Nobody parties like Detroit on Opening Day
Read more blog posts by Erin at The Epicurean Traveler — her new travel and lifestyle blog.
As the wise Robert “Kid Rock” Ritchie says, “It ain’t no party like a Detroit party, ’cause a Detroit party don’t stop.”
On Opening Day, that sentiment certainly rings true. Or, at the very least, Detroit parties early. And that has to count for something.
A friend, with a view of Comerica Park, said Tigers fans were tailgating by his apartment as early as 6 o’clock Monday morning. Six o’clock. Does beer even taste appealing that early? Maybe they started with breakfast cocktails. Mimosa, anyone? Bloody Mary?
I certainly started my Opening Day with a Bloody Mary, but we’ll get to that later.
When I decided I wanted to experience an Opening Day in Detroit and knew this year I’d have the opportunity to day drink and call it “work” — the perks of being a travel writer are pretty rad, I tell ya — I started asking veteran Opening Day attendees for the best spot to go for day drinking and celebrating the hope and excitement a new baseball season brings to Detroit.
Everyone had a different answer:
- The Old Shillelagh.
- Cheli’s Chili Bar for the rooftop bleachers that overlook the stadium.
- The Fillmore, a concert hall across Woodward Avenue from Comerica Park, where the game is broadcast on a big screen.
- Atop the Detroit Opera House, if it’s open.
- The Elwood‘s parking garage party.
I even looked to the city’s experts (fellow journos, of course) for the scoop, and the Detroit Free Press so conveniently shared this list of 10 places to eat and drink on Opening Day.
From what I gathered researching Opening Day, you really can’t go wrong as long as you:
- Get downtown early: Arrive in downtown Detroit by 10:30 a.m. if you aren’t driving. If you are driving, get there even earlier to park.
- Use the buddy system: You’ll want a friend to keep you company in the astronomically long line for the
restroomporta potties. Plus, she can hold your drink when the sun comes out and you need to remove your hooded sweatshirt. Also, it’s just smarter and safer than flying solo. (At least, that’s what our chaperones told us in elementary school.)
- Bring cash: Many bars and festivals will charge a cover to get in. And, bartenders aren’t messing around with credit card tabs because, let’s be honest, some Douche Bag is going to drink too much and not pay for the seven Miller Lites and three rounds of Lemon Drops he ordered. <– Beware of guys who order Lemon Drops. He’s 99.9 percent likely to be a Douche. You’ve been warned.
- Are cool going social-media free: Uh oh! That selfie won’t upload to Instagram. Too many people trying to connect on their smartphones will slow down network speeds, so you better set a meeting time and place with your friends before getting downtown in case your texts/calls/Facebook check-ins aren’t going through.
- Keep an open mind: The day will probably not go as planned. Someone will bail last minute. Your phone won’t map a route to the bar you’re trying to locate. Beer will be spilled on your cute shoes. (In fact, don’t even bother trying to wear cute shoes.) When things go awry, just keep a positive attitude and enjoy the adventure. Who knows? Maybe you’ll make a new friend or have a crazy story to tell at future Opening Day parties. Also, you might not be able to watch the game, so just revel in the people watching and catch the play-by-play updates when you can.
Starting early led to early success at The Elwood.
Armed with this knowledge of how to do Opening Day like a champ, Ashley — my buddy (see above) for the day — planned rides to and from downtown. My mom dropped us off on Madison at John R around 9:30 a.m. Monday, which was very convenient since our first stop was the Elwood. Located on the corner of Brush Street and Adams Avenue, Elwood Bar & Grill is sandwiched between Comerica Park and Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions.
At this point in the morning, a cover wasn’t charged, and we were able to find a spot along the bar’s front windowsill overlooking a patio full of Tigers fans with drinks in hand. The adjacent parking garage has been converted into extra party space, and a cover was charged to enter by the time we left the Elwood around 10:15.
Ford Field gets festive, too.
We didn’t check this out, but Ford Field hosted a bunch of festivities before the game. ESPN’s Mike and Mike were broadcasting live, the bars were serving $3 craft beers and $5 house cocktails, hot dogs were going for a buck, and Detroit Lions players were expected to make appearances.
Opening Day Tip: Take a bar’s shuttle to downtown!
Ashley and I then made our way down Brush Street to Madison to find our friends, who made a really smart choice — one I’d recommend if you don’t have a cool mom to drop you off downtown. They paid $30 to the Hamlin Pub for a boozy bus ride downtown, a ticket into the Opening Day Festival tent party, and a ride back around 5 p.m. Considering the amount you’d spend on gas and parking on Opening Day, it’s a solid deal — even if you only spent a short amount of time at the festival and then attended the game. I noticed buses and shuttles from many bars in Oakland and Macomb counties, so check if your local sports bar offers this service!
Prepare for cover charges, long porta-pottie lines at outdoor festivals
While admission to the tent party was included for our friends, Ashley and I each paid a $10 cover. The festival was located in a lot next to Music Hall on Madison Avenue and featured music, bars serving $5 Miller Lites and $8 mixed drinks, and the aforementioned astronomically long line for the porta potties. For $10, you could get a mixed drink in an oversized souvenir sippy cup with refills for $8. Concessions available included hot dogs, a “walkin taco” served in a Doritos bag and buckets of fries, including a so-gross-you-must-be-shitfaced-to-eat-it “garbage pail” that had beef, chili and an assortment of other disgustingness on top of a bucket of fries.
You came to see the Detroit Tigers, but people watching the fans will fill your day.
The play-by-play was broadcast over the dance music pouring out of the tent. It went something like: THUMPA. THUMPA. “The 0-2 pitch.” THUMPA. THUMPA. So, it wasn’t exactly easy to follow the game, but the people watching provided plenty of other entertainment. We saw a grown woman in a blue-orange-and-white tutu skirt and shockingly neon corset-like top and a guy with his hair spray painted orange and blue. From our perch against the Music Hall’s brick wall, we saw it all — the old people awkwardly dancing, the drunk girls’ disappointed faces when they walked out of the tent to discover the long-as-hell porta-pottie line, and (smelled rather than saw) the sweet-smelling contraband likely giving us all contact buzzes.
And, at the end of the day, you see the beauty in Detroit.
Detroit was once a thriving metropolis. It was the city that built America, some say. It definitely built the cars Americans drove and shared the music of Motown. There’s a lot of history, a lot of America in that city. On Opening Day, Detroit really comes alive. There’s hustle and bustle on the downtown streets. Local bars and restaurants are packed. The stadiums shine in the sunlight like beacons of hope for better days coming to Detroit again. It’s a day when the city shows its potential — to win a World Series but also to restore, revitalize and rebuild itself from the ground up. As we drove down Woodward Avenue to Jefferson, we passed Campus Martius park, the towering Renaissance Center gleaming in the sunlight and the Labor Monument at Hart Plaza along the Detroit River. Honestly, I don’t think Detroit had ever looked more lively and beautiful to me.
Did you go to Opening Day in your city? Tell me about your experience in a comment below!
Wish you were here,
P.S. The Tigers won 4-3 against the Kansas City Royals. Let’s Go Tigers!