There are a lot of late summer events to choose from, and going to a large congregation is practically a human rite of passage.
The one I went to last weekend is one of my favorites. It was the Woodward Dream Cruise, also known as just ‘Dream Cruise.’ Dream Cruise is an automotive enthusiast event in Michigan that takes place on the third Saturday of every August. It’s officially a one-day event, but there’s action the entire weekend.
The point of this congregation is straightforward, it’s to celebrate automotive culture. The event itself takes place on M-1, or Woodward Avenue, an iconic road classified as an Automotive Heritage Trail by the Federal Highway Administration.
Woodward Avenue is historic for many reasons. It was the first paved road in America. It had the first three-color traffic light installed. Commerce and restaurants popped up all along this historic road. Woodward carries automotive and cultural significance in the US.
An iconic road like Woodward is a fitting place for this type of event.
So how exactly is automotive culture celebrated?
Well, it depends on who you ask. Most active participants do so by showing off their car. Usually it’s a ‘project’ car. In automotive lingo, this means a car that you own for leisure, as opposed to a ‘daily’ car that you use to get around in a purely utilitarian way.
Project cars might be something vintage. Perhaps it’s a decades old car that has been kept in pristine condition and passed down through generations. There are plenty of those in Woodward. Ever seen those long cars with bright colors and fins in old movies? You can see them in real life! Fun fact: the 1956 Chevy Bel Air has its gas caps behind the taillight.
Project cars can also be something slick and modern. You are bound to see some good old American muscle cars at Dream Cruise, such as Camaros and Mustangs with trims that border on six figures. A tier above the muscle cars are the supercars. These include the Ferraris, Corvettes and McLaren’s of the world, among others. With the meteoric rise of electric vehicles, you are bound to see some EV’s as well!
There are some luxury cars too. While luxury cars may not be as common in the US as in European automotive culture, there are certainly some vehicles that are meant to be driven by chauffeurs and focus on the riding experience. Some Cadillacs and Lincolns cater to this market.
The cool thing about Dream Cruise is that you get to witness some weird and unique cars. Enthusiasts and companies will modify their cars to show off or advertise. BJ’s has a car that’s a shopping cart with an engine. There’s the famous car that looks like it’s upside down – but drives normally. This year I saw a Star Wars car, a convertible was driven by someone in a Clone Trooper costume with a Master Yoda puppet on the passenger seat.
Most passive attendees, including myself, are there to spectate. The best way to do this is to just pull up and plop your lawn chair down on the side of Woodward. You can also just walk up and down the road to visit the various booths and attractions that are set up for this event. It’s easy to make small talk and connect with people. There’s usually food and drinks being sold throughout as well.
Dream Cruise is equal parts Burning Man and part anime convention. It’s a self-expression festival for sure, but definitely a hobbyist event as well. It even has a little bit of Coachella or Lollapalooza in it, since you’re walking around under the sun a lot (wear your sunscreen!) and visiting different attractions.
There is no way to analogize this event because it’s so unique. I went to Dream Cruise because like many Bears, I’m an engineering car nerd. But Dream Cruise is worth checking out at least once, regardless of how much you’re into cars!