English Language Blog

Great American Cities – Detroit Posted by on Mar 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

It’s time to move again in our “Great American Cities” series. This month, we head to the Midwest and my hometown – Detroit. The city has been in the news a lot the past several years because of its decline into bankruptcy. These days, however, it is slowly climbing out of the ashes and making big improvements.


The city of Detroit as seen from Belle Isle.

Name – The original name of the city was le détroit du lac Érié. Given by French colonists, it means “The Strait of Lake Erie,” as it refers to the Detroit River connecting Lake Erie to Lake Huron.

Location – It is located in southeast Michigan in the Midwestern region of the USA.

Nicknames – Detroit has many nicknames: Motown because it was the headquarters for this musical genre in the 1950s, the Motor City because of the automotive industry that developed here, and Detroit Rock City because of all the rock stars from the city. Additional nicknames are The D, The 313, and Hockeytown, as the sport is very popular there.

Spirit of Detroit

The Spirit of Detroit statue.

Year Founded – The French colonists founded the settlement in 1701 and it was incorporated as a city in 1806.

Population – Since the 1960s Detroit’s population has been decreasing every year. It was once a city of 2 million people and one of America’s wealthiest cities. However, as of 2014 the estimated population was only 688,701, making it American’s 18th most populous city. The racial composition is 82.7% Black or African-American, 10.6% White, 6.8% Hispanic or Latino, 7.8% Non-Hispanic and 1.1% Asian.

Old Detroit train station

The old and abandoned train station still stands.

Transportation – Detroit is located on the shores of the Detroit River and near the border of Canada. This makes it a port city transporting goods between the two countries. Detroit is also a major transport hub thanks to its international airport and train station. Mass transit in the city is primarily provided by a bus system. There is an elevated rail system called the People Mover that goes in a loop around the downtown area. Currently they are constructing a street car system that will connect the People Mover to a commuter rail. There are plans to extend the commuter rail out to the surrounding suburbs.

Downtown Detroit

The RenCen and the rest of Detroit’s skyline.

Famous Places – The Renaissance Center (or RenCen for short) is the headquarters of General Motors (GM) and is the most well-known place in the city.

Belle Isle

Fountain on Belle Isle.

Belle Isle is an island in the Detroit River that has an aquarium, disc golf course, botanical garden and a beach for swimming. The Detroit Institute of Art has a large art collection as well as film screenings.

Heidelberg Project

A must-see if in Detroit.

The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art project started by an artist who grew up in that neighborhood in order to revitalize it. Gambling is also popular as there are many well-known casinos. Hitsville U.S.A was the home of Motown music and now serves as a museum telling the history of the famous genre.

Culture – Much of the culture of Detroit revolves around the music. The city is the birthplace of the Motown record label with such artists as The Temptations, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. It’s also home to many rock bands such as KISS. Hip-hop and rap music are also a huge part of Detroit culture – it’s Eminem’s hometown (yes, 8 Mile is a real street) – and it’s also thought to be the birthplace of Techno.

Detroit coney hot dog

A Detroit coney dog and Better Made chips.

When it comes to food, Detroit is famous for its many Greek restaurants and its Coney hot dog. There are two restaurants downtown that are next door to each other, both serving the famous dog. Try them both and take the ‘Coney Challenge.’

Comerica Park

Comerica Park – home of the Detroit Tigers.

Sports Teams – Detroit is home to four major sports teams:

  • NFL – Detroit Lions
  • NBA – Detroit Pistons
  • NHL – Detroit Red Wings
  • MLB – Detroit Tigers
Detroit Hockeytown

Detroit is Hockeytown.

The arenas where the Tigers, Lions and Red Wings play are all in the downtown area and prominent features of the city. These are Comerica Park, Ford Field and Joe Louis arena respectively. The city has won titles in three out of the four major sports, with the Red Wings holding the most titles (11) of any American hockey franchise. They are second only to the Montreal Canadiens in professional hockey.


Have you ever been to Detroit?

If yes, where did you go and how was your visit there?

If no, would you like to go there in the future? Why/why not?

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.


  1. Bart:

    I’ve never been to Detroit, MI and I would probably not go there anytime soon. This is because of a very negative portrayal of the city in the media.

    For example, Detroit was recently being reported as the city with the highest percentage of low-income residents. Detroit also came in the news because it tops the list of most violent cities in the US, mainly due to gang-related violence.

    All this is being exacerbated even more by reality TV shows like “Hardcore Pawn” on TruTV, which is shot in a pawn shop in Detroit and shows a very negative image of its residents in many ways.

    Generally the city is always portrayed as a “city on the decline” on TV. It’s nice to see that you wrote a totally different article on the city, but it would not be sufficient to take away my fear.

    So I guess these are the reasons why I will avoid Detroit for the time being.