My family had a great time visiting at The Henry Ford Museum, a one-tank trip away from Northeast Ohio!
The Henry Ford Museum and Historic Greenfield Village are located in Dearborn, Michigan, near Detroit. The museum has an amazing and diverse collection of artifacts representing many areas of American history. Despite the Henry Ford name, the museum encompasses much more than just cars.
Transportation of every kind is well represented, including trains, automobiles, and airplanes. The train exhibit included a giant steam locomotive, which my kids loved. There are also a number of other interesting examples of trains, and a very cool model train setup. For a household full of train fans, this exhibit was a great way to start our day.
The Driving America exhibit had a huge range of cars, including significant pieces of history like early Model Ts and the limousine that carried President Kennedy when he was assassinated. The wide variety of other vehicles are likely to have personal connections to many visitors as well (I saw a minivan that looked like one we had when I was a kid—the fact that it’s in a museum didn’t exactly help my self esteem! 😉 ) The short documentary film in this area gave a great overview of the popularization of the automobile, and how widespread use of cars affected so many other aspects of the country. It was short enough and interesting enough for my four young kids to follow, and it gave them a quick history lesson about many of the cars we saw.
The airplane exhibit was really interesting, including a replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, and much more. There was an area for the kids to make their own paper airplanes and send them for a “test flight”, and another cool interactive display showing how passenger planes have changed since the earliest flights.
The exhibit on the Industrial Revolution was amazing to me, seeing all the gigantic machines that allowed people to power factories and change the way the world works. The size of some of them was absolutely incredible, especially the steam engine from the original Ford plant.
Two other historical highlights of the museum really got to me when I stopped to consider their significance. The first was the actual chair that President Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated. A little morbid, but really interesting nonetheless–what a huge part of American history, and it was just on the other side of a piece of glass. The other was the actual bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Not only could you see the bus, but you could actually get inside and sit in the seats. I realized that I never knew the bus was so colorful—I’d only seen it in black-and-white pictures. To actually be inside the bus was amazing, and a real way to make history come alive.
Tons of hands-on options make The Henry Ford a great place for kids to visit. My kids (ages 7.5, 6, 4, and 2 at the time of our visit) had opportunities to build models, climb into real and replica vehicles, and use interactive touch-screen displays to learn more about the exhibits. They pretended to change tires and “fix” broken parts of a pretend car. The kids also loved the stations where they could use the provided crayons and paper to make rubbings from metal plates picturing the exhibits. They collected quite a few throughout the museum and were able to take them home as souvenirs (although if you have a bunch of kids like I do, have them take turns and each do a station rather than make four at each one…that took a while!).
There are lots of other things to see, including historical furniture, a walk through 20th Century history, farm equipment, a classic Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, and a prototype Dymaxion house (it was supposed to be the mass-produced “home of the future” in the 1940’s). We also really enjoyed the Lego Architecture exhibit, which had huge Lego models of skyscrapers and monuments from around the world (a limited-time visiting exhibit). My little Lego maniacs were pretty impressed and inspired!
Also available at The Henry Ford (for an extra charge) are an IMAX theatre, a Ford plant tour where you can see the actual assembly line, and Greenfield Village, a living history museum with historical buildings and costumed interpreters. Greenfield Village was closed for the winter when we visited, but the part that we could see through the fence made me look forward to a return visit some time when the Village is open.
The Detroit area is about three hours away from Stark County, which makes it a great distance for a little weekend getaway for anyone in the Northeast Ohio area.
Disclaimer: I received complimentary tickets to The Henry Ford Museum in return for my review, but the opinions expressed in this review are honest and my own!