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Distinctively Detroit Tours Goes Behind the Scenes

New tour company offers insiders' look at city's iconic venues

By Kathy Gibbons

The Detroit shoreline || Photo by Charles Falsetti, courtesy of Visit Detroit

Want to really get to know Detroit? Distinctively Detroit Tours can show you around.

Partners Tami Manton and Kris Hoff launched Distinctively Detroit Tours earlier this year. The veteran tour operators—Manton in Chicago for about two decades and Hoff in Wisconsin and Illinois for some 25 years—started the venture after Hoff had a group that wanted to explore Detroit together, but she couldn’t find the type of tour she was looking for.

“I called Tami, who’s from the greater Detroit area, and told her I needed to go to Detroit and started hunting around for what I needed,” Hoff says. The two met up in the Motor City and Hoff says she was “amazed at how beautiful the city is and how alive it was, and I felt there was a lot to be done for the group market.”

Motown is featured among Distinctively Detroit Tours. || Courtesy of Visit Detroit

So far they’ve developed several themed tours and day trips for groups of 15 or more. For example, “Lights, Camera, Action 8 Mile & Hip-Hop Style” takes in the actual sites used to film “8 Mile,” including a behind-the-scenes tour of St. Andrews Hall/The Shelter, one of the first stages Eminem ever performed on, and dining at Eminem’s Mom’s Spaghetti restaurant, among other stops. “Motown Magic” is a narrated riding tour of Motown legends’ former homes, hang-outs, and murals that includes tours of the Motown Museum and churches where Aretha Franklin’s father was preacher and Stevie Wonder sang in the choir. The tour includes views of homes of such luminaries as Gladys Knight, David Ruffin, Martha Reeves, and Marvin Gaye. Another music-themed tour starts with a visit to Third Man Pressing’s vinyl manufacturing plant, which doubles as a sound and recording studios. The pair also recruit local legends to speak to tour groups when possible.

Miller London, first hired by Motown Records in 1969, speaks to a group participating in a tour. || Courtesy of Distinctively Detroit Tours

“They get a much more distinctive, exclusive tour that they’re not going to get on their own,” Manton explains. “We’re going to add fun twists they’re not going to get anywhere else.”

And participating in the tours helps visiting groups get a better feel for the heart of Detroit, they say.

“I think it’s important for groups,” Hoff says. “If they’re coming to the city, they should explore the city.”

Manton says Distinctively Detroit Tours’ goal is to “put Detroit on the tourism map,” adding, “We’ve been having a lot of fun exploring it ourselves and want to share that with others.”

Come Sept. 22, Distinctively Detroit Tours launches a new Weed & Wine Tour, a day trip that departs from Southfield and Ferndale to southwestern Michigan, where participants will visit an outdoor budding farm to learn all aspects of the cannabis industry—from cultivating to packaging to selling—and have lunch and wine at Vineyard 2121. On Nov. 25-29, they’ll take people behind the scenes of the Detroit Thanksgiving Day parade, touring the Parade Company to see how parade floats are made and also providing grandstand seating for the parade, a Thanksgiving Dinner Cruise, dinner at Motown Jazz Café with a featured speaker, and other highlights.

Tours can also be customized to fit a group’s wishes and time frame. Visit Distinctively Detroit Tours for more details.