Would you believe that Motor City — among the most blighted, declining urban areas in America — can be a fascinating stopover en route to another, more promising, town?
A friend, Tripatini.com co-founder David Appell, recently scheduled a flight from Miami to New York City on Spirit Airlines in order to enjoy a rock-bottom airfare.
The only hitch: a required six-hour layover in Detroit en route (i.e., Miami to Detroit to New York City). He learned, to his surprise, that he was thus enjoying not only a tiny airfare, but an unexpected urban treat.
In Detroit, a 20-minute cab ride from the airport took him to the center of the business district and an interesting visit to the city's Greek Town, filled with restaurants and shops.
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Nearby , he had the most exciting barbecue of his life at an iconic restaurant called Slows Bar BQ, which has created a sensation in Detroit.
And from that meal, he took another cab to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, which is on the way back to the airport.
There, he discovered an institution that he now ranks among the top museums of the nation, and wrote about it in his blog post "Sightseeing in Detroit: Revelations of an Unexpected Layover."
In it, among other things, he viewed: "Presidential limousines, such as the one in which John F. Kennedy was shot; the bus in which Rosa Parks sparked the seminal Montgomery Bus Boycott; the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was shot; a period replica of America's first train; the 'Oscar Mayer Wienermobile'; and various and sundry planes, cars, locomotives, machines, furniture, appliances and a gazillion other items.
Ever heard of Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion House? It was once going to be the house of the future, but was never put into production; the only surviving example is here, and it's utterly fascinating."
Still another recent development has made Detroit a place to consider for a touristic visit: Free-of-charge walking tours led by a volunteer resident. These are now offered by the brand-new, inexpensive ($25 a night) Hostel Detroit (313-451-0333; www.hosteldetroit.com) in the centrally located Corktown area of the city, within easy walking distance of the famous Slows Bar BQ.
Hostel staffers have enlisted a substantial number of "ambassador" volunteers (well-informed citizens of Detroit) to offer such walking tours to visitors who may or may not be staying at the hostel.
To repeat an earlier point: though many outlying residential districts have been abandoned by residents in part because of the city's declining economy, the downtown area (including Corktown) is regarded by many as a vital and interesting place, with numerous museums and other attractions, good restaurants, bars and shops, a place that may now enjoy an upswing in prosperity because of the apparent recovery of the auto industry.