Tour of Downtown Detroit

Detroit, unfortunately, is still at the top of most dangerous cities in the U.S. I just looked up an article from Wall Street Journal while researching information for this post. They list Detroit in no. 1 position in their article about most dangerous cities in the U.S. And this is what they say about the city: “Detroit, one of the several major metropolitan areas that are largely responsible for the increase in violent crime nationwide last year, surpassed St. Louis as the most dangerous city in 2016… The increase was largely due to a rise in the number of aggravated assaults, which increased by 30.6% year-over-year. In total, there were 2,047 violent crimes per 100,000 Detroit residents in 2016…”

So I understand that you might have reservations when thinking about visiting Detroit. However, most crimes happen at night and outside of downtown. The center of the city has improved greatly over last few years. People and businesses are moving in. The riverfront has been popular among visitors, walkers, runners and cyclists for number of years. Recently added state park on Belle Isle is also a very popular destination in the city.

However, if you plan on visiting the city and still feel uneasy to go out and explore on your own, there are few companies offering walking, and also other, guided tours of Detroit’s downtown. Recently, I went on one of these tours.

The Downtown Detroit Walking Tour was organized by company called Seven Two Tours. (It appears that the company does not exist anymore!) By the way, then name of the company refers to the area of downtown Detroit, which is 7.2 square miles… according to our guide.

Our tour took place on Saturday, in the early afternoon. Our guide, and the owner of the company, Calvin, met us in One Campus Martius Building (formerly known as Compuware Building).

Compuware Building
Inside One Campus Martius Building (formerly Compuware Building).

The tours must be quite popular. It was a cold day in early March, and there was probably about 20 people there.

Calvin, after introducing himself and taking attendance, began the tour by giving us the quick overview of Detroit’s history. Starting in the distant past, and then referring to the recent decades, he took us over the most important events. From there he went into very recent developments leading to the current revival of the city.

Tour of Downtown Detroit
Our guide, Calvin Moore.

Soon, we went out of the building, and crossed the Campus Martius Park. We stopped briefly at the fountain, and got more history facts about it, about the Soldiers and Mariners monument, and surrounding buildings… Most designed by Albert Khan, a famous Detroit and Michigan architect of the early 20th century.

Tour of Downtown Detroit
Campus Martius fountain.

Then we walked down Woodward Avenue towards the riverfront passing some new (ShakeShack) and old (Grand Trunk Pub) businesses along.

Tour of Downtown Detroit
Woodward Ave looking south from Campus Martius.

Next, we stopped at the Spirit of Detroit statue, and heard some more history and meaning of some symbols depicted in the statue.

Tour of Downtown Detroit
Spirit of Detroit statue.

Calvin, also mentioned other landmarks, like Michigan Labor Legacy statue and Joe Louis fist.

Tour of Downtown Detroit
Michigan Labor Legacy Monument.
Tour of Downtown Detroit
Renaissance Center – GM Headquarters.

Then, we walked back into downtown to hear more historical facts about some of the older skyscrapers in the city and admired one after another building designed by Albert Khan. And eventually, we ended up in the Guardian Building.

Tour of Downtown Detroit
Penobscot Building.
Tour of Downtown Detroit
Inside the Guardian Building.
Guardian Building
Intricate detail of the lobby decoration in the Guardian Building.

Our route led us to more of the older architectural landmarks with some interesting history, like Ford Building and Chrysler House.

Tour of Downtown Detroit
Other historic business district buildings. Among them Ford Building.

We also passed by two famous Detroit coney island restaurants – American Coney Island and LaFayette Coney Island.

Tour of Downtown Detroit
American Coney Island and LaFayette Coney Island.

We’ve heard more historic facts, stats comparing Detroit to other cities, stories of successful businesses that recently opened in the city, apartment developments, people moving back…

Tour of Downtown Detroit
Buildings on the right contain a number of renovated apartments, which are in high demand, as people move back to Detroit.

Towards the end of our tour, we also walked by the Comerica Park and Detroit Athletic Club.

Comerica Park
Comerica Park.
Tour of Downtown Detroit
Detroit Athletic Club. Another of Albert Khan’s design.

The tour was about two and half hour long. It was nice to walk around downtown and hear the history behind many of its landmarks.

To end the day in the city, we went to eat and drink in the Detroit Beer Company – one of many of the popular local pubs. And as you can see from the attached picture, the place is busy, even though, it is only about 4:00 PM, so not the busiest time yet.

Tour of Downtown Detroit
Detroit Beer Company.
Detroit Beer Company
Detroit Beer Company, Detroit, Michigan.

So the city is not as desolate as some of the media portrait it. Actually, the downtown is very popular with young people, which brings hope that Detroit one day can be as great, as other cities in the region, like Chicago or Toronto.

So, you should put Detroit on your travel list. It is not a huge destination, with a lot of point-of-interest, on its own. You cannot compare it to cities like New York, which you can tour for a week and still not exhaust your list of interesting places to visit. However, you could combine the visit to the city with some other destinations in Michigan, or Great Lake region.

Besides Seven Two Tour company, there are many others that offer tours of the city. Below is the list of few of them:

Downtown Detroit
Downtown Detroit

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If you are interested in touring other historic sites in Detroit, here is my post about Tours of Detroit Packard Plant.

Rich S.
Rich S.
Rich S. is a lifetime photographer and traveler based in Metro Detroit area. He has been traveling the Great Lakes area for over 30 years. Follow his blog about his trips, interesting activities and destinations in the Great Lakes region.

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