History in Auckland

It takes watching just a few seconds of Lord of the Rings to get an idea of how beautiful New Zealand is. With so many wonderful places to go why would you ever spend a day inside or at a museum? For two people who often spend their days off at an exhibit missing some of these gems would have been tragic.

At the Auckland Museum

At the Auckland Museum

On our second day in New Zealand we spend the afternoon at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. It is situated in the middle of Auckland Domain Park within walking distance of a few other attractions. It’s a fairly large facility and took us a few hours to see the entire place. I would recommend this as a great day-one activity; get some history and culture before exploring everything else. Learn the lay of the land and a little better understanding of language.

The whole group together

The whole group together

We also went to a number of monuments, the names of which I don’t recall.  Like any country that was colonized by England (we know nothing about that) there are plenty of memorials to war and conflict.  Most were surrounded by beautiful gardens.

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One afternoon the boys when in to the New Zealand Army Museum, not that I don’t enjoy that sort of thing but I was really tired.  I get carsick and the roads in NZ are a bit whinedy.  I know Josh enjoyed seeing some machines that he doesn’t get to in US museums.

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And one strange but interesting facility was World of Wearable Art.  This crazy collection of pieces was from a yearly completion.  Designers create a piece of art that more only has to be worn but also has to move in some interesting way.  Their theater plays highlights from the shows and you can see how not only are these items beautiful but was the model or dancer moves in it the piece tells a deeper story.

These are just the highlights of the stops we made.  Don’t miss out on all of the cultural experiences there are.

Killing Time in Kilgore

We have often talked about how every small town has its own claim to fame and usually a little museum dedicated to its honor. Kilgore is no exception, actually there are two on the same block. We had some time to spare and thought a visit to the East Texas Oil Museum was just the ticket.

Located on the Kilgore College campus the museum’s entrance is marked by a full-scale drilling rig and you’re greeted by a local volunteer. Like many other museums we have been to with low patron rate you get a very personal tour. The guilds were more than happy to walk through with you, even if you were happy to go on your own. Just be prepaid to hear their take on the display materials.

Courtesy of ETOM

The 22 minute movie came highly recommended and we did sit through it. The movie covers the history of the area and the oil boom. They skips over the environmental effects of the massive drilling, the dramatic changes in social and economic changes to the area. The museum is a feast for the eyes, including animatronics, full-scale recreations of the original downtown Kilgore at the time of the boom and a large collection of artifacts.

However they try to skate around talking about the negative results from massive scale mining by claiming this is a museum about the town and life at the boom. They take full advantage of explaining mining techniques and technology while skipping any of the environmental results. It’s hard to take seriously a facility that is so biased.

Quite to the contrary across the street is the Rangerettes Showcase. Growing up near Western Illinois I always thought the Wranglers dance-line was just the best, so pretty and wow they can kick. The Rangerettes are only to be rivaled by the Rockets in precision drill. East Texas definitely has something to be proud of with a tradition like this.

Courtesy of the Kilgore Rangerettes

Mariner’s Museum

One thing we love about visiting a new area is the availability of new museums to experience.  While we have spent massive amount of time in Virginia, rarely do we get outside the Washington Metro.  Last week was the first time we made it to the Chesapeake Bay area and just couldn’t pass up going to the Mariner’s Museum.

Checking out artifacts

It’s a large facility with extensive labs for restoration and research on desalinating recovered shipwrecks.  The exhibition areas go in-depth about early of life in the Chesapeake Bay and its rich maritime history.

Unique paint job

One of the earliest shipyards in America is in Newport-News.  This influence on the town certainly can be seen in the museum and I would expect that they also have made large contributions not only to the collection but also to the facility.

Can’t have a museum about boats without a few model ships

My favorite area was a special exhibition of The Miniature Ships of Winnifred and August F. Crabtree.  These are just incredible and some were used in movies.  There is no way to describe the intricate carvings and details on these tiny works of art.  He was truly gifted.

I would highly recommend this museum, we enjoyed fours hours and had to rush a bit at the end.

Almost Under the Sea

In 2010 we traveled most of the East Coast with the knowledge that there would be a stop in Atlanta, GA. When we know our schedule we do quite a bit of pre-planning to make sure that we have the best use of our downtime in each city. When Atlanta popped up I was determined to go to the Georgia Aquarium. This also meant we would skip a few other aquariums and save that experience for Atlanta. Well the day came and went leaving no time for us to see the little fishies. In 2011 our tour was going to once again put us near Atlanta and again we didn’t have a moment to spare to see the little fishies. Well last week we had moment, we had an entire day and you can bet that we spent it with the fishies. Thousands of beautiful creatures all in one place.

It was amazing! While going on a Saturday might not have been ideal, it was crowded, there were only a few places where you felt packed in. (Like a Sardine, LOL)

We spent most of the day there but the section that held us captive was called Ocean Voyager. The huge tank is packed with sharks, rays and more types of fish than you can count. You can even dive in that tank, trust me I begged Josh, for the bargain rate of $350. Needless to say I didn’t dive with the sharks.

It was nice to just be a kid again, walking around with huge eyes and a silly smile.

For the Geeky Little Kid in All of Us

Uggg, I’ve been trying to write this post for a week now! It’s certainly not that we didn’t have fun on our recent visit to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and we certainly enjoyed the company we were with. I guess I’m just not up for doing a “review” on a museum that so many people are familiar with.

There was one unique thing I liked about the museum as a whole. Instead of charging a high entry fee they charge a lower price and tack on additional fees for the special exhibits. So I you’re jut coming for the main museum it is much more cost conscious. We only had part of the day to spend looking around so the regular entry would serve us fine. The entire place is packed with fun and interactive displays. It would be a great trip to take with little ones or big kids 🙂

One of my favorite and most memorable areas was massive model train area. I didn’t take a single picture there, just couldn’t stop walking around with my mouth open. The amazing and often funny details just couldn’t be captured in true effect. I watched the trains for more than a half hour.

It’s a good thing I didn’t stay with the trains too long or I might have missed German U-Boat exhibit. Sounds exciting huh, well the exhibit actually contains a real captured u-boat. The area started by taking you down two stories via a series of steps and ramps the lead to large video screens . Each telling another piece of the story about the U-Boat and the men untrusted with the task to capture one The last video ends and you turn the corner into a large open room with the stricking view of this huge submarine. I felt like a kid wanting to run down the ramp and climb on it. We spent a good hour learning more about the battle that lead to the US capturing the vessel and the amazing technology gained from this daring mission.

Honestly we had a great time, it was bittersweet. After finishing this museum we said goodby to our friends from Australia and let them roll onto the next exciting part of their trip across the US.