Get Down in Motown – What to Do in Detroit, MI

Whether you call it Motown or Detroit Rock City, Detroit is a city with a rich musical history that extends back to the 1940s, when noted artist John Lee Hooker made his home in Detroit, brining the Delta blues with him. But the music didn’t stop with him – Hooker’s arrival was only the beginning of a new musical tradition.

In the 1960s, Berry Gordy, Jr. founded legendary Motown Records, the first label owned by an African American. The label rose to prominence with artists that included Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Martha and the Vandellas, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and Diana Ross and the Supremes. And of course, no discussion of the Motown sound would be complete without mentioning Aretha Franklin – another signee to the Motown Records label. And if any of these names are unfamiliar to you, a visit to the Motown Historical Museum will help fill in any gaps in your musical knowledge.

As the times changed, so did the music and rock eventually supplanted the Motown sound. Popular local artists from the region included Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, and Bob Seger, although it’s the band Kiss that actually gave the town its “Detroit Rock City” nickname. Today, Kid Rock, Uncle Kracker, and Sponge continue the strong musical tradition of the city.

Initially home to Greek immigrants, Greek Town is now an important part of the entertainment district and is home to a number of casinos that you can enjoy on your visit. And if you work up an appetite gambling, be sure to visit one of the many excellent Greek restaurants in the area. Some of the buildings were designed to resemble the Parthenon and other examples of Greek architecture, and the area has been recognized on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Sports are also popular in Detroit, which is home to several national sports teams, including the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons. The city has hosted two football Super Bowls, as well as baseball’s All Star Game in 2005. More recently, the city hosted the NCAA basketball championship. Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis hailed from Detroit; you can see his memorial at the intersection of Woodward and Jefferson Avenues or visit Joe Louis Arena to take in a Red Wings game.

Sailboat racing is another important sport in the city, which hosts several yacht races and regattas throughout the year. In 2008, the docks of Detroit also played host to the world famous Red Bull Air Races. In addition, the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition has passenger ship cruises through a joint U.S./Canadian venture to ports in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Another interesting stop on your trip is the Detroit Institute of the Arts, which houses the armor collection of William Randolph Hearst – one of the largest and best collections of armor in the world. The Detroit industry murals of Mexican Renaissance painter Diego Rivera are another interesting attraction that can be found in the hallways of the grand marble entry way of the Institute. And with over 100 separate galleries, the Detroit Institute of the Arts is one of the largest art museums in the United States, making it well worth a stop.

Finally, if you’ll be in town in January, be sure to check out the North American International Auto Show – one of Detroit’s biggest events each year. Manufacturers introduce new cars at this show, and major car awards are presented each year. Every major auto manufacturer in the world is represented at this show, and you can catch some fascinating new concept cars at the event.