The eclectic Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn was founded in 1929 by the Ford family primarily as a place to house inventor Henry Ford's immense personal collection of Americana. It also serves to honor America's technological ingenuity and innovative thinking. Instead of focusing on a single time period or location, the museum spans 350 years of American history.
Both the museum and neighboring Greenfield Village reflect the quirks of their eccentric founder, who collected whatever tickled his fancy. The collection is so diverse that it's wise to study the visitor's guide and pick out some of the museum's unique treasures for a closer look.
Visitors may choose from several delightful and unusual forms of transportation to travel around the museum grounds. They can ride in a vintage Model T, a horse-drawn carriage, a 1931 Ford Model AA bus, a historic train, or the historic paddlewheel steamboat, the Suwanee.
As you might imagine, automobiles are well represented in the museum, with dozens of cars of various shapes and sizes, as well as an exhibit that explains how the car influenced everyday life in the 20th century. You'll also find on display old racecars, the ill-fated Edsel that was named after Henry Ford's son, and a 1953 Stout Scarab that was billed as a living room on wheels. Children can see a hot dog-shape car that was used to advertise a popular brand of wieners, they can sit on the same Birmingham bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, and they can view the presidential limousine that carried John F. Kennedy on that fateful day in Dallas. Also on display are various bicycles, baby buggies, planes, and trains, as well as inventor Thomas Edison's last breath, captured in a test tube.
Greenfield Village contains more than 80 historic structures, including the bike shop where the Wright Brothers designed and built their first airplane. Visitors can also tour the room where Noah Webster wrote the first American dictionary. Ford's admiration of Edison is especially apparent here, as he relocated or re-created many of the buildings in which Edison lived and worked. Other sites in Greenfield Village include operating sawmills, a glass-making plant, and a working farm with animals. Costumed reenactors roam the grounds, and there are many guided tours for visitors of all ages.
Henry Ford Museum Information
Address: 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, MI
Telephone: 313/982-6000; 800/835-5237
Hours of Operation: Daily 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Admission: $14 adults; $10 kids
To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
- Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
- Michigan State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Michigan, as well as other recreational activities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Laura Sutherland is a widely acknowledged authority on family travel and has published several books on the topic, including Best Family Ski Vacations In North America and Tropical Family Vacations.