Living Textbook: Greenfield Village

A day trip to Henry Ford's Greenfield Village proves that sometimes, you really can turn back time.

Right around Halloween, my husband and I found ourselves back at the Henry Ford for a first-time excursion around Greenfield Village. The village was in its final weekend before closing up for Christmas renovations, so we took advantage of our time there and saw as much as we could in one afternoon.

If you're a local, you may know that Greenfield Village is a beautiful, historic-oriented landscape filled with houses and businesses from various decades in American history. Original buildings, such as H.J. Heinz's (yes, of the famous "57") Pennsylvania home and the Menlo Park Laboratory (home to many of Thomas Edison's personal inventions and innovations) line the horse-and-carriage-traveled streets, while Model T rides are also available between individual sites across the village. I was particularly fascinated by the fact that so many prominent structures were just uprooted from their original locations and shipped to Dearborn, all residing so closely now for tourists to conveniently visit throughout the year. It's a step back in time, and a wonderful way to escape the stresses of present-day life.

Greenfield Village is also home to several working trains, which are serviced in the on-site wheelhouse. We chose to walk for the entirety of the afternoon and didn't buy a ride pass, but lemme tell ya--the village was much bigger than I expected. By the end of the day, my feet were begging for a little relief. Maybe next time, I won't be such a cheapskate.

In addition to several historic preservations, Greenfield Village hosts a community of artisans who craft daily to demonstrate historical techniques to visitors. Some stand-outs include professional glass blowers and potters, whose handiwork is available in the village gift shop.

And for a timeless treat, an antique carousel sits prominently in the confines of the village, a beautifully-preserved piece of the early 20th-century that children and adults continue to enjoy today.

I am incredibly excited to say that we'll be returning to Greenfield Village this weekend for the annual Holiday Nights celebration, an outdoor festival that features old-timey carolers, fireworks, and other Christmas goodness. I'm mentally preparing myself for a cold evening outdoors, but I think hot chocolate and dressing like a character from A Christmas Carol might help sooth my concerns. Plus, it's Christmas. I don't think I can say that enough . . . it just makes everything better.

Any other Greenfield Village fans out there? I'd love to hear your tips for navigating the campus or memories from past Holiday Nights experiences.

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Historical Ken December 14, 2012 at 03:39 PM
My wife and I have never missed a Holiday Nights or, as it was called years ago, Twelve Days of Christmas, and this year will be no different. The best advice I can give is to visit each home and listen to the wonderful stories from the presenters - even the homes that don't necessarily celebrate Christmas (Daggett & Giddings), for it's interesting to hear why they didn't celebrate. The roasted chestnuts are awesome, by the way. But, really, the atmosphere of the entire Village just brings one back to a time when Christmas was celebrated quite differently. Enjoy! PS Here is my take on Holiday Nights: http://gfv1929.blogspot.ca/2009/10/christmas-at-greenfield-village-holiday.html
Jennifer Bowman December 14, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Thanks for your feedback, Ken! I'll have to make sure I do my best to make the rounds this weekend. It'll be fun reverting back to another era for an evening!


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