Tag: nfl

24 Hours In Detroit

 

24 hours in Detroit

 

 

Even though Detroit has a rich music history,  there’s a case to be made that the city’s theme song should be “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett. Indeed, to outsiders like me, Detroit has a perception for being dangerous, unsafe and having a struggling economy. So, with that in mind, I figured a perfect road trip for my family would be to spend 24 hours in Detroit!

Whoa.

Reading that out loud makes it sound like a terrible idea. Anyway, there are actually  plenty of things to do in Detroit with kids, that are safe and fun. During our brief time there, we scratched the surface of Motown’s sights and sounds like a DJ playing a vinyl record on a turntable.  While that probably doesn’t make me qualified to give you and your family a guide of things to do if you’re spending 24 hours in Detroit, it’s too late now. To quote Marvin Gaye, let’s get it on!

 

 WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKENHEARTED LIONS FAN?

 

Detroit is a serious sports town, with professional teams  represented across all four of the North American Big Four leagues. For the family of sports fans, you could base a short road trip to Detroit around attending a Tigers, Lions, Pistons or Red Wings game. This is actually what we did, as we were fortunate enough to check out an NFL game for free, courtesy of my friends at the Detroit Lions!

 

Ford Field review

 

Now, almost every sporting event that we have been to over the last 10 years has been with a kid who was still in diapers, thus requiring us to bring a diaper bag. To our chagrin, the NFL ain’t about that. They have a  strict clear bag policy  and diaper bags are prohibited. Attempts to find an approved bag beforehand, last minute, were futile, so we Macgyvered a solution:

 

NFL Clear Bag Policy

Our diaper bag for the day.

 

I tried to get clever with it, once we got inside the stadium. I stopped by a merchandise stand, and asked if they could give me a plastic bag. They, not surprisingly, said no, unless I bought something. I promptly purchased an official Detroit Lions clear bag, which I will probably never use again, but made for a nice souvenir.

Of the five people in my family, only B and I would consider ourselves true football fans. As such, the off-field stuff would need to be as on point as the on-field product, to entertain my clan.  While we didn’t partake in any tailgating, we did arrive at Ford Field early, to check out the pre-game festivities. To the Lions’ credit, they did a pretty good job of getting even neutral bystanders like us to buy into the #onepride spirit.  Games were set up, with chances to win Lions swag.  A drumline roamed the stadium, playing some hyped-up jams. A live band rocked out near one of the gates, which had people dancing in the streets.

 

things to do in detroit with kids.

Coincidentally, Martha Reeves, who sang “Dancing In The Streets” with the Vandellas, was even in attendance.

 

Ford Field doesn’t wow you with anything, but everything about the stadium is OK, if that makes sense.  As we wandered around Ford Field, I noticed that the concourses were very wide and spacious. I didn’t worry much about losing my kids in a crowd, as they were always within site.  Guest services was helpful in this regard too, as they provided us wristbands which K and I wrote our contact information and the kids’ names on, for them to wear. Food and drink options were plentiful. The washrooms weren’t disgusting. Our complimentary seats were in the 100 level. Great sight lines, and comfortable enough.

 

 

24 hours in detroit

 

 

I’ve been to  football games before where drunk and belligerent fools made the experience less than family-friendly. Luckily, this wasn’t the case at our Lions game. The crowd was very lively and rawkus, but I didn’t see anyone being too out of control. Well, besides little KJ, I mean. He developed cranky toddleritis, so we had to leave before the game ended. This was for the good, as the Lions ended up losing in last-second, heartbreaking fashion. Beyond that, it was a solid afternoon of pigskin action, and I wouldn’t find checking out a Lions game again, in the future!

 

knocks me off my feet (to sleep)

 

Now, a good chunk of our 24 hours in Detroit was obviously dedicated to the Lions game. However, we still needed a place to rest our heads.  If sports are the purpose of your trip, like ours, Ford Field, Comerica Park (where the Detroit Tigers play) and Little Caesars Arena (home of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons) are located downtown.  As such,  it makes sense to try to stay downtown.

When looking into hotels, I found ones located in downtown Detroit to be a bit on the pricier side.  For the most part, parking was an extra cost, too. The rates were not insignificant at that ($30 and up), especially if in and out privileges weren’t included. If you just plan on taking public transportation/taxis/Ubers around, this isn’t a big deal, of course. For us,  it was potentially a costly issue.

We ended up staying at a Holiday Inn Express in Allen Park, Michigan, which is a 15 minute drive in the southwest direction from downtown Detroit.  The room was about half the price of similarly rated rooms near Ford Field, plus free parking.  This seemed to be typical of most hotels located outside of downtown, either in surrounding neighbourhoods or bordering cities. Speaking of that….

WHAT’S GOIN’ ON (in detroit)?

 

downtown detroit

 

Look, man, there’s no way to sugarcoat it.  Detroit is known for being a violent, unsafe city. When looking up hotels, I did do location research, too, to see what the crime vibe was like. I’m not trying to perpetuate any stereotypes. I’m just saying, in my case, a van with Canadian license plates, not in Canada, just screams tourist. This can be a petty criminal’s dream in any city with unreputable areas. It’s a good idea to be cognisant of these areas.

 

 

stop! in the name of the love of sightseeing!

 

When driving through, and walking around, downtown Detroit, the efforts to revitalize this neighbourhood were noticeable. Contemporary looking buildings are numerous, and beautiful artwork dots the streets.  While the weather was too rainy for them on our visit, the Detroit Riverfront  and Campus Meritus Park looked like fun places to take the family for some outdoor quality time.  There were many theatres and concert venues downtown, too, which I guess is to be expected from a city with a rich music history like Motown.

 

 

 

Once you start to venture outside of downtown, things in the city start to look more….gritty, for lack of a better term. Some of the more popular tourist spots are sprinkled all over the town, which allows you to see the grittiness up close.  If you only have 24 hours in Detroit, hitting up at least one of the tourist attractions really is a must, though.

For example, music lovers will appreciate a trip to Hitsville, USA, to check out the Motown Museum.  For hardcore and casual art enthusiasts,  the Detroit Institute Of the Arts and its huge collection is what’s up.   In our case, my friends at Visit Detroit hooked us up with complimentary tickets to The Henry Ford, so we had the pleasure of checking that place out.

The Henry Ford is the brainchild of, you guessed it, Henry Ford. It’s located in Dearborn, Michigan and is a huge indoor/outdoor museum complex, with the overriding theme of it being a tribute to Americana. The campus is home to the Henry Ford Museum Of Innovation, Greenfield Village, the Ford Rouge Factory and a giant 4K screen. We focused our attention on the artifacts, exhibits and memorabilia of the Henry Ford Museum. There were lots of hands on activities, and things to climb on/in, which was great, in term of keeping B, J and KJ engaged. The amount of cool, eye-opening stuff to be seen was impressive.

 

the henry ford museum

The Kennedy Presidential Limousine.

 

 

the henry ford museum

Paper Planes weren’t M.IA. in this exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum.

 

 

I do wish that we explored Greenfield Village (which features, among many highlights, one of Thomas Edison’s lab), but weather and timing did not permit this. Regardless, The Henry Ford was awesome. Just be sure to budget a fair chunk of your 24 hours in Detroit there accordingly, if you go.

 

 

the henry ford museum

 

One other comment. On the way back to Canada, my kids really got a kick out of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. The whole ‘being underwater to cross the border’ aspect was pretty neat (though not recommended for any claustrophobes).

 

TAKEOUT, OR SIGN, SEALED, DELIVERED?

 

If you’re like me,  your knowledge of Detroit cuisine consists of Little Caesars Pizza and Eminen’s mom’s spaghetti.  You probably aren’t like me, however. Anyhoo, Detroit’s food scene is quite dynamic. On the one hand, the rejuvenated downtown core is littered with trendy, hip restaurants. On the other hand, Motor City is still a blue collar town, and the dining options tend to reflect this.

One thing that my family and I were confused about  was why there were so many Coney Island restaurants, as we had never heard of them before. Turns out that these are a  Detroit staple, and the Coney dog is one of the city’s signature foods. Detroiters love these pseudo-gourmet hot dogs the same way that my fellow Hamiltonians love Tim Horton’s coffee, apparently.   Alas, I was not able to convince my family to indulge in one of these Detroit delicacies, as tasty as the sounded.

 

you heard it through the grapevine

 

downtown detroit

Note: this is not a grapevine.

 

When it comes to visiting Motown,  the city isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation.  Not once did I feel like myself or my family where in any imminent danger during our 24 hours in Detroit.  Just take the usual precautions that you would, when going to any major city, and you should be alright.  I got the impression that it is slowly improving, one neighbourhood at a time. It’s truly a proud, unique place, and while living there may be a different story, I enjoyed our brief time in town.

 

 

24 hours in detroit

Until the next one, peace out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like A Kid In A Grocery Store

With 2015 coming to an end, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the year that was. And with all of the reflecting, I came to an unexpected realization……

Shopping with children kind of sucks sometimes.

Back in the day, pre-kids, there wasn’t much to it. If I had to make a trip to a store, I could do it whenever I wanted.  I would grab my wallet and go. I’d get what I needed, and be back in good time. #nodillydallying.

Nowadays, though? Going to the store alone isn’t always feasible. At least some or all of the family usually comes. As such, quick trips are now time-consuming “outings” requiring significant planning prior to going.

Say it’s a few years ago, when B or J were babies, but K and I needed to get some stuff for the house. Well, we had to work around feedings/naptimes/bowel movements. Then, once the timing was acceptable, we would load up the diaper bag and head out, fingers crossed that there would be no crying outbursts/poopy diapers.

Here’s the other catch – as challenging as it is trying to shop with babies, it isn’t much easier with little kids! At least babies are immobile, you see. Small children are not. They have legs and are not afraid to use them.

Or their arms.

Or their brains.

Or their brains to come up with some impulsive, poorly thought out idea for their legs or arms to execute.

As such,  B and J require a different type of scheduling now, than when they were babies. For real, to minimize in-store incidents, I gotta scout and come up with a gameplan before leaving, like I’m Bill Belichick preparing for the Super Bowl (OK, so the lightbulbs are in the third aisle near the back, but the milk is on the other side of the place. If I come in through the left, go deep down the produce section, grab the milk, Hail Mary it out of dairy, and run a reverse through the candy aisle to avoid the toy display, I can snatch the bulbs after. Hut hut hut!).

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison

You’re welcome, Coach Bill, for the free play.

I really can’t stress the importance of this pre-planning. Failure to do so never ends well.

Lemme give you an example. The other day, we nonchalantly decided to go pick up a few things at the local Fortinos supermarket. While there, the following happened:

  • Upon arrival, B’s energy level, which was mellow in the car ride over,  went through the roof. He was uncontrollably hyperactive. Whoever said “like a kid in a candy store” never saw a kid in a grocery store.
  • B immediately ran over to the bakery to get free cookies for him and J (because hyper people obviously need a sugar rush). He gobbled his up, while J sat in the shopping cart slowly savouring hers.
  • Even though the cookies were small, with a few chocolate chips, J somehow got it smeared all over her. Remember when Augustus Gloop fell in the river, in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory? She kinda looked like that.
  • While we looked at fruit, B attempted to load the cart up with raspberries and blueberries. Why? Because he thought they were a great buy, courtesy of the sign near them that said ‘Great Buy!’
  • We restocked the berries. As we walked away, B ran off. He unexpectedly sprinted back toward us, slid on his knees about 10 feet and just missed colliding into our cart.
Like Hall of Famer Sam Rice, B would have been safe.

Like Hall of Famer Sam Rice, B would have been safe.

  • We told him to stop running. He started to dance and strut bow-legged through the store.
  • While carelessly busting a move, he smashed into a bread stand, knocking baguettes all over the floor.
  • He pretended to fall in the organic section, so he could roll on the ground.
  • Ever try to talk to someone, but you can tell they aren’t listening, by their body language? Picture that, but with the person’s eyes darting manically, while standing crouched as if they’re a tiger about to pounce. That was me trying to calm B down.
  • Since things were getting out of hand, I decided to hold his hand. Shockingly enough, Mr. Non-Stop Frenetic Energy suddenly didn’t move. No really, he dropped and refused to walk.
  • After a stern talking-to, he did behave……for a few minutes. As I was browsing in the canned goods aisle, I turned around and saw B on the ground, again (He spent so much time on the floor, I doubt Fortinos had to sweep that night). This time, his shoes were about 15 feet behind him.

B – “Well, I was running so fast that I lost my shoes!”

  • J wanted out of the cart, to take part in the fun. Her and B then entertained themselves by running their hands along the items on the shelves. How no glass jars ended breaking is beyond me.
  • When shopping with kids, be prepared to be asked by them about whether they can buy something. Typically, the something is really random. In J’s case at Fortinos, she asked for two packs of underwear that she found in the clearance section. We said no, and told her to put them back. She, of course, didn’t. She hid them in the shopping cart, instead. Imagine my surprise when going to check out, and finding little girl panties behind the frozen pizzas.

Anyway, you get the idea. It wasn’t our greatest experience in a grocery store.

Please don’t get it twisted, though. More often than not, our shopping expeditions are pretty enjoyable. Quality family time.

On occasion, however, they are pure, unmitigated, ill-advised disasters.

To conclude, let’s take heed of the words of a wise man, who once stated the following, in fancy writing:

quote

Alright, alright, the wise man was me. I just made those words up now.  At least it sounds like a quote a real wise person would say.

Regardless, Happy New Year, y’all!

May your trips to the stores in 2016 be more peaceful than mine!

 

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