An Insider’s Guide to Exploring Michigan Car Culture in Summer 2014

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang! Why not celebrate this milestone by hopping in the car and exploring Michigan’s automotive past and present this summer? We put together this list of automotive attractions and events happening around the state to help guide your trip. So, start your engines and see how car culture runs deep in Pure Michigan.

For more information on Michigan automotive attractions and events, visit michigan.org.

MEDC_infographic_04 (4)

Do you plan to attend any Michigan auto events this summer? 

Celebrate the Ford Mustang’s 50th Anniversary at The Henry Ford

Did you know that the Ford Mustang celebrates its 50th Anniversary this month? Today, guest blogger Lish Dorset tells us how to join in on the celebration at The Henry Ford Museum. 

Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford

Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford

This year, it’s all about the Mustang at The Henry Ford. If you’re a fan of classic cars, there’s a lot to be excited about this year as the Ford Mustang turns 50. Launched in April 1964, the Mustang was the first of the American pony cars and instantly became an American icon, creating a loyal fan base right from the beginning.

If you’ve been to Henry Ford Museum, you know that we have two very special Mustangs within our collections. The 1962 Ford Mustang I Roadster Concept Car and the 1965 Mustang Serial Number One are visitor favorites within Driving America and help tell the story of the early days of this classic car. As part of the year-long celebration of all-things Mustang, we’ve put these two important vehicles on the road as part of our THF OnWheels Tour so that car lovers across the country can see these two classics up close.

Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford

Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford

Our Mustangs first went out on the road this past January at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. As part of Ford’s presence at the show, guests were greeted by these two icons as the company told the story of the car’s history in their exhibit inside Cobo Hall. The cars’ next stop was to Las Vegas and North Carolina for the Mustang 50th Anniversary Celebration in mid-April.

Where can you see our Mustangs back here in Michigan? At this year’s Motor Muster at Greenfield Village. We’re expecting a great Mustang turnout this summer, so it’s definitely an event not to miss.

It’s been a lot of fun so far this year helping celebrate the anniversary of this fantastic car. Whether it’s downloading a wallpaper for your phone or keeping an eye on our blog for updates from our curator of transportation, there’s almost always something Mustang-related to share here at The Henry Ford.

Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford

Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford

Our biggest gift to Mustang fans is our THF OnWheels Mustang #1 Fantasy Sweepstakes. Now through September 30 you can enter the sweepstakes for a chance to enjoy a unique, behind-the-scenes experience with our Mustangs as well as a trip to Detroit for the 2015 North American International Auto Show. It’s the ultimate in VIP experiences for VIP Mustang fans.

To keep up to date with automotive happenings at The Henry Ford, make sure to subscribe to THF OnWheels, our enthusiast channel for car lovers. From feature stories to event information, it’s a one-stop-destination for the car news you need. And it’s a great resource for fueling your love of Mustang this year.

Lish Dorset is the social media manager for The Henry Ford in Dearborn. She lives in Royal Oak with her family. She learned how to drive in a 1994 Ford Mustang, much to her mother’s objection.

For more information on the Mustang’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, watch the video below:

Exploring the Past in Historic Traverse City

It’s easy to think about the past when you’re visiting impressive Michigan historical sites like Fort Michilimackinac or Greenfield Village. But every community has its own history, and sometimes it can be just as fascinating! Today, Mike Norton of Traverse City Tourism tells us what he discovered as he set out to learn about his adoptive hometown.

I admit it. When I first moved to Traverse City 36 years ago, I didn’t spend much time thinking about its history. Like most people who find themselves in this beautiful place, I was much more interested in its endless sandy beaches, its glacier-sculpted hills and lakes and all the outdoor adventures it offered.

As time went on, though, I began to realize that there’s more to Traverse City than those scenic and recreational qualities. Reminders of this area’s brief but dramatic past are scattered everywhere: lonely lighthouses, humble mission churches, workingmen’s taverns, quaint Victorian cottages and the grand estates of 19th century lumber barons. Fortunately, you can visit and tour many of these sites, just as I did!

Indian hunters and French traders were the first people to visit this place, and it was they who gave the region its name – La Grand Traverse – because of the “long crossing” they had to make by canoe across the mouth of the bay. But they were just passing through; even the native Ottawa and Chippewa people didn’t arrive as settlers until the early 18th century.

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Old Mission Lighthouse – Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

To learn more about those earliest arrivals, who call themselves simply Anishinaabek (“The People”) – take a drive up the Leelanau Peninsula to Peshawbestown, the headquarters of the 5,000-member Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians to visit the Eyaawing Museum & Cultural Center, which contains exhibit galleries and a store featuring traditional and contemporary artworks.

It wasn’t until 1839 that the Rev. Peter Dougherty established the area’s first permanent settlement at the tip of the Old Mission peninsula. The modern-day village of Old Mission still occupies Dougherty’s idyllic site: a place seemingly frozen in time, where many of the original structures are still standing and in use. Three miles to the north is the quaint Old Mission Lighthouse, built in 1870 to warn ships away from the rocky shoals of Old Mission Point.

By 1847 a small but growing community was forming on the banks of the nearby Boardman River. In 1852 the little sawmill town was christened Traverse City — but until the first road through the forest was built in 1864 it remained a remote outpost, accessible only by water.

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Perry Hannah House – Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

A good place to begin exploring this community’s beginnings is on Sixth Street in the city’s historic Central Neighborhood. Here, housed in the former 1903 Carnegie Library, is the History Center of Traverse City, which conducts 90-minute bus tours of the city’s most important historical sites. Tickets for this “Magical History Tour” are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and children 12 and under.

Just across the street is the immense 32-room Perry Hannah House, built by Traverse City founder Perry Hannah in 1893. It’s a true showcase, with its beveled Tiffany doors, copper-clad turrets and intricate wood paneling. (A different wood was used in almost every room — appropriately enough for a man whose fortune came from the forest.)

A few blocks to the north is Front Street, Traverse City’s main street, and the immense white building that once housed the heart of Hannah’s 19th century Empire. Built in 1863, when it was known as The Big Store, it’s only half as large as it used to be – it once stretched for two blocks.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 12.40.54 PM

City Opera House – Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

After decades of neglect, Front Street has been extensively restored and is now a picturesque and pedestrian-friendly reminder of the city’s historical roots. Its tree-shaded sidewalks now border shops, restaurants and galleries that have made creative use of the Victorian buildings they occupy. One special landmark is the ornate 1891 City Opera House, recently reopened after more than $8.5 million in exquisite restoration work.

Not everyone in 19th-century Traverse City was a millionaire. The city’s west side, known as Slabtown, was home to millworkers and skilled woodcarvers, including a substantial community of Bohemian immigrants who built tidy cottages for themselves with slabs of scrapwood from the sawmills. Many of their homes are still standing, and so is Sleder’s Family Tavern, a 125-year-old establishment that’s still a favorite hangout for locals and visitors alike.

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Sleder’s Family Tavern – Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

After the lumber boom ended, the local economy turned to manufacturing and agriculture – potatoes, apples, and eventually cherries. But the city’s biggest economic windfall came in 1885, when it was designated as the site of the Northern Michigan Asylum, which became one of the city’s major employers and eventually housed a population several times larger than that of the town itself.

Today, the 480-acre site of the former hospital is known as the Grand Traverse Commons and is being redeveloped into a unique “village” of shops, restaurants, apartments and galleries. Developers are preserving both the castle-like Italianate century buildings that once housed staff and patients, while its lovely wooded campus has become a favorite place for hikers and cyclists.

As you can probably tell, I’ve made up for my initial ignorance by wandering around a lot of Traverse City’s historical site. But history isn’t just about big public buildings; some of this town’s most charming reminders of the past are in its lovingly-restored old homes and neighborhoods. Wonderful places for a stroll or a bicycle ride!

To learn more about the history of Traverse City, and for help with lodging, dining and other year-round fun, call us at Traverse City Tourism at 1-800-TRAVERSE or visit their Web site at www.traversecity.com

27156_4580575632833_1130134017_n - CopyFormer Coast Guardsman Mike Norton majored in history at the University of Michigan and spent 25 years as a newspaper writer and columnist in Traverse City. For the past decade, he’s been the media relations manager at Traverse City Tourism. He lives in the village of Old Mission.