Today is the thirteenth of March (3-13)… Happy Detroit Day! Or shall I say Double Detroit Day? As this year’s date is a palindrome (3-13-13), there’s twice the reason to celebrate the three-one-three .

Let’s ignore the city’s financial distress, be shiny optimists, and focus on the good. If I had a weekend to give a tourist a Detroit adventure, this is what I would recommend*:

Visit the Heidelberg Project. This is one of those Detroit sites where the good & the bad of Detroit meet. A neighborhood that has seen blight and is now experiencing brighter days thanks to the vision at art of Tyree Guyton. A great opportunity to reflect on how Detroit can see better days. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be lucky enough to meet the artist!

The American vs. Lafayette Challenge. Detroit is divided by two adjacent restaurants each claiming to have the best coneys in town. You must try both. Even the Food Network participated in this challenge. Am I an American or Lafayette girl? Find out.

Bike the Riverfront. The Riverfront is beautiful. Rent your bike from Wheelhouse Detroit, cruise the river walk and see where else your bike can take you in the city. Enjoy the views of Canada and people-watch.

Pick a museum. Midtown Detroit is home to some great museums. For the non-Detroiter desiring to learn more about the city, check out the Detroit Historical Museum. My personal favorites (and I recommend for all you art lovers) are the DIA and the MOCAD.  There’s also the Science Center, African American History Museum, Motown Museum, and more. If you had a whole weekend to browse museums, you’d be very busy.

Spend your Saturday morning moseying the Eastern Market. Sheds upon sheds of food and goods from local producers. Lots of people and music. Who doesn’t like street vendors? While your there, be sure to snag a slice of some pizza from Supino.

Ride the People Mover. For less than a dollar, you can ride in a circle around the downtown area. A true Detroit experience. Really, you just have to do it. Once. Say “Weeee!” during your ride too.

Bowl at Garden Bowl. Don’t you want to say you’ve bowled at the oldest bowling alley in the United States? It’s a fun place and when you’re done with the bowling scene, you can move upstairs and maybe catch some live music at the Majestic/Magic Stick.

See the classic sites. Make sure you get your photo in front of (and enjoy the architecture) of the Spirit of Detroit, Fischer Building, Guardian Building, Belle Isle, Hart Plaza…

EAT ALL THE FOOD. Detroit has excellent, unique restaurants.

Eat breakfast. Avalon has wonderful breads and baked goods.  Honest?John’s has a classic breakfast, perfect post-late night out. Hudson Café has exquisite breakfast foods; may I suggest the huevos rancheros or red velvet pancakes? Great Lakes has the best coffee I’ve ever had and some nice breakfast pastries to couple with. Breakfast is your most important meal of the day.

Eat lunch. Mudgie’s is a delicious sandwich shop. Just go. You’ll understand. You won’t even know what to order because you’ll want the whole menu. The Bronx Bar has the best burger I’ve ever had in my whole life. And I’ve had a lot of burgers. So much flavor.

Eat dinner. If you have time to wait, Slows is a must-go BBQ restaurant. You can even see the symbol of Detroit’s blight, the old train station, from this restaurant. Don’t have time to wait? Luckily there’s Slows-to-Go, a faster alternative, in Midtown. I’ve never had a bad meal at Traffic Jam. Everything is homemade.  Eating at Woodbridge Pub is a good opportunity to feel the vibe of the Woodbridge neighborhood. Plus their menu is accommodating to vegetarians. If you’re looking to dine on the higher end, put on your fancy pants and visit The Whitney. An old mansion now restaurant, the ambiance and total dining experience is worth the cost.

Eat dessert. Good Girls Go to Paris has both sweet and savory crepes, but their dessert crepes are the best. I love this shop because it is a great success story. If you have the chance to meet the owner, ask her about it. This is a perfect place to visit after you peruse any of the nearby museums. If it’s nearing sunset, go to Coach Insignia for dessert. Sitting atop the GM building, this restaurant has astounding views of Detroit and Canada. That’s why you should go right at sunset – watch the city descend into darkness and twinkle with all the lights. 

Drink. Cliff Bell’s is a classy jazz bar that usually has live jazz music. Centaur has lovely martinis – try the one with Vernors. Sugarhouse is adjacent to Slows and has very fancy (and expensive) cocktails. D’Mongo’s is a fun speakeasy with great decor. Delux is a lot of fun – they play the best music for a dance party. Motor City Brewing Works is the tastiest microbrewery in town. Enjoy a hard cider/Ghettoblaster on their rooftop deck. There are so many great bars in Detroit, I could easily list another 15. But these are my favorites.

Eat up! Drink up! And adventure around town!

*Please note, these suggestions are based on my personal experiences – as I’ve yet to do EVERYTHING in Detroit, I’m sure I missed some great ideas. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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