The Henry Ford Museum is a monument to human ingenuity–a nine-acre collection of world-changing inventions and historically-significant objects gathered under a single, 40-foot roof. Henry Ford founded the museum in 1929 as the Thomas Edison Institute, originally consisting only of Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory and the boarding house he lived in while developing his incandescent light bulb. The museum, later renamed for its founder after his death, has since acquired an extraordinary number of other exhibits. Home to the rocking chair Abraham Lincoln sat in at the Ford Theater, the bus that Rosa Parks refused to exit and the limousine from John F. Kennedy’s final ride, the museum possesses many objects that are remarkable not for what they physically are, but the persons and events associated with them. Other exhibits are noteworthy in their own right, such as the prototype for the first viable American helicopter, a ten-person bicycle from the late 19th century and Thomas Edison’s final breath sealed forever in a glass tube. Some can’t-miss attractions include:
- Driving America, perhaps the most obvious display given the museum’s name, is still one of the finest. The world’s foremost automotive exhibit, it includes a stunning array of historical vehicles, interactive digital kiosks filled with multimedia information, and the stories of hundreds of people–from ordinary Americans to celebrities–about the first car they ever drove.
- Made in America, a celebration of home-style innovation from the 18th century to the present day. Focusing on manufacturing machines and historical sources of power, the exhibit includes the world’s oldest extant steam engine and the automatic lubricator invented by Elijah “the real” McCoy.
- The Dymaxion House, a prototype dwelling of the future designed by polymath R. Buckminster Fuller over the course of the first half of the 20th century. A round aluminum home containing waterless toilets that shrink-wrap waste and an energy-free ventilation system based on the structural properties of silos, the Dymaxion House is a vision of a resource-efficient future that never was.
- Greenfield Village, a historic town put together by Henry Ford containing many important buildings of his day, including the Wright Brothers’ house & bicycle shop, Noah Webster’s home, and the prototype garage where Ford built the Quadricycle.
And there’s much more to do than just take tours and look at exhibits. You can eat regional cuisine at the Michigan Café, grab a hot dog at a 1950s-era Oscar Meyer Wienermobile or have an old-fashioned breakfast at Lamy’s Diner. Want a souvenir? You can choose from a wide selection of unusual items at the Henry Ford Museum Store, or get something for the kids from the Genius at Play Store. An in-museum state-of-the-art IMAX theater regularly shows feature films and documentaries in 3D. Rated among the Top 10 Tourist Attractions nationwide, the Henry Ford Museum is sure to surprise and inform. Address: 20900 Oakwood Blvd. Dearborn, MI 48124