Detroit? No other city has reinvented itself quite so dramatically over the last decade. As the local slogan says, it’s a “Comeback City” that has worked hard to become an elite American urban center again.
While the renovated downtown area and new casinos have certainly helped drive commerce, they don’t make up the most unique areas of Detroit. Want to get an edgier, weirder Motor City experience? Check out these five wacky spots.
1.) Lawndale Market: The People’s Polaroids
What happens if you paste Polaroid pictures of customers all over the walls of your store? You get a marketplace with perhaps the world’s most interesting wallpaper. For over 20 years, this is exactly what the owner of Lawndale Market: The People’s Polaroids has done. Today, there are over 10,000 Polaroids displayed throughout the store. Browsing through images is a unique way to view the faces and personalities of Motor City.
2.) The Heidelberg Project
Artist Tyree Guyton originally started his Heidelberg Project in 1986 as a response to urban decay in East Detroit. Since then, two blocks along Heidelberg Street have been transformed into an “outdoor community art environment.” Visitors to the site will be treated to a vibrant, colorful art exhibition like they’ve never experienced before. Guyton and his fellow artists use discarded, everyday objects and striking visual designs to bring new life to a once-forgotten neighborhood.
3.) Marvin’s Marvelous Museum
Museums can be stuffy and uptight, but not Marvin’s! As an exhibition space for vintage coin-operated machines, Marvin’s Marvelous Museum is anything but. Walking through this carnivalesque space, you’ll see everything from mannequin fortune tellers to talking animatronics to antique arcade games. Since owner Marvin Yogada has an ongoing obsession with carnival games and oddities, the museum’s 5,500 square feet are constantly being packed with more knick knacks and tchotchkes.
4.) Detroit PuppetART Center
While it’s located within Detroit’s Theater District, the PuppetART Center certainly isn’t your typical performance hall. You won’t see any actors hanging around—well, unless you count the puppets displayed throughout the onsite museum and workshop space. As Detroit’s leading puppet theater, the PuppetART Center features weekly performances that dazzle audiences in unexpected ways. Not only is it an affordable way to experience the theater, it’s a great place to take the kids! Be sure to check the program, however, as some plays may be written for adults.
5.) Hamtramck Disneyland
The home of Dmytro Szylak certainly stands out from the other residences in Hamtramck, a northern suburb of Detroit. After retiring from General Motors, Szylak decided to make his backyard the setting for his hobby of collecting hand-carved and found objects. Today, his yard art towers above two adjacent garages. What has essentially become a massive backyard sculpture, known by locals as the Hamtramck Disneyland, his artwork features colorful dolls, strange toys, odd banners, and dozens of moving parts. For a small donation, you may be able to tour the property and see all the moving parts in action.
In many ways, it’s wrong to call Detroit a “Comeback City”—the D has always been a place of strange wonder. Which of these weird Detroit spots do you want to visit? Let us know in the comments!