MI Travel Guide

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Is Detroit Next for Virgin Hotels?

June 23, 2015 at 8:31 AM | by | ()

When Richard Branson was asked at the launch of Virgin Atlantic’s direct service from Heathrow to Detroit whether he had any plans for a Virgin Hotel in Motor City, we assumed he was just being polite.

“I’d love it if we could find the right site for a Virgin Hotel,” he said at the press conference. “We’ll talk,” said Wayne County Exec Warren Evans. “I’ve got an existing jail site that could work.”

Everyone chuckled, and assumed that was that.

But now it seems we may have been making one assumption too many, because in an interview with D Business, Branson expanded on his idea.

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Inside and All Around Aloft Detroit

Go To The Hotel's Web 
  Site Where: 1 Park Ave [map], Detroit, MI, United States, 48226
June 22, 2015 at 9:25 AM | by | ()

You’ve met the delightful doorman and had a sneak peek of the room. Appetite whetted? Hope so, because it’s time to go inside and all around the Aloft Detroit.

LOCATION
The David Whitney building isn’t just in Downtown Detroit; it’s a historic 1915 skyscraper in Downtown Detroit, that locals told us was designed by Daniel Burnham, though Wikipedia says no. Either way, it’s a historic, 19-story building that used to be home to offices – doctors, dentists, even a plastic surgeon – and now has the Aloft on floors 1-9 and apartments above it. Before reopening (officially in April, soft opening last December), it was undergoing a four year restoration. Before that, it was derelict for 15 years. This is a pretty big deal.

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Take a Last Look at This Historic Detroit Hotel

Where: Detroit, MI
June 17, 2015 at 8:57 AM | by | ()

Last week we gave you a peek at the Aloft Detroit and its wonderful gatekeeper, the top hatted Christopher Roddy. We promised we’d take you on a proper tour soon – and we will! But before we look at the new Detroit hotel scene, let’s have a moment of silence for the old one.

The historic Park Avenue Hotel was once one of the swankiest hotels in the city, owned by hotel mogul Lew Tuller and designed by Louis Kamper, who also did the Book-Cadillac Hotel – now the Westin Book Cadillac.

How their fortunes have changed. While the Westin was charging $250 a night last week when we were in town, the Park Avenue Hotel got its death sentence on Friday, when the Detroit Historical Commission voted 3-1 to have it demolished.

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Why Is This Aloft Detroit Doorman Dressed Like an English Butler?

Go To The Hotel's Web 
  Site Where: 1 Park Ave [map], Detroit, MI, United States, 48226
June 12, 2015 at 9:30 AM | by | ()

The top hat – the bow tie – is this really Detroit?

When we checked into the Aloft Detroit yesterday, there were two things that wowed us: the jaw-dropping central atrium of the David Whitney Building, and the friendly reception from the British-styled doorman. Was this part of the uniform or was it a special outfit to greet a planeload of Brits off the first Virgin Atlantic flight from London?

We asked the doorman – or Doorman/Greeter as his official title is. Christopher Roddy is his name and he told us that his hat – so English wedding! – is not part of the uniform. He bought it 11 years ago from Henry the Hatter - a Detroit hatmaker since 1893.

The bowtie isn’t Aloft’s, either – he bought that, too. The look he’s going for: Mr French, an English butler on a TV show from his childhood. We haven’t seen the show, but he has the English butler look on fleek.

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Music to Our Ears: Developers in Detroit Plan to Turn Former Wurlitzer Building into a Hotel

January 29, 2015 at 2:52 PM | by | ()

It’s always great to hear of an endangered landmark that may be saved from the wrecking ball and given back to its city as a hotel. When such salvaging happens in Detroit, it especially thrilling as we are all rooting for Motor City to make a comeback. Here is what we know about the latest effort to turn an abandoned building in Detroit into a hip, hotel (as if there was any other kind.)

Brooklyn-based developers ASH NYC have a contract to buy one of the most delapidated, graffiti adorned, buildings in Detroit for conversion to a boutique hotel. The slender 14-story building, pictured above, was once offices and a retail music center for Wurlitzer, the American company acclaimed for its organs and pianos, but who also made jukeboxes and electric guitars. Yes, we're already imagining some of these musical instruments displayed inside the new hotel.

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Detroit Fire Station to Become Foundation Hotel, Poles Included

Where: 250 West Larned [map], Detroit, MI, United States
April 4, 2014 at 10:46 AM | by | ()

Our calls have been answered!The former headquarters building of the Detroit Fire Department officially be turned into the Foundation Hotel in late 2015 after an extensive renovation.

Aside from the novelty of staying in an old fire house, you have to feel at least a little comfort in knowing that the building was probably (we hope) up to speed on its fire protection and alarm systems. If nothing more, it is a cool building that should translate well into a 100-room boutique hotel. And maybe, this could be the start of a new trend since Andre Balzas is turning another fire station in London into a hotel.

The new hotel in Detroit will be managed by Chicago-based Aparium Hotel Group, who also operate the Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee, another historic building conversion. The fire house building, located at 250 West Larned in Downtown Detroit, once accommodated most of the city's emergency fire service needs. The building is included in the National Register of Historic Places, though oddly it is not a city or state-listed landmark.

It was built in 1929 in the popular Neoclassical style that dressed up many a governmental building. It remained a working fire station until 2011, after which it was used as headquarter offices.

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Grand Rapids Will Have an Iconic Hotel to Go with its Iconic Art Museum

March 14, 2014 at 1:02 PM | by | ()

So an architect designs an art museum, the first in the world to earn LEED Gold Certification, then a few years later gets a new hotel gig across the street. That makes sense and it's nice work if you can get it. CWD Real Estate Investment, developer of the property in Downtown Grand Rapids in Michigan, is banking that it will make dollars and cents when its "hotel that kinda looks like a museum" opens in 2016.

The new 5-story hotel, as yet unnamed or branded, is being designed by Thai architect Kulupat Yantrasast of wHY Architecture, who now practices in the US. Yantrasast’s works have mostly been museums of which the neighboring Grand Rapids Art Museum made him a bit of an icon. CWD wants an equally iconic hotel and from the looks of the digital image above, their wish will come true.

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Historic Detroit Firehouse May Become Boutique Hotel

March 19, 2013 at 2:38 PM | by | ()

Say what you want about Detroit and its bad rap, we think it’s a seriously inventive city that won’t let hard knocks destroy its spirit and we've said just as much on our brother site, Jaunted. It’s the place that'll take an old 1929 brick firehouse and decide to turn it into a $23 million boutique hotel.

The Detroit City Council is being asked to approve a deal to sell the Hans Gehrke-designed building across from Cobo Center to developer Walter Cohen and his group, 21 Century Holdings. The price? Just $1.25 million. That’s cheaper than a Brooklyn condo, to give you some perspective.

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Hotels for Plane Spotting: The Westin at Detroit-Metro Airport

Go To The Hotel's Web 
  Site Where: 2501 Worldgateway Place [map], Detroit, MI, United States, 48242
September 11, 2012 at 4:32 PM | by | ()

Airport hotels get a pretty bad rap. Sure, there are the greasy, grimy ones, but we like to think that for every one of those, there's a perfectly clean business-friendly one—or, even better, an airport hotel with the luxury of an airport view. All this week we'll be taking a look at a few of our favorite hotels for plane spotting.

Today: The Westin at Detroit-Metro Airport.

Detroit-Metro Airport (DTW) consists of two terminals; this is important to know because they're far apart, with separate freeway exits and everything. For plane spotting, you'll want to hit up the larger, newer of the two: McNamara. At the center of its 70+ gates is the Westin, with easy access to the in-terminal tram and its own TSA security lane and everything. It's pretty nifty.

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Up at Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel: Afternoon Tea for All

July 20, 2012 at 4:11 PM | by | ()

How many US hotels do you know that've reached 125 years of business? Well, The Grand Hotel of Michigan's Mackinac Island is one of 'em, as well as being one of the last surviving wooden construction hotels. Its history is long and tumultuous, but its summers are sunny. This week, we'll take a look around the Victorian property and the features and amenities that have made it a top seasonal destination for the last century-and-a-quarter.

Today: Afternoon Tea at The Grand Hotel

We may have spent nearly all week showing you the nooks and crannies that guests may enjoy at the 125-year-old Grand Hotel, but there is one very large way they welcome non-guests: with traditional afternoon tea.

Mackinac Island has its share of daytrippers and budget travelers just as it has the luxury and season-long visitors. Paying $400/night for the Grand isn't always feasible; for some it's a dream stay to work towards, but in the meantime there's always tea. The Grand Hotel charges non-guests $10 per person and enforces a basic dress code to enter the building, to prevent the place being overrun. While you're there, afternoon tea is only $25 per person (compare to $30+ in Chicago and $36+ in New York).

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Up at Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel: The Esther Williams Swimming Pool Endures

July 19, 2012 at 6:47 PM | by | ()

How many US hotels do you know that've reached 125 years of business? Well, The Grand Hotel of Michigan's Mackinac Island is one of 'em, as well as being one of the last surviving wooden construction hotels. Its history is long and tumultuous, but its summers are sunny. This week, we'll take a look around the Victorian property and the features and amenities that have made it a top seasonal destination for the last century-and-a-quarter.

Today: The grounds of The Grand Hotel

There's an excellent story that The Grand's historian, Bob Tagatz, tells. Hearing him deliver it is, naturally, leaps and bounds better than reading it here from us, but we're going to share it anyway.

The Grand Hotel has always been known for offering activities to fill those summer days spent lounging on the 600-foot-long porch (largest porch in the world, they claim). Today, those activities include croquet and bocce on the lawn, vintage baseball games, weekends dedicated to jazz or ballroom dancing and, always, live music. Rewind to 100 years ago—or 125. Seasonal resorts competed to draw the summer crowds by varying their entertainment, and The Grand had to keep up.

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Beach Town Surprise at Lake Michigan's Harbor Lights Resort

Go To The Hotel's Web 
  Site Where: 15 S. Second Street, PO Box 1039 [map], Frankfort, MI, United States, 49635
July 19, 2012 at 12:31 PM | by | ()

Kite flying and beach views from our room at Harbor Lights Resort

Traveling through Michigan’s beach towns last week, we were looking for something special, a beach hotel that was out of the out ordinary. Maybe it was for lack of an ocean, though Lake Michigan is so vast and impressive that it’s easy to be fooled. But we wanted a hotel with a little magic, a lot of sand and all the right amenities.

Pulling into Harbor Lights Resort right in lesser-known Frankfort, Michigan, we had a feeling this was the place. It wasn’t that anything was wildly impressive about the exterior of Harbor Lights, though it is a pretty complex with shades of dark gray and white. It was more that there was something about the place itself.

We often talk about tangible hotel amenities, but this hotel was all about the atmosphere. Harbor Lights is located at the end of Frankfort's main drag right on the beach, and though we were only in the parking lot and couldn’t yet see the water, we spied the tip of a lighthouse, the sun going down and sand on the walkways. You could hear the gulls and occasional motorized watercraft, but also the quiet din of a secluded beach. It was all the magic we needed... and we weren't even in our room yet.

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