Staycation: Take a Break in Detroit

Everyone from CNN to the New York Times has produced some kind of trend piece about staycations. Concerns over personal budget crunches, gas prices (ok, maybe the prices a couple of months ago), oil dependency and buying local have made this the hot travel, or un-travel, trend.

Staycations mean taking time off work but staying home -- at the same time saving you some coin and dropping some coin into the local economy’s bucket.

So if this holiday's trip to the tropics or annual ski trip out West is on hold for now, take a chance to visit a few Detroit places that don’t fall into your regularly scheduled program.

Stay the night

Sometimes a night at a local hotel or bed and breakfast is a splurge worth making, and it wouldn't be a real staycation if you slept on your own sheets, would it?

If you prefer charming and cozy abodes, Detroit has B&Bs and boutique offerings. Book a night at the Woodbridge Star. The rooms range from $125 to $175 per night, and there is a discount if you stay an additional night. On New Year’s Eve, a champagne toast and homemade pastries are part of the deal. Your Trumbull address will provide you a great home base to explore Midtown and downtown during your D-Town weekend. (Find more here.) Also check out the weekend packages at the Inn on Ferry Street, which can include little luxuries like massages or deals on dinner at the Whitney or theater tickets.

Think the fancy new Westin Book Cadillac is out of your price range? They do offer a sweet deal for weekenders. Through Dec. 30, the first weekend night is $209 and the second is just $19.24.

If gambling, dancing and drinking are more your speed, plan on spending New Year's Eve at Motor City Casino Hotel, where two adults can book a room for $349 -- tickets for the David Sanborn and Tower of Power show are included in the price -- and ring in the New Year with a great view of your hometown.

Do it by district

When I visit other cities, I definitely do a lot more walking. Detroit is certainly not known for its pedestrianism, but there are pockets and nodes that are well worth checking out for a day of shopping, dining and, yes, drinks.

Hamtramck is a perfect almost-international destination. Park your vehicle in the public lot off Joseph Campau at Evaline and plan on not returning 'til the night is no longer young. Shop for unique gifts at the Polish Art Center, Detroit Threads and Record Graveyard. Grab a bite at Polish Village Cafe or Thai Bangkok, and sip some cocktails at The Belmont or THC. If you're up for some additional walking, venture off the main drag to Cafe 1923 on Holbrook for coffee or Bengal Masala on Conant for some delish dal and naan.

Another worthwhile daylong destination is smack dab in the center of Midtown, along the burgeoning Canfield Street retail district. Starting on the east, there's Sole Sisters (shoes) and Black Dress (boutique clothes) in the Mid-Med Building, then there's Bureau of Urban Living (cute home goods) between Second and Cass. You’re within spitting distance of the Detroit Artists Market on Woodward (lots of affordable, unique gifts to be had), and Avalon International Breads and the eclectic Spiral Collective on Willis.

Food and drink are always close at hand: Traffic Jam, The Bronx, Motor City Brewing Works, The Whitney and the Cass Café are all nearby. Have a lovely meal, walk it off and return home with unique holiday gifts that mall-goers will envy.

There's also the Petula Clark route ... downtown, that is. Park anywhere and take the People Mover. Shop at modern decor store Mezzanine in Harmonie Park for surprisingly affordable gifts for the design-o-philes on your list. Don’t forget a stop at the architecturally stunning Guardian Building -- first to gape, then to buy a couple of guaranteed hit gifts at t-shirt purveyor Pure Detroit.

The Ren Cen is pretty much the closest thing to a mall we've got, for better or worse. You’ll find another Pure, the Pangborn Collection (more design!), a Godiva shop and a cluster of fine restaurants for you -- or for gift certificates for those hard-to-shop-for in-laws.

The Compuware Building has a Borders, and from there you can head over to Campus Martius for a whirl around the rink and perhaps a glass of vino at Enoteca. That single block of Woodward also offers mega-sandwiches at Eph's Downtown (look for the oversized pickle hanging outside) and a smart selection of Michigan-brewed beer at Foran's Irish Pub.

If you'd like a guide for your excursion, Detroit Synergy is hosting Shop Detroit days this year. Our pick is on Dec. 20 at Eastern Market. Any foodie on your shopping list will be delighted with what the market has to offer. The options are expanding all the time (cherry products, fancy olive oils and some not-to-miss locally roasted coffee). Any hunger or thirst you may encounter will be satisfied at market faves like Roma Café, Vivio's or Russell Street Deli, or try the new Supino Pizzeria and Taste of Ethiopia, both near Rocky Peanut on Russell. Beats any mall Food Court any day.

Gotta have art

Why is it that on vacation, I visit every museum in town. But I sometimes neglect the wonderful ones we have right here? No excuses on a staycation, and the "Monet to Dali" exhibit leaves the Detroit Institute of Arts in January, so stop procrastinating.

Only make it to MOCAD when there's a party? You do realize that it is a museum, correct? Through the end of the year, there are three concurrent exhibitions on display, so don't take my word for it, check them out. "Broadcast" examines artists engaging with and critiquing broadcast media and "Becoming" showcases personal and cultural photographs from the Wedge Collection. "Business as Usual" is curated by Jacob Proctor, the Associate Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at the University of Michigan Museum of Art and focuses on the intersection of art and commerce.

Dress it up

This is the dress-down Midwest, but since you are on vacation, step outside your comfort zone and make a bit of an effort.

Once gussied up, expand your horizons and head to the theater -- or some kind of cultural event you haven't enjoyed lately.

The Broadway hit "Wicked" takes the stage at the Opera House this week, and Detroit insiders will point you to the Music Hall's superb Jazz Cafe, which has a range of events that won’t break the bank. Grab a martini at the old school Caucus Club before the show. Now you really feel like you're somebody, eh?

Buzz alert: Orchestra Hall welcomes Leonard Slatkin as director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. With so much excitement  there, this is the month to return.

All this celebrating deserves a toast. Cap off your staycation with a champagne cocktail at Coach Insignia atop the Ren Cen. Soak in the view, and you will feel like a wealthy superstar -- or at least like you got away from it all. For the evening at least.

Kelli B. Kavanaugh is development news writer for Model D. Send feedback here.


Bureau of Urban Living

Record Graveyard

Supino Pizzeria


Coach Insignia

All photographs by Detroit Photographer Marvin Shaouni
Marvin Shaouni is the Managing Photographer for Metromode & Model D.

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