101 Things Every Detroiter Must Do



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(page 2 of 5)

21 Find Forgotten Hits 

In the home of Motown, it should be no surprise people like to wheel and deal the tunes of yesteryear. For '70s rock, soul and jazz, drop by Young Soul Rebel Records in Detroit (4152 Woodward; 313-832-2001). The Record Graveyard in Hamtramck (11303 Joseph Campau; 313-365-8095) has a vast selection, including old turntables; Car City Records in St. Clair Shores (21918 Harper; 586-775-4770) is a mainstay, with a good selection of jazz and classical. And for techno, nothing beats the Record Time stores in Ferndale (262 W. Nine Mile; 248-336-8463) and Roseville (27360 Gratiot; 586-775-1550).

22 Show School Spirit 

Jumping out of bed before 7 a.m. on a Saturday to enjoy bratwurst and beeris complete lunacy - but so is U. of M. and M.S.U. football. Shake off the sleep and don maize and blue or green and white, and head to Ann Arbor or East Lansing for the best tailgating in the Midwest. Both offer fine parking lot cuisine and more spirits than should be legal.

23 Take a Spin at Motown 

To experience the sounds that changed the world, drop by Hitsville, USA, the house where it all began on Grand Boulevard in Detroit, now a museum. Visitors spin back in time with exhibits and costumes. But the best part of the tour is wandering "Studio A," where the Motown greats recorded so many hits. If that doesn't give you tingles, check your pulse. 2648 W. Grand Blvd.; 313-875-2264, www.motownmuseum.com.

24 Get Fat on Tuesday 

Once a year, Detroiters of all faiths are eternally grateful that Polish Catholics (well, actually, Polish Catholic bakers) live among us. On the Tuesday before Lent, people stand in line for hours as Hamtramck bakeries churn out a gooey sin of gluttony known as the paczki. More than a doughnut and less than healthful, these delicious jelly-filled treats were invented to prepare the faithful for the period of pastry-free fasting. Take a bite and, for the sake of your waistline, you'll thank God these aren't available year-round. Stop by New Deluxe Polish Bakery (11920 Conant; 313-892-8165) and the Polish Deli and Bakery (12015 Joseph Campeau; 313-365-3731).

25 Have Sweets at the Whitney 

The 21,000-square-foot mansion appears wildly out of place on Woodward Avenue, but step inside and you instantly understand why "Take her to the Whitney" is popular advice for men - and terrified teenage boys - looking to impress. The 111-year-old home-turned-restaurant oozes elegance, making it a perfect stop for nightcaps after the show or to share such outrageous desserts as the "The Whitney Mansion," a three-flour torte layered with mango and sour cherry mousses. Enough said. 4421 Woodward; 313-832-5700.

26 Giddyup to the State Fair 

For 156 years, families across southeastern Michigan and Ohio have counted down the days until August, when they piled in the family ride (powered by horses in the early days) and, yee-haw, headed for the Michigan State Fair. The sprawling grounds at Eight Mile and Woodward are filled with a smorgasbord of animals, games, musical acts, clowns, carnival rides and farm-inspired competitions. A popular exhibit in recent years has been the Miracle of Life, where kids can see animals give birth. It's almost as much fun as eating those oh-so-sweet elephant ears. 313-369-8250, www.michigan.gov/mda.

27 Pay Homage to Honest John 

He's outspoken, outrageous and organizes stunts that are completely over the top, but no one can dispute that John Thompson is honest. So maybe he casts doubt with the name of his establishment, Honest? John's Bar and No Grill, and maybe you won't believe all of his wild (and off-color) stories, but dropping by his place that's now in the Cass Corridor is mandatory. You'll quickly learn that John is something of a civic leader who's raised more than $750,000 for local charities with his wild "Shakedown Society." Fundraisers include a midwinter dip in the Detroit River and the sans-pants "Moon Drop." If you don't want to bare all, just grab a beer and hand over your donation at the bar. You'll feel better. Honestly. 488 Selden; 313-832-5646.

28 Roll a Rock at Cadieux 

Step into the Cadieux Café on Detroit's east side, and you may rub your eyes when you see the game called feather bowling - an odd blend of bowling, horseshoes and bocce ball. Born in Belgium, it involves teams competing to roll "rocks" (they bear some resemblance to curling stones) down a dirt lane, closest to an upright feather. Really, it's a hoot. The Cadieux, also known for succulent steamed mussels and a great beer selection, brags it's the only place in the U.S. to feather-bowl. Its staff will be happy to show you the ropes. 4300 Cadieux Rd.; 313-882-8560. Bath City Bistro in Mt. Clemens (75 Macomb Place; 586-469-0917) offers the very similar "trough bowling."

29 Play the Horses 

Decades before casinos came to town, gamblers had few legal choices other than the racetracks. Today, the crowds are thin, but the horses still run at Northville Downs (301 S. Center St.; 248-349-1000) and Hazel Park Raceway (1650 E. 10 Mile Rd.; 248-398-1000). Who's hot in harness racing? Does it really matter? Have fun betting on colts with cool names.

30 Lounge on the Lawn 

Detroiters of a certain age may be cheesed the concert venue formerly known as Pine Knob is now the DTE Energy Music Theater, but their dismay is testament to the great times to be had, especially on the lawn. Snuggle up on a blanket or kick back with friends on the grass and you'll agree that, despite a so-so view, a summer concert never looked so good. Great real estate and the evening sun are your rewards for arriving early, but DTE has plenty of big screens for lollygaggers who feel as if they're sitting in the backyard. 7774 Sashabaw Rd., Clarkston; 248-377-0100, www.palacenet.com.

31 Sound Off on the Radio 

Detroiters have a remarkable gift for gab, a talent many share as soon as they get that first shot of coffee. You may not care what's on your neighbor's mind, but by God, they'll tell you on Detroit morning radio. Grown-ups with politics and business on their minds call Paul W. at WJR (800-859-0957); guys who want to relive the night at the bar dial Drew & Mike on WRIF (313-298-9743); political conspiracy theorists lean toward Mildred Gaddis at WCHB (313-298-1200) while Karen Dumas (same number) gets a more educated crowd; and apoplectic sports fans sound off to Jamie & Brady on WDFN (313-298-1130). Call and give them a piece of your mind.

32 Hear a Detroit Diva 

Pop singers may be referred to as divas these days, but the real thing can be heard warbling at the gloriously refurbished Detroit Opera House. Home of Michigan Opera Theatre, the 1922 theater (which has the largest stage in the city) draws crowds seeking jealousy, murder and intrigue, in song. If you missed this year's big world premiere of Margaret Garner, be sure to catch another hit next season. Ballet and dance productions are also popular, as are the backstage tours. 1526 Broadway; 313-961-3500, www.motopera.org.

33 Have a Blast at the Fireworks 

Watching rockets rise over the Detroit River from your living room doesn't count - unless you have a downtown address and you're looking out the window. To mark America's Independence and show some love to our neighbors celebrating Canada Day, real Detroiters turn off the TV and throw a blanket on the banks of the river for the International Freedom Festival's Target Fireworks. With 250,000 pounds of mortar and 10,000 shells, it may be the biggest in North America. The crowd is estimated at 1 million. It'll certainly make every other Fourth of July celebration you witness look puny. 313-923-7400, www.theparade.org.

34 Roll Down 8 Mile 

Rarely does one road symbolize so much. The ribbon of concrete immortalized by Eminem divides city from suburbs so sharply, it's almost more of a wall than a thoroughfare. New rule: Don't talk about Detroit's northern border until you've driven it for more than 10 minutes. Go from the Lodge Freeway to Van Dyke. Eight Mile has more character than any road around. It's not what you see in the movies, or hear on the street.

35 Play Like a Canadian 

Thanks to CBC-TV, curling is popular in Detroit - as the punch line to a joke. (It's nothing personal; it's just that Hockeytown takes a dim view of any sport on ice that doesn't involve skates.) But step into the Detroit Curling Club in Ferndale and you'll have a new respect for "throwing stones" and "sweeping" the ice. You may even learn to beat our neighbors at their own game. The club offers classes and runs tournaments for those with skills. Join the club and you could have a shot at qualifying for the USA Olympic Curling Team. No joke. 1615 E. Lewiston; 248-399-9754, www.detroitcurlingclub.com.

36 Ride Back in Time 

In the '50s and '60s, long before Star theaters and Somerset, the place to be for local teens was in a car rolling on Woodward Avenue. Now all grown up, the kids still come out to play every August at the Woodward Dream Cruise, a retro extravaganza that draws 1.7 million people and boasts it's "the world's largest one-day car event" (even though most think it's a weeklong party). Stand on a curb and be wowed by 40,000 cars jammed from Ferndale to Pontiac. You'll also understand why many Detroiters say this is the best time of year to get the heck out of town. www.woodwarddreamcruise.com.

37 Hail the King 

For those who salivate at the smell of musty books or at the prospect of finding a great literary deal, heaven is the four-story Detroit headquarters of John K. King Used & Rare Books. Roam the aisles and piles of everything from scholarly tomes and old magazines to cheap beach reading and turn-of-the-century sheet music, and it makes sense why the New York Times' William Safire is a customer and USA Today named this one of the "10 Great Places to Crawl Between the Covers." 901 W. Lafayette; 313-961-0622. (Also two smaller stores near WSU and in Ferndale.)

38 Chill and Grill at Belle Isle 

In 1883, the designer of New York City's Central Park, Frederick Law Olmstead, devised a magical plan to landscape Detroit's Belle Isle. More than a century later, the recently spruced-up 983-acre island remains a remarkable oasis. Sure, summer evenings can be crowded and noisy, but joggers and walkers own the mornings. Afternoons are reserved for those who want to luxuriate in a lazy day. Bring a grill, a good book and a fishing pole or Frisbee for fun. 313-852-4075.

39 Drool and Dream 

More than 6,000 journalists from 68 countries and 800,000 people from across metro Detroit and the Midwest can't be wrong. The world's greatest auto show (officially the "North American International Auto Show") happens over three weeks in January. Started in 1907, the show long ago consumed Cobo Center, and its economic impact now dwarfs that of the Super Bowl. Even if you aren't looking for a new ride, the jaw-dropping exhibits are worth the trip. 248-643-0250, www.naias.com.

40 Set Sail on the River 

In the Motor City you can be forgiven for forgetting the Detroit River is one of the world's busiest waterways, but there's no excuse for not enjoying it. Since 1991, Bill Hoey, owner and operator of Diamond Jack's River Tours, has been launching from Hart Plaza, taking landlubbers on two-hour cruises of the river. From June through September, Hoey will give you a new look at the city and its sites. Hoey's favorite? The Ambassador Bridge, connecting Detroit and Windsor. "Two dynamic cities attached," he says. 313-843-9376, www.diamondjack.com.

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