Detroit is a fascinating city that performed unprecedented industrial feats during the 20th century and now faces incredible challenges for the 21st. The former manufacturing giant, is now more known for its spiraling population decline of over one million people. So is the show over? Is this place toast? Our tour will show you that this has all simply brought us to what former mayor Jerome P. Cavanagh calls our “finest hour, the today of which we are a part.”
Yes, there are some ruins to be seen, but in recent years there has been population growth Downtown as billions of dollars are invested in renovation and new construction. In a little over a decade we went from over 50 abandoned buildings Downtown to close to zero without a renovation plan underway. So we’ll learn about what was, but also about what’s happening now. Who is starting businesses? Where do people live and shop? What are the challenges in tailoring a city built for two million, to be a great place to live for fewer than 700,000, and what happens when development happens in one part of the city more than another?
We are now offering two kinds of tours. The “Backseat Driver” tour is a private, customizable tour and incorporates walking and driving. For this tour, Joe Krause hops in your vehicle as a “backseat driver” and navigates you through the city on a customized route. Pricing is scaled to suit a family trip or a corporate outing, from a car on up to the largest bus.
The “Detroit Time Travel Tour” is a public downtown walking tour given by an expert guide and augmented with an iPad at major stops to display what was and what will be at those sites.
Private tours include all of Greater Downtown and numerous neighborhoods beyond Downtown, with stops at attractions like the majestic Fisher and Guardian Buildings, Michigan Central Station, the picturesque Riverwalk, and at small businesses. The public walking tour includes extra detail and exploration Downtown, boosted by historical imagery and renderings of pending construction projects.
Tours start at Urban Bean Co.
How many people can be on a tour?
The Time Travel Tour accommodates one to twenty people. Backseat Driver tours work with any vehicle and are priced with a mind to normal private cars (up to 7), passenger vans (up to 15), small busses (up to 25) and large busses (26+). Larger groups should get in touch before booking to arrange logistics. If you have a large group without a vehicle and are in need of a bus tour, please contact Detroit Experience Factory and tell them that Joseph Krause at Backseat Detroit referred you.
Why don’t you drive me around?
Like Stephen King and That Guy George Bush Singled Out in 2006, I have bad vision due to Stargardt’s disease, which is similar to macular degeneration. I voluntarily gave up driving in early 2012 and have switched to alternative forms of transportation.
Do you offer tours even if I don’t have a car?
Yes. I am happy to give a walking tour and recommend Zipcar as an option if you would like to have a car for just a few hours. Please note that they require a one-time registration several days in advance in order to pick up a car. There is also the option of incorporating a cab, city bus, or Uber into our tour, or of inviting someone else along for the tour who does have a vehicle.
Will we go inside abandoned buildings?
We will not trespass on any properties nor will we enter a dangerous structure, but on lucky days there are some pretty fascinating things to be seen if you ask permission from the right people.
Is Downtown Detroit dangerous?
The crime rate in Downtown Detroit is lower than the national average, and crime in Midtown has dropped more than 40% in 2013. 2014-2015 violent crime dropped 13% citywide. It’s still a major city with major city crime, but leave your fears behind.
What do you charge?
Private tours are $75/hour for groups of 1-7 and scales up for larger groups. Public tours are $35 per ticket.
What if you’re not available?
I’m not the only tour guide in this town. If I am unavailable or already booked for the time you want, I will arrange an appointment with another great guide. If you’re booking with just a few days notice, it helps to call before booking. I’m able to give more than 90% of private tours booked, and work with several other magnificent guides for the Past and Future tour.
What if it rains?
We tour rain or shine!
What if it’s worse than rain, such as a tornado, earthquake, mudslide, flood, meteor, polar vortex, or monster attack?
In the case of a severe event I will work with you to either provide a full refund or reschedule.
What’s your refund policy?
If you choose to cancel after a booking is made, I will refund 50% until 24 hours before the appointment, when no refund will be offered. I will make all efforts to reschedule at no cost if unforseen conditions require it, and will refund 100% or schedule another guide if I am unable to keep the appointment.
Are you the executive producer of Erie Canal Theatre, creating audio drama productions as a podcast and on WFMU in Jersey City, New Jersey?
Are you co-founder of a quirky music collective called Zelda and the Unibrows that, among other things during their multi-decade career, has composed a song about Detroit’s elevated rail system “The People Mover”, complete with a video about riding the downtown circulator, just as I will be able to do if I book a tour?
Is there a silly video of this song, preferably arranged for woodwinds and two musical Tesla coils?
Does this FAQ page double as your “Terms and Conditions” when making a booking?
Yes. Please take care to read our refund policy.