Family vacations can be a big endeavor to plan, especially when trying to accommodate the interests and desires of all family members involved. Our family consists of my husband Jeff and I, as well as our two boys; Josh (Age11) and Ben (Age 9). My family and I just returned from a two week road trip quest to find some of the most unique and fun destinations across the Northeast and Midwest US and Canada. Our ultimate goal was to create a vacation experience that would provide something special for everyone. I can say with satisfaction that we achieved our goal and had an amazing and memorable family vacation.
We rented a brand new 2011 Kia Sedona minivan through Hertz. The customer service at Hertz was outstanding and they were able to accommodate our request for an extended two week rental. We were thrilled with the vehicle, as it was spacious, had excellent acceleration, and was well equipped with Sirius satellite radio, an auxiliary jack for our iPod, multiple power adapters for our laptop and built in Bluetooth for hands free talking. The van was a pleasure to drive and was maintenance free throughout our journey. Across our 3,200 mile trip, we encountered some of the best family fun that we have had in years.
Here is our top FIRE WIRE – MUST SEE vacation hot spot list for anyone wanting to hit the road and explore exciting family friendly destinations in the Northeast, Canada, and the Midwest:
6361 Fallsview Boulevard
Niagara Falls, ON L2G 3V9, Canada
The Hilton Niagara Falls/Fallsview Hotel has rooms and suites that offer a breathtakingly beautiful view of the Canadian and US Falls. Over 80 percent of the rooms feature a single whirlpool tub or 2 person Jacuzzi. The rooms are spacious, tastefully decorated, have all of the amenities you could need, and have comfortable beds with ample pillows. The hotel has a variety of on-site restaurant choices to meet the needs of even the finickiest of palates. They have: The Macaroni Grill, Brasa Brazilian Steakhouse, Grand Cafe Breakfast Buffet, and best of all the Watermark Restaurant. The Watermark in particular offers a fabulous rooftop view of the Falls while combining beautiful ambiance with delicious cuisine. The best part of the hotel for our family was the 10,000 square foot heated pool. There is also a 30 foot, three-story spiraling waterslide, that I can personally say is the ride of a lifetime. The hotel is connected by a glass enclosed walkway to the new Fallsview Casino Resort, which offers 150 Gaming tables, 3,000 Slot machines, Restaurants, a Wedding Chapel, shopping center and indoor parking. The hotel is within walking distance to a multitude of tourist attractions.
Niagara Reservation State Park at Prospect Point
River Road on Clifton Hill
Prepare to get wet….very wet, on The Maid of the Mist Steamboat Tour. For more than 150 years, the Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist has taken visitors across the foaming waters of the falls. The boat tours can be accessed on both the US and Canadian sides. This was by far the greatest highlight of our trip to Niagara Falls. We were greeted by friendly staff, handed keepsake blue ponchos, and took a family picture prior to stepping aboard the boat. While on land both the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls are a picturesque photo opportunity, there is nothing that compares to getting intimate with the Falls by directly experiencing them. We enjoyed a 30 minute cruise up close and personal with the Falls. The boat stops and lingers at the basin of both of the Falls, 170 feet (52 meters) below the brink. Between the cavernous roar of the falls and the drenching that we experienced throughout our adventure, it was a complete thrill to behold firsthand the power and intensity of the Falls on this historic boat ride. After our cruise, we were able to pick up a few mementoes at the gift shop to commemorate our wet and exhilarating ride.
20900 Oakwood Blvd.
Dearborn, MI 48124-5029
There was an endless supply of activities and sites to see at The Henry Ford. We found ourselves thoroughly entertained and educated all day long. We began our morning by touring Greenfield Village. This living open-air museum spans 90 acres and represents buildings and historical events and culture from the 17th century to present. The intent of the museum is to share how Americans lived and worked since the founding of our nation. The village is divided into 7 distinct historic districts.
– Railroad Junction
– Working Farms
– Edison At Work
– Porches & Parlors
– Liberty Craftworks
– Main Street
– Henry Ford’s Model T
We toured Noah Webster’s home and learned how the very first American dictionary came to be published. We entered Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory and learned about the evolution of the phonograph as well as the incandescent light bulb. We were able to see artisans hand blowing glass, and the boys both made mini candle stick holders from solid pieces of brass in the machine shop. Throughout the village, groups of men, women, and children wore clothing to depict each of the historic time periods. As we entered several early century homes, I was in awe to watch women cooking in ninety-five degree kitchens wearing hair bonnets, corsets, dresses, and aprons. Throughout the village, there were opportunities to take rides on a steam locomotive, horse-drawn omnibus, 1931 Model AA bus, and Henry Ford’s Model T. We all got an opportunity to ride on an antique 1913 Herschell-Spillman Carousel ornately carved with whimsical characters like frogs, cats and dogs as well as a chance to watch 19th century lawn games being played.
A short walk from Greenfield village is the Henry Ford Museum. The museum offers a wealth of exhibits displaying products that changed the culture of the nation and the world. While the museum houses a fair number of vehicles ranging from steam cars, gas turbines, race cars, taxicabs, presidential limousines and family sedans it also is the home of the chair that President Lincoln was assassinated in, a DC-3 plane, Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House, the Rosa Parks Bus, as well as my son Ben’s favorite, The Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. On site are 2 restaurants; The Michigan Café offering home-style comfort food as well as the Wienermobile Café. There are also two gift shops; The Henry Ford Museum Store as well as the Genius at Play shop, both offering a wealth of unique keepsake gifts. Within the museum is Michigan’s largest IMAX screen.
Mere steps from The Henry Ford Museum, we boarded a bus that took us to the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. The tour is a self-guided 5 part experience. Our tour began in the Legacy Theatre, where we watched a movie documenting the triumphs and tragedies surrounding the Rouge Factory. (Named after its location near the Rouge River) We then proceeded onto the Art of Manufacturing Theatre where we were treated to a 360 degree multi-sensory look at how automobiles are made. We then made our way up to the world’s largest living roof housing an 80 foot high Observation Deck. Our favorite part of the tour was the Assembly Plant Walking Tour. We were able to view the assembly of F-150 trucks as they made their way throughout the line getting fitted with windows, seat belts, and watching how the back end of the truck is connected to the front end. It was truly amazing to see. It was just like the scene in Monsters Inc. with all of the massive doors floating through the air. Our tour concluded in the Legacy Gallery where we viewed five historic vehicles that made automobile history: the 1929 Model A, the ’49 Coupe, the 1955 Ford Thunderbird and a 1965 Ford Mustang, as well as the F-150 truck. Our day at The Henry Ford was truly filled with something for everyone. I would highly recommend a visit if you are near the greater Dearborn, Michigan area.
2030 Adams Street
Mankato, MN 56001-6817
After sitting in the car for hours at a time, we were thrilled to stretch our legs and experience The Wow Zone Family Entertainment Center in Mankato, MN. This state of the art fun factory for adults and kids alike offers a multitude of activities ranging from glow in the dark bowling, a 2 level Laser Tag arena, jungle themed Miniature Golf, Arcade Games and a sizeable redemption counter to trade hard earned tickets in for prizes. On site is the East End Restaurant, offering full service home cooked meals. For a quicker bite to eat, they have the Concourse Snack Bar, as well as Wowzers Sports Bar and Grill. They also have private party rooms available for that special get together. We can’t say enough great things about our visit to The Wow Zone and would encourage anyone to stop by if you are in Southern Minnesota
60 East Broadway
Bloomington, MN 55425
Prepare to shop, dine, play, and get some serious exercise as you stroll throughout the 4.2 million square feet of the largest retail and entertainment complex in the United States, the Mall of America. We all were like kids in a candy store not knowing where to begin our journey throughout the grandest mall in the nation. By the end of the day we had explored the majority of the mall, but never quite made it around to each and every store, despite our best efforts…there were simply too many great things to do under one roof.
We began our day at Nickelodeon Universe, the nation’s largest indoor family theme park. As we entered the colorful park, we were greeted with familiar images and character meet and greets with some of our favorite Nickelodeon characters like Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob Squarepants and Patrick. There were rides that covered the entire spectrum for riders of all ages, from tiny tot rides like the La Aventura De Azul train ride, the family carousel, or for the very brave thrill seekers, the Pepsi Orange Streak roller coaster. Admission to Nickelodeon Universe is always free, and ride tickets can be purchased separately or with an all day Unlimited Ride Wristband.
While at Nickelodeon Universe, be sure to visit the Flying Dutchman Ghostly Gangplank Ropes Course. This is the tallest ropes course in the world, challenging guests to climb 56 feel above Nickelodeon Universe. Each person on the course is harnessed with safety ropes, and staff is on hand on each level to assist and maintain safety. The best part is that you can challenge yourself to do as much or as little of the course as you want to do.
The mall features additional attractions throughout. My boys thoroughly loved the Amazing Mirror Maze, and did not tire of going in repeatedly. I enjoyed watching them gain confidence as they maneuvered there way between the challenging maze of mirrors in search of the exit.
Underwater Adventures Aquarium is another must see attraction at the mall. Here you can see and experience the world’s largest underground aquarium, featuring over 5,000 sea creatures including sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, jellyfish and more all within a 102 million gallon walk-through aquarium. There is also an amazing glass tunnel, 14 feet under the water’s surface where you can get a fantastic view of aquatic life. A wonderful interactive adventure can be had in the Jellyfish Discovery area. This area features the World’s largest Jellyfish collection.
It was hard for everyone to agree on one place to eat lunch, as there were so many wonderful choices. We finally agreed to pick our favorite foods in one of the many food courts throughout the mall. After lunch, we played 18 holes of adventure miniature golf at Moose Mountain Adventure Golf. This course offered a fun and challenging mountain themed golf course that took us through waterfalls and bridges. At the midpoint of the game, we had a wonderful view overlooking Nickelodeon Universe. It was the perfect, after meal activity.
After all of the morning adventures, it was time to do some serious shopping. There are over 520 world-class shops throughout the mall. Some unique stores that we have not previously seen in a mall before were: QVC @ The Mall, As Seen on T.V., and the Lego Imagination Center. The larger anchor Department stores on site are: Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Sears. For those seeking a romantic getaway, you will be thrilled to know that there is a Chapel of Love Wedding Chapel in the mall as well. More than 5,500 couples from around the world have exchanged their marriage vows within the chapel.
After a long day of shopping, there are many ways to enjoy some additional entertainment at the Mall of America. Some options are Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy, located on the 4th level. Here, some of the absolute best live stand-up comedy performers can be seen. Many have appeared on national and international television, and are widely regarded as groundbreaking and talented artists. Another option is to enjoy one of the latest movie releases at one of the Mall of America Theatres. The VIP Theatre offers a unique movie-going experience with plush, high-back rocker seats and full service concessions for guests 21 years and older. Select Theatres offer D-Box Motion Seats. These seats are designed to use motion effects specifically programmed for each film, which are sent to a motion generating system integrated within either a platform or a seat. The resulting motion is perfectly synchronized with all onscreen action, creating an unmatched realistic immersive experience.
One day was not sufficient to capture all that we wanted to do. We had an amazing time at The Mall of America, and cannot wait to return in the near future.
10100 Jelly Belly Lane
Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158-3631
One of the sweetest places that we visited as we drove through Wisconsin was the Jelly Belly Candy Co. Warehouse Tour. We were given official Jelly Belly paper hats to wear as we boarded the FREE train ride tour around the distribution center. The ride consisted of periodic stops at different viewing stations where we learned about the history of the Goetz’s Candy Company, the official makers of Jelly Belly. We also viewed the entire process of how the sweet treat is made from start to finish. A fun fact is that the Jelly Belly candies that do not meet candy specifications are called Belly Flops. The tour concluded with a demonstration of the shipping area where their candy is shipped world-side. After the train ride, we were each given a complimentary bag of Jelly Belly beans. Post tour, we entered the candy factory store, where a multitude of candies could be sampled freely, such as candy-corns, BeanBoozled Jelly Beans, and of course Jelly Belly beans. We were thrilled to also try Chocolate Bridge Mix, Cherry flavored Jelly Belly soda, Jelly Belly Lollipops, and my personal favorite Cinnamon Candy-Corns.
1 Great America Parkway
Gurnee, IL 60031
In less than an hour from Chicago, you can be at one of the Midwest’s premier theme parks: Six Flags Great America. This park is host to 14 heart-pounding roller coasters such as The Dark Knight, Superman: Ultimate Flight, and the Iron Wolf, to name but a few. If slower paced rides are more to your liking, they have a wonderfully ornate two-story Columbia Carousel that was a joy to ride. My boys grew up listening to The Wiggles, and were thrilled to travel down memory lane in Wiggles World. There they had an opportunity to ride in The Big Red Car and The Big Red Plane and play on the S.S. Feathersword Play Ship while listening to the live Get Ready to Wiggle Show featuring Wiggles music. While at the park we were able to take in the Show Stoppin’ performance. We were treated to an exceptional live show with performers dancing and singing to a wide array of popular and contemporary songs from R&B, Country, and Pop music. Also, new for 2010 is the Glow in The Park Parade featuring five custom-designed floats, and 65 performers. Every float is decorated with colorful lights that illuminate the park and surround you with custom-composed cirque-inspired music. The parade features drummers, puppeteers, singers, dancers and kinetic stilt walkers to create an unparalleled nighttime spectacular. Six Flags Great America is also the site of one of the best water parks in the nation, Hurricane Harbor. This tropical-themed water park offers an enormous interactive water play structure, dozens of water cannons to get yourself and everyone around you drenched, as well as multiple slides, pools and lots of water activities. The park features over 25 water slides, including the Paradise Plunge, Riptide Body Speed Slide and the Wahoo Falls mat slide racers. Experience the tornado, which is a giant funnel slide or splash around in the waves in the half-million gallon Hurricane Bay wave pool. Young children can play with tipping buckets, spray jets and bubbling fountains in the zero-depth Buccaneer Bay attraction.
233 S. Wacker Dr. Suite 3530
Chicago IL 60606
(Enter Skydeck on Jackson Blvd.)
Our tour of the Willis Tower (Renamed in 2009, formerly known as the Sears Tower) began with an elevator ride complete with a 50-inch flat screen monitor depicting the grand scale of the tower. Soaring at 110 stories tall, the Willis Tower is the tallest building in North America. On a clear day, the Skydeck offers the best view of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. Views of the 4 states have been recorded to reach as far as 40 – 50 miles away, and are absolutely breathtaking. Throughout the observation area, you can use high-tech, high-powered telescopes for a closer look at the city. There is also a Knee-High Chicago exhibit that spans the perimeter of the observation area. This area includes a kid-level view of Chicago, sports, history, and additional unique memorable scenes. The Skydeck also features interactive, museum-quality exhibits highlighting Chicago’s history and historic characters. Your trip to Chicago is not complete until you have soared to the 103rd floor and stood on the glass Sky Ledge as if magically suspended over the entire city. The Sky Ledge consists of four glass boxes that allow you to feel as though you are suspended in mid-air as you take in the view all around you, especially straight down. What a thrill to behold! One of the 4 glass Sky Decks is equipped with a professional photographer who gladly takes pictures within the glass enclosed overhang. We were very happy to capture our experience and will treasure our keepsake family photo for years to come. To commemorate your trip to the top, there is a well stocked gift shop located within the observation deck and an additional shop on the ground floor.
The Streets of Woodfield
601 North Martingale Road
Schaumburg, IL 60173-5901
As we approached the LEGOLAND Discovery Center, we were greeted by a larger than life giraffe, an oversized Albert Einstein, and a Doorman all made entirely out of LEGO bricks, created by a LEGO Master Model Builder. We then entered MINILAND and were amazed to see a LEGO replica of the Chicago skyline, including twenty nine well known landmarks from the windy city like; the Navy Pier Ferris wheel, Willis Tower, The Wrigley Building and Water Tower. In the next room was the Jungle Expedition, a winding path that takes Johnny Thunder on a wild LEGO animal expedition. We then boarded the Dagon Quest Ride that took us aboard a friendly dragon around a medieval castle in search of the giant red dragon. Professional keepsake memento photos were available for purchase to capture our ride experience. There was a never ending supply of things to do and see on the second level. The boys really enjoyed riding around on the Technicycle. This circular bicycle ride allows the user to control the movement of their bike up and down depending on how fast or slow they pedal. We also watched two 4-D movies. The 4-D experience is a step above 3-D in that in addition to wearing the 3-D glasses and having objects or people appear within reach, you also have an added layer of sensory special effects like experiencing a cool breeze or to feel and see snow falling. We watched Bob the Builder and Clutch Powers. Both movies were entertaining and the extra special effects at the conclusion of both movies made for a great finish to the shows. We later had an opportunity to enter the LEGO Factory and view how LEGO bricks are made while on the simulated tour. The tour was interactive, and the kids were able to push buttons throughout to watch the cause and effect of the LEGO creation process. With a push of a button, the last step created a free souvenir LEGOLAND Chicago LEGO brick that is only available in the Schaumburg center, which was given to each of the factory participants. Throughout the lower and upper levels, there were several areas to play, build and test your LEGO creations. There was also a physical play structure for the kids to work off some extra energy. Throughout the center are a ton of great LEGO creations that made for some fun photo opportunities. The kids were able to pose next to LEGO Indiana Jones, Darth Vader, and R2D2, to name but a few. On site is a Café for a quick meal as well as a well stocked LEGO shop, offering the latest LEGO products. My son Ben was thrilled with his purchase of the LEGO Space Shuttle Adventure Set.
1491 Mill Run Road
Mill Run, PA 15464
The drive leading up to Mill Run was picturesque. The Bear Run Nature Reserve is home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece, Fallingwater.. We took a ten minute scenic walk through lush woods as we walked on immaculately maintained pathways leading up to Fallingwater. We were fortunate enough to take an hour long guided tour around this man-made marvel. The home is situated on 4,395 acres of pristine land. The current preservation of the home and adjoining land has been entrusted to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC). Fallingwater was built between 1936 and 1939 for the Kaufmann family, Edgar, Lilian and their son Edgar Jr., as a summer vacation home. The Kaufmann’s owned Kaufmann’s Department Store., which today it is part of the Macy’s retail chain. What makes this home unique is that it is built directly over a waterfall using a cantilever design. Frank Lloyd Wright told the Kaufmann’s that he wanted them to live with the waterfalls, to make them part of their everyday life, and not just to look at them now and then. You can truly see Wright’s love and appreciation for nature in the way that he incorporated building materials and nature into one flowing creation, with attention always being placed on what was outdoors around the home. In the Living Room, there is an area called the hatch where you can see through a series of glass windows steps leading down to the waterfall. Throughout the interior of the home there were additional signs of nature, such as exposed bedrock in the floor of the hearth area or water trickling down from a spring which was a constant reminder that although you were inside, you were also outside, thus defining organic architecture. The home is furnished completely with Wright’s fixtures, built in cabinetry, shelving and furniture, except for a set of kitchen chairs that Lilian selected. We were able to tour the entirety of Fallingwater except for the servant’s quarters and kitchen. There is a large collection of original artwork throughout from artists such as; Rivera Diego and Frida Kahlo. We also had an opportunity to visit the guest house located above the main house. A notable house guest of the Kaufmann’s was Albert Einstein, who stayed in the guest house. Fallingwater is a beautiful sight to behold and the only major Wright-designed house to open to the public with its furnishings, artwork, and setting intact.
500 Harbor Boulevard
Weehawken, NJ 07087
The Sheraton Lincoln Harbor Hotel offers an incredible view of the New York City skyline. The hotel is situated almost directly across the river from Midtown-Manhattan and the Empire State Building. Within steps from the hotel was a NY Waterway Ferry that took us to the city in under 10 minutes. When we arrived at the Ferry terminal, buses were waiting to take us anywhere we wanted to go. It was such a pleasant commute into the city. Along the back of the hotel is a scenic walkway where we were able to take an evening stroll with our kids and behold the city lights. The hotel is currently under a major renovation. Despite this fact, we never once heard any sounds of construction throughout our entire three day stay. We were able to enjoy the benefits of the update and found our completed room to be tastefully decorated, had all the amenities one could need including; wireless high speed internet, safe deposit box, the bedding was ample and the beds were extremely comfortable. The hotel has an indoor heated pool, fitness facility, business center, and on-site restaurant, the Harbor Bar & Brasserie. We have stayed in the heart of Manhattan, right in Times Square on prior trips to New York City. While it was exciting to be in the heart of it all, it was also very bright and very loud, especially at all hours of the night. Given our wonderful experience at the Sheraton Lincoln Harbor Hotel, we intend to come back and stay with them again on our next visit to the Big Apple.
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112-0005
You may have seen the prominent ice rink or the enormous Christmas tree in front of Rockefeller Center during the holidays….but did you know that the very BEST view of Manhattan can be seen from the Top of The Rock Observation Deck? We were fortunate enough to experience the view from 70 stories above ground firsthand.
The elevator ride to the top is unforgettable, so be sure to look up. It blends together sounds, colored lights, and opaque projections onto the see thru elevator ceiling, so you can watch images while at the same time see yourself rising towards to top of the 70th floor. Atop the Art Deco Skyscraper, we enjoyed crystal clear views of some of New York’s best known and loved sights such as; the Statue of Liberty, Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park. The top observation deck is completely unobstructed with a 360 degree view of Manhattan. Prior to the ride to the top, you can view exhibits ranging from a full scale model of Rockefeller Center, take your picture in the historic “Lunch Atop A Skyscraper” scene, and view a movie chronicling the history of Rockefeller Center. Known as the RCA Building until 1988, it is most famous for housing the headquarters of the television network NBC. The RCA building was renamed the GE Building in 1988. Rockefeller Center and the observation deck were gifts from John D. Rockefeller to Manhattan. He loved New York, and wanted to share the sights of the city with visitors and New Yorkers alike. Today, Rockefeller Center is home to more than 100 wonderful shops and 40 restaurants to choose from.
NBC Experience Store
30 Rockefeller Plaza
49th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
New York, NY 10112
Live From New York….it’s the NBC Studio Tour. We finally got a chance to see where television magic is produced. The tour began in the NBC History Theatre, where our two NBC Pages rang in the familiar and recognizable NBC chime notes. I later learned that the notes for NBC, are “G”,”E”, and “C”, which stands for the General Electric Company. We then saw a movie narrated by Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera about the history of the National Broadcasting Company which officially began broadcasting on November 15, 1926. We proceeded to visit three studios; Dr. Oz, Football Night in America, and Saturday Night Live. Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to see Saturday Night Live. I grew up watching Gilda Radner and John Belushi, so it was a thrill to finally behold studio 8H, the actual studio where they once performed. We were all amazed at how small each of the three studios were in size compared to how enormous they look on television. We visited the control room where visitors can observe through a glass wall the monitors that are responsible for broadcasting over 100 hours of programming daily. Our tour concluded in the makeup room of SNL where participants from our tour group were selected to record a news sequence at the news desk and read a weather report while pointing to a weather map. This was then played back for our audience using the magic of television. While we did not see any live on air personalities during our tour, it was certainly interesting to gain a better insight into what goes on behind the scenes to create the programs that we see each and every day in our homes.
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192
My family has watched the movie “Night at The Museum” a zillion times, and my kids were curious if the museum was truly as it was depicted in the movie. After a full day of exploration, they said that it was even better than the movie. History truly comes alive throughout the vast exhibits. We began our morning searching for the T-Rex, (Rexy), and quickly found him as well as many of his Paleolithic friends in the Dinosaur Wing. We then went through the Mammal Wing, and then toured the Race to the “End of the Earth” exhibit. There we learned about the two teams racing to be the first to explore the Antarctic from 1911-1912. The Norwegian team was led by Roald Amundsen and the British team led by Robert Falcon Scott. Both teams were racing to see who would be the first to race from the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole and back, a journey 1,800 miles. We then toured through the Native American Wing and spent a great deal of time at the “Traveling the Silk Road” exhibit. This was a highly interactive exhibit that engaged all members of our family. The kids were able to stamp their passport as they traveled back in time through the ancient cities of Asia and the Middle East between the years 600 and 1200 AD to experience the sights, sounds, and smells that occurred along the massive journey. We watched a fantastic show in the Hayden Planetarium called “Journey to the Stars”. Whoopi Goldberg narrates this eye-opening performance depicting the lifecycle of stars, from birth to death. This theater experience was extremely educational and captivating all at once. It was the perfect stepping stone into the IMAX movie that we later viewed called “Hubble”. This wonderful film allowed us to join the Atlantis STS-125 crew as they made their way into outer-space to make a final attempt to fix the Hubble Space Telescope. This film was narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, and provided fantastic views of the cosmos, as well as one of the best space shuttle launch sequences that I have ever seen. We had lunch at the Café on 4 and spent a great deal of time at the many gift shops placed throughout the museum. We spent the rest of the day enjoying the remainder of the exhibits. I wish we had had the latest AMNH Explorer iPhone App released this past week during our trip, as there were so many wonderful exhibits to experience all under one roof. I will definitely have it handy for our next visit to the museum.
1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th Street)
New York, NY 10128-0173
Located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City is the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The museum opened on October 21, 1959 and was designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. During our visit to the museum we viewed an exhibit called “Haunted: Contemporary Photography / Video / Performance”. This exhibit consists of works mostly drawn from the Guggenheim’s collection and acquired during the last decade that are meant to evoke feelings. Works include art by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Robert Mapplethorpe. We enjoyed seeing the paintings in the “Geometry of Kandinsky and Malevich” on display. We also had some time to go shopping in both of the on-site gift shops. This was our first time at the Guggenheim, and after visiting Fallingwater earlier in the week, we were drawn to the design and style of the physical building more than any other piece of art in the museum. The rounded levels and circular ramps were visually engaging from all angles, as was the view from the bottom looking up at the intricately designed ceiling. My favorite part was the astounding view from the top looking down at the spirals below. The Guggenheim Museum is a stunning work of art to behold in and of itself.
Winter Garden Theatre
New York, NY 10019
(212) 239-6200 Theatre
(800) 901-4092 Tickets
The last planned event on our two week cross-country FIRE WIRE road trip extravaganza was the Winter Garden Theatre in Times Square, where my family and I were thoroughly entertained while watching MAMMA MIA!, live on Broadway. If you have not seen this show yet, (42 million people worldwide have seen it so far) I urge you to get tickets as soon as possible. For those of you that do not know the premise of the story, it is about a girl named Sophie who is about to marry her fiancé Sky. Sophie was raised by her single mom (Donna), and has recently learned that her dad might be one out of three possible men, Sam, Bill or Harry. Sophie sends wedding invitations to all three, pretending that the invitations were sent from her mom. All three men agree to come to the wedding, and drama ensues. My family and I have seen countless Broadway shows throughout the years, but we were all blown away by the high caliber talent in this performance. Beth Leavel, in particular was phenomenal as Donna. She brought a new dimension to her character. I have heard the Broadway soundtrack to MAMMA MIA! countless times and enjoyed the music of ABBA throughout the years, but never have I heard the interpretation of the words sung the way that Beth captured in her role. A standout performance was seen by Beth during the song “The Winner Takes It All”. The combination of her inflection, phrasing, and the sheer power of her voice made a lasting impression on each one of us as everyone in my entire family was nearly brought to tears. As a special treat, the encore shifted from Broadway show to all out rock concert. The audience was treated to three additional songs; Dancing Queen, Mamma Mia, and Waterloo. The cast had the entire house on their feet, dancing, and having the time of their life. If you can’t make it to New York, MAMMA MIA! can also be seen internationally as well as throughout the US through the National Touring Company. MAMMA MIA! is currently in its 12th Anniversary year since the first production opened in London’s West End on April 6, 1999. After seeing the show, I now understand why this show has such great longevity and appeals to such a wide audience. As for our long journey home, we passed the miles by singing along to the MAMMA MIA! Soundtrack. It was a fantastic show that we will definitely see again. (Written by Meredith Fire-Hess)