Detroit Commemorates the Bicentennial of the War of 1812

If you’re in the Detroit area this week, you might have noticed that a number of war ships have made their way along the Detroit Riverfront. The ships are here as part of a special Navy Week celebration.

In conjunction with Navy Week, the U.S. Navy, Marines and Coast Guards are joining with civilian groups to commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” bringing a key moment in American history is coming to life in Detroit.

Navy war ships and an exact replica of the Brig Niagara are currently set along the Detroit riverfront and available for civilians to tour. All are welcome to view these ships to celebrate and learn more about American history and the role Detroit played in this significant battle. Plans include concerts, parades, Blue Angel air shows and other activities that celebrate the naval role in keeping the sea free for over 200 years.

Navy Week celebrations in Detroit are happening now through Sunday, September 9th. Learn more in the video below and let us know if you’re taking part in the events!

Driving America at The Henry Ford

It’s my story. It’s your story. It’s everyone’s story.

For everyone who’s ever driven or ridden in, owned, worked on, bought, admired, dreamed about or pretty much walked by a car – Driving America, Henry Ford Museum’s new automotive exhibition, digs deep and tells their story. It tells the story of us – our relationship with the automobile and its impact on American culture.

There was a nice crowd of interested Sunday afternoon visitors who began to travel the exhibition at the same spot we did. Drawn by the neon of the McDonald’s and Lamy’s Diner signs, we began to work our way through the 80,000-square-foot automotive experience.

The traffic was pretty steady along the Driving America Timeline, which gives a chronological overview of the automotive story. After that first stretch, visitors moved to areas that piqued their interests – be it luxury cars, design and style, racing, road trips, custom cars, alternative power and more.

Even with over 130 vehicles and more than 60 cases of artifacts, the exhibition is arranged in an inviting and accessible way. Included in that accessibility are the 18 large interactive touch-screens placed throughout the exhibition. The 42-inch screens invite visitors to engage in activities and explore details and artifacts that are part of the vast collections of The Henry Ford beyond what’s visible on the museum floor.

I have to say, I was blown away with how intuitive and meaningful the touch-screens were. The value and depth of content was remarkable – linking to thousands of additional details, images, videos and oral histories about the displayed artifacts.

My husband and I had two older children with us, and we all were thoroughly engrossed. The kids’ favorite touch-screen activities were Test Drive the Model T, Plan the Car of Your Dreams: 1947, Talk like a Trucker and Help Henry Innovate. I enjoyed taking a quiz regarding my ideal car (which apparently is not my current full-size van!), making a car commercial and sorting through some of the digitized print artifacts. My husband liked the oral histories and the ability to access more detailed information on the spot. He was so intrigued with the racing area of the exhibition and spent most of his time there, and he’s not really a racing fan (yet?).

Some folks are all about the cars. If that’s you, you’ll be satisfied seeing up close some of the most important and significant vehicles of our time – including the first car built by Henry Ford, America’s first production car, the first all-steel utility station wagon and many more. There are also other limited production rarities, century-old electric cars, hot rods, racecars, campers, muscle cars, SUVs and current hybrids.

I, however, am not a car buff by any stretch of the imagination, but I was still completely enthralled by the story Driving America tells. It takes a detailed and fascinating look at the enormous influence the automobile has had on who we are and how it has and will continue to inspire us.

Take some time to read some fun car stories and share your own on The Henry Ford’s blog on the My First Car page.

Driving America is part of Henry Ford Museum’s permanent collections. It is one of the largest automotive-centric exhibitions of its kind. Entrance to Driving America is included in admission to the museum and is free to members of The Henry Ford. Henry Ford Museum is open from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., seven days a week. Henry Ford Museum is part of The Henry Ford – America’s Greatest History Attraction.

Kristine Hass is a writer and a long-time member of The Henry Ford. She frequently blogs about her family’s visits to America’s Greatest History Attraction.

Flying Tiger at Air Zoo in Pure Michigan

Amy Eckert, contributing writer for Michigan Travel Ideas, heads to Portage to check out the newly expanded Air Zoo. With airplanes called “Wildcat,” “Hellcat” and “Flying Tiger,” she discovers where the aviation museum got the “zoo” in its name.

With the addition of the East Wing, the new and improved Air Zoo now features more than 50 rare and historic aircraft; the Midwest’s first 4-D theatre; eight flight-themed amusement park-style and flight simulator rides; 170,000 square feet of exhibit space (a 120,000-square-foot Main Campus building and the new 50,000-square-foot East Wing addition); an expanded exhibit about women in space and aviation, including some interesting WASP displays; and a 28,800-square-foot mural titled “Century of Flight” tracing aviation history from hot air balloons to space travel.

The main exhibition floor can be a bit overwhelming. For first-time visitors, I recommend asking a docent or volunteer, some are WWII veterans for a tour. These guides wear nametags and hang out near the front next to a sign that reads, “Free tours.” Seeing the old planes and reading the placards are interesting enough, but taking advantage of these tours really elevates the experience to a whole new level. The main exhibition includes four distinct areas: Beginnings (some of the world’s earliest airplanes), Missions (World War I and II planes), Sentinels at Sea (aircraft that are designed to take off and land on aircraft carriers) and Journeys Beyond (a reconnaissance plane).

In the back of the main exhibit hall you’ll find the entrance to the East Wing of the Air Zoo which begins with the new exhibit “Space: Dare to Dream.” Some of the displays are a bit text-heavy like the inspiring quotes from people like Isaac Newton, TS Eliot, William Jennings Bryan and even Walt Disney (obviously, some were more dreamers than scientists or aviators).

Other “Dare to Dream” displays are more interactive, including those that trace the origins of heavenly exploration with a Mayan astronomical calendar, Galileo’s observations of the night sky and the Apollo space program. There’s a cool prototype lunar rover, a replica command module (the pod that astronauts used to plummet back to Earth and into the ocean at the end of their space voyage), a replica space shuttle and some interactive reproductions of astronaut training equipment.

Beyond the space section is another large room filled with WWII-era aircraft. I’m told that many of these aircraft are quite rare: Hellcats, Bearcats, Wildcats and Flying Tigers. These planes have been beautifully and lovingly restored and many are just beautifully designed, like the Corsair with the red-and-white checkerboard nose, the boxy, olive-drab WWII glider and the Skyraider with its fold-up wings.

The month of February is Open Cockpit Month, when visitors can jump into the pilot’s seat in three of the museum’s planes (including the Skyraider). The experience is included in the purchase of general admission—$8. For more information, visit www.airzoo.org.

Amy Eckert is a freelance travel writer who lives in Holland. Publications she has contributed to include Michigan Travel Ideas, Sky West Magazine and both Frommer’s and Michelin guidebooks.