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Did You Know … ?
- Dearborn’s first automaker was the Detroit-Dearborn Motor Company (1909), which made 110 cars.
- In 1914, Ford’s assembly line could assemble a Model T in 93 minutes.
- Dearborn’s Ford Airport installed the first runways that crossed each other and were paved (1929).
- The Dearborn Inn was the world’s first airport hotel (1931).
- The Model T often had to go uphill backwards because gravity fed gas to the engine and the car had more power in reverse.
The Ford factor
Three things most distinguish Dearborn from other U.S. cities. They are the city’s long association with the Ford Motor Company, the uniquely high percentage of residents who are Arab-Americans and Dearborn’s proximity to Detroit and, even, to the border with Canada.
The Ford Motor Company made millions of cars in Dearborn (but not the Model T) and still produces vehicles at the River Rouge plant. Visitors can tour the plant, but company founder Henry Ford created a much grander Dearborn attraction — a complex now called The Henry Ford, self-described as America’s greatest history attraction.
Its two main facilities are the Henry Ford Museum and the sprawling outdoor Greenfield Village. Between them, visitors see historical vehicles, including the bus where Rosa Parks made her position clear and the limo that carried JFK on the day of his assassination, and historical buildings that were relocated to the site. These include Ford’s birthplace, Noah Webster’s home, the Wright brothers’ bicycle shop, plus a replica of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory.
Ford launched the complex to celebrate and foster American ingenuity. Ongoing activities and special events like the Makers Faire are in that tradition. In fact, it’s a good idea to check The Henry Ford’s calendar before a visit because it hosts so many widely varied activities.
Dearborn’s residents of Arab extraction, who initially arrived to work in the auto industry, account for about 30% of the population. For visitors, this translates into Middle Eastern dining experiences and access to the Arab American National Museum, the only museum devoted to Arab-American culture.
As for the big city next door, visitors head downtown for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall, the Detroit Institute of Arts or shows at the Fox Theatre. Sightseers take in the Renaissance Center, Hart Plaza (maybe including an outdoor festival there) and the RiverWalk for river views. Music lovers head to Detroit’s Motown Museum and to clubs for several genres of live music including music for dancing.
Finally, sports fans have several professional teams to choose from. Windsor’s hockey team and additional attractions are a bridge crossing away.
Things to do for Venturers
- Pursue a fascination with antique cars at the Old Car Festival in Greenfield Village. See a Model T assembled in minutes. Also, show off your own antique car at the late-summer event. Or, bring your slightly younger treasured car to Motor Muster, which celebrates cars from the 1930s to 1970s.
- Head to Windsor in Ontario for the Hiram Walker Distillery Tour. Drop by the casino there, too. Proof of citizenship (passport book, passport card or enhanced drivers license) is required to return to the U.S.
- Run in Dearborn’s springtime Martian Marathon. (The racers are all human as far as we know.)
- Learn about early carmakers — besides Henry Ford — at the Automotive Hall of Fame. Then, watch drivers make more history at the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, held each spring at Belle Isle State Park in the Detroit River.
- Watch the Detroit Red Wings hockey team in action. Detroiters love the game and idolize the team. Or, see hockey in Windsor.
- Time your visit for the wintertime Ferndale Blues and Music Festival. Seek out memorable music in downtown Detroit, too. Choices include blues, folk, jazz, rock and lots of dance music.
Things to do for Centrics
- Sample the Middle Eastern eateries among the establishments in Dearborn.
- Take the two-hour tour of the Ford River Rouge factory (it’s named for the Rouge River). It has a 10.4-acre living roof.
- On Saturdays, the Henry Ford Museum invites guests to “join the Tinker Task Force” and try their hand at making all sorts of things. On the last Saturday of each month, crafters, basement scientists, tinkerers and others show how they make things. Make a musical instrument, or a rocket, or something else. Or, join workshops at the museum’s two-day Maker Faire, held each summer.
- Watch a glassblowing demonstration at a Glass Academy Coffee Night. Guest artists are featured the second Wednesday of each month.
- Explore the collection of unique historical structures that Henry Ford managed to bring together in Greenfield Village, which is open mid-April through December. Also at the village, watch baseball played as in the 19th century (when it was base ball, two words).
- From Wyandotte, join a guided kayak tour on the Detroit River.
Things to do for Authentics
- Enjoy the holiday experience on select December evenings in Greenfield Village. Both carolers and live reindeer roam the village’s candle-powered pathways.
- Have fun and gain insights while exploring the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. Permanent exhibits highlight, among other things, Arab contributions in the U.S. starting in the 16th century.
- Go to the movies at a real drive-in, Dearborn’s Ford Wyoming Drive-In Movie Complex.
- Take the kids to Greenfield Village on one of the spring days when Thomas the Tank Engine chugs into town and offers the rides. And, for all ages, ride an authentic Model T or other historic form of transport on the grounds.
- See one of the touring theatrical or music performances at Dearborn’s Ford Community and Performing Arts Center.
- Take a guided tour of downtown Detroit. Take a self-guided walking tour of Dearborn’s historic areas.
For more information, consult the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.visitdetroit.com as Dearborn is part of the CVB’s metro area.