Detroit Art Display
Location: Beacon Park
Detroit’s Beacon Park is hosting an interactive art installation, Prismatica! The event is FREE and open to the public through this weekend, ending tomorrow 11/19! Grab your camera and go!
The display is made up of rotating prisms and dazzling light spectacles. Logan and I spent our Saturday night walking through the park, gazing through every color of the spectrum.
It was a beautiful night, and the perfect activity for after dinner. We parked for free at the MGM Grand casino parking deck; which is just a 0.4 mile walk to the park. Hope my fellow Michiganders can make it out before the event is over, its free- and kid friendly!
If it gets too chilly, warm up inside the shelter area (pictured above) by showing off your dance moves!
Wish Upon A Star
Did you miss the Detroit Art display? No worries! Keep reading to discover what else Detroit has to offer in my Perfect Weekend in Detroit post!
Death Valley National Park is located on the California, Nevada state borders in the United States. Death Valley holds the title for driest, hottest, and lowest of all the U.S. National Parks. PLUS it’s the largest National Park outside of Alaska. In January, Logan and I spent the Perfect Weekend in Death Valley National Park. The plan was to see as much as we could in the time we had. The National Park was so amazing, we’re already planning our next trip back to explore more of this diverse landscape!
The park entrance fee is $25 usd per vehicle per day- I have an annual pass ($80 usd) we used to get in. With over 3 million acres of wilderness, sand dunes, slot canyons, rocky rainbow peaks, and miles of back country roads to explore- where do you begin?! We flew into Las Vegas after work the Friday of MLK weekend and rented a car to make the 2 hour drive through the desert into Death Valley.
Enjoy My Death Valley National Park Guide!
How to Get to Death Valley National Park
PRO TIP: Make your rental car and camping reservations early. Spend the money on a 4×4 high clearance vehicle. You’ll need one if you plan to do the backcountry drives- that includes the famous racetrack. It’s 27 miles of HARD road to get there, and the ever logical Logan deemed our compact car unfit for such conditions… preventing us from seeing the racetrack and other park sites (getting a flat or needing a tow truck in the middle of no where sounded not so fun).
Day 1: Death Valley National Park East Side
Stay the Night at Sunset Campground
We spent more time dicking around in Vegas than we anticipated, so we got to the park a little later than planned, meaning we got to drive around in the dark looking for an open site… the campground is first come first serve and there were plenty of spots (it seems we’ve made setting up camp in the dark an unintentional tradition). The campsite didn’t have a fire pit or picnic table but the campground had water and flush toilets (no showers). The sites weren’t very private and it felt like we were in a giant parking lot more than a campground. We set up our tent facing to the darkest side, and watched the sky light up with stars.
Artists Scenic Drive Loop
This scenic loop drive is 9 miles of paved road that takes you through multi-hued colorful volcanic and sedimentary hills. We had the the one way road to ourselves so we took our time as we drove. As the famous Artist Palette came into view we got out at the pull off and explored further into the rock formations for a small hike. Our little compact car did fine on the paved road.
Natural Bridge Hiking Trail
We did a few hikes in our time at the park, but this by far was our favorite. The road to get here is rough and rocky, we didn’t think our car was going to make it- thank God it did. The out and back hike took us 1 mile round trip from the natural bridge formation- bbbbbut don’t stop there!
We hiked back as far as we could get past the bridge (another mile or so) and the dramatic canyon turned to beautifully colored marble walls glistening around us. You could see the remains of a dried up waterfall, and how the powerful element carved it’s mark permanently into the earth. It was incredibly pretty, and the tall narrow canyon kept us shaded from the sun.
It was 75 degrees and sunny when we walked a mile out to the salt flats 282 ft below sea level- the lowest point in North America. There was no shade, and in the dead of winter- we were hiking in Death Valley, and for the first time- we felt it. I’ve seen salt flats in Bolivia, and they were miles and miles long.
But these were the first salt flats with water I’d seen, and it was an incredible sight (and another reason I FREAKING LOVE MY TEVAS). I walked out into the salty water expecting the lake I saw before me to get deeper as walked further out. The water never went above my ankle in depth- and from afar it looked to others as if I was walking on water. It was a magical experience.
If you’re looking for the best spot to catch a sunrise or sunset- this is it. The golden colored badlands make for an amazing backdrop to natures free shows each day. Start your day or end your day here- you won’t be disappointed either way you do it. We missed the point coming into the park at night, so we made sure we caught it on our way back out!
Day 2: Death Valley National Park North Side
Stone Pipe Wells Campground
We spent our 2nd night in this first come first serve campground that’s only open during the winter season; the campground has tent only sites everywhere, and a lot of private options; we had a beautiful view outside our tent of the mountains across the desert- there’s flush toilets and water, but no fire pits or picnic tables.
Hundreds of years ago, a massive volcanic explosion happened in Death Valley. Magma mixing with an underground spring caused the explosion that created this 600 ft deep crater. As we drove to the trail head you could see the landscape around us changing from light colored brown tones to dark volcanic black sand. You can hike the full rim of the crater (around 1.5 miles round trip) but we were short on time, so we hiked to see little ubehebe crater and enjoyed the views before heading back down.
This was the hike I was most excited about. The 4 mile hike took us through polished marble narrows, and required a bit of rock climbing (scrambling). It was beautiful walking through the labyrinth of smooth rock.. The colorful walls changed in color and texture along the hike, making for gorgeous photo opportunities.
We ended our day exploring the west side of the park. As soon as I saw their was a “rainbow canyon” I knew we couldn’t leave without seeing it. The drive takes a couple hours, so we stocked up on fuel and road trip snacks in Stovepipe Wells Village before heading towards the canyon. The drive to Father Crowley Vista was one of the most scenic drives I’ve ever done. A landscape of dark lava flows and volcanic cinders turns to rainbow canyon with an explosion of color. As you’re driving through the mountains you can see the colors start to pop the closer you get.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Hike to the largest dune field in the park for another great spot to catch a sunrise or sunset. You can walk as far out into the dunes as you want, the hike to summit the highest is about 2 miles roundtrip. We walked through the sand up and down the dunes until we found the perfect sunset viewing peak, all to ourselves.
Furnace Creek Campground
We spent our last night back on the east side of the park (where the only showers in the park were)- it was MLK Day, and the park entry and camping was free for the holiday! We were expecting a huge crowd but we had no issue finding a site on the first come first serve sites. It was our favorite campsite, we had a picnic table, a fire ring, and nobody around us. Of course the night we have furniture the clouds decided to be assholes- we didn’t see one star that night. Instead we were kept awake by the howling of the locals (aren’t they just adorable?!?).
Download your Death Valley Checklist of must see activities!
Showers are only available at the privately owned Furnace Creek Resort. It’s $5 per person for a pool pass that gives you access to their pool & showers/locker room. **These are the only showers in the entire park, and if you’re camping and hiking, you will want a shower.**
You can rent a 4×4 high clearance vehicle by the hour in the town of Furnace Creek from a privately owned company.
There is 1 restaurant (Stovepipe Wells Village) and a few small grocery stores inside the park (Stovepipe Wells Village & Furnace Creek).
It is a 2 hour drive to the park from Las Vegas and a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles. The park is located in both California & Nevada.
The holiday season is my favorite time of year. My friends come home to Michigan from all over the country, work shuts down for a weeklong vacation, and I get to spend my afternoons brunching with my girlfriends instead of sitting in meetings. When my friends come home I always ask them– where do you want to go? what are you craving? Almost immediately the response includes something or somewhere only Michigan can provide.
Here’s the “Michigan Foods” you must try if you’re visiting the Great Lakes State!
Cider & Donuts
Growing up in Michigan meant going to cider mills in the fall. Cider mills meant melt in your mouth delicious cinnamon sugar covered donuts and crisp apple cider to wash it down. The cider mills used to only be open during the fall- but as popularity of the cider donut combo grew- the hours of some of the larger mills extended into the other seasons. There are so many cider mills within driving distance of Detroit- if you’re in Michigan, this is one treat you don’t want to miss. (Click Here to find a cider mill near Detroit!)
Lafayette Coney Island VS American Coney Island. The ongoing battle for best Coney in Detroit is a long one. The two restaurants are next door to each other on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Lafayette Boulevard- try them both, and you be the judge on who does em best.
Chicken Finger Hani
Crispy chicken tenders, lettuce, american cheese and tomato wrapped in a pita smothered in delicious homemade ranch. You can find this signature sandwich at most Coney’s in Michigan– making it my go to sandwich for lunch more often then I care to admit. In fact, I’m pretty sure the Kerby’s by my office knows me by name …
A pasty, or meat pie- is a hearty, savory, pastry filled with meat, potatoes and veggies. The pasties have an unusual history, and were originally made for the copper mine workers. There aren’t many places in the U.S you can get your hands on these, so if you’re from outta town- don’t leave without trying one!
Detroit Style Pizza
My favorite Detroit style pizza is made by Buddy’s. My recommendation would be to get their award winning Detroiter pizza with a huge side of homemade ranch to dip it in- oh and don’t forget the Buddy bread while you’re waiting.
Getting ice cream after dinner happens all year round in Michigan. In the summer- going out for ice cream is pretty standard a couple nights a week (at least in my home). Even in January when temperatures are in the negatives- we’re in the freezer aisle picking up ice cream. Yes I know froyo is the cool thing, but we take our ice cream in Michigan serious- which means dairy & sugar- so skip the froyo and try something local your taste buds will thank you for like Cook’s Dairy, Hudsonville, or Sanders.
Spending time in Detroit? Check out my guide for what to do here!
Detroit is the largest city in Michigan- with several nicknames. We lovingly refer to our beloved city as “The D”, “Motown”, “The Motor City”, or most recent- “America’s Comeback City.” Having grown up just 30 miles north of the city, and done my fair share of traveling around the world- I feel Detroit is seriously underrated as a travel destination. But fear not! Detroit city is making a comeback. Lonely Planet recently ranked the D- No.2 in the top 10 cities to travel in 2018, making it the ONLY continental U.S. city on the list.
Ready to see what all the hype is about?.
Here’s your guide to Detroit in a weekend!
Brunch Instead of Lunch
Brunch: My favorite meal of the day. Detroit has so many options for a delicious mid-day meal, and many are centrally located right downtown. Here are some of my personal favorites!
Dime Store: This dime is a little hidden- it’s located inside the Chrysler House at 719 Griswold Street. Order a peach mimosa, with your eggs benny and find out why they call it Detroit’s #1 breakfast spot. Pro Tip: While you’re waiting for a table, go around the corner of the Chrysler Building to Bon Bon Bon and snack on the most adorable, tasty, handmade chocolate boxes you’ll ever taste.
The Hudson Café: Located in the heart of downtown Detroit, the namesake comes from the old Hudson’s department store that was across the street from the café. I would recommend trying their delicious Baklava French Toast- covered in walnuts, pistachios, and drizzled in honey.
Parks & Rec Diner: To get here- enter at the corner of Grand River and Cass Avenues. Breakfast & lunch are served all day, every day. The artisanal menu boasts a number of traditional fan favorites- I had the mouthwatering C-Day Benny: Thanksgiving spiced, smoked & pulled local chicken, poached eggs, sweet potato biscuit smothered in sausage gravy. But the real winner was the melt in your mouth delicious Crème Brûlée French Toast.. it was so different than I expected- soaked in orange anglaise coated in a crackly sugar crust and fresh fruit, served with two eggs any style-we went with scrambled.
Gold Cash Gold: Located in Corktown, this old pawn shop turned hipster eatery has a fantastic farm to table rotating seasonal menu.Try their take on the classic chicken & waffle- made with a cornbread waffle, hot & spicy fried chicken, and an orange sorghum butter, it’ll satisfy your sweet AND savory cravings.
Shop Eastern Market
You can’t visit Detroit without experiencing the oldest and largest year-round market in the US. During the busy season, Eastern Market has over 225 market vendors with up to 40,000 visitors in one day. Depending on the season, you can expect fresh Michigan grown produce, fresh proteins, TREATS, flowers, hand crafted goods, and all kinds of fun stuff. I would recommend getting here early on the weekends (like 7-8 a.m. early). Parking is free but fills up fast, the earlier you get there the better chance you have of getting a good spot. After you’re done shopping- head a couple blocks over to the Detroit Distillery and wet your whistle with their hand crafted cocktails.
Get Inspired By The Heidelberg Project
The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art environment on Detroit’s East Side- about 5 minutes from Eastern Market. The project is on Heidelberg Street- the street that the local artist grew up on. In 1986 the artist started transforming his childhood neighborhood that had turned to poverty and shambles into a massive piece of art. The old abandoned houses and lots were cleaned, and the refuse collected was recycled back to create the artwork. The street, sidewalks, trees, and anything else on this street has become a part of this neighborhood gem.
Campus Martius Park
Visit Detroit’s gathering place, Campus Martius Park. Located downtown, the park has spectacular skyline views and is home to the always flowing Woodward Fountain, gardens, historical monuments and the popular Parc Restaurant. The park is open year round with activities for everyone- in the summer it’s turned into a small beach where you can relax and sip on cocktails in the middle of the city- while in the winter the park transforms into a winter wonderland, with the most popular ice skating rink in the area. Make sure to check their calendar of events before you go, there’s often special events on weekends- you don’t want to miss out!
The District Detroit is one of the largest sports and entertainment developments IN THE COUNTRY. Located in the heart of Detroit, the 50 blocks include just about everything, including businesses, parks, restaurants, and bars. This newly formed district brings together eight world-class theaters, five neighborhoods and three professional sports venues. In addition to the residents, the district is also home to the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Pistons and Detroit Lions- making it the district with the most professional sports teams in one downtown…again… IN THE COUNTRY. This is where the action is- grab some tickets if you’re in Detroit on game day, and experience what Detroit is really like with the fans in the city we love over the teams we love.
Visit Belle Isle
Belle Isle Park is a 982-acre island on the Michigan side of the Detroit River. The park is home to Belle Isle Aquarium, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Belle Isle Nature Center, and the James Scott Memorial Fountain. No matter what season it is- there’s always something to do on Belle Isle. Take a walk around the island and explore, you’ll find an old lighthouse, several historical sites, and incredible views of both Detroit and Windsor across the river.
Detroiters love their coffee; it’s also a requirement for me to start my day with something that contains caffeine. The Roasting Plant is the perfect place to grab a fresh cup of joe (and just so happens to be my favorite coffee shop in Detroit). The coffee beans are stored in a Javabot (super cool tub machine that shoots the beans out through tunnels you can see) at the center of the shop- measured out per order. You can blend up to four different varieties per cup, they’re brewed within seconds – fresh just for you. I would recommend the Jamaica Blue Mountain blend- a bright acidity with a butter-soft body. Aromas of almond and praline come first, followed by dark chocolate, and energetic lemon zest.
Great Lakes Coffee has a few locations in Southeast Michigan including one in Midtown. If you’re looking for somewhere cozy with tea options and yummy baked goods and sandwiches, head to Corktown over to Astro Coffee.
Astoria Pastry Shop
Located in the Greektown District of Detroit, Astoria Pastry Shop is open till 1:00 a.m. on weekends for all your late night sweet tooth cravings. They have TONS of yummy treats- you’ll find something for everyone, from muffins, to cannoli’s, to fancy cheesecakes. Astoria has been filling Detroiters with goodies since the 1970’s- making it a local staple and a must try on your visit to Detroit.
Eat in Detroit
Detroit is rapidly transforming itself into a food mecca with foodie approved eateries throughout the entire city- the majority of which are locally owned and operated. Head to Hamtramck over to Polish Village for some pierogis that will give your taste buds an explosion of flavor. Feeling spicy? You’ll want to go to Mexican Town for some tasty tacos. Some of the best sushi I’ve had has been at Maru. It’s the perfect spot for a nice night out and a warm cup of Japanese tea. Wright & Co is great for sharing- with their menu consisting of creative seasonal small plates, my friends and I always order a couple plates a person, and then share family style.
Some of my favorite trips are the ones that happen spontaneously, that being said- I spend a lot of my time on skyscanner. Almost every single day, I’m looking at flights out of Detroit to see what kind of deals are out there (everyone always asks me how I travel so much= skyscanner). So when I found roundtrip tickets to Denver out of Detroit for under $100 ROUNDTRIP per person- I booked Logan and I tickets .0001 seconds later. (Umm sweetheart, we’re going to Denver next weekend ok?) Did I mention the tickets were for Friday to Sunday? Aka 48 hours? The perfect weekend getaway was officially set into motion.
Thoughts of mountains, road trips, and all the good food started taking over. I started thinking about all the amazing things on my Pinterest Board there are to do in Denver and the surrounding areas (I knew we couldn’t go THAT close to the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and NOT explore it.) We only had 48 hours from take off to landing back in Detroit. So with so little time and so much to do how do you choose? Two days. Two ways to spend them, one day in the city, one in the mountains = perfect!
We landed in Denver early Friday morning and picked up our rental car. It was 11 a.m. in Denver but we had been up since 5 a.m. Detroit time and this girl hadn’t eaten yet- that made finding food priority #1. I read everywhere that Snooze was THE place for brunch in Denver. This place certainly lived up to the hype. There was a 45 minute wait for a table (still hungry) and the restaurant was located in an old train station full of cute shops and eateries. We set off to explore a bit, and may have done some snacking while we waited…
After what might have been my favorite meal of the trip and some long over due caffeine we headed out to explore Denver. We popped into a couple local dispensaries to see what legal marijuana was all about. The weed dispensaries are everywhere, on every square block, of Denver. You’re usually within walking distance of one in most parts of the city. Since we turned 21 a couple years ago… (ok so it was more then a couple) we could just walk into any that looked cool. One was located in this older abandoned building… it was on the top floor of this old creepy spiral carpeted staircase. We contemplated turning back each step up we took, thinking surely we were in the wrong spot (we weren’t).
We ventured over to Larimer Square to explore the local shops and see the famous lights (we went a little too early, they weren’t turned on yet). It was September, just the beginning of the fall season- and the weather that day was perfect, cloudy and 70 degrees. Perfect for walking around with a delicious cup of coffee. While we walked around the city, I decided Denver was my favorite city. I loved the vibes, the art pieces (even the restaurant signs were creative and artsy), the cleanliness of the city. This mountain town was someplace I must return to someday.
The cottage we were staying at in Estes Park (Dripping Springs Resort) was about an hour an a half drive from the city of Denver. As soon as we pulled into the drive way I knew this place was magical. We parked the car outside the cute entrance way and followed the path into the main house to check in. The dogs of the owners of the B&B greeted us with excited barks. We were shown a tour of the grounds, which included a smoking gazebo, a porch with chairs and hammocks (all overlooking the river) a few nature walking paths through the woods, and our cabin.
I felt like I was living a fairy tale. We stayed in the Canopy Cottage B&B Room. The cabin was meticulously decorated, with a warm and homey feel. We had a private porch with soft outdoor lighting overlooking the river that included a jacuzzi tub and bistro table & chairs. I didn’t think we’d be making it to the RMNP. This place was perfect, and I never wanted to leave. At this point in the night we had been traveling all day and the last thing I wanted to do was get back in the car. There was a mini fridge, teapot and wine glasses- but no food. But because this place is perfect- there was an assortment of menus in the room- and a delivery service ($3.00 usd) for any of the restaurants on the list… I’m sorry what? You’ll deliver me food to my cabin in the middle of no where so I don’t have to leave? Did I mention that I love this place? When the food arrived we ate out on the patio and warmed up in the jacuzzi before bed. The canopy bed was draped in sheers with twinkle lights, covered in a mountain of fluffy pillows- it was a beautiful night so we left the door open, and fell asleep to the sounds of the river.
Breakfast was served at 8:30 a.m. sharp in the main house. We were served a home cooked meal family style- of hot oatmeal, potato pancakes, breakfast meat, fresh fruit, and eggs. It was the perfect meal to get us ready for the long day of exploring we had ahead of us in the Rockies. Before we left we were given our picnic basket (you can picnic baskets, s’mores, and other cute romantics) which we enjoyed later that day on our road trip through the RMNP.
Estes Park is only a 10 minute drive to the entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park. Our plan was to just drive on Trail Ridge Road (highway 34) from Estes Park to Grand Lake. It’s a 48 mile route that connects to east and west side of the rocky mountains. The drive was absolutely beautiful. It was early fall- and the yellow birch trees were in full force everywhere you looked, dotting the green colored mountains.
The drive along Trail Ridge Road (commonly referred to as the highway to the sky) crosses the Continental Divide. Of the 48 miles on this route- 11 of those miles are driven ABOVE the treeline, with elevation near 11,500 feet. The evergreen forest starts to disappear as you climb higher into the windy tundra to the highest point at 12,183 feet in elevation. We parked the car to walk out to the viewing point. With the high winds the clouds and fog made the visibility of the mountains a peep show of peaks popping in and out of view.
A word of caution should you decide to travel the Trail Ridge Road through the park for a few hours- the air is thin at these high altitudes (10,500- 13,000 ft). Traffic is slow- and the blind drop offs along the way make the drive strenuous. The weather is unpredictable- and travel above the tree lines should be accomplished early in the day.
We continued back down in elevation towards the city of Grand Lake to have some dinner. It had started to rain when we arrived, and the temperature had started to drop drastically so we decided to skip the kayaking. Instead we walked around downtown shopping at the little shops and checking out the food scene (not as impressive as Denver) we found a pizza joint and got some coffee for the road trip back.
We headed north on 34 back towards Estes Park. When we arrived at the west entrance of RMNP, the guard informed us that the road to Estes Park was closed due to snow. WHAT. We were just there a couple hours ago and it was beautiful! We had to turn around- we can’t get back home that way… that meant a 4 hour detour AROUND the park- not even through it.
Thankfully Colorado is all gorgeous and the ride home turned out to be more scenic then we anticipated! Despite the turn around- we had an amazing weekend exploring the beautiful Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park. See below for a complete itinerary of our weekend in Denver- what can YOU do in two days?
48 Hours in Denver Itinerary
Friday, Sep. 22 – Sunday, Sep. 24
Friday 9/22: Depart DTW 7:00 am SPIRIT
Arrive Denver 8:00 am
Pick up rental car
Snooze (1701 Wynkoop St #150, Denver, CO 80202)
Tattered Cover Book Store
Ice Cream Riot (1238 E Colfax Ave)
Pig Train Coffee
Milkbox Ice Creamery
Larimer Square (1430 Larimer St)
Drive 1.5 hours to Dripping Springs Resort
Saturday 9/23: Rocky Mountain NP
Trail Ridge Road: The highest continuously paved highway in the U.S., this 48-mile route connects the town of Grand Lake (on Rocky Mountain’s west side) to Estes Park (the eastern gateway). In between, it scales treeless peaks and crosses the Continental Divide. Trail head pull offs are located along the road to explore deeper into the park.
Grand Lake: Paddle a kayak or SUP across Colorado’s largest natural lake, which affords wide-open panoramas of the surrounding peaks.