Skip the City, Visit the Island Belle Isle is an island state park on the Detroit River, just three miles from Downtown Detroit. Plenty of open, natural spaces on this 1,000-acre isle, which also features golf, a museum, an aquarium and a half-mile swimming beach. One of the great places to visit is the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory; dating back to the early 1900s, it features various displays of fascinating flora, including one of the largest publicly-owned collections of orchids on the planet. Get to Belle by crossing the MacArthur Bridge.
Skip the Restaurant, Savor a Coney Dog Big cities tend to have their signature food item, and Detroit has the Coney Dog: a wiener in its natural casing topped with chili, diced onions and yellow mustard. The Coney Island restaurants are legendary for these, especially two that are actually right next door to one another: Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island. Two Greek brothers launched this downtown landmark 100 years ago until, soonafter, a fight between them split the eatery into the two side-by-side establishments today. The décor and ambiance in each is unique, and many locals will encourage visitors to visit them back-to-back to savor and compare.
Skip the Dog, Try the Pizza After your personal Coney Dog challenge, seek out a slice of Detroit-style pizza. More like a square, this Sicilian-inspired pizza features sauce atop the cheese and a caramelized, buttery, flaky crust. Its origin has been traced to Buddy’s, a pizza chain institution in Detroit, where you can catch bocce ball matches at the Conant Street location on Saturdays.
Skip the Walking Tour, Take to the Skies Being a passenger is one thing but sitting in the cockpit is a whole different way to fly. American Aces Aviation operates out of New Hudson Airport (about 40 minutes from Downtown Detroit) and offers private lessons in Cessna 152 and larger Cessna 172 and Piper Arrow aircraft. Sixty-minute lessons include basic instruction, half an hour in the air, a log book and an audio recording of your flight. Do it for fun or use your flight time toward your pilot’s license.
Skip the Street, Hit the Racetrack Race fans will be flocking to the Michigan International Raceway this summer as two major NASCAR events roll into town. But you can head there for some revving of your own, thanks to the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience. The experience is authentic enough –- from donning the Oakley fire suit, the radio helmet and the five-point harness to getting behind the wheel of a professional stock car around the huge two-mile racetrack. Classroom instruction -– pre-rev –- included. The Raceway is located about 75 miles east of Detroit.
Gabe Saglie is Senior Editor for Travelzoo, which features exclusive local deals throughout Detroit at http://www.travelzoo.com/local-deals/Detroit/deals.