Expats have plenty to keep themselves entertained in Detroit, as this iconic cultural capital boasts a great restaurant scene, lively nightlife, good shopping and a host of other attractions.
Shopping in Detroit
The shopping scene in Detroit has really begun to grow in the last few years, with boutique retail outlets popping up all over the city. Popular shopping neighbourhoods in the metro include the culturally-rich Midtown and old Corktown, while Birmingham is seen as the retail flagship in the suburbs. Those looking for an all-in-one experience should head out to nearby Dearborn to browse its Walmart supercentre.
Perhaps most exciting is Eastern Market near downtown, a historic commercial district covering a massive 43 acres of land and boasting more than 150 businesses. There is a charming bohemian quality to its many studios and art galleries, while there are numerous eateries and sellers of fresh and organic produce.
Eating out and groceries in Detroit
Detroit is a multicultural melting pot, reflected in its myriad restaurants and food offerings. Whether craving a shwarma from Greektown, Polish cuisine from Hamtramck, or a spicy burrito from Mexicantown, there are spots to suit all tastes. Residents can enjoy small hole-in-the-wall diners and coffee shops, or splurge on fine dining and upmarket delis. The city is famous for its local take on the Coney hot dog, serving it with fresh onions, mustard and chilli sauce.
Grocery shopping in Detroit is a pretty straightforward affair, with supermarkets inhabiting most of the suburbs and city areas. Popular outlets include the Whole Foods Market in Midtown and other chains such as Aldi and Meijer.
Nightlife in Detroit
As the birthplace of Motown, it’s no surprise that the nightlife in Detroit is stylish and lively. The future of the entertainment sector looks bright, with all manner of establishments accompanying the city’s general revitalisation. Along with a host of clubs and bars, Detroit also has an assortment of craft breweries and trendy cocktail bars. There’s no single area that is considered the entertainment hub, with exciting places and events scattered throughout the city.
See and do in Detroit
Newcomers to Detroit will never be bored. The city is home to plenty of attractions for car aficionados, a number of galleries, museums and wonderful green spaces, not to mention the many landmarks that pay homage to the city's musical Motown past.
Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Institute of Arts is home to an impressive 65,000 works of art displayed in more than 100 galleries. The permanent collection includes works from America, Indigenous Americas, Africa, Oceania, Asia and medieval Europe. It also includes a few masters such as Picasso, Van Gogh and Matisse.
A must for newcomers to the city, the Motown Museum chronicles Detroit’s rise to fame as the birthplace of many music legends. The museum allows visitors a look at the recording studio where Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Jackson 5 and others produced hits.
The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant
The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant is where Henry Ford birthed the famous Ford Model T. Visitors can walk through the plant and see it exactly how it was when it was functional, including machinery, tools, drafting tables and beautifully maintained early model vehicles.
One for the outdoorsy types, Belle Isle is a large, wonderfully green island in the Detroit River with lush parks, gorgeous hiking trails and even lakes. The island boasts a zoo, an aquarium, a beautiful conservatory with all sorts of interesting flora, and a museum on the history of shipping on the Great Lakes.
What's on in Detroit
New residents of Detroit will be delighted to discover that the city's calendar is brimming with fun events for every taste and creed. Below we've listed some of our favourite Motor City events.
Motown Winter Blast (January)
Newcomers to Detroit will love getting involved in this lively annual festival that never fails to kick the year off in style. The Winter Blast was initially a countdown party for Super Bowl XL, but the festival has since morphed into a huge annual tradition with live music acts, a massive snow slide, food trucks, and more.
Cupid's Undie Run (February)
One for the ‘thrill-anthropists’, the Undie Run sees thousands of Detroiters don their best undies and take to the streets in aid of sufferers of neurofibromatosis. It’s the only time running around in underwear won’t get you arrested, and newcomers to the city are encouraged to join in the whacky fun.
Hamtramck Music Festival (March)
Who doesn’t love a good music festival? This happens to be Michigan’s biggest local music event, and it attracts a host of Detroit bands, DJs and solo artists who take over Hamtramck’s pubs and nightclubs for three days of revelry.
Detroit International Jazz Festival (August)
One to look forward to, Detroit’s International Jazz Festival sees the city come alive. The festival spans a number of city blocks in Downtown Detroit, with a lineup that seems to grow in stature each year, as well as fireworks, parties and more.
Where to meet people and make friends
Being an expat in a foreign city may be daunting, but Detroit offers newcomers myriad opportunities to make friends and integrate in local culture. Below is a list of some of the best places to meet new faces.
Biking enthusiasts will be glad to hear there's a large community of like-minded people in the city. This lively group bikes throughout the city, and partners with local non-profits to make a difference in the community.
With a unique blend of bowling and football, the Fowling Warehouse offers sports buffs a chance to let off some steam. Fling a football, score a strike and grab a drink at this innovative social club.
The PFPP initiative hopes to restore Palmer Park to its original glory. Expats may also find that working alongside others in the outdoors is a great opportunity to meet and befriend locals.
For anyone looking to break away from the buzz of the city and get the blood pumping, this active group offers the perfect solution. With a wide array of interesting activities, these social gatherings are never boring, and expats are sure to meet some interesting locals.
►For an overview of life in the Motor City, check out Moving to Detroit
Are you an expat living in Detroit?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Detroit. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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