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Tour D-Troit


To some, city tours might conjure up images of buses crammed with fanny-packed rubberneckers. But in The D, where urban decay is being buffed away by innovation and opportunity, there's so much more to see beyond the bus window. And buses aren't the only way to see and learn more about the area. There are multiple opportunities to experience the city with your own individualized twist.

So follow your nose and taste buds on a gourmand's pilgrimage through the cuisines of the various cultures that helped build the area. Take in the array of architectural styles

tour-imagegroup1bwhile whizzing by on a Segway two-wheel electric vehicle or paddleboat. Or give yourself a more physical challenge with a bike ride or walking tour.

Whatever your speed, here's a roundup of some of the best-loved tours that will get you on the road to introducing – or reacquainting – yourself with the Motor City.


One of the best ways to experience Detroit is to get out in the fresh air, where the smells and sounds help paint a picture of the city today. In recent years, several local tour companies have sprung up to accommodate growing numbers of tourists and locals alike who are curious about the new face of The D.

Feet on the Street Tours provides walking, car, bus and bicycle tours for an individual to groups of many. Tours are usually organized around a theme. Prohibition in Detroit, for example, runs through August 25 on Thursday evenings and explores Detroit's role in Prohibition and the origins of the legendary Purple Gang. A public tour of Eastern Market includes sampling delicious cuisine along the way. Tours can be customized to your preference as well.

Get a truly off-road experience zooming through the Motor City on a battery-electric-powered Segway from Inside Detroit Tours, whose mission is to showcase the vibrancy of downtown Detroit. Faster than walking and more personal than a bus, Inside Detroit's Segway tour features stops at major landmarks and historic sites such as Campus Martius Park, Hart Plaza, the Detroit Opera House, Comerica Park and the Fox Theatre.

"You'll see Detroit in a whole new light," remarks Jeanette Pierce, co-founder of Inside Detroit Tours. "The Segways themselves are super fun. You can zoom along the RiverWalk on a beautiful day and see the sights."

Want to add a workout to your tour? Take in the vistas of the city by bicycle. Wheelhouse Detroit is a local favorite where you can rent cruisers, comfort hybrid and road bikes, as well as kid-friendly bikes and accessories. Tours ($25) include Eastern Market, Corktown, Grandmont Rosedale, southwest Detroit, Hamtramck, Belle Isle, historic churches and public art.

If you're feeling a little lazy and want someone else to do all the pedaling, take a rickshaw tour with Rickshaw Detroit. You can arrange personalized tours with your pedicab driver.

On a fine summer day, climb aboard the top deck of one of the boats in Diamond Jack's fleet. Tours include two-hour narrated cruises ($17) on the Detroit River, the world's busiest international waterway, on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays June through September. You'll see the Detroit and Windsor skylines and glimpse some historical wonders along the river.


The Detroit skyline is dotted with skyscrapers built during the pre-Depression era. In fact, Detroit is one of the only cities in the country so faithfully emblematic of this architectural style.

Names such as Albert Kahn, George D. Mason and Wirt C. Rowland are synonymous with Detroit architecture. Minoru Yamasaki, who later designed the World Trade Center, also got his start here, where he designed buildings including One Woodward Avenue.

To get a comprehensive glimpse of this work, your itinerary should include the vacant, but magnificent Michigan Central Depot; the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit hotel, built in the 1900s and given a $200-million renovation in 2008; the Chicago style-influenced Penobscot Building, which was designed by Rowland and Detroit sculptor Corrado Parducci; the golden orange art deco Guardian Building; and the Fisher and General Motors Building (Cadillac Place), both designed by Kahn and located in Detroit's New Center area. Check out www.experiencedetroit.com for self-guided tours of Detroit's historic commercial buildings, churches, estates and neighborhoods. Or contact one of the many bus or walking tour companies to arrange for an architectural tour. Preservation Wayne, Detroit's oldest and largest architectural preservation organization, offers trips focusing on Kahn's buildings, downtown skyscrapers and more. Detroit Urban Adventures also offers a tour titled Detroit's Rise, Fall & Renewal ($20) that covers the old and the new.

A tour of the buildings that sprouted up during the city's heyday will inevitably reveal a few heartbreaking examples of grand structures forgotten. For those with a fascination for urban decay, you can take a web-based tour of some of Detroit's "fabulous ruins" at www.detroityes.com.

For a more upbeat interpretation on the topic, feast your eyes on Detroit's Heidelberg Project, which has transformed abandoned houses into works of art – a thought-provoking commentary on decay and rebirth.


dia_8881_forwebAfter visiting the Heidelberg Project, you'll want to continue to get inspired by the beautiful artistic imagination of other metro Detroiters and visiting artists who left their mark all around the city. Visit Joe Louis' sculpted fist, snap a picture of the Spirit of Detroit statue (sometimes decked out in Detroit Tigers or Red Wings jerseys) or pause to appreciate Detroit's Pewabic Pottery murals that brighten People Mover stations and Comerica Park.

Also get yourself over to the Detroit Institute of Arts, where you'll marvel at Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry fresco cycle, inspired by the grind and grit of the city's manufacturing glory days of the 1930s. Both docent-guided and audio tours are available.

Another worthwhile stop is the Cranbrook Art Museum, which is scheduled to reopen to the public this fall after a grand facelift. While there, architecture fans should stop by the art deco Saarinen House, which was the home and studio of Finnish-American designer Eliel Saarinen from 1930 through 1950.

octane_052710_coney-000444_forwebFood & Wine

A great way to get to know a city is through your stomach. Detroit, with its delectable spanakopita, pierogi and Coney dogs, does not disappoint. Foodies should make their way to Eastern Market, the largest historic public market in the U.S., which has been serving up vegetables, breads, cheeses and spices since 1891. Greektown is a treasure trove of great cuisine and another must. You might also want to add the two famous dueling Coney joints on your itinerary: American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island. You can then decide who has the best dog and take part in the lively debate that has been taking place between metro Detroiters for years.

For a more comprehensive tour, check out Culinary Escapes, which offers an insider's view of dining in Detroit and environs such as Royal Oak and Birmingham. You'll munch your way through a moving feast of modern and traditional favorites for about $50 – and you're guaranteed not to walk away hungry.

You can also check out Taste-Full Tours, featuring themed tours including Beer and BBQ, Sip and Knit, Hidden Rochester and Motown Chowdown ($65).

In the mood to imbibe? Sample the latest craft brews on a Motor City Brew Tour ($50), with guided bus transportation, tours at local breweries, beer samples and snacks.

The wine crowd will toast to the southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail, which includes Burgdorf Winery in Haslett; Chateau Aeronautique Winery in Jackson; Cherry Creek Cellars in Brooklyn; Parma, J. Trees Cellars in Blissfield; Lone Oak Vineyard Estate in Grass Lake; Pentamere Winery in Tecumseh; Sandhill Crane Vineyards in Jackson (a favorite of our editor); and Sleeping Bear Winery in Parma. Make a weekend out of exploring these award-winning vintners by car and visit pioneerwinetrail.com for upcoming events.


Motown MuseumThe D is called Motown for good reason. Music lovers visiting the area will be richly rewarded when they fill their itineraries with historic sites and fill their ears with the sweet sounds that defined generations – and continue to influence music today.

No audiophile's journey to Motown is complete without a visit to the Motown Historical Museum, the unassuming little building that launched some very big careers. (Allow us to name-drop: Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, Diana Ross, the Jackson 5... We could go on and on and on, but there isn't enough space here.)

Catch even more Motown music fever with a Motown dinner cruise on the Detroit Princess riverboat. Docked in downtown Detroit, the Detroit Princess offers food, drink and live renditions of Motown favorites just about every weekend in the summer and fall.

Fast forward a few decades and you'll find that The D is also the home of one of the most contemporary music forms, as the birthplace of techno music. The annual Movement electronic music festival celebrates the experience of electronic music every May in Hart Plaza.

If you don't feel like going it alone, Inside Detroit offers music tours as well as an Entertainment Options Tour – for people who just can't decide among the 130 bars and restaurants within one square mile of downtown Detroit. Or turn a few heads and class up your tour with a luxury vehicle – a limousine, luxury SUV or limo bus with Metro Party Bus and Limousine.


The American Revolution. The Underground Railroad. Birthplace of the automobile. The Civil Rights movement. If you didn't already realize it, The D's a goldmine for history geeks.

The best way to explore Detroit's historic sites is by taking a tour such as the ones offered by Preservation Wayne. The organization offers tours through the city's Prohibition past, as well as Mt. Elliott Cemetery, which houses the city's earliest settlers, founding families and other notable figures.

You can also take the self-guided historic sites tour available on experiencedetroit.com, which includes the Ford Rouge factory, Fort Wayne, Sainte Anne de Detroit church, Campus Martius, Motown Historical Museum and Ford Piquette Plant.

The Henry Ford Museum ($15) is a definite must for history lovers, particularly for those interested in the birth of the automobile and the man whose dream put the nation on wheels. See how the car transformed American life; check out architect R. Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion House; view Abraham Lincoln's rocking chair (from the night of his assassination); and climb on board the bus where Detroiter Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, sparking the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. Separate from the museum but also a worthwhile stop, The Henry Ford's Ford Rouge Factory Tour ($12.75) is the only Detroit automotive plant tour that is available to the public.

The city's rich African-American history is underscored by the fact that it was a key stop along the Underground Railroad (Detroit's codename along the legendary route was Midnight) and that Martin Luther King Jr. gave a first version of his I Have a Dream speech here.

The First Congregational Church of Detroit hid refugee slaves en route to Canada in its basement. It now houses the Living Museum and the Underground Railroad Flight to Freedom Program Tour, which gives groups of visitors a simulated experience of what it might have been like to be a runaway slave.

Visit the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History ($8) to uncover more of the story of African-Americans in The D. Named for a Detroit physician committed to preserving black history, the museum houses the Harriet Tubman and Coleman A. Young collections, in addition to the permanent exhibit And Still We Rise: Our Journey through African American History and Culture which follows the journey of African-Americans across continents to present-day Detroit.

If you're interested in Holocaust history, visit the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus in Farmington Hills for free guided tours, which include an opportunity to speak with a Holocaust survivor.

The Detroit Historical Museum ($6) is one of the oldest and largest museums dedicated to metropolitan history in the U.S., encompassing more than three centuries of metro Detroit history. Check out an assembly line, a 19th century street scene and more. Rotating exhibits focus on various themes in Detroit's past, such as major retailers, Vietnam veterans and the Underground Railroad.

A Full Experience

Because there's so much knowledge and deliciousness to take in, make sure to give yourself enough time to explore all the nooks and crannies to get the full experience of life in The D. Cynthia J. Drake is a Mount Pleasant writer who grew up in metro Detroit and still revels in the thrill of a field trip to the big city.



Here are even more tours you may be interested in:

Detroit Princess Riverboat
201 Civic Center Dr.
Detroit, 48226 DD
(517) 627-2154
Historic Indian Village
Detroit, 48214 DD
Edsel & Eleanor Ford House
1100 Lake Shore Road
Grosse Pointe, 48236 M
Meadow Brook Hall
480 S. Adams Road
Rochester, 48309 O
(248) 364-6200
Elmwood Historic Cemetery
1200 Elmwood Ave.
Detroit, 48207 DD
The GM Renaissance Center
400 Renaissance Center
Ste. 2500
Detroit, 48243 DD
Historic Boston-Edison
P.O. Box 02100
Detroit, 48202 DD
Some tours require a minimum number of guests.
Please call ahead for details.

A Peak Behind the Curtains

While you're out and about, you'll also want to check out the following behind-the-scenes tours at:

Comerica Park
2100 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, 48201 DD
The Parade Company
9500 Mount Elliott St.
Detroit, 48211 DD
Ford Field
2000 Brush St.
Detroit, 48226 DD
Pewabic Pottery
10125 E. Jefferson Ave.
Detroit, 48214 DD
The Fox Theatre
2211 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, 48201 DD
Stahl's Famous Original Bakery
51005 Washington St.
New Baltimore, 48047 M
(586) 716-8500
Morley Candy & Sanders
23770 Hall Road
Clinton Twp., 48036 M
(586) 468-4300
Westview Orchards & Adventure Farm
65075 Van Dyke
Washington Twp., 48095 M
(586) 752-3123

Getting There

1. American Coney Island
114 W. Lafayette
Detroit, 48226 DD

2. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
315 E. Warren Ave.
Detroit, 48201 DD

3. Cranbrook House & Gardens
39221 Woodward Ave.
Bloomfield Hills, 48303 O
(248) 645-3147
4. Culinary Escapes
35560 Grand River Ave., #320
Farmington Hills, 48335 GN
(248) 331-7296
5. Detroit Historical Museum
5401 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, 48202 DD
6. Detroit Institute of Arts
5200 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, 48202 DD
7. Detroit Urban Adventures
615 Griswold, Ste. 1624
Detroit, 48226 DD
8. Diamond Jack's River Tours
1340 E. Atwater
Detroit, 48207 DD
9. Eastern Market
2934 Russell St.
Detroit, 48207 DD
10. Feet on the Street Tours
440 Burroughs St., Ste. 57
Detroit, 48202 DD
(248) 353-8687
11. First Congregational Church of Detroit
33 E. Forest Ave.
Detroit, 48201 DD
12. Heidelberg Project
3600 block of Heidelberg St.
Detroit, 48201 DW

13. The Henry Ford
20900 Oakwood Blvd.
Dearborn, 48124 DW

14. Holocaust Memorial Center
Zekelman Family Campus
28123 Orchard Lake Road
Farmington Hills, 48334 GN
(248) 553-2400

15. Inside Detroit Tours (d:hive)
1253 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, 48226 DD

16. Lafayette Coney Island
118 W. Lafayette
Detroit, 48226 DD

17. Metro Party Bus and Limousine
4086 Rochester Road
Troy, 48085 O
(586) 873-0233
18. Morley Candy & Sanders
23770 Hall Road
Clinton Twp., 48036 M
(586) 468-4300, (800) 651-7263
19. Motor City Brew Tours
Royal Oak, 48067 O
(248) 850-2563
20. Motown Historical Museum
2648 W. Grand Blvd.
Detroit, 48208 DD
21. Pioneer Wine Trail Headquarters at Sandhill Crane Vineyards
4724 Walz Road
Jackson, 49201 BD
(517) 764-0679
22. Preservation Wayne
4735 Cass Ave.
Detroit, 48202 DD
23. Rickshaw Detroit
(866) 461-3163 DD
24. Taste-Full Tours
711 S. Main St.
Royal Oak, 48073 O
(248) 330-7956
25. Wheelhouse Detroit
1340 E. Atwater St.
Detroit, 48207 DD
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