Brief notes on the trip, state by state, with sights, places, and photographs.
Michigan, part 1
The Henry Ford
We drove up US-23 from Toledo, Ohio into Michigan. I was hoping for a grand entrance into a new state – you know, a big welcome sign and a suddenly different look since I’d never been to Michigan. Yes, that is perhaps a roadside delusion but I was holding out hope. Anyway, all that to say that the southern portion of Michigan looked much like Ohio.
Since we couldn’t find any breakfast in Toledo, we continued with the hope that a small Michigan town would have a good locally owned breakfast café. We found Bobbie’s Kitchen in Monroe, Michigan and the pancakes were delicious.
Fueled by pancakes and coffee, we continued north in Michigan bound for Dearborn, Michigan and The Henry Ford. The road scenery didn’t change much or thrill us, but Dearborn wasn’t that far away.
We started our visit at The Henry Ford by taking the Ford Rogue Factor Tour. The tour takes visitors through the actual factory in five parts: a video with the history of Ford, a simulator movie about the process of making a F-150, an observation deck to see the environmentally friendly endeavors of Ford, a walk through the final assembly plant for a F-150 where you see the actual truck being assembled (Ford’s famous assembly line), and finally a gallery of the classic cars. We enjoyed the visit very much and thought it to be worth the $15 admission.
The next day we returned to The Henry Ford to visit Greenfield Village and The Henry Ford Museum. Greenfield Village is a collection of historic houses, some reconstructed and some relocated, that Henry Ford gathered in Dearborn to show people American history. Vinny described Greenfield Village as Colonial Williamsburg meets Walt Disney World.
Greenfield Village was very enjoyable; we rode in Model T to get a tour of the village, walked in the house of Wilbur and Oliver Wright and the original Heinz (think Ketchup) house. We saw a skit in the general store based on the actual proprietor and one of his costumers. We visited Edison’s Menlo Park reconstruction and saw how a phonograph works. Unfortunately, we were unable to see everything because we didn’t realize it could be an entire day in itself, but what we did see was a good representation of everything in the village. We enjoyed the combination of history and a theme park. (The food from the restaurant, A Taste of History, and the candy from the candy shop were delicious.)
From a historic preservation perspective, it is interesting that the entire village is a National Historic Landmark when individual landmarks typically lose their designation once moved. Greenfield Village is not a living history museum, although there are craft demonstrations and skits and people dressed in period costume to answer any of your questions. It seemed like children and adults were enjoying their visit because there were so many activities, from walking down the (clean) streets to watching a show, to playing games in the town square to taking a ride on the train, in the Model T or in the omnibus, and of course finding something good to eat. It’s a unique place, Greenfield Village, because while being family friendly, people are actually walking through history and learning. There are of course things to consider including the fact that it is a very neat and tidy version of American history – nostalgia at its best, if you will.
Weighing both sides, Greenfield Village was so much more than we expected and we would gladly return in the future.
The museum closed at 5pm, so around 2:30 we walked over, assuming we would have enough time to see everything. We were very wrong. Again, the museum was so much more than we imagined and probably the most enjoyable museum we’ve visited. The best way to describe it that it is a museum about American history, car culture, innovators, and aspects that have changed American history. It starts with the earliest mode of transportation, the horse and buggy and works up through time with trains and cars and the heyday of the car and roadside America. There are sections for farm equipment, American culture and the typical teenager’s bedroom through the decades.
Also in the museum holds the presidential limo in which J.F. Kennedy was assassinated and the actual bus in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Visitors sit in the bus and hear Rosa Parks’ voice as she described the events. The entire museum was fascinating and we wished we had a full day to enjoy it. It’s more than a typical museum because the artifacts are cars, a diner, a motel room display, furniture, tractors, and so much more. We will also return here.
For those budget conscious visitors, here is how we saved our money. We stayed in Milford, Michigan at Camp Dearborn, a town operated camp. Because the camp is owned by the City of Dearborn, campers are eligible to buy discounted tickets to The Henry Ford. Our combination pass cost $23 (per person) and gave us admission to the village and the museum (and parking). Normally it would cost $23 for the village and $15 for the museum ($38 total) and parking ($5). We did have to travel about 35 miles to the camp, but we felt it was very much worth it, particularly because the camp was great (see a future post).
Our recommendation: go visit.