The Girlfriends Getaway Guide To Detroit
Detroit’s rich history as an industrial and cultural hub is well documented, as is its resurgence as a top tourist destination, thanks to revitalization efforts that have restored the Midwestern locale’s architecture and artistic scene. Despite growing up 45 minutes away from the Motor City in Toledo, OH, I haven’t spent much time in Michigan’s largest metropolitan area outside of the airport. That’s why when my friend Brittany and I decided it had been too long since we’d seen each other, I decided to travel to her state for a girlfriend’s getaway in the D. After a little more than an hour flight from LaGuardia — and a 90-minute drive from Saginaw, MI, for Brit — we both arrived safely in the city of Detroit and had a weekend of glamour, girl time, and good fun that we didn’t realize how much we needed. Check out all of the places to go and see.
Where To Stay
We were just about to pull up to the DoubleTree Suites in downtown Detroit when Brit remembered that she’d stayed at our hotel before. “It’s nice,” she said in an excited voice that immediately let me know I’d made a good choice reaching out to a contact to see if the chain might host us for a night. I considered myself lucky when the DoubleTree comped us for one free night and offered me a media rate for the remaining two weekend days, but when we were met with exceptional curbside service upon our arrival to the hotel, I realized pleasing guests is simply what the DoubleTree does.
After a typical check-in process where Brit and I were gifted a treat whose magnitude we wouldn’t realize for several hours later, Brit and I stepped in to our executive King Suite, which literally made me whisper a quick prayer of thanksgiving upon entry. I’m telling on myself when I say the living room area of the suite is double that of my own apartment. And with a completely separate bedroom in the back that, again, trumped that of my own New York City abode, both in size in comfort, and a spacious bathroom with a separate sink area, I knew the weekend was going to go well. Having lived alone for years, the last thing I want to do when I travel is spend a weekend that’s supposed to be fun in cramped quarters trying to figure out who gets the good mirror when and where to put the trash that hasn’t been picked up by housekeeping yet. Having this amount of space literally kept the peace between us and added an unexpected element of luxury to our experience. Not to mention we didn’t even have to share sleeping space, as the lush couch in the living room is also a pullout bed.
Oh, and back to that check-in treat. Remember when we told you DoubleTree was handing out free cookies to guests and non-guests for National Cookie Day? To be completely honest, we didn’t know what we were really putting you on to when we shared that info. And then we were offered our own cookies as we waited for our keys at check-in. Neither of us would taste the warm sweetness that was put into the palm of our hands until after dinner that night, but I’m not exaggerating when I tell you what we bit into was the most decadent chocolate chip cookie ever tasted. Funny enough, two nights later as we headed back to the hotel, our Uber driver joked that we were staying at “the cookie” and that’s when I realized DoubleTree’s treats have a well-earned reputation that precedes them.
Where To Eat
I have to give a nod to room service at the DoubleTree which was not only speedy but absolutely delicious on a lazy Saturday morning. Within 30 minutes my BFF and I had a spread of Margherita pizza, chicken tenders, fries, and perfectly seasoned crispy brussel sprouts –topped off with a bottle of Riesling — that hit every spot in our palette. We absolutely did not regret opting for in-room dining over brunch.
For casual dining, head to Sweetwater Tavern, which boasts some of the best chicken in the D and is a fave of local rapper Big Sean. The 30- to 45-minute wait for a table on a Friday night will be well worth it once you sink your teeth into the first bite of Sweetwater wings, which are marinated for 24 hours, dredged in spices, and fried. If you’ll feel guilty about the fried part, begin with a house or cobb salad topped with one of the Tavern’s own homemade dressings.
If you want to experience upscale dining in the heart of downtown Detroit, Prime + Proper is the place. Contemporary meets classic at this American steakhouse which places just as much emphasis on the quality of the dining experience as it does their dishes. Here you’ll find traditional prime steak options, from porterhouse to ribeye, strip steaks, and filet mignon to pair with accessories like foie gras “salt,” bacon and eggs, and shaved truffles, as well as sauces — Béarnaise, white anchovy butter, whipped garlic — of your choice. Sides include potato dishes prepared in a number of ways along with standards like asparagus, onion rings, and a mac & cheese that might quite possibly be the creamiest you’ll ever taste. Those who are less traditional can opt for wood-fired napa cabbage, maitake mushrooms, or grilled swiss chard and spinach gratin.
The impeccable service at Prime + Proper is matched by the modern ambiance which is amplified by golden brass touches, a marble staircase illuminated with candles, and a romantic park view. Make sure to ask for Christine and Adam as your servers and you’ll have one of the best dinners of your life.
When that late-night craving hits after the bar, Coney Island is the absolute move. Situated in the same location in downtown Detroit for 97 years, you won’t forgive yourself if you leave the city without tasting a good old fashioned hot dog topped with mustard, chopped sweet onions and signature Coney Island chili sauce.
What To Do
You already know Detroit is the birthplace of the Motown sound, but nothing compares to stepping inside the spot where the legendary recordings of The Temptations and The Supremes took place. If you want to actually step inside Hitsville U.S.A. however, you must plan ahead as tickets sell out quickly. We recommend purchasing online in advance to grab a tour time between 10 am – 6pm Tuesday-Saturday.
What the Museum of African American History lacks in exhibits, it makes up for in beautiful interior and exterior architecture. Founded in 1965 by obstetrician and gynecologist Charles Wright, MD, the Ford Freedom Rotunda inside the facility which features a striking 95-ft wide by 65-ft high glass dome is worth the visit alone. For $8 you can check out a number of rotating exhibitions, and experience the permanent And Still We Rise exhibition, chronicling the African American journey from the content to present-day Detroit.
Artist Olayami Dabls opened the African Bead Museum at the corner of Grand River and West Grand Blvd 16 years ago to commemorate African heritage. Though the townhouse and bead store is currently undergoing a renovation, the outside of the building is worth an in-person view.
Plus there are 18 outdoor installations still available for exploring — and they make for a great photo opp.
Source: Brande Victorian / Brande Victorian
If you want to spend a day in one central location, head to Greektown which, as should come as no surprise, has the best Greek restaurants in the city, a casino, and a number of boutiques and bars to stroll between.
Get dressed up and experience vintage glamour at Candy Bar. Situated behind a pink velvet curtain in the lobby of The Siren Hotel, the mystique of the bar, along with its notoriously long waiting list on any given night of the week will entice you to wait around for a chance to sip a cocktail under the elaborate gold spiraled chandelier that sits above the rose gold bar.
The bar closes at 2 a.m. so you’ll want to arrive early to get your name on the list. You can have a drink and snack on light bites in the equally romantic lobby of The Siren while you wait.
Don’t leave the D without patronizing a Black woman-owned business. Melissa Butler, Founder of The Lip Bar, is opening a flagship store in her hometown with vegan and cruelty free lipsticks and glosses every Black girl needs to get her hands on. Stay tuned to the brand’s Instagram for details on opening day.
For more on checking out this city, head to VisitDetroit.com.