Why would anyone want to visit a former murder capital at the rusty end of the fly-over belt? Detroiters would reply, "Let us show you," and that?s the key to discovering Motown -- you need a guide to plumb its richness. Founded by fur and lumber traders, the city embraced the Underground Railroad, built much of the "arsenal of democracy" during World War II, and served as the birthplace of both the assembly line and techno music. Forward-thinking Detroiters also granted legal protections against sexual-orientation discrimination in the 1974 city charter -- just five years after Stonewall. General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler all provide domestic-partner benefits, foster gay employee groups, and actively pursue diversity outreach programs. The suburb of Ferndale, the area?s quasi-Castro, just elected Michigan?s first openly gay mayor. This is diversity with a capital D.
It?s boom time again downtown and along the Woodward Avenue corridor, a National Scenic Byway boasting the world?s first mile of concrete roadway. The Tigers? Comerica Park, the refreshed Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Fox Theatre -- a Broadway touring venue second in size only to Manhattan?s Radio City -- join trendy loft developments, stylish lounges, and tempting restaurants. The renovation of the Book-Cadillac Hotel (once the world?s tallest), a riverfront face-lift, and three glittering casinos signal big change for the city, which celebrated its 300th birthday in 2001.
The once-dingy Detroit Metropolitan Airport (734-AIRPORT) has undergone a $2 billion renovation that created a light and airy space in which to endure the inevitabilities of travel. Zen out during long delays in the airport Westin?s Asia-inspired Dema restaurant/bar and then return to McNamara Terminal through the hotel?s dedicated security line. A hub for Northwest Airlines (800-225-2525), Detroit is easily reached from practically any airport. You must rent a car to appreciate Detroit?s sights, but with most freeways posted at 70 miles per hour throughout the metroplex you?ll reach them quickly.
Experience Motown?s resurgence in one of her two sparkling new high-rise hotels: the MGM Grand (877-888-2121) or MotorCity Casino Hotel (866-STAY-MCC). MGM?s formal fa?ade belies chic interior spaces like the Ignite lounge with its 30-foot fireplaces and gigantic water-ripple motifs in Michael Mina?s award-winning Saltwater restaurant. MotorCity?s LED-light-show exterior and Chip Foose flame-motif casino give way to restrained elegance in the hotel and its soaring culinary cathedral, Iridescence. For Victorian elegance, stay just a short stroll away from the city?s museums at the gay-friendly Inn on Ferry Street (313-871-6000), a group of four 19th-century mansions and two carriage houses, each lovingly restored in 2001 with all the modern conveniences.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three