At first blush, the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House may not exactly scream family destination. For one, the architecture, while breathtaking, isn't exactly the usual child-pleaser. For another, traversing through halls filled with amazing antiques and unparalleled historical design and features with a pack of kids may not match up in your mind.
But if you think that, then you don't really know the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House.
This dazzling place, located on scenic Lake Shore Drive in Grosse Pointe Shores, is where the famous Ford couple raised a family and entertained the movers and shakers of their generation.
There are a slew of famous designers and artists who were commissioned to make this property the local and historical jewel it is, but we'll just drop two notable names: architect Albert Kahn and artist Diego Rivera. For grown-ups with an eye toward design and an interest in local history, that's usually enough of a sample to tickle their touring taste buds. But if you've got some pint-sized companions, you may wonder what's in it for them.
Rest assured – plenty.
Tours for kids
The staff at the house has a lot of tricks to help kids see its charm, too. First, there is a short video that gives everyone (including kids) some historical perspective on the house and the Ford family that called it home.
Then, there's a shuttle ride to the main house for a tour. Janet Busch, a tour guide at the main house, says the staff gives children several activities to keep them focused.
If there's a large group of kids, staff provides nametags with names of members of the Ford family on them. Busch says kids like to relate their "name for the day" to the pictures they see and the stories they hear throughout the tour. This is a good project for your family, as well; each of you could role-play during the tour.
Take advantage of the Ford house's iPod app, too. "You can take it on the tour with you and watch a video at all of the stops of what Edsel, Eleanor and their kids did when they lived here," says Ann Fitzpatrick, vice president of external relations. The app is free.
Busch also has children count how many fireplaces are in the house (nine!), find built-in radios, hidden doors, buttons to call for a butler or maid and matching patterns throughout the house. She says kids especially get a kick out of all the hidden cubbies in the house.
Outside – to the playhouse
After the house tour, you can venture outside at your own pace. The pool and diving board are nearby to stop and look at and, after a walk through the rose garden, kids discover one of their favorite parts of this trip – the playhouse.
The playhouse is a two-thirds-scale house that was built for Josephine, Edsel and Eleanor Ford's only daughter, for her seventh birthday. The house has a kitchen, sitting room, bedroom and bathroom. The walls have characters on them, and there's a miniature tea set on the dining table. It is a little girl's fantasy house.
Different by Design Garage
After leaving the playhouse, there's open land for children to play and wander in, but they may be too excited for the next stop: The Different by Design Garage Exhibit, which appeals to everyone in the family. The garage is home to three of the Fords' personalized vehicles, and they are a sight to see! The cars sit on turntables and have mannequins posing as drivers.
There's a computer design station in which everyone can create a car and print out the design. The printout is personalized, complete with the details of the model you chose and a quote and signature from Edsel B. Ford himself. It's simple, fun and a great memento for adults and children.
Also in the garage is a Wii station. That's right – a Wii station. Here, anyone can drive a legendary Indy 500 car. Now you and your children have seen the cars, heard them rev up, designed an auto and driven a simulated Indy 500 car – all in the same building. If the Fords' home and Josephine's playhouse didn't awe your children, this exhibit will.
The house also offers special holiday events and camps for kids. Your trip can be as long as you please; staff doesn't clear the grounds until around 6 p.m. There is a cafe that serves brunch, lunch and dinner. It's a great way to spend a day bonding with family and friends.