101 Things Every Detroiter Must Do
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Take at Trip at the DFT
Uncomfortably small chairs at the Detroit Film Theatre, a 1,200-seat auditorium at the DIA that opened in 1927, are proof Detroit wasn't always the fattest city. But a slightly sore bum is a small price to pay to escape the multiplex and see the best of world cinema. Giants including Truffaut, Ozu and Almodóvar have been seen here so often, they should have seats named after them. Modern auteurs aren't ignored, either - Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction is only one of the films that made its Detroit debut here. Still not convinced? The DFT sells cookies and wine before the show. Get moving. 313-833-3237, www.dia.org/dft.
2 Get Fresh at Eastern Market
It's cosmopolitan, it's colorful, it's crowded - and it's a blast. Every Saturday, as many as 45,000 people descend on Eastern Market near I-75 and Mack to haggle over everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to fine cuts of meat. Get there when the market opens at 7 a.m. for the freshest produce, or come later when vendors drop prices in an attempt to lighten the load back home. The shops surrounding the market are a world unto themselves: flowers, antiques, beer and wine, spices, and, of course, Germack nuts. Can't find something? Nonsense. Look harder. And remember: On Flower Day in May, the market is the best place to shop for Mom. www.easternmarket.org.
3 Get with the Spirit
Devotees of the famed sculptor Marshall Fredericks were horrified in 1997 when Detroiters first played dress-up with the guy at city hall known as the "Jolly Green Giant." But when fans flocked by the thousands during the Stanley Cup Finals to snap a photo with the 16-foot statue wearing a mammoth Red Wings jersey, even cynics had to admit there was no better picture of our obsession with all things athletic. Recently, the Spirit was posing in a size 50-XL Pistons jersey. Here's hoping someday soon you can send holiday cards with pictures of the big man wearing the Old English "D."
4 Go Loco at Xochimilco
If you've forgotten your high school Spanish, just cheat and say "So-she," the nickname Detroiters use for the Mexican restaurant with fanstastico food, especially the trifecta of chips, salsa and margaritas. It's a great siesta before or after you sample all that Mexican Town in southwest Detroit has to offer. Must-stops include fresh-baked treats at Mexican Town Bakery (313-554-0001) or, for do-it-yourselfers, the Honey Bee grocery store on Bagley. Xochilmilco, 3409 Bagley; 313-843-0179.
5 Get Loopy on the People Mover
The elevated train encircling downtown Detroit may get some laughs about "going nowhere," but for 50 cents a spin you can't beat the convenience. Red Wings fans (when the team is playing) are the top users, but it's also the easiest way to get to spots like Small Plates and the Detroit Beer Co. So maybe the train does snuggle up to a few abandoned buildings. But it's a small price to pay to see outstanding artwork, including vivid mosaics that adorn the People Mover stations.
6 Sip Cider at the Mill
As compensation for enduring long, gray, frigid winters, Detroiters are blessed with outstanding autumns. And when the skies hit that deep blue and the trees explode in color, there's only one thing to do: Raise a toast of tangy apple cider and polish off a doughnut at Oakland County's Franklin Cider Mill (7450 Franklin Rd.; 248-626-2968) or Washtenaw County's Dexter Cider Mill (3685 Central St.; 734-426-8531). Popular with families and couples, both mills let you watch step-by-step as bushels of homegrown apples become the best drink in the Midwest.
7 People-Watch at Somerset
Troy's glitzy shopping mecca may boast fancy retailers such as Cartier and Saks, but the best reason to waste an afternoon in the tri-level shopping temple is to see the parade of people it draws. Plunk down on a bench with a latte and be amused by celebrities, captains of industry, wealthy wives, loving couples, longing singles and teenagers who, like, totally ohmygod, cannot stop nattering on their cell phones. Without fail, everyone comes dressed to impress - and to peruse more than 180 shops and eateries. 2800 W. Big Beaver; 248-643-6360, www.thesomerset collection.com.
8 Slide in to White Castle
Twenty-six years before McDonald's served its first customer, Detroiters were munching away at White Castle. America's first fast-food hamburger chain was founded in Kansas in 1921, but the Motor City was one of its first outposts, opening on East Jefferson in 1929. In the ensuing decades, consuming bags of the steaming, gut-busting Sliders has become a late-night tradition so popular that only New York and Chicago have more outlets than the D. You won't have to go far to find one.
9 Play Hooky on Opening Day
Say you're working or going to school on the afternoon in April when the Detroit Tigers toss the first pitch at Comerica Park, and you'll get looks of disbelief. Opening Day is as sacred as any religious holiday in metro Detroit, and it's marked by empty offices and classrooms, and tens of thousands partying in downtown streets. Sure, the game is a blast (if you can snag a ticket), but there's as much fun to be had at local watering holes, especially Nemo's. Detroit Tigers, 313-471-2225, www.detroittigers.com.
10 Wheel and Deal for a Car
Hollywood has its "six degrees of Kevin Bacon," where all screen stars can be linked to the actor. But in Detroit, the game to play is "six degrees of a Big Three employee." Everyone knows someone whose father/mother/ sister/brother works at General Motors, Ford or DaimlerChrysler - a person who can help you get that deep employee discount on your next set of wheels. GM has taken the fun out of it recently by offering the deal to everyone. But the game is alive with Ford and DCX. Don't call yourself a Detroiter if you're paying the same as chumps in Columbus.
11 Get Wiggy at the Palace
So they couldn't conquer San Antonio - this year. In this basketball-crazed region, undaunted Detroit Pistons fans are already counting the days until Chauncey, Rip and the boys are back on the court. Do whatever you must to be in the Palace next season. Words cannot describe the rush of, as John Mason hollers, "Deeeetroit basketball" - nor the countless big wigs worn by fans as a tribute to Ben Wallace.
12 Sing for Your Drinks
Belt out a few bars of "Danny Boy" and swig a Guinness at the Old Shillelagh in downtown Detroit, a bar that's survived a fire, inter-generational management changes and 30 years of debauchery to become the place for "drunken sing-a-long beer-drinking Irish music." In March, folks of every ethnic background get their green on for the "The World's Biggest St. Patrick's Day Party" in giant tents out back. Many finish the night stumbling into taxis out front. 313-964-0007, www.oldshillelagh.com.
13 Call Out Your Coney
Decked out in everything from ball gowns to blue jeans, tuxedos to trashy club clothes, the collection of people who pile into Lafayette Coney Island on most nights couldn't be more eclectic - bolstering the case that the great unifying force in our divided region may be the almighty coney. Some 300 restaurants in the area dish up these hot dogs with chili, mustard and onions, but none has the zip and tradition of the 80-year-old Lafayette. Holler your order 24 hours a day. If it's too crowded, dig in next door at American Coney Island. Lafayette; 118 W. Lafayette; 313-964-8198.
14 Make a Run for the Border
Maybe it's the drama of the federal interrogation or just the fact you can use funny money, but rolling across the river never fails to be exhilarating. For $2.50 you can shoot through the tunnel into downtown Windsor or enjoy the scenery from the Ambassador Bridge for a quarter more. Regardless of your route, our Canadian neighbors have great restaurants, clubs and shopping. With the exchange rate, it feels like a half-off sale. Don't forget your passport, or these answers for customs: U.S., Detroit, dinner, no, no. Have a great night.
15 Let Loose at the DIA
For artistic, raucous fun, there's no better ticket than Friday Nights at the DIA. The parties at one of America's most renowned museums blend food and drink with fine art, live music (The White Stripes even played once) and storytelling. If it's the sublime you seek, the 600,000-square-foot building has more than 100 galleries in which to lose yourself. There will be even more to see in 2007, when the building's extensive renovation is completed. 5200 Woodward; 313-833-7900, www.dia.org.
16 Pick Sweet Treats
For generations, when summer has finally arrived in Michigan, Detroiters have loaded up the kids and headed out to hunt for the state's sweetest treats. Strawberries, blueberries, peaches, cherries and apples are just some of the fruits you can pick at area farms. Top destinations include Ashton Orchards & Cider Mill (248-627-6671) and Middleton Berry Farm (248-628-1819) in Ortonville, and Long Family Orchard and Farm in Commerce Township (248-360-3774). Fact: Fruit you pick always tastes better.
17 Stop and Smell the Orchids
To see one of America's largest collections of a flower people risk life and limb to find (and smuggle), you need look no farther than the Belle Isle Conservatory - a 13-acre oasis inspired by Jefferson's Monticello and designed by Albert Kahn. Opened in 1904, the complex houses a vast array of plants and flowers, including the monumental orchid display that took root in 1953 when Anna Scripps Whitcomb, for whom the building is named, willed 600 of the rare flowers to the conservatory. Pay attention as you wander, as photo-happy brides and grooms frequently lurk amid the foliage. 313-267-7157.
18 Salute Joe Louis
There are two must-see monuments to Detroit's favorite son who "knocked out Hitler" when he flattened Max Schmeling in 1938. The most famous (and most misunderstood) is the bronze fist on Jefferson, across from Hart Plaza, that was a gift to the city from Sports Illustrated magazine. The second is a towering statue in the lobby of Cobo Center that commemorates the 124-second pummeling of Schmeling. Pay tribute at both.
19 Road Trip on Woodward
In 1909, the only strip of paved road in the country was a stretch of Woodward between Six and Seven Mile roads. Parts of the road may feel as if they haven't been fixed since, but it's worth a few bumps to drive this artery that divides the east and west sides. Drive from downtown Detroit to Cranbrook and you'll have a new understanding of southeastern Michigan. There's also plenty of history along the way. The Woodward Heritage group will help you plot the journey. 866-612-9929. www.woodwardheritage.com.
20 Holla' at The Joe
The NHL strike may have kept Joe Louis Arena quiet this year, but save your breath and keep your fingers crossed for 2006. When Hockeytown is rocking, there's no other place to be than among 20,000 crazed Red Wings fans screaming for "The Captain" and his crew. Every game may be sold out, but true Detroiters can always scrounge up a ticket. It may require a second mortgage, but being in The Joe when the evil Colorado Av's come to town is, as they say, priceless. 313-983-6606, www.detroitredwings.com.
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