Visiting the city of Detroit will be unlike any other vacation you have ever had. While it is not the bustling city it once was in the 1950’s, the Motor City has culture, history and roots that make its residents extremely proud and loyal to this great town. It’s no secret that Detroit has had its share of agony over the last several years, however, slowly but surely, the city is returning with a better than ever attitude and providing those who live and visit there, an experience they will always remember.
Along with the city of Detroit, the smaller cities that surround it have embraced the LGBT community with open arms, such as Ferndale, Royal Oak, Berkley and Pleasant Ridge. It is within these cities along with many others throughout the state of Michigan, that you will find rainbow flags waving from local businesses and homes. You will see families of all genders, races and religions playing with their children at the park or walking their dogs to the farmers market on Sunday mornings. The history of this city and the residents who live in it make this a place you must see.
As a Detroit native, it is clear I have a great love and respect for the city of Detroit. With the help of my queer Detroit ladies (thanks girls!) I have highlighted some of the places and events throughout Metro Detroit that will make your time in the Motor City unforgettable:
First Wednesday: On the first Wednesday of every month, queer women from all over the state of Michigan gather together at Rosie O’Grady’s in Ferndale for an evening of socializing, drinking and dancing. This is a lesbian past time for Michiganders and is an anticipated event every month. You are promised great music, drink specials and no cover—not to mention a sea of pretty ladies!
Belle Isle: This island (yes, Detroit has an island!) is one of many state parks throughout the state of Michigan, but offers so much more than just beautiful scenery. The 987 acre park is located on the Detroit River, between the borders of the United States and Canada. The park offers bike paths, a driving range, a nature center, an aquarium, a giant slide and so much more. The island is policed by its own mounted police officers, which means you will often see horses galloping throughout the park. This historical landmark is one of Detroit’s greatest treasures.
SOHO: Known to be one of the last official LGBT bars in Metro Detroit, this trendy but casual lounge located in Ferndale is the gay Cheers of the Motor City and hosts different nightly events including trivia nights, karaoke nights and more. Not to mention their amazing martinis (hot tip: try the chocolate).
Palmer Park guided tour: From the early 1950s until late 1980s, Palmer Park was the heart of the LGBTQ community in the city of Detroit. It was lined with queer bars, shops and restaurants, not to mention some of the most beautiful architecture in the city. Although the Palmer Park area is not what it was 50 years ago, it is slowly building back its reputation and is a sentimental spot for the queer citizens of Detroit. A walking, guided tour is available through People for Palmer Park, where you will learn the history of the buildings and the people that once made up the LGBT community of the Motor City.
One Eyed Betty’s: With a variety of over 40 beers to choose from, this lesbian-owned and operated restaurant in Ferndale offers a laid back atmosphere in one of Detroit’s gayest suburbs. The dinner menu will not let you down, ranging from appetizers to full entrees, you can enjoy a delicious meal while sipping on some of Michigan’s finest beers. Support a lesbian business owner!
Comerica Park: There is no doubt that Detroiters love all their sports teams, but the Detroit Tigers tends to be one the favorites for the locals. The stadium is located in the heart of downtown Detroit and is the focal point of many beautiful summer nights. Within the park, you can grab a drink at one of several bars, take your family on a Ferris wheel or a Merri-go-round ride, eat at one of the yummy food stands or restaurants and even work on your pitching or batting skills at one of the practice machines set up throughout the park. Recently, the Detroit Tigers held their first ever Pride night at the stadium and welcomed all LGBTQ fans, giving the city one more reason to love their Tigers.
Pronto!: This restaurant and bar is located in Royal Oak, another one of Metro Detroit’s gay-friendly cities and has an amazing dinner menu to choose from (try the Smac & Cheese!), not to mention a killer bakery section full of yummy sweet treats and is also home to one of the last few gay bars in Metro Detroit. What’s particularly special about Pronto for us queer ladies is its female only party every third Thursday of the month, which features female DJs, dancing, drink specials and more. This is a great place to have dinner and party the night away.
Eastern Market: Every weekend, the Eastern Market, which is located in downtown Detroit, is filled with residents and visitors alike, looking to get a taste of some of the local food and drink that the city has to offer. Sunday is the market’s local day from June-October, which features a wide range of Detroit apparel, foods, music and more. You can easily spend an entire day strolling the many paths of the Eastern Market, all while supporting the local businesses and eating some delicious food at the same time!
La Dolce Vita: If you are looking for more of a fine dining experience, this Italian restaurant located in Palmer Park District is perfect for a romantic dinner for two or a relaxing brunch with friends. La Dolce Vita was established in 1995 and has been voted one of the best patios in Detroit. (I attended my first lesbian wedding reception on this patio!) The ambiance, service and food will not let you down.
Detroit Historical Museum: The Detroit Historical Museum will take you on a journey of Detroit’s memorable past. Once considered by some to be “The Paris of the Midwest,” the museum provides a look into what Detroit once was, with exhibits such as Detroit: The Arsenal of Democracy, Doorway to Freedom: Detroit and The Underground Railroad. You can talk a walk down the streets of Old Detroit and hear the stories of how cars built the Motor City. This is a great way to learn the history and culture of Motown.
Affirmations: Affirmations is the LGBT center for Metro Detroit, located in Ferndale. Within its walls you will find support groups, classes, monthly events and someone there to welcome you with open arms. They are continually helping the LGBT people of Detroit, not to mention they have really fun events going on throughout the city! You can walk in or check out their website for more information.
For more information about events, shops, restaurants and more in the Detroit area, you can check local LGBT publication Pride Source.