It’s no secret -- I LOVE Detroit.
My friends know to call me when they are looking for things to do in the city. I love to explore whether it’s by myself, with my wife or my family. I especially love giving suggestions to people who aren’t as familiar.
As you read this, keep an open mind and know that this is my Detroit experience. But I’m always open to new ideas and experiences so please shoot me an email or DM on social media if you’ve got some fun places/experiences I should check out!
Every morning HAS to start with a good breakfast. Whether you like sweet or savory, your breakfast has to start at Hudson Cafe on Woodward Avenue here in Downtown Detroit. It helps that I’m friends with the owner, Tom Teknos, but hands down the restaurant has everything for everybody! When you’re there, try the Cinnabon pancakes. They’re my absolute favorite and the serving size can feed a family. Pair it with a mimosa and you’re ready to take on the city.
In my previous life, aka college, I was a barista at Starbucks so I know and love my coffee. Depending on how many mimosas you’ve had you can either walk over to Roasting Plant in Campus Martius or drive over to Great Lakes Coffee a ways up Woodward. Bring your laptop, iPad or iPhone (I don’t do Samsung, sorry) and get some work done while you sip on some incredibly brewed cups of coffee. These two places are incredible. If you’re at Roasting Plant, keep your eyes open. You never know who you’ll run into inside the small coffee shop. Did I mention it’s owned by actor Hill Harper?
I hope you brought your workout gear! Because after you’ve finished sending out your e-mails or posting that perfect photo of the foam on top of your latte to your Instagram, it’s time to work out! Head on over to Jabs Gym in Eastern Market. There you can join and sign up for classes with Syndi Jones and Armond Rashad. They’re incredible trainers and make working out FUN. I love the grit of the gym. If you’re looking to get fit for the new year they don’t mess around.
And listen, Supinos is right next door in case you need to refuel after they kick your butt but don’t tell them I said that! The who’s who of Detroit works out at Jabs Gym so you’ll be in good company. They also have a location in Birmingham.
When you’re finished at Jabs Gym a stroll through Eastern Market is always fun. You never know what you’ll see or who you’ll run into there as well. This is a part of the city I plan to explore more but every time I do roll through Eastern Market it’s a fun experience. It’s best on the weekends of course so keep that in mind!
So to conclude, Hudson Cafe for your eats, Roasting Plant/Great Lakes Coffee for your caffeine, Jabs Gym to get you on your feet and Eastern Market will have you out in these streets.
We begin at the Riverfront. Right in front of The Ren Can to be exact. This is better for a summer morning, of course, but hey, if you like cold weather, have at it in the winter, too. We’re going to go for a walk down toward Chene Park, now known as The Aretha. The best part about beginning this walk is looking over to Windsor, Canada. It’s always so crazy to me that a whole new world exists over there. Different people, different money, different city and a whole different way of life. Have you ever been? Even though it’s so close, you know you’re in a different country once you make it through border patrol. A story for another day.
Walking along the Riverfront you’ll see all kinds of people. Downtown Detroit tends to bring out people from both the East and West sides of Detroit, whether to walk just like us, to work or to sightsee as well. This is a perfect place to exercise, but we did that in the morning at Jabs Gym so we’ll take it easy today. Ha! If you have kids, toward the middle portion of this walk there’s a carousel that mine love to ride. There’s also a restaurant to refuel and rehydrate come midday.
We’re going to keep walking, though. Keep walking down toward the Jefferson Hotel and the apartments where you’ll see people with all different stories that call this neck of the woods home. This walk will take you some time but go ahead and head back when you’re ready. You can always stop and relax in one of the big red oversized chairs along the route. You’ll typically see sidewalk chalk artists, men on bicycles with loud speakers slow rolling through and other friendly people looking for a small escape just like you. This is a great place to clear your head.
Next, and this is especially great if you’re new to the city, we’re heading out on the open water. We’ll even cross the border into Canada. How? Once it opens we’re going to hop on board the Diamond Jacks boat tour. Listen, I said this is better in the summer right? The Diamond Jacks boat tour takes 2 hours so plan accordingly. It’ll take you a lot further up the river than you could walk on your own. Remember to refuel before you head onboard, but they do have light refreshments for purchase onboard. The tour travels alongside the Detroit side of the river, along the same area that you were just walking. You’ll pass some historic homes and mansions. Be sure to wave when you pass Kid Rock’s riverfront home!
The coolest part is when they take the boat on the other side of the river. Technically you are then in Canadian waters, but no passport needed. They’ll educate you on the history of the buildings you’re passing there, too. After 2 hours you’re bound to be starving so if you took a morning ride it’s probably about time for lunch.
I’m trying to keep everything centrally located for you here so you can either take a nice and easy walk to some of these places but still get somewhat of a Detroit experience. There are a bunch of restaurants to stop by inside the Ren Cen, but if you can make it over to Campus Martius, I suggest you grab lunch at Calexico. It’s going to be a little bit of a walk but why not eh? (Apparently we spent a little too much time in Canada -- sorry!)
Calexico is quick and affordable. It’s a blend of Tex-Mex food. Start with the different salsas -- I prefer the green, but you cannot leave without trying the queso. I normally get that along with their gigantic burrito with chicken. I haven’t been here in a long time but my kids especially love this restaurant. Sit outside if you can and you’ll see people rushing around Downtown, walking to work or catching the Q Line to run up and down Woodward Avenue.
Speaking of which, we’re going to hop aboard the Q Line. We need dessert right? We’ll get there, don’t worry. The Q Line is a great way to see Woodward Avenue. There’s a bit of shopping you can do along the way. For an even better view of the Downtown area, you can hop on the People Mover which will take you in a loop around Downtown. Be let’s stay on Woodward Avenue for right now. You’re going to ride the Q Line for a ways just past Little Ceasars Arena. You’ll want to get off near Erskine. There’s actually a taco spot called Bakersfield that is my favorite place to get tacos (before midnight if you know what I mean lol). Their queso is simply amazing. But we were hungry after all that boating and needed a quick lunch.
Now after all that shopping the Q Line has brought you to a little bakery called For the Love of Sugar. Let me tell you, their name says it ALL. Everything you can ever want for that sweet tooth is inside this place and you will NOT be disappointed. They even have coffee, too.
You’re just outside of the Downtown area now. The Q Line will take you clear down to the New Center area and back to Downtown. Have at it and sight see in either direction. There’s SO much more to be seen even just along this three mile stretch.
Before we begin the night you’ll need to make reservations days, dare I say weeks, in advance at Monarch Club or The Highlands. More on that later, but just trust me on this.
The night as usual begins with dinner. I suggest my favorite place and my go-to place for get-togethers, Central Kitchen. It’s right in the heart of Downtown Detroit’s Campus Martius. The atmosphere is incredible. They have a live DJ on the weekends and the music is never too loud that you can’t hear the person in front of you. The drinks are incredible but it’s the fries that keep me coming back time and time again. You can tell them that Evrod Cassimy sent ya. I go there so often they know my order. No I’m not embarrassed to say that. The service is excellent. You can sit inside or even on their newly renovated patio during a nice summer night but it’s also covered so you can enjoy some people watching and relax out there during the winter as well. It’s extremely affordable and they have something for everyone on their menu.
From Central Kitchen, no matter where you go, a nice stroll through the Downtown area is in order. That’s next on the agenda. You can walk in any direction and find plenty to see. I suggest at some point during your stroll you hop onto one of the Lime or Bird bikes for extra laughs as you whiz around Downtown. Be careful though! I have seen many people wipe out.
OK that was fun but it’s time to take things up a notch. We’re going to head on over to Vicente’s Cuban Cuisine. It’s on Library Street near where Hudson’s used to be. This is a great place for dessert so grab a table, but we’re really here for the dancing. I’ve only done it on Friday nights so plan accordingly. It’s almost not optional as they have a Cuban dance instructor who goes around table to table and encourages people to get up for their dance lesson. They move out all the tables from the middle of the restaurant after a certain time and pretty much the whole restaurant joins in. No, there’s no twerking happening here, just a cultural expression of dance, and no you won’t be the only one who has no idea what they’re doing. That’s what makes Metro Detroit so great. Cuban dancing on a Friday night at a restaurant with strangers in the middle of the city. It’s fun, you’ll laugh, you might even break a sweat but you’ll certainly have an incredible time.
After all that walking and scooting and dancing, you’re probably tired. Remember when I told you to make a reservation at Monarch Club or The Highlands? Let’s begin at Monarch Club. It’s right around the corner from Vicente so you can certainly walk. It’s exclusive, quaint, small and hidden but it’s everything you’ll need after a fun evening. It’s atop a building that overlooks Woodward Avenue with incredible views of Comerica Park at the same time. They only take reservations because they’re so popular.
They’re usually booked every night so don’t try to walk in. The theme inside is very nautical, almost like Ralph Lauren or the Nautica brand itself. Very regal and upscale, yet casual at the same time. If you’re dehydrated, this is the place to be as you can relax inside at a table or couch or check out the views outside while sitting around the fire pits. Stay here as long as you want. You’ll have great views all around Downtown Detroit as you plan your next night out.
The Highlands is at the top of the Ren Cen. A little bit further from where you are now but just in case Monarch Club is booked, The Highlands is another great place to end your night while checking out Detroit from up above.
Here are a few other honorable mentions for stops along your night out in Detroit: Parc, San Morello, Leila, Eatori, Canelle, Standby and Sids Gold just to name a few.