Regional Amtrak trains offer reasonably speedy service three times daily to Detroit from Chicago; the trip takes about 6.5 hours and fares are kept low, thanks to regional government subsidies. The city’s grand train station on Michigan Avenue has been abandoned for more than 20 years—its ruin is, much to the chagrin of local boosters, one of the city’s most iconic attractions. Currently, Amtrak trains stop at a small station on Woodward Avenue in the New Center district—a taxi ride will be required if your destination is downtown. Amtrak offers service to Detroit from points east, as well, but a bus transfer from the Toledo station, 1 hour to the south, is required. For inbound visitors from Canada, VIA Rail offers frequent service to the Windsor station on the south bank of the Detroit River—with no border tie-ups (there aren’t all that many, here in Detroit) and you’re just minutes from downtown by cab. Hacks at the station are used to crossing the border, and do so via the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel, which connects Windsor with Detroit’s downtown.
Detroit Metro Airport
occupies a large chunk of land in the suburban-nowhere of Romulus, 24 miles from downtown. Entirely re-imagined over the past decade, travelers arrive at either the McNamara or North terminals; a bus transfer is required to get from one to the other. The McNamara comes complete with a Westin Hotel & Spa, boasting its own security checkpoint right next to the hotel’s front desk.
In 2009, arriving in and departing from Detroit by bus got a whole lot more pleasant. The gleaming Rosa Parks Transit Center, located within walking distance of most downtown hotels, offers one-stop shopping for local, regional and long-distance bus passengers. Greyhound
serves all points, while MegaBus offers daily service to Chicago—the trip takes just under six hours.
This is a city made for driving. Parking is cheap and often free; city streets are wide and built for at least twice the cars they handle on a daily basis. We really like the fact that freeway speed limits in the city go up to 70 mph! Driving in Detroit is a pleasure, as long as it isn’t snowing—the city long ago ran out of the cash it needs to keep the roads anything close to clear during storms. Note that smash-and-grabs are extremely popular here, particularly during big downtown events, such as baseball games, when many fans try to avoid steep garage fees by parking their vehicles on nearby side streets. Word to the wise: Don’t just hide your valuables. Take them out of the car, period.
Detroit isn't a grab-a-cab-on-the-corner kind of town, but Checker Cab is easily summoned at (313) 963-7000. Cabs are metered, and fares are set by local ordinance—it’s currently $2.50 at flag drop and $1.60 per mile, a relative bargain by other urban standards. Late at night, it can’t hurt to remain inside until your cab arrives.
You’d expect the city that brought the car to the masses to have little interest in mass transit, and you’d be right. Few visitors brave Detroit without their own vehicle, and we don’t recommend you try and be a hero. While the Detroit Transit Authority operates buses and the famously limited Detroit People Mover
monorail system downtown, few people stick around long enough to have the time to figure out how to navigate Metro Detroit without wheels. If you do want to give it a try or want to use it on your walkabout, there are 13 stations, and you can get a monthly transit pass for as little as $10.