Four Ford Thunderbirds at the 2014 Woodward Dream Cruise | Shutterstock
The world’s largest one-day car event rolls down Woodward Avenue on Saturday, August 17
Enthusiasts and spectators will soon be out showing off their rides for the 25th Annual Woodward Dream Cruise, which rolls through the northern suburbs along Woodward Avenue on Saturday, August 17. The world’s largest one-day automotive event is an enormous draw—last year an estimated 1.5 million people attended and 40,000 classic cars were on the roads at the free event.
While the main ride takes place from Pontiac to Ferndale, Detroit also has a few offerings for visitors this year. Here’s where to go if you want to watch—or avoid—the festivities.
The first Dream Cruise took place on August 19, 1995. It was organized by a couple of Ferndale residents—the mayor and a plumber—to help fund a soccer field, and it far exceeded expectations. The event drew about 200,000 more people than expected. The Detroit News put together an oral history of that first event.
It’s since expanded slightly—the ride now extends all the way to Pontiac and festivities take place on the days leading up to the main cruise.
Officially, the Woodward Dream Cruise runs Saturday, August 17 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Events have already started, and an official ribbon cutting will take place on Friday at 5 p.m. in Ferndale.
Route and parking
The Dream Cruise starts in Pontiac and rolls down Woodward through Birmingham, Royal Oak, Ferndale, and all places in-between. The event is free, and many visitors park along the side streets and bring lawn chairs to view from sidewalks or the medians. Parking goes quickly, and the Dream Cruise outlines official parking in each city.
If you want your parking money to go to a good cause, Wetmore’s, an auto repair shop in Ferndale is selling spots for $60; all proceeds to go to a shelter for women and children.
While Woodward, we’d strongly recommend taking a different route if possible. Getting stuck in traffic with thousands of other slowly driving cars is not fun.
A couple closures to note include the westbound I-696 ramp to southbound I-75 and 9 Mile Road near Woodward.
Looking to view the cruise but avoid traffic? SMART will offer a free shuttle service starting Saturday at 9 a.m.. Riders can hop on from any SMART Red or FAST bus stop from 8 Mile Road to Pontiac and cruise down Woodward along with the classic cars.
Fares will still be in effect for other SMART routes. Also, the 450/460 Woodward Local service and SMART’s FAST Woodward Routes 461/462 will operate to the Fairgrounds then detour to Pontiac. Riders may get on or off the bus at any safe spot along the Bypass route or any red SMART Bus stop.
Because of all the visitors, expect restaurants and bars to be open and busy. As for other businesses along Woodward, check ahead of time—they may close due to difficulty in customer parking.
What to see
Ford is the presenting sponsor this year (there are 35 in total), and the automaker has a few big activities set up along the route. Nearly 1,000 Mustangs will be lined up around 9 Mile at Mustang Alley. The new 2020 Shelby GT500 will be the featured model and parade down Woodward early Saturday morning.
Each city along the route has events planned on Saturday, and some on Friday and Thursday as well, including a number of classic car shows. Check out the schedule for a complete list.
Also, the Detroit Free Press put together a handy list of the best places to watch the Dream Cruise.
The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant will have a Super Roll from 8 to 10 a.m. See classic cars—where it all started—rolling down Woodward toward Palmer Park and then into the Dream Cruise with a police escort.
America’s Automotive Trust and Autoweek planned the Cruise Detroit event, a ride starting at 8 a.m. at the Lafayette Garage in Corktown, heading to the base of Woodward at Jefferson Avenue, then north towards the Dream Cruise. Spirit Plaza will be open for this event, “making it a rare opportunity to cruise the entire length of M-1.”
Interestingly, Tony Michaels, executive director of the Woodward Dream Cruise Inc., told Crain’s Detroit Business that there have been informal conversations of late about extending the ride into Detroit in the near future. “I think what’s going to happen is there will be some event in unison with the Dream Cruise in Detroit. It makes sense,” he said
We’ll continue to update this article with information about traffic, weather, and events as the date of the Dream Cruise nears.