9 Magical Weekends to Step Back in Time at Historic Greenfield Village
With technology racing forward like never before, there’s something magical about returning to the past and remembering a time when things moved more slowly. To a time of horse drawn carriages and farms of golden maize waiving in the wind. A time of one room school houses and steam engines chugging through the countryside.
While visiting Greenfield Village it’s almost impossible not to walk a little slower, breathe a little deeper, and relax in a way that calms your soul. In fact, this experience of reliving a simpler time is exactly what Henry Ford had in mind when he built the Village, located in his hometown of Dearborn, Michigan. Though Henry Ford was one of the very people who revolutionized America, literally driving the United States into a new era of technology with his automobiles mass produced on assembly lines, Henry Ford actually didn’t like technology. He longed for the past, for the values of his rural life in a time before life started speeding by. So he began to collect things that exemplified the values of life in pre-industrial America. A collection that began with small items and inventions that epitomized the lives of every day Americans expanded to included buildings, laboratories and railway stations. On October 21, 1929, Henry Ford opened his collection to the public. Then called The Edison Institute, it is now known as Greenfield Village.
While the village is glorious all year long, there are a number of special events each year that make Greenfield Village all the more magical. If you are considering planning a trip back in time, consider scheduling your trip around one of these unique historical events. Unless special tickets are otherwise noted, the following events are included with daily entrance to Greenfield Village. Be sure to read to the end to see our single favorite event at the Village- it’s one you won’t want to miss!
Opening Day: April 15th
We may live in Tiger territory, but for our family there is only one true “Opening Day” and that is April 15th. Greenfield Village awakens from its winter slumber, signaling the earliest beginnings of Spring. Though it’s usually chilly and sometimes there’s still a dusting of snow, hundreds of people line up for the opening of the gates at 9:30am. Being one of the first to walk through the Village each season is the perfect way to welcome Spring!
A Day Out with Thomas: End of April, Beginning of May
All Aboard!!! If you have a tiny train lover, you’ll want to visit Greenfield Village for a Day Out with Thomas. The three historic steam engines get a couple of weekends off work while Thomas the Tank Engine takes over the Weiser Railroad. Not only can you take a ride on Thomas (extra tickets are required for rides), but the entire Village is magically transformed into the Island of Sodor. There are all sorts of Thomas activities and photo stations with your tiny tot’s favorite characters!
Civil War Remembrance: End of May
This three day event transports you back in time, immersing visitors in the early days of the Civil War. Civil War reenactors from coast to coast travel to set up camp and spend the weekend at the Village, living in period correct tents and cooking in cast iron skillets over campfires. The women and children hold down the camps, cooking meals and mending clothing while soldiers meet on the battle field. There is a battle reenactment on the Village Green as well as military tactical demonstrations throughout the weekend. Reenactors stay in character all weekend long, interacting with guests in a truly immersive experience of the Civil War era. Saturday is the highlight of the weekend, being one of three Saturdays a year where the village stays open until 9:00pm. It’s not often that you get to ride a Model-T through the Village as the sun sets or take a spin on the 1913 Herschell-Spillman carousel under the lights!
Motor Muster: Mid-June
Motor Muster is nationally renowned classic car festival at the Village, showcasing cars from the 1930’s through 1970’s. Classic cars as well as vintage trucks, motorcycles and bicycles are on display all weekend, parading through the streets of Greenfield Village. Motor Muster is a juried car show, with all entrants meeting specific requirements of authenticity. The weekend is filled with mid-century music and dancing, with the Village staying open until 9:00pm on Saturday evening so you can dance the night away!
Salute to America: 4th of July
There’s no better place to celebrate America’s birthday than Greenfield Village! Every summer, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra plays a summer concert on the Village Green, culminating with an incredible performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overature played under one of the most impressive fireworks displays you’ll ever see! Tickets sell out fast so be sure to get yours early.
World Tournament of Historic Baseball: Mid-August
Every August, Greenfield Village hosts the World Tournament of Historic Baseball, celebrating America’s favorite past time just the way it began. Take a step back in time to watch baseball played by the rules of 1867- no gloves, no bunting, no pitchers mound. It’s a true gentleman’s game and a weekend of full of fun as the Greenfield Village La-De-Dah’s take on teams from throughout the Midwest in this historic baseball tournament.
Old Car Festival: Early September
The Old Car Festival is a three day weekend featuring vintage automobiles from the 1890’s through the early 1930’s. The festival is a juried car show, allowing entrance only to authentically restored vehicles that will transport you back in time to the early days of the automobile. You can check out our more detailed post on the Old Car Festival here. This is the third and last Saturday evening that the Village is open until 9:00pm!
Halloween Spooktacular: Weekends in October
Every weekend in October, the Village sells tickets for it’s evening Halloween Spooktacular, a trick-or-treating event that winds through fantastical decorations and displays throughout the Village. There are a handful of displays that are somewhat frightening for younger children, so we recommend waiting until the kids are a bit older. Tickets are sold at different time slots to stagger the crowds, but it can still be a mighty slow walk. Tickets sell out fast so get yours as soon as they go on sale! The Halloween Spooktacular is an exciting way to see the Village at night- in all of it’s historic spookiness!
Holiday Nights: Weekends in December
Greenfield Village closes for the season at the end of October. The only time to see the Village in the winter is to attend the single best holiday event in history! Holiday Nights is a historical winter celebration where carolers, fiddlers, storytellers and merrymakers wander the Village, meandering through bonfires and the smells of chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Horse drawn carriage rides with caroling, ice skating, delicious food and hot cider will put you in the holiday spirit as you stroll through the Village that is exquisitely decorated. A special Santa display highlights the evening- Santa will give a personalize shout-out to families or loved-ones from high atop a snow covered roof.
If you’re looking for a truly special evening, consider dinner at the Eagle Tavern. Holiday Nights tickets are included in your dinner package. Enjoy a delicious family-style holiday meal served by costumed presenters amidst live music and seasonal decorations. Dinner at the Eagle Tavern is a romantic evening with spectacular food and all the cozy holiday feels of the Village in wintertime!