there are few better ways to enjoy a cold beer and a cool breeze than cruising our international river and seeing our Canadian and American metropolis from a truly new vantage point.
98) Get a contact buzz (or more) at the Hash Bash/Monroe Street Fair: Marijuana has come a long way, and the story of that evolution often had Ann Arbor for its setting. A sort of countercultural capital, people have long joked that you’d get more expensive tickets for skateboarding than for possession. All of which plays into the city’s Hash Bash, which is one of the oldest celebrations of outdoor toking in the country, if not the world. Drop in and see people call for an end to the War on Drugs — hacky sack optional.
99) Find nature in your back yard at Kensington Metropark: Kensington Metropark, just a short drive away from most metro Detroiters, is an oasis of nature. It has dozens of attractions, but most of all it has a wealth of natural beauty. Rolling, tree-covered hills surround lovely Kent Lake. At 1,200 acres, the lake formed by the Huron River offers two beaches for swimming. Two launches provide easy access to boaters, and paddleboats and rowboats can be rented. And for those who just want to sit back and glide across the water, there is the Island Queen II, a 49-passenger pontoon boat plying the lake.
100) Bundle up and head downtown for Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day parade: This turkey morning tradition features floats, balloons, marching bands, celebrity guests and more. And thousands of metro Detroiters get there early to cheer it all on. Yes, the convoy of fanciful creations dazzles the eye, as you’ve seen on your TV all these years. But that’s nothing like seeing it in person, with the marching band music bouncing off the city walls, and a spirit of fun, togetherness and — dare we say it? — community. There’s no better time to be in Detroit and be thankful for it.
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