Ford House, Meadow Brook Hall open holiday season with tours

Erica Hobbs
Special to The Detroit News

Those with a passion for historic homes, lights and the holidays have two great options this season. Grosse Pointe Shore’s Ford House and Rochester’s Meadow Brook Hall are offering visitors two grand ways to experience their properties with outdoor light shows and indoor holiday home tours.

The Ford House opens its holiday season Thursday with the debut of Starry Lights, a completely new light attraction. Created by Wixom-based company Blue Water Technologies, the same company that creates the light show for Glenlore Trails in Commerce Township. It features an immersive and interactive light display on the grounds of the estate.

The Ford House opens its holiday season with Starry Lights.

“We were really impressed with what they did (at Glenlore Trails) and wanted to have a whole different experience for visitors,” said Clare Pfeiffer, the Ford House’s director of communications and engagement. “It’s that kind of technology but put into context with the Ford House.”

The light show begins at the visitor center, taking guests on a three-quarter  mile walk to the house, through the meadow, to the play house and back around, experiencing a series of projections, LED screens and animations along the way. With the interactive component, visitors will experience lights that may change or move with them, as well as surprises like singing trees. Video animations that tell stories, as well as vintage home videos of the Ford family, will be projected on to the façade of the house.

“It will be just a really neat experience and completely different than what we’ve done in the past but really fun and interactive and a nice way to get out and do something at the holidays,” Pfeiffer said.

In addition to the light show, guests can experience the Ford House’s new visitor center that opened earlier this spring. The 40,000 square-foot building features its new restaurant, the Continental, which will be open for guests to enjoy before or after their walk, though reservations are recommended. Guests will also be able to enjoy concessions and a warming station by the house with hot coca, spiced cider and snacks. 

On the inside, visitors can enjoy self-guided tours at their leisure to experience an early-20th century Christmas like the Ford family would have done. The home will feature traditional holiday décor, including a variety of Christmas trees and a finely set dining room table. 

“When somebody walks into the house, they get a nice, warm family Christmas feel,” Pfeiffer said. 

Further northeast, Meadow Brook Hall is debuting its first ever light show with Winter Wonder Lights. The event features light displays throughout the grounds with varying themes that correspond with different aspects of the home, like chimney-shaped lanterns and stained-glass projects that echo the design of the house, or snowflakes made from horseshoes in a nod to the family’s love for horses. 

Visitors to Winter Wonder Lights will also get a peek at the inside of the home with a delineated path that takes them through the main floor.

“It’s just another level of connecting the history of Meadow Brook with the outdoor experience,” said Meadow Brook’s Director of External Relations Shannon O'Berski. “But if you knew none of that, it’s still incredibly cool.”

The grounds will also have festive concessions, like glow-in-the-dark cotton candy and seasonal drinks, as well as an outdoor café and bonfires. 

Visitors to Winter Wonder Lights will also get a peek at the inside of the home with a delineated path that takes them through the main floor, which O'Berski said answers the question of “What does it look like inside that building?”

“There’s nothing more intriguing than seeing this house all lit and wondering what’s inside,” she said.

For the full home experience, guests can take part in Meadow Brook’s annual Holiday Home Tour, which is celebrating its 50th year. 

Meadow Brook’s annual Holiday Home Tour, which is celebrating its 50th year.

The self-guided tour gives visitors access to all three levels of the home, decked out in opulent holiday décor, including 50 Christmas trees, hundreds of feet of garland, thousands of lights and a 10-foot tall poinsettia tree created by 150 live plants. A child-friendly scavenger hunt invites participants to follow footprints from “Cleo,” the home’s former family dog, to locate specific aspects of the house.

“It’s something different to do, and it makes it really engaging,” O'Berski said.

Santa will also be making visits to both homes this season. The Ford House will offer two “Breakfasts with Santa” on Dec. 12 and 19, where Santa will visit with guests during their meal and hear children’s Christmas wishes. Meadow Brook’s “Santa Saturdays” adds live reindeer to the mix for children to visit as well. 

Masks are required indoors at both estates. 

Starry Lights at the Ford House

Thursday-Jan. 9, 1100 Lake Shore Road, Grosse Pointe Shores

6-9 p.m. in November; 5-9 p.m. in December and January

Tickets: $20 for adults, $12 for children in advance or $25 for adults and $15 for children at the door.

Holiday house tours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. from Nov. 26-Jan. 9. tickets, $10 with discounts for children and seniors. Children under 5 and military members get in free. Breakfast with Santa, $50 for adults, $25 for children.

Holidays at Meadow Brook Hall

Nov. 26-Dec. 30, 5:30-10 p.m., 350 Estate Dr., Rochester

Tickets: from $12-$22

Holiday Walk: Nov. 26-Dec. 23, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; tickets $7.50-$20