State Twenty Five: Michigan

A 'Weinermobile' parked at the Henry Ford Museum
The wonderful Weinermobile at the Henry Ford Museum

We’re half-way! Michigan marks the mid-point in our American odyssey. With one night in the Wolf State we began with a stop in Ann Arbor for lunch and a stretch of our legs after the four hour drive from Chicago. Ann Arbor was lovely: all independent bookshops, coffee shops, record shops and brewpubs. After a tasty, wholesome lunch in the cheekily-named Afternoon Delight we had to dash but could easily have kicked back in the sunshine with an IPA or two…

The Ferry Street Inn, Detroit.
Ferry Street Inn, Detroit.

But onto Dearborn home to the Henry Ford Museum (entrance  from $17 per adult) which contains an almost ridiculous wealth of fascinating artefacts of American culture and heritage. Whether it’s the chair President Lincoln was in when he was assassinated on April 14 1865, the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, the limousine President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in or the brilliant car-of-our-dreams hot-dog-shaped Oscar Mayner Wienermobile: it’s all here. Along with more vintage cars you could shake a stick at and a Dymaxion House (designed in the 1940s to be the “house of the future”) made of aluminum and restored with period furnishings. Short story: Hannah wanted to live there. We spent three happy hours here but could have lingered for much much longer.

A street in Corktown.
A street in Corktown, Detroit.

But onto Detroit. We’d heard about the urban decay and the decline of this once prosperous Motown City. The city has lost over 60% of its population since 1950, has an unemployment rate of up to 25% and at least 70,000 abandoned buildings. We’d seen the post-apocalyptic pictures of crumbling theatres and railway stations and been warned about the crime-rates and, maybe it’s a our British love for a plucky underdog, we were resolute that we wanted to visit and spend some much needed money there.

Mac and Cheese in Slow's Bar BQ.
The BEST Mac’N’Cheese at Slow’s Bar BQ, Detroit.

Our first stop, the hotel – the Inn on Ferry Street – was a fantastic shock. Set in a quiet neighbourhood with tree-lined streets, a string of lovingly restored Victorian mansions make up the Inn. Annoyingly we had arrived just a little too late to get to the Detroit Institute of Arts around the corner so we went for a drive to Corktown and dinner at Slow’s Bar BQ. Along the way we saw dilapidated, abandoned buildings on a startling scale. This did not look like a city in the richest country in the world, it looked like a set from a zombie horror movie. It was profoundly sad. At Slow’s though they were just getting on with it, and ‘it’ was making some of the most indecently tasty barbecue – we gorged on tender carolina-style pulled pork,  slabs of St. Louis ribs and The Finest Ever Mac-N-Cheese. The beer and bourbon selection was as expansive as the barman was friendly: a great, great place.

The Fist Monument in Downtown Detroit
The Fist – Downtown Detroit.

The next day we drove to downtown for a look about and saw “The Fist” – a monument to Joe Louis which we felt sums up Detroit perfectly. Defiant, tough, enduring. It might have gone bankrupt financially but the Motor City is built to last.

Rate the state

Good for: Music, food, heritage.

Bad for: Detroit may not be for the faint-hearted.

Overall: 7/10

11 thoughts on “State Twenty Five: Michigan

  1. Thanks fir visiting my home state. Slow’s is just plain awesome! It would almost be worth it me to move closer to Detroit just so I could eat there more often.

    Have a great journey!

    1. It was our pleasure. Michigan was great & we felt like Detroit really got under our skin. And as for Slow’s…WOW! Can’t adequately describe how fine it was. Jealous you live in the same state as that place! Thanks so much for reading our blog – we loved the last twenty-five states. Can’t wait for the next twenty-five!

    1. Absolutely! The way we see this ambition to visit all fifty states is like trying a morsel of each dish at a massive buffet – once we’ve tried everything we’ll NEED to go back for more. I’ll add Northern Michigan to our wish list! Thanks ever so much for stopping by. Really appreciate it!

  2. I’ll have to check out your photos of Detroit, it’s somewhere I have a bit of a morbid fascination with. Bizarre how a city in one of the most wealthy countries in the world can end up like that. The Henry Ford Museum sounds brilliant, we’ll have to venture further into Michigan next time we’re up that way.

    1. We – annoyingly! – didn’t take that many (the few we have are on) and I have seen so many striking pictures of Detroit – grand theatres crumbling and so on… It was slightly scary in places – houses tumbling down and miles of wasteland – but there was this energy too, this pride which made me really root for Detroit. If you ever go I can’t stress how much we enjoyed Slow’s BarBQ. Would love to go back – and spend more money there! Have you got any roadtrips in the pipeline? I LOVE reading about your travels!

      1. Ah thanks Hannah 🙂 Next big one we have planned is Alaska in late August/early September – have yet to book flights or anything but that’s what we’re aiming for. Excited to hear about your east coast trip too. So great to have found travel bloggers that are as obsessed as we are!

      2. Oh WOW! Alaska looks so beautiful. I am already excited to see your photos!

        We booked our flights for the North East trip last week. Looking forward to visiting four new states.

        Totally! Nothing beats a USA roadtrip!

  3. You should absolutely come back to Michigan! You missed so many amazing things. Even Detroit has changed so much since you were here last time. You should check out midtown and Campus Martius in downtown. I hope you’ll come back again!

    1. We really want to! Because we’re trying to visit every state and live in the U.K. we always have to rush and miss out on loads of cool places and I know we only saw the smallest slice of Michigan. As for Detroit we would love to go back and would love to see it doing well. We will be back!

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