For die-hard car lovers, few events are more exciting than the annual North American International Auto Show, held in Detroit, the heart of the American automotive industry. This year’s show will be held from Jan. 13 to 28 at the 2.4 million-square-foot Cobo Center in downtown Detroit. The show, which started as the Detroit Auto Show in 1907 and has become one of the largest automobile shows in North America, with about 800,000 visitors expected, encompasses much more than a casual observer might imagine.
In addition to the viewing of new vehicles and concept models, guests can experience some of the most luxurious vehicles in the world, learn about the evolving automotive industry and attend a dazzling charity show. Anchored by Detroit’s economic resurgence, the auto show is an excellent showcase of the city’s vitality and innovation. Here are some ways to plan your trip to Detroit, explore the auto show and enjoy the cultural gems of the city.
Getting to Detroit
Visitors to the auto show are eligible for discounts of 2 to 25 percent on select fares with Delta Air Lines through Feb. 1.
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, one of the busiest airports in North America and a major hub for Delta, serves the greater Detroit area. The airport, in suburban Romulus, is roughly 25 to 30 minutes from downtown Detroit. Shuttle buses are available from McNamara and North, the two terminals at the airport, to virtually every major rental car agency.
The Skoot Detroit shuttle, which transports visitors from the airport to and from various destinations in the city, including the Cobo Center, is also an option. Ticket prices for a shared van start at $20 per person for each individual ride to and from the airport. During the auto show, you can get $2 off the cost of a round-trip ticket using the promo code NAIAS18.
For rail travelers, the Detroit Amtrak station (11 West Baltimore Avenue) is in the New Center neighborhood, about 3.5 miles north of downtown. Once you get off the train, you can walk to the adjacent QLine streetcar station, which opened last May. The streetcar runs down Woodward Avenue, one of the city’s most important commercial arteries.
All Things Cobo
Once you’ve made it to Detroit, the Cobo Center (1 Washington Boulevard) will likely become your second home while in the city. The center is on the Detroit River shoreline, directly across from Windsor, Ontario. From public transportation to ride-hailing, there are several solid options for accessing the center.
The Detroit People Mover, an almost three mile, 13-stop monorail system, has a station on the third floor of the center. The fare is 75 cents, and the system normally runs from 6:30 a.m. to midnight on Monday through Thursday; 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday; and noon until midnight on Sunday. There will be extended hours on select dates, including Sunday, Jan. 14, when the People Mover will run from 11 a.m. to midnight, and Friday, Jan. 19, when the system will run from 6:30 a.m. until 2:30 a.m. On the weekends during the public viewing of the auto show (Jan. 20 to 21 and Jan. 27 to 28), the People Mover will begin operations at 8 a.m. The system connects visitors to some of Detroit’s most well-trafficked areas and notable attractions, including the Renaissance Center, the world headquarters of General Motors, Greektown, Campus Martius Park, Grand Circus Park and the Detroit Opera House.
From Jan. 20 to 28, Canadian visitors can take an express bus from the Windsor International Transit Terminal in Windsor to the auto show. A round-trip ticket from the terminal to the Cobo Center costs $10 and can be purchased at the terminal. Proof of citizenship is mandatory.
Along the People Mover route, there are a number of parking garages with various rates where you can essentially park and ride with ease.
The ride-hailing company Lyft will offer a discount of $5 to and from the Cobo Center for new users during the auto show, using the code NAIAS18.
The auto show festivities largely begin with The Gallery, a luxury vehicle showcase featuring models from manufacturers such as Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini. In years past, this event was held at the M.G.M. Grand Detroit casino, but it will take place at the Cobo Center for the first time. The event, on Jan. 13 from 6:30 to 11 p.m., will also feature fine food and drinks. Tickets are $250, with admission limited to guests 21 and older.
From Jan. 17 to 18, the Industry Preview will feature an array of start-ups, with many focused on autonomous driving and other new technologies. Along with the relatively new AutoMobili-D showcase, the event will also highlight automotive leaders and other emerging technologies. Admission is $110, and tickets can be used for only one of the two days. The AutoMobili-D showcase will also be open on Jan. 20 to 21, with only a ticket to the public show required for admission.
A Greater Cause
One of the hallmarks of the North American International Auto Show is its commitment to the Detroit community. On Jan. 19, the black-tie Charity Preview will take place. At the end of the preview, there will be a performance by the Four Tops, the soulful Motown musical group. Over the past decade, over $41 million has been raised for a broad array of youth charities from this event alone. Tickets to the event are $400, with $390 of that amount eligible for a tax deduction. The charity preview is from 6 to 9 p.m., with the after-party running from 9 p.m. to midnight.
The Big Event
The public show, which features vehicles from manufacturers ranging from Ford and Volkswagen to BMW and Infiniti, with Alfa Romeo and Mercedes-AMG also reserving space, will be held from Jan. 20 to 28.
Max Muncey, the public relations manager for the North American International Auto Show, said that with an expanded Cobo Center, there will be even more things for visitors to experience. “We will have seven new exhibits this year that are fresh and exciting,” Mr. Muncey said. “People that are coming in can expect an amazing product.”
Visitors will be able to walk around the large showroom floor, examining new cars, taking photos and often jumping inside to enjoy the interiors. Tickets are $14 and can be purchased online or at the show.
During the public show, several other events are on the agenda, including a 5K race (Jan. 20 at 8:30 a.m.), a visit by several players from the Detroit Tigers (Jan. 26 at 2:45 p.m.), car parades and a family day (Jan. 26).
The Motor City
Detroiters are proud of their hometown, and for good reason. The city rolls out the welcome mat every year, inviting people to explore its diverse neighborhoods, learn about the city’s history, take in the growing arts scene, eat some Detroit-style pizza while enjoying Vernors ginger ale, attend a Pistons or Red Wings game and much more.
“Over the last few years, there’s been excitement and positivity in Detroit that hadn’t been around for a long time,” Mr. Muncey said. “We’re happy to help promote that.”
Follow John L. Dorman on Twitter: @jon425.
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