As I wrap up my sixth consecutive year of visiting the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), I can't help but marvel at the number of people I've met across metro Detroit who have never set aside the time to see it for themselves! The reasons are usually pretty similar: lack of planning, concerns about parking, and in general, not knowing enough about the auto show or the area to feel comfortable making the trip downtown. Well, friends--it's time to stop making excuses, because the auto show is something everyone should experience when given the chance! To help you out, I've put together some tried-and-true tips to eliminate any confusion and help you plan an amazing Detroit auto show visit!
[Disclosure: This post is brought to you as a collaboration with SheBuysCars. My attendance at the 2017 North American International Auto Show was made possible by Steel Market Development Institute, Genesis, and Hyundai.]
1. Purchase Tickets At YOUR Convenience
[Click here for more information on 2017 auto show tickets.]
2. Be Strategic About Parking
Parking might take a little more planning, but don’t let that discourage you. While parking lots and garages closest to the Cobo Center will fill up quickly, there are plenty of options within walking distance (bring cash--private lots usually run between $15 and $30). If you’re not able to walk very far or want to stay out of the cold (Michigan in January can get chilly!), consider parking in a lot near a People Mover stop (I tried this for the first time this year and loved it), and ride the People Mover to Cobo Center for just 75 cents (fee is one-way, per person; make sure to bring plenty of quarters).
If you end up parking a little further from the People Mover, try booking a ride with Uber or Lyft—there are tons of drivers in the area, and a lot of people from our group this year really enjoyed the convenience of being dropped off directly at the show (be sure to keep your eyes out for discounts like this one to save some money on your ride)!
3. Plan To Eat Before You Get To The Auto Show
Above: Carnivores and Carb Lovers Unite at Slow's BBQ
Breakfast, brunch, lunch, whatever your fancy—make sure you eat a decent meal before you arrive at the NAIAS. Few things can ruin your day quite like a case of “hangry,” and once you get to the auto show, you’ll want to spend a block of uninterrupted time drooling over cars, not grumping about your growling stomach. Yes, there are snacks available (fudge, cinnamon almonds, etc.) and a food court at Cobo, but with all the great restaurants in and around downtown, you won’t want to miss an opportunity to try some local Detroit favorites.
Suggestions: Green Dot Stables, Hudson Café, Slow’s, Slow’s To Go (midtown – good place to avoid a wait), Gold Cash Gold, American Coney Island (quick service/usually no wait), Wahlburgers, Pizza Papalis, Rusted Crow
4. Regulate Your TemperatureI typically run cold . . . like, “I always wear sweaters and turn the heat up when no one’s looking” kind of cold. Every time I’ve visited the NAIAS, however, I always feel like I need a portable air conditioner stat. Whether it’s all the people, the lights, or carrying my winter gear around with me, I’ve learned that I will get overheated if I don’t take a few preventative steps. My best advice: dress in lightweight layers that won’t weigh you down (think light sweaters and jackets you can tuck in a bag or tie around your waist), and spring for the coat check. Yes, I know it’s a few dollars extra. Yes, I know it takes like 30 extra seconds. But you’ll have less to tote around, and you won’t feel like you’re wearing a blanket as you window shop for your next dream vehicle.
5. Do Not Wear Your New Fancy Shoes. I Repeat: DO NOT Wear Your New Fancy Shoes.It’s the North. American. International. Auto Show. All of these things sound big and important, and I know you want to dress like the rock star you are for some great selfies with all the sparkly sports cars and blah blah blah. HOWEVER. This place is big, and there will be a lot of walking. If you think a killer pair of shoes will be worth the pain, far be it from me to tell you otherwise (I'm sure your photos will probably look way better than mine). But you know what? A photo of you sitting inside a car . . . where your feet can’t be seen . . . will look super awesome, too.
6. Pack Light, But Bring EssentialsLike most events, the NAIAS is best enjoyed when you bring everything you need, but nothing more. To reduce fatigue and the likelihood that you’ll lose personal belongings, try sticking with the basics: cash, ID, phone, and the bare minimum of keys and credit cards you need to function for one day. If you’re used to carrying a large purse or bag, try a smaller bag, a lightweight fabric option, or consider carrying just what will fit in your pockets. I typically pare down the contents of my purse before I leave home (get rid of all those stray receipts and everything you’re not using) and add a few items that are essential to me: hand sanitizer, lip balm, hair ties (can also be worn around your wrist), and a few ibuprofen tablets in case of a headache (I put these in a small sandwich bag to cut out weight and bulk). I also bring a bottle of water with me since I get dehydrated very easily (and water goes for around $3.50 a bottle at the show), but keep in mind that this is something that can weigh you down quickly. What you choose to bring is up to you, just make sure it’s something you can’t deal without and are willing to carry around all day!
7. Explore New Brands (And Ask A Lot Of Questions)
The Genesis G90 was a surprise superstar for me this year! Reclining back seats with overhead vanity mirrors, fold-up passenger seat for backseat reclining, and sleek features won me over.
It can be tempting to spend your entire auto show trip hunting down your favorite brands. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, make sure to expand your horizons and check out some cars you’re not as familiar with, too! I’ve found that every year, some of the most interesting concepts, useful features, and gorgeous designs belong to cars I didn’t know much about before seeing them up-close at the NAIAS. Remember to ask the product specialists plenty of questions (that’s why they’re there!) and get creative. Sometimes, a simple “what’s your favorite thing about this vehicle?” will yield a more unique, personalized response than you might typically hear after asking a more common question.