Death in the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park is a place of immense beauty on an almost incomprehensible scale. For good reason, it is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. People come from around the globe to see this divine abyss with their own eyes. Too many forget, however, that national parks are not Disney World. They feature Mother Nature, often at her cruelest.

Just this morning, a 70-year old visitor to the Grand Canyon fell to her death–the FOURTH such falling death in the Canyon in the past month.

Based on the foolish behavior we witnessed at the Grand Canyon last week, it is almost surprising that such tragic deaths are not even more frequent. You will not believe what we saw!

The Grand Canyon viewed from the Rim Trail
The majestic Grand Canyon, viewed from the South Rim. A place of both immense beauty and great danger.

Continue reading “Death in the Grand Canyon”

Penguin Palooza

Family-friendly Penguin Encounter

Penguin mania is about to hit the country with the Earth Day release of Disneynature’s new documentary, “Penguins”. However, penguin mania has been a constant state of affairs at our house for about 11 years now. My youngest son has always had a thing for penguins, so over the years we have sought out ways to have penguin encounters in the U.S. Here is one of our favorites that is sure to please kids of all ages.

Patting penguins at a penguin encounter
Using two fingers, the boys are allowed to gently touch the penguin.

Continue reading “Penguin Palooza”

Washington, D.C.’s Cherry Blossoms Without the Crowds

Every March and April more than 1.5 million tourists descend upon Washington, D.C. to see the famous Cherry Blossoms. As we hit peak bloom, you might be asking yourself how you can visit the world-famous Tidal Basin without battling the crowds.

Years ago, I stumbled upon the secret.

Pink and white cherry blossom viewing in Washington, D.C.
Cherry Blossoms during Peak Bloom at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.

Continue reading “Washington, D.C.’s Cherry Blossoms Without the Crowds”

Surprising St. Louis: A Second Top Attraction in the Gateway to the West

We continue our countdown of the top St. Louis attractions with a story of what happens when people think big.

The Saint Louis Art Museum and its collection of more than 34,000 pieces is tucked away in the heart of sprawling Forest Park, just a stone’s throw from other popular attractions like the Saint Louis Zoo. Its iconic main building is the only surviving permanent structure constructed for the 1904 World’s Fair. Remarkably, admission to this sprawling and largely uncrowded gem is free to the public.

The top-notch collection here is massive. It did however leave us scratching our heads.  My friend Kim and I couldn’t figure out how a city of just over 300,000 people ended up with not only a top-tier art museum, but one that is free to the public. So, I started digging to find out.

shutterstock_674618323

Continue reading “Surprising St. Louis: A Second Top Attraction in the Gateway to the West”

Surprising St. Louis: A “B-side” City with Top-Tier Attractions

At the March 2019 D.C. Travel & Adventure Expo, Samantha Brown, host of Places to Love on PBS, discussed how she selects destinations for her show. She mentioned, in particular, that her team often looks for B-side cities (a vinyl records reference that may be lost on some). To her, a B-side city is lesser known than top tourist destinations but still has plenty to great things offer.

After hatching a weekend getaway plan with a friend, I recently found myself on a plane to St. Louis, Missouri, which is arguably the B-side to the midwest’s top destination: Chicago.

Here are the top four attractions that make this a great destination.

Gateway Arch
A weekend away without the kids can apparently lead giddy moms to pose for silly pictures.

Continue reading “Surprising St. Louis: A “B-side” City with Top-Tier Attractions”

My Secret Strategy for Getting Kids to Love Museums

“That’s boring.”

For most of their lives, my children happily visited our local air and space and natural history museums. However, any suggestion that we go to an art museum would be met with a chorus of “That’s boring.

Fast forward several years, and my boys enthusiastically spend hours exploring art museums. On a recent trip, they devoured the Musée D’Orsay, the Louvre, and the Rodin Museum in Paris, and I had to drag them out of the British Museum in London. So, how did we get from point A (total rejection) to point B (complaining when they have to LEAVE)? Here is my magic formula:

The Louvre, Paris
The Pyramid at the Louvre, Paris.

Continue reading “My Secret Strategy for Getting Kids to Love Museums”

Visiting Tatooine

With the Director JJ Abrams’ tweet on Friday February 15, 2019 that photography on Star Wars Episode IX had wrapped and all the press surrounding the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy Edge at the Disney World and Disneyland Resorts later this year, I can’t help but remember our amazing family trip to Tatooine.

IMG_2370

Continue reading “Visiting Tatooine”

Sueños Encantados – Time Travel in Northern New Mexico

It is four in the morning or, according to poet Wislawa Szymborska, “the hour when wind blows from extinguished stars.” As I lay awake, enveloped by the complete darkness of night, my left foot glides along the mattress searching for Jim. Proximity to my human furnace is the best chance I have of staying warm. The mid-1800s adobe structure over our heads, with its three-foot wide walls, provides outstanding natural insulation, but its windows and doors are no match for the biting wind (or extinguished stars) on this January night in the mountains of northern New Mexico, when the mercury has dipped well below freezing.

We are in the “Cuarto Epifania” at the home of a Vi Garcia on Rancho San Pablo de Garcia. Over a century and a half ago, Vi’s great-great-grandparents settled in the “Casa Vieja” [Old House] in which we now sleep, five miles south of Cuba, NM (population 748).

Despite a hard-working space heater, a faux fireplace, and an extra blanket, I am cold. Anywhere else, this might bother me. Here though, it impossible to be anything but charmed by my rustic surroundings.

1.jpg

Continue reading “Sueños Encantados – Time Travel in Northern New Mexico”

Everglades National Park – Questioning my Parenting

img_8373

“We are just going to stop here for a moment,” our guide Jon casually said as he slowed his kayak. The reason for the pause lurked just around the bend of the narrow mangrove tunnel. The happy chatter and banter of the morning halted rather abruptly. We had seen many alligators sunning themselves on the banks of the Turner River that morning, but the one that lay ahead of us was in a different league, and it was blocking our path. With its eyes and snout barely poking out of the water, many, many feet back (too many) we could just barely make out the tip of its tail. Using our 14-foot double kayaks as a benchmark, Jon estimated the gator to be about 12 feet long—about as big a beast as you are going to find in this northwestern section of the Everglades ecosystem (we were technically in Big Cypress National Preserve, immediately adjacent to Everglades National Park).

The timing for this encounter was unfortunate. We had been on the water for two hours and had just reached the innermost and narrowest point of the tunnel. Turning the kayaks around was physically impossible. So we waited. And waited.

Continue reading “Everglades National Park – Questioning my Parenting”