The Detroit Guide
Detroit is not unfamiliar with change and reinvention, and yet for all its complexity, the Motor City is often primarily thought of as the land of automobiles. While this is undeniably a piece of Detroit’s fascinating narrative, the city has a great deal more to offer, particularly in the creative arts, which have long played a prominent role in Detroit’s past (from original urban murals to an iconic record label), and in continuing to shape the ever-changing city today. Museums like MOCAD share the work of brilliant Detroit artists with natives and visitors alike, while also making the case that Detroit is a destination for a diverse, international range of art. Throughout the city, there are extraordinary examples of storied architecture. In rare record shops, music from earlier decades lives on, while contemporary indie bands play in a mix of new venues and old (outrageously awesome) dive bars. Neighborhoods like Midtown (museum district, home to DIA and a transformed retail experience), Downtown (encompasses all of the city’s major stages from economic to operatic and athletic), and Corktown (a hipster dream) have seen waves of new chefs and restaurants come onto the scene. Several new boutique hotels are promised to debut in the next year or two. So, while what in part makes Detroit cool is that it doesn’t have all the familiar amenities and trends of frequently touristed cities, it is undeniably a city of reinvention, and we expect this guide to evolve with it.
Detroit Athletic Club241 Madison St., Downtown | 313.963.9200
To get into this private social/athletic club you’ll need to be a member, or the guest of a member—in either scenario, it’s well worth a stop for some mental/physical rehab and a healthy dose of exercise. (Another thing: Come dressed to impress, and save the gym clothes for the locker room; otherwise, you might have to enter through the side entrance instead of the well-heeled main lobby.) Right across from Detroit's historic Music Hall, DAC (as it’s known about town) covers all your needs: luxurious food and accommodations, personal trainers available by appointment, plenty of fun things to do (there’s a bowling alley on the bottom floor); plus, it’s centrally located, with a rooftop bar that’s got extraordinary panoramic views.
El Moore624 W Alexandrine St., Midtown | 313.924.4374
El Moore has a few different B&B options (in addition to permanent residencies). Their four rooftop cabins are supremely cool: While they afford a bird's eye view of the city (a couple look toward Downtown and a couple into Midtown), the rustic cabins are really designed to recreate the experience of a North Michigan getaway, and each one feels like your own personal lodge. The details, which vary by cabin, are incredibly thoughtful, like headboards built out of wood reclaimed from the original 1898 building, and unique doorknobs that date to the building's beginnings. The custom-, Detroit-made beds are either queen- or king-sized and a couple of the rooms also have additional pull-outs. These have generously sized interiors and more modest balcony space, while the other two have oversized outdoor patios. While the cabins don't have full-on kitchens, you can keep snacks in the room and have a simple meal in. Breakfast is also offered in El Moore's lobby. The restored building overall has an impressive sustainability mission given how old it is (in past lives, El Moore served as luxe flats and a Depression-era boarding house): The lodge utilizes solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling, heavy duty insulation, and rain water harvesting. The property is currently under expansion, with an adjacent garden and food space on the way.
Honor & Folly2132 Michigan Ave., Corktown
When Meghan, the current owner of Honor & Folly, first stepped into the building that her brother bought a decade ago on a worn Detroit block, she could see straight up to the sky—from the basement. She was living in another apartment on the same block at the time, which didn't have a working door—she nailed it shut each night with her husband. The restoration work done here was—in a word—incredible. Today, Honor & Folly is Detroit's most charming guesthouse, a second-story Victorian apartment space in a now vibrant area of Corktown: It's above Astro coffee house, and on the same street as Gold Cash Gold, Slows, et al. (The apartment is also in walking distance to Michigan Central Station, which was designed by the same architects as NYC's Grand Central. The station has been out of commission since the late 1980's but remains an extraordinary Beaux-Arts sight.) It's a real walk up the staircase to Honor & Folly but the view at the top of the open (entirely working) kitchen and sun-filled living room justifies. With two bedrooms—each with a queen bed and own bathroom—the apartment works as a girls getaway, double-couple stay, or a family trip.
The Westin Book Cadillac1114 Washington Blvd., Downtown | 313.442.1600
"The Book," as it's been known, was designed by prolific Detroit architect Louis Kamper, and first opened in 1924. At the time it was the tallest hotel in the world—33 stories and more than 1,000 guest rooms. Its famed visitors over the years have included Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Like other Detroit icons, the Book closed in the 80's; in the mid-2000's a plan was put into place to redevelop the hotel, and ground broke in 2007. Today, the building itself is worth seeing as you're touring around Downtown regardless of where you're staying in the city. For families, and for quick business trips, though, the Book Cadillac makes a really convenient, central hub.
Trumbull and Porter1331 Trumbull St., Corktown | 313.496.1400
Located in the more industrial section of Corktown, Trumbull and Porter is like a low-key, Detroit version of The Ace. The hotel has just shy of 150 rooms, decorated in a minimal, hip aesthetic. Cool, slate grey concrete floors are covered in Southwestern-patterned rugs, framed illustrations of birds and buffalos hang above the bed headboards, and marble-top desks are pushed against opposite walls. The lobby has a coffee/beer bar, and is a short walk to Batch Brewery. Note that the first floor of Trumbull and Porter is currently under construction (conducted during the day time), which is expected to be completed near the end of 2016.