Noel Night evolves with more than 100 open venues in Midtown Saturday
As cities change, so do their cornerstone annual events.
That's why as Midtown Detroit redevelops and begins to look different, so does Noel Night. The annual family-friendly feel good event is free and spans more than 100 of the city's museums, galleries, churches, cafes, shops and other venues.
"Noel Night is just a gigantic holiday open house for Midtown and Detroit's cultural center, there's absolutely no way you can see it all," said Midtown Detroit Inc.'s director of arts and culture Annmarie Borucki, adding that it's a wonderful way to experience the city. "If you haven't been to the city of Detroit in a long time, this is a great gateway drug to Detroit."
The 47th annual extravaganza is split into two sections this year, with the party north of Warren from 1-7 p.m. Saturday and south of Warren 5-10 p.m. She says that while many suburbs are starting their own hyper local Noel Night-style events, there's nothing like the density of activities in 3 square miles.
Noel Night is slightly different from last year, which also saw the event split into daytime and nighttime programming. This season, the two halves will intersect for a few hours to allow some crossover.
"What we're trying to do is create more of a transition from afternoon into nighttime," said Borucki. She also says they're trying to create some new "hubs," for instance an area at the southwest corner of Woodward and Warren which will hold a beer tent, entertainment and food trucks.
Part of the reason for breaking up the event into two parts is because Woodward can no longer be closed down for Noel Night due to the QLine. Another reason is the sheer volume of attendees. One year organizers estimated that 20,000 people walked through the Detroit Institute of Arts in the span of five hours.
Some Noel Night traditions remain, like the Salvation Army Brass Band singalong at a new location this year at Cass and Canfield (9:30 p.m.). Others have fallen off, like the horse-drawn carriage rides.
Another big attraction of Noel Night is the free concerts. This year, hear rock and soul from St. Paul and the Broken Bones, performing at 9 p.m. at the Garden Theater. Trumpeter and bandleader Etienne Charles will perform at 6 p.m. at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History's GM Theater.
Find Detroit blues queen Thornetta Davis at the First Unitarian Universalist Church at 9 p.m. "It wouldn't be Noel Night without Thornetta," says Borucki.
There will be plenty of photo opportunities, including some with Santa Claus. Do something different this year and snap a selfie with one of the Christmas-themed sloth puppets from the Carrie Morris Arts production of "The 12 Days of Slothmas," performed hourly from 5-10 p.m. in front of Treat Dreams ice cream shop.
For mapping out your plan of attack, visit NoelNight.org, which has a full list of participating venues and schedule of events. One last tip from Borucki: learn where to park and don't just go to the DIA's surface lot.
"Don't do it," she says, laughing. "Go somewhere else and you'll get in and out a lot quicker."
47th annual Noel Night
More than 100 participating venues in Midtown Detroit
Saturday 1-7 p.m. North of Warren, 5-10 p.m. South of Warren
Admission to all events are free