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Experience Detroit: Get your hyperlocal kicks with AirBnB

Breakfast nook at Knucklehead Farm
Breakfast nook at Knucklehead Farm
Detroit's size, while daunting to some, gives adventurous explorers abundant opportunities for discovery. AirBnB, an online "community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world" provides one means of making discoveries throughout Detroit's 139 square miles.

Whether you're an out-of-towner looking for a deeper (and cheaper) Detroit experience than you'd get staying at a downtown hotel, or you're a local looking to explore what life is like in other neighborhoods, staying at a Detroit AirBnB could be a revelatory experience.

AirBnB has created neighborhood guides for select cities, but not Detroit. Instead of waiting for them to create a Detroit guide, we at Model D decided to make our own by highlighting a few accommodations in neighborhoods outside of Detroit's core. While there are many worthy AirBnB options in Downtown and Midtown, our list focuses on places off the beaten path:

Knucklehead Farm
Neighborhood: Brightmoor
Price: $50/night

In recent years, a lot of attention has been paid to farming/gardening as a means of utilizing vacant land and building community in Detroit. If this interests you, Knucklehead Farm is a great place to stay, providing a hybrid experience of the pastoral and the urban just ten miles northwest of downtown Detroit.

Located on the Rouge River floodplain in Brightmoor, a neighborhood we covered extensively as a part of our On the Ground series, this AirBnB is run by Mark and Riet Schumack. In addition to being a bed and breakfast, Knucklehead Farm is, well, a farm--complete with garden beds, sheep, and chickens. In fact, it is one of the 50 or so garden/farms that make up the Brightmoor Farmway. While staying at Knucklehead, visit neighboring gardens and go for a hike in Eliza Howell Park, the third largest park in Detroit.

If you're hungry for something other than the farm fare you're sure to be served by the Schumacks, take a walk up to Scotty Simpson's Fish and Chips on Fenkell--a Detroit classic with a killer jukebox.

Detroit Homestead
Neighborhood: Virginia Park/New Center
Price: $65/night

This AirBnB, described by its proprietor Alyssa as "a working urban farm," is close to several historic neighborhoods that are great to explore on foot or bicycle. Close by are the stately mansions of the Boston-Edison district and the tree-lined, pedestrian-only Pallister Street in New Center--both extremely pleasurable places for a ramble.

For someone interested in Detroit's musical legacy, Detroit Homestead is located within walking distance of two legendary recording studios--Hitsville USA, birthplace of the Motown Sound and home to the Motown Museum, and the United Sound System, where the likes of Funkadelic, John Lee Hooker, and Isaac Hayes all cut tracks.

The Homestead is also walking distance from Northern Lights Lounge, where you can see legendary guitarist and Funk Brother Dennis Coffey perform with his group every Tuesday (no cover) while enjoying good food and drinks. Throughout the summer, New Center Park, also within walking distance, hosts free movies and concerts.

Duck 'n' Roll Inn
Neighborhood: East English Village
Price: $90/night

On the East Side, next to the tony Grosse Pointe communities, you'll find East English Village and Duck 'n' Roll Inn, where proprietor Suzanne raises ducks. According to its AirBnB profile, the Inn has many eclectic features, including a jacuzzi, a green roof, and a wood burning stove.

This corner of Detroit is home to some great bars and restaurants. Cadieux Cafe is Detroit's best place for steamed mussels and other Belgian fare (including a great beer selection). Plus they have feather bowling--an unusual sport originating in Belgium that's a sort of hybrid of curling, bowling, and bocce. For an even more worldly selection of beer, head over to Ye Olde Tap Room, an East Side classic. If you're into a more divey vibe, My Dad's Bar is the place for you.

When you're done drinking at these watering holes, walk it all off at Balduck Park, home to what might just be the city's best sledding hill and some of its best kept ball fields.

Suite on Cecil
Neighborhood: Michigan-Martin
Price: $45/night

Corktown gets a lot of attention from the wider world as one of Detroit's must see neighborhoods, but there is more worth seeing further out Michigan Avenue. If you stay at Kelli's AirBnB on Cecil Avenue in the Michigan-Martin neighborhood, you're sure to broaden your perspective on the city.

Food options abound in the area, especially the Mexican, Central and South American restaurants in the nearby neighborhoods of Southwest Detroit.

If old-fashioned, greasy Americana is more your style, stop at Telway Hamburgers, a 24-hour slider joint. Pick up a sack of burgers and a cup of the self-proclaimed "best coffee in town," the perfect food to take into a double feature at the Ford-Wyoming Drive-In (reportedly the largest drive-in movie theater in the world), located nearby.

Finish the night at one of the neighborhood's old school bars -- Cas Bar, Alaska Bar, or Abick's. For more expansive nightlife options, Corktown and Downtown are a straight shot east on Michigan Avenue.

Whether you're in town for a big event or just curious about the city, do yourself a favor and get a more nuanced picture of life in Detroit's neighborhoods. Take advantage of AirBnB hosts' local knowledge, something that isn't available at traditional hotels.

As AirBnB host Kelli says on her profile, "We love our neighborhood and could talk about it all day!" She also issues a fair warning about what can happen after you get to know her neighborhood: "You may not want to leave!"

Matthew Lewis is a Detroit-based freelance writer.


Photos courtesy of AirBnB.
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