In my experience hosting customers, vendors, and family members people visit because of the history. Whether is automotive, architectural, or blight- they want to see history. My suggestions keeping within the Detroit city limits:
- Ford Highland Park plant. 1st automotive assembly line, Model T, $5/day started here.
- Woodward Ave. between 6 and 7 mile was the first stretch of paved concrete laid in the WORLD.
- Boston Edison neighborhood. Henry Ford, Ty Cobb, Joe Louis lived here. Check out their homes.http://www.historicbostonedison.org/history/people.shtml
- Indian Village neighborhood. The pinnacle of pre-1920s living in Detroit. http://www.historicindianvillage.org/
- Brush Park. Victorian neighborhood within walking distance from Ford Field and Comerica Park. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brush_Park_Historic_District
- Belle Isle. Island city park with excellent views of Detroit and Windsor. The park has nice fountains, nice to drive around.
- Hidelberg. Probably the place everybody remembers most. 25 years ago a local artist began decorating vacant homes in his neighborhood to draw attention to blight and the crack epidemic. http://www.heidelberg.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47&Itemid=54
- Eastern Market. http://www.detroiteasternmarket.com
- Riverfront promenade. Start off at the Renissance Center walk south through Hart Plaza to Joe Louis Arena.
- Urban farming. You won't see it on this scale in any other American city.
Locations are accessible along major roadways. Brush Park, Indian Village, and Boston Edison are easy to navigate and you can see a lot without straying too far from the main roads. Hidelberg is more sketchy but it's well traveled and has staff members onsite during normal hours to answer questions. Seeing the farms usually means getting deeper in the 'hood, but the areas are more desolate- they're farming afterall.
Metro Detroit consistently receives podium placement for having the most obese people in the USA- and that's an accomplishment! With that said, HOW THE DEUCE HAS NOBODY MENTIONED LAFAYETTE CONEY ISLAND OR A DAMN CONEY DOG YET?
Where to eat? As a 270# metro Detroiter (with roots going back to the Ft. Ponchatrain days) here are my recommendations.
- Lafayette Coney Island. It's right of passage. Sure American Coney Island is next door, but guess what? IT AIN'T LAFAYETTE!
- Supino Pizzera in Eastern Market.
- Russel St. Deli in Eastern Market. The wait is worth it.
- Foran's Irish Pub. Great spot downtown that only serves made in Michigan products and handcrafted beer
- Mudgie's Deli in Corktown neighborhood. Corktown is D's oldest neighborhood and is experiencing revitalization/gentrification.
- Slow's BBQ. Be prepared to wait. Received national recognition throughout various outlets. In Corktown, across from old train depot (scenes from Transformers 1 filmed there), near Tiger Stadium (unofficially known as Ernie Harwell Park)
- Pegasus (excellent Greek food) in Greektown
- Polish Village Cafe in Hamtramck, cash only.
- The Whitney ($$$$) high end dining in a 1800s lumber baron's mansion -now- restaurant. At least worth a trip for a cocktail and desert.
- Jacoby's good German food and beer
All locations, except Polish Village, are located in areas where you'll sight-see anyways. Polish Village is an experience if you have Polish or eastern European roots and long for grandmother's cooking.
At minimum you are REQUIRED to
1. drink a flavored Faygo pop. Rock & Rye are perennial favorites.
2. enjoy a bag of Better Made potato chips. I recommend 'hot'. Detroiters eat more chips than any other city. Better Made is our local low-buck favorite.
3. enjoy a coney dog. natural case hot dog, chili sauce, onions, mustard.
4. drink a Vernor's ginger pop. Don't cough. Mixes excellent with vanilla ice cream, Seagrams 7, and other liquor.
Yes, The Henry Ford (Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village) is a world-class attraction. I highly encourage a visit if that is your interest and it's raining. Otherwise, check out the city.