The Henry Ford Museum contains a fascinating wealth of American culture. It’s comprised of two parts: the indoor Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, which showcases extraordinary artifacts such as the chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated, the presidential limo in which Kennedy was killed and the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat; and the outdoor Greenfield Village that features a slew of restored historic buildings, including Thomas Edison's laboratory and the Wright Brothers' airplane workshop.
It’s an enormous spread, and you easily could spend a full day gaping at the history here. Add-on tours to the nearby Ford Rouge Factory let you watch F-150 trucks roll off the assembly line where Henry Ford first perfected his mass-production techniques.
Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation
The Museum of American Innovation is the heart of the place. Exhibits are located in 22 themed rooms. Most people beeline to With Liberty and Justice for All (Room 6) to climb aboard Rosa Parks’ bus. Also here is the red-cushioned rocking chair that Abraham Lincoln occupied when he was shot.
Driving America in nearby Room 10 holds a slew of classic cars from 1865 onward, while Presidential Vehicles in Room 11 has the convertible Lincoln Continental that John F Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated. Another top exhibit is Railroads (Room 12) and its giant, 1.2-million-pound steam locomotive. Other quirky treasures include clocks (Room 21), violins (Room 17), dollhouses (Room 16) and beautiful glassworks (Room 20).
The museum’s free app offers audio tours through the collection.
Greenfield Village is divided into seven outdoor districts that include historic buildings shipped in from all over the country, reconstructed and restored. Must sees include the workshop where Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb (Edison at Work district), the shop where the Wright Brothers built their earliest flying machines (Main Street district) and peanut pioneer George Washington Carver’s cabin (Porches & Parlors district).
Costumed interpreters work throughout the village and immerse you in the sights and sounds of past centuries. Watch an 1867 baseball game, ride in a Model T car or become a student in a one-room, 1870s-style schoolhouse. The calendar lists daily activities.
Ford Rouge Factory Tours
To get a feel for current ingenuity in action, take a jaunt around the plant that produces F-150 pickup trucks. Two-hour, self-guided tours cover the assembly line as it pumps out the hefty vehicles, plus a couple of short films and a walk on the factory’s green roof. Buses drive you from the museum to the plant.
Giant Screen Experience
It’s not an IMAX theater, but it is a theater with a massive screen and 4K digital projection. Movies focus on nature, adventure and innovation. The schedule changes frequently.
History of the Henry Ford Museum
One of America’s most successful entrepreneurs, Henry Ford is renowned for developing the assembly line method of production that transformed the auto industry. He was always a collector — clocks, machinery, old books — and the wealthier he got, the more he collected. He was especially interested in artifacts that told the stories of ordinary people and technological advancement in America.
What started as his personal collection grew so large he built a museum to house it. The Edison Institute — named for his hero, inventor Thomas Edison — opened in 1929 as a private facility. It opened to the public in 1933. The museum continued to gather Americana over the years, and today it holds a trove of 26 million items.
While Ford used his wealth and influence for admirable deeds like the museum, he also used them for undesirable efforts such as denigrating Jewish people.
The Henry Ford Museum is in Dearborn, 14 miles west of downtown Detroit via I-94.
Opening hours generally are 9:30am to 5pm. The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Giant Screen Experience are open daily year round. Greenfield Village is open Thursday through Monday mid-April through December (Tuesdays and Wednesdays are for members only). The Rouge Factory Tour takes place Monday through Saturday year round.
Tickets and parking
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, Rouge Factory Tour and Giant Screen Experience each have separate admission fees, but combination tickets are available that provide discounts. Namely, buy a full-price ticket for Greenfield Village, and then get 50 percent off admission to the Museum of American Innovation and/or Giant Screen Experience, and 20 percent off the Rouge Factory Tour.
Another option is to pay full price for the Museum of American Innovation, and then get 50% off the Rouge Factory Tour. If buying tickets online, you’ll be prompted to add the deals; they don’t show up on the initial screen.
Military members and children under age 5 get in for free. Seniors receive a 10% discount.
It’s not imperative to buy tickets in advance (surcharge $3) for the Museum of American Innovation or Greenfield Village, but you might want to do so for the Rouge Factory Tour, since capacity is limited. Also, check the factory production schedule to ensure you’re touring on a day when trucks are being built, as seeing the assembly line in action is quite cool.
Greenfield Village requires additional tickets for rides on its carousel, locomotive and Model T. They cost $3 to $8 per ride and can only be purchased onsite.
The museum’s parking fee is $6.
Hotels nearby include the 11-story Henry Hotel, with stylish rooms and smart displays of local art about 3 miles from the museum.
For a bite to eat Michigan Ave, a mile from the museum, has lots of options. Sheeba provides a terrific immersion into Yemeni cuisine. Try the seltah (root vegetables with whipped fenugreek). Nearby Qahwah House pours cardamom-spiced coffee alongside slices of honeycomb bread filled with sweet cheese.