Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village 2016 Recap

Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village yielded some unexpected surprises which added to an already enjoyable family experience.

The first surprise was at the Josephine Ford Plaza, before you even entered the village. Nestled along the side, a bit away from the fountain and main gathering area was a collection of classic hearses, festooned with spooky regalia. These lovingly maintained autos added an appropriate reminder of the historic origins of Hallow's Eve. I give credit to the thoughtful planners and curators of The Henry Ford for adding something new, yet making it culturally accurate and family friendly, by placing it out of the way so families with young children or sensitive children could easily avoid it. There were many families with young children who did not seem to be bothered by the hearses, but obviously, for some folks it might be a bit too intense, but easily avoided. Well done!

The route itself changed this year, continuing along Post Street rather than turning right at Christie Street and heading through the Edison at Work District. This eliminated the mad scientist inside one of the Edison labs, which was always fun, but did allow for a greater concentration of the main storytelling areas. Anthony, in his dramatic performance of Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart was as mesmerizing as ever.  The singing witches trio was bouncy and fun, and provided a nice contrast. I think it was a good choice to vary the route, although I do think some additional consideration to timing the performances should be made, because occasionally the singing drowned out The Tell Tale Heart oration. 

Readers of this blog will know that we previously mentioned this is a true family friendly event and The Henry Ford makes great efforts to accommodate a wide range of ages and sensitivities. That being said, folks looking for a scary or gory Halloween experience or to receive bags full of candy are going to be disappointed. 

Rather, expect a charming stroll through a tastefully decorated historical treasure, with amazingly talented entertainers, great attention to detail, lovely costumes, and enough seasonally appropriate spookiness to spark the imagination not shock it into submission. 

Family Questions for Discussion

1. What did you think of the new route at Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village?

2. Did the change add or detract to your family's experience of the event?

3. How does sharing a common travel experience help strengthen your family?

4. What was  your favorite part of the Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village?

5. What would be your family's dream autumn travel experience be?


Losing Panera Cares in Dearborn

It is with great sadness that I write about the closing of Panera Cares in Dearborn. Readers of this blog will know how greatly I admired the actual location on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn, but also the innovative hybrid business model.

It was a true community gathering space, where a  cross section of Metro-Detroiters would mingle. Students, families, retirees, business people, the unemployed-of a wide variety of racial and socio-economic categories would enjoy a hot cup of coffee and comforting soup all based on your ability to pay. If you could afford to, you were asked to chip in a little extra, if you were struggling financially, you could get a meal and were asked to volunteer your time. The staff were always so friendly and welcoming, helping to create a convivial community atmosphere.

A family travelling could stop in and get a delicious day old loaf of bread or bagels for a snack on the long car ride back to Ohio, Illinois or Kentucky after visiting family, or the historical sites.

Metro Detroit seemed like such a wonderful location for a Panera Cares, the combination of midwestern pragmatism and down to earth community sensibilities, but unfortunately the economic realities of bills and rent supposedly became too much at this time. 

Although the Panera Cares website states that there are no new locations being considered at this time, I am holding onto hope that this great idea is simply a few years ahead of its time.

In November, the time when late fall yields to winter and we prepare for the long chill ahead, when we both remember our losses and give thanks for the harvest, those of us fortunate to travel might give pause to recall the many in America for whom food security is a daily struggle. 

Check out the PaneraCares.org website for more info on food security and to watch Ron Shaich speak at Tedx St. Louis. 

Family Questions for Discussion

1. What is food insecurity?

2.  How many American's are reportedly affected by food insecurity?

3. What are some of the family travel experiences for which you are most thankful?

4. What are some of the best ways to foster gratitude while you are travelling?

5. What is the Panera Cares "business" model?

6. Could it work for other restaurants or types of businesses?

Walking Dearborn's Ford Field

One of our favorite things to do is getting off the beaten path while we are travelling and experiencing life as a local. A great way to get a glimpse into local life is through walking. This is not always easy as you may not know the route or neighborhood that will be safe or easily accessible. I find that asking the hotel desk clerks or restaurant employee is often a simple way to get decent insight into the local walking scene. 

If you are travelling in the Dearborn area, a decent walk would be at Ford Field. This is located between Michigan Avenue and Cherry Hill and Military and Brady in West Dearborn. What is nice about this location is it's ease of parking, and its variety of walking options. Plus, it is usually very well used so you rarely feel as if you are alone in an isolated area, which can be a disconcerting experience if you are travelling. 

If you are interested in a short stroll, I would recommend parking in the Cherry Hill lot on the north of the park. According to Mapquest the address to Ford Field is 22051 Cherry Hill. From here you can stroll down a small hill, either paved or if your children prefer on the grassy hill itself. Then I would proceed to the small covered bridge where you can stand and watch the Rouge River pass below you.  If you turn around here and return back up your total walk would be less than 1/2 mile. Then your children may want to play on the playscapes at the top. However, if you are interested in extending it you can travel east along the river on the woodchip trail at the end of the parking lot that ends at Brady. You could either turn back here or continue north on Brady to Cherry Hill, turn left on Cherry Hill and return to the parking lot. This would make your walk closer to 1 mile in length. 


A longer walk would be to walk the outer border, a large rectangle. From the Cherry Hill parking lot, I would consider walking west to Military. At Military I would turn left and travel down the hill south to Morley. Be sure to keep close tabs on young children as part of this walk feels a bit close to the road. Although Military is posted at 30 mph, this feels quite quick when the autos are but a few feet away from you.  At Morley I would turn left, walking through a pleasant historic neighborhood, featuring the Charles Kandt house on the south side of the street. A few blocks past the Kandt house is a charming Little Free Library, be sure to stop and see what the caretaker has available! When you get to Monroe you can either turn left and descend the hill back into the park area. This walk would be approximately 1.5 miles. If you have the energy, you can continue walking to Brady street, turn left here and continue up to Cherry Hill. Turn left at Cherry Hill and return to the parking lot. This would be closer to a bit over two miles. 

This area features two playground areas- one at the top near Cherry Hill and the other accessible from the Monroe Street entrance. Dearborn's Ford Field also has large grassy areas to play catch, run or kick a ball, a couple of ball fields, grills and picnic tables as well. It is usually very family oriented and your children will likely soon be playing tag on the playground while you chat with another parent about their favorite restaurants or dessert locations. I have found that many people in Dearborn, like many places in Michigan, are not particularly gregarious, but they are very friendly and helpful once you initiate conversation. 

If you are looking to get out of the hotel and tourist experience a bit and live like a true Dearbornite, walking, playing with your children, enjoying a picnic in the park, then you will find your experience at Dearborn's Ford Field to be quite agreeable. It is not lush or home to famous gardens or amazing vistas, but it is quite honest, down to earth and accessible, much like the town and region itself. 



Lunch at Panera Cares-Dearborn

We always try to find places that allow healthy eating options while we travel and Panera often is our go-to place. The sandwiches as you know are fresh tasting, their soups hot and satisfying and their salads interesting. 

Their prices have definitely seemed to increase recently and we rarely go there for a full meal. Often we will split a you pick two, or just have the soup and bread which usually will tide us over until a late afternoon protein bar and fruit break. 

The interiors are usually quite bright and comfortable and I find the coffee to be quite satisfying and the 99 cent cookie upgrade with a meal is a delicious treat. 

For those travelers near Dearborn for whom The Henry Ford is the prime destination have two Panera options to choose from. One is the Panera located at 3112 Fairlane Drive, near shops and many of the hotels off the I-94 expressway. 

The other one is Panera Cares Community Cafe, a non-profit Panera located right in downtown West Dearborn at 22208 Michigan Avenue. This is one of only three Panera Cares Community Cafe's located in the entire US, so you might not be familiar with the concept. Essentially, it is a pay-as-you-can location run by the Panera Foundation. Patrons are encouraged to pay full price or a bit over if they are able, so that customers who may be experiencing economic difficulties can have a discounted meal. Customers who are absolutely not able to pay are requested to volunteer at the restaurant in exchange for the meal. 

Bread for sandwiches and to accompany soup are baked fresh right there at the restaurant.  Bread and bakery items sold on their own are day old from other Panera restaurants, and are priced a bit cheaper than at a traditional Panera, but we have never experienced any significant dips in quality. It is a great place to grab a bag of rolls or bread for a picnic or for the car ride home.

I really enjoy the economic diversity at the restaurant and it is great to see professionals discussing sales projections, college students studying, families have a snack, and individuals who might not ordinarily have a cup of hot soup or fresh salad served in a pleasant, well-lit restaurant sharing the same dining experience. 

The first time I paid it was a bit confusing as you give your order to the clerk, they tell you the suggested donation, then pay right into a small glass receptacle by the cash register. They will give you cash back if you have a larger bill and you can use a credit card, but I don't believe you can get cash back from a gift card. 

It is truly a one-of a kind restaurant in Michigan and the mission to provide high quality food to individuals experiencing food insecurity is one I appreciate. I hope everyone living or travelling in metro- Detroit can stop by this Panera Cares Cafe and leaves a little bit extra to help those in need. 

Traveling can become a bit insulated at times, when the smallest inconvenience can be frustrating. Panera Cares can help one be a bit more grounded and is a reminder at what a luxury travel is and how it is to be savored with gratitude. 

For a passionate video of  Panera founder Ron Shaich at Tedx St. Louis explaining the mission of Panera Cares Cafes  http://paneracares.org/our-mission/

Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village

If you are looking for a truly memorable experience for your family on Memorial Day weekend look no further than the Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. 

This annual event brings together volunteer re-enactors, regular Greenfield Village volunteers in costume and the staff to provide a glimpse at what life was like during the Civil War. 

Depending on the weather, it is likely to be quite crowded, but there is so much to see and do on this day, you might not let the crowds be too much of a deterrent. We enjoy getting there early in the morning to smell the coffee cooked in pots over the campfires.  If you go on Saturday, with the extended hours until 9 pm, folks with young children might want to sneak back to the hotel for a nap or a dip in the pool before returning for the evening events. 

In addition to witnessing the campsites, there is musical entertainment, battle re-enactments, and numerous other activities during the day. Definitely check out the Greenfield Village website for more details. 

It is difficult to say that this is a "fun" experience, given the seriousness of the event that is being memorialized but I personally believe the event is tastefully done- honestly providing accurate historical information, without being overdone.  Critics of re-enactments often point to the sanitized nature of the events they portray.  If that is your opinion then this event might not be for you. 

It is difficult to say how an individual child might  be impacted by certain experiences, so of course please use your judgement. If your child is very sensitive or easily over-stimulated then you might want to experience Greenfield Village at a different event. However, the way the event is set-up you can easily avoid all of the battle scenes and explore the other aspects of life during that time period.  

For me, it is a solemn reminder to be truly grateful to live in the time I live in, as this event serves as a clear marker of how much we have progressed and how much has been sacrificed to get to this moment in history. 


Lunch at Lue Thai Cafe-Dearborn

For a traveler looking for fresh Thai food in a clean, modern setting, look no farther than Lue Thai Cafe on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn. 

One notices quickly, the bright colored walls, the well lit room, and it's small space which make it distinct from other typical eating establishments. 

During a recent lunch, the restaurant was filled to capacity, but the quick, yet attentive staff kept the customers circulating. Still, we never felt rushed as we ate our delicious food. We were pleasantly surprised to be served vegetarian soup and shrimp chips prior to our meal. The soup was a simple cabbage soup with rice noodles, subtle and not too salty. I had one of my favorite Thai dishes-a Thai cabbage salad, Yum Ka Lum Pee. It was moderately portioned, and the flavors were delicately balanced. Jenny had Thai Peanut which was equally tasty. 

We loved the serving dishes-white squares, with rounded edges which made the presentation of the food even more compelling. 

It reminded me of a restaurant one might find in a neighborhood in a larger city, where the food is fresh and tasty, the decor creative, the service efficient and welcoming, but nothing pretentious or fussy about it. 

If your child does not like Thai Food, their kid's menu serves chicken strips or wings as well as other more authentic kid friendly Thai dishes. A teenager or travelling companion who does not like Thai might enjoy the Grilled Chicken Salad or Apple Salad to tide them over until you can get them to the burger place next door!

I found their lunch portions to be filling and satisfying, but as we split dishes, we did not have leftovers. So, if you are expecting humongous portions with leftovers to put in a cooler or hotel fridge for later, you might be let down. The restaurant is a bit small, so if you have young children who like to stretch their legs or have a stroller you might want to come right before or after the lunch/dinner rush. 


Check their website or facebook page for hours and menu/prices, but I found the prices to be reasonable.

A Positive Sign!

A most hearty welcome!


These attractive green and gold signs are a bold welcome to travelers and residents alike. It features Henry Ford's early Quadricycle circa 1896. A Quadricycle is located in the collection at the museum of the Henry Ford and online through their digital collection. Dearborn was almost 100 years old by that time, starting as a farming village along the Rouge River. 

Today, there are not a lot of Quadricycles or farms, but there is still plenty for travelers to do, especially for those that love eating and history!

Besides the obvious destinations of The Henry Ford, The Automotive Hall of Fame,  or the Arab American National Museum one probably wouldn't choose Dearborn as a travel destination. But once there extending your visit for a day or two to check out the small Dearborn Historical Museum, shop at an independent store, walk through a historic neighborhood, play at a park or grab a great meal. 

There are many wonderful independent and franchised restaurants throughout the city. Some  popular family oriented eateries include Buddy's Pizza, La Pita, Panera Cares, Al-Ameer and Noah's Deli. There are so many more for all tastes and budgets, so it is worth checking one out!