It was fascinating. It was sad. It was a wake up call to how much of our everyday existence - people and places - we take for granted. Pair that with a new adventure (we're always up for a new adventure) I heard of called DETROIT EXPERIENCE FACTORY - a place that does free tours of Detroit - and I knew just how to kick off the hubby's 37th year!
Pawn off the kids and head 1 hour and 40 minutes north to the
To start the day off right, we headed up to Detroit early to enjoy lunch before doing our tour. Now. For those of you who do not follow sports, lunch had to be strategically planned in order to possible meet our first celebrity. It was a long shot, but a possibility. It was opening weekend at Comerica park and the Tigers were playing the Boston Red Sox. The same Boston Red Sox that musician and actor Mark "Marky Mark" Wahlburg is a huge fan of. And, again, in case you didn't know. Mark, brother Donnie "New Kid on the Block" Wahlburg and other brother Paul (who I don't know if his only talent is cooking?) opened their restaurant chain 'Wahlburgers' just mere blocks from Comerica. So. It was a possibility that Mark could have been in town to support his Red Sox and check up on his restaurant that we would hopefully be dining at when he showed up.
Alas, he didn't show up. Not while we were there. But it was not all in vain as the food was fantastic and the ambiance was awesome! The ceiling was art made from all the titles of movies the brothers had been in.
Movie posters decorated the walls.
And somewhere under all that bacon was our mac and cheese.
After lunch we had some time to kill and while you are in the heart of Greektown you must visit the casino!
And just down the way and across the river from this casino is the other casino we like to visit. Caesar Windsor.
The Detroit Experience Factory offers various types of tours. From walking dinners to bar tours to bus tours to architecture tours to, what we did, the 'Best of Downtown' tour. As there is a lot of information thrown at you during the 2 hour tour, its hard to remember it all. So here is an overview or, perhaps better said, what I remember from yesterday. It was all such a wonderful, information blur and I highly recommend you take full advantage of this free opportunity.
Just across the street from where the tour started is an 110 year old theatre... slated for demolition. It was left open to the elements for far too long and repairs are not an option. Such a pity.
In the very heart of downtown Detroit is Campus Martius Park or, what I like to call, the closet I will ever get to a Rockefeller Center at Christmas experience. During the winter months, there is an ice skating rink (which is actually bigger than Rockefeller's) and is converted to a sod covered area for live bands during the warmer months.
Also in Campus Martius Park is a beautiful water fountain during the Spring and Summer which then becomes the platform for the city's Christmas tree (again very similar to New York City).
The last time a skyscraper was built in Detroit was in 1993. However, it will become the second youngest as plans to build a new skyscraper will begin construction soon.
This new skyscraper will also be 8 feet taller than the current tallest building in Detroit - the Ren Cen.
Here is a little Jeopardy trivia for you.
What is architect Minoru Yamasaki famous for?
Give up? Google it?
Minoru Yamasaki was the lead architect in designing and building the World Trade Towers!! Know what else he did? He built the skyscraper at One Woodward Avenue in Detroit. In fact - it was the same design! Just one third the size!!
Here's a little bit more trivia to tuck away.
Why the narrow windows in his designs?
"The buildings were designed with narrow office windows 18 inches (46 cm) wide, which reflected Yamasaki's fear of heights as well as his desire to make building occupants feel secure."
Our next stop was the:
I did not get a picture of the outside of the building (these tours keep you hopping!) but WOWZERS!!! Look at the inside!
The Guardian Building was built in 1929 in the Financial District which means... the main floor of this building was a bank!! Over 80 tellers worked at desks beneath these arches that now are individual little shops.
And while you would think that the arched ceilings would cause major echoing, it does not. The ceilings are made of stretched canvas with 3 inches of horse hair behind it!
If you are not impressed yet, just wait. There are somewhat conflicting reports but to the best of DXF's knowlege... There are three antique Tiffany clocks left in the United States, six total left in the world and guess what?
The Guardian Building is home to TWO of them - back to back, right in the lobby.
This is the Penobscot Building. While I cannot remember its importance, I do remember discovering that buildings were designed this way as a natural type of air conditioning. Interesting.
Don't quote me on this but I believe this is the David Scott Building. Previously abandoned but take a look at the windows from the bottom up. This skyscraper has recently been purchased and renovations are currently taking place.
If you feel like going for a drive, jump on Michigan Ave and head east. You're on "America’s oldest and most famous routes—from the very center of Detroit to its western end on the north side of Chicago." Yep, a straight but scenic drive from Detroit to Chicago.
Now here's a fun story - whether or not its true.
The Battle of the Coney Dogs.
A man came to America, ate his first coney dog, and instantly fell in love so he decided to open "American Coney Island." His business was doing so great that he needed help thus calling in his brother. At some point, the brothers began feuding and the second brother decided that he can make a better coney dog and opened "Lafayette Coney Island"... right next door. Here is a little bit of very important information. You do not, simple do not, eat both coney dogs. You pick one. Only one. Without ever having tasted the other (because that would be rude) and only eat that coney dog for the rest of your life. Period. End of story. So they say.
Once again, I cannot remember the name of this building and that's okay. Its more about the story behind it that makes it appealing. So this building's story is that it was once low income senior housing. However, one day someone came in, purchased the building, kicked out all the elderly people to convert it into a more luxurious high income housing. For real.
I don't know it that really makes it more appealing but is definitely a WOW! kind of story. Directly in front of that building is a statue of the youngest governor of Michigan. And directly underneath that statue is his body. Buried in downtown Detroit. Weird.
We didn't get too close to this skyscraper but its definitely easy to spot. This is the Book Tower. Built on top of the Book Building in 1926. Completely. Abandoned.
Of course, you cannot take a tour of downtown Detroit without passing by Comerica Park (still no Mark Wahlbug sightings though) and learning about the new Red Wings/Pistons arena being opened.
Another interesting aspect of Detroit that I'm not completely sure how I feel about is their alleys. There is a major movement going on to make alleyways safer and perhaps more inviting. So they fancy them up with paved paths, string up lights and open shops or restaurants right in them.
They hire artists to come paint murals too.
This specific alleyway boosted a Cajun eatery and a wide open to anyone bar.
Another beautification project they are taking on is making parking garages more appealing... by painting them.
And finally, Detroit is home to thee largest Buffalo Wild Wings to date.
That is not all we saw, learned, walked, or asked. It is, however, all I can remember. I highly recommend DXF (Detroit Experience Factory) and am looking forward to doing a few more of their tours someday. And when I do, I'll be sure to invite you along.
You know when you go to the toy isle of the store and you see those plastic type bugs that promise to grow 600% in size if soaked in water for 72 hours? It sounds intriguing. It sparks the interest of the kids and, quite honestly, mine too. So when you have a birthday boy in the house and need little filler gifts for his sisters to give him, you buy such toys.
Here it is - a spider straight out of the package:
And here it is, 72 hours later, and.... 600% bigger?:
Well, it may not have lived up to its size expectations but the kids are having a blast sneaking that spider around the house, hiding it, and trying to scare anyone who enters the house with it.