Your Guide to the 2019 Dream Cruise
Your Guide to the 2019 Dream Cruise
Each year in mid-August, nearly 1.5 million people gather along Woodward Avenue in Detroit for the Dream Cruise — the world’s largest gathering of classic cars. 40,000 cars gather across 16 miles of Woodward Ave. Throughout the week and weekend of the Dream Cruise, six towns along Woodward Ave. host events and dozens of vendors set up in the most popular sections of Woodward — Ferndale, Royal Oak and Pontiac. The event contrasts starkly with any concours; after all, how many concours primarily exhibit American-made cars?
The week features a few judged events, but most spectators and cruisers are not there for competition. They line the streets looking for a casual good time, admiring cars and reminiscing about old ones they’ve driven in the past. In every direction are Mustangs, Chargers, Corvettes, and even Model-Ts. The cars cruise up and down Woodward, with the occasional drag race occuring. The thundering rumble of hot rods is paused only by intermittent red lights.
The one-day event is held on Saturday, August 17, with events kicking off the previous Saturday (August 10). Expect to see more and more spectators as the week goes on and activities picking up significantly after Thursday. With so much to see, it can be difficult to get the most out of a weekend at Dream Cruise. Here is some helpful information as you make plans for Detroit.
Each town along Woodward hosts events for the Dream Cruise — everything from drag racing to car shows. Be sure to plan ahead because most of the events take place on the day of the Dream Cruise and navigating the crowds makes it difficult to attend more than two in one day. Woodward is one of the main streets connecting metro Detroit to Downtown, and it is completely shut down for the Dream Cruise. Some areas along Woodward notoriously turn into parking lots due to the sheer number of cars. As congested as Woodward gets, the side streets are typically just as bad. Be sure to give yourself plenty of extra time to get from one place to the next.
Ferndale: Ferndale has made itself the epicenter of the Dream Cruise. Starting Thursday, the town shuts down 9 Mile, the main road that runs through their downtown. Between Thursday and Saturday, there are several car shows along the street and live music on a stage near Woodward.
- Thursday: Classic Car Show along 9 Mile
- Friday: Emergency Vehicle show – Owners of vintage firetrucks, ambulances and police cars bring out their vehicles for a show during the day and then in the evening commence the Dream Cruise with a cruise down Woodward with their sirens blaring.
- Saturday: Mustang Alley – nearly 1,000 early- and late-model Ford Mustangs create an impressive line-up along 9 Mile.
Berkley: Although Berkley does not have many events, CruiseFest has become one of the best ways to enjoy the Dream Cruise without the crowds. Only classic cars are allowed to stroll down 12 Mile, just off Woodward, on the evening before the Dream Cruise. They travel single-file, so this is a great time to get a good look at some of the gems of the Dream Cruise.
Royal Oak: Performance Park, a car show in Royal Oak’s Memorial Park, has become one of the most popular shows of the Dream Cruise weekend. The show takes place on Friday and Saturday, featuring an incredible array of American cars. The show draws nearly 1,000 cars to the park, making it a worthwhile trip for anyone attending the Dream Cruise.
Birmingham: Birmingham hosts a classic car show the day of the Dream Cruise, which features many of the cars you’ll find cruising up and down Woodward.
Bloomfield Hills: Mercedes-Benz of Bloomfield Hills hosts a show in their lot right along Woodward, making it a great place to get a closer look at some of the cars while others cruise by.
Pontiac: The other end of the Dream Cruise, Pontiac, features car shows and live music. On the Saturday before Dream Cruise, Pontiac hosts what might be one of the most exciting events of the week: RoadKill Nights, a drag-racing event along Woodward at South Boulevard. The event is free to watch and boasts a $30,000 prize for the winner.
- Friday: In addition to live music, the Pontiac Classic Car Show starts this morning in Downtown Pontiac.
- Saturday: The car show continues throughout the Dream Cruise, featuring over 1,000 vehicles.
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Without a car, it can be difficult to navigate to various events, but with a car, parking is challenging (not surprisingly), and may require a 15 or 20 minute walk if you arrive after 8:00am. Some areas along Woodward have side street parking and others have parking decks, metered street parking or fields converted into parking.
Ferndale: Side-street parking is the best option here, but be prepared to walk if you don’t arrive early. Ferndale is a popular destination for both the Dream Cruise and Friday’s events. There are also metered municipal lots near the events.
Berkley: Side street parking won’t be hard to find here.
Royal Oak: Municipal parking is available near Woodward.
Birmingham: There are five parking decks in Birmingham, all a short walk to Woodward and the Birmingham events. Expect these to be full before mid-morning.
Bloomfield Hills: Last year, parking was available at 36700 Woodward for $5, where the Bloomfield car show was located.
Pontiac: Municipal parking is available near the events.
Watching the Dream Cruise
Although going to events is a popular way to spend Dream Cruise Saturday, the main attraction is sitting on Woodward and watching the cars go by. It is no secret that some areas are more popular than others, but as long as you are between Ferndale and Pontiac, you will likely catch a glimpse of the cars you are looking for.
Due to the popularity of some areas, it has become more common for spectators to set up tents the day before in order to save spots in the popular viewing places. Here are some of the most popular spots along Woodward (that may also feature stop and go traffic from time to time):
- 13 Mile, in Royal Oak
- 9 Mile, in Ferndale
- Pike Street, in Pontiac
Several spots along Woodward in Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills are much less crowded, but a considerable number of cars still cruise by. If you plan on going out to eat somewhere along Woodward after the Dream Cruise, be sure to make a reservation; it will be almost impossible to find a table without one.
For a guide to three other historic car events taking place this summer, see our 2019 Summer Events Preview.
Joseph Siano was a copy desk chief at The New York Times for over 30 years. Overseeing copy for Styles, Travel, Dining, Home and Special Sections. He also did occasional reporting on collector-car market and historical auto-racing pieces. Now, he is a freelance copy editor at The Motley Fool and the Revs Institute for Automotive Research.