Detroit's expanding appeal to visitors opens a niche for personal adventures led by residents earning side income as tour guides.
Travel entrepreneurs offer activities such as a Southwest Detroit art walk, a Dearborn coffeehouse visit for "stories of Yemen and its culture" and a look at honeybee hives on Detroit's east side. They and 14 others are posted through a nearly three-year-old program called Airbnb Experiences -- open to anyone, whether renting from an Airbnb host or not.
Detroit was part of a pilot program launched in November 2016 with a dozen cities. It "targets millennials looking for authentic experiences who would rather stay in a cool neighborhood than a hotel and have been the early adopters of Airbnb," Sherri Welch wrote in Crain's Detroit Business two years ago.
There has been some churn among local guides, particularly in the music category. Hip-hop producer Nick Speed no longer offers to socialize for $50 to $200 at his studio and dance clubs, and Adriel Thorntoning dropped a six-hour "taste of Detroit's techno and house scene." Similarly, Kid Rock guitarist Kenny Olson sticks to music-making without leading two-day "Motor City Rocks" tours for $375.
Newcomers have joined the roster. These are among offbeat outings for solo travelers, couples and small groups in seven categories:
►Music studio: DJ and producer Tito Tahan shows his recoding gear, talks about his career, Detroit's music scene, shares drinks and plays "my latest mixes and songs." (One hour, English or Spanish, $150 a person)
►Thrift shops: Nelson T. Sanders Jr., 32, takes guests to three thirft shops where "I usually have great luck with finding great items." He creative directror at 1701 Bespoke, a Midtown custom clothier. (Three hours, $40 a person)
►"Happy Hour Hop:" "Walking tour to three black-owned bars downtown, including at least one drink at each. (90 minutes, $85 a person)
►Honeybees: "Come see what's buzzing. Learn the basics of beekeeping and why bees are so important to our environment." Timothy Paule or Nicole Lindsey, founders of the nonprofit Detroit Hives, share their passion -- along with protective suits and hoods. Guests get an eight-ounce raw honey jar and a souvenir Polaroid, (1 hour, $50 a person)
►Taste of Yemen: Hanan Ali Yahya, a 24-year-old "cultural activist" who came here from Yemen at age 3 with her family, introduces guests to Yemeni culture and organic coffee at Qahwah House, a coffeehouse at 6655 Schaefer Rd. in Dearborn that opened in September 2017. (90 minutes, $35 a person)
►Southwest Detroit: Elton Monroy, an artist born in Mexico, conducts a vehicle tour of 10 of his murals, plus a tamale shop and ice cream shop for tastings. "You will learn about the culture of the community. (2 1/2 hours, $60 a person)
- See other excursions here.