Detroit Weekend Activities on a Budget: Part 1

September 24, 2012  |   Story by Victoria Araj  |   Photos by Bill Bowen, Grand Trunk Pub

The following is a guest post by Victoria Araj, writer for Quicken Loans and Managing Editor and Publisher of the Quicken Loans Zing Blog. With degrees from MSU and U of M, her allegiance to the Mitten State is indisputable. 

My friends often say, “Hey, you’re my Detroit connection, what’s going on this weekend?” Or, if they are visiting from out of town I hear, “We’re doing cool stuff when I get there, right?” After hearing this time and again, I wondered if anyone else out there needed help figuring out what to do on any given weekend in Detroit, besides the typical sporting event.

Whether you live in the area or are responsible for entertaining out-of-state guests, fear not! I’ve got a few weekend itinerary tips that will reintroduce you to many of the reasons why Detroit rocks! Oh, and did I mention for little to no money?

It’s 5 p.m. on Friday evening and you just got paid. Have your friends meet you at the Detroit Institute of Arts. With more than 100 galleries, the DIA’s collection is among the top six in the entire country. You can see Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry fresco, Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait and plenty of other works of American, European, Modern, Ancient art and more. The icing on the cake? The DIA is FREE for all residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Out-of-town adults pay $8. The cherry on top? The DIA is open until 10 p.m. on Fridays, giving you plenty of time to take in some art and visit the gift shop!

Keep walking toward Jefferson Avenue to see the Monument to Joe Louis, a.k.a., The Fist. Dedicated in 1986, and weighing about 8,000 pounds, the 24-foot-long arm and fist is held in balanced suspension. The monument is synonymous with the grit and determination of the city, so bring your camera and strike a strong pose! Continue across the street to Hart Plaza where many of Detroit’s festivals take place. You’ll see the 30-foot Dodge Fountain (named after the auto pioneer) and Transcending, a monument dedicated to the history of labor in Detroit. Continue straight ahead to the riverfront where you’ll see the Detroit Princess docked, and experience miles of beautiful scenery – including a carousel, fountain, giant cement map of Detroit and a chance to wave to another country – Canada! The RiverWalk is open until 10 p.m. If you prefer to do something more outdoorsy, take a stroll around the heart of downtown Detroit. Have your guests meet you at the Kern’s clock on the corner of Woodward Avenue and Gratiot (can’t miss the giant Olga’s wrap right above it). First stop – Campus Martius! This award-winning urban park houses Detroit’s Point of Origin (from which all the “mile” roads are measured), a beautiful fountain, concert stages and movie screens in the summer, an ice rink in the winter and tasty restaurants on every “corner” of the roundabout. Sit for a few minutes and take in the amazing architecture of historic buildings and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

Friday Night

The night doesn’t have to end with a glass of wine. Make your way back toward the Kern’s clock and turn right on Gratiot. Walk about a block (just past Farmer St.) to Vicente’s Cuban Cuisine and feel like you just stepped into Havana. Every Friday and Saturday night the place is packed, as FREE salsa dancing lessons begin at 10 p.m.! Don’t worry, the instructor introduces you to some basic moves, and within minutes, you’re cutting some rug to some of the best Latin music out there. Did I mention they have great sangrias?After all that exploring, you’ll be ready for dinner. Head back toward Campus Martius and have a bite to eat at Foran’s Grand Trunk Pub. A Michigan historical landmark, it was originally a jewelry store and, later, the Grand Trunk Railway ticket office. It’s been a pub since the 1930s and features plenty of Michigan-made products. It’s open until 2 a.m., but the kitchen closes at midnight. Looking for a nightcap? Literally walk next door and up the stairs to MotorCity Wine. Half wine shop and half wine bar, it’s an intimate space where you feel like you’re relaxing in someone’s loft. Featuring wines from family-owned vineyards, you’ll enjoy a glass and want to take a bottle home!

Check out Victoria’s Saturday and Sunday budget picks.

Mentioned Attractions And Venues
  1. The Detroit Institute of Arts
    5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48202313-833-7900 Highlight on map | More Details
  2. Campus Martius Park
    800 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48226313-962-0101 Highlight on map | More Details
  3. Vicente's Cuban Cuisine
    1250 Library St., Detroit, MI 48226313-962-8800 Highlight on map | More Details
  4. Grand Trunk Pub
    612 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48226313-961-3043 Highlight on map | More Details