Getting the feels for Detroit

By Jessica Ahern, Director of Volunteer Programs

Cars, abandoned buildings, the Lions—those were  my only points of reference to Detroit outside of articles I’ve read when researching the headlining city for Tourism Cares for Our Cities .

Boy, did I have it wrong.  Detroit is most definitely a city on the move. There is construction everywhere – condos going up, commercial space being renovated, and beautiful historic buildings being transformed.

I thought it best that Kati and I try to see the city through a different lens on our first visit to the Motor City; we needed more than our typical site visit to be able to showcase this city in May to the hundreds of travel professionals attending “Travel’s Big Give”—the first annual summit of travel professionals dedicated to corporate social responsibility—in conjunction with Tourism Cares for Detroit.  I asked a new friend, the hilarious Mark Denson of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, to show us around – and we fell in love with Detroit fast

We explored the amazing neighborhoods – Midtown, Corktown, Downtown, Eastern Market – each with its very own character, history and appeal. We learned about the neighborhoods, how the city is working to connect and make them more accessible from the downtown corridor. New sidewalks, bike paths and green spaces are popping up all over the city, making it easier to get to and from all the distinctive parts of town.

We saw the community garden spaces, the impressive schools, the gorgeous architecture and design of the Guardian Building. We learned that five years ago there were 48 closed/abandoned buildings downtown, today there are only 3. That’s incredible progress – the city is flourishing with buildings being filled, repurposed and rebuilt.

We added so many restaurants to our list of places to dine that I don’t know if we can plan enough trips to experience it all (and if we do, I might need to buy bigger pants). As a place to start – check out Standby downtown, located down an alleyway covered in beautiful graffiti with great handmade cocktails. In Midtown choose a beer off the massive beer list at HopCat and in Corktown you cannot miss Ottava Via for the incredible Italian fare.

The progress and growth in Detroit is incredible. The city has such a spirit, character, and the food and drink is to die for.  The city still has grit, but it also has local charm, and a small business scene that is so Detroit.

I have lived outside of Boston all of my life and I am fortunate that I get to explore the world and meet the people that support our travel industry volunteer programs. I have always learned a lot at each place I visit, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so surprised and impressed by a city like I am with Detroit.

When boarding our flight at DTW, I completely understood why the New York Times named Detroit one of the cities to visit in 2017 – seriously, it’s one to explore!

I hope you’ll join us in when we bring more than 300 travel professionals to the city for a day of service. And if you can-- make sure to come in a day early; on Thursday we will have lots of tours and experiences available, including the tour Kati and I were fortunate enough to go on.