When people think about Detroit, the auto industry is usually at the front of everyone’s mind. That’s no surprise. The Motor City put the world on wheels and it’s filled with sites commemorating this amazing auto heritage. But Detroit offers historical wonders beyond the automobile such as its musical legacy or social justice contributionsthat are worth exploring further too.
Visitors arriving in Detroit can look forward to discovering the many stories intertwined amongst the city skyscrapers. In fact, people come from all over the world to see Detroit’s towering art deco and mid-century jewels. From the magnificent architecture to exciting entertainment venues to the innovative industries that helped in the development of Detroit, you’ll find something interesting around every corner.
After touring the world these past few years, I returned to my hometown in metropolitan Detroit for Christmas. During this visit, I decided to play tourist in Detroit, my old stomping grounds, and rediscover the city that’s popping up on all kinds of travel lists. I found Detroit to be a very tourist-friendly city with plenty of areas within the city worth seeing.
Before setting off on my self-guided journey, I picked up a copy of a new book “A History Lover’s Guide To Detroit” written by local tour operator Karin Risko. Divided into different areas of the city such as Downtown, Midtown, Corktown, and Belle Isle as well as outlying sites of interest, the guidebook did a great job of putting the city into geographic perspective for me and identifying the significance of buildings, monuments, attractions and other landmarks found within the different areas.
For example, the towering Renaissance Center, the centerpiece of the Detroit skyline, was once the tallest hotel skyscraper in the entire world. From the Riverwalk which runs parallel to the Detroit River, you’re looking south to Windsor, Ontario, Canada, not north. Canadaappears so close, it seems like a stone’s toss away. The tunnel which connects Detroit and Windsor was considered an architectural wonder when it first opened in 1930. To celebrate this event, President Herbert Hoover turned a gold key in Washington D.C., setting off the ringing of bells in Windsor and Detroit.
A few other notable destinations included in the book:Hart Plaza named after the late Michigan United States senator from Michigan who championed civil rights legislation. Hart Plaza serves as the pedestrian gateway to the Detroit River and is home to many significantmonuments and major music festivals. Campus Martius, a popular park in the heart of downtown which is also the city’s point of origin. Cobo Center, the convention hall which hosts the annual North American International Auto Show, is where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. first gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.
Eastern Market, the historic public and wholesale marketalso known for its colorful murals. Cultural institutions such as the DIA, one of the top art museums in the nation; Charles H. Wright Museum, a leading repository of African American artifacts; and the world-famous Motown Museum, where the beloved Motown sound originated. Architectural jewels dubbed “cathedrals” to finance and commerce, the Guardian and Fisher buildings are reflective of the wealth flowing through Detroit at the time of their construction. These are only a few of the over 100 entries found in the book.
“A History Lover’s Guide To Detroit” costs $21.99 and can be purchased online at citytourdetroit.com as well as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or directly through the publisher The History Press. Detroit stores carrying the guidebook include the Underground Railroad Book Station inside Second Baptist Church, Source Booksellers in Midtown, DeVreis & Company in Eastern Market and the gift shops inside the Detroit Historical Museum and Pewabic Pottery.
With so much history to discover, I found “A History Lover’s Guide to Detroit” to be an excellent resource for learning more about the top places to see. So much so that I booked a private tour with the author
Karin Risko who is the owner of City Tour Detroit. I’ll talk more about that worthwhile experience in my next article.