Sunday, August 19, 2012

LACMA Levitates


At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) children can sign up for NexGen membership to get in for free until age 18. They also receive one complimentary adult ticket per child each time they visit. We came to see Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass and Chris Burden's Metropolis II, but we stayed because the kids enjoyed the museum far and wide.

Levitated Mass is a 340 pound boulder alleviated above a 450 foot concrete slot specially constructed on the museum grounds. It took Heizer more than 40 years from conception to identify the appropriate rock found near Riverside, CA and to realize his dream. Last spring, the megalith's 11-day, 100+ miles journey from the quarry through the streets of the City of Los Angeles drew crowds day and night as people flocked to see the boulder moved on a flatbed truck.

Metropolis II is described as a kinetic sculpture that models a frentic, fast-paced city. More than 100,000 miniature cars race on intricate roadways next to dense buildings. The cars race only on Fridays through Sunday, one hour on and then an hour off.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ventura County Fair

The pigs at the Ventura County Fair were pretty stinky. But, my little city slicker son clearly needs a lesson in farm appreciation. Alex held his nose and complained all the way through the animal enclosures at the fair. He failed to see the joy in new born piggies, he didn't admire the cows who were having their coats brushed and moussed for ribbon winning, and even the little bunnies weren't cute enough for him when the carnival rides loomed in the background. More time with cows, pigs, horses, goats, chickens, sheep and rabbits will need to be included in future jet setting for my Los Angeleno children who know more about traffic than tractors.

Just 45 minutes north of Los Angeles, the Ventura Country Fair offers all the options of a great fair -- livestock, carnival, greasy & sticky fair food, exhibits, music -- without a little less crowds, less costs (reasonable entry fee) and less heat (located on the ocean). Amtrak even arranges special trains several times a day to/from for easier travels.

The All-Alaskan Racing Pigs were the most fun. The little pigs race around a small track and jump hurdles along the way. The crowd loved it and even Alex cheered for his favorite little piggy.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cave of the Mounds

 The Cave of the Mounds in Southern Wisconsin is a Natural National Landmark. From the website: "A guided tour of the Cave takes you past a varied collection of colorful stalactites, stalagmites, columns and other formations. The main cavern began forming over a million years ago as acidic water dissolved the limestone bedrock far below the surface. As Cave of the Mounds staff like to point out, geologic time is mind-boggling. It is difficult to imagine the time it took for the large caverns to be dissolved within rock that is itself believed to be over 400 million years old!"

The Cave of the Mounds was accidentally discovered in 1939 when workers were removing limestone from a quarry. Tours were opened a year later. Today the hour long guided program includes a movie on the history of the cave, the paths are paved guiding visitors down several stories below ground and you get the chance to experience pure darkness at a constant 50 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Some of the paths were so narrow, even Serene had to bend and swerve her way to make it through.

Following the tour, children can dig for fossils and pan for treasures just outside the gift shop and take home their own geological treasures.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Top Secret, Wisconsin Weirdness

Photo from Top Secret website
Top Secret in the Wisconsin Dells is hard to describe. A funky attraction -- not quite haunted house, but totally not a museum -- is described by guides as the "White House picked up by aliens and dropped upside down" in the Dells. (From the outside, it does look like the White House turned upside down.) It features dark passages, wild lights, wax figures, furniture adhered to the ceilings, dead presidents, unexplained dinosaurs busting out from its sides and much more weirdness. The kids loved it! The adults rolled their eyes and recalculated the cost of admission. It takes less than 30 minutes to take a tour and in the end you'll be scratching you head asking "what was that?"  But the kids had fun. Maybe whatever makes it top secret is only revealed so those 18 and under.

Wisconsin Dells Deer Park

The Wisconsin Deer Park has offered families visiting the Wisconsin Dells the chance to feed and touch deer up close for over 50 years. Serene absolutely loved it! Fearless as the deer towered several feet above her head, she tried to hug each and every one of the calm animals. The gift shop supplies crackers for feeding and Serene feed as many as she could by hand letting them lick her little fingers and she laughed in pure joy.

An original Dells attraction, the deer park sits on 40 acres of land with a four block walk that takes visitors around the edges of the public area to view the deer that walk openly around the area, and other animals (elk, bison, emus, llamas, lemurs and more) in large enclosures. In the winter months, the animals roam freely in a wooded area behind the public area of the park. When we visited the bucks antlers had grown large and majestic.

Wisconsin Dells Ducks

Photo from Original Wisconsin Ducks website.

The Wisconsin Dells are beautiful. The sandstone layered rock formations are only found in a few places in the world. Best viewed from the river, the Original Wisconsin Duck Tours is a great way to take in the views of the rocks, learn the geological, political and Native American history, as well as legends, of the area. The "dalles" were named by French fur traders, meaning 'tiled rocked.' They were formed by rushing flood waters from a glacial lake thousands of years ago and they've been drawing tourists to the area for more than 150 years.
The "Ducks" are amphibious land/water vehicles. Alex loved the "splash down" --- the moment when the vehicle races from land into the water.  The tour glides passengers down the Wisconsin River, races through the woods, hauls you up-and-down narrow curvy paths, weaves through Red Bird Gorge (where you can stick you fingers out to touch the formations) and paddles on Lake Delton.