DETROIT: Indoor Outdoor ??

9 Feb

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There is so much going on in Detroit these days, it’s hard to keep up; restaurants, shops, galleries, an Outdoor Adventure Center on the waterfront. For years, one of Detroit’s greatest assets, the river, was sorely under-appreciated and underused. Cement silos and vacant industrial buildings were painful reminders of what Detroit once was: a thriving industrial city. Today, thanks to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and the State of Michigan we have  a series of riverfront parks, a State park and the Dequindre Cut Greenway giving residents and visitors access and opportunity to fully enjoy the Detroit River. We are driving down Atwater, construction crews are busy building Orleans Landing, sunlight sparkles on the river as if someone has sprinkled it with glitter, joggers from the Dequindre Cut wear determined faces. We park in the designated lot for the Outdoor Adventure Center, from this side we recognize the building as the historic Globe Building. This is the only remaining building of an industrial complex that began life in the 1860’s as the Dry Dock Engine Works. Later the company was absorbed by the Detroit Shipbuilding Company, after that it was used by a stove manufacturer then Detroit Edison Co and finally the Globe Trading Company, a wholesale machinery firm. 

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Inside, the former wide-open engine building facility has been recreated into an Up North play land; pine trees, wildlife, campsites, even a waterfall invite guests to explore all that Michigan has to offer. The DNR brings the outdoors indoors in this 3-story, 40,000 sq. ft. building complete with hands-on activities and simulators. We pay our admission, hang our jackets in one of the free lockers and begin to wander. We are greeted by Michigan’s majestic elk, surrounding placards explain where the elk live, what they like to eat. Exhibits are beautiful, interesting and informative. At the Fire Circle, Aspen trees surround a small campsite, a campfire looks inviting, a small tent and empty Adirondack chair wait for activity. Moving on, a large display chronicles the history of the Globe building and Detroit’s importance as a shipping center. I learn that Henry Ford worked in the building from 1879-1882, this is where he first became familiar with internal combustion engines. Detroit Dry Docks had 3 slips across from this building, notable ships built or worked on here include the Ste. Clair, the SS Columbia, the Greater Detroit and the Greater Buffalo.

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A large aquarium holds a variety of fish, we identify Sturgeon, Bass and Perch by the pictures nearby. We feel as if we are underwater; blue lighting, suspended fish and motorboat overhead. The waters of the mitten state are home to 154 different species of fish. Michigan parks offer a variety of overnight options, we enter a yurt complete with bunk beds, add your own camping story to one of the guest journals. Looks like we are back on the water, an empty fishing boat is ready to take us on an adventure; take a seat, press a button and the video begins, grab on tight to one of the available fishing poles, these fish don’t give up easy. Across the way I climb into a kayak simulator and paddle down one of our scenic rivers, this whole area gives us the illusion of being out on the water. We have reached the waterfall, walk behind it, look out and see the turtles resting on a rock, ducks gathered to the side. Under the waterfall we learn about Michigan’s geology and mining. There’s a duck blind, tower blind and a cool beaver lodge you can go into.

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We take the stairs to the next level, we look out over the railing at the waterfall, above it is a scene from the woods; rocky terrain, trees, deer, black bear, even a cute little fawn. The space is so wide open and has so many windows we can see the sky, sunlight drenches us, I swear I smell Pine, it’s almost like being outdoors. There are miles and miles of trails in Michigan, simulators take us for a ride through the woods on an orv, the snow on a snowmobile and trails on a mountain bike, all fun. We reach the suspension bridge and cross to the other side, enclosed by netting it feels like we’re up in the treetops. A 35′ tall bur oak tree allows us to climb through the trunk and then slide out the bottom. I climb back up and find Kris hunting squirrel at the laser shot simulator. A walkway leads us to bright red airplane from the DNR, the third floor takes us up to the treetop, again we have a great overall view. The adventure center is open Wednesday through Sunday, come check it out!

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We pop over to Eastern Market, a new deli called Stache International opened recently, we’ve been looking forward to trying it. Located on the Fisher Fwy service drive it sits next to Thomas Magee’s Sporting House, look for EAT above the front windows. The building is said to be about 125 years old, this particular section has been empty for years….. After a full rehab and renovation the decor has a carnival vibe, I like the large electric Eat ‘Em Up sign that hangs on the left wall. All of the meats are smoked in house, sausages are housemade too. Beverages include Faygo, Vernors and Germack coffee. The sandwich menu has something for everyone–meat-eater or vegetarian. We are sitting at a 4-top table, our server brings us water right away, after a few questions we place our order. In no time our salad arrives–served in a cardboard tray it is piled high with spring mix, sweet corn, shallots, fried okra, tomato and Better Made pork rinds, a housemade Maple Bourbon Vinaigrette is served alongside. The okra is really good, cooked just right it’s got a nice crunch and a hint of spice, the dressing is maple-delicious; a very nice salad. The Turkey Mondulo sandwich is (oh so tender and juicy) marinated pulled turkey, avocado, red cabbage slaw and rosemary garlic aioli on grilled sourdough; next to it are warm, crispy homemade chips, yum!

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We walk a little way down to Gratiot Central Market, a sign for Red Truck Fresh Produce has caught our eye. We stop in the small retail space, so colorful with cases of Towne Club pop, a rainbow of fresh apples and crates of bananas. The shop is super attractive; the namesake, a 1941 red Ford truck is parked in the center of the space, a refrigerated case is the back of a white box truck–notice the reflectors at the top, brake lights at the bottom. The produce market is part of a workforce development program, a rotating workforce of 7 veterans work in the store for 13 weeks of on-the-job-training. The eventual goal is to convert the store to a worker-owned cooperative. In addition to fresh produce and smoothies the market sells locally prepared foods from FoodLab Detroit and Detroit Kitchen Connect. Don’t forget to stop in next time you’re in Eastern Market.

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