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Combining the Chronicles of Narnia with Outer Space

By Wayne Lazarus on November 15th, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

Do you know a child with an interest in science? Or one for whom you’d like to spark such an interest? One of the best places to do that is the U. S. Space and Rocket Center Museum in Huntsville, Alabama.

EnterpriseCreated in 1970 to show the world Alabama and Huntsville’s part in our country’s space program, the center is the home of Space Camp, Space Academy and Advanced Space Academy for kids from the age of nine to 18. (Each camp lasts six days.) But year round, the museum has fascinating exhibits that illustrate science in everyday life for children and teens (and adults.)

Through January 5, the museum is hosting The Chronicles of Narnia, presented by Walt Disney World, Walden Media and Exhibitgroup/Gilspur. This exhibit packs archeology, geography, engineering and ecology into what you may have thought of as simply a children’s movied based on the works of C.S. Lewis. Visitors to the exhibit have the opportunity to build an arch, fire a catapult and create a unique creature similar to the ones in the film.

SRC8657EsmStarting January 29, the museum will open CSI, the Experience. Developed by the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History with support from CBS Consumer Products, the cast and crew of the television show, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the National Science Foundation, this exhibit invites visitors to utilize science to solve three different mysteries. Each includes a crime scene, evidence and multiple stations to analyze the clues.

The U. S. Space and Rocket Center Museum has plenty of permanent exhibits to illustrate the Space Shuttle Program, the Apollo Missions and the future of our space program to young and old, including the Mars Mission (with a Mars Climbing Wall,) the Apollo Cockpit Trainer and G-force accelerator.

It is open daily from 9-5, seven days a week and various ticket packages include the IMAX theater.

Photos courtesy U.S. Space and Rocket Center Museum. Used with permission.

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St. Joseph, Missouri – where memories are made and kept in a museum

By Wayne Lazarus on November 9th, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

St. Joseph calls itself a Western town, the home of the Pony Express and the end of Jesse James. But it could also call itself a town where memories are made and many have found their way into a local museum. There are 13 museums here. Below are just a few of the highlights:

mammothFur trader Joseph Robidoux founded the town of St. Joseph in 1843 and built a series of connected houses, like modern apartments, so that newcomers would have a place to live. (He later lived there himself.) Some are still standing and are now a museum that showcases the history of the early town, called Robidoux Row. Read the rest of this entry »

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Beaches, Boudin and Birding along the Creole Nature Trail

By Wayne Lazarus on November 2nd, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

One of the most unique cultures in the United States if found inna — with its mix of Old South, Creole and Cajun heritage. The 180-mile Creole Nature Trail, an All American Road in the Southwest part of the state, provides a picturesque window of the land, the wildlife and the food.

P1030200This outdoorsman’s paradise has fishing, duck-hunting and one of the best bird-watching ares in the country. If that’s not your idea of relaxation, there are also 23 miles of the Gulf Coast’s beautiful white beaches. I visited after the 2010 BP spill and the beaches are pristine and the seafood succulent. Don’t be shy about stopping at little non-descript stores and asking about their boudin. (Pronounced  boo-dan.) Many have been making this traditional sausage-like mixture of cooked meat (pork, shrimp, crawfish or other) and seasonings from an old family recipe for decades. Boudin balls are deep fried — and can be addictive.P1030194

The Creole Nature Trail runs along both sides of Lake Calcasieu (pronounced cal-ca-shoo) through cow pastures, coastal prairies, rice and soybean fields, further south into the marshes. You’re liable to catch a parade of crabs crossing the road, alligators sunning beside the canals and maybe even Sandhill Cranes on their way south. Those rice fields, by the way, double as crawfish farms after the rice is harvested.

P1030199There are a number of places to get out of the car and get a closer look. The Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, which reaches the 30 or so miles to Texas, has a one-and-a-half mile boardwalk stretching into the marsh. Look for nutria, coons and otter. The Peveto Woods Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary is visited annually by two million migratory birds. Within the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is the highest density of nesting alligators in the country, as well as hundred of thousands of ducks, geese, coots and wading birds. The Pintail Wildlife Drive has a new quarter-mile boardwalk from which to view the nearly 300 species of birds that come through here annually.

You can download an MP3 tour for your drive or look for an app from your smart phone provider. Later this year handheld GPS-coordinated units with audio and video will be available for rent at the Lake Charles Visitors Center. Make your reservations in Lake Charles or  Sulphur, Louisiana.


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Witches and Pirates – History in Salem

By Wayne Lazarus on October 26th, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

What could be more appropriate for fall than a trip to Salem, where the witch trials were held and pirates came and went.

SalemWitchMuseum“Salem walks a delicate line between the tragic witch trials and the fun of Halloween,” explains Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem. “There are six attractions that tell stories from 1692 from the historical sense.” These are the Salem Witch Museum, Salem Wax Museum, Salem Witch Village, Witch Dungeon Museum, Witch House and Witch History Museum. There are also haunted houses, story telling and several dramatic performances during the month of October. Walking tours are available year-round, including ghost tours, a witch trial trail and even a vampire tour.

Follow a pirate through the New England Pirate Museum to learn about the area’s history with pirates, see a re-created pirate ship and tour a pirate cave.

Over at the wharf, visit the Salem Maritime National Historic Site and tour the tall ship Friendship, a replica of a 1797 East Indiaman vessel built in Salem. During October, the Salem Theatre Company comes aboard to perform Chilling Tales, ghost stories inspired by the sea.

Among the must-sees in town is Salem_MACryInnocentBridgetBishopbyJaredCharneythe Peabody Essex Museum, an art and culture museum. It is the oldest continually operated museum in the country. During October, there is a special showing of classic horror films.

Another is the House of the Seven Gables, the oldest wooden mansion in New England. Here you can learn about Nathanial Hawthorne, who was actually a descendant of one of the judges from the witch trials. Actors perform as characters from his books in the various rooms of the mansion, and dramatizations are scheduled, including Legacy of the Hanging Judge and Spirits of the Gables, inspired by Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables. Hawthorne’s cousin actually lived in the house, but the house the author was born in is on the property, moved there in the twentieth century.

At Old Town Hall, the History Alive department from nearby Gordon College performs Cry Innocent in which the audience becomes the jury in the 1692 witchcraft trial of Bridget Bishop.

Salem_MASalemTrolleybyJaredCharneyBoard the Salem Trolley for a one-hour tour of town. With stops at 13 attractions in town, visitors can get off and explore and catch the trolley when it comes back by to see the next stop. Tickets are good for all day.

Salem is a very pedestrian-friendly town, with a number of good restaurants (including waterfront) and boutique shopping. In addition, pyschic readings are available and Witch shops offer the opportunity to purchase spells and charms.

Photos courtesy Destination Salem. Cry Innocent photo by (C) Jared Charney. Used with permission.

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Angels and Autos in Wisconsin

By Wayne Lazarus on October 20th, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

Historic Highway 51 travels north from Southern Louisiana across the country to North Wisconsin.  Beloit, just north of the state line from Illinois, is its entrance to Wisconsin.secret svc-1

That’s fitting, because Beloit has some interesting connections to the automobile. The speedometer was invented here. The creator of Turtle Wax, Ben Hirsch, visited Beloit for a sales call and wandered over to Turtle Creek to take a break. There he was inspired to re-name his product, then called “Plastone” to Turtle Wax.

And the Historic Auto Attractions museum is located here. Remember Johnny Cash’s rendition of One Piece at a Time about the auto worker who brought home parts to build his own Cadillac? Promoters had a car put together from the parts mentioned in the song, and you can see that car at the museum. Over 70 special interest cars are housed here, from the King of Siam’s 1928 Delage Limousine to the 1932 Studebaker that was used by Dillinger during the robbery of the Central National Bank in Greencastle, Indiana and the 1956 Cadillac Limousine used by the Secret Service during Kennedy’s administration. It was directly behind his car during the assassination in Dallas. The museum has plenty of other memorabilia from movie stars (Marilyn Monroe’s nightgown) to country stars to presidents. It is open on seven days a week Memorial Day through Labor Day, weekends through November, then closed during winter.

berg collectionBeloit also has the Angel Museum with, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest collection of angels in the world -  more than 12,000. It includes 500 of Oprah’s black angels and Joyce Berg’s collection of over 10,000 angels.

Another record you may notice on your drive in is yes, the world’s largest can of chili, found outside the Hormel plant on I-90/I-39. The area takes its history seriously too. It  is home to 23 Native American mounds. Among the tribes that lived here are the Winnebago. Also, the corn curl, which you’ll recognize as a Frito, was invented in this area.

Beloit is a pretty little town located about 50 miles north of Rockford, Ill. It’s along the Rock River corridor, which was used in the 19th century by fur trappers carrying their goods to market. The river runs right through the town, which was settled by French trapper and fur trader Joseph Thibeault. The Rock River Trail has recently been organized among the ten counties in Wisconsin and Illinois along the river corridor, allowing biking , hiking, kayaking and canoeing.

Photos courtesy VisitBeloit. Used with permission.

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One of a kind finds at the Kentuck Festival of the Arts

By Wayne Lazarus on September 21st, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

Walking through the booths of folk art at the Kentuck Festival of the Arts is an adventure — you never know what will be next. Paintings on wood, tin and canvas present themselves, some life-sized. You may encounter a reptile made of bottle caps skulking through the grass or a six-foot tall statue sculpted of metal pipes. There will be political comment, religious fervor and patriotism. But one thing it will never be is mundane.

Sam McMillen

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Stalking the Wild Georgia Shrimp with Grits

By Wayne Lazarus on September 13th, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

The ancient live oaks in the historic district on Jekyll Island have provided shade and shelter for the Wild Georgia Shrimp and Grits Festival every September for going on five years. this year’s festival is scheduled for September 17 – 19. Beginning Friday evening, people will line up for $3 samples from each of the vendors. Music and entertainment kick off the weekend of tasting, cooking contests (amateur and professional) cookbook signings and demonstrations, and plenty of Georgia shrimp. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bringing home a little of the Ozarks

By Wayne Lazarus on September 7th, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

One of the reasons driving vacations are so popular is that you can get the genuine flavor of a place through its food, architecture and landscapes. The art of a particular region is another way to experience a location — one that can be brought home as a visual and tactile souvenir.dahl14

What could be better then, than a self-guided driving tour of artists’ studios in a part of the Ozarks? The Off The Beaten Path Studio Tour, held every year in the area around Mountain View celebrates its ninth tour September 17 – 19, 2010. Some 40 artisans and craftspeople are included this year. Read the rest of this entry »

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Celebrate the pods of the South in Irmo

By Wayne Lazarus on September 1st, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

OkraIf you’ve ever wondered how people can eat the slimy green vegetable we call okra — you might want to attend an Okra Festival. In Irmo, South Carolina, the festival is held in late September and known as the Irmo Okra Strut.

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Rocky Mountain vistas with the benefits of a city

By Wayne Lazarus on August 23rd, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

Looking for that perfect vacation spot? One with all the outdoor recreation you could handle, yet good restaurants, theater and art in a town small enough you won’t spend all your time in traffic? That would be Fort Collins, Colorado.

The town of around 150,000 has been recognized twice by Allstate Insurance in its top ten list of Safest Drivers. It is 35 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park, with its 18 peaks over 13,000 feet. Read the rest of this entry »

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