Following decades of decline, government corruption, and the collapse of the auto industry, Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history in 2013. But what’s happened since, in a few short years, is a noteworthy example of urban revitalization. Because today, the Motor City isn’t just bouncing back. It’s thriving, thanks to creative and visionary locals who spotted an untapped opportunity to help restore the city’s image to what it was in its glory days.
There are plenty of exciting projects in the pipeline, too. The Joe Louis Greenway, a 31.5-mile planned loop of biking and walking trails connecting many city neighborhoods, is already underway—when completed, it will provide a seamless zone residents can conveniently and safely traverse. Below, even more reasons why Detroit is worth checking out now.
Where to Stay
Encompassing two historic structures (a former department store and a Singer sewing machine factory), this buzzy newcomer is often credited with helping revitalize downtown Detroit. And in short, it’s stunning. The buildings’ original features were thoughtfully preserved, evoking a cozy, nostalgic vibe that feels more like a stylish home than a cookie-cutter hotel. The accommodations are chicly appointed with locally sourced pieces from The Detroit Wallpaper Co., Pewabic Pottery, and naturally, Shinola, whose turntables are an especially thoughtful touch. Downstairs, locals and guests alike keep spirits high at San Morello, a lively, all-day eatery specializing in rustic, wood-fired Italian cuisine. shinolahotel.com
The Detroit Foundation Hotel
Housed in what used to be the Detroit Fire Department headquarters, this 100-room boutique property also serves as a hub for the local creative set. Matt Eaton, the director of Red Bull Arts Detroit, was tapped to curate the art displayed throughout, and there’s also a podcast studio where hosts can also sound off, gratis. A soft palette of chocolate brown, dusty rose, and robin’s-egg blue mingles with dark wood headboards, velvet sofas, and custom wall coverings throughout the rooms. At The Foundation’s signature restaurant, The Apparatus Room, guests can tuck into chef Thomas Lents’s hearty new American fare. (The Korean-inspired crispy cauliflower is a must.) detroitfoundationhotel.com
Where to Eat and Drink
An abandoned auto body garage is today the Motor City’s most ambitious (not to mention most colorful) restaurant. The look is eye-catching and unforgettable, thanks to the original weathered cinder blocks and fluorescent neon lighting. As for the menu, it skews Thai—order the house som tum with sticky rice for a simple, yet sublime snack—so expect lots of heat and funk. Wash everything down with a cocktail on tap, like the gin and yerba mate–infused Club Takoi. takoidetroit.com
Lady of the House
The name says it all. This acclaimed Corktown restaurant is led by chef Kate Williams, and the building it’s in (formerly a pub) now has a familial, almost homey vibe. The food, all presented on delicate mismatched china, is soulful and satisfying. Take, for example, the best-selling carrot steak: It features butter-basted strips of carrots smothered with hollandaise and pistachios, all rolled into a fork-and-knife affair. You won’t miss the meat. ladyofthehousedetroit.com
The Candy Bar
This jewel box of a bar, located on the ground floor of the Siren Hotel, takes a positively pretty approach to drinking with cheerful, bubble-gum pink decor and glamorous touches, including an oversize Murano chandelier and disco ball. Though the space is on the snug side, with room for just 30 guests, the service is so warm you won’t mind getting chummy with your fellow tipplers. candybardetroit.com
Bad Luck Bar
Don’t be fooled by the cheeky name of this intimate cocktail den, discreetly marked by a snake-emblazoned door in a nondescript downtown alley. Inside, you’ll discover a striking geometric theme in the hexagonal lights and tables and cubic wall coverings, as well as tarot card–inspired libations made with rare liquors and whimsical touches, like popping candy and Campari dust. Reservations aren’t accepted, so your best bet for a seat is to swing by early or later at night. badluckbar.com
Detroit Shipping Company
Opened last summer in Cass Corridor, this ambitious project is a terrific example of adaptive reuse. Comprised of 21 shipping containers and spread across two levels, DSC features a well-curated group of fast-casual eateries—the pad Thai rolls from Bangkok 96 Street Food are best sellers—and full-service bars, along with lots of outdoor and indoor seating. Upstairs, an art gallery showcases up-and-coming local talent.
This is exactly the kind of restaurant every urban neighborhood needs and deserves. The menu, envisioned by chef Andy Hollyday, is packed with familiar, well-executed plates you’ll return for often (think roasted brussels sprouts, shrimp and grits, and braised short ribs). The design is a smart and timeless mix of subway tiles, cedar planked ceiling, and Edison bulb lighting. seldenstandard.com
What to See
Detroit Institute of Arts
Located in midtown, DIA is one of the country’s preeminent art institutions. Though its claim to fame is the powerful Detroit Industry Murals by Diego Rivera, DIA’s private collection encompasses over 65,000 pieces and spans disciplines, including African American, Native American, and Asian, with a strong focus on inclusivity and accessibility. The rotating exhibits are also exceptional: On view now through July is “Ruben and Isabel Toledo: Labor of Love,” which features new pieces the couple created after reflecting on the museum’s collection. dia.org
Library Street Collective, a local contemporary art gallery, partnered with Bedrock, the real estate developer behind Shinola Hotel, to dramatically transform a walkway that cuts through a downtown parking garage called the Z. The result? A vibrant alley brimming with public art—contributions by Nina Chanel Abney, Rosson Crow, and Carlos Rolón are on view—with two bars, Standby and The Skip, on hand should the craving for a well-crafted cocktail kick in. thebelt.org
The Heidelberg Project
Provocative and sobering, this outdoor art space is the bold vision of artist Tyree Guyton. With encouragement from his grandfather, and in response to the decline of many of his hometown’s neighborhoods, Guyton transformed two crumbling blocks where he grew up on the East Side into a creative, political, and social statement with found objects like paint, stuffed animals, and vinyl records. heidelberg.org