Often when the weekend rolls around we find ourselves dreaming of the next great place to visit or escape to. Palm trees and Mickey Mouse often stream into my head, but seeing as west Michigan offers neither of these, it is a must to find something a little less exotic, but still satisfying.
Recently I was able to travel to the Gerald R. Ford Museum in downtown Grand Rapids to satisfy this very search. When looking for great places to visit on weekends, it is very easy to overlook your own backyard, but if you haven’t made your way down to Pearl Street and US-131, you have missed an excellent adventure into the world of Michigan’s only United States President.
The museum provided an excellent escape from one of our recent rainy days and relief from the heat and humidity as well. For three hours I was able to traipse through Gerald Ford’s history, from his early days as a student in Grand Rapids to his days as the only unelected U.S. President and beyond. Being a fan of history, particularly the U.S Presidents, I found that the Gerald Ford museum was an excellent glimpse at the life and times of the Eagle Scout from Michigan.
The entrance to the museum is located directly in front of the Grand River with a great view of the skyline and a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the beauty of Grand Rapids. The welcoming staff and lovely gift shop are the first things that you notice when you enter the main lobby. After paying your admission you are immediately drawn to a featured piece of the Berlin Wall and a beautiful theater offering a movie reflecting on Gerald Ford’s assent to the Presidency.
The second floor offers the display exhibits and the deep history that Gerald Ford offers to our state. Some exhibits throw younger visitors like myself back into the 1970’s and the time of Watergate. Others offer a look at where Ford developed his foundations for the integrity and honesty that he brought to the White House. The museum also includes exhibits regarding the great battles Ford fought once he became President with national issues, repairing the image of the government, and earning confidence after never been elected Vice-President or President. The museum also includes Ford’s life after the Presidency and a wonderful tribute to the late President’s funeral services in California, Washington D.C, and Grand Rapids. As an additional treat, Caroline Kennedy’s doll collection is currently on loan from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum in Boston.
I found that the museum provides a great balance between all aspects of Ford’s life, both as a politician and a father and husband. Most exhibits are organized in such a way that you can read a basic overview of desired material, or dive in deep to the subject for extensive knowledge. The museum also celebrates the life and times of Gerald Ford in an honorable and dignified way, worthy of any man thrust into the Presidency. The three hours I spent were well worth it, and could have been extended further into the afternoon. The Gerald Ford Museum is an excellent day trip for anyone looking for a bit of history and culture.
The Gerald Ford museum is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. excluding New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. For more information visit http://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov.