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Think of New Zealand, and chances are images of dramatic natural landscapes spring to mind long before its cultural triumphs do. But for culture vultures swooping in on Kiwi country, New Zealand’s charismatic Wellington capital (affectionately dubbed “Welly”) makes for an engaging urban base to sample the creative local take on Kiwi culture.
The lively little city brims with world-class museums and galleries; quirky outdoor sculptures; a slate of local theaters, live music venues, and performing arts centers (including the Royal New Zealand Ballet, New Zealand Opera, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, to name a few); regular arts and cultural events; and a vibrant film industry (“Wellywood” is the base for Peter Jackson’s international film empire). But you’ll still get that wow-factor true-to-New Zealand natural setting nestled between a picturesque harbor and rolling windswept hills. Plus, a coffee, culinary, and craft beer culture (perhaps best sampled in the Bohemian quarter near Cuba Street) help fuel this urban jewel’s pulsing creative buzz.
Read on for some of the best cultural freebies to ensure your time and money is well-spent in Wellington. Read more
If your family was wandering through New York City’s Flatiron District and stumbled across a museum you knew nothing about other than its name – in this case, the National Museum of Mathematics, aka MoMath – would you pay the admission ($16 for adults, $10 for children 12 and under; buy online for a $1 discount per ticket) and check it out simply because it looked interesting? My family went in for an undercover field test and here’s what we found.
Methodology: Our research team consisted of my children, ages 13, 10, and 6; my wife, who holds a business degree and was also a math major in college (by choice); and me, somewhat math deficient and thankful every day that I married someone who isn’t. The five of us evaluated the museum on a 1-10 scale across the following four categories. Read more
Somewhere between the liver shared by history’s most famous set of conjoined twins and the wall of eye abnormalities, I learned that not all museums are created equal. I was in my late teens when I first visited the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia and had already developed a pretty opinion of museums as being stuffy and dull. The museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, however, showed me how wrong I was. Ever since that visit, it has remained one of my favorite venues for science, history, and, well, weirdness. I revisited the museum last fall and marveled once again at the collection that amazes, flabbergasts, and often disgusts many visitors. Part science museum, part history museum, with a dash of carnival slideshow thrown in, the Mütter Museum is far from your average place of learning. That’s part of it’s charm, though. Beyond that, it’s also a tribute to how much doctors and scientists have learned about the human body over the centuries. Read more
And that’s fine, because after recently reassessing the museum, I’ve revised my opinion. The Strong is not the best kids museum you never heard of; it is perhaps, the best kids museum ever.
Parents Play, Too
During my nearly 14 years of parenting, I have grown to dislike children’s museums. I had just assumed I was burned out, as most kids museums these days try to do the right thing. Most have engaging exhibits as well as play areas scaled for younger children. And in many cases, these museums have subdivided spaces so that toddlers, preschoolers, and tweens can enjoy age-appropriate activities.
While at the Strong with my family a couple weeks ago, I realized soon after arriving what my problem was with most children’s museums: They don’t encourage the parents to play, too, and the Strong takes a decidedly more inclusive and integrated approach to family play.
Tally up what you spend on admission fees, lunch, and mental anguish, and you may find that bringing your kids to a major New York City museum comes at a high cost.
That’s why I admire families who diligently cram several such museum visits into one weekend trip. And since I had never taken my kids to the Guggenheim until this weekend, I was prepared to accept the worst.
Well, not only did the Guggenheim surprise me, but my kids did, too. Here are ten things I learned while we spiraled our way down and around this most famous of New York City spaces.
1. Kids under 12 are free all the time, which offsets the $22 per adult admission. Plus, when you spread that cost over the four hours we spent there, it’s a relative bargain. On Saturdays from 5:45 pm onward, the Guggenheim has a pay-what-you-wish policy, but, as the museum closes on Saturdays at 7:45 pm, know that you’ll only have two hours. Read more
Ever try to identify all the flavors of a delicious sauce while nursing a head cold or listen to a concert while fighting off an inner-ear infection? Then you have some idea of what it was like to evaluate the New-York Historical Society while chaperoning my daughter’s fourth grade class.
The funny thing is, even with the eruptions of noise and unruliness and general unease that comes from watching nine-year-olds stand close to glass display cases, it was entirely possible to enjoy the museum and leave wanting more, and that’s saying something.
If like me you grew up in New York City but have never been to the museum, or if you’re visiting and had no intention of factoring the New-York Historical Society into your museum circuit, here are a few reasons to check it out.
The Walt Disney Family Museum is perhaps the best kids’ museum you’ve never heard of. With an unbeatable location in San Francisco’s revitalized Presidio, the museum chronicles the life of the animation visionary as well as the achievements that made his company a household name through videos, interactive screens, artwork, and family artifacts. Recently, the museum has been stepping up its game with special exhibits that expand on specific accomplishments and influences in Walt’s life.
Techies, rejoice: Staying in Silicon Valley just got even more geek-friendly. Palo Alto’s 4-star Garden Court Hotel is offering a deluxe experience for the visiting entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and inventors amongst you – or for those who just want to pretend to be for a weekend.
For a mere $1,229 (chump change, after your start-up’s IPO), book the Geek Chic Package and receive first-class treatment including a stay in a deluxe king room, access to the most high-tech products in the market, an aerial tour of the city, and – really – a massage for your tired text-messaging thumbs.
Enjoy a $50 credit for a power lunch at an upscale Italian restaurant, then use the hotel’s custom GPS route offering a day of geekdom saturation, including visits to HP, Google, Apple, and Facebook. You’ll also receive a 45-minute aerial tour over Silicon Valley in a 246-foot-long Zeppelin, one of the largest commercial blimps in the world. To top off the tech-filled day, enjoy two complimentary tickets to the Computer History Museum, and receive two free museum t-shirts to fully elevate your geek swagger.
If you have any time left to actually spend in your room, you could use it to play on your in-room iPad 2 (so 2011) – but you probably already have the new iPad anyway.
Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights to the Palo Alto and Silicon Valley area. For even more trip-planning information, see our California destination guide.
The fact that math and I don’t quite get along has never inhibited my fondness for making up equations, including this one: Cold off-season destination + solid indoor attractions = value family vacation.
It’s this thinking that has inspired my non-sequential series on the Midwest, including a post last winter about Chicago, more recent looks at Columbus, Milwaukee, and South Dakota, and today’s stop, the often underrated Kansas City. Should you wish to pull together a KC jaunt over the next several weeks, sub-$250 per person round-trip airfares are easy to come by, as are value-priced air-and-hotel bundles. Read more
Of all the 2012 family vacation ideas offered up last week, Milwaukee quickly emerged as the pick that generated the most smiles, but then it’s a city that always seems to do that. Knowing sequel fodder when I see it, I wanted to elaborate on some Milwaukee points of interest (initially suggested by my colleague Beth Blair) and continue to make a case for why the city could be an easy choice for one of your family getaways this year. Read more
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