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Motown Museum

Hitsville U.S.A. Exterior

Since writing the Ultimate Michigan Bucket List, I have crossed off many items on the list but there was one that was only an hour away that I still had not visited. After wanting to visit for years, I finally made it to Hitsville U.S.A., The Motown Museum.

Located on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, The Motown Museum is housed in the former home of Motown Records. Berry Gordy Jr. founded Tamla Records in 1959 after receiving a $3 royalty check for a song that he wrote. His friend, Smokey Robinson, suggested that if he was going to make so little, he would be better off going into business for himself. Gordy bought the home that would become known as Hitsville U.S.A. The Gordy Family lived on the top floor and the first floor was converted into an office and recording studio. The home is now connected to the home next door where the museum and gift shop are located. Within 7 years of purchasing Hitsville U.S.A., Gordy would purchase 6 additional homes on the block and convert them into a publishing office, finance department, artist personal development, and administration offices. The Museum owns most of these houses today.

Motown Album Covers

Gordy moved Motown Records to Los Angeles in 1972 but his sister, Esther Gordy Edwards refused to relocate so she stayed behind and was put in charge of what remained of Motown in Detroit. She received several requests from fans wanting to visit Hitsville U.S.A. so she hung posters and gold records and by 1985, The Motown Museum opened to the public.

Michael Jackson's Fedora and Glove

In 1988 Michael Jackson donated a black fedora and a rhinestone-studded glove (left) along with $125,000, the proceeds of the first show of his Bad World Tour to the Motown Museum.

In 2011, Paul McCartney visited the museum and wanted to play the 1877 Steinway Piano in Studio A only to find that it was not in playing condition. McCartney had the piano shipped to Steinway and repaired and returned to play it at a charity event with Berry Gordy in 2012.

Claudette Robinson: A Motown Her-Story

As of January 2024, the current exhibit is Claudette Robinson: A Motown Her-Story. Claudette Robinson was one of the founding members of the Miracles, the first group to be signed by Motown. Before beginning her singing career, Claudette served in the Marines during the Korean War. Claudette married bandmate Smokey Robinson and had two children Tamla and Berry.

Hitsville U.S.A. can only be seen on a guided tour. Our guide was very knowledgeable and passionate about Motown and its history. The tour ends in Studio A with a song and dance session to My Girl. So, I can say that I have sang and danced in Studio A. As of January 2024, admission to the museum comes with a copy of Berry Gordy Jr.’s autobiography. The museum is open Wednesday-Sunday 10-6 and admission is $20 for adults and $17 for children and seniors.

Motown Studio A Control Room

Studio A Control Room

It is important to note that the museum is planning on expanding. The expansion will include interactive exhibits, a recording studio, a performance space, and a cafe. A guided tour will not be required in the new space. They are anticipating opening in 2025, but since it has yet to break ground, I am skeptical it will be open by then.

If you are planning on coming to Detroit, I highly recommend a stop at the Motown Museum. While I knew some of the history as the child of a music nut, I learned a lot on the tour (Did you know Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I Have a Dream Speech at Cobo Hall in Detroit before Washington D.C.?). We got very lucky walking in and getting the last two spots for the next tour so I do recommend purchasing your tickets online in advance at

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. To read campground reviews check out my Michigan Campground Reviews page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Flashback Friday: Scott Fountain

Weekend in Canada

The view out the window at our AirBNB in Essex.

A few weeks ago we took a getaway for a weekend in Essex, Canada. Only half an hour from Detroit, Essex is on the shore of Lake Erie and is known as Ontario’s wine country. We rented an AirBNB right on the water. Even though it was too cold to spend time on the beach, it was nice to sit in front of the fireplace and hear the waves crashing out the window. It was a very relaxing winter weekend.

We chose Essex because of the location. It was closer than most of our favorite places on the water in Michigan. Houses in Essex were much cheaper than equivilant homes on Lake Michigan. Factor in the exchange rate that the American dollar currently gets you about $1.25 Canadian, a weekend in Canada can be a really good deal!

Windsor Sculpture Park makes for an interesting view of the Detroit skyline.

Of course, going into Canada, you have to worry about border crossings. We crossed the border so late we were the only car in line and it couldn’t have even taken 5 minutes. Coming home on Sunday was a little busier, but it was pretty quick too, maybe ten minutes. If you time it right, crossing the border isn’t too bad.

Probably the hardest thing about taking a weekend in a foreign country is having to worry about customs. Normally, when you’re on vacation its not a big deal to bring leftovers home, but crossing the border makes that tricky. We had to buy the smallest quantities of food to cook so we didn’t waste too much and tried not to have leftovers from restaurants because there are stringent rules about what you can and cannot bring across the border. I don’t know how strict they are about enforcing those rules, but I didn’t really want to find out. To find out more information about what can be brought back from Canada, visit Customs and Border Control.

Detroit Skyline from Windsor

This was the first time I had been to Canada since I was an adult. Even though it is only an hour away, the border crossing was something that intimidated me. Now that I have done it, it really wasn’t a big deal. We will probably go to Canada more frequently now that we’ve done it and realized how easy it is.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit

Star Wars and The Power of Costume

Star Wars and the Power of Costume is the newest exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts and it is drawing quite a crowd. The exhibit features some of the most recognizable costumes from the epic film saga such as Chewbacca (above), Darth Vader, and Queen Amidala (below). The exhibit focuses on the creative process behind the design of the costumes and what it took to make George Lucas’ vision a reality. Most of the costumes were from the prequels and the most recent films, but there were a few remaining costumes from the original trilogy on display. Not surprisingly, this exhibit is popular. I thought the lines for the Monet exhibit were long, but the lines for this exhibit are longer.

I am in no means a Star Wars fan. I saw the first film probably 15 years ago and had no interest to see any of the sequels/prequels. This exhibit really made me want to give the franchise another chance. Getting an up close view of these fascinating works of art and their stories truly intrigued me. I also enjoyed the audio tour that included anecdotes from people who worked on the films as well as DIA curators. It really added an extra layer to a very interesting art exhibit. There is also an audio tour for children (or adults) that teaches them how to be a Jedi.

Star Wars and the Power of Costume is on exhibit at the DIA until September 30. Tickets for the exhibit sell out fast so it is recommended that you purchase them online beforehand. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit

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Learning From Classic Art

For my husband’s birthday we were given a membership to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Since then, we have taken three trips to the museum and it is very interesting to look at these famous works of art through the eyes of a photographer.  So often, as photographers we have heard these rules about composition (rule of thirds anyone?) and lighting (no harsh shadows, EVER!) but when you look at paintings that are hanging on the wall in a famous museum, you see that if you break these rules, that is OK!

Yes, there are paintings that depict magic hour and dramatic sunsets, but more of them show blue skies, puffy clouds, and mid-day shadows. I have even seen some portraits with a shadow on the subject’s face. You post a photo like that in a photography group on Facebook, and watch out, you are going to hear about it! What is my point? Don’t get bogged down by all of these photography “rules” . Do visit an art museum and study the works of art. Discover what it is that makes them good enough to be hanging in a museum. Most importantly, get out there and shoot! Don’t let these “rules” make you lose your inspiration!

If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit

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7 Reasons Why I Love Detroit

I Love Detroit

Detroit Skyline from Sunset Point on Belle Isle

And You Should Too! Lonely Planet recently named Detroit as the #2 city in the world to visit! It was the only city in the continental U.S. to make the list and after this list came out, I was surprised by all the negative comments from my fellow Michiganganders. Yes, Detroit has been hit hard since the race riots in the 60’s to the more recent corruption scandals and a bankruptcy filing. It seems that Detroit is finally making a comeback, but for some reason the locals can’t see the progress. I am here to tell you to give it a chance!

1. Earlier in the year, Detroit was named an “unexpected food city” by National Geographic and once again, it was the only city listed in North America. The article sites Corktown favorites such as Slow’s Barbeque, and ethnic delights from Greektown (obviously Greek food prevails here), Hamtramack (Polish cuisine), and Dearborn (Middle Eastern eats). Alton Brown also listed Anthology Coffee in Detroit as one of his top 5 cups of coffee ever. I would say that’s high praise for the Detroit food scene and a reason that I should be more adventurous when dining in the D.

One Detroit Center

One Detroit Center

2.   Downtown Detroit is home to one of the greatest collection of pre-war skyscrapers in the world. From the Fisher and Guardian buildings to the more modern Renaissance Center, there is much beauty and history to be explored in the city. I love that Pure Detroit offers tours of several of these buildings from their stores and fill visitors in on the history and significance of these architectural marvels.

3.  If you are looking for a little culture, the Detroit Institute of Arts has a world class collection of art in an absolutely stunning building! Located in Midtown Detroit, it is within walking distance to the Detroit History Museum,  Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, The Detroit Science Center, and The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit as well as Wayne State University, The College of Creative Studies, and the beautiful Detroit Public Library. This is really the cultural hub of the city.

Diego Rivera Mural

The Spirit of Detroit by Diego Rivera at the Detroit Institute of Arts

4.  Speaking of culture, Detroit is also home to many beautiful theaters. Take in a show at The Fisher Theater, Fox Theater, Detroit Opera House, Masonic Temple, The Fillmore, or Orchestra Hall to name a few. The theater tradition in Detroit dates back to the 20’s with The Fox being the first theater to be built with film sound equipment. Part of the music for West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein was composed on the piano in the Fox Theater. Hello, Dolly actually premiered at The Fisher Theater before making its debut on Broadway. Orchestra Hall is home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the 4th oldest U.S. Orchestra. (wiki)

5.  Lions, Tigers, Red Wings, and Pistons, oh my (sorry, no bears) now all reside within the city limits. In the late 90’s, in a plan to begin the revitalization of downtown, Ford Field (Lions) and Comerica Park (Tigers) were built adjacent to each other on Woodward Avenue. As of 2017, both the Pistons and Red Wings now play at the new Little Caesars Arena in Midtown. With the most Stanley Cup Championships of any NHL Team, Detroit is affectionately known as Hockeytown. With all of Detroit’s sports teams downtown, that is one more reason to visit the city during any season.

Scott Fountain

Another Belle Isle Highlight is the Scott Fountain

6.  I remember visiting Belle Isle about 15 years ago and it was rundown and desolate. In 2013, the State Park Service took over management of the park and has begun a beautiful restoration! The beautiful Belle Isle Aquarium which was the oldest continually operating public aquarium in the U.S. until it closed in 2005 is open again and is home to fish from around the world. Next door, The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is another Albert Kahn masterpiece full of beautiful palms, cacti, and ferns. I recently visited the Dossin Great Lakes Museum for the first time and I was truly impressed (expect an article on that at a later date). In the summer, visitors flock to the beaches to cool off in the Detroit River. Of course, a visit to Belle Isle would not be complete without a spot at Sunset Point to photograph the beautiful Detroit skyline (top).

7.  Of course, if you venture just outside the city there are some additional must-see attractions. Located in Dearborn, The Henry Ford, known as “America’s Greatest History Attraction”, is made up of a collection of historic buildings with costumed reenactors at Greenfield Village, The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, and The Rouge Factory Tour. Of course there is also the Detroit Zoo, which despite its name is actually in Royal Oak. The highlight of the zoo is also the newest attraction, the Polk Penguin Conservation Center where you can get up close and personal with the penguins! Don’t miss the Outback exhibit either: the kangaroos can hop right up to you!

Butterfly on Flower 55/100

Butterfly at the Butterfly House at the Detroit Zoo

Like any major city, Detroit does have crime. Visitors just need to remain vigilant and stay in the tourist areas. Detroit is not a city where you want to go exploring off the beaten path. I have noticed on my recent visits to the city (which tend to be on weekends), there really don’t seem to be a lot of people around. Don’t let the negative press surrounding Detroit, keep you from experiencing this unique, impressive city.

Thanks for stopping by! To plan your trip to Detroit, check out If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit

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Fisher Building

Fisher BuildingThe Fisher Building, located in Detroit’s New Center district and  is known as “Detroit’s largest art object”. Right when I walked in the door, it became obvious how it received that title. This Albert Kahn (the architect who did the Guardian Building and the Belle Isle Aquarium and who is known as
The Architect of Detroit”) designed marvel is full of marble from all over the world, high, painted ceilings, and accented with brass and bronze. It features 1,800 bronze window and 641 bronze elevator doors. The ceilings in the arcade feature frescoes that were hand painted and at the time cost $20,000 (which would be about $265,000 in today’s money)!  The exterior of this masterpiece is made up of over 325,000 square feet of marble and is the largest marble structure in the world! Somehow, it took only 15 months to complete and the building opened its doors to Detroit in 1928.

In later decades when Detroiters moved to the suburbs, the Fisher building was able to keep tenants because of its dedicated 1,100 spot parking garage, the first of its kind! Over the years, the building has changed hands several times because it is not cheap to run. In 1970, The Detroit Free Press wrote that the Fisher and the neighboring New Center Building cost $3.1 million a year to operate (Historic Detroit)! The building was most recently purchased along with the nearby Albert Kahn Building (previously known as the New Center Building) in 2015 for $12.2 million (Detroit Free Press). The new owner is reportedly putting $100 million into restoring these gems to their former glory! About the Fisher Building, Developer Peter Cummings said “It is more than just a beautiful building or a landmark; it is a beacon in the heart of Detroit for all of Detroit. It is the beacon of our city, both of its past and its future,” (Crain’s Detroit)

If you are in Detroit, and I advise that everyone should be at some point, definitely make a visit to the Fisher Building. On weekends, the Pure Detroit store in the lobby runs free, historical tours that are definitely worth the time!

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit

Wordless Wednesday: Passo di Danza

Passo di Danza

Belle Isle Conservatory

Bananas We recently decided to become members of the Belle Isle Conservancy.  This was an interesting choice of membership because with a recreation passport, there is no fee to enter the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle. The reason we decided to join is because the Belle Isle Conservancy is part of the American Horticultural Society’s reciprocal admissions program. What does this mean? It means that we get free admission and free parking at botanical gardens all around the country including Windmill Island Gardens in Holland and Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids. I’m hoping to find a garden to visit on our road trip this summer. Not to mention we are supporting Belle Isle and the restoration projects going on in the park. I strongly suggest photographers check out becoming a member of a local botanical garden to get the reciprocal access to gardens around the country!

This banana photo was taken in the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle. When I walked by the banana plant, I thought the one partially eaten banana was interesting. And, I wondered, what inside the greenhouse would have eaten it?

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! To see inside my camera bag, check out my newly updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Soldiers’ and Sailors

Campus Martius

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