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Although the landscape of Detroit is mostly flat, recreational opportunities abound, most of them centred around water. To the northeast of the city sprawls Lake St. Clair, a shallow but broad lake popular for boating and fishing. The Detroit River is a resource that the city has never fully exploited though a system of parks and greenways is now gradually taking shape.

When it comes to sightseeing, Detroit is largely a do-it-yourself city. The city’s attractions are spread so far apart that it’s hard for tour bus operators to fashion an itinerary. Walking tours haven’t caught on because the city has not taken much care to preserve its historical sites, the interesting stops are too far apart, and because this is the Motor City. It’s designed to be seen from the windows of an automobile.

Places of Interest

Downtown

The old downtown of grand movie houses and department stores is all but vanished, but lively areas have sprung up around the perimeter of the aging banking-and-commerce centre. The north end of downtown is the latest hot spot. Comerica Park, a new baseball stadium for the Detroit Tigers, opened in 2000. The National Football League Detroit Lions, who abandoned downtown in the 1970s for suburban Pontiac, have since returned to Ford Field, which was built adjacent to Comerica Park. Nearby is the glamorous Fox Theatre, the renovated crown jewel of the city’s opulent movie houses, as well as the aptly-named Gem Theatre, The Second City Detroit comedy theatre, the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, and an assortment of restaurants and bars.

Downtown Detroit used to have an extensive trolley system, but the only option today is the Detroit Trolley, which runs from Mariners’ Church along Jefferson Avenue and up Washington Boulevard. It is a cheap, quick way to get a glimpse of Detroit’s best architecture. A 15 minute ride offers views of some of the most popular attractions: the Detroit River, Comerica Park and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

Greektown

On the eastern edge of downtown is Greektown. What was once just a block of Greek restaurants has now become the centre for Detroit nightlife, with its many eateries, bistros and clubs. One of Detroit’s three temporary casinos is drawing additional people to the area. Adjacent is the restaurant-and bar area known as Bricktown, and near that is the towering Renaissance Center. East of the Renaissance Center, along Jefferson Avenue, new housing and retail developments are taking shape beyond the restaurants and clubs of the warehouse district known as Rivertown.

Other pockets of activity include the Cobo Convention Center and the Joe Louis Arena, home to the National Hockey League’s Detroit Red Wings, and the western outskirts, where two more temporary casinos have opened. Most of downtown’s sites are linked by the People Mover elevated train system.

The best area to take your own walking tour is in and around Greektown, where there are historical attractions such as the Second Baptist Church and plenty of pedestrians and street life. You can also reach a riverside walkway via Hart Plaza. Fishbone's Rhythm Kitchen Cafe is a lively place to grab a bite to eat. In the summer, various dinner cruises operate along the Detroit River. It’s a great way to see the city and enjoy the freshwater breeze.

Cultural Center/New Center

Detroit’s Cultural Center is situated between Wayne State University and the Detroit Medical Center, an impressive complex of hospitals and research facilities. The Detroit Institute of Arts is famed for its Diego Rivera murals, which chronicle history through the eyes of labourers, and Auguste Rodin’s sculpture "The Thinker". Nearby is the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the largest museum of its kind in the United States. Families can also enjoy the Detroit Science Center and the Detroit Historical Museum.

Farther north, the New Center Area boasts the ornate, golden-towered Fisher Building and its Fisher Theatre, home to touring Broadway shows, as well as the General Motors Building and Henry Ford Hospital.

South of the Cultural Center, a major renovation effort is underway to preserve the acoustically rich Orchestra Hall.


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