Normally Thanksgiving Day morning involves my family gathering in front of our living room television set to watch the annual parade march through downtown Detroit’s historic Woodward Avenue. Having been going on for 91 years, Detroit’s event joins Philadelphia and New York City as being one of the most prestigious and oldest continuous Thanksgiving Day parades within the United States. This year, we decided instead of watching America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television to see it in person by having ourselves a holiday staycation in Detroit.
The evening before Thanksgiving, we drove from our home about a half hour’s drive outside the city to stay the night at Detroit’s DoubleTree Suites Fort Shelby Hotel. Instead of rushing to get up really early to search for a place to park and spot to watch the parade, we planned to sleep in, order room service for breakfast, and take a leisurely four block stroll from the DoubleTree Suites Fort Shelby over to Woodward Avenue to watch the Thanksgiving Day morning festivities. Conveniently valeting our car in front of the entrance of the hotel, we were excited for our staycation to begin.
DoubleTree Suites Fort Shelby Hotel
Entering the lobby of the hotel we were warmly greeted by the staff at the front desk. They were very friendly and conversational but also considerate about getting us quickly checked in. It made a nice impression that we were offered complimentary bottled water and cookies as a welcoming gesture for our stay at the DoubleTree Suites Fort Shelby Hotel.
The hotel, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and included within the prestigious Historic Hotels of America directory, originally opened in 1917. Named after a military garrison that was involved in both the American Revolution and War of 1812 that once stood on the spot where the hotel is located, the Fort Shelby is considered an architectural gem from Detroit’s heyday years during the early to mid-20th century. Unfortunately, what was once one of the city’s most successful hotels couldn’t withstand Detroit’s downturn and shuttered its doors in the 1970s becoming an abandoned building for three decades. As part of the City of Detroit’s recent resurgence, the Fort Shelby has gone through an extensive restoration and the hotel is once again open as a DoubleTree Suites by Hilton.
DoubleTree Suites Fort Shelby Hotel has a 1920’s era ambience to it while also having the modern conveniences that today’s travelers demand. All the accommodations within the 22-story hotel are two room suites that are at least 600 square feet in size. These suites are really spacious featuring large sitting room and bedroom areas divided by a nice bathroom and vanity space. We were really wowed by our suite! I really wasn’t expecting to have so much room which is really great when you are staying someplace with a family of four.
While this hotel has an incredible historic vibe to it, we weren’t lacking in conveniences. Our suite had complimentary wi-fi Internet access plus a high-tech thermostat to guarantee the temperature was just right for our preferences. The sitting room included a microwave, mini-refrigerator, work desk with an ergonomic chair, sofa with a pull-out bed, and a 32-inch flat screen LCD HDTV. Plus, there was a matching television in the bedroom too!
After looking over the suite and dropping off our luggage, we headed out to grab some dinner. A one block walk brought us to the Fort/Cass People Mover stop. From there we took a night time ride on the elevated training that circles Detroit’s downtown enjoying the sight of seeing the theater/stadium district, Greektown and the Renaissance Center aglow in colorful Christmas lights.
We stopped at the Renaissance Center, a group of seven interconnected skyscrapers located alongside the Detroit River that is the corporate headquarters of General Motors, to have dinner at Granite City. I love this brew pub’s Northern Cheddar & Ale soup which is really great for warming you up when it is cold outside. They also have great steak burgers which is what we all picked out for dinner. Then it was back on the People Mover taking in views of the Ambassador Bridge crossing over to Canada and Windsor’s riverfront all lit up for the evening as we headed back to the DoubleTree Suites Fort Shelby Hotel.
We returned to our suite in time to crash on the couch in the sitting room and watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on TV. Then my wife and two kids all took baths before bed because the suite had a tub that looked like it was designed to really lay back and relax in. After a relaxing night’s sleep in some really comfy queen-sized beds we were ready to take in the Thanksgiving Day parade.
I woke up and pulled out the room service menu to be pleasantly surprised by the affordable cost of breakfast which was equal to if not cheaper than if we’d gone out someplace to eat. In fact, looking at a kids’ meal menu that included spaghetti and cheeseburgers priced at $5, I somewhat regretted not eating dinner in our suite the night before. Our breakfast soon arrived and it was delicious! Then we casually got dressed and headed out for the parade.
We decided to watch the parade from the street curb along Campus Martius where Woodward intersects with Michigan Avenue. This park is the location of the Civil War era Michigan Soldier and Sailor’s Monument and the City of Detroit’s official Christmas tree. It is also the point of origin for the grid system that lays out the city. Eight Mile Road is eight miles from a medallion that is embedded within the Campus Martius which is fitting because this park has become a focal point for recreational activities taking place in downtown Detroit.
It was a quick four block walk to Campus Martius from the DoubleTree Suites Fort Shelby Hotel and we arrive late enough in the morning to leisurely get there but early enough to stake out a prime spot to sit along the Woodward Avenue curb. We were guaranteed to get an up close unobstructed look at the parade from a spot that was free to sit in. It was a cold morning and we had some time before the parade made its way to Campus Martius from its starting point in Midtown so we spent some time walking around exploring the area to stay warm.
Spirit of Detroit
Of course, we had to stop by and take a look at The Spirit of Detroit! This city monument is a well-known symbol of Detroit around the world, especially with hockey fans who may be familiar with it sporting a Red Wings jersey during the years the hometown hockey team has won the Stanley Cup. Located a few blocks down Woodward Avenue from Campus Martius this 26-foot tall bronze statue was installed by the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in 1958. The figure has a sphere of energy in one hand and holds people representing a family in the other. It really is an impressive work of art to behold.
The pedestrian friendly green space in the Woodward Avenue medium provides a path for people to traverse between Campus Martius and Detroit’s River Walk. During this time of the year it is filled with holiday themed lights and decorations making it an enjoyable place to take a stroll. It made for a fun place to explore with kids.
America’s Thanksgiving Parade
Detroit’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a holiday tradition since 1924. Thousands of people line up along the parade route to take in the spectacle as well as millions of people watch it across the country on television. Because of its rich history of being appreciated both locally and across the country, organizers have branded it America’s Thanksgiving Parade.
I have to be honest it was really chilly sitting on a street curb watching this parade, but seeing magnificent floats and wonderful marching bands pass literally inches in front of us made for an energetic experience where the weather didn’t really bother us. Seeing a gigantic Christmas themed dinosaur parade float in front of us, a giant helium filled Big Bird balloon soaring in the sky overhead, and the marching band from the high school I graduated passionately performing was not just entertaining … it was exhilarating! We had an incredibly fun time at America’s Thanksgiving Parade.
With a noon checkout time we were able to meander back to the DoubleTree Suites Fort Shelby Hotel. There is a Starbucks stand in the lobby where we stopped to get some hot chocolate before heading up to our suite. We had plenty of time to pack up our things while watching some highlights from the parade being replayed on TV before checking out. Then our car was valeted and we headed off in the opposite direction of the parade route avoiding any post-event traffic. A freeway entrance was just a few blocks down the street and off to my parents house we were to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner later that afternoon.
My family had a wonderful holiday staycation at the DoubleTree Suites Fort Shelby Hotel in downtown Detroit. In addition to being a great place for a staycation adventure, the hotel is also nicely situated for people coming into town for special events at the city’s convention center which is only three blocks away. Though with the close by People Mover and Q Line stations you can get to most places around the downtown fairly quickly for any reason you may be visiting. Don’t want to walk as much as we did? No problem the hotel also has a complimentary shuttle service that will drive you wherever you want to go within three miles of the hotel.
Whether visiting for business or pleasure, I highly recommend a stay at the DoubleTree Suites Fort Shelby Hotel. It has an eclectic charm that combines modernistic touches with remnants of a bygone era. The building provides comfort and convenience with a whole lot of character making it a great place to stay when visiting Detroit.