Adventure Saturday: Exploring Detroit’s riverfront

Walking along the Detroit River
Walking along the Detroit River

With spring temperatures slowly heading to Michigan, and an abundance of sunshine greeting us on a recent Saturday morning, my husband and I decided to head to downtown Detroit to explore the riverfront. So much work and so many updates have been done in the past decade to improve the area so residents and visitors have a place to enjoy and be social.

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The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy took the lead in helping transform the land along the Detroit River. Through private and public funding, the conservancy seeks to redevelop at least 5.5 miles of riverfront property into a continuous river walk with plazas, green spaces, and pavilions for pedestrians and bikers to enjoy. This area covers property from the Ambassador Bridge to Gabriel Richard Park and east of the Belle Isle Bridge. The nonprofit organization is responsible for the improvement, maintenance and operations of these areas. And, from my perspective, they’ve done a great job (you can check out the stunning before/after photos on their website).

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Although I’ve followed the transformation of the property in the news and through information I haven’t been to the Detroit riverfront in years. Justin worked for a company along the riverfront so he told me some of the improvements, which made me curious to see for myself. Our first destination was Rivard Plaza, near the Renaissance Center. As a gift to my husband, I purchased a brick with his name on it to be placed on the river walk. It’s part of the Conservancy’s fundraising efforts so I was happy to support this cause. I also wanted to do something fun and special for Justin. His brick happens to be in Rivard Plaza.

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There weren’t many others on the river walk when we arrived (granted, it was certainly a bit chillier along the Detroit River with the wind and water breeze) so I found the quiet quite peaceful. When I stand at the riverfront, I always find it fun to look across the river to see Canada. Not many people can so easily see another country when standing on their own soil. We had been given a map to give us an idea of where to find the brick, which we quickly did. My husband was quite tickled to see his name on the walk (which of course made me happy).

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Rent bikes, go on a tour and more!
Rent bikes, go on a tour and more!

While the river walk was quiet that sunny, chilly day, I could easily visualize a hustle and bustle of pedestrians in warmer weather. A beautiful carousel awaits people to ride it and a concession stand will provide food and drinks to hungry and thirsty visitors. We were really impressed by WheelHouse Detroit, located just behind the concession stand. This small business rents bikes to patrons, leads tours through the city and also has a service shop in case you have problems with your own bike. I really loved the idea of encouraging people to not only explore the city, but on bike – great exercise and great opportunity to easily get around.

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We walked toward the Ambassador Bridge so we get some exercise while enjoying the day. There are many events and festivals held along the river walk during spring, summer, and fall. Justin said the riverfront is busy during the weekday lunch hours with people walking and sitting to enjoy the view and lunch.

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We had a nice walk, promising to return to the riverfront during the summer to explore other areas (snow still covered many areas). After our noses started to get cold, we jumped in the car for lunch. Our destination was the new HopCat, located on Woodward near Wayne State University. HopCat opened in December but has been so busy that we haven’t ventured down. We enjoy their location in Grand Rapids when we visit that city so we are excited to have one near us. We chose a great time to visit as we were seated immediately in their upstairs bar area. They have a good beer and food menu so we enjoyed our meal. Then my husband decided we would continue “Adventure Saturday” with a splurge on dessert (we never order dessert!). Our next destination was the Traffic Jam & Snug restaurant.

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The Traffic Jam was established in 1965 and produces an eclectic variety of food, especially breads and baked goods. They were the first brew-pub in Michigan in 1992, brewing their own hand-crafted beers. Justin and I decided to split the Chocolate Chip Cookie in a Fancy Dress dessert (huge chocolate chip cookie, rich vanilla ice cream and Traffic Jam hot fudge). Definitely a dessert to share. And amazing!

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We had a very fun day exploring and relaxing together. I look forward to more exploring of the riverfront.

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