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

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