Expatriates considering moving to Detroit will be impressed by the city’s cultural offerings in terms of culture, entertainment, nightlife and heritage. There are a number of local festivals that center on the important elements of Detroit life, such as the city’s strong music heritage. Blues and Motown are definitely on the menu, alongside the annual Elvisfest and numerous other country and rock festivals. Detroit also plays host to several automotive and engineering festivals, with the North American International Auto Show showcasing the very best in the future of cars and next-generation vehicles. Food and sporting festivals are high on the agenda, and Detroit’s location on the river means that water activities are very popular. There is definitely something here to suit all tastes.
Detroit is home to several world recognized cultural institutions, such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Opera House, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Fisher and Fox theatres in Woodward, which are nicknamed “Broadway in Detroit” (This theater district is the largest outside of New York!). There are lots of attractions that will suit the whole family, such as the beautiful Belle Isle: Nature Zoo, Conservatory and Great Lakes Museum, which is located in the Detroit River and also offers beaches and great views of both Canada and main land Detroit.
For those looking to explore the art scene in Detroit and perhaps want something a little more out of the ordinary, a popular place to head to is the Heidelberg Project in Detroit’s East Side. This open-air art project was started by a local resident, who in 1986 decided to make a comment on the economic downturn of his neighborhood, about the culture of foreclosures in Detroit and the cost of this on his community. He bought a whole street of houses at a knock-down price and turned them into living art works with sculptures, polka dots and creative energy from both local and internationally invited artists. Elsewhere, Trenton is the neighborhood to head to for smaller local galleries, and student-filled Ann Arbor is the place to go for art-focused street markets in tree-lined streets filled with coffee shops and book stores.
Detroit, which has been called the “Sports Capital of the Midwest”, boasts four major professional American sports teams; the Detroit Tigers (Baseball), Detroit Lions (Football), Detroit Red Wings (Ice Hockey) and NBA team The Detroit Pistons. Accordingly, the major stadiums located in the city to accommodate these teams are well appointed and are hubs of activity. Due to their large capacity, these venues also contribute to the city’s large event and festival offering.
Detroit has a picturesque and interesting city center; however, walking around different neighborhoods offers very different atmospheres and attractions. The North of the city, with neighborhoods such as Bloomfield Hills, is often nicknamed ‘Automotive Alps’ due to the large mansion houses built for those who found success with Detroit’s automotive history. A drive around this neighborhood and nearby Bloomfield Township can be fascinating, and the area is peppered with woodlands and lakes. For something a little more cosmopolitan try Ann Arbor, Northville or Plymouth, which, due to the youthful population of students, young families and professionals, offers well-appointed downtown areas with a wealth of shops, bars, restaurants and independent stores.
If clubbing is more your scene, you won’t be disappointed as there is a plethora of clubs catering to fans of all kinds of music, whether that be Jazz, Country or Techno. Live music venues outnumber dance clubs, and independent bars can be found all over the city.
Food is very important in Detroit, and with such a mix of cultures you won’t go hungry. Street food, at affordable prices, is very popular and the city is known for its Coney Dogs and as the birthplace of the ice-cream soda. Soul food is also very popular, with numerous restaurants dotted around the city serving up chicken, meatloaf, and catfish with all the trimmings. Trendy restaurants are appearing all the time, accompanying the institutions that have stood the test of time, and these often draw on the city’s rich ethnic heritage with good quality Greek, Italian, French, German and Turkish food to be found all over the city.
True to its name, it is best to have your own car for travel around the Motor City. It is possible, if you do not wish to buy your own car initially, to rent a vehicle from companies such as Avis or Hertz from Detroit’s Metro Airport. The airport is located 20 miles to the southwest of Detroit. Bus transportation to and from the airport is available and cheap, but the journey can take up to 1.5 hours. Cabs are also available but can work out very costly.
Traveling around Detroit by public transport is not as easy as one would hope. However, buses run regularly from the city center to the suburbs and, again, are very cheap. Timetables for services can be found online but, more reliably, from any public library. National bus services are slightly better and companies such as Megabus and Greyhound operate daily trips to destinations all over Michigan, to Chicago and also to Canada (Windsor).
As with any city it is important to be aware of your personal safety and security when in Detroit. Most of this is common sense for those moving to a new environment, however, each city has its unique quirks and particularities with these issues, and Detroit is no different. The general crime rate in the city puts Detroit in the top ten most dangerous cities to live in in the United States; however, those expats wishing to relocate should not be overly concerned about the risks to their safety.