Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer, Feb. 1, 2014
Given the recent arctic temperatures, it seems ironic to suggest people attend Detroit’s Winter Blast at Campus Martius Park downtown. However, if you can’t beat the weather, you might as well have some fun joining it.
Now named the Meridian Motown Winter Blast (after a new sponsor), the event started as a way to showcase Detroit’s downtown to travelers attending Super Bowl XL. Nine years later, the Winter Blast will draw both local families and visitors to Detroit next weekend.
Over the two-day celebration, make sure you try out the Buick 200-Foot Snow Slide. For $3, you travel 200 feet in seven seconds. Whoosh. For those of us more interested in being tethered to the ground, the ever-popular free ice skating is available on the rink in the center of the park. Professional ice skating demonstrations are scheduled, or strap on a pair of free snowshoes and see downtown from a unique perspective. If you aren’t planning on getting up north for the Iditarod, you can see Bob Shanahan and his Dog Mushing Team in action. I am also looking forward to the “Taste of Detroit” exhibition, which features food and drinks from many restaurants I haven’t yet had a chance to visit personally.
With two stages and non-stop music from 50 local bands and music groups, the festivities will keep your feet tapping and help you avoid frostbite. You can also warm up by toasting marshmallows. Purchase a marshmallow or s’mores kit and huddle around the brazarios. Seriously, event organizers do understand that we live in Michigan, and they offer heated tents or buildings every 150 feet to ensure visitors can come in from the cold.
It’s a feel-good event that uses the price of admission to do good. Three canned food items or one children’s book serve as cost of admission. If you pay the $2, it is donated to Matrix Human Services to help others.
I also recommend you take a break from the Blast and stop into one of the nearby restaurants such as Texas de Brazil in the Compuware building. This restaurant is part of a chain that is a must-stop for all carnivores. The Hard Rock Cafe is in the same building. The Fountain Bistro opened four years ago as breakfast and lunch spot and has been evolving ever since. It is now a full service restaurant, and on a cold winter day, you might want to sample one of their 21 specialty hot chocolate drinks. The Hudson Café whips up a really good breakfast with red velvet pancakes — a treat that shouldn’t be missed.
A little farther walk is Small Plates, just a few blocks away on Broadway. I love the concept — the American take on what the Spanish call tapas. Theirs is a menu that begs to be shared around the table. I can personally vouch for the mac and cheese, the fish tacos and the sweet potato fries. I’ve also nibbled on the lettuce wraps and the dragon shrimp. On my next visit, I would like to try one of their craft cocktails. How about a “Sloe Work Day,” with sloe gin, crème de cassis, dry vermouth and IPA style beer, or a “Kiss Yo Mama,” with tequila, ginger brandy, mango, Tabasco sauce and lime juice. That second one sounds like it might warm me up for sure.
Get out of the house before cabin fever sets in and get moving to Detroit’s Winter Blast. Show old man winter how to have some fun.