DETROIT: Noel Night

15 Dec

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Each year Kris and I look forward to Noel Night in Midtown Detroit’s University Cultural Center. It takes place the first Saturday in December, from 5:00-9:30 pm, this year was the 39th annual. Noel Night is one of those things you really have to experience for yourself, for as hard as I try to describe what an amazing event it is, I can’t do it justice.

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We started the evening with cocktails and Dim Sum at Shangri-La on Cass Ave, it was just after 4 and the place was already jumping. Fellow patrons were perusing their Noel Night program to try to decide how to cram in as many activities possible in the allotted time frame, it’s impossible to do everything! We started  by walking a few blocks over to the DIA, in addition to the spectacular collection of art, the museum was hosting all kinds of entertainment and activities. You could decorate Gingerbread cookies, listen to a marching band, do some gift shopping in the Museum Shop, have a photo taken with Santa, watch a dance ensemble or like us have a seat in Rivera Court and listen to Paul King & The Rhythm Society Orchestra. The band is huge, the music classic big band, and the venue, wow! If you’ve never seen a big band perform in person, you don’t know what you’re missing, it’s like going back in time. The full band will play and then individual soloists stand and play their part, always followed by a loud round of applause from the audience, the music takes you over, you can’t help but tap your toe and smile.

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When they finished we scooted out the back entrance, crossed John R to the CCS Student and Alumni Art Sale at the Walter B Ford Building. If you like to shop, and are looking for something unique, this is a great stop. It takes place over 3 floors of the building, it’s always crowded. Prices are fair, the variety of mediums is great, and the students love it when you buy something. Outdoors on the campus were blacksmithing and glass blowing demonstrations, the temperature was quite comfortable, so you could watch without freezing. Next over to the Scarab Club on Farnsworth, I love this building, the brick and stone exterior is gorgeous, the second floor is my favorite; a gorgeous fireplace and large wooden beams make it feel cozy. WSU Press was having a Holiday Book Sale, artist designed wreaths were for sale, you could grab a hot cocoa or have something off the Caucus Club menu. We walked through the open artist studios located on the third floor before making our way back down the stairs and through the exit.

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We breezed into the International Institute on Kirby, they were between performances, so we browsed the Holiday Bazaar and then it was back outdoors. Just a couple of doors down is the Hellenic Museum of Michigan, we had never been, so we took a peek. The House itself is beautiful, the woodwork is dark, the staircase curving and elegant. We enjoyed a glass of punch and a few cookies as we looked at pretty pictures of Greece, then it was time to move on.  The next block over is Ferry Street, here a group of restored Victorian homes makes up The Inn on Ferry Street, Detroit’s premier Bed and Breakfast establishment. We have had the pleasure of staying here, I highly recommend it;  the homes are impeccable, the service top-notch. No two rooms are the same, and each is stunning. Two houses were open to the public to ramble through, potential guests wandered in and out of standard rooms and suites trying to decide which one they’d choose as holiday music by Trio Fiori played softly in the background. Out back one of the carriage houses was open, you could purchase a beer, and have a seat to regain your momentum. We had never seen the rooms above before, so that was a treat. We dashed into the Park Shelton, a new shop just opened on the first floor called The Peacock Room, selling new and vintage clothing and accessories, the shop was a hit with visitors. The space it occupies is lovely; ornately  detailed plaster, large arch shaped mirrors, and elegant marble floors. The Park Shelton has really come to life in the last couple of years with a mix of retail, Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes, and a new coffee shop, so good to see!

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You may have noticed by now the amount of activities to do and buildings to see is staggering. We like to jump around from place to place, but others may spend the entire evening at one place. We crossed Woodward and listened to a church bell choir at the Bank One Plaza outside the Detroit Historical Museum, this group is great, we always try to make time to catch a couple of songs. Inside the museum was packed, they had several choirs performing throughout the evening in addition to the Sweet Adelines and a dance performance. We zipped across Kirby to the Detroit Public Library, if you’ve never been, this is another building you need to see, the architecture is fantastic! The original structure was built in 1921,  be sure and climb the marble stairs to the third floor; the ceiling detail is out-of-this-world. Don’t leave without visiting Strohm Hall, it’s exquisite. The building was bustling with activity, singers, dancers, a puppet show, Thornetta Davis performed in the auditorium. Remember, all of this is yours for FREE.

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We went in and out of beautiful, historic buildings all night long, we saw breath-taking churches and decorative art work, we listened to children’s choirs, talented musicians and Christmas carols being sung on Woodward Ave. There were crowds of people smiling and having a good time, little ones sat on Santa’s knee and asked for their hearts desire. We had cookies and wine, popcorn and punch. We saw the African-American History Museum decked out in holiday lights, a live nativity scene and the Green Garage. Yet we still didn’t come close to seeing all there was to see. Noel Night is the best event of the entire holiday season; it’s authentic Christmas without commercialization. 

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The activities ended at 9:30 pm, so it would be a late dinner for us. You can always count on something being open late in southwest Detroit, so we hopped in the car and headed for Mi Pueblo. We have favorite dishes at each restaurant we frequent, at Mi Pueblo it’s their Botana. We ordered a small one with no meat, added a llomo tostada, and a tinga taco, with all the snacking we did this would be enough for two. Everything arrived simultaneously, it looked scrumptious. The botana is a stack of corn chips smothered in melted white cheese and refried beans, then it is topped with tomato, onion, green pepper, pickled jalapeno and avocado, it’s incredible. Llomo is spicy pulled pork, tinga is spicy pulled chicken, both were excellent. We sat there eating our spicy and salty dinner washing it all down with icy cold diet coke, thinking, Life Is Good!

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