5 things to know about moving to Detroit

So you’re thinking of moving to Detroit. You’ve heard about the low cost of living and growing downtown. Your uncle forwarded an article highlighting the surplus of tech jobs, but lack of talent in the region. The drought on the West Coast has made you realize living near freshwater is a must. You’re sick of living in the surrounding Metro Detroit suburbs and want to experience living in a real city.

Detroit River Sunset View

So let me clear this up before I share some advice. I am not a native Detroiter, though I am “one of those” who reps the city wherever I go. After living in Seattle, the Bay Area, Atlanta, Vietnam and New York City, I moved to Detroit five years ago in pursuit of love (my now husband) and an amazing job at a local education non-profit. I’ll admit, the transition was initially hard. I had to find a new social network, get used to driving again and acclimate to this midwest culture.

But after living through five winters, four glorious summers and making uncountable memories here in Detroit, I call Detroit my home. Still eyeing Detroit as the next city you’ll call home? Here’s some advice from someone who’s been in your shoes.

Five things to know about moving to Detroit

Detroit is more than Midtown and Downtown

Sure. When you read about Detroit in the news, most of what is highlighted is concentrated in the 7.2 mile stretch of Downtown and Midtown. Yes, these areas contain great restaurants, stadiums, Wayne State University, the Riverwalk and the “Museum District” containing the DIA, Charles H. Wright Museum, Detroit Historical Museum and the Michigan Science Center. But Detroit is huge. Boston, San Francisco and Manhattan could all fit into the footprint of Detroit with a few miles to spare.

So when you’re here, explore other neighborhoods of Detroit and eat some food lifelong residents of the city frequent. (And as a slightly related aside, understand that many neighborhood names are recent inventions. Midtown? It’s the Cass Corridor. Lower East Side? I don’t even know how to address that.)

Here are some of my neighborhood highlights:

Sherwood Forest located in Detroit, Michigan

Sherwood Forest located in Detroit, Michigan

Grandmont Rosedale is a 2.5 mile neighborhood district on the West Side of Detroit (put into perspective, downtown Detroit is just over 2 miles).  Comprised of five smaller neighborhoods, Grandmont Rosedale is one of the city’s most vibrant areas with a development corporation, great restaurants like Sweet Potato Sensation, a new co-working space and Detroit’s oldest community theatre group.

Detroit Golf Course

Chandler Park Golf Course in Detroit

Palmer Woods, Sherwood Forest, Green Acres, the Detroit Golf Club & the University District all surround Palmer Park, a 296-acre park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1800s (yes, the Olmstead of NYC’s Central Park). Take time to explore the historic homes, which include a Frank Lloyd Wright, a Bishop’s house and the home of famous piano makers the Grinnell’s. Drive a little further on and around West Outer Drive and you’ll see the former homes of Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Berry Gordon. If you get hungry, check out Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, Motor City Soul Food, La Dolche Vita or brand new Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles.

I could go on for many, many more pages. Southwest Detroit has a rich history (including the 2nd oldest Catholic parish in the nation) and amazing food options. Detroit’s East Side is home to historic African-American neighborhoods like Conant Gardens, boating canals, historic theatres and of course, Belle Isle.

So grab a map, hop in your car, and get to learning about the city.

Detroit is for the Outdoors

Belle Isle's Whitcomb Converancy

Anna Whitcomb Conservancy located on Belle Isle

As a West Coast native, I’ll admit I didn’t think about any city in the Midwest being about the outdoors. But Detroit has tons of ways to explore the outdoors. Belle Isle. River Rouge. Palmer Park. Chandler Park. Historic Fort Wayne. The Riverwalk. These are just a few of the many places in Detroit you can walk, bike, swim or golf in Detroit.

River Rouge has 15 acres of restored prairie and Brennan Pool, an Olympic-sized pool built in ‘50s for Olympic Trials. While there, you can take a peek at D-Town Farms or head over to the River Rouge Golf Course to practice your golf game. On Detroit’s Eastside, Chandler Park has a huge outdoor water park, fun for kids and adults, plus an 18-hole golf course. Historic Fort Wayne in Southwest Detroit has ghost tours, soccer fields, and a Tuskeegee Airmen Museum (ok, not outdoors, but still cool). If you have a day, you can even bike the entirety of Outer Drive, which loops around the entire city.

So when you find yourself in Detroit, think outdoors.

Detroit is leading the way in innovation on the career front

Did you know that Southeastern Michigan has more tech-related jobs of anywhere else in the Midwest? Yes. We have more than Chicago. Recently, 99% of Southeastern Michigan technology companies revenue growth in 2016 (versus 90% of Silicon Valley tech companies). I moved to Detroit because I was excited to work in a city where people collaborated and thought of ways to work together. For women who work in tech, Kimberly Weisul, the editor-at-large of Inc.com just wrote an article about Why Women in Tech Should Head to Detroit. In Detroit, you’ll get paid 122.8 percent of what they man in your neighboring cubicle gets paid. Not too shabby, eh?

Detroit does not need people to come save or rebuild the city

Aaron Foley, a lifelong Detroit resident and writer recently released How To Live In Detroit Without Being A Jackass, a book that is worth checking out.

Detroit is not the new Brooklyn and it is not a blank slate. Detroit needs people who want to be a part of the Detroit community, not create their own exclusive club. Detroit is steeped in rich history, active communities and dedicated public servants. For me, one of the best things about living in Detroit is my neighborhood. I have neighbors who’ve lived in their homes for over 30 years. During neighborhood cleanups, I love having neighbors point out homes and the share stories of the families that used to live in them. These neighbors keep the neighborhood’s history alive as new families move in and help us build a better future.

So take the time to get to know Detroit and her history. Meet strangers. Attend community events. Take a tour with the Detroit Experience Factory. Read some books about the city. (For those who are visual, check out Detroit Is: An Essay in Photographs.)

Detroit is in the Best State in the US.

View of Lake Michigan from Sleeping Bear Dunes

View of Lake Michigan from Sleeping Bear Dunes

I’ll admit. I never gave Michigan a thought as a travel destination before I moved here. But
was listed as the best state in the US last year for a reason. No, seriously. Read the article. We have craft beer, a growing whiskey distillery scene, the most coastline of any other state except Alaska, sand dunes and the gorgeous Upper Peninsula. While I admittedly haven’t yet been to the UP (yes, judge me), I’ve biked along Lake Michigan out in Petoskey, swam in the Detroit River, camped at Sleeping Bear Dunes and floated down the Au Sable River, all of which I highly recommend. It’s easy to forget your backyard as a travel destination, but in Michigan, it’s almost foolish. I dare you. Explore the state.

Note: All the pictures were taken by Chioke, which she is extremely proud of. She loves compliments so shower them on her.

The Grand Circus team is celebrating the city of Detroit and all of its beauty for the month of March. This is Part 1 in our Detroit-themed blogging series. Check out Part 2: 13 of the Best Detroit Restaurants and Bars


Want to learn more about what's happening at Grand Circus? Check out our calendar, filled with great events located in downtown Detroit.

Go To Calendar


I am the Director of Community Programs at Grand Circus. I build programs aimed at diversifying the tech industry, introducing youth to coding and building workforce training programs for Detroit residents.

23 thoughts on “5 things to know about moving to Detroit”

  1. Rene' Thomas says:

    Well written! Thank you for getting it right and we are friendly here.

  2. Mary Beth says:

    Great article. Having grown up in the University District and familiar with all of the neighborhoods in your article I agree that Detroit has much to offer. I hope you continue your exploration of a great city and a Great State.

  3. Marianne says:

    You put it all in this wonderfully written article!!

    Thank you!

  4. Mary says:

    Very nice article! I grew up at Grand River and Evergreen and I really miss the Detroit of my youth. Not the same businesses and same vibe, of course, but just living in a city that felt alive. What I’ve been seeing happening since the Super Bowl came here in 2005 has been nothing short of miraculous. None of us ever thought we’d see this in our lifetime. But, as for Michigan people not being “about the outdoors,” gosh, nobody appreciates outside more than people who live in four season places! We are outside much more than people in one or two season places. In summertime we spend as much time outside as possible. My joke is always “how do LA people know it’s nice outside? They look out the window!” It’s so easy to take for granted when it’s sunny and 82° outside every day. But for sure we don’t! I don’t even take off my sandals until my toes freeze!

  5. Nico says:

    Thank you for your article! We’re moving to Michigan in January and not sure where we want to live. I’ll check out the areas you mentioned! We definitely need to be somewhere family oriented.

  6. mm Chioke says:

    Well, an early welcome to you and your family Nico! I hope you have an easy move and are able to explore some of the wonderful neighborhoods I’ve highlighted. Welcome!

  7. Aljade says:

    I hope you are familiar with Jeffrey Eugenides and his novel Middlesex. it was in Greece before the family moved to Detroit. I am completely aware that the book is a work of fiction but I really want to see and live in Detroit.

  8. Matthias says:

    Nice article. I am a German (Greencard) in Portland, Oregon and like to leave for the devastating Automotive-Engineer job situation here. I just finished the book from Charles LeDuff “Detroit, an American autopsy”. I was shocked but I forecasted that Detroit is not only bad. It would be nice to find a link as a help to move to Detroit. I found ads for moving companies only.

    1. Hey Matthias! Thanks for the comment. Detroit has a slew of great comeback stories, and we’re thrilled to be a part of the city’s bright future. If you’re interested in doing more reading about the city, we have a blog with Detroit blog suggestions that could shed some additional insights on some of the cool projects happening around the city: https://www.grandcircus.co/blog/9-books-about-detroit-that-we-love/

      Other great resources include http://www.freep.com & detroit.curbed.com. Let us know if you have any specific questions about the city. We’d love to tell you some of the great stories!

  9. kaye says:

    hi chioke . . . loved your article 🙂 i’m thinking of moving to detroit from durham nc and found your blog. i’m a public health professional involved in employee wellness and chronic health prevention and am looking for telework for the transition. but your article has spurred me to do a deeper dive into the detroit employment scene. so thank you! 🙂 am going to go scour your site a bit more for additional juicy bits of info . . .

  10. ann morris says:

    I.like detroit i.dont know why
    I.just do
    And your right
    The people are very friendly
    Imfrom the uk
    My contact iscryonics

  11. John says:

    I visited detroit. When I came to the usa from Australia for a holiday. I found it interesting, the people were lovely and loved the architecture. Such a great place.

  12. patricia streits says:

    Just read your interesting article, my family and I are hoping to move to Detroit from the Uk soon, if all goes well with my husbands job. I was heartened to hear of the community spirit and loyalty to Detroit from its inhabitants, something that I believe in strongly and would like to belong to.

    1. That’s wonderful! We’d love to welcome you to the city if you do come. Keep us posted about your journey!

  13. L'shea says:

    I would really appreciate picking your brain alittle further. I’m seriously considering Detroit, Michigan becoming my home where i settle and coming from the West Coast born and raised i can use all the information i can.

    Thank you so much in advance 😃

    1. Hey there. Apologies for the delayed response. I’d love to chat further. Please email me at jennifer@grandcircus.co!

  14. Bren Raneu says:

    Love Detroit, been here 7 years from canada, which is just 5 minutes away by the way. Great architecture, history, museums, riverfront, great eats, wonderful bikepaths , nice people and reasonable, very cool city now !

  15. Hi Jennifer and all of you contemplating a move to Southeast Detroit. Michigan is a beautiful state and we have many fun things for singles and families to do here! I run a nonprofit in large US cities – yet friends and families lured me back here. I grew up – so i know many surrounding areas well and can help you identify what is best for you and your move.
    I currently specialize in first time home owners and corporate relocations, so if any of you need help, I would love to work with you. I am a real estate agent out of the Keller Williams office in Commerce, Mi Feel free to calle me or email me at leslyeljacobs@gmail.com.

  16. Anastasia says:

    Thanks for your article !
    I’m moving to Detroit from Moscow, Russia with my husband who lives in Germany. I ‘m anxious about emigration ,but your article instilled confidence , calmed me and excite great interest in this place

  17. Jack says:

    As a previous post I just read, I luv Detroit… I really don’t know why. The Lions Thanksgiving Day game has become a yearly tradition for my son and I. We will be attending again this year, can’t wait. We are Californians, but we love coming every year for the big game. last year we caught a Red Wings game the night before Thanksgiving (sons B-day). We have had nothing but great experiences each visit. And yes we have met locals who have sat with us at Chelis Chili bar and grill and even met Chris Chelios! big deal because my son was a college hockey player NCAA division III. Anyway I would like to know more about the city and possibly moving there. Maybe you can provide more insight. Luv the article BTW.

    1. Hey Jack –
      It’s great to hear about your experiences in the city! That’s fantastic that you got to meet Chris Chelios; he frequently hangs out there and is great at engaging the community. Detroit is a great place to live. We’re seeing a nice influx of folks moving to the area. New development is happening all the time, there’s a ton to do around the city and many of the challenges the city has faced historically are being improved. While this organization focuses on tours, Detroit Experience Factory also has great resources if you’re trying to get more acquainted with what the city has to offer: http://detroitexperiencefactory.org/

      Feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any other questions! jennifer@grandcircus.co

  18. Andrea says:

    Thank you for the article. I found it really helpful. I have a job offer in Windsor ON (currently live in Seattle) and was thinking of commuting. There is very little info about living in Detroit and working in Windsor (most do the opposite). Any ideas of how to find out more info? Any help is greatly appreciated.

    1. Hey Andrea. What an exciting opportunity! While we don’t have any specific available about commuting to Windsor, we think Detroit is a fantastic place to live. There are a ton of great living spaces, new development is happening all of the time and there’s so much to do! Check out Opportunity Detroit’s info on living in the city: https://opportunitydetroit.com/live/

      Feel free to reach out to me directly if there’s anything specific I can answer about the city! Jennifer@grandcircus.co

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