20. November 2012 17:51
Courtesy The Field Museum
I found it very difficult to rank my five favorite museums, since I tend to be a fan of almost all museums. History museums especially intrigue me, since even a small, budget-conscious museum can have incredible stories to tell. So I tried to pick the ones I would happily get lost in over and over again and still discover new fascinating nuggets of information.
If you don't see your favorite museum, feel free to comment, because I know there are so many wonderful museums I have yet to explore.
The Field Museum
I still remember walking in and gazing up at the toothy, 13-foot-high Tyrannosaurus skeleton named Sue. At that moment, history felt real, instead of just a set of stories. That is part of the magic of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History: The exhibits do not just tell you about how dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures lived; they let you stare them down.
The Field Museum has so many engaging exhibits, I could go back again and again and not get my fill. Displays of a preserved mammoth and the infamous Lions of Tsavo especially stand out in my mind among the numerous exhibits.
Just the building itself is a work of art. Built originally as a fortress and then used as a palace, the Louvre in Paris houses incredible works of art that span time and geography. Since it is one of the largest museums in the world, it felt like a maze I could happily wander through for days.
Although I made sure to see the famous works, like the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, what I enjoyed most was discovering works I had never heard of that nearly took my breath away.
Smithsonian National Museum of American History
The entire National Mall in Washington is worthy of much praise. However, there is something very patriotic about seeing the National Museum of American History while in our nation’s capital. It reminded me that it wasn’t always known that America would become its own country and remain that way through the Civil War, economic depression and other hardships.
The museum is proof that even a country as young as ours can have a rich history, with memorable artifacts such as the American flag that inspired Frances Scott Key and President Abraham Lincoln’s top hat.
The British Museum in London comes as close as you can get to gathering the entire history of humanity and fitting it all inside one building. From early Mesopotamian artifacts to the eye-catching Great Court room built in 2001, the museum presents a comprehensive look at human culture. My favorite section centers on the Egyptian legacy, with artifacts including the Rosetta Stone, mummies and statues of the kings of Egypt.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
If you like music, Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum can be a blast. Each level of the museum explores different genres of rock music with artifacts, interactive exhibits and, of course, lots of music to hum along with.
I found it particularly interesting to look at some of the crazy outfits worn by past rock stars, such as the glittery costumes of Queen and Michael Jackson’s famous sparkly glove. The museum also taught me what a wide variety of music inspired and shaped the rock music genre.
19. October 2012 00:18
Tenakee Springs, Alaska
For our recent Group Travel Industry Buyers Guide, I was asked to compile a list of five favorite places I’ve been that could be considered hidden gems. Here are four in the United States and one in Italy that certainly fit that description for me.
Ground Zero, Clarksdale, Mississippi
There are a lot of great stops on the Mississippi Blues Trail, but one I particularly enjoy features live bands, great tamales and fried catfish, and lots of star power. Academy-award winning actor Morgan Freeman is one of the owners and is known to hang out there when he is not on location somewhere. The acts there are not necessarily name bands; they are more often local blues bands that honor the tradition of Mississippi blues. Live music is offered Wednesday through Saturday nights.
Tenakee Springs, Alaska
You don’t drive to Tenakee Springs. You arrive by small vessel or seaplane. Tenakee Springs is in southeast Alaska on Chichagof Island. The little community of roughly 100 residents is a favorite stop for fishermen, and it gets its name from the natural spring that warms the water in the community bathhouse.
The day we arrived, the town was buzzing about the arrival of a new dog. They had lost one that winter, and the new puppy, a lab, came walking up the pier on a leash while we were there.
Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia
At the Going On Faith Conference in Richmond last summer, I asked Janie Lawson where I could go for a couple of hours for a run and some relaxation. She recommended Hollywood Cemetery, an urban preserve tucked away in Virginia’s historic capital city. This meandering cemetery lies inside a canopy of trees and includes the graves of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy; U.S. President James Monroe; and numerous other historic figures. Walking tours are offered Monday through Saturday at 10 a.m., April through October.
Fertitta’s Delicatessen, Shreveport, Louisiana
Don’t ask me how to get to Fertitta’s Delicatessen because I can’t tell you. But anyone in Shreveport can. We came here for lunch a couple of years ago when we were doing a site inspection for the Small Market Meetings Conference. Our hosts suggested this local favorite that serves muffalettas, sandwiches of Italian origin consisting of olive mix, ham, salami, cheeses and mustard. This unassuming place was filled with local diners dressed in anything from suits to hardhats. And the mint tea you poured yourself in the back was one of the most refreshing drinks I’ve ever had.
A hidden gem in Italy may be a misnomer simply because so many people put this country at the top of their travel lists. But Todi isn’t Rome or Venice or Florence. And it isn’t in Tuscany, which gets so much press as well. It’s a beautiful small city high atop a hill in the region of Umbria. I was there at Christmastime, so its ancient town square was lit for the holidays. Someone in that square was playing old Christmas songs by American artists such as Andy Williams over a loudspeaker that night. Enjoying that holiday music in this heavily garrisoned old city was a memorable paradox to me.