Ford House celebrates holidays inside and out

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 7, 2016

 Rooms like the gallery will be decked out for the holidays when visitors come for tours.

Rooms like the gallery will be decked out for the holidays when visitors come for tours.

Photo provided by the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Whether Mother Nature cooperates or not, the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House is determined to offer its guests a “Winter Wonderland” for the holidays.

From tours of the historic estate — decked in tasteful splendor — to the relatively new nighttime walks known as Winter Wonderland, there’s plenty of seasonal fun to enjoy.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming visitors, young and old, back to Ford House this holiday season,” Ford House President Kathleen Mullins said in a prepared statement. “This year we’re offering more opportunities for families to experience the magic of the holidays.”

Winter Wonderland is a relaxing, roughly mile-long walk through the tree-lined, beautifully lighted and decorated Ford House grounds. Visitors will once again be able to vote on their favorite trees decorated by elementary school students from the Grosse Pointes and St. Clair Shores, with the first-, second- and third-place recipients receiving cash prizes for their art departments of $500, $250 and $100, respectively, said Gretchen Abrams, education programs coordinator at the Ford House.

“That’s always a big attraction,” she said of the small trees; about 19 are slated to be on display this year.

This is the third year for Winter Wonderland, and the Ford House is selling timed tickets and encouraging people to make reservations in advance. To that end, advance tickets cost $10, while tickets purchased at the door cost $15 per person. Admission for children ages 2 and younger is free. Winter Wonderland will be offered 5-8 p.m. Dec. 9, 10, 16 and 17. 

“We want to make sure everyone has a great experience,” Abrams said.

She said they want to try to pace out crowds on the trail. Last year, Abrams said, Winter Wonderland averaged anywhere from 600 to 1,700 people per night.

“We’re anticipating about 1,000 per night this year,” she said. “Saturdays are always busier, so (we encourage people to) book a Friday ticket.”

Winter Wonderland visitors can purchase hot doughnuts, kettle corn, coffee, hot cocoa and mulled wine, Abrams said.

New this year for Winter Wonderland will be professional carolers, who’ll be strolling the grounds every hour, and live music inside the house.

Just don’t expect any renditions of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”

“It’s a more traditional take on Christmas music,” said Colin Bowyer, communications and community outreach specialist for the Ford House. 

Abrams said there will also be a pianist performing in the garage for these tours, and visitors will be able to meet with Santa there. Bring cameras to get photos with Santa and a Model T, or to capture those special moments with the little ones. The garage will be decorated for the holidays and will have a station where kids can write their letters to Santa and then deliver them to him in person. 

Visits to the South Cottage — with craft stations and vintage toys — and the playhouse — decorated for the season — are also part of the fun.

Winter Wonderland attracts guests of all ages — including many families — but Ford House officials decided to offer something just for the adults as well this year. Winter Wonderland — After Hours will take place 6-9 p.m. Dec. 30 for people ages 21 and older. Tickets cost $40 per person and include two tickets for beer, wine or soft drinks; additional beverage tickets will be available for purchase. Abrams said visitors will be able to tour the house as well as the grounds, and there will be small bites for purchase. Michigan’s Short’s Brewing Co. will be serving craft beers, and musicians Chris Emmerson and Tony Nouhan, along with “America’s Got Talent” semifinalist Olivia Millerschin, will be performing. 

For those who’d prefer to stay indoors, there are always the holiday house tours, with 14 full-size Christmas trees and more than 2,500 ornaments on display. Classic ornaments once used by the Ford family will be displayed alongside newer décor that reflects their tastes.

“We added more trees, more garland, more ornaments” this year, Bowyer said.

In addition, Abrams said a tree in Eleanor Ford’s sitting room has been decorated to reflect the Matisse painting in that room.

“It kind of brings you back to the time when the Fords were here,” Bowyer said. “You get to celebrate the holidays like they did.”

Holiday house tours are offered 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays through Dec. 23. The cost is $12 for adults, $11 for seniors, $8 for children ages 6-12, and free for children 5 and younger. Visits to Santa’s workshop are included, and families can play games and make crafts there.

The Cotswold Café and a gift shop will also be open for visitors.

The Edsel and Eleanor Ford House is located at 1100 Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Shores. For reservations or more information, visit or call (313) 444-4222.