Explore the road less traveled when it comes to Michigan’s auto culture according to Austen Smith, communications coordinator for the MotorCities National Heritage Area Partnership.
Gear heads across the country are familiar with Michigan’s most historically significant sites when it comes to auto culture, but did you know that there is a remarkable auto-related experience awaiting you in nearly every corner of the Great Lakes state? For families seeking a day trip with a reasonable drive and budget, here are five hidden gems perfect for the diehard auto enthusiast divided by region.
R.E. Olds Transportation Museum
240 Museum Drive
Lansing, Michigan 48933
Explore this fascinating museum examining the life and career of Ransom Eli Olds who created a motor empire in Oldsmobile and later the REO Motor Car Company. This quaint site is nestled away near the campus of Michigan State University and showcases some of the state’s most prized pieces of auto history such as one of the first three Oldsmobile autos ever made and the very last Oldsmobile car to be produced in Lansing.
Alfred P. Sloan Museum
1221 E. Kearsley Street
Flint, Michigan 48503
Alfred P. Sloan was a maverick of the burgeoning days of Michigan’s auto industry having been named President and CEO of General Motors in 1923. Sloan helped to establish the legacy of General Motors within the Flint community. View classic GM and Buick muscle at the Sloan Museum and Buick Gallery, and then stay for a show at the Longway Planetarium – all sites located on the Flint Cultural Center campus.
Gilmore Car Museum
6865 W Hickory Road
Hickory Corners, MI 49060
Visit the 90-acre, historic campus of the Gilmore Car Museum, located in bucolic Hickory Corners just 17 miles northeast of Kalamazoo, to experience a wealth of automotive history and Americana. Gilmore features nearly 200 historic autos and two dozen beautifully restored buildings including a 1930s service station, historic barns, a functioning 1941 diner and car dealerships from a bygone era according to the website. The Gilmore Car Museum is hailed as one of the finest auto experiences in the nation showcasing rare exhibits such as an 1899 Locomobile and the elusive Tucker ’48.
Walker Tavern Historic Site
Brooklyn, MI 49230
Experience a genuine pioneer stagecoach stop at the Walker Tavern located in Michigan’s Irish Hills area. The site served as a tourist destination during the early years of automotive travel and today is a 66-acre State Historic Park. Visitors can tour the restored tavern, hear stories about the experiences of travelers along the old Chicago Road and view exhibits about historical vehicles, road building and tourism in the Irish Hills.
The Automotive Hall of Fame
21400 Oakwood Boulevard
Dearborn, MI 48124
Much of the innovation that “Put the World on Wheels,” came directly from the Detroit and Dearborn communities thus cementing the legacy of the Motor City. So it is appropriate that the Automotive Hall of Fame, a museum dedicated to those pioneers and innovators, is located in historic Dearborn next to the campus of the Henry Ford. Museum exhibits highlight many of the auto industry’s celebrated entrepreneurs, visionaries and innovators. Be inspired by a 65- foot ceiling to floor mural and displays that showcase each of the members of the Automotive Hall of Fame.
In addition, check out these automotive-inspired events coming up that you don’t want to miss in August. Visit our monthly events round-up for more ideas, or for a complete listing view our Events Calendar.
- Back to the Bricks Cruise & Car Show - August 11-15, 2015 in Flint. Come visit Flint and Genesee and be part of one of the biggest car events featuring a rolling cruise, kick-off party, live entertainment, automotive displays, vendors, food, antique fire trucks and dragster exhibits, contests and a Saturday car show that will amaze all with over 30,000 participants and over 300,000 spectators.
- Corvettes on Woodward - August 12, 2015 in Bloomfield Hills. This gathering of Corvettes from around the country has grown and offers a special exhibit each generation.
- Harbor Springs Car Festival – August 13, 2015 in Harbor Springs.
- Woodward Dream Cruise – August 15, 2015 in Detroit. With more than 40,000 muscle cars, street rods, custom, collector and special interest vehicles on display, the Motor City definitely shifts into cruise mode for the Woodward Dream Cruise, an all-star display of car culture.
- Pure Michigan 400 – August 16 at Michigan International Speedway. Last chance before summer ends to watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as it returns to Michigan International Speedway, NASCAR’s fastest racetrack.
- Old US 27 Motor Tour - August 18-19, 2015 in Coldwater. Cruises of Coldwater Country are mapped out for this fun event. Goody bags, door prizes and lots of fun await you in Coldwater.
- Tecumseh’s Classic Car and Bike Show – August 20, 2015 in Tecumseh.
- Corvette Crossroads Auto Show - August 21-22, 2015 in Mackinac City. Hundreds of Corvettes will be on display with vendors, music, awards and more.
- UAW-GM Spirit of Detroit HydroFest - August 22-23, 2015 in Detroit. While not automotive, this fun hydroplane race is sponsored by UAW-GM. The action-packed 2015 UAW-GM Spirit of Detroit HydroFest marks the 99th running of the hydroplanes on the Detroit River.
- Blanchard Steam and Gas Engine Show – August 28-30 in Blanchard. Enjoy tractor pulls, steam engine exhibits, live music, a flea market and more!
- Fire Truck Muster - August 29, 2015 in Ypsilanti. A diverse collection of fire trucks will range in era from the 1920′s through the late 1970′s.
About the author: Austen Smith is the Communications Coordinator for the MotorCities National Heritage Area, a non-profit group affiliated with the National Park Service that promotes and preserves auto heritage. To learn more about MotorCities and its mission, visit the website at motorcities.org.