One day in Detroit, Franklin Village & Ann Arbor, Michigan: a fall itinerary

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It’s almost September again, which means autumn is around the corner! 

I absolutely love living in Miami, but there is one thing that we never get to experience over here: seasons. Fall is my favorite one, and that’s the perfect excuse to go chasing falling leaves every year. One of my favorite fall trips so far has been our very unexpected overnight visit to Detroit, Franklin Village and Ann Arbor, in the state of Michigan. We went in late October, the peak of fall season! Although we only had a little over a day to enjoy the area, we managed to see a lot!

We found round trip tickets from Miami to Detroit for just $10 using one of my favorite travel apps. I won’t lie, I was skeptical since the Motor City has topped the list of America’s most dangerous cities several times. But Detroit was absolutely worth it. And just for the record, we also felt pretty safe exploring all the areas mentioned below. 

Here is everything we did during our visit. I hope it comes in handy when planning your next fall getaway to the D!

Visit Downtown Detroit & Campus Martius Park

Campus Martius Park is a small little urban park in Detroit, right in the heart of downtown. Our flight landed at around 8:00 AM and we were just looking for a place to have breakfast in the city and ended up in a Starbucks nearby. The park is small, but it was a pleasant surprise.  

Walk around, take some pictures and appreciate how the city is reinventing itself after all the socio-economic issues it has faced. Also check out the coffee shops and stores around Woodward avenue. I have read there are often events going on in this area during the weekends, including outdoor movie nights.

Walk along the Detroit RiverFront

From Campus Maritus Park, we walked to the famous Detroit RiverFront. This was an interesting area; the Detroit River separates the United States from Canada. From here, you could even see the Canadian flags in Windsor. So so close! The area also offers a great view of the Detroit Skyline. You could join the many joggers, skaters and other people enjoying the outdoors. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Explore Greektown + Greektown Casino

Greektown is a historic entertainment district very close to downtown Detroit. It is pretty much one corner, but it’s a cool block to wander if you are in the area. Its name comes from the fact that it was home to Greek immigrants back in the days. There are several Greek (and regular) coffee shops and restaurants, which makes it a good spot to grab breakfast or lunch. The Greektown Casino was also fun to explore. We went during the day, but I bet the area is much more lively at night.

Take the Ford Rouge Factory Tour at The Henry Ford Museum 

The Henry Ford Museum is only a 20-minute drive from downtown Detroit. The lady at the rental car check-in counter was extremely proud to recommend the museum when we asked for must-do things in the city. She insisted that “you haven’t been to Detroit if you don’t learn about Ford,” and I believe she is absolutely right. 

There are three main attractions inside the complex: Ford Rouge Factory Tour, Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village. It’s a 9-acres village that can easily be an all day thing. There is even a complimentary shuttle to move you around. Since we wanted to visit other areas in the afternoon, we only opted for the Ford Rouge Factory Tour.

The Ford factory tour is about 90 minutes and it takes you through five stages: 

  • A movie on the Ford history
  • An overview of the vehicles manufacturing process 
  • View of the Living Roof, a certified wildlife habitat
  • A catwalk view of the operating factory floor 
  • And finally a display of the vintage Ford vehicles. 

The Ford family has an amazing history. You get to see how line workers are able to assemble 60 vehicles in an hour from start to finish! It was really cool to learn how Henry Ford pioneered the use of the assembly line in manufacturing automobiles. 

I stand with the Hertz lady, it is a must-do in Detroit!

Visit the Franklin Cider Mill

After our factory tour, we drove another 20 minutes up north, to visit the Franklin Cider Mill. We got there at around 5 PM and the whole town was welcoming and charming, especially right before sunset … Exactly what you will expect from a small American town in the fall! Even the doctor’s offices were decorated with pumpkins, scarecrows and fall wreaths! The cider mill was also full of carved pumpkins!

You probably noticed by my over-used exclamation points that this was my favorite part of the trip. It felt like we got to experience the real Michigan fall spirit. They press and bottle their own cider right there at the Franklin Mill. However, what was even more interesting was the huge line to buy apple cider! Coming from Miami, this was totally new to me, and I was so impressed by this tradition.

They also sell their own German donuts and have several food stands selling fresh roasted corn on the cob, cheese, jams, red apples, apple pies and other goodies. It was nice to sit on one of the benches to watch the ducks swimming and kids playing along in the little river while soaking in the atmosphere.

Drive to Ann Arbor & visit the Blue Llama Jazz Club

From the mill, we drove to our final destination, the town of Ann Arbor. It is a small nearby college town, located just under 45 minutes from downtown Detroit. We decided to stay in the area so that we could check out their downtown the next morning. The University of Michigan was also on the list. The campus not only has a beautiful architecture, but it is also one of the best spots to enjoy the fall foliage in the area. That was the main reasons why we flew there in the first place (aside from the cheap tickets, of course!).

After such a long day, we had to go to bed by the time we made it to the hotel. I can’t speak of the nightlife in Ann Arbor, but if you’re a trooper, or if you are not as tired as we were, I’ve read that the Blue Llama Jazz Club is a must-do in the area. We have enjoyed jazz clubs in different cities and they can be a fun night out.

Brunch in downtown Ann Arbor + University of Michigan

We had another half day to spare before flying home. We decided to have brunch in downtown Ann Arbor and explore the area. I am surprised I still remember the name of the restaurant we chose. There were no intentions to start a blog back then, but somehow, Cafe Zola made its way into my long term memory. I guess I’ll let this picture of their waffles explain why.

After breakfast we walked around Main Street, full of small local shops, bookstores and cool street art. Our next stop was the University of Michigan. The whole town revolves mainly around the university, so of course we had to pass by. We pretty much just walked around the Law building and took a bunch of photos. Their campus is absolutely gorgeous. 

I have a thing for college campuses, and a handful of them have already  been scratched off my bucket list. Maybe I am crazy but I find them so romantic, especially if they are covered by falling leaves.

From Ann Arbor we drove back to the airport and returned to our never-ending summer. We didn’t even scratch the surface of Detroit, but I feel like we packed a lot in those 20-something hours. Michigan has a lot more to offer and we will be back one day…especially if it comes with another flight steal!

One thought on “One day in Detroit, Franklin Village & Ann Arbor, Michigan: a fall itinerary

  1. Oooh the Franklin Cider Mill sounds amazing! We don’t really have seasons here in Queensland either. It’s either boiling or warm hahaha I wish we had autumn leaves though (do Americans call them fall leaves???)

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