The Henry Ford Museum Model T

Best on the Map: The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan

The Henry Ford Museum is quite possibly the most comprehensive and interactive history museum in the midwest. Located in Dearborn, MI, this museum showcases American innovations starting as early as 300 years ago.

Henry Ford is known for the construction of the first Ford automobiles but actually has quite a history as an innovator. After founding the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford created an organized system for his assembly lines, lowered the prices of his automobiles, offered English language classes to his employees, and began paying his workers well enough they could own one of his cars, a revolutionary concept for the age.[1] Henry Ford was so well-liked, in fact, that he won the presidential nomination in 1923.[1]

The Henry Ford Museum not only highlights Henry Ford’s success but also that of many other forward thinkers.

How Big is the Henry Ford Museum?

The Henry Ford Museum is huge!

The museum is made up of two main sections: The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, which is their massive indoor museum, and Greenfield Village, their outdoor interactive history museum. The museum also offers tours of the Ford Rouge Factory, but we have not visited that yet(!).

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

Here is a list of some of the exhibits that impressed us in each section…

Transportation Exhibits

Henry Ford Museum indoor train exhibit
The train exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum is massive, and yet it’s just a small portion of the innovations presented in the museum
Henry Ford Museum Cars
The Henry Ford Museum has an impressive “Driving America” exhibit with many famous cars from the 1900’s on display
  • Locomotive Train where we could climb up inside the engineer’s cab.
  • Car Museum called “Driving America” complete with popular vehicles such as…○ Henry Ford’s Quadricycle made in 1896, which was his first gasoline-powered vehicle
    • 1909 Model T
    • 927 Bluebird School Bus
    • 1931 Duesenberg Model J Convertible
    • 1949 Airstream
    • 1949 Volkswagon
    • 1962 Mustang I Roadster
  • Presidential Cars from President Franklin D Roosevelt’s 1939 Lincoln Limousine to John F Kennedy’s 1961 Lincoln Continental in which he was assassinated.
  • A hanging breakdown of the parts that make up the Model T.
Model T Car Parts hanging from the ceiling at Henry Ford Museum in Michigan
The Henry Ford Museum’s hanging breakdown of the Model T
  • “Hero’s of the Sky” section displays the work of Henry Ford (did you know he dabbled in aerospace?!), the Wright Brothers, and Amelia Earhart. A replica of the Wright Brother’s plane is displayed in this section. There was also an area where kids (or kids at heart!) could make a paper airplane and measure the distance it could fly!
  • Steam engines, including a rotative steam engine from 1788 and a very impressive gas-steam engine from 1916 that powered all of Highland Park’s needed assembly lines and machinery for a few years.
  • “Mathmatica” section where my husband geeked out at all of the fun interactive math exhibits!
A historical airplane at the Henry Ford Museum
Heroes of the Sky exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum
Steam Engine at the Henry Ford Museum
A steam engine at the Henry Ford Museum

Social Justice Exhibits at The Henry Ford Museum

 A very informative section on social injustices that showcased the Common Sense Book by Thomas Paine, the chair in which President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre (you could still see the blood stains on the red velvet covering!), and the bus Rosa Parks sat on when she refused to give up her seat.

The bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat currently located at the Henry Ford Museum
The bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Located at the Henry Ford Museum

This section was by far my favorite! The museum asked about 15 people or so to file onto the bus as a short history lesson presented over the intercom. Without knowing so, I actually picked Rosa Park’s seat! It was amazing to realize I was sitting on such influential and formative ground.

Inside Rosa Parks Bus
Sit inside the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat!

And that’s only what we saw in the indoor section of the museum!! There was still an outdoor interactive history museum!

We came in April 2019 when the weather was still pretty chilly and not very conducive to outdoor visits. Our goal then was to only visit the indoor museum, which did require a day for us three adults. Honestly, if you are bringing children, I don’t know if a day pass will do. The museum is huge!!

After being so thoroughly impressed by the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, my husband and I decided to make another trip a few months later to experience everything that Greenfield Village had to offer. Once again, we were very impressed!!

Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum

Henry Ford Museum Outdoor Exhibits

Greenfield Village boasts 80 acres and 300 years of innovation including…

  • Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory, where jars of exotic materials lined the walls upstairs and where we were given a full explanation of phonographic invention downstairs.
  • The Wright Brother’s bicycle shop where their first airplane was constructed, though a replica of their first airplane is displayed in the indoor museum.

Interested in aviation history? Check out the National US Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH!

The Wright Brothers' bicycle shop at the Henry Ford Museum
  • Abraham Lincoln’s Illinois courthouse where he practiced law in the 1840s
  • Artisans showcasing the making of pottery, tin, and weaving
  • Several sawmills where lumber is cut and distributed to the village
  • Working farms where visitors can better understand the farming process from beginning to end
  • The famous home of Henry Ford himself

Dining at Greenfield Village

A few dining locations, including a large-scale cafeteria and a mid-1800s restaurant called Eagle Tavern where we ate by candlelight.

A mill and small river at Greenfield Village, an interactive history section at The Henry Ford Museum
Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum
Eagle Tavern Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum
Eating by candlelight at Eagle Tavern at Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum

Greenfield Village even has an 1873 steam engine, horse-drawn carriages, and buses from the early 1900s available to ride as public transportation from one district of the museum to another!!

They also provide Model T tour rides that start and stop at one location. I had always wanted to ride in a Model T car; I finally had my opportunity on a short, guided tour around the village.

Common Questions When Visiting the Henry Ford Museum

How Accommodating is The Henry Ford Museum for those with Food Restrictions (Like Me!)?

I found little I could eat with my strict diet. They did offer a gluten-free chicken salad sandwich at both the indoor museum and outdoor village (in the large cafeterias), but I found the bread to be very, very dry. There was also chicken and a few side dishes at the Eagle Tavern restaurant, where seasonal meals from local farms were served, that I was able to make work.  And it tasted great!

But if you have multiple food restrictions like I do (mine now include dairy, gluten, corn, and soy), I suggest bringing your own meal. You could always see what’s on the seasonal menu at Eagle Tavern and have food available if they cannot accommodate your diet.

Eagle Tavern is quite the experience if you’re able to make it happen!

How Long Should I Plan to be at the Henry Ford Museum?

This museum contains so many interesting attractions you will likely need a few days here. We did the indoor museum (Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation) in one day, but we were moving at a very fast pace and exhausted by the end of the day. I would love to go back and stretch the indoor section alone over 2 days so we could see every exhibit and take it all in.

And the outdoor history park, Greenfield Village, requires just as much time, especially if you have children with you! It covers 80 acres and, while there is public transportation available, the wait for the bus, wagon, etc. to pick us up was longer than the estimated times presented in the brochure. Often that meant we could sit down and take a break, but it also meant we saw less of the village. With kids, I would plan on two days at the village as well.

*Note: There are wheelchairs and mobility scooters available to rent at the front. Greenfield Village also had quite a few ramps to accommodate those needing them. However, I’m not sure you could easily load a stroller or wheelchair onto some of the public transportation options available (such as the bus in the picture below). For more on accessibility, click here.

Greenfield Village Bus at the Henry Ford Museum
One of the many buses at Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum

Any Suggestions for Bringing Children There?

If I were bringing kids to this museum, I would make sure they were at least 5 years of age for the outdoor section (and I’d still consider bringing a stroller or plan lots of rest time! I’ve taught children 5 years old and know how quickly they can wear out!). Additionally, I’d wait until they were 7-8 years of age for the indoor section.

The museum is massive, which means walking for so long will be challenging. (See the above section for more information on the estimated length of time needed and stroller accessibility).

All grade school children would probably get quite a bit out of the museum. From climbing up in a locomotive engine and sitting in the seat where Rosa Parks made a stand for equality to seeing the workshop where the Wright Brothers built their first plane and walking through Edison’s laboratory, the museum does a fabulous job of making history come alive!

Is The Henry Ford Museum Worth Visiting?

I could go on and on about how impressed I was by this museum! Believe me, it’s more than “worth visiting”. If you love history, add it to your “must see” list. I promise you won’t regret it. You just might be like us, trying to find your next opportunity to see it all again!

Consider Bringing:

  • Stroller or wheelchair if needed
  • Good walking shoes!
  • Layered clothing for varying temperatures throughout the day
  • Umbrella if the weather report shows rain. You’ll be outside a lot!
  • Food you can eat if you have multiple food restrictions. Maybe consider making a meal that is more likely to be eaten in the mid-1800s to early 1900s to stay with the theme for the day! Here’s the link to Eagle Tavern’s cookbook, if you want to grab one in the museum gift shop on the way out for future use! And you could also grab some of my grain-free, dairy-free, snack ideas! 

Looking for some other great things to do in Michigan, check out our post on Dog-Friendly West Michigan: Muskegon, Holland, and Saugatuck for places you can take your canine companions!

How Does the Henry Ford Museum Differ from Conner Prairie in Indiana?

Conner Prairie, located northeast of Indianapolis, is a living history museum similar to Greenfield Village. While the Henry Ford Museum focuses on innovation in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Conner Prairie focuses on frontier life from 1975 to 1863.

Both are phenomenal history museums and worth a visit, especially if you have children in elementary school or middle school children.

Conner Prairie also offers live, outdoor concerts (mainly tribute bands) and air balloon rides.

Henry Ford Museum

As you can see, The Henry Ford Museum is a history-lover’s dream! This is the perfect place to spend a few days immersing yourself in history. The indoor museum boasts many great transportation and social justice exhibits, while the outdoor section called Greenfield Village is a huge interactive history museum.

The Henry Ford Museum is truly a “must do”!

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2 years ago

We went to both the indoor and outdoor parts of the museum and loved them both. We spent a day at each part and could have done one more day to make it 1 1/2 at each. I’d love to go back!

2 years ago

This sounds great, I’ve never been but I’ll have to check it out!

2 years ago

What a fun place to visit! I’ll add it to my bucket list! I love museums that are both educational and entertaining. Looks like a great find.

2 years ago

We have been to several car museums and such, and we love them! This looks like a really cool place. I will be adding it to my list! Thank you!

2 years ago

I remember going through this museum as a child. It was fascinating then!

Cecile Leger
Cecile Leger
2 years ago

Nice post. My family loves cars and history. This museum would be a great place to visit.

2 years ago

When I first started reading I didn’t expect so much history to be present in one place. We homeschool and I would love to take my kids here. To actually get on the bus brings tears to my eyes. I want my kids to see, remember, and do better. Thank you for this information!

2 years ago

Thanks so much for this informative post. I am gluten-free so that info was great to see that shared here too.

Sabrina DeWalt
2 years ago

What an interesting museum.

Sandra Whitmore
2 years ago

I love the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. We have the same photo of us in the Model T.

2 years ago

What a fun and interesting museum!

2 years ago

What a cool place! Could compete with the Volvo Museum we have here in Gothenburg perhaps hehe 🙂

2 years ago

This is amazing! I love historic places and I love museums. Spending a day here would be totally awesome for me. I also would love to go inside the locomotive train 🙂

2 years ago

The Henry Ford Museum sounds fantastic. My husband and I are historians so would love to explore the museum.

2 years ago

I had never heard of this museum, but it seems to be very interesting! I would definitely like to visit it one day.

2 years ago

This looks like a cool museum to visit — I love checking out ones that are full of history!

1 year ago

Wow thanks! I’m gluten-free too so this was very helpful. Also adding this to my bucket list.

1 year ago

Wow totally adding all of this to my bucket list. Sounds like an amazing time! I love museums!

Linda Winans Egeler
3 months ago

It’s been years since I have visited the Henry Ford Museum. Reading your post makes me want to make a return visit. I’d love to sit in Rosa Parks’ seat on the bus!