28 July 2015

The Woodward Dream Cruise: Top tips for first-timers

On Aug. 15, the Woodward Dream Cruise is motoring into its 21st annual year, bringing approximately 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars from around the globe straight to the heart of Michigan. Not only is it a grand event for the masses that shouldn’t be missed, but it is also for a good cause — more than 50 local charities benefit from the sales of official Dream Cruise merchandise and refreshments each year. Word of the event has spread far and wide, and we have gathered some tips and tricks from Dream Cruise pros for first-time attendees.

[Video: Check out scenes from the Woodward Dream Cruise]

August in Detroit is hot, hot, hot!

If it is like the last few years, it is going to be sunny and hot. Plan accordingly. Don’t forget your sunscreen, drink lots of fluids and seek out shade when possible.

The early bird gets the worm.

Show up early — to everything — and be prepared to walk. It’s best to pay for and reserve your parking spot months in advance. Once you find a parking space, keep it —they are gold. Cruise early and then park by early afternoon. By midday, traffic is thick and cars commonly overheat, especially large-engine vehicles. Thursday and Friday are good cruise nights, and some folks recommend getting there extra early to do a few laps before 9 a.m., then parking before getting stuck in the full bumper-to-bumper action.

So much to see, so little time!

If you want to park and walk in to enjoy the show, there are a lot of parks, churches and business complexes that will have paid, monitored lots going east and west of M1. If you haven’t reserved a spot or made arrangements, gas stations just around or south of 696 usually don’t mind you parking awhile, but you are likely to get kicked out of anything north of 12 Mile Road.

Vinsetta Garage is the spot to go for good eats on Woodward, but it’ll be packed, all day, every day. Try showing up at 11 a.m. when they first open, especially on Thursday, and you should get seats in a decent amount of time. Duggan’s is also popular for its food and view of the Avenue; you can show up early and watch the cars cruise from the 2nd floor. And right next door to Duggan’s is Pasquales, a great Italian restaurant. Also try Athen’s Coney, Redcoat Tavern and Hunter House for other unique-to-Woodward dining.

[Video: Learn the history behind Woodward’s iconic Vinsetta Garage]

Ferndale is a significant place to visit during the cruise. It has an entire street festival based around the cruise that is fun for the whole family, along with some excellent restaurant options.

First timers may want to find a spot at the epicenter of the action, mainly between 13 and 14 Mile roads. Pontiac is also becoming a more popular spot to hang out and watch; it is the northern turnaround area and will be less crowded than other places along the route. Downtown Royal Oak, about a mile east of Woodward, is a good location to eat and relax if you want to stay close but be away from the crowds.

If you’re in the Bowtie Brigade, 15 Mile and Maple Road is your mecca. Birmingham will have displays of supercars and your higher-end fare, and in previous years they could be found near Pasteiner’s auto book store between 14 and 15 Mile. The Blue Oval legions converge at 9 Mile, and MOPAR was late to the Woodward party, but they had a small setup near Vinsetta Garage last year.

The big day:

Find a place for your lawn chair on Saturday and watch the cars cruise by — let the cars come to you. Pack a lunch if possible. Some Woodward veterans recommend not cruising at all on Saturday, but instead get up extra early and find a place to park on the main drag. This allows you to relax, watch the cars go by and talk about your car with all of the people passing by.

Woodward leads straight into the heart of the Motor City. Downtown Detroit is awesome, and Highland Park is home to the old Model T plant. The cruise ends promptly at 9 p.m. just south of 9 Mile Road, and large sections of the strip get cut off, so plan on leaving early if you need to be somewhere. Getting off of Woodward before 9 p.m. is ideal if you want to avoid a massive traffic jam on the side streets.

There’s an app for that:

The Woodward Dream Cruise now has an app for Apple and Android products so you can have the event schedule, area maps with hotel and restaurant locations, and photo uploads right at your fingertips. Find it at http://www.woodwarddreamcruise.com

23 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Christine North Idao July 29, 2015 at 14:23
    I attended the Dream Cruise in the mid-90's with my 68 Mustang and cruised a small part of the route. I learned that if your car has even a slim chance of overheating, it will. You've been warned! :-) Have fun while you are there. As a friend of mine said, "I've never seen so many Hemi's before!" With a quote like that, you know it is a great event!
  • 2
    Frank Hamilton July 29, 2015 at 16:36
    Not worth my time or effort. Like car shows a lot of unnessessary cars show up filling in the place. I like evening cruises when it's cooler. I also like the cruises that keep out the plastic pony cars easily viewed at WallyMart with the minivans
  • 3
    Bob Port St. Lucie, FL July 29, 2015 at 18:04
    On Saturday, better than the Dream Cruise is the "Back to the Bricks" cruise-in held about 50 miles north of there in Flint, MI. Streets are closed down to classic cars only. Cars are parked with engines off so you can get up close to look at them and talk to the owners. That Woodward Cruise is nothing but a rolling parking lot with mis-tuned cars idling by on race fuel which will leave you with a tremendous headache from dangerous hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide in only an hour or so. Play it safe instead and spend 6 hours in Flint.
  • 4
    Smokey Michigan July 29, 2015 at 18:15
    Classic VW's and Porsches gather at the NW corner of Woodward & Square lake roads at Kerby's Coney Island.
  • 5
    Dave London ON. July 29, 2015 at 20:00
    Electric fan, electric fan, electric fan!! Last time I went, it took hours to get from one end to the other, but it's awesome!!
  • 6
    Art H.I. July 29, 2015 at 20:23
    If you DON'T have a classic car, PLEASE, PLEASE DON'T DIVE ON WOODWARD AVE ON SAT................Thank You!
  • 7
    Dave Anderson Clinton Township July 29, 2015 at 20:48
    Drove my 63 Continental Convert and parked with the LCOC in 2013, so thought we would cruise with it on Friday Night of 2014 to avoid the congestion...wrong, After 45 min of barely moving she overheated. The best way is to park on the side and bring a lawn chair.
  • 8
    James Cincinnati July 29, 2015 at 20:50
    I park with our club at 13th and Woodward. Major manufacturers have their cars on display in the area. I have been going to Royal Oak for about 5 years now with our Crossfire. Pasquales always serves up good food and cold beer!
  • 9
    James Cincinnati July 29, 2015 at 20:54
    Pasquales always serves up good food and cold beer! http://www.crossfireforum.org/forum/attachments/crossfire-meets/32821d1408423331-woodward-dream-cruise-meet-august-16-2014-michigan-img_1241.jpg
  • 10
    wildcard21 Michigan July 29, 2015 at 20:56
    Good info.Been there and enjoyed it.
  • 11
    Gary Niver Port Huron, Mi July 30, 2015 at 08:13
    I grew up in Clarkston, Michigan and was one of the original 60's cruisers it was fun and the thing for teenagers to do. I have cruised Woodward in the recent years and find traffic over crowded and way to many regular cars in the mix. I realize Woodward is a public road and everyone is allowed to use it, but the non classic vehicle owners should use common sense and stay on foot. I now prefer the Back to the Bricks event in Flint, Mi where they shut down Saginaw Street on the event day and everyone parks so the classic vehicles are on display Flint has everything Woodward has except the outragious traffic jams.
  • 12
    Les North Carolina July 30, 2015 at 09:58
    Moved to North Carolina 6 years ago. Participated in the dream cruise with my pro-street 60 Corvette. It's a great time with great cars and people. Wish we had something similar here.
  • 13
    bill grafton, ohio July 30, 2015 at 10:02
    This year will be my 14th consecutive dream cruise. I've endured extreme heat, torrential rains and even massive power outages -- and they have all been awesome experiences. I don't like crowds, but everyone is there for a good time -- come early/stay late and have fun.
  • 14
    Dave Henry Berkley, MI July 30, 2015 at 11:07
    Come visit the Roush employee "Special Vehicles" lot at the north end of Pasquale's lot. Look for my red 1967 Mustang convertible. Grandstand seating available to watch the cars pass. Close to eating places, too.
  • 15
    Les Southeast Michigan July 31, 2015 at 14:33
    I grew up on Woodward in the '60s and I attend this event every year. It is billed as a one-day event, but the action has already started. Starting Monday night of cruise week you will see lots of cars and people. During the week leading up to the cruise the cars are actually able to move. Sam's Shell near 13 1/2 mile Rd. (Normandy) has lots of great cars every night. On Saturday, the official cruise day, arrive by 8:00 AM if you want to find a parking spot on a side street. The lots on the street are all spoken for. Some rent for as much as $150 for the day and are reserved months in advance. Bring a cooler, but avoid drinking alcohol on the street as there is a big fine in Royal Oak and other communities. Squeezing your tires will also get you a big fine. Have fun and play it safe.
  • 16
    Brian Shear 1/2 mile west of woodward August 1, 2015 at 06:55
    Good advice, get up early, drive some, then find a spot to park. Wall to wall cars all day long including the week leading up to Saturday. Leave before the end or get stuck in the funnel of cars being forced off Woodward at every mile road and you cant just go 1 mile east or west but 3-4 miles before you can get home.FYI Vinsetta never worked on anything but GM cars.
  • 17
    Keneth Carey Parma, OH August 1, 2015 at 20:40
    Going to Woodward for the 9th straight year. Started going on Thursday last year. We can cruise Thurs. PM., All day Friday and Saturday. What fun it is!!
  • 18
    Butch Simms Spruce, Mi., 48762 August 1, 2015 at 12:43
    Sometimes if your car over heats U need to keep space between u and the cars in front so you get some cool air and not all exhaust air. I just put a new 4 core, aluminum radiator in my 69 Camaro and my engine temp dropped 10 degrees while driving.
  • 19
    Chuck Xenia, Ohio August 2, 2015 at 15:09
    Anybody got a parking area for our Miata Club? We need 10 spaces.
  • 20
    Jerry Ohio August 9, 2015 at 13:37
    Does anyone know if parking spots can be reserved at Phoenix Center this year? 2015
  • 21
    Denise Mi August 9, 2015 at 16:15
    Wow who's blue car is that is your ad? It is AWSOME...
  • 22
    Dave Troutman Marion, Ohio August 10, 2015 at 13:35
    Hi Anyone. I have never been there. I have a 1957 BMW Isetta -Concours car for sale. Should I bring it there????
  • 23
    Scott Columbus, OH August 18, 2015 at 22:37
    #2 Frank, the whole point is that Woodward Av is a public roadway, M1, open to all local traffic. It "just happens" that thousands of additional cars show up. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Every genre of auto-mobile coexists: brass-era (100-yr old), military vehicles, street rods, lead-sleds, muscle cars, family cars, exotics, electrics, military vehicles, "the garbage" truck, movie cars, tuners, open-header dragsters, monster 4x4s, minibikes and a few motorcycles. Essentially if it rolls, whether stock, modified, or one-of-a-kind, you're likely to see it on or near Woodward Av. The theft of 3 classic Chevys in 2015, including the Papa John's '71 Camaro Z28, is a real shame. Thank you Hagerty for hosting a Wedding Vow Renewal Station. It was quirky classy fun that fits with the subtle schtick known as the Woodward Ave Dream Cruise!

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