Detroit, Michigan – We have the luxury of spending a whole week with the grandparents in Michigan during Thanksgiving week. Sounds nice, right? It also means we have the burden of entertaining two rambunctious six-year-olds for a whole week – with no school or other organized activities to occupy them – in prohibitively cold, wet November weather. Yikes.
Never fear: we have a basement full of toys; we have cousins; and we have the Henry Ford, which was our first stop during our Thanksgiving trip to the Motor City.
The Henry Ford is a museum of American history, which includes an outdoor “living” museum known as Greenfield Village (seasonal) as well as a traditional indoor museum. Being November, our destination was the latter — an enormous hall, featuring vast rooms filled with trains, planes and automobiles. And more. Here were some of the highlights:
Henry Ford’s Assembly Line In miniature. The idea is that with a group of kids, each child is assigned a job on the line; then they work together to build (small, wooden, toy) cars. Unfortunately, we didn’t do it right. Anyway, with only two kids, we didn’t have enough labor to work the whole assembly line. So the twins just built their own cars, which was probably more fun than working on the assembly line anyway.
Build a Model T This is the opposite of an assembly line. Every morning, before the museum opens, staff take apart this authentic Model T. Then throughout the day, visitors come along and help put it back together. The twins put on a wheel. Late in the afternoon, you can return to see the finished product and climb in for a photo op. But we forgot, so here’s a picture of the wheel.
Design & Test a K’NEX Car We spent well over an hour constructing vehicles with these crazy construction toys. There were several test tracks, which allowed the twins to run, race and crash their creations. Here’s some fun for the whole family.
Allegheny Locomotive The twins are not quite as loco about locos as they used to be, but a room full of steam engines still makes their hearts go chug-a-chug. The Henry Ford has some real beauties, including the Allegheny locomotive (one of the largest steam locos ever built) which you can climb aboard.
Model Train Setup Even better, a model trains weaves around and through a historic mountain town, decked out for the holidays. The boys spent quite a while investigating this Lionel train set-up, which features Santa Claus appearing in several places, handcars manned by cartoon characters, and other surprises for the observant onlooker. Their favorite feature was the video camera that was mounted on one of the engines, with live feed being broadcast on two screens nearby. This allowed the boys to imagine that they were driving the train as it trundled through towns, tunnels and mountain passes.
Lego City As a bonus, the Henry Ford had a Lego City which is on display only between Thanksgiving and New Year. The mini metropolis featured several Detroit landmarks, as well as characters from all of the twins’ favorite books and movies (Ghostbusters, Harry Potter, super heroes, etc). This was truly inspirational for the twins, who have spent the last several months trying to create something similar in our living room.
Later, I was discussing our outing with my sister-in-law, who is a Henry Ford regular. “Did you go in the Weiner mobile?” she asked. I didn’t even see the Weiner mobile. “Isn’t it cool that they have the Rosa Parks bus?” Missed that, too. She went on to mention three or four of her kids’ favorite features at the Henry Ford, none of which we had seen.
Needless to say, we barely scratched the surface of this massive museum, which is good news. The grandparents now have a membership, so we’ll be back!