Everything You Need to Know About Detroit

By Johanna Read

Detroit on the move

Everything You Need to Know About Detroit

Famous for its automotive history and for getting the world to dance to the Motown beat, the revitalization of Detroit is well under way. The city is booming with the construction of new buildings, green spaces, and community-focused neighborhoods full of great food and public art.

Q: How did Detroit get its name?

A: An explorer from France, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, founded Detroit (his name was also used for the Detroit-based luxury car maker). French colonists gave the city a French name, Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, which was later shortened to Detroit.

Q: What does Detroit mean?

A: The word détroit means strait in French. The city sits on the strait of Lake Erie, which includes what is now known as the Detroit River.

Q: Is Detroit Eastern time?

A: Detroit, the second largest city in the Midwest, is in the Eastern time zone, differing from the largest Midwest city, Chicago, which is in the Central time zone.

Q: How to get to Canada from Detroit?

A: The Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit Windsor Tunnel connect Detroit to the Canadian city of Windsor. Windsor is actually south of Detroit, so drivers need to go southward to cross the border to Canada. Both the bridge and the tunnel have a toll, and drivers and passengers need to show proper identification to access them.

Q: What is Detroit known for?

A: Detroit is called Motor City because the city is the headquarters of the three major American car manufacturers Ford, GM and Chrysler. Another Detroit nickname is Motown, as Detroit was the birthplace of this style of soul music under Motown Records, originally headquartered in Detroit. Detroit is also known for being one of the key destinations for blacks escaping slavery on the Underground Railroad, chronicled at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

Detroit is also known as America’s Comeback City. After declaring bankruptcy in 2013, the city has revitalized itself. Young entrepreneurs and artists have taken advantage of the low cost of living to create innovative businesses and art installations. A new sense of community has developed, symbolized by the abundance of street art. Domestic and international investments mean new buildings, transportation systems, entertainment and recreation complexes, environmental cleanup, and the creation of public spaces. Detroit is now famous for its resurgence.

Q: Why is Detroit called Hockeytown?

A: Detroit is also known as Hockeytown, thanks to its status as a city hosting one of the original six NHL teams, the Detroit Red Wings. Gordie Howe, known as Mr. Hockey, played 25 seasons in Hockeytown. Detroit has a brand new arena hosting the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons, the Little Caesars Arena.

Q: What to do in downtown Detroit?

A: Detroit’s revitalized downtown is made up of several neighborhoods like Greektown, Corktown, the Entertainment District and the International Riverfront.

Wander the streets to admire the art deco and Neo-Gothic architecture and skyscrapers like the GM Renaissance Center, featured in many movies. The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has cleaned up miles of Detroit River waterfront. The International Riverfront has lots of green space like Belle Isle Park and the William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor. The area is full of restaurant and entertainment options, plus hosts a variety of festivals. Try your luck at one of the city’s casinos like the Greektown Casino-Hotel or the MGM Grand Detroit. Watch football at Ford Field or hockey at the new Little Caesars Arena on the other side of Fisher Freeway.

Don’t miss Detroit’s incredible art, indoors and out. The BELT, a downtown alley, has been converted to a public art space. It includes Public Matter, an accessible exhibition space curated by the Library Street Collective, and The Z, a parking garage filled with art. The Dequindre Cut Greenway links the riverfront and the Outdoor Adventure Center to the Eastern Market. Walk through the green space and admire the graffiti murals sponsored by the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit.

Q: What food is Detroit known for?

A: As one of the country's immigration centers, Detroit has a great variety of international foods such as Polish and Greek. The city is famous for the coney dog, a grilled hot dog topped with a sauce made of ground beef and chili, and even has its own style of pizza.

Q: What is Detroit style pizza?

A: Detroit-style pizza’s crust is what makes it special – it’s thick and chewy with an almost fried crispy bottom, thanks to being baked with plenty of butter or oil. It is traditionally baked in the square industrial parts trays used in factories, resulting in a square or rectangular, rather than round, pizza. It also has the sauce, rather than the cheese, on top.

Q: Where to eat in Detroit?

A: Detroit has a huge range of restaurants. Polish comfort food can be found at Polonia, which began as the Detroit Workingmen’s Cooperative Restaurant in 1927. Try authentic Detroit pizza at Loui's Pizza or Niki's Pizza and a coney dog at two of the restaurants claiming to invent it, American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island. The Eastern Market, in its current location since 1891, features local produce, baked goods, cheese and a wide range of restaurants. A food crawl is an ideal way to sample Detroit’s specialties.

About the Author

Johanna Read is a Canadian freelance writer and photographer specializing in travel, food, and responsible tourism. Writing for a variety of Canadian and international publications, she likes to encourage travel that is culturally, economically, and environmentally sustainable. Links to all her travel stories are at www.TravelEater.net. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEater and on Instagram @TravelEaterJohanna.