As a child I remember taking trips to Mackinaw Island and biking along the sapphire waves. Traverse City was an oasis of wilderness views and sunsets by the lake. And then, there was Detroit.
As rays panned my window pane, my dad sped across the interstate to our hotel. The sky line didn’t seem to be much (from the bias of a Chicagoan), but the skyscrapers actually tried to scrape the sky, glean the troposphere, stretch themselves to an undefined limit. I thought I knew a good deal about the city even before I set foot: harbor of industrialization, birthplace of the nation’s automobile industry, and now a center of urban decay. Detroit had seen the peak of the American Dream and the pit of a Post-Apocalyptic nightmare. But as we drove past the streets full of decrepit houses, graffiti-covered walls, and men selling the clothes off their backs, the city became more than just a news story.
The Athenaeum (1000 Brush Ave., Greektown) was a flamboyant sunflower in the middle of a barren prairie. Although located in the heart of Detroit’s Greektown, the service we received was beyond American hospitality. We quickly became acquainted with Will, a concierge, who was surprisingly excited about Detroit tourism and conveniently informed us about local restaurants and attractions. Frankly, I was simply expecting a parking lot view from a claustrophobic room when I learned we were staying in Detroit.
And there in our room, one take of Detroit, I saw something I never thought I would used to describe this city. Beautiful.
The gleaning, stretching skyscrapers I became familiar with earlier were now hugged by the peaceful, turquoise Lake Michigan. Even my laptop-hugging parents suddenly unwound in the comfort of our room. That night, we decided to have take-out from a quaint Chinese restaurant called Lucky Dragon (2664 E Jefferson Ave) that Will recommended to us. As we picked up our delivery at the concierge, I overheard my father and Will talking about Flint, Will’s hometown. Will said that although he misses his family in Flint, he can’t imagine living anywhere other than Detroit.
He never really explained why. I guess I wouldn’t understand anyway. To be honest, I was confused. Why would anybody want to spend their young life in a decaying wasteland?
I didn’t ponder too long however, my aromatic fried rice was too mouthwatering to resist.
It was my mom’s turn to plan our day, and although museums were not usually my favorite, the Museum of Contemporary Art was one of my favorite parts of Detroit.
MOCAD (4454 Woodward Ave) as it was called, was vastly different from other museums, with a warehouse design and graffiti covered exterior blended in to Detroit’s background. Yet with photographs, paintings, and even graphic designs, featured from across the nation it was Mecca of artistic culture. No display was permanent, so the museum had a constant influx of vivid exhibits.
The Renaissance center, Hart Plaza, Guardian Building, countless bakeries and cafes, all cuddled by a view of breathtaking lake. But perhaps what makes Detroit so unique has more do with its people than its landmarks. Survivors and dreamers- a concierge from the Athenaeum, an elderly woman running a community garden in Midtown, and a young jazz musician were only some of the amazing people I had met in Detroit. Through thick and thin, these individuals stayed beside the city and worked to foster its greatness. Although at first I questioned my parents’ vacation choice, Detroit is a city that did not fail to surprise. Everyone truly has a chance at their own Detroit experience.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.