Woodward Dream Cruise – A Step Back in Time

Photo credit - Chris AraceGuest Blogger Matt Forster is an experienced visitor to the Woodward Dream Cruise. Read along as he outlines the many events happening in the Detroit area that weekend. Looking for the best place to chat with the drivers, or to catch a parade? He’s got you covered!

Kids, cars, rock ‘n’ roll, and drive-ins. These are the defining emblems of America’s youth culture. Here in southeast Michigan in the ‘50s and ‘60s, you could find all four any weekend on Woodward Avenue. The Woodward Dream Cruise, which has run the third Saturday in August since 1995, celebrates those days of teenage prowling. Tens of thousands show up to drive up and down Woodward Avenue and show off the cars they had back then (or the ones they wish they had back then). They hoot and holler, peel rubber, and light it up. Another 1.5 million show up to watch.

For one glorious weekend in August, we go to forget about the hassles of adulthood—mortgages to pay, lawns that need mowing, receding hairlines, and expanding waistlines. During the Cruise, we’re all teenagers again.

The Woodward Dream Cruise - Photo by - Chris Arace

The Woodward Dream Cruise

Being born just a little too late, I never actually cruised Woodward back in the day. Instead of hopping from drive-in to drive-in on Woodward in a Model A hot rod or Dad’s ‘56 Buick Century, my friends and I made late-night runs to the video store and Taco Bell on Dixie Highway in my ‘82 Ford Fairmont and my buddy’s Buick Skylark. The Woodward Dream Cruise, however, has a universal appeal—and while it helps to have an interest in cars, it’s not necessary to enjoy the event.

On one hand, the Cruise is a very informal affair. There’s no registration needed to drive on Woodward that day, so anyone with a road-legal vehicle can take part. The route begins on Woodward at 8 Mile in Ferndale and proceeds north to Pontiac, where it makes a loop around the city and back south again. Not a parade, participants just drive the route, sharing the road with spectators and whoever else decides to drive on Woodward that day.

This year the official event runs on Saturday, August 20, from 9 am to 9 pm. You could just head out Saturday morning, find some parking, and set up camp somewhere along Woodward, but communities along the way add their own events to capitalize on the weekend crowds. I sometimes feel these sideshows are more fun than the main attraction.

Classic Dream Cruise Cars - Photo by - Chris Arace

Classic Dream Cruise Cars

Friday night in Berkley is almost like getting a backstage pass to the entire weekend. The city hosts a Classic Car Parade the Friday night before the cruise. It’s a more intimate affair, and if you’re in to watching the cars, then the parade is where you’ll want to be. Unlike the melee on Woodward, the parade is a bit more orderly and the stream of cars isn’t diluted by regular traffic. I always make it a point to head over to the A&W on 12 Mile before or after the parade. The drive-in is a popular stop with drivers and a great place to check out some cars up close. Just make sure you’re done with your chili dog before leaning over to inspect someone’s interior restoration.

On Saturday, if the crowds on Woodward become overwhelming, head to Bloomfield Township for the Classic Car Show. Let’s be honest, a lot of these older cars can overheat driving for hours at slow speeds on a hot summer afternoon. At the car show their drivers can relax in the shade and let the spectators come to them.

You will also find Mustang Alley in Ferndale, food and festivities in Royal Oak, and a music festival in Pontiac.

Photo by - Chris AraceParking can be found all over. There’s plenty on Woodward, but I don’t recommend driving on the main strip south of Birmingham. The traffic thickens quickly and it’s easy to get stuck. Bloomfield Township has parking on Woodward for $5 this year, but you’ll find plenty of other places.

Looking at the calendar, it’s easy to get a little discouraged as we see summer winding down. In less than two weeks, however, one weekend event will capture the essence of an eternal summer—the summers of our adolescence.

Matt ForsterMatt Forster makes his living as a freelance writer and editor. Along the way, he’s done some travel writing. Check out his website and travel guides at http://www.big-words.net/.

 

 

Interested in taking your car out for a spin? Find inspiration in these road trip posts!

  • Angie Gallegos

    Excellent overview! Thanks for the great tips!

  • Mike Hickey

    Matt:

    Back in the day, Ted’s drive-in was the place to be on Woodward Ave. I had a 66 Mustang that I raced on Woodward. I would love to do the “Dream Cruise” but I now live in the UP and sadly, don’t have a car worthy of cruising Woodward. I don’t think a PT Cruiser qualifies. Now that I’m retired, maybe I’ll have the time necessary to restore a Woodward Ave. car and cruise the strip again. Is Ted’s still there? I enjoyed reading your artical and seeing the photos! Thanks, Mike

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-Forster/540166113 Matt Forster

    Mike- I’d never heard of Ted’s Drive-In, so I dug around a little bit. It used to be up near Square Lake, right? If that’s the one you’re talking about, one site reports they stopped drive-in service in 1969. (This explains why I had never heard of it.) Seeing the number of Sonics that are being erected everywhere, you’d think there’d be some interest in reviving some of the classic drive-ins. -Matt

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-Forster/540166113 Matt Forster

    I would love to know more about the menu at Ted’s, if anyone remembers. I read online someone used to order a “5X5 with fries.” What’s that?

  • dan johnson

    matt,
    the 5×5 was a hamburger. they were famous for there hot dogs also. my mother use to manage teds.