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!

Looking for the rest of the top 10?


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