On Friday night, the Henry Ford Museum hosted my family for 2019 Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village. This is one of our favorite annual traditions. One thing that I love about Greenfield Village is that it is so large and there are so many extra activities that we always seem to find something new.
What is Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village?
Holiday Nights is Greenfield Village’s annual holiday celebration. Experience the holidays as Americans have over the last 250 years.
Explore homes from different regions and eras. Experience a 1760s New England Christmas at the Daggett Farmhouse or an 1860s Christmas Wedding at a Susquehanna Plantation. Travel to England at Cotswold Cottage to visit a World War II Red Cross Hospitality Station for American servicemen.
Or learn how modern images of Santa developed at a Civil War encampment at the McGuffey School house. Shop for timeless holiday items including greens, ornaments, and crafts from Liberty Craftworks.
Watch the creation of holiday crafts throughout Liberty Craftworks. Be sure to stop in the print shop and pick up a souvenir. Watch them making holiday pottery, tin, and more.
What Holiday Nights is not
I have seen Holiday Nights on several lists of the best places to see holiday lights in Metro Detroit or Michigan. If you go with the intent of seeing an amazing light display, you will be disappointed. This does not mean it is not a great event. It is one of our favorites. It’s just not about seeing lights.
Is Holiday Nights for our Family?
We recommend Holiday Nights for children ages 5+ and adults. I also don’t recommend it with elderly adults.
Holiday Nights starts at 6:30p (members can enter at 6p). When my daughter was younger, we would stay until 9 or 9:30p. Now that she is older, we stay until the end but often feel like we are rushing at the end of the night.
To truly enjoy Holiday Nights you will be entering homes, shops, and other buildings throughout Greenfield Village. Most of these buildings are not stroller, wagon or even wheel chair friendly. Be prepared to be getting kids in and out of the stroller/wagon constantly. Also, while the streets are paved, accessing many houses requires walking on gravel and dirt paths.
Holiday Nights is held in all weather conditions. Many Holiday Nights sessions sell out well in advance – particularly Friday and Saturday nights. This means, you typically are purchasing your tickets without knowing the weather. My 13 year old is definitely much more adaptable to weather than when she was 3.
Sensory Sensitive Children
Do you have children who are on the autism spectrum or have other sensory sensitivities? Greenfield Village offers Sensory Sensitive Kits that include maps showing areas that may cause sensory overload, headphones, and ear plugs. They also offer a Quiet Zone in the Carding Mill of Liberty Craftworks.
Our 2019 Holiday Nights Experience
We had a great time at Holiday Nights. We made sure to visit some of our favorites – The Print Shop, the Menlo Park Lab, Giddings House for Chocolate Making demonstration, and Cotswold Cottage.
New Experiences at Holiday Nights
Even though we have been to Holiday Nights 9 times plus more trips to Greenfield Village, it is so large and they make program changes or add new spaces, that we find a new experience on every visit.
For 2019, there were a few new vignettes added including:
- The Cotswold Stables are now setup as a YMCA canteen in Germany in December 1918, immediately after the World War I Armistice was signed that November.
- The Menlo Park Lab section now includes a glass lampwork demonstration. Watch as a craftsman makes glass lamps with a holiday spin.
- Enjoy some winter leisure with the Winter Weekenders who are heading out to the slopes. Stop and chat with an ice fisherman and learn all about their tools and huts.
10 Tips for Holiday Nights with Kids
Since we have attended Holiday Nights many times, we have some tips to share.
1 – Pre-Buy Your Tickets
Holiday Nights sells out on many of the more popular nights. For example, all Saturday nights before Christmas are already sold out. Of course this means you will have to take your chances with the weather. In recent years, we visited the first Saturday of Holiday Nights. We had other commitments that night, so we visited the second Saturday (December 8). We were lucky with the weather. The first Saturday was rainy. The night we were there was colder, but dry.
2 – Dress for the Weather
On most nights, you’ll want to make sure to bundle up. You will spend most of your time outdoors. Snowpants are a great option for anyone, but especially the kids. I usually double up tights and leggings or tights and wool pants. My husband wears long johns and jeans. Don’t forget hats, gloves, and scarves. You will be in and out of buildings heated by fire and there are fire pits around that give you a chance to warm up a bit.
If it is a rainy night, consider adding ponchos over your winter coats, or at least make sure they are waterproof.
3 – Arrive Early
There is so much to do at Holiday Nights, you will want to maximize your time in Greenfield Village. New for 2018, Members can enter 30 minutes earlier at 6p. Everyone else can still enter at 6:30p. We found that the staggered entrance has decreased the lines at 6:30p. I picked up our tickets at 6:35p while my husband was parking and there was no entry line.
4 – Enjoy Holiday Tastes
In past years we have had dinner at the event. Last year and this year we decided to maximize our event time by eating dinner early.
There are several street food options. In the past, we have had dinner from the street food stands. There is a roast beef sandwich stand and a ham sandwich stand. Note, at both you are given just the roll at the booth and proceed to the fire where your meat is carved for you. For 2019 they have added several seating areas near the stands. It definitely makes it easier to eat dinner from the stands.
Other options for dinner include the Village Pavilion (hot dogs, mac & cheese, and sweets) and Taste of History (traditional turkey dinner, soups, desserts).
We have traditionally gotten mini-donuts at the Village Pavilion. However, in 2018 they had a long delay (we waited 25 minutes and still did not have our donuts before switching to cookies). This year we decided to stick to cookies and hot chocolate at the Washington Boulevard Hot Chocolate Stand. I was hoping to buy the s’mores kit but it was the end of the evening and they were sold out.
5 – Take Advantage of Freebies
Yes, there are a few freebies at Holiday Nights.
The Children’s Activity House has a craft for the kids. They can decorate a paper gingerbread house.
The Print Shop makes prints and gives them away. This is a great souvenir. We have the prints from 2015, 2017, and 2018 framed. I still need to get frames for this year’s print.
Model T rides are free during Holiday Nights. The line does get long, so I suggest arriving early and doing the ride first. We rode a Model T a few years ago.
Carousel rides are free during Holiday Nights. The line usually wraps around the carousel. We didn’t stop this year, but have in the past.
There is also a free ice skating rink. Bring your own skates or use the loaner skates that are available.
6 – Have Santa Greet Your Kids
Santa is on the balcony of the Robert Frost House (through December 23). Across the street you will find Santa’s helpers. They are usually women dressed in long red coats. Give them your child’s name for Santa to call out a greeting. There are reindeer in front of the house to occupy your kids until Santa calls out their names.
A few years ago we were lucky enough to walk up as Santa was helping with a proposal.
7 – Talk to the Presenters
Take your time and talk to the presenters especially in less crowded buildings. A few years ago we had a great talk with a presenter at the Edison Illuminating building which presents the history of Christmas lights. Feel free to ask questions. The presenters are very knowledgable about their topic.
8 – Bring Home a Souvenir
Two year we bought a Greenfield Village lantern. It decorates our mantle for the holidays and with the theory that we can use it each year. Bring your own battery operated tea light or light string since they do not allow candles in the historic buildings. Our plan to use it each year has not worked. In 2018, we got to Greenfield Village and realized our light string did not have batteries. In 2019 we were halfway there when I realized we had forgotten the lantern.
There are lots of great souvenirs from Holiday Nights. As in previous years we bought a wreath for our front door at Holiday Nights.
Other souvenir choices are ornaments, the annual glass candy cane, historic toys, and more.
9 – You Can’t do Everything
There is so much going on at Holiday Nights that you cannot visit every house, craft shop, and experience. Each year we try to fit in our favorite activities and find a few new ones. On my wish list is the Christmas Carol wagon ride, but I have not convinced my family to join me yet. Another experience we have yet to do is ice skating. My daughter has asked for learn to skate lessons this year, so maybe by next year she’ll want to give it a try.
10 – Make A Quick Escape
While you can join the sing along and watch the fireworks from the Village Green, we usually use this time to beat the rush. During the sing along, we stopped at the Greens Market to pickup the wreath we had already purchased and then decided to head to the car.
2019 Holiday Nights Schedule
The 2019 Greenfield Village Holiday Nights Schedule is below:No Events
Buy your tickets now as many weekend nights are already sold out and other nights are selling out as well.