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.
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:
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.
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
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.
I’ll admit. I never gave Michigan a thought as a travel destination before I moved here. But
Michigan 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.