Indiana has the Indianapolis 500, Kentucky has that famous horse race, and Pasadena has the Rose Bowl. Detroit has the Woodward Dream Cruise, and it dwarfs all of those events – combined.
The thing is, Woodward Avenue serves as both the literal and figurative conduit for the cruisers who show up for this mechanized Mardi Gras, but there’s no central show field, awards ceremony or anything of the kind. Rather, the designated Dream Cruise day—the third Saturday of August—is the day enthusiasts flood Woodward, with the cities along the route, private organizations, and other participants and spectators making it their own in countless ways.
The cruisers hit the street a full week earlier, filling the parking lots along the route in the evenings leading up to Saturday’s full-on cruise. It’s known locally and unofficially as Dream Cruise Week, but anyone thinking of attending their first Dream Cruise should plan to arrive on the Tuesday or Wednesday ahead of the Cruise to take in the sights and sounds on those lead-up nights.
The Dream Cruise began in 1995 as a soccer field fundraiser. When more than 250,000 people lined the streets that first year, organizers knew they had something big on their hands. The Dream Cruise grew exponentially in the ensuing years and these days, the spectator estimate typically tops 1 million.
We did our best to document the action this year, but with cars filling parking lots and lawns along a 16-mile route, it was impossible to capture it all—and that’s a big part of the fun. If you haven’t taken it in yet, put the Woodward Dream Cruise on your automotive bucket list.