Traveler: A Warm Welcome

Can’t fly south this winter? Tropical vibes are much closer than you think.
Photo courtesy Joshua Hanford

IT’S ABOUT that time when regret over not booking a mid-winter escape to Florida sets in. All you need is a weekend, though, to get a summery fix in … Detroit. Yes, that Detroit.

Your first stop: the Detroit Zoo’s 10,000-square-foot Butterfly Garden in an Art Deco–era gallery under a glass dome ceiling. It houses hundreds of free-flying butterflies from locales like Costa Rica and El Salvador, along with native flora. One of the largest species on Earth, the indigo-winged blue morpho, is easy to spot. Book a “Breakfast with the Butterflies” for guided interactions before the zoo opens.

Photo courtesy Eric Branson

Head on to the Belle Isle Aquarium, built in 1904. It is the oldest aquarium in America and is home to all seven species of Triassic Period gar still alive today. It also has one of the largest exhibits of air-breathing fish anywhere.

Don’t miss the Outdoor Adventure Center, a balmy indoor facility full of fresh air–fun simulators, like fishing, kayaking, a waterfall you can linger behind and touch, a stream dotted with rocks to step across, and a path through the tropical treetops.

Detroit has a historic tiki bar scene that recently saw a revival, with funky new venues serving up umbrella-topped tropical drinks. In frigid weather, guests in Hawaiian shirts get cozy in these indoor oases. The Beach Tiki Bar is popular for its firecracker shrimp, fish tacos, and signature boils. Mutiny Bar is known for banana bread shots, while Lost River builds flights using 150 different rums.

Photo courtesy Tigerlily


IMBIBE: Dishes, including crab Rangoon and sushi rolls, at the Pacific-themed Tigerlily (231 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale, 248-733-4905) are plated in lush style.

SLURP: Head to the Detroit Water Ice Factory (1014 Woodward Ave., 313-888-9106) to taste Cobo Coconut or Chika Mango.

VENTURE: Inside Matthaei Botanical Gardens (1800 N. Dixboro Rd., Ann Arbor, 734-647-7600), stroll among pineapple and banana plants and cacao trees.