Steampunk World Wednesday: Why Steampunk is Bigger Than the Victorian Era:

In the olden days, back in 2009/2010, before AnomalyCon was even conceived of, I would have told you that Steampunk was Victorian Science Fiction. It was a pat answer many of the Colorado Steampunks settled for when trying to explain to passersby what we were doing in Victorianesque garb in the middle of a hot July. I would have linked you this 9 news story, wherein Aimee Matheny and I were both interviewed, wherein the Colorado Steampunks suddenly gained many members, and wherein the voiceover stole almost every line I said because they decided a male voice was more interesting than mine… really?

In that day I was still focused on the initial draw of Steampunk, the pretty side. The interesting costumes that usually have something to do with an era somewhere, the goggles and the personas and the idea that anyone could captain an airship. I grew up absorbing books like 101 Balloons and 20,000 Leagues and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Steampunk was right up my alley. It was defined as, at the most basic level, advanced technology powered by steam/gears set in the Victorian Era. In essence, the end of the Industrial Revolution rolled back to happen in the beginning.

But then I started writing Radio STEAM, thanks to the initial idea by Ryan, who is also on AnomalyCon’s board of directors. I started putting a lot of business and organization into the Steampunk hobby, and it became more real to me than just a Jules Verne novel. It became very important to me to empower creative people to make more of themselves than starving artists–to give musicians, artists and authors outlets for expanding their influence, improving themselves and creating more good stuff. So AnomalyCon has a beautiful Steampunk aesthetic, but the content is as much about becoming more or breaking into that creative thing each person wants to be.

You see, there are many facets to this genre that we’ve lumped together under the Steampunk banner. Sometimes those facets become factions, but like any large gathering of people, not everyone will always get along. Just ask anyone who plays first person shooters.

The first facet I focused on was that of women’s equality–and not just women, but also gays, lesbians, the bisexual, the transgender, the ambiguous and the certain. Those who wish to flaunt their sexuality and those who do not. In the Victorian era these things were acceptable, but only in private places (read or watch Tipping the Velvet or Fingersmith if you dare). Steampunk brings postmodern sensibilities to a premodern design concept. I don’t know about other parts of the world, but in Colorado this is basically the only “geekdom” that is dominated by women–which reflects in the fact that AnomalyCon has a 60% female attendance, and that most of our biggest authors (Cherie Priest, O.M. Grey, Gail Carriger, Delilah S. Dawson, I can go on…) are female. Some men might turn their nose up at that, but the industrial gentleman will realize that means he is, as a person interested in steampunk, a commodity to the straight female audience. It certainly turns the tables compared to other fandoms where any woman daring to sneak her head into the door is instantly considered a piece of meat (anime fandoms sometimes not included).

The next facet that intrigued me was the availability of technology. As a systems engineer I design and implement huge environments, and I know why everything does what it does–but at the silicon level, the molecular level? The average person–even the average super genius–couldn’t tell you why all that green stuff with gold and silver wiring actually transmits the kind of data we process on a daily basis. In the industrial age, and even with Babbage’s machine, everything made sense when you broke it down into common components. You could pop the hood of a steam engine, so to speak, and tell where all the parts went and how they worked. I often hear mechanics bemoan that modern cars are impossible to work on unless you specialize, because they aren’t designed for average people to use.
Would I miss my smart phone? Oh yes. But read The Difference Engine. Look at designs by Da Vinci and, better yet, look at Al-Jazari, who was basically a robotics genius of the 13th century. (Read this article about badass pre-electric robots). While people of the age didn’t necessarily understand how the devices worked, it was likely because they were revolutionary at the time. Or the designers were better at protecting themselves under the hood…

The next aspect that really hooked me tied into the technology thought process–that of making, adapting, building, reusing, repurposing. Taking common junk that fills old houses and landfills and turning it into props, devices, aesthetically pleasing attire, decor, points of interest. Some of our local tinkerers are very good at this, but others have gained world reknown for their design choices. People can start at any level, from painting squirt guns to rebuilding them into something completely beyond the scope of plastic. People can sew their own clothes or cut, slash, tuck and adapt things they find in the thrift stores. The only limit to style is a person’s own elitism, because while the “Steam” has a basis in the idea of the Industrial Revolution, the “Punk” is when you adapt it to your own devices. It’s not just the maker ethos, it’s also making recycling sexy.

With these facets–equality, ingenuity and adaptability–I find that Steampunk is so far beyond just the Victorian era, or even the British/American concept. It is taking advanced technology powered by kinetic energy (steam, gears, etc) that is visible to the human eye, and putting it out of its time. Add a sprinkle of the idea that more than just one person in the world can be a creator, can build and design. Instead of being the minority, they are the norm. Empower the common human to have control over their life and resources in a way most people can’t imagine in modern life. And then, go forth and modify something.

 

Relationships: Lesbians, Professionalism, and the “Dyke Effect”

Time to get back to the serious side with a little (hopefully discussion-starting) experience and food for thought. Warning, the language in this post may be inappropriate for small-minded thinkers or anyone with a PG filter.

But first, an image:

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Now that I hopefully have your attention… Let’s look back 10 years, to the days of retail IT support for yours truly. In those days I was a naive 18ish and I worked with a primarily male staff. For some reason, workplaces tend to feel they have the right to know all about you–a not totally unheard of concept, since you tend to spend more waking hours with your coworkers than you do with your loved ones. I got hired on by referral from a (male) friend, who was alternately assumed to be my brother or my lover. Neither was true, naturally. So then when it got out that I wasn’t attached, a couple of the least attractive and lowest self esteem guys in the office decided to try to stake a claim.
Now, I wasn’t out yet–and this was part of my problem. But the jokes in the office started going around (and those jokes started even being cited to coworkers) that I was the “dykiest straight girl” anybody knew. Apparently my naturally trim figure fit some stereotype, or my lack of interest in coworkers. Go figure.
The bad part about this is that I played along with the game and heard myself telling the same jokes, as some kind of coping mechanism for the fact that I was afraid I’d be looked down on for fighting back against the idea that a woman who didn’t jump at every opportunity for a boyfriend, who was going to college and had big dreams, and who was working in IT, must be a lesbian.

That was a mouthful. Even through getting together with Jamie, the love of my life, and being promoted to a pseudo-lead position, I still felt the need to hide who I was. Which meant that somehow I wound up in a big pissing contest between the biggest loser on the team around which of us deserved the IT lead position more. Sales numbers were the final deciding factor, just in time for me to transfer with my bigoted boss to a new store closer to my home–I transferred because I didn’t know the new guy, and at least if my bigoted boss was a bigot, it was the evil I knew. When I transferred, I decided to be out and open for my own sake. This opened a new can of worms for me, as I experienced–for the first time–the effects of being “one of the guys.” Now, instead of criticizing my (perceived) mannishness, they were dragging me into pissing contests about who could do what, joking that I should move things (instead of the skinny guy with the same birthday), threatening people with my (perceived) violence. If someone got into an argument they’d call me over because they liked to see a small (I’m only 5’4″) “dyke” beat someone into submission.  I found myself in a new predicament, partly based on my misperception of the idea of feminism. Like many people, I’d been brainwashed to think feminist=man hater, and so I played along with the misogynistic joking, the flirting, the checking out of hot women like they were so many slabs of meat… But under it all there was always this clear assumption that even if I wasn’t out, they would all just know I was a lesbian because of…what? I’m trim and have a 4′ long braid. I wore glasses at the time. I wore a standard uniform that was too big because they didn’t make them in my size. Very lesbian of me. I’m in IT? I was a lead site tech at that time. I was going to school for psychology. Where does all of this equal dyke?

Oh, wait. It’s the woman in a man’s field, right?

Now, I understand the need for people to categorize things. And I like women too, so I can see how straight guys might get confused. I continued on to work as a field engineer, then briefly in helpdesk (the only job I’ve ever worked that was dominated by women, and were they mad about it), a remote systems engineer, and now an SA at R Company. And finally I get to a company where I am not basically the only woman. I feel like I can breathe a little. Some people I work with are actually surprised (not mean, just surprised) when I mention my wife in casual conversation. Like they didn’t automatically assume. Because we all know straight is the default, right? R Company even has a big GLBTA, so I feel like my rights are a little more secure.

But then the other day we’re talking about Game of Thrones at work, and I complain about the gore and the gratuitous abuse of women. And one of my male coworkers goes “Yeah, I know! But you’re one of the guys too, so you love the tits and blood as much as the rest of us.”

Dead silence.

And then it hits me. Why the hell do lesbians have to be “one of the guys?” Why does liking women automatically exclude us from being women? My wife is certainly more effeminate than I am–she owns heels, skirts, makeup. I like men’s clothes because the sizes make more sense and I look damn fine in an ascot.

But why does our culture have such an obsession with the absolutes of male and female? This moment I’m not experiencing the “dyke effect” because I am an engineer. All of a sudden it’s just because my cube mate knows I appreciate attractive women. And video games. So now I have to be OK with the objectification of the female body, and be comfortable with the blatant comments made (even by female coworkers) about stereotypical female behavior? Granted, Jamie and I kinda have a 50s relationship (I work, she stays home). Except we break all the rest of the stereotypes. She does most of the driving. I do most of the cooking. I tuck our daughter in at night. I love to read and she prefers movies.

I’m getting on a tangent here. I really just want to open discussion about what I am suddenly nicknaming the “dyke effect.” I feel that there is a scale, and the more points you hit on this stereotype scale, the more likely people are to make assumptions that you are really just a straight male stuck in a woman’s body. Clothing choices, hair styles, and professional career all hit these points. I also feel like a woman less within the “straight male” definition of attractiveness is more likely to be thrown into that category.

Weigh in, where have you observed this effect? And how can we change these perceptions?

 

 

Top 10 Steampunk Vacations: #0! The Moon!

Why a #0? Because the number system really only contains numbers 0-9, and I should’ve made this top ten list numerically accurate…or because someone suggested “The Moon” after I’d already started counting.

How does the moon stack up? Watch this film by George Melies called “A Trip To The Moon,” and tell me every good Steampunk doesn’t want to visit and see the wreckage of 1902. You can see the hand colored version on the Wiki page. Now, go watch the movie Hugo, which is both a glorious representation of Steampunk gadgetry and a wonderful reimagining of Melies.

Let’s move on to the actual lunar landing, which was accomplished using basically a giant version of pong and a bucket of bolts. The original Star Trek (which was also vaguely retro-Steampunk), was higher tech.

Now tell me why Google Maps can’t find your neighborhood haberdashery?

HG Wells and Jules Verne were both appropriately obsessed with the moon. Go read Wells’ The First Men in the Moon and Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon.

Now, go plan your moon trip 

Look at this blog on Steampunk Rocketry for inspiration.

And then build your rocket:

Bon Voyage!

 

Looking for the rest of the top 10?

#1 – Colorado!
#2 – England!
#3 – Tokyo!
#4 – Michigan!
#5 – San Francisco!
#6 – New England Region!
#7 – New Orleans!
#8 – Vienna, Austria!
#9 – Carribbean!
#10 – Berlin!

Honorable Mentions:
New Zealand’s Steampunk Town

Top 10 Steampunk Vacations: #1!

And the winner is…

Colorado!

“Now, Kronda,” I hear you saying, “why are you showing special favoritism for your home state? How could it possibly be the top Steampunk destination in the world?”

I’m glad you asked. Aside from being home to one of the largest Steampunk events in the U.S. (AnomalyCon, 1200+ attendees, established 2011) and one of the largest enthusiast groups in the U.S. (the Colorado Steampunks, 1200 members, established 2009), Colorado’s major modern development began with a gold rush in 1848, and it wasn’t established as a state until 1876. That means that the bulk of our development occurred during the Colonial Victorian Era, and with the added incentive of the gold rush we experienced a lot of Victorian envy. Colorado is also ripe with “Wild West” history. Finally, because of the protective nature of the mountains, most of the history in the Denver metro area has been unimpacted by the rage of storms, fires, tornados, earthquakes, and especially hurricanes. That means we have hundreds of still-intact historical sites to explore.

Still not convinced? Read more about Colorado’s history here.

The number of points of interest are off the charts, so we’ll start with just a few to whet the appetite.

First, we have two railroad museums, the Colorado Railroad Museum (which boasts lots of trains for climbing on and plenty of preserved or almost-preserved steam trains). They are old friends of the Colorado Steampunks and love to see new faces. If you’re up for a drive, stop by the Greeley Freight Station Museum, which features life-size model trains and a whole town built as a backdrop for their exhibits! Add to these the Forney Museum of Transportation, which basically features anything and everything on wheels. Finally, Wings Over the Rockies is an air and space museum with dozens of planes and reproductions. Wrap up your transportation fascination by catching a ride on either the Royal Gorge Railroad (who offers dinner and murder mystery train rides) or the Leadville Train. Leadville is an old mining town, and the highest-elevation city in Colorado. Try to plan your trip during a time when you can see the Colorado Balloon Classic–a long hot air balloon festival. If you can’t make it to that, the Kite Festival in Arvada is usually in mid-to-late April. Both are free to attend.

Now for a historical walking tour of Denver. Denver hosts an awesome event every year called Doors Open Denver in mid-ish-April, wherein many historical buildings (even businesses) offer an open house to visit the cool architecture. The Colorado Steampunks usually make an appearance, and much history is available on these free tours. Unfortunately, their website only updates close to event time–but you can see past tours.

Now, as far as walking tours go this will be a long one! Try to take this tour on the First Friday of the month, if you can. Start your journey at what is now the Tivoli Student Union. This building started as a brewery and still retains much of the old equipment. AnomalyCon occurred in the Tivoli for its first two years. Wandering its halls is free, and some of the best photography comes from the old boiler rooms and the giant geared equipment. Park in the lot nearby for all day parking for only $6, which is a real steal downtown.

Next you will walk (or catch the Lightrail Line C) to Union Station, which was originally a railroad depot and still retains the old benches and charm. In the basement old vaults still line the halls and two model railroad clubs often have demonstrations down there. The outside is still a glorious image of the time, and the bold logo face of Union Station is as synonymous with Denver as the Eiffel Tower is of Paris.

Move on from there to the Byron White Courthouse–a beautiful building with old columns and white marble architecture. Don’t get caught taking too many photos, though! Cut over to 16th Street Mall to see the original Daniels and Fisher clock tower, now renovated to be an events venue with a view–it also makes for a glorious photo backdrop. Catch the free mall ride to the other end of the mall. Stop by the beautiful Cathedral Basilica and then cut over to the Denver Mint and the Capitol Building–both have tours available.

Now, finish up your tour by taking a jaunt over to the Santa Fe Arts District on First Friday, to enjoy modern and industrial art–but also to see the open houses of several robotics companies!

For places you should probably drive to see, stop by the Molly Brown House–a museum to the Titanic, since Molly Brown was a survivor. They also offer afternoon tea–as does the Brown Palace, which is a landmark hotel that opened in 1892. It’s a little more expensive to stay ($160/night on the least expensive days of the year), but a beautiful experience that also offers historical tours. Also stop by the Museum of Outdoor Arts, which is free to visit and has a gorgeous brass exhibit of Alice in Wonderland–brilliant for photo sessions.

The Lumber Baron Inn is also a gorgeously restored Victorianesque mansion and bed-and-breakfast, and they feature a murder mystery dinner as well. Also check out Castle Marne, which was completed in 1889 and is another beautiful bed-and-breakfast. We also have our very own Steampunk-aesthetic bar, called the Rackhouse Pub–it’s in partnership with the whiskey brewery next door. If you’re interested in having a scientific cup of coffee, try Happy Coffee. The Colorado obsession with coffee and bookstores is legendary, and many of those places reside on Broadway, especially near Broadway Book Mall.

Now if you’re up for a long jaunt, Colorado features one of the most eccentric and Steampunk castles in the world–Bishop Castle. Located down near Pueblo, this castle was built (almost) singlehandedly by one very passionate man. He used primarily handheld tools and ironworking, so the methods are pretty Steampunk. The aesthetic is one if you crossed Dr. Seuss, Tim Burton and the Victorian Era–so it’s certainly a must-see. Admission and exploration are free, but bring a picnic! There are no amenities anywhere near this place.

We haven’t even scratched the surface here, like talking about all the ghost towns or the western museums or Wild Bill’s grave…but I can guarantee you’ll be wandering the area for ages. History–and the great food–are why Colorado is the #1 Steampunk Vacation Destination!

Looking for the rest of the top 10?
#2 – England!
#3 – Tokyo!
#4 – Michigan!
#5 – San Francisco!
#6 – New England Region!
#7 – New Orleans!
#8 – Vienna, Austria!
#9 – Carribbean!
#10 – Berlin!

Honorable Mentions:
New Zealand’s Steampunk Town

Top 10 Steampunk Vacations: #2: Great Britain!

It’s only natural that the home of the Victorian movement would be on our top ten list–and with a little input from Dale Rowles, a native and a member of BB Blackdog (one of our favorite Steampunk bands, to be sure), we’re excited about the authenticity of this tour.

Start in London, because your plane is likely to begin there anyway. You can check out Visit London for details on various methods of transport–but why not secure rental bikes and make your way around town in appropriate style? Why not rent a penny farthing, perhaps? Make sure you get tips on riding!

Moving on, Dale recommends the Kew Bridge Steam Museum, and would like me to note that many steam trains still run in England and even connect to the main train lines.

Stop at the Tower of London on your way, and explore the Victorian era in style.

Naturally we like museums on historical tours, so I will recommend a few that fall into the Steampunk arena. Start with the London Transport Museum, which houses many wonders of transportation from ancient to modern (but will set you back about 14gbp, or $20ish at the current exchange rate). Now lighten your load at the Museum of London, which explores British history from the beginning of the Roman era, and is conveniently free to access. The Royal Museum Greenwich is the largest maritime museum in the world, and features the explorable Cutty Sark, the last surviving “tea clipper” ship. some parts of the museum are free and others require tickets. Finally check out the Victoria & Albert museum, which sports 3000 years of history through art–and a history of fashion section, which should not be missed.

Swing by Elizabeth Tower, the third tallest clock tower in the world. It also happens to hold Big Ben, the large bell at the top. Originally it was named “Clock Tower,” but since it was built for Elizabeth I it makes sense that they’d rename it for Elizabeth II.

Also swing by the Alice in Wonderland shop, Twinings of London for the Celestial Seasonings experience with real tea, and for an insider’s tip, sneak into Soho’s Secret Tea Room at the Coach & Horses for afternoon tea.  

If you want a more directed tour of London, take a look at London Walks–they do a “Darkest Victorian London” two-hour tour of the seedy underbelly of Victorian London, and end at what they claim is the best cafe in the area. You can also stay at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel (which was established in the 1850s and is now a Marriott property, so save your points) and join one of their four-times-a-day history tours with the on staff historian. Only in England would a hotel keep a historian on staff!

Now that you’ve explored London to your heart’s content, move on to everything else in England… For example, the Crich Tramway Village, an entire village of pubs, tearooms, and trains… what more could one ask for?

The Bradford Industrial Museum is basically the British Industrial Revolution encapsulated in museum form, even featuring textiles and furnishings of the era. In contrast the Derwent Valley Mills historic site is the revolution given factory form–with lots of opportunity for interesting photography.

The Museum of Science and Industry blends history and modern science to create modern Steampunk at its finest–go, practice mad science.

If you are into the maritime, don’t miss the chance to explore the “oldest frigate afloat” at Hartlepool–the HMS Trincomalee. I don’t know what her name means either, but she’s a beautiful site to see.

If you want to connect to those steam trains I was telling you about, use the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway (EVR). Check out their “Experiences” tab if you want to learn how to drive a steam engine–for the modest sum of 398gbp.

For more cool information to plan your trip, go to Secret London.

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Top 10 Steampunk Vacations: #3: Tokyo!

One of the most wonderful things about traveling to Tokyo last summer was discovering the inherently Steampunk flavor in certain parts of the city. While many associate the Steampunk concepts with British Victoriana (or Western North American colonization), Japan has a completely unique perspective. Aside from the fact that (much like Disney), Japanese anime has been in love with Steampunk before it ever had a name (See Last Exile, Steamboy, any Miyazaki film ever), the Japanese inherently have a love for innovation that transcends generations.

If we were to explore all of Japan, that would take far more than just one blog post. However, I’ll touch on some of the coolest highlights from which you can start your investigation.

Tokyo houses the Ghibli Museum, which is a beautiful tribute to Studio Ghibli’s years of intriguing films filled with the dichotomy of nature and industry, with steam-powered machinery combined with distinct magic and wonder. Photographs aren’t allowed inside the museum (alas), and the films played aren’t in English. However, the entire museum is constructed like a wild Victorian fantasy, and the outside area has a great gardeny area with robot statues fabulous for your photographic poses. The shop has the biggest collection of Ghibli “stuff” anywhere, too. I recommend buying your tickets from here before you go–rumor has it they fill up quickly. They were pretty packed when we went, and it was a weekday morning…

The Japan National Museum of Nature and Science is reputed to be one of the best in the world–go explore its science departments! While you’re at it, you need to go to the Ramen Museum and see a vintage Japanese Town (as well as sample the best food from their history with China). There’s a museum for everything in Tokyo, but the vintage toy museum  (including tin robots, ray guns, and a lot more of the classic retro/steampunk/pulp fiction feel) is pretty neat. The museum is called the Kitahara Tin Toy Museum, and is owned by Mr. Kitahara. It’s actually located in Yokohama, and is a little bit south of Tokyo proper in the Tokyo Bay area. The website isn’t in English, but you can get there by taking the train to the Motoma-chi-Chukagai station. While you are in Yokohama you have to visit the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum, which sports a replica of an old Japanese town (1950s) and lots of ramen shops all in one place.

There are also two must-see clock museums in Tokyo, the Daimyo Clock Museum and the Nezu Museum, which actually sports lots of premodern art and culture exhibits.

I didn’t manage to catch any pictures of Miyazaki’s steampunk clock at the NTV Shiodome, but you can check out the article here. This working clock is the largest animated clock in the world, and has lots of cool scenes that occur on the hour (usually). This was one of my biggest targets on our first visit, and I can’t wait to go back next April and see it.

For a really interesting stroll, check out the Harajuku district–especially on Sunday afternoons. You’ll see lots of people (especially in the high school and college age range) wandering around with various cosplay, including lots of gothic lolita and steampunk styles. Only on Sunday do they break out of the usual uniforms, so time your visit! Nearby is the Meiji Shrine, which is a gorgeous historical landmark. Also nearby is the mirrored entrance to Tokyo Plaza–Aubri loved the mirrors, but the whole world has fallen in love with this mind-bending escalator ride. Take pictures in your best attire from every angle–literally.

When you wander the streets of Tokyo you will experience the old and the new mingling together for a wild, high-tech ride through history–that is the very essence of Steampunk, regardless of the time period. Drink it all in, and make sure you stop in to the noodle shops and 7-11s (really!) to eat delicious food. The Japanese know their style–and their food.

Japan is also home to the original high speed trains–catch a bullet train for fun, but use the subways to get around. Who needs a taxi when you can get anywhere by train? The lightrail  in Denver wishes it were this efficient.

Tokyo is host to SteamGarden, a major Steampunk event–here’s the Tokyo Steampunk Society’s website! Tokyo has some cool bands too, including Strange Artifact, who is coming to AnomalyCon in 2014! Haruo Suekichi is also located in Tokyo, and with any luck you can get him to show you some of his amazing tinkerings.

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Top 10 Steampunk Vacations: #4: Michigan!

You might be surprised that Michigan ranks so high on our list–frankly, it’s not my favorite place to visit, between the humid summers, factory pollution, and cold winters. However, while the effects of the industrial age have taken their toll on Detroit, Michigan remains one of the best places to visit to dive into the history of science–and do a little scuba, too.

Start your visit in one of the coolest science museums in the U.S.–the Henry Ford.  Aside from the expected exhibits demonstrating Henry Ford’s innovations (and improvements on existing ideas, like interchangeable parts), the museum also sports coverage on the progression of transportation from Da Vinci onward. Replicas and originals of a variety of amazing inventions, including steam engines and the Wright Brothers’ original flying machine. The museum also features Greenfield Village, with seven distinct historical districts. You can even find out about the origins of ketchup–which made a great impression on me when I visited this place at 12. It’s an educational tour and will certainly absorb your entire day.

When you’ve finished absorbing everything your sciencey mind can handle, stop at Burk’s Igloo for some icecream–it hasn’t been there since the 19th century, but they have been in business for over 40 years.

Now cool off by gearing up and heading over to Lake Michigan–interestingly one of the most unique diving locations in the world, with literally hundreds of preserved ships sunk since the 1800s. You can check this site out for a complete list, but I recommend grabbing an underwater peek at the L.R. Doty (1898), which may still have the crew preserved onboard. Also of interest are the Wings of the Wind (1866) and the 12th Street Beach Wreck–the latter of which you can sometimes see from the shore. You can read the Chicago Reader’s article about their top five picks. These dive spots alone make this one of the coolest spots to explore.

Back on the usual historical tours, make sure you check out the Book Building in Detroit–the original structure was completed in 1917, but the Book Brothers kept layering the cake, so to speak. The architecture is a crazy mix of Renaissance, Gothic and modern taste, all wrapped into a sky scraper. Someone ought to turn this place into a book store…
Stop by the Assumption Grotto Church to envision architecture of the French flavor in the early 20th century–it’s beautiful and awe-inspiring, whatever your leanings.
Now visit one (or all) of these historic districts. When Detroit picks a historic area, they really pick large spaces! West Vernor-Lawndale Historic District is an industrialized area covering about 30 acres.
If you’re looking for a variety of different architecture styles to shoot great photos, try West Village Historic District, which encompasses around 20 square blocks.
If all you care about is the Colonial Victorian style in fashion from the 1890s-1920s, check out Woodbridge Historic District–especially the building that once was the Eight Police Precinct building, which now looks like a stunning Victorian castle-turned-lofts.

When you’re hungry from all that walking/rambling, stop in at the Hotel Lyons for dinner–this restaurant has been in business for over 140 years!

Swing into the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory–established in 1904, along with its sister aquarium next door. Don’t miss the Dossin Great Lakes museum nearby–entry is free!

Finally, as we do love our clock towers, there’s an intense memorial on the campus of University of Detroit–a WWI memorial in the form of a clock tower.

Don’t forget that in Michigan, most of the streets don’t allow left turns–they call three rights a “Michigan Left” out there. Keep your eye on the signs!

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