Road Trip: Dearborn, Detroit and the Henry Ford Museum

For lovers of American cars and history, a road trip to Detroit, Michigan is sure to delight. Summer is a great time to make the journey, when Michigan snow and slush have melted away. So roll down your windows and be sure to leave time for all of these must-see events and sights.

Three Model Ts in a row

Model T | Getty

Motor Muster at Greenfield Village

Every Father’s Day weekend, historic Greenfield Village in Dearborn trades in its horse-drawn wagons for horse-powered classics as the Motor Muster rolls into town. This event draws auto aficionados from around the world with promises of summer sun glinting off polished chrome, the scent of tire polish and the purr of finely tuned engines. Hundreds of vehicles are on display, featuring classics from 1933 to 1977. Cars, trucks, motorcycles and even bicycles parade the antiquated streets for three glorious days.

In between gaping at Tin Lizzies and Firebirds, visitors get to stroll the beautiful grounds of Greenfield Village, taking in historic sights and maybe even riding in a Model T or steam locomotive. Or you can stop by Thomas Edison’s laboratory or the bicycle shop where the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Both of these buildings were taken apart and brought to Greenfield Village where they were reconstructed.

Henry Ford Museum

Adjacent to Greenfield Village is the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, the home of Driving America: the World’s Premier Automotive Exhibition. Historic vehicles in this exhibition range from the oldest surviving American car, a 1865 Roper, to the limousine that President John F. Kennedy rode in when he was assassinated. The museum contains touchscreens throughout so you can discover more about the vehicles and take a fun test that determines the best car for your personality. The museum is also the departure point for the Ford Rouge Factory tour, where you can get a close-up look at the making of iconic F-150 trucks in a multi-sensory theatre.

Automotive Hall of Fame

The Automotive Hall of Fame is located next door to the Henry Ford Museum, where people who have contributed to the industry are honored. You’ll see a 65-foot-long mural of historic auto-related personalities and moments, a full-sized replica of the first gasoline-powered car and more.

The original Ford assembly plant

Drive down the road to Detroit and visit the original Ford assembly plant, now known as the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant National Historic Landmark. You can tour this 1904 factory where Henry Ford designed the Model T and built the first 12,000 of the Tin Lizzies before the advent of Ford’s moving assembly line. You can see early Ford vehicles, as well.

A red buggy outside of the original Ford plant.

Outside the original Ford plant | Ford Piquette Plant

When this plant first opened, it took workers 12 hours to build one car, which sold for $850. By the time this plant closed (replaced by the much larger and more well-known Highland Park Model T plant, where 12 million Tin Lizzies were built), assembly time plunged to 12 minutes and the cost to $260. Work days dropped at Ford from ten hours to eight hours, and wages skyrocketed from 30 cents an hour to $5 a day.

If you find yourself on I-94 while in Detroit, near the Metro Airport, you’ll probably notice the Uniroyal Giant Tire. The tire was originally created as a Ferris wheel attraction for the World Fair, held in New York in 1964 and 1965. 96 people could ride the wheel at the fair and it needed a 100-horsepower motor to operate. Altogether, more than one million people rode in this tire before it became a stationary landmark. In 1994, neon lighting was added to the tire, along with a new hubcap. In 2003, Uniroyal invested an incredible $1 million to renovate its well-known landmark. It’s definitely a sight to see and worth the drive.

What would you recommend for a Dearborn/Detroit road trip? Leave your recommendations in the comments below.

Last updated March 4, 2021