Tag Archives: Detroit Museums

DETROIT: Science Fun!

2 Mar

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It’s a snowy Sunday afternoon and we are looking for some indoor fun, we’ve been meaning to check out the recently re-opened Science Center; no time like the present. We found parking on the street, which can be hard to come by in this busy museum district, just a short walk across the street and we’re there. Formerly known as the Detroit Science Center, the Michigan Science Center has reopened much to the delight of parents and children in southeastern Michigan. The museum is a playground of hands-on exhibits, live presentations and interactive activities.  I was a little surprised to find a such a long line to get in, obviously word has gotten out that science is back in Detroit. There is one price for general admission, you may also choose to purchase tickets for the IMAX and planetarium; “two for the museum please”. Once inside the exhibit area the volume level rises, the sound of fun fills the air. To the right is a familiar sight from my childhood, the escalator that passes through the neon rainbow tunnel that brings you up from the IMAX, wasn’t that in an old commercial? On the left is a special exhibit about diabetes, as we travel through the display we find ourselves inside a blood vessel, signs describe what we are looking at and the effect diet and exercise have on blood sugar levels; the most popular area has a moving floor that requires a bit of balance to walk across. 

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Next we are in an area of large bright yellow objects that move, shake and spin; simulating how concrete and asphalt are mixed, so this is what it’s like to be aggregate. First we pass over a ramp that moves back and forth as it takes us forward, next up, the tumbler; this part is tricky, you have to walk through the cylinder as it rotates, hey, we did it without injury….  As we exit we make our way past long tubes that hang and swing from above, one more conveyor belt-type ramp down, we jump to the floor, whew, we made it! The floor ahead is divided into two lanes, like a road, wait…is that the Mackinac Bridge? Yes, sort of….This is the mini-mac, an 80 ft long pedestrian bridge that teaches the engineering process, I just think it’s cool. From the bridge we overlook the lower floor; there’s a demonstration just finishing up on the Chrysler Science Stage. There is so much going on we don’t know what to do next. We spend the next hour wandering around; check out the inside of an Apollo space capsule or one of the large scale rockets; the largest one 36 ft tall spanning from the first floor to the roof. In the Motion area we play a laser harp on beams of invisible light. The “Jam Room” is filled to capacity with youngsters rocking out. There’s a huge area dedicated to the manufacturing process, the United States Steel Fun Factory is 2,800 sq. ft of fun that details how an idea becomes a reality; you even get to pass through a blast furnace, it really is hot in there! Want to take a family photo? Have a seat on the couch between two over-sized “couch potatoes” then learn about nutrition so you won’t become one! Exhibits cover all areas of science; health, engineering, space and physical science, and they make it fun! If you have the time, catch a live show in the planetarium, MI-SCI is home to one of the finest digital planetarium projection systems; fly past 9,000 stars, planets and galaxies in a 3-story high dome. Speaking of Domes, the Chrysler IMAX Dome Theater is Michigan’s only IMAX dome.

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We played until our hunger got the best of us, then it was off to Greektown for a late lunch. I think Plaka Cafe is the only one of the old school restaurants that we’d never been to, until today that is. Open 24 hours, the neon signs in the windows inform us they serve Gyros and Coney’s and they offer Bfast 24 hrs. Inside we seat ourselves in a booth by the front window, our waitress greets us with menus and water. As I read the menu I realize this is not your typical Greek restaurant, but instead, a Greek Diner. The food coming out of the kitchen begins to sway our decision of what to eat; coney dog, no, huge fluffy omelette with a side of golden hash browns…maybe, we hear the strawberry pancakes are delicious,the folks next to us went for the gyro, that looks good. Finally we make up our mind; of course we get the flaming cheese, throw in a bowl of lemon rice soup, a falafel sandwich and a fatoosh salad and you get two people who enjoyed a tasty lunch and couldn’t eat another bite. 

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DETROIT: The Wright Museum

28 Mar

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The Charles H Wright Museum of African-American History is the world’s largest institution dedicated to the African-American experience. Having said that,  I’d like to add, it’s a wonderful museum to visit.  Whichever door you enter, you will find yourself in the Ford Freedom Rotunda. Here the wide open space if filled with light pouring in through the glass dome, at 100 feet in diameter  and 65 feet in height, it is impressive. On the floor of the rotunda is the Ring Of Genealogy; designed by Hubert Massey the piece depicts the struggles of African-Americans in this country. Bronze nameplates of prominent citizens surround the piece, each year new names are added to the Ring. The museum is named for founder Dr Charles H Wright, an obstetrician and gynecologist who practiced in Detroit from 1946-1950 and again from 1955-1986.

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The heart of the museum is “And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African-American History and Culture”.  The exhibits are laid out in time-line fashion; beginning in Africa with the birth of mankind,then we get a look into ancient and early modern civilization. Beautiful dress and artwork fill displays. From there we start an eerie, haunting trip, the treacherous journey across the ocean, where men and women were transported from their independence into slavery.The ship exhibit demonstrates a small  glimpse of the suffering  that was endured; a moving and at times uncomfortable experience for museum-goers. Continuing forward in time through the days of the underground railroad, up to emancipation. In the end  we are able to celebrate the freedom and success of past and present-day Detroiters.  The building is also home to  the General Motors Theater which hosts live performances, films and lectures. Located in Detroit’s Cultural Center it is one of many great things to do in the area.

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 When Slow’s Bar B Q opened in the shadows of the old train station it seemed an unlikely location for success; they had the guts to take a chance and it has paid off bigger than I think they even imagined. They have paved the way for other fledgling businesses such as Astro Coffee and Sugar House, and all are reaping the rewards. Suddenly this little stretch of Michigan Avenue has come alive. We have been patiently awaiting the opening of Mercury Burger Bar across the street from Slow’s; alas our wait is over!The building is named after the Mercury Train which ran from New York to Detroit and then Chicago in the 1930’s and 40’s. It’s latest incarnation serves burgers, hand-cut fries, grilled bologna sandwiches, milkshakes, and yes, cocktails.

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Situated on a corner lot the building is odd-shaped; very narrow at the entrance and growing wider toward the back. The bar reflects this shape and is at the center of the dining room; aluminum tables and chairs line the windowed walls, red vinyl dresses up the booths. To the left hangs a large mural created by Detroit’s own Jerome Feretti. Play a game of seek and find as you look at the colorful piece; the Penobscot building, ren cen, sails of a tall ship, all play homage to the city. On the back wall a large image of a Mercury automobile grill livens up the space. Then there’s the food; you can’t go wrong with a good burger, and they have plenty to choose from. I had the turkey burger, tender and moist, good toppings, it was delicious. Kris went with the Local, it seemed to have a bit of everything piled high on top, also delicious. The fries are heavenly; fresh-cut, fried to a perfect crisp and seasoned with sea salt and pepper, I could have eaten the entire basket myself! They were doing a swift business this afternoon, it seems the good word is out. Next time you have a burger craving, give Mercury a try.