Dossin Great Lakes Museum, The Giant Slide, Lafayette Coney Island

28 Jul

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 I LOVE Belle Isle! In addition to providing spectacular views of Detroit and Canada, passing freighters and the Ambassador Bridge the island has several other attractions; the Conservatory , Scott Fountain, Nature Zoo, the yacht club and today’s visit, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. The Dossin Museum explores the history of the Detroit River and the Great Lakes, every time I come here I am reminded of what an incredible history Detroit has.  Just outside the building you can actually touch the giant anchor of the legendary Edmund Fitzgerald, there is a an old Coast Guard boat set on the ground, and an enclosure that lets you get up close to the first hydroplane racing boat to ever top 100 mph: Miss Pepsi. All this even before you go inside!

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Enter the museum building, you will immediately find yourself in an extremely ornate space, it is actually the ‘Gothic Room’ from the Sidewheel Steamer “City of Detroit III”, built in 1912.  It is hard to believe this was the lounge on the top deck of a boat! Intricately carved English Oak surrounds the room; take the time to really study the details, the work becomes more complex as your eyes travel upward. Open Gothic archways sit upon richly decorated columns and divide the space, a large stained glass window takes up much of one wall. Light fixtures and sconces are unique and elaborate in their design. A glass case runs along one wall displaying artifacts and photos from this floating hotel. The boat made regular trips from Detroit to Cleveland or Detroit to Buffalo, and on rare occasions traveled north through the Great Lakes.  Imagine what it must have been like to travel in such style! The vessel was scrapped in 1956, fortunately the collection was purchased in 1965 and is now available for all to see.

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There are a great number of things to see in the museum, do you remember Bob-Lo island? The display is sure to bring back memories and a smile. The William Clay Ford pilot house was reassembled for the museum, stand behind the wheel in the real bridge of a Great Lakes Freighter ship. This is a great spot to watch the freighters go by, they have live communication between ships and shore, very interesting.  The day we were there it was Detroit’s 310th Birthday, there were cupcakes and lemonade to celebrate! This place is really fascinating, so much to see, the docents are great too. Make a plan to stop in soon!

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Also on Belle Isle is the Giant Slide, I remember these well from when I was a child. Did you ever slide down one? You carry the burlap sack up what seems like an endless staircase, climb inside, give yourself a push off and WOOSH, down you go! It’s pretty much the same these days. This is a fairly new slide, there were just a few people in line when we passed, so we thought we’d give it a go. We purchased our tickets, $1 each, picked out our burlap bag and up we went. There were two kids at the top getting ready to go down, there’s someone working at the top who instructs you on proper slide etiquette. If you want to go fast take lane one or two, otherwise the further right you go the more mellow the ride. Kris had the camera so he went down about lane three or four, I felt brave so I went for the fast lane. I slid my body into the sack,  gathered up the excess on the sides in my hand and inched myself to the edge, then pushed off. The first hill was pretty mellow, and I was thinking, gee this is fun, but I’d like to go a little faster. I hit the second hill with a little more speed thinking ok, I like this, on the third hill I got air. As I landed I started to wonder if there was a way to slow down….. before I knew it I was in the air off the next hill and landed with a thump. I remember hearing short little screams, and then realized they were coming from me! As I came off the fifth hill, I worried how and where I would land, I did so about halfway down the flat of the slide with amazing speed. At then end of the slide they have put down material that stops you in your tracks; As I sat there in the sudden stillness I began to laugh, what a ride!

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After reliving childhood memories of Bob-Lo Island and riding the Giant Slide lunch had to somewhere fun too. Lafayette Coney Island; This place is legendary. It has had it share of visits from the Food Network, local personalities, and movie stars. The food fight scene in Whip It! was filmed here too. But it’s the food and atmosphere that has been bringing people back for decades. The place was packed, so we were relieved to find an open table. You can tell who the regulars are, they are greeted by name and order “the usual”. Kris ordered 1 and 1, me, a loose hamburger with everything and fries. Keep an eye open for waiters performing gravity defying tricks with tableware and beverages. Our food arrived lightning fast, served up with icy cold cans of Diet Coke, is was just as good as I remember.

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