For anyone who misses pre-bankruptcy Detroit — no Quicken Loans employees taking over your favorite dive bar, no small plates, all potential — you’ll find yourself right at home in Flint, which is experiencing a wave of renewed interest from locals and outsiders alike but still feels raw, real, and like you’re discovering something for the first time. Just remember you’re not actually discovering something new — it’s just new to you.
Along with a visit to MW Gallery, here are three stops worth working into your day-trip itinerary.
An Abundance of Art
The Flint Institute of Arts is the second-largest art museum in Michigan. The Detroit Institute of Arts is obviously first, but don’t count out the small-but-mighty FIA. The museum’s collection is extensive, with more than 8,500 pieces, and — like most American museums — focuses largely on European and American art traditions. It also packs a massive educational punch with one of the largest museum-connected community art schools in the country, offering classes seven days a week. Currently, glass artist John Miller’s greasy spoon-inspired exhibition Blue Plate Special is on view through Sept. 19. Flint Institute of Arts, 1120 E Kearsley St., Flint; 810-234-1695; flintarts.org
So Much Cider
Flint loves its cider. It truly seems to be on tap at every place in the city. And you know a neighborhood is changing when a brewery opens in a revamped firehouse and offers some of the best cider in the city. Tenacity Brewing (which recently opened a location just north of the New Center neighborhood in Detroit, too) makes the stellar Bone Dry cider, which is exceptionally crisp and clean. Tenacity also boasts an award-winning scotch ale and an easy-to-drink Kolsch called Jeff in Sweatpants, which just sounds right. Grab a pint and head outside into the massive back yard. Eat from a food truck. Watch awkward young professionals on first dates. Take a deep breath and say, “This is Flint, baby, and I like it.” Tenacity Brewing, 119 N. Grand Traverse St. Ste. 5620; 810-339-6676; tenacitybrewing.com
Walk off the cider and food-truck fare with a trip around the trails at the nearby For-Mar Nature Preserve and Arboretum. The former dairy farm is now acres of wildlife, wetlands, meadows, forests, and hiking trails. Like many things in Flint, the land was donated by former dairy farmers — in this case Forbes and Martha Merkley, who owned a vast amount of land in Genesee County. It’s one of those reminders of just how much wealth and innovation have come out of Vehicle City — and a refresher that there’s still plenty left from that gilded age to enjoy in a new context today. For-Mar Nature Preserve and Arboretum, 2142 N. Genesee Road, Burton; geneseecountyparks.org