There are some Detroit traditions that get better over time. The annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. The RiverDays festival on the River Walk. The Labor Day Jazz Fest.
One more to add to that list is the Winter Blast, which bills itself as the city’s celebration of cold-weather experiences. After all, if we’re all chilling during Michigan’s frigid winters, we might as well have some fun while we’re at it.
Since its start for Super Bowl XL, the Winter Blast has gone from a few outdoor activities (which attracted more than 75,000 people; remember what I mentioned about needing winter entertainment?) to a full-blown attraction. And it only gets better, especially this year.
The 2017 Winter Blast, which combines dining, music and things to do for all ages, will take place Jan. 20 through Jan. 22, in downtown’s Campus Martius Park. The new dates are set up to grab onto the momentum throughout the city during the last weekend of the North American International Auto Show.
This might not seem like a huge change, and in some ways, it isn’t. Moving Winter Blast into January makes sense. But here’s where it’s genius. In the old days – we’re talking 15 to 20 years ago – suburbanites would drive in from Macomb and Oakland to attend the Auto Show. The routine went like this: Drive into the Big Scary City, leave your car in a parking garage, go into Cobo, see the show and drive home. Immediately.
But that’s not today’s Detroit. Today, we stay.
These are the key words from Wednesday’s update and announcement, in my fine opinion. The Meridian Winter Blast’s purpose is “to showcase Detroit’s splendor and attract more patrons to the area.” That’s right. Because once you see today’s Detroit, you’re likely not only to return but to want to do more and more.
The new festival dates are a result of a partnership with the North American International Auto Show, as both events will promote the other in efforts to maximize tourism and positive impact to downtown Detroit. The key aspect of the collaboration will feature free, same-day admission to the Meridian Winter Blast for any patron of the NAIAS.
“The North American International Auto Show has nearly a million visitors annually and partnering with the Meridian Winter Blast presented by Quicken Loans is a fantastic opportunity to promote downtown Detroit and the family-friendly events happening in the city,” Sam Slaughter, 2017 NAIAS chairman, said in a statement.
More on the Meridian Winter Blast, presented by Quicken Loans. Now in its 13th year, this year’s Winter Blast will feature a new layout and winter-themed attractions as well as an array of other seasonal family-friendly fun and entertainment to draw new and returning visitors to the city of Detroit.
“The new festival date takes us back to our roots when we held the first Winter Blast in 2005 during the same timeframe,” said Jon Witz, Meridian Winter Blast festival organizer. “This is all about activating the downtown area. Nearly one hundred thousand people come to Cobo Center for the last weekend of the North American International Auto Show and we anticipate Meridian Winter Blast’s move to an earlier date this year will also encourage Auto Show goers to visit Campus Martius Park.”
The all-new, redesigned Meridian Winter Slide will be one of the main focal points of this year’s festival, taking thrill-seekers to the next level of adventure. The 30-foot high slide will whisk riders through a pitch-black tube and quickly drop them at a steep, 40-degree angle. With speeds of up to 20 mph, this attraction is one attendees will want to experience again and again. Children, and less adventurous types, can ride down a 30-degree drop slide.
One of the coolest spots at Meridian Winter Blast is certain to be the new Bedrock Ice Maze and Ice Bar. The 30-foot by 40-foot Ice Maze will be located on Woodward Avenue south of Campus Martius Park and includes hundreds of large ice blocks, creating an interactive, and chilly, puzzle. In the evenings, the Bedrock Ice Bar located on Cadillac Street north of Cadillac Square comes to life. Elements of the festival fully crafted from ice will include a 16-foot carved bar and tables, chairs and carafes of drinks.
Also new this year, larger-than-life light installations by LA artist Alexis Roches will come to Detroit during Winter Blast weekend. Visitors will experience fifteen light sculptures, ranging in size from 12 feet to 120 feet, in and around the festival footprint.
The new Ice Garden pays special tribute to Warner Bros. films, depicting life-sized versions of characters from LEGO® Batman, Kong: Skull Island, King Arthur, and Wonder Woman. The beautifully carved and lighted sculptures will make for festive scenery, perfect for memorable family photos. On-site ice carving demonstrations also will take place during the festival.
Cruising into this year’s Meridian Winter Blast will be a Food Truck Rally. Nearly a dozen local restaurant and start-up food trucks will offer a variety of creative cuisine to help festivalgoers refuel during their visit. The list of participating food trucks thus far includes Beans & Cornbread, Bigalora, Buffy’s Mexi-cation Grill, Chef in a Box, Hero or Villain Deli, Mac Shack, Matt & Mo’s, Nosh Pit, Soaring Eagle Cuisine Machine and Shredderz. Food trucks will be stationed along Monroe Street starting outside the Hard Rock Café to serve festivalgoers with some of the freshest and most thoughtfully prepared food.
Also new this year is Detroit Interactive Sports Zone (fitting, given the Detroit Pistons’ pledge to move downtown). The Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons will be front and center at the Meridian Winter Blast in the all-new Zone. The new featured event will take place in the family tent on Woodward Avenue and feature dual interactive displays hosted by each franchise.
Family fun is highlighted as well. Festival patrons can participate in free ice skating at Campus Martius Park for the entire three days of the festival, courtesy of St. John Providence. Meridian Winter Blast is the only weekend all year long when visitors can skate for free. Attendees can also enjoy live skating exhibitions and performances by local skating clubs throughout the weekend.
Returning as a festival favorite is the MetroPCS Zipline Adventure. Partake in the longest, fastest mobile zipline in Michigan that allows two riders to zip simultaneously on separate lines, 34 feet above the ground. In just 20 seconds, this high-speed experience will take festivalgoers’ breath away as they soar through the crisp air and take in panoramic views of Campus Martius from high atop Cadillac Square, the new location of this activity.
Admission to the 2017 Meridian Winter Blast is $3 or three canned goods/non-perishable items or a children’s book, which will go toward helping to fight hunger in metro Detroit and continue the festival’s commitment to fostering literacy. Meridian Winter Blast hours are Friday, 4–11 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.–11 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.