Rev up your engines for a wild ride beyond Detroit’s borders, as we list five places worth visiting outside the city limits.
Two things can be said to be thoroughly synonymous with the city of Detroit: its proud history as an automotive centre of America, and its reputation as the place where Berry Gordy started Tamla, the record label that would go on to be known as Motown. Whether you’re an aficionado of the Motown sound, a newcomer to the imprint that The Supremes and Marvin Gaye called home or simply a fan of music, a trip to Hitsville USA should be on your itinerary.
Once home to Gordy and his young family, as well as housing a recording studio that was open 22 hours a day, the museum has faithfully restored the living quarters and kept Studio A just as it would have been when Smokey Robinson or ‘Little Stevie Wonder’ were using it. Original instruments and equipment stand around, just waiting to be used again on their next hit. For a fan of popular music, it’s akin to stepping into Abbey Road only to see the Beatles’ set up and ready to go; we suggest you definitely ‘stop in the name of love’.
The Henry Ford Museum
If you knew nothing of the Henry Ford Museum, you may think its collection of exhibits house a catalogue of cars from the automotive giant’s production line. You may be surprised then to know that rather than just vehicular history, the grounds of the Henry Ford showcase the America that was crafted by the hands of the workers, the people who struggled and stood up for change and, to steal a popular phrase of the early 21st century, those who said ‘yes we can’.
The largest indoor-outdoor museum complex in the whole of the United States, exhibits include such iconic items as a camp bed owned by ‘father of the country’ George Washington, the bus on which Rosa Parks wrote herself into civil rights folklore and the 1961 Lincoln Continental in which President Kennedy was assassinated. Situated only 14 miles from the centre of Detroit in the suburbs of Dearborn, there is even an IMAX theatre on the grounds, screening a range of documentaries for those that like to watch and learn. It’s a slice of American history, right there in Michigan.
Point Pelee National Park
Located just north of the Canada – United States border, Point Pelee is not only the southernmost point of mainland Canada but for our money, one of the most charming places in the province of Ontario too. The smallest national park in Canada, it offers those looking to acquaint themselves with Mother Nature the option of marshland, woodland, sandy spits and the wonderfully named Lake Erie, the fourth largest of the five Great Lakes.
Whether you could consider yourself a committed twitcher, or you just have a passing interest in birds, Point Pelee will cater for most, being as it is a veritable hotspot of ornithological activity. Indeed, each spring the park hosts the ‘Festival of Birds’ which welcomes enthusiasts to the area to witness up close the annual migration patterns of some of the 100 species that nest there. The local charity Friends of Point Pelee even run their own ‘100 species challenge’; if you can tell your Green-winged Eurasian Teal’s from your Scissor-tailed Flycatcher’s then head down to southwestern Ontario, and don’t be forgetting those binoculars.
1 hour 10 minutes
Coming with a nickname of Little Bavaria, you might have an inkling of what you’re getting from Frankenmuth before you’ve even set foot in the city and this family friendly destination certainly delivers the full Germanic package, as promised. Priding itself on warm welcomes and an environment that encourages fun and play, the small city serves up a calendar-bursting series of festivals throughout the year celebrating life in Michigan’s answer to Munich; beer festival’s, beer expo’s and Bavarian festival’s celebrating the finest Germany has to offer (including beer) keep the city bustling all year round and perfect for checking out whatever the season.
And speaking of seasons, it’s Christmas all year round in Frankenmuth, with the city able to lay claim to having ‘the world’s largest Christmas store’. Including its grounds, Bonner’s Christmas Wonderland sprawls over a mind-boggling 27 acres and comes complete with a half-mile Christmas Lane illuminated by over 100,00 lights, a carpark for over 1,000 cars and a replica of the Silent Night Memorial Chapel in Obendorf, Austria. For anyone wishing it could be Christmas every day, we think we’ve found the stop-off for you.
1 hour 30 minutes
Saugatuck Dunes State Park
Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, one could think of the beautiful and secluded Saugatuck Dunes as the soothing antidote to the stresses and strains of city life. Set over 850 acres, the park offers beaches, dunes, forest trails and access to the Great Lakes to those looking for a workout for their legs and some wind in their hair, while a multitude of picnicking spots mean there is always somewhere to stop off, enjoy the view and refuel. Pack a picnic and a flask, kick back and relax.
The beauty of Saugatuck is that with every season a different reason to appreciate it becomes apparent. In the colder months, the park welcomes those into snow shoeing and cross country skiing, while during autumn (or fall, depending on your persuasion) ‘leaf peepers’ will be pleased to hear that the flora explodes in a kaleidoscopic wash of burnt oranges, rich reds and diminishing greens. Spring and summer are slightly busier, but that just means there are more people to converse with about just how lucky Michigan is to have Saugatuck Dunes on their doorstep.
2 hours 50 minutes