Michigan has a proud automobile history and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour is one of the best ways to see the state’s rich history and learn about its exciting future up close!
Located in Dearborn as part of the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, the factory tour showcases all the things that have made Ford a household name in Michigan and throughout the world. You’ll see a glimpse of the past and you’ll see modern manufacturing in action as current vehicles are designed.
Added all together, it’s a truly immersive experience that visitors of all ages can enjoy. Whether you’re techy and love the technology of tomorrow, or you’re a fan of classic cars, there’s something here for everyone.
A History of Innovation at the River Rouge Plant
The famous Henry Ford had a vision of assembly line construction of cars and it became a reality in 1903 when Ford Motor Company was founded.
By 1906, Ford Motor Co. was the nation’s largest car producer and Ford introduced his famous Model T just two years later.
Construction of the Rouge Plant along the Rouge River in Dearborn started in 1917 and by 1918 the plant was producing boats for the US Navy. During WWII, the Rouge plant was a big contributor in establishing Detroit as America’s ‘Arsenal of Democracy.’
Over time, the plant would also produce tractors, the Model A, the V-8 Ford, the Ford Thunderbird, the Ford Mustang, and even the Ford F-150.
Public tours of the Rouge Plant began in 1924 and they instantly became a hit. In 1965, the plant set a new yearly record with more than 239,000 visits. That number continued to grow until the plant closed for tours in 1980. After the construction of a new, state-of-the-art facility, tours began again in 2004.
What does that mean for you? It means when you take a Ford Rouge Factory Tour you’re experiencing an important and special part of Michigan’s history.
Ford River Rouge Plant Tour FAQs
What is the Ford Rouge Factory Tour?
It’s a self-guided tour broken up into 5 different stations: The Legacy Theater, The Manufacturing Innovation Theater, The Observation Deck Tour, The Assembly Walking Plant Tour, and The Legacy Gallery.
How long does the Ford Rouge Factory Tour take?
If you’re visiting Henry Ford Museum to take the plant tour, plan on it taking a couple of hours. The tours are self-guided, but there’s a lot to see so visitors are encouraged to take their time.
Can you visit the Ford plant?
Yes. It’s open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Sunday and is closed for most major holidays. Tours begin with a short bus ride from the museum to the Ford Rouge Visitor Center.
How many people work at the Ford Rouge plant?
About 6,000 people work as Ford employees at the plant.
Henry Ford: Innovation On The River Rouge
In 2013, Awesome Mitten Creator Team member Jennifer Bowman visited the River Rouge Factory and shared her experience…
On the heels of Henry Ford’s 150th birthday in 2013, I couldn’t help but cook up an outing to Dearborn to commemorate the auto maker’s legacy. Having visited The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village on several occasions, one well-known spot was still foreign territory to me: The Rouge Factory.
What better way to celebrate Henry Ford than spending a day at one of his namesake auto plants? As I planned for the afternoon outing, I was excited to find out more about Ford’s legacy and the journey he took to lead the “Big Three” contender to where it is today.
The tour started off at The Henry Ford Museum, where a bus shuttle transported me and several other sightseers across town to the factory site on the Rouge River (prior to this, I had just assumed that the factory was located somewhere on the grounds near the museum and Greenfield village).
Upon reaching the factory, we were ushered inside a visitors’ building for a brief introduction, then to a small theater for a documentary on how the Ford Motor Company flourished throughout the 20th century, surviving hard times such as the stock market crash and World War II.
Next, a second theater gave us a look at the start-to-finish process of Ford vehicle manufacturing, complete with multiple screens, special lighting and temperature effects, and movable chairs that rotated 365 degrees for an immersive movie experience.
If all of that wasn’t cool enough, the film was set to music performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, further driving the “home-grown” feeling of the Ford plant and its roots in Detroit history.
Our third stop was an upstairs viewing deck, where we were surrounded by walls of windows for a better look at the factory grounds. The main attraction here was a view of the factory rooftop, which was carpeted in a layer of mossy plant matter.
This design, we were told, worked together with the factory’s vine-covered outer walls to insulate the factory and regulate indoor temperatures year-round. Truly remarkable, actually—a simple, yet innovative way to keep a large, industrial building at a cool 60 degrees throughout every season.
Finally, we made it to the main attraction: the inner workings of the Rouge factory. Set up as an aerial walkway around the top of the factory, the self-guided tour allowed us to view several assembly stages of the Ford F-150, from windshield installation to quality inspection.
Everything worked like clockwork—pulleys and gears circulated truck pieces throughout the building while employees manned organized posts, attaching doors, logo hardware, and other essential pieces to the vehicles.
It was awe-inspiring to see how many people were actually involved in the production of each vehicle, and the whole thing got me thinking about how my own car was assembled (not by magic, mind you).
In the end, I got a better idea of all that goes into the products we rely on each and every day. It’s difficult to fathom how one man can come up with an idea that spins into a successful business venture, followed by a long line of successors and related innovations that continue to evolve over the years.
That success story, however, is exactly what Henry Ford brought to the world—and as a result, the automobile, factory, and environmental technology industries will never be the same.
Taking a Tour of the Ford Rouge Plant
Tours of the Rouge Plant are self-guided, and there’s a lot to explore, including two different theaters and an observation deck where you can see Ford assembly up close.
Soak Up History at the Legacy Theater
Start your self-guided tour at the Legacy Theater. Here, you can watch a roughly 15-minute presentation about the history of the plant and Ford Motor Co.
You’ll see rarely-seen footage from the Henry Ford Museum’s archives and you’ll learn how the plant and Henry Ford’s ideas helped make Michigan the premier spot for car manufacturing.
Learn the Process at the Manufacturing Innovation Theater
The history of Ford Motor Co. is rich with ingenuity and the Innovation Theater allows you to see that innovation up close.
This 10-minute presentation takes visitors on a (visual) ride of the manufacturing process and how the Ford F-150 truck goes from being a concept to being built to hitting the open road. High-quality audio and 3D laser projection make this a really cool experience for visitors of all ages.
See Manufacturing Up Close on the Observation Deck
Once you’ve been through the two theater presentations, you’ll be ready to see the plant in action. You can experience just that by taking an elevator ride up to the observation deck. Here you’ll see the beauty of industry in motion as you watch Ford F-150 being constructed.
If you’re a fan of cars, your eyes will light up in amazement. Believe us, this is a real treat. The plant is where production meets innovation and you can see that all right before your eyes.
You can also get a view of Ford’s Living Roof, an eco-friendly wonder. The rough is made up of tiny plants and collects and filters water to bring down the plant’s energy consumption.
See How Cars Get Made on the Assembly Plant Walking Tour
Have you ever wondered to yourself how cars get made? On the factory tour, you no longer have to wonder because you can see it up close and personal!
The Assembly Plant Walking Tour allows visitors to watch how the Ford-150 truck is made, giving them a bird’s-eye view of where and how the magic happens. From an elevated walkway, you can see how a mix of complex equipment, parts, skilled hands, and robotics work together to build one truck every single minute.
This part of the tour lasts about 30-45 minutes, but if you like building things or seeing them put together, you won’t be able to get enough of this part of the tour.
Marvel at the Awesomeness of the Legacy Gallery
Once you’re seen Ford’s current innovation and the marvels of 21st-century sustainable design, take another trip back in time by visiting the Legacy Gallery. As you’ve read, the plant has been the site of some of the most famous vehicles in Ford’s history and you can see many of them right here.
Take a stroll through the gallery and you’ll see a display that includes a 1929 Model A, a 1949 Coupe, a 1955 Ford Thunderbird, a 1965 Ford Mustang, and of course, a 2015 Ford F-150.
Not only can you see these amazing vehicles, some of which have been immortalized in songs and movies, but you can also learn about their history too at different kiosks throughout the gallery.
The gallery is located right next to the Factory Store gift shop, so stop in and get yourself a memento from your trip.
The River Rouge Factory Tour: A First-Person Perspective
As you’ve read, the River Rouge Factory Tour is fun, educational, and exciting. But don’t just take our word for it. Hayley went on the tour and had great things to say about her experience.
The famed Ford Rouge Factory had been on my to-do list of tours since I first began my journey through Motown.
To those of you who, like me, aren’t what you’d call car-buffs and assume that the tour would be somewhat outside of your wheelhouse, allow me to quell those fears. The Ford Rouge Factory tour was thoroughly enjoyable, full of history, fun tidbits, and a behind-the-scenes look at the production and assembly of the F-150.
The first two stops on the tour were theaters. First, in the Legacy Theater, we were taken on a trip back in time through historic footage of the Rouge and the people who were a part of bringing the famed factory to life.
One of my favorite factoids from this station was actually imparted before the film began: the guide who introduced the video made it a point to note that all music heard throughout the tour had been composed specifically for the Rouge Factory Tour, and performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
The video in the Legacy Theater was a tale of Henry Ford’s vision and the history of how it was brought to life in the Rouge. The next video, in the Art of Manufacturing Theater, could not have been more different.
A multisensory experience depicting the modern-day manufacturing of a Ford automobile, the experience of the Art of Manufacturing Theater was immersive and intense (in a good way), and a great segway into the part of the tour where we were able to observe the factory as it is today.
We first headed to the observation deck. Though we had chosen a less-than-ideal day (to describe the weather in layman’s terms, it was gross) and could not see as far as on a clear day, the bird’s eye view was still impressive. Not only can you see the F-150s as they are tested and shipped, we had a perfect (if not snow-covered) view of the plant’s living roof, the naturalized habitat, solar arrays, and more.
From there, we continued to the elevated-walkway tour of the actual assembly plant. Because of shipping delays, the plant was not active on the day we were there. We had a still, quiet picture of the line, almost as if we had hit the “pause” button on the process.
Movies and interactive stations throughout the walkways made it easy to understand what you were looking at and capture interesting tidbits on the assembly process.
We wrapped up our day at the Rouge in the Legacy Gallery, where a few of the historic vehicles manufactured at the factory are displayed. We read about and took pictures of classics like the Model A, the V-8, the Thunderbird, the Mustang, and even got to hop in the new and ultra-cool F-150 Raptor.
So whether you’re an autophile or couldn’t tell a transmission from a transistor radio, the Ford Rouge Factory Tour is an interesting, informative, and fun journey through one of the Motor City’s most famous automotive hubs.
Plan Your Ford Rouge Factory Tour Today
The Ford Rouge Factory Tour offers the best of all worlds: history, technology, innovation, manufacturing, and cool cars all rolled into one. So if you love all those things, you should book your factory tour today!
Whether you love cars and trucks or not, the factory tour lets you see the fascinating process of how trucks are made. There’s something that’s really cool about seeing how the sausage (or in this case cars) are made. If you’re naturally curious, this is a tour where you’ll see some incredible sights, learn some interesting facts, and have some fun too.
Book your factory tour today and let us know what your favorite part of the tour is.