Tag Archives: Under the Radar 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 www.RiverDays.com.

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 www.PalmerParkArtFair.com.

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 www.motorcitynye.com.

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 http://midtowndetroitinc.org/events/noel-night/noel-night.

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!