Winter Blast brings free, frosty fun to Royal Oak this weekend

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Winter comes each year no matter what, and in Michigan we embrace that. 

One of Metro Detroit's biggest celebrations of Winter for the past several years has been the outdoor festival Winter Blast. It started as a complementary event to Super Bowl XL when it was in Detroit in 2006 and has returned to the Campus Martius area just about every year since. 

Free ice skating will be part of Winter Blast Royal Oak, moving from downtown Detroit to the Oakland County suburb this weekend.

For 2022, the Winter Blast is popping up in Royal Oak this weekend with free ice skating, a massive zip line, a giant slide, live music, food trucks, marshmallow roasting stations, snowshoeing and more. 

The event had to relocate from downtown Detroit to Royal Oak due to funding challenges, and officials for the Oakland County suburb are happy to host. 

"Royal Oak is a four-season town," said mayor Michael Fournier. "We get a lot of notoriety for Arts, Beats & Eats and our summer and spring festivals, but there's a lot going on in the winter, too, and I think Winter Blast is going to highlight what a great place Royal Oak is all year-round."

Unlike the Labor Day weekend event Arts, Beats & Eats, which is in the streets of the downtown Royal Oak area, Winter Blast will largely be in Centennial Park and near the Royal Oak Farmers Market, which are just east of downtown footprint. 

Jaime Wilkins of Detroit, music director of the Meridian Winter Blast, takes the Special Olympics polar plunge in 2018. The plunge will be part of Winter Blast Royal Oak this weekend.

"It really fits well with what we already have going on in Royal Oak every weekend," said Fournier, adding that parking in the garages are free for the first two hours. "Really, you can just come to Royal Oak and enjoy everything that downtown has to offer and everything that the festival has to offer pretty conveniently."

Like when it was held in Campus Martius, one of the main attractions to Winter Blast is the free M3 Rink in the west parking lot of the farmers market. The ice rink will stay up until mid-March. skating is free and skate rental is available for $10 and $5 for kids. 

Winter Blast, which is almost completely outdoors, will have chances for festival goers to keep warm. The Detroit News and DTE Energy are sponsors of marshmallow roasting stations throughout the event. Warm your hands, or get a s'mores kit ($3 and up) and fire yourself up a little treat. 

The admission, live music, ice skating and snowshoeing are all free to experience, but some acts that will a cost a few bucks include the giant slide. For $3, soar through a dark tube at 20 mph down a 40-degree angle. There's a less intense version for kids, too. 

Brad Groszkiewicz of US Ice Carvings works on torching an ice sculpture piece for the Motown Winter Blast in Detroit in 2019.

The 300-foot long, 34-foot high zip line not only gives you an adrenaline rush, but a view of the Centennial Commons Park. Two dollars of each $10 ride will be donated to the United Way. 

"Certainly with everything that's been going on, it's a great opportunity for all of us, including all of our neighbors to come back and celebrate one of the important seasons we have in Michigan," said Fournier. "Be outside, and see each other and really start to get back to the mode of celebrating each other. We're happy we can play a part in not just keeping this festival alive, but helping it thrive."

Winter Blast Royal Oak

presented by the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort

4-11 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat. and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun. 

Downtown Royal Oak south of 11 Mile and east of Main Street

Free admission