When you think of weekend getaways, you don’t think of driving to a big city. But that’s exactly what you should do this weekend if you love seeing great muscle cars in their natural environment. This weekend marks the 10th annual Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise.
If you grew up in Detroit in the ‘60s as I did, you knew about Woodward Avenue. It’s 25 miles of concrete pavement that runs from downtown Detroit northeast to Pontiac, Michigan. Once you get north of 8 Mile Road (yes, the one Eminem made famous) Woodward becomes a divided boulevard with up to 4 lanes on each side and lights every half mile. This made it the perfect venue for local hotrodders to bring their Mustangs, Corvettes, Camaros, Barracudas, Challengers, Javelins and other muscle cars to see who was king of the street. It’s also where executives from GM, Ford and Chrysler would occasionally appear driving works in progress to get a reaction from their most passionate fans.
Interestingly, The Woodward Dream Cruise wasn’t started to honor this legacy and celebrate Detroit’s heritage as the automotive capital of the world. It was initially a benefit to help raise money for local soccer fields in Ferndale, a city just north of 8 Mile Road. To the organizer’s surprise, over 250,000 people showed up to the first cruise in 2005 and it’s only grown from there. Last year, over 1.5 million people attended and there were over 40,000 cars from all across the country and even as far away as Russia and New Zealand.
Detroit is an easy drive from Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Toronto and a number of other cities. There’s not much driving to do once you’re there, but for this weekend, the draw is the Dream Cruise so park your car and enjoy. Here’s how to do it right.
Located in the tony suburb of Bloomfield Hills, the Kingsley Inn was opened 60 years ago and is a classic mid-century modern hotel that’s seen several recent upgrades. It’s one of the nicer hotels right on Woodward so you’ll have a front row seat to the action without having to leave the property. With a great restaurant on site and just a few miles north of the town of Birmingham, it’s a perfect home base for the cruise.
The Townsend Hotel
Just a few blocks off Old Woodward Avenue in downtown Birmingham where vintage Chevrolets are on display on Saturday, the Townsend Hotel is a full-on 4-star hotel with great rooms and impeccable service. There are all kinds of dining, shopping and entertainment experiences within walking distance of the hotel.
You’ve probably had sliders before, but unless you’ve been to Hunter House, you’ve probably never had a good one. Everything at Hunter House is fresh daily from the buns, to the ground beef to the chopped onions. In addition to their burgers which have been featured in Gourmet Magazine, The Food Network and the Wall Street Journal, they also serve chili, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, and great breakfasts.
Leo’s Coney Island
A unique staple food of the Detroit area, the Coney Island isn’t like any hot dog you’ve ever had. Yes, it’s a chili dog, but the way they’re made here is different. The dogs are just a little spicy. Their natural casings snap as you bite into one. The sauce is meaty but wetter than traditional chili with spices that complement the dog. The onion and mustard top it all off in a way that’s both tangy and sweet. Once you’ve had a good Coney, no other hot dog will satisfy your craving again.
Once an actual gas station and automotive repair shop, the Vinsetta Garage is now one of the great places to eat and car spot on Dream Cruise weekend. Serving everything from soups, salads, sandwiches and burgers to entrees like Waygu strip steaks and glazed salmon, the real star is the design and atmosphere of the place. It’s a celebration of all things automotive.
Dream Cruise events are non-stop from Friday evening through Saturday night so there are plenty of places to stop and visit. Take a look at the full schedule here, but what follows are a few of our favorite events and venues.
Dodge Road Kill Nights
What started as a grassroots event in the empty parking lot of the abandoned Pontiac Silverdome is now a sanctioned activity at one of the newest and best private racing facilities in the country, the M1 Concourse. Tonight the top part of Woodward Avenue will be shut down for street racing at this event bringing back the glory days of hot rod culture. Don’t miss this one!
Support the community where the Dream Cruise began by visiting Mustang Alley on 9 Mile Road in Ferndale. You’ll see everything from 1964 Coupes to the latest Shelby Cobras. This is a must stop for fans of the original Pony Car.
Chevy Camaro #1
Newly restored and on display for all to see Camaro number 100001 will spend dream cruise weekend under glass at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Maple Road in Birmingham as a centerpiece to Chevrolet’s activities for the weekend. What better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Chevy’s answer to the Mustang craze?