11 Things You Didn’t Know about DetroitModified: December 14, 2022 | Story by Ryan Currie | Photos by Vito Palmisano
1. Detroit’s Belle Isle Park is the largest urban island park in the country.
Never heard of it? Sizing up to nearly 1,000 acres, it was opened in the 1880s as Detroit’s first city park. In fact, Belle Isle was designed by Frederick Olmstead, the architect of Central Park in New York City. In addition to more than 150 acres of protected woodlands there’s a golf course, museum, nature zoo, conservatory and sports fields.
2. More than 70 feature films and a dozen television shows have been filmed in Detroit.
Who wouldn’t want to spend an afternoon traipsing around town checking out the film locations of Transformers, Evil Dead, Beverly Hills Cop and Freaks and Geeks? It’s free! And check out our list of all of the movies filmed in Michigan so you can do your research beforehand.
3. Detroit was absolutely essential in the winning of WWII.
Of course, any Detroit devotee knows the city’s auto manufacturing history, but did you know that in early 1942 Detroit’s Big Three automakers (Ford, Chrysler and GM) halted car production to concentrate on the war mission? Everything from Sherman tanks to B-24 bombers came out of Detroit’s factories, and Stalin himself once remarked to FDR that “Detroit is winning the war.”
4. Techno music was invented in Detroit.
Who knew? Three high school friends actually founded the genre in a garage here in the late 1980s, and Detroit still hosts the world’s largest outdoor electronica festival each year. Read our piece about Detroit techno if you want to know more. Of course, the city’s music scene doesn’t stop here: Motown legends, hip-hop superstars and even several rock gods call Detroit home.
5. Bootleg liquor was big business in Detroit during Prohibition.
In 1920, Prohibition hit the U.S. like a ton of bricks. That’s why the Detroit River — less than a mile wide at some points — was the thoroughfare through which nearly 75 percent of all illegal liquor entered the country from neighboring Canada. Detroit is still home to some of the coolest dive bars and most innovative mixologists in the country.
6. The city’s food scene has been thriving since … 1897!
That’s the year the first ice cream soda was said to be invented right in downtown. And the food scene has grown so much since then, from Red Smoke BBQ and Wright & Co. to celebrity chef Michael Symon’s Roast. Eastern Market (one of the largest flower markets in the world) offers dry goods, butcher shops and a plethora of old and new restaurants.
7. All four major pro sports have called Detroit home since 1957.
Some people call Detroit the “sports capital of the Midwest” and for good reason. The Pistons (NBA), Lions (NFL), Red Wings (NHL) and Tigers (MLB) all play in downtown Detroit and all have more than once won their respective sports’ championship. At any month during the year it’s possible to attend a professional sporting even in Detroit! Visit Comerica Park, Ford Field, or the brand new Little Caesars Arena for a game and you’ll have a true Detroit experience!
8. There’s a lot of really great art in Detroit.
The Detroit Institute of Arts has one of the largest collections in the nation with more than 60,000 pieces of art. There are dozens of other museums boasting everything from contemporary art to African-American history. Much of the best art in the city is actually free and/or open to the public at least one day a week. Check out The Belt or Eastern Market to see some of the most unique murals in The D.
9. Downtown is home to the second tallest hotel in the entire USA.
Up until December of 2013, the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center was the country’s tallest hotel at more than 75 stories tall. Manhattan’s new midtown Marriott stands just 23 feet higher but doesn’t have nearly as much history.
10. Detroit holds a lot of firsts. A lot of firsts.
The first paved road, first individually assigned phone numbers, first state fair and even the first place an automatic coffee maker was ever used. Detroit’s always been home to some truly innovative thinkers, and it still is!
11. Theater is a really, really big deal in Detroit.
Did you know Detroit has the country’s second biggest theater district after New York? The city has 30,000 theater seats and nearly three dozen theaters, the most famous of which is the deeply historic Fox Theatre. Whether you want to see a Broadway show or a WWE wrestling match you can do it here.
Detroit has more to offer than meets the eye, and it’s in the middle of a cultural renaissance. If you’ve been considering taking a trip to Motor City, now’s a better time than ever! Maybe you’ll even find out a thing or two you didn’t know before.
Discover more things to do in Detroit.
1Belle Isle State Park99 Pleasure Drive, Detroit, MI 48207313-821-9844
2Motown Museum2648 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48208313-875-2264
3Red Smoke Barbeque573 Monroe St., Detroit, MI 48226313-962-2100
4Eastern MarketRussell Street between Mack Avenue and Gratiot Avenue, 2934 Russell St., Detroit, MI 48207313-833-9300
5Detroit Lions2000 Brush St., Ford Field, Detroit, MI 48226313-262-2222
6Detroit Red WingsLittle Caesars Arena, 2645 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48201313-349-5777
7Detroit Tigers2100 Woodward Ave., Comerica Park, Detroit, MI 48201313-471-2000
8Detroit Institute of Arts5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48202313-833-7900
9Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center400 GM Renaissance Center, Detroit, MI 48243313-568-8000
10Fox Theatre2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48201313-471-3211