Monthly Archives: December 2015

Five Reasons to Spend New Year’s Eve at The Motor City Drop

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Motor City New Year's Eve

Photo credit: Motor City New Year’s Eve – The Drop Facebook Page

Most people think the New Year’s Eve ball drop is a New York-thing, but what if I told you there’s an equally-cool and way-less stressful alternative right in the Motor City?

That’s right – Detroit’s own Campus Martius in the heart of downtown is the proud host of the now 6th annual Motor City New Year’s Eve – The Drop. If a grand countdown is what you’re looking for, there are several reasons to consider this drop over its more well-known competitors.

  • Why drop a ball when you can drop a “D”?

Dropping a ball for New Year’s has become so cliché. In the Motor City, we drop a “D” – a sparkly, 7-foot tall one. Because what better way to show off your city pride on New Year’s than to make a formal display of its title letter?

  • In Detroit, you get two drops!

That’s right – for the price of…nothing…participants of the Detroit drop get not one, but two drops! In addition to the traditional 11:59 p.m. countdown, a special children’s drop happens at 6:30 p.m. so kids can participate in the fun without the late bedtime (and revelers can enjoy a more adult-focused party later on).

  • There will be horse-drawn carriages!

Try fitting that in Manhattan. Starting at 4 p.m., revelers can enjoy romantic horse-drawn carriage rides around the city. In addition to the rides, the family-friendly event includes three stages of live music, a Kid Zone and fire pits, as well as ice skating in front of the city’s Christmas tree. What’s more charming than that?

  • Behold – food, toilets and breathing room.

Regular complaints about the New York City ball drop include lack of food, toilets and breathing room. With more than 1 million people expected to descend upon Times Square this year, that’s unlikely to change. Compare that with the 20,000 estimated people who came to Campus Martius last year. Add in food trucks, portable bathrooms and a variety of events to explore, and you won’t feel the need to strategically dehydrate to save your spot on New Year’s Eve.

  • There’s a new tent in town.

This year organizers added a party within a party with its new VIP Motown Countdown, a ticketed event from 8 p.m. – 1 a.m. The party takes place inside an 11,000-square-foot heated structure full of live entertainment. The $89 admission includes eight drink tickets, a midnight snack, party favors, a celebratory balloon drop, heated restrooms, a coat check and access to four LED screens broadcasting the football game.

For additional information and/or to purchase VIP tickets, visit www.motorcitynye.com.

Getting Lost in the Fall at Blast Corn Maze

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One of my absolutely favorite things to do in Michigan in the fall is a corn maze, and the Blast Corn Maze at Nixon Farms in Dexter doesn’t disappoint.

The experience is basically what it sounds like – a winding journey through the corn stalks with the goal of finding the way out. At Blast, that maze goes through more than 10 acres of corn with three options of a short, medium or long route for all levels of skill (or patience). For extra challenge, bring a flashlight and try it in the dark!

In my case, my friends and I arrived in late afternoon and opted for the long route. We decided to really test our navigational skills by splitting up and racing, which seemed like a great idea at the time, except then I remembered my personal sense of direction was lacking, and I hadn’t bought a map…

Luckily, the maze is marked by eight check points to lead you on your journey and extra exits are available if you truly cannot find your way out.

Despite literally running around in circles for 15 minutes (and somehow finding my way back to the start!), I was determined to make it through the entire path and made friends with a young family who had had the forethought to purchase a map.

Together, we examined the pumpkin-shaped design to navigate to our next checkpoint, hitting some dead ends along the way but making our way steadily through the path.

In the end, I lost (badly) to my friends, who had made it through the maze sans maps in about a half an hour. For me? 57 minutes :).

For those with a less competitive spirit, just walking through the stalks on a crisp autumn day is worth the experience. There’s a peacefulness to being surrounded by corn under sunny blue skies, and the sunset reflecting off the stalks and surrounding trees was absolutely beautiful. Though I certainly wouldn’t recommend a viewing of Children of the Corn beforehand ;).

At $8 per ticket, Blast is one of the more affordable corn mazes in the region and, being open until early November, it also makes it one of the longest-running in the state. In addition to the maze, it offers a variety of supplementary attractions including a pumpkin patch, hayrides, petting zoo, cider and more, making it a fun fall attraction for the whole family.

To learn more visit www.blastcornmaze.com.

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Noel Night: A Christmas Celebration in the D

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Noel Night 5

People in Detroit love Christmas – and there’s nothing more evident of that than Noel Night, a 43-year-old annual event in Midtown celebrating everything Yuletide. It is this time of year in early December when tens of thousands of people descend upon Woodward Avenue for what can only be described as a magical evening.

The big institutions – the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Michigan Science Center, the Detroit Public Library, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Historical Museum and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra – lead the pack as focal points for both culture and festivities. Surrounding them, more than 70 shops, businesses and churches follow suit featuring artists, holiday treats and more than 200 area music, theatre and dance groups.

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While a significant focus of the event is shopping, one of the best aspects of Noel Night is the opportunity to explore all the historic Midtown museums, churches and institutions that may not otherwise be easily accessible, and for free! My personal favorite experiences at Noel Night have been exploring the Victorian mansions at the Inn on Ferry Street, seeing the murals at the Detroit Public Library and discovering the history of the Scarab Club – a more than century-old artists’ club patronized by artists including Diego Rivera and Norman Rockwell. Add in carriage rides, ice sculptures, a petting zoo and a community sing-along on Woodward Avenue and you have yourself a pretty unforgettable night.

The key to a successful Noel Night is not to get overwhelmed. Despite its five-hour duration, it’s impossible to see everything and traffic will be intense. A better strategy is to go online or pick-up a Noel Night brochure to view the schedule ahead of time and identify the performances you’d most like to see or the spaces you’d most like to visit. Otherwise, take advantage of the pedestrian streets and allow yourself to wander and delight in whatever you happen to stumble upon. And if there’s something you missed, take comfort that, with a history spanning four decades, you can always go back next year!

For more information visit http://midtowndetroitinc.org/events/noel-night/noel-night.

For more Michigan travel tips visit Under the Radar Michigan.

Visiting Michigan’s Most Bizarre Party

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If you’re looking for something a little more unique for Halloween, Detroit has possibly the coolest party around: Theatre Bizarre.

To call Theatre Bizarre a Halloween party would be superficial at best. While the event is a costume party and does take place in October, Theatre Bizarre is just as much a performance as it is party. And comparing it to your average Halloween party, it’s frankly, more bizarre…

After about a decade at the Michigan State Fairgrounds, the event moved to its permanent home in Detroit’s Masonic Temple in 2011. And while there are many old-schoolers yearning for the illegal days of the past, the Temple’s beautifully gothic structure adds its own dark atmosphere perfect for an evening of spectacle, magic and debauchery.

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Theatre Bizarre is not for the faint of heart nor is it for those, we’ll say, a little too pure of heart… The Temple’s eight floors are filled with a variety of experiences to choose from ranging from live music and dancing on the ground floor to a train ride in the dark on the top floor to a plethora of characters performing (in various states of dress and costume) in between. The real fun is in the exploration and never quite knowing what’s coming next… 

While the event has developed quite a hype over the years, to truly understand Theatre Bizarre one must experience it first-hand. But if you do – come prepared. Below are a few tips:

  • Purchase tickets early: Tickets go on sale in the summer and sell out every year. If you don’t want to be hunting through Craig’s List (like I did) and pay exorbitant prices beyond the $80+ ticket, get yours early.
  • Dress to impress: Costumes are mandatory but tend to be quite elaborate with some preparing months in advance. This is an opportunity to get creative and go full out – take advantage of it!
  • Bring an open mind: Theatre Bizarre’s themes explore sexuality, illusion, counterculture and the general bizarre. Come with an open mind and enjoy an evening of marvel! 

For more information on Theatre Bizarre visit www.TheatreBizarre.com

For more Michigan travel tips visit Under the Radar Michigan.

The Return of Erica in Wonderland

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It’s been more than three years since I returned home from Asia, and I’m excited to announce the return of Erica in Wonderland. This time, however, I’ll be blogging about something a little more familiar – my home state of Michigan!

In fact, I’m partnering with Under the Radar Michigan – a Michigan travel show – to provide additional perspectives and content about life in the mitten – so you will find many of my home-based travel blogs there as well.

Stay tuned as I explore the the coolest events, museums, buildings, parks and more that make up a (rather significant) part of my everyday life, with hopefully a few special twists thrown in!