Category Archives: Michigan

Welcoming Summer with Detroit’s River Days


Twenty years ago, the Detroit International Riverfront was an unremarkable industrial setting full of parking lots, overgrown brush and broken concrete – a sad site for a major international border. Now, thanks to public and private investments and the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, the 3+ mile border along the Detroit River has become the Detroit RiverWalk: a magical pedestrian space along the river perfect for playing in fountains, riding carousels and people watching.

Hence the birth of River Days – an annual festival celebrating the development of the riverfront and an opportunity to show off all of the great experiences available on both land and water to visitors.

Now in its tenth year, the event features activities for people of all ages. Kids can enjoy activities including carnival rides, face-painting, crafts and a special children’s stage featuring animal performances, magic shows and storytelling. Adults can enjoy numerous live bands throughout the weekend, including big names such as the B-52s and Patti Labelle, as well as yoga on the riverfront. Boat tours, circus performances, jet ski demonstrations and zip line rides round out the festival, creating a fun, high energy atmosphere that is sure to surprise and delight.

Admission for the event ranges from $3-$5 with proceeds benefitting the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy and their efforts to continue to create and expand a vibrant community space on the waterfront. For additional information visit

Experiencing Michigan’s Prettiest Art Fair in Palmer Park


Often set in busy downtowns, it’s not often the location of an art fair is as pretty as the art within it. But that’s not the case for the Palmer Park Art Fair in Detroit, arguably the loveliest art fair in the state. Set among the quaint backdrop of Palmer Park, visitors enjoy a quiet relaxing atmosphere among the ducks, hills and historic log cabin as they peruse art booths spread around the lake.

 The boutique art fair started in 1976 and lasted for about a decade before closing for about 25 years. The fair was revitalized in 2013 and has occurred every May ever since, even featuring some of the same artists as the original fair.

Art-lovers can choose from work from about about 100 artists, including prominent local artists and those from out of state. The show features 2D and 3D pieces as well as wearable art, including paintings, sculptures, jewelry, furniture, photographs and more.

New this year, the art fair includes work from local teenagers at part of the Mint Artists Guild, an opportunity for young artists to showcase their work and get a taste of what life is like as an artist.

Additionally, the fair features live music performances, art projects and food trucks, creating an interactive experience for attendees.

For more information visit

Chasing Away Detroit’s Red Dwarf at the Marche Du Nain Rouge


Venice has Carnevale, New Orleans has Mardi Gras and Detroit has…the Marche du Nain Rouge? While not a pre-Lenten celebration, Detroit’s Marche du Nain Rouge is a carnival-like celebration with a unique Motor City twist. The relatively new annual festival banishes all of the bad from the city while celebrating all of the good with a distinct Detroit pride.

The Marche is based on an old legend surrounding Detroit’s founding. The story goes Detroit’s founder, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, was tormented by images of a little red dwarf, the “Nain Rouge.” Cadillac approached a fortune-teller who told him the Nain was a representation of his ambition, anger, pride and envy – all of the things that would hold him back from truly becoming great. And while she foreboded a great city, she warned of a series of setbacks and personal misfortune if Cadillac were to provoke this Nain Rouge.

Of course, Cadillac did go on to found the city, but legend has it upon encountering the Nain in person, he chased it away with a stick – setting off a series of troubles for the city to come and, perhaps, contributing to Cadillac’s own misfortune – returning to France penniless after founding the city.

Though Detroit’s troubles have been well-documented, its history is that of a city of resilience, one that continues to overcome, fight back and thrive in the face of adversity – and that is exactly what the Marche is all about.

Now, every March around the time of the vernal equinox, revelers gather to march along Detroit’s Cass Corridor to chase the Nain and all of the negative things it brings out of the city. Costumes act as a disguise and protection from the Nain, preventing it from extracting person revenge. The day ends with a series of parties across the city in a true celebration of good over evil and a hope for better things to come.

If anyone has any doubt about Detroit’s comeback, the Marche du Nain Rouge is a true embodiment of the spirit of the city that can only be experienced in person.

For more information visit

Getting Glamorous at the Gatsby Gala


Those familiar with Detroit know the city is full of historic neighborhoods containing row after row of stunning architecture. While numerous tours throughout the city offer opportunities for visitors to see these homes up close, there’s a new event in town that allows guests to experience this time period on an even deeper level: The Detroit Gatsby Winter Gala.

As the name suggests, the event is a celebration of everything fabulous about the 1920s. Set in the historic Charles T. Fisher Mansion, the location itself makes this event a winner. The 1922-built house was the home of the co-founder of the Fisher Body Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of car bodies in 1914. The 15,000 square-foot mansion features 46 rooms containing Tudor-style ceiling murals, a grand staircase, a pipe organ, a Prohibition-style speakeasy and more – the perfect backdrop for an evening of opulence and entertainment.

With this setting, fringed, feathered and tuxedoed-party-goers are transported back in time enjoying a night of dancing, drinking and mingling throughout the house – the dream of any Great Gatsby or Downton Abbey fan.

While new, the party is looking to become an annual or semi-annual occurrence. Organizers held a less formal, outdoor event last summer with their First Annual Detroit Gatsby Lawn Party at Detroit’s Palmer Park neighborhood, and they are planning to repeat the event this September.

Ticket prices range from $80-$100 for the winter gala and $25 – $150 for the lawn party, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting a local charity. Events sell out, so it is recommended to purchase tickets early.

For more information visit


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

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

Getting Lost in the Fall at Blast Corn Maze


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

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Noel Night: A Christmas Celebration in the D


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

For more Michigan travel tips visit Under the Radar Michigan.

Visiting Michigan’s Most Bizarre Party


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

For more Michigan travel tips visit Under the Radar Michigan.

The Return of Erica in Wonderland


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!