Michigan Bars Nightlife and Entertainment.

Michigan aka The Wolverine State or Great Lakes State. If you’re into boating, fishing, sailing or canoeing, Michigan is a pretty good place to be! Wherever you are, you’ll never be more than 10km from water and 137km from a Great Lake. There are over 11,000 lakes here! A Midwestern state, Michigan is the only one to be made up of two peninsulas, separated by the Straits of Mackinac which joins Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. The Upper Peninsula is one of the country’s most popular vacation destinations with its forests, recreation areas and state parks, while the Lower side (or Mitten, as it’s called) is connected via the Mackinac suspension bridge, and here’s where you’ll find the major cities.

Bordered by Lake Saint Clair and four of the five Great Lakes (Huron, Eerie, Michigan and Superior) , Michigan has the world’s longest freshwater shoreline (and consequently an awful lot of lighthouses). Until the Europeans turned up, it was settled by several different Native American tribes including the Ottowa, Anishnabe, and Potawatomi. They all managed to live together peacefully for centuries; unlike the Europeans who fought over control tooth and nail. The French were first in, building forts to keep the British at bay, but in 1763 under the Treaty of Paris, Michigan and the rest of the then called ‘New France’ (which at that time also included Quebec) went to the Brits. Indeed, for a while, Michigan became part of Upper Canada, not finally becoming ‘American’ until the Treaty of Ghent in 1818. After further boundary wars, this time with Ohio over the Toledo Strip, Michigan finally entered the Union in 1837 with Lansing named as the capital.

A couple of events moved Michigan dramatically forward economically. First, the discovery of iron, copper and lumber in the Upper Peninsula during the late 19th century; but more importantly it was Henry Ford and his first automobile manufacturing facility in Highland Park that really put Michigan on the map. The automobile transformed the lives of ordinary people and became the major industry of Michigan, and specifically in Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids.
Michigan has the US’s 8th largest population at 10m, with around half the population living in the Detroit Metropolitan area . Detroit has had a chequered past. It boomed in the 1950s but suffered from racial tension and shortages of housing, and high crime rates, for the next 25 years. Not helped, either, by the automobile industry’s decision to largely move production out of the state to areas of cheaper labour sources. The population of Detroit is shrinking as residents move out into the growing Metropolitan area, but there has been a lot of redevelopment and investment in the City trying to encourage movement back in – much of it inspired by Super Bowl XL coming to town in 2006. This has included dramatically upgrading the airport, the new $500m Ford Field football stadium, a revived riverside area with refurbished Detroit Princess Louisiana riverboat and dozens of new restaurants and clubs.
Consequently, Metro Detroit is attracting a growing number of tourists every year, drawn by attractions such as The Henry Ford museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Charles H Wright Museum of African American History, the Moto Sound and the Greystone Hall of Fame jazz museum. Sports fans are also drawn by major league sports teams including the Detroit Tigers (baseball), Detroit Lions (football) and Detroit Red Wings (ice hockey), along with a number of championship golf courses.

Oh yes, and then there are the casinos. Since 1999, casino gambling has been BIG business in Detroit. MotorCity Casino Hotel in Grand River Avenue, Sault Marie Tribe- Chippewa Ind on E Fort St, Greektown in E Lafayette, MGM Grand Detroit on Third St, are all major hotel/casino businesses. They are all open 24 hours a day and include table games and slot machines as well as restaurants and other entertainment. You must be 21 or over.
If you’re staying in Metro Detroit, there are a number of districts worth exploring for nightlife, including upmarket Bloomfield Hills (try the Fox & Hounds Pub on N Woodward Ave), Birmingham (Edison’s Lounge on E Merrill St for early evening drinks), Royal Oak (Pronto ! on S Washington Ave for cocktails and dinner),and Pontiac (Bo’s Brewery & Bistro on N Saginaw St) – as well as Downtown and the Warehouse District (Andrews on the Corner a favourite watering hole). The Renaissance Centre , Downtown, is a good spot to start your evening with its modern shops and variety of bars and restaurants. The Renaissance Club on the 36th Floor of Tower 200 has some superb views over the city, Lake St Clair and beyond.

For hardened clubbers, Leland City Club on Bagley offers loud, loud, loud music (mostly alternative and rock) while St Andrews Hall, hidden in an old brownstone on E Congress St, features all sorts of live music acts including house, rap, techno and hip hop. Friday night is ‘the’ night here. Jazz lovers try Bert’s Market Place on Russell St, or Bakers Keyboard Lounge on Livernois Ave, which claims to be the world’s oldest jazz club. Garden Bowl, a 16 lane bowling alley where DJ’s spin music as you try to score a strike, and The Magic Stick, a bar and billiards venue with excellent live music, are both located in the Majestic Theater building on Woodward Ave, and are well worth a visit.
Woodward Ave is also where you’ll find Hockeytown Cafe, where Red Wings fans hang out and an ice-rink bar keeps the beer ice cold; other better than decent sports bars include Nemo’s on Michigan Av and the Post Bar on W Congress.
Sterling Heights, which falls in the Metro Detroit area, is said to be the safest city in Michigan. With a mix of commercial and residential properties, it’s probably not going to be on your ‘must visit’ list. But if you do happen to find yourself there – ‘she’ might want to visit Lakeside Mall which is the largest in Metro Detroit and features 180 stores – and you’re in need of a drink while your dollars are being spent, Checker’s Bar & Grill on Mound Road is not a bad place to wait.

Everyone has heard of Henry Ford, but fewer know the name RE Olds. Everyone in Lansing knows him, though, because it was his three wheeled, steam engine powered vehicle that put the township on the map in the late 19th century. Lansing and cars now go together hand in glove, but the city has more to offer visitors including an interesting renovated Old Town full of galleries, antique shops, restaurants and surprisingly good nightlife.
Here you ‘ll find venues like the Creole Gallery (Turner St), where excellent live music includes blues, jazz, rock and folk; the Spiral Dance Bar (Center St), with its velvet/brick/stainless steel interior, this gay friendly dance club is popular with a real mix of students, tourists and locals.
East Lansing is home to Michigan State University Spartans athletic teams, so here you’ll find a plethora of student crowded bars and fast food restaurants. Crunchy’s on W Grand River Ave is a typical example…buckets of beer, karaoke, and off beat live music, this is a constantly packed and much loved venue. Harrison Roadhouse on Michigan Ave is heaving on game weekends, but offers an excellent menu including New York Strip marinated in Jack Daniels (yum). The Roadhouse pub next door is equally welcoming. Other favourite student watering holes include the Peanut Barrel on E Grand River Ave; Rick’s American Cafe (for live music); and Reno’s East Side Sportsbar on Abbott Rd.
For a more mature crowd, head for Beggar’s Banquet in Abbott Road, for a classically good menu or drink in the cozy bar, or Harper’s Restaurant & Brew Pub on Albert St where home brews include Grove Street Pale, Scotch Ale and Spartan Wheat.
Move on downtown for more entertainment choices. To catch the latest game, The Nuthouse Sports Grill on E Michigan Ave is a popular sports bar with state of the art video systems and a superb pizza, Cajun, Mexican style menu. If Middle East cuisine is your thing, don’t miss Sultan’s Express on S Washington Ave; then full of hummus and dolmades, finish the evening enjoying live music on the upper bar at Rum Runners on E Michigan Ave, or dance off those calories downstairs.
Another university town is Ann Arbor, located along the Huron River, and home to the main campus of the University of Michigan. It’s also home to the Big Blue football and basket ball teams. So Ann Arbor is choc a bloc with young people looking for a good time! Consequently there’s a great selection of entertainment options here, although the place retains a small town feel. For jazz/blues fans, every September sees the highly acclaimed Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival. Try the Arbor Brewing Company Pub & Eatery for a good all round pub with live music, good food and some fab home brewed beer; or Connor O’Neil’s on S Main St if you’re missing your pint of Guinness. A super Irish pub this, with live music most nights, they also offer a great range of Irish whiskies.
Club Above (the Heidelberg Restaurant) on N Main St has live music seven days a week ranging from disco to salsa to jazz; clubbing venues include Cavern Club and Blind Pig on 1st Street, and the Necto on E Liberty St. The Firefly on S Main Street is a relaxed spot for jazz, blues, swing etc.

Flint is another city – the third largest in Michigan – whose fortunes are founded on the automobile industry. Chevrolet started here and it is the birthplace of General Motors. But like so much of Michigan, there is more to Flint than exhaust pipes and the city attracts visitors with its local historic and cultural attractions and thriving downtown areas. Grand Rapids, too, combines historic districts with modern trendy areas and a revived and modernised downtown area. Both cities offer interesting neighbourhoods/suburbs with entertainment zones that include some fabulous restaurants, bars and clubs.
Just outside Flint, head for historic Battle Alley in Holley where the Holly Hotel restaurant attracts visitors from far and wide; or to Frankenmuth – otherwise known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria – to sample all you can eat chicken dinners at the local Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn. In Flint itself, two recommended watering holes are the Cheers like White Horse Taven on W Court St and the Redwood Lodge Mesquite Grill & Brew Pub on Gateway Ctr.
The B.O.B in Grand Rapids is a converted warehouse that offers all sorts of dining and nightlife choices including Crush, a chic dance club; The Lower Level, a sophisticated microwbrew, wine and martini bar with live music at the weekends; and Dr Grins Comedy Club, with shows from 8pm.
In the neighbourhoods, recommended are the Founders Taproom brew pub on Monroe Ave, Warehouse District; Mulligan’s Pub and Billy’s (live jazz and blues) on Wealthy St, Eastown; and Uccello’s, a hugely popular sports bar and pizza/pasta restaurant on E Beltline Ave SE, East Grand Rapids.

Smokers still have a free rein in Michigan, except in Wayne county where it’s banned in all enclosed workplaces – but not restaurants, bars, bingo halls or designated smoking rooms with air control systems (so pretty much nowhere really).
Michigan is a true state of contrasts, with a diverse coastline that offers something for everyone, and a range of towns and cities that range from historic to high tech. Enjoy.