Tag Archive: museums


I have slain the beast erstwhile known as jet-lag (and also been working more than usual). Now, to blog!

First off, I’m going to do a quick review of Delta’s mobile app. It’s something that I’ve used before and I love it. You don’t have to worry about printing and/or losing your boarding passes anymore since it’s all on your smartphone. You can find out if your flight has been delayed and all that jazz right there. A feature that has been added since the last time I used it is the luggage tracking feature. Since I was checking luggage, I was looking forward to trying this feature out. All you have to do is scan the bar code they give you at the check-in desk (or on Droids you have to type it in). The app saves your number so you can pull it up whenever you want during your trip. Using the inflight wifi is free when you’re accessing the app or the Delta website, so once you are on your flight, just pull up your claim number and it will tell you where your luggage is. If you’re lucky enough to have your luggage on-board, it will look like the image on the right. It really did give me peace-of-mind since I packed pretty much everything into my suitcase (find me a woman who can pack for 10 days into a carry-on and you’ll find yourself a saint). My only complaint is that on a couple of legs of my trip the info on the app wasn’t updated. Granted, my bags weren’t lost at the end of the day, but the only info I got on baggage tracking was that it was checked in at the desk. Overall, it is a wonderful tool for when you’re traveling.

Now, onto the fun stuff.

My first day there, my friends took me to Cabrillo National Monument, named for the first European to set foot on the west coast of the United States. I brought crummy, cloudy weather with me, but even with the weather, the park still has a spectacular views of San Diego Bay and the city on one side of you and the Pacific Ocean on the other. There are also some tide pools, which were fun to climb around. Apparently there are sea otters around there in the kelp forests, but we didn’t see any. I love those cute little guys. There is also the original lighthouse, where you can get a little taste of history and see what life was like the those stationed there over 100 years ago while playing Angry Birds on your smartphone. Overall, it was a great place to see the city from and those tide pools were fun to climb around and watch the waves crash against.

After Cabrillo, we went down to Coronado, home of the famous Hotel del Coronado. It’s mostly home to the Navy base, which I got to visit as well (my friend’s hubby works there). The hotel is gorgeous! It was on the list in the original 1000 Places to see Before You Die before it was updated, and you can clearly see why. I wish I had taken more pictures of the lobby area, but I only took one of the chandelier. I finally can say I’ve been from sea to shining sea, as well. We walked out onto the beach and I touched the Pacific Ocean. By this point, jet lag was catching up pretty harshly, so we called it a day.

Day #2 got off to a slow start, but we made our way up to Los Angeles. Originally we were going to spend that day at Disneyland, but it didn’t end up that way since we left so late. We ended up going to Hollywood instead. And Hollywood Blvd. is the tourist trap I thought it would be. For being such a movie fanatic, you would think I would’ve been more excited. I really only had 5 goals – Grauman’s Chinese Theater, a good shot of the Hollywood sign, Johnny Depp & Marilyn Monroe’s stars and a shot glass from a souvenir shop. Well, I got all 5 in and we were only there for maybe 2 hours tops. Luckily it’s very compact right there and pretty much everything is within a few blocks – unless you really want to see all of the Walk of Fame. The mall that is right by the Kodak Theater has a great vantage point for the Hollywood sign, the Chinese Theater is right there by the Kodak Theater and luckily Johnny and Marilyn’s stars weren’t too far off. A bit of advice for those interested in the Walk of Fame – save yourself the money on Hollywood Blvd.and check out the website. They have the addresses for the stars and you can just do a quick map check on the old smartphone when you get there to find the ones you are looking for. There are also a lot of interesting characters roaming the boulevard, literally. People in costumes tend to hang out in front of Grauman’s. Figuratively, there were certainly questionable fashion choices made by some natives, and I’m sure they thought they looked fabulous. I saw one guy in neon pink skinny jeans and a leather jacket. Really? Anyways, Hollywood Blvd. was fun and good way to spend a couple hours in LA.

Next up was Disneyland. I was excited to see if my theory about great times to visit Disney World would be similar at Disneyland. I was right. It was pretty slow around Disneyland both days we were there, which was great because we had a 4 month old with us, which meant frequent stops for feedings and diaper changes. I think the longest we waited for anything was maybe 20 minutes. And as an added bonus, I got on most everything twice with the Child Swap.

The most jarring difference between Disneyland and Disney World is size. I just looked at the numbers on Wikipedia. California Adventure and Disneyland combine for a measly 152 acres, which is only 10 acres more than Magic Kingdom down in WDW! But, that’s the price you pay when you’re developing a theme park in a very urban area. Orlando pretty much sprung up around WDW and it still have lots of land to grow on. But I digress. We’re here to talk Disneyland.

They were renovating the main entrance to California Adventure to make it look like Buena Vista Street in Burbank when Disney arrived and set up shop, which will be amazing I’m sure. But, regardless, we had to take the long way into the park, which spit us out by Soarin’. Now, this is one of my favorites down at Epcot, so it was nice to see the same thing. They also have a clone of The Tower of Terror, my favorite ride from Hollywood Studios, as well as Muppetvision 3D and Toy Story Mania. My top 3 California Adventure-specific rides would be California Screamin’, the Ferris wheel and Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (she’s my favorite princess).

California Screamin’ is your typical roller coaster. It shoots you off into a track of twists, turns and a loop. Overall, it’s pretty darn enjoyable. Of the Disney coasters I’ve been on, it’d be in the top 3 behind Expedition Everest and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

Depending on your constitution in regards to motion sickness, there are two rides on the Ferris wheel. There is the standard, boring track around the outside, but then there is a track on the inside where the cars move back and forth. If you’re like me and love pushing your limits, take the swinging cars. Between the momentum of the swinging you would get naturally and our carefully-timed rocking, we made our car go vertical a couple of times.

And how can I forget Ariel’s Undersea Adventure? It’s nothing special, just a dark ride similar to Peter Pan/Alice in Wonderland/Snow White. But as an avid Ariel fan, we had to do it. I am not ashamed to admit that I was singing along most of the time with my friend. Her husband was luckily in another car with the baby, so he didn’t have to put up with us.

Also of note in California Adventure is Grizzly River Runs. As it was barely in the 60’s when we were there, we forewent the water ride. I am sure it is great in the middle of summer, but it was too chilly to walk around with wet clothes.

There is also an attraction called Blue Sky Cellar, which is essentially a preview of things that they are constructing at California Adventure. There were models and schematics of the Buena Vista Street and Cars Land construction projects, so it was neat to see what Disney Imagineering had up their sleeves for the park. As a side note, they could certainly use something like this at WDW.

There is also an attraction called Disney Animation, which was actually a lot of fun. They brought Turtle Talk with Crush to this building, as well as a couple of other interactive exhibits centered around the Disney animated movies. The lobby of this area is great – they focus on a certain movie and project images from that movie and play some of the music. It is also home to the Animation Academy where they’ll have an animator come out and show you how to draw certain characters. We went through twice and drew Pluto and Jack Skellington. If we waited for a third time, we would’ve learned how to draw Mickey, but it was getting late at that point.

Now, onto the original – Disneyland!

In terms of layout, it is pretty much a dead ringer forMagic Kingdom aside from the size of the park. You walk in and head down Main Street, with all the shops and food. On the right is Tomorrowland, which then loops back towards Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toon Town and then into Frontierland and Adventureland on the other side. Disneyland has the added lands of Critter Country and New Orleans Square, as well.

We skipped a whole lot of Disneyland, mostly because I wanted to do things that I’d never been on since it’s not in WDW. I did go on Star Tours because I wanted to see what they had changed. Since I last did Star Tours, they’ve changed the film and it is now 3D. And not only did they change the film – there’s different adventures that you go on. I had 2 different films, but I’m not sure how many they are using now. We also did the Nemo submarine ride. It’s nothing spectacular to be honest, but I do enjoy my Nemo.

In Fantasyland we rode the tea-cups. We got it spinning so fast it took me a long time to recuperate from the dizziness. One thing I was particularly sad about was the fact that Matterhorn was down for repairs. All the more reason to go back, I suppose. Also back in Fantasyland is where you will find most of your traditional Disney princesses. We hit the jackpot and got to meet all 6 of the traditional princesses, as well as Rapunzel from Tangled. Anyways, there’s a spot called Disney Princess Fantasy Faire. Of course you won’t know who you’ll meet until you actually enter, but we lucked out. Ariel, Cinderella and Belle were there for us. My friend told me that she’s also seen Mulan and Tianna from The Princess and the Frog there as well.

Mickey’s Toon Town is alright from an adult’s perspective. If you want to meet Mickey and Minnie, this is where you’ll want to go. There’s also a Roger Rabbit ride back here that’s pretty fun. It broke down on us just as we were reaching the exit, so we had to wait, but it was still fun. I’m sure the people who got stuck behind us got an eyeful of behind-the-scenes fun.

A small Disney Princess note for those who will look for them – we found Sleeping Beauty and Snow White around the castle. If you are looking at the castle from the park entrance/Main Street USA, we found Sleeping Beauty on the left. She was pretty obvious and easy to find. On the right side of the castle there is a small niche. You’ll probably think nothing of it, but Snow White is back there with her wishing well and a waterfall with the Seven Dwarves.

Frontierland and Adventureland are also pretty much the same as their counterparts in WDW. We only did Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean back in those areas. The Indiana Jones ride is pretty awesome. It reminds me of The Mummy ride in Universal Studios Orlando – you’re in a Jeep and they take you through an adventure, in this case with Indy. Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain are almost the same as the rides in WDW, but those are a couple of my favorites. New Orleans Square and Critter Country are also tucked back in this area of the park.

So, enough about Disneyland.

What else is there to do in San Diego? I’d highly recommend checking out Balboa Park, formerly the site of a couple of expositions back in 1915 and 1935. There are 16 museums which are housed in the buildings from the expositions and loads of gardens here. It’s also home of the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Time was limited so we only went to the Natural History Museum. Next time I will certainly be going to the zoo, the Museum of Man and the Museum of Art. Back in LA I’ll be wanting to hit up the rest of the places listed on the 1000 Places list, like Santa Monica and what not.

1000 Places to see Before You Die on this trip: 2 completed.

Next up: Vegas, baby!

I have safely returned from not one, but 2 trips to Chicago. The first time was for a mini-family vacation and the second was for Lollapalooza. I was also there for a few days last summer with a girlfriend of mine and we did a whirlwind tour and hit a lot of the tourist hotspots. Time to report in, so to speak.

For anyone planning a trip to Chicago, don’t feel obligated to stay downtown. The city has an excellent transit system, so as long as you have a bus stop or El (subway) station within walking distance, you’re golden. I’ve stayed as far out as Evanston and was not more than half an hour away from the heart of the city. I’d also recommend buying an unlimited CTA pass on their website. They have 3-day and 7-day passes and are the best option if you plan on using their transit instead of driving everywhere. It’s a lot easier than trying to track down $2.25 in exact change each time you need to hop on a bus.

Now, what’s there to do in Chicago, you ask? A lot, let’s be honest. There’s Museum Campus, shopping on Michigan Ave., the Sears/Willis Tower, etc. etc. etc. When I was there last year we got CityPass, which back then got you into the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Museum of Science of Industry, the Field Museum and either the SkyDeck at Sears/Willis Tower or the observation deck at the Hancock Building. Now apparently you get to choose between Adler and the Art Institute. And all this only costs you $76! You’re saving about $80, so it’s really the best economical choice you can make.

Here’s a quick rundown of what I thought of everything:

– Shedd Aquarium: It’s the most popular tourist attraction in Chicago. That was glaringly evident when we were there last summer. I love aquariums. If there’s one to go to where ever I am visiting, I want to go. But it was near-impossible for me to enjoy it because there were so many people there! And it wasn’t just families that were clogging it up. It was enjoyable, don’t get me wrong. I mean, there was a baby beluga! How can you not enjoy that? But the crowd level was definitely detrimental to my visit. Either be prepared for the summer tourist crowd or go during the other seasons when tourism is at lower levels.

– Adler Planetarium: Nicely done, but I wish I had the option to go to the Art Institute last year like they have now. The exhibitions are presented very well, I am just more drawn to art museums. It’s also a sad state of affairs in our educational system when a grown woman answers all the elementary-level questions in the Sky Theater show when any average kid should be able to answer it by high school. But I digress. If you’re a science geek like me, there is plenty to enjoy.

– Museum of Science and Industry (MSI): Love it! There’s so much to see and do here! There’s the Science Storms exhibit, which I loved! There’s a giant Tesla coil to simulate lightning and a wave simulator tank to demonstrate how tsunamis form. My personal favorite was a periodic table where you would place a pog onto an element, combine it with pogs placed on other elements and see what kind of reaction you would get. Examples: 1 Na pog and 1 Cl pog will give you salt, 2 H pogs and 1 O pog will give you water. For the life of me I can’t remember what gave you this reaction, but you can also get a volcanic explosion and some other explosive material. I think I spent half an hour alone just playing at this table. But that’s just scratching the surface.

– Field Museum: Whoa buddy is this museum a big one! Another one of my favorites. It’s home to Sue, the largest, most complete T-rex skeleton ever found. There’s loads of things to do here, from the Ancient Americas exhibit to Evolving Planet to the Hall of Gems.

– SkyDeck: This is the observation deck at Sears/Willis Tower. It’s technically called Willis Tower now, but it’ll always be Sears Tower for me. It’s a 60 second ride to the top and has some beautiful views of downtown Chicago. If you have the stomach for it, there are these glass boxes that extend out over the street so that you’re standing 103 stories up in the air. It’s a trip, let me tell you. I have yet to go to the observation deck at Hancock, but from what I understand there is a bar there. 🙂 It’s also on Michigan Ave. so you’re closer to the lake and can get a view of the shopping.

– Wrigley Field: Home to the Chicago Cubs! It’s not so much about the game at Wrigley, it’s an experience. Instead of building a baseball stadium and developing the area around it, Wrigley was plopped down in the middle of an already existing neighborhood. If you go during baseball season, I’d pick up some tickets and enjoy an afternoon/evening of baseball and some beers.

– The Art Institute: A wonderful way to spend a day. They have quite a collection! They’ve got pieces from all of my favorite artists…Monet, Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh. It’s also home to pop culture icons “American Gothic” and “Nighthawks.” I only got to spend a couple of hours there, but it’s easy to hit the big stuff in that time frame. I will definitely be spending more time there next time I’m in town.

– River Architecture Tour: We went on a Wendella cruise of the river and lakefront. It starts in the shadow of the Wrigley building and Trump Tower and takes you along the river. The guide will point out various buildings and rattle off some fun factoids about them. If you like pretty buildings, I’d give this a go.

Now, as far as Lollapalooza is concerned…

Wow, what a trip. It was one of the best weekends over my life by leaps and bounds. I didn’t get to see a lot of the smaller bands like I originally intended to, but I wanted kick-ass seats for the headliners – Muse, Eminem and Foo Fighters. Seeing all 3 of them made it worth the trip. Like I’ve been telling everyone now that I’m home…despite getting soaked to the bone twice, muddy, bruised, kicked by crowdsurfers and spraining an ankle, I had an excellent time. I think it’s a sign of a good weekend at a rock concert if you come back broken, bruised or remember the weekend in a haze. The whole weekend I was wondering why I haven’t been there before. I’ve even gone ahead and booked a hotel for next year! I’m ready to do it all over again already. There are some handy tips I will pass on for my sake next year and for those who plan to go in the future. A) Bring water. You’re allowed to bring 2 bottles in a day, so save yourself from paying $6 a bottle and bring your own. They also have Camelbak refill stations, so that’s another smart way to go. B) Plan for all types of weather. Bring what you need to get you through heat and rain because you’ll be going through both at some point. C) If you’re uncomfortable in crowds,  or can’t handle being outside and on your feet for hours on end, save yourself the time and money and don’t go. Also, for the women out there, please don’t think of this as an opportunity to show off your fashion sense. You will get sweaty and muddy and all-around gross. If it rains, your hair is going to get ruined and your makeup will run. Just save yourself from looking like a tool. It’s a rock concert, not a fashion show. Wear something comfortable that you don’t mind getting stinky and dirty in. I for one will think more highly of you. Believe me, I saw less and less glitz and glamour as the weekend progressed.

Now, for a bucket list of things left that I haven’t done: the gangsters tour, a Segway tour, the Lincoln Park zoo, a show at Second City, the Chicago History Museum and a Bears game at Soldier Field. Someday soon I’ll be able to knock all that off my list of things to do and see.

1000 Places to see Before You Die on these trips: 5 completed.

Up next, a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!