Whether you know it as Motown, Motor City or The D, Detroit is shaking off its negative reputation and emerging as a revved-up and fascinating destination for tourists. The city is reviving its Downtown area with impressive museums, a lively arts scene and casino hotels, while its neighborhoods offer colorful restaurants, shops and street scenes.
Downtown Detroit is undergoing one of the largest urban redevelopment booms in the country. New businesses, including restaurants and retailers, are finding homes in old buildings.
Located in southeastern Michigan, Detroit is the largest city in the state, the 10th-largest city in the United States and the eighth-largest metropolitan area. There’s no doubt Detroit has had a profound influence on American culture, from automobiles to music.
Popular attractions in the Downtown district include the Motown Historical Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Charles H. Wright Museum, Detroit Historical Museum and Belle Isle. The Motown museum is one of Detroit’s most popular tourist destinations. Founded in 1985 by Esther Gordy Edwards, its mission is to preserve the legacy of Motown Record Corp. The museum exhibits trace the roots of Motown’s story and chronicle its impact on 20th century popular culture and musical styles. The story begins with Berry Gordy Jr. and a small house in Detroit that he christened “Hitsville USA,” which is now home to the museum. The exhibitions include a fascinating collection of photographs, costumes and other memorabilia in the restored apartment that was once home to Berry Gordy Jr. and Studio A, where Motown’s hits were recorded.
The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is housed in a Beaux-Arts building on Woodward Avenue that underwent expansion in the 1960s, 1970s and 2007. The museum covers 658,000 square feet and includes more than 100 galleries, a 1,150-seat auditorium, a 380-seat lecture/recital hall, an art reference library, and a conservation services laboratory. Among its works are frescoes by Mexican artist Diego Rivera Detroit and Vincent Van Gogh’s “Self Portrait.”
The Detroit Historical Museum, established in 1928, is one of America’s oldest and largest museums dedicated to metropolitan history. Over 80,000 square feet of exhibition space house more than 600 historic artifacts in the heart of Detroit’s Cultural Center district. Among its exhibits are a 19th century street scene and an authentic auto assembly line.
Belle Isle is a major city park located close to the hub of downtown. The island is situated on America’s busiest inland waterway and provides views of Detroit, Canada, freighter traffic and the Ambassador Bridge. Frederick Law Olmstead, the designer of New York City’s Central Park, created the master plan for Belle Isle in 1883. The park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features a sand beach, water slide, 200-acre woodlands, fishing piers, bicycle and nature trails and historical monuments.
In nearby Dearborn is The Henry Ford, which attracts 1.6 million visitors a year to its five attractions -- the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, The Ford Rouge Factory Tour, The Benson Ford Research Center and The Henry Ford IMAX Theatre. The 80-acre Greenfield Village features 83 authentic historic structures, including Noah Webster’s home, where he wrote the first American dictionary, Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory and the courthouse where Abraham Lincoln practiced law. Visitors also can ride in a genuine Model T or ride a train with a 19th century steam engine.