Thursday, July 25, 2013

Canoeing Wisconsin: Land of 15,000+ lakes

The state of Minnesota is known as "the land of 10,000 lakes." Meanwhile, Wisconsin counts over 15,000 lakes.* The city of Madison is built on an isthmus between lakes Monona and Mendota. With that much water, its obvious that canoeing is one of the most popular activities around. For my little city-slicker kids, Brittingham Boats offers the perfect opportunity to get out on a lake safely and easily. They offer rentals of kayaks, canoes and paddle boats at reasonable prices for long hours daily (7am-8pm). They cater to beginners to long-time lake lovers. Serene had a fantastic time and worked hard to paddle around. Alex preferred to just hang out in the boat and enjoy the ride. The calm, gentle water and warm sun made for a wonderful outing.

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*SPECIAL NOTE FOR THE Minnesota/Wisconsin Readers:  No one seems to be able to count all the lakes in the two dates with any consistency. The best description I found goes like this: It turns out that the two states have different definitions of a lake. Minnesota's count includes only those that are all over ten acres and named. Wisconsin counts them even without a name and has no size limit. Wisconsin only has about 6,000 named lakes, even including those under ten acres. If Minnesota counted all lakes down to four acres without names, it is likely there would be over 20,000. Wisconsin may claim more, but by any consistent measure, Minnesota has more lakes. Also more lake area, not counting the great lakes that form state borders. Minnesota has about 2.6 million acres of lakes compared to one million for Wisconsin. Counting great lakes, Wisconsin jumps to 7.1 million acres, from large portions of Lakes Superior and Michigan.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

House on the Rock

The House on the Rock near Spring Green, Wisconsin is difficult to describe. I've known about it all my life and always wanted to visit. I'm glad I did, but not sure I'll ever go back again. Alex Jordan was an eccentric architect and collector. He built a unique residence and amassed a huge, bizarre collection of everything -- musical instruments, rifles, doll houses, maritime artifacts, carousels, dishes, knives and pretty much everything else that you can think about. It took us more than three hours to navigate through the self-guided tour. Exhausted at the end, we skipped past much the place has to offer. I had assumed a more interested architectural wonder, but was disappointed by the structure itself. Eventually, the kids were just bored.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, WI

Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, WI is named for a little boy born in the early 1900s who died of complications from diabetes. His parents donated the property and developed a zoo for the community to enjoy. In a visionary move, the Vilas family stipulated it must always remain free. Today, it is home to an impressive collection of animals including the state animal -- the badger, alongside giraffe, tapirs, rhinos, elephants, seals, bears, tigers and my favorite, the Galapagos tortoises. The zoo is situated in the beautiful Vilas city park very near downtown with a large children's play yard, a miniature train offering rides and a beautiful carousel. We seem to stop at the zoo every summer, and we always find something new to explore.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cheesehead Pride! Yet again....

Madison, WI is Capital of Wisconsin.

Ceiling of Wisconsin State Capitol Building.

The Wisconsin state animal -- the badger.

Though I am officially a Cheesehead. I didn't grow up in Madison, WI. (I'm as much of a tourist in this city as any other Los Angelino who finds herself lost in the Midwest every summer visiting family.) I've come to love the city though -- especially in the summer. The capital of the state, its capitol building is impressive and can rival our nations capitol in DC any day. Tasty restaurants and nice shopping line State Street, running through the center of down town. UW-Madison is one of the finest schools in the country. In the winter, several feet of snow falls and in the summer, the fireflies light up the evening sky.

For more interesting facts about Madision, check out the link at:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

Just 10 miles south of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina is Murrells Inlet, a historic fishing village with a quaint boardwalk and small harbor. It history of pirates is legendary. Today, there are small antique shops, cute gift boutiques and plenty of dining choices. If you look closely as you walk the boardwalk, you'll find a tiny little island home to a small herd of goats.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Zip Lining across the South Carolina Coast

I blinked and my little boy grew up into a young man overnight. I'll never know what possessed Alex to want to zip across 600 feet of line, 60 feet in the air at 40 miles per hour, but he did it without hesitation. Myrtle Beach Zipline Adventures probably boosted my adrenaline as much as it did for Alex. After he zipped across three times, I waited at the bottom of the tower to congratulate my new stunt man. As I glanced up, he was taking the plunge from 60 feet. That's one way to get down from the tower.

I've been watching my kid doing flips into the swimming pool for the last several years already. And, I support his training to become the next American Ninja Warrior, but I never thought the kid who was terrified to try a somersault at My Gym -- not so long ago -- would race across downtown Myrtle Beach before he made it to second grade.

Free Fall: Alex jumps from 60 feet!

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina


Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is my new favorite vacation spot. We can't wait to go back.  The beaches are beautiful -- covered with sea shells -- and the water is warm. There's boating, fishing, surfing, kayaking, scuba diving, para sailing, windsurfing and just splashing around in the calm waves along its 60 miles of beach. Our hotel was located footsteps from the sand and the view from our balcony was picture perfect.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Broadway at the Beach

Boys with laser guns and girls with bubble guns.

Wonder Works (


Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is more than just small amusement rides for little children, (but there sure are a lot of them). There are also a lot of funky shops, great restaurants, fun nightlife, racing boats, Helicopter Adventures, NASCAR Speedpark, zip lining, the Ripley's Aquarium, Wonder Works and .... it is a whole lot of fun. "The place is positively, stylishly, deliciously, entertainingly, thrillingly awesome."

We had a fantastic dinner at Capriz Italian Feast, where kids six and under eat free. Friends introduced us to the delicious dining and all four kids actually feasted. We shopped, watched the kids enjoy the amusement rides and took in all the sights and sounds this fun place has to offer. Its a must-see place to visit along the Carolina coast. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Time to Discover the Ordinary


If you want to know why cats throw up hairballs, cows fart or how many germs flies really get on your food each time they land at your picnic table, then check out the special exhibit Animal Grossology at Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC.

We didn't have enough time to experience more of Charlotte. This children's science museum is definitely a great stop for children when visiting this beautiful city. It describes itself as the place "where science amazes, educates and entertains." That is an accurate description with its many physics, building, and animal exhibits. If we lived closer, the annual membership is worth it. Serene spent most of her time experimenting with numerous hands-on exhibits testing the laws of physics. Alex had a fantastic time building forts big and small with camouflage netting. As we get to know our way around museums across the country, this one is a great stop if you are passing through Charlotte.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Nickelodeon Suites Resort

The Nickelodeon Resort Suites (a.k.a. The Nick Hotel) will cost you a fortune. The hotel is currently undergoing repairs, so some of the rooms are updated while others look rundown. (We got a truly weathered room.) The rest of the hotel makes up for what our accommodations lacked. There are two wonderful pool areas with large water slides and mini water slides with splash areas for the smallest guests.

Believe it or not, we skipped all the theme parks in Orlando (Disney World, Epcot, Disney Animal Kingdom, Legoland, Sea World, Aquatica, Discovery Cove, Universal Studios, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and I hesitate to mention the Holy Land Experience for the hardcore Jesus fans.) Our time was limited, we went to party with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the idea of struggling with the kids with different height restrictions on rides just needed to be saved for future years when they are both over 48 inches.

The Nick Hotel has plenty to do and didn't let us down. You can meet Nickelodeon's top characters, take in a series of 4D movies, get slimed, party like a rock star at the pool, throw pies at your parents (or kids) and much more. We spent most of our time jumping and sliding at the pools.