People Mover The best way to savour the dystopic charms of Detroit is to go round in circles on the People Mover. The 2.9-mile monorail is served by two toy-like cars. A 50-cent token will take you full circle in 15 minutes flat. You can also get off at any of the 13 stations. Don’t panic; if you need a cop just take a photograph at the next station. You will immediately be apprehended.
WHEELS It was cars that made Detroit great-and then not so great. Henry Ford built his first car here in 1896 and the world’s first concrete road was built in Detroit in 1901. Today all roads lead out of Detroit to the suburbs where there is still some life. It was of course the automobile magnates who started the trend. Be sure to visit Henry Ford’s ‘Scottish Baronial’ home in Dearborn as well as the nearby Henry Ford Museum, an astounding 12 acre display of material culture from steam trains to automobiles (including JFK’s death-ride limo).
FAST FOOD Stranded in downtown Detroit with no wheels? You might as well eat. For classic Americana try Rivertown Fuddruckers (E Jefferson Ave), a ‘50s style malt shop with the world’s greatest hamburgers. Roma Café (Riopelle St) the city’s oldest restaurant, serves Italian. Tribute (W 12 mile Road) was named one of America’s 50 best restaurants by Gourmet magazine.
THE DETROIT INSTITUTE OF ARTS is a reminder that this was once a real metropolis. 100 galleries hold an encyclopaedic collection that ranges from Persian miniatures to the French Impressionists. The atrium (below) is illuminated with Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry frescos.
Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson- they all got their start at Motown Records. And then they all shifted to Los Angeles (so did Motown Records) but the famous ‘Hitsville USA’ studio where they all recorded is now preserved as a wonderfully atmospheric museum. The Detroit music scene is a little whiter today. Local talent includes Eminem and Kid Rock. The annual Electronic Music Festival (usually held in May) is huge.