Grand Canyon National Park

It’s that time of the year again where I’m declaring there will be double posting per month. I can’t seem to keep up with the double postings for long, but we’ll see how I do this time around. I’ve already been on several trips this year, during the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends, so I have a lot of material for the blog. Moving along with the West Coast adventures is…

Grand Canyon National Park, located in Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park is separated into the South Rim and the North Rim. The South Rim is open 24 hours a day year round whereas the North Rim is only open from May 15th to October 15th each year. Admission to Grand Canyon National Park is $15 per person or $30 per vehicle. The admission fee includes access to both the South Rim and the North Rim, and is valid for seven days. (The NPS has an annual pass for $80 that grants access to various NPS sites if you plan to visit a lot of parks for the year.) The South Rim has two visitor centers: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, which is open from 9am to 7pm, and Verkamp’s Visitor Center, open from 8am to 8pm. The North Rim Visitor Center is open from 8am to 6pm. The South Rim is accessible via car, bus, shuttle or railroad, whereas the North Rim can be reached by car or shuttle only. Regardless of which form of transportation, expect to take at least 1 hour to get to the park or more if you’re coming from further away. Grand Canyon National Park covers a lot of land, however it’s possible to visit a few of the lookout points in a couple hours, but it can take a couple of days to hike down the canyon and back.

The Grand Canyon is majestic; pictures don’t do it justice, you just have to go yourself to see it in all its glory. I wasn’t able to make it to the North Rim during my visit, so this post will cover only the South Rim. The South Rim is the more popular side of the Grand Canyon, receiving about 90% of the visitors to the national park. One of the highly recommended things to do at the canyon is to watch sunrise or sunset (or both). The lookout at Hopi Point provides a great view of sunset and isn’t extremely crowded as it’s further away from the visitor centers. Mather Point lookout is quite popular for viewing sunrise and sunset as it is close to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. (However, a part of the canyon blocks the view during sunrise. You might want to try Yaki Point that lies a bit further east, so it probably offers a better sunrise view, but since I woke up late, I couldn’t make it there in time.) Regardless of where you choose to go to view either, go early as the lookouts are often crowded. Also make sure to dress appropriately, as the temperatures vary widely between the day and night. The lookout points are located relatively close to each other, so it’s possible to walk from one to the next. However, if you don’t want to walk, there are three free shuttle bus routes that connect all the lookout points to one another. For those who aren’t experienced hikers, but want something easy with nice views of the canyon, do the Rim Trail, which is a mostly paved trail with slight inclines. The total distance of the Rim Trail is about 13 miles, however the trail has conveniently placed shuttle bus stops so that one can start and end where they like. I only covered the distance from Grand Canyon Visitor Center to the Grand Canyon Village, which took about 1.5 hours and is about 2 miles. For others who are more experienced, the park offers 4 other trails to explore. In addition to hiking, there are ranger lead programs that visitors can attend free of charge. One can also ride a mule into the canyon, but you have to book early as the mule rides get filled up quickly. (Early as in a year in advance; check the NPS website for more information.)

Grand Canyon National Park has two visitor centers where one can get more information about whatever activities they wish to do. One can view a short 20 minute movie, Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder , at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center in addition to seeing various exhibits containing historic artifacts pertaining to the canyon. At the Verkamp’s Visitor Center, there are exhibits about the history of Grand Canyon Village; what it was like to live and work at the canyon.

Yavapai Geology Museum is located within the national park, so there is no additional admission fee. The museum is open from 8am to 8pm, and is most easily accessible via the Rim Trail or the orange shuttle bus. The small two room museum contains exhibits that explain the rock layer deposits of the canyon and how the Grand Canyon was form. The museum has a topographic model of the Grand Canyon that includes both the North and South Rim to demonstrate the vastness of the canyon. In addition to the exhibits, the museum offers a great view looking out across the canyon. It took about 30 minutes to view everything at the museum thoroughly, so others may take a little less time if they aren’t particularly interested in the subject matter.

My travel buddy and I spent about 2 days at Grand Canyon, which is sufficient as we got to see sunrise and sunset, did a bit of walking on the Rim Trail, and visited the Visitor Centers and the museum. How long one will spend is very dependent on what they want to do there, so plan ahead, but I recommend staying for sunset if you can; the canyon is a lot prettier during that time. Admission to the national park is pretty inexpensive, since it allows access for 7 consecutive days. Most people will probably enjoy a visit to the Grand Canyon, as it’s not something you see every day, and it’s definitely something to see in person. The Grand Canyon is a good trip idea for families with older children as there’s a bit of walking involved and lots of non-enclosed space, so safety might be a concern for younger children. Dress in multiple layers and wear your comfiest shoes to wander in one of the world’s greatest wonders at Grand Canyon National Park.

Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay

My big trip in 2016 was to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. The Grand Canyon is one of those places that I’ve felt that I should see, and now I have, it was majestic. Las Vegas is a destination that a majority of people will visit at least once in their life, so why not. Let the western U.S. adventures begin…

Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, located in Las Vegas, Nevada

The Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay is open Sunday to Thursday from 10am to 8pm, Friday to Saturday from 10am to 10pm, and during the summer months, it’s open until 10pm daily. Admission to the aquarium is $20. The aquarium is accessible by car, public transportation or walking. The resort where the aquarium is housed does contain a parking lot, but I’m unsure if there are fees are not, as I didn’t drive around. The aquarium is easy to get to using public transportation, just take the Deuce or SDX buses to the Mandalay Bay stop. The Deuce or SDX buses are the two that visitors will become most familiar with when visiting Vegas as they are the two buses that travel along the Strip and to downtown Vegas. If you’re in Vegas and need to take public transportation, buy the 24-hour pass as it’s only $2 more than the 2-hour pass, and is valid for a full 24 hours. (There are other types of passes available, check the RTC website for more information.) Finally, walking to the aquarium is a possibility, but note that the blocks are actually more like really long avenues, walking just one block will take about 10 minutes. (I did some walking some days to save money, but if you plan really well, you can get by with the 24-hour pass.) Las Vegas has lots of fun things to do, so check out the various hotels and resorts to see what is interesting.

Shark Reef Aquarium is nestled within the resort, so it’s still a bit of walk inside, but there are plenty of signs to lead visitors to the correct place. The aquarium is on the small side, where the rooms are interconnected by hallways, so that all visitors take the same pathway to view the animals. The aquarium starts with what it designates as the “Jungle” area, where visitors can see a Golden Crocodile, a Komodo Dragon and Amazon Predators. The area is decorated rather lavishly with trees and even a statue (since this is Vegas, even there aquarium is a bit vibrant). Moving on is the “Temple” area, where the first of two underwater tunnels is located; this one highlights Indo-Pacific fishes, which include angelfish and sharks swimming all around and above (I’m a big fan of underwater tunnels, so this was a pleasant surprise). Exiting the underwater tunnel, visitors can  view sea jellies and an octopus. Also in the “Temple” area is a touch tank featuring horse crabs and stingrays. The last area is “Shipwreck” and highlights the aquarium’s namesake, sharks. There are actually two shark exhibits, one is a standard exhibit with the big window for viewing, and the other is the underwater tunnel where the sharks are swimming everywhere. (This one was popular when I visited, people were lingering in the tunnel. )

My usual travel companion and I spent only 30 minutes at the aquarium, but I think most visitors will need another 15-30 minutes to fully take in everything the aquarium has to offer (we had to move fast since we had a timed excursion after.) As always, the times are just suggestions, so others may take even less time or a lot more if they deem it necessary. As to the admission price, I’m not sure if it’s a fair price or not. On the one hand, there are plenty of exhibits (and underwater tunnels), and the aquarium is clean and well maintained. However, on the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be enough to see since I was able to go through it so fast, it makes me feel it wasn’t worth the price. Any who, shark enthusiasts should definitely take a visit since there’s plenty of sharks to see. Families with children may want to consider visiting as it’s something the kids can do in Vegas ( I don’t think they can be gambling in the casinos just yet.) When you need a break from all the gambling and entertainment that Vegas has to offer, take a visit to the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay to feel slightly closer to nature.

Independence National Historical Park

I took a trip this past Memorial Day weekend, so I’m loaded with more material, so I may switch back to posting twice a month in the coming months. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s finish with my last stop during my Philadelphia day trip from last August…

Independence National Historical Park, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Independence National Historical Park encompasses several street blocks, thus various buildings and facilities are considered as part of the park. The historical park is open daily from 9am to 5pm, but hours may vary for some of the buildings and facilities, thus it’s best to check the park’s website for hours of operation. Independence National Historical Park is easily accessible via car and public transportation. If you choose to drive, there are various parking lots nearby, but note that fees do apply. If you choose to take public transportation, take the SEPTA Market-Frankford Subway, the blue line, to 5th Street/Independence Hall Station, and walk about one block west to reach the Visitor Center or one block south to reach Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The historical park can be a short half day visit if you want to visit the must see sites only, but if you want to see everything, it can take several days, so there’s plenty to do. Should you wish to switch things up a bit, stop by the Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation to take a break from history and learn some chemistry.

As mentioned above, Independence National Historical Park includes a lot of sites, but I only managed the must sees during my visit, thus this post will cover only the following: Independence Square, Liberty Bell Center and Independence Visitor Center. Independence Square is comprised of Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Philosophical Hall and Old City Hall. To get into Independence Square, visitors are required to go through a security screening, but the line moves relatively quick. Independence Hall is open daily from 9am to 5pm, and to 7pm in the summer. Admission to Independence Hall is by tour only. Timed-entry tickets are required between March to November. Tickets are free and can be obtained at the Visitor Center on the day of the visit, or for a small fee tickets can be reserved in advance either online or by telephone. ( I didn’t want to pay a fee, so I just headed to the Visitor Center first thing and obtained tickets. Don’t get there too late, since they do have a limited amount of tickets per day.)  The tour starts in the East Wing of Independence Hall, where the ranger guide gives a 10 minute overview on the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence, followed by a 20 minute tour of the first floor of the Independence Hall, bringing the total tour time to 30 minutes.

The West Wing of Independence Hall contains the Great Essentials exhibit. Visitors can view original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution. There is also an inkstand on display. (Please excuse the poor photos, my hands aren’t still enough for longer exposure times needed to take pictures in low light.)

Congress Hall is open from 9am to 5pm daily. Congress Hall is accessible only by tour, but there is no need to obtain tickets, as it’s on a first come first served basis, so just show up around the scheduled tour times. Tours last about 15 minutes and are scheduled for every 30 minutes. Congress Hall was home to the U.S. Congress from 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the U.S. The building is two floors, the open space ground floor was where the House of Representatives met, and the U.S. Senate congregated on the second floor, which is comprised of several rooms.

Philosophical Hall houses the American Philosophical Society (APS) and its museum. The APS was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 to promote useful knowledge.  The APS museum is open between April to December, from Thursday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm. (Check their website for current hours and exhibits.)  The museum contains one exhibit that rotates on an annual basis that features the society’s collection of historical items and materials. The museum is on one floor of the building, spanning several rooms. When I visited, the exhibit on display was “Gathering Voices: Thomas Jefferson and Native America”, which lasted from April 15, 2016 to December 30, 2016. The exhibit highlighted Jefferson’s collection of Native American languages. I didn’t get a chance to visit the Old City Hall as I was running low on time and also I couldn’t find the entrance, so I decided to skip it and move onto the next destination.

The Liberty Bell is one of the most famous sites in Philadelphia. The bell can be seen in the Liberty Bell Center, which is very close to Independence Hall. The center is open from 9am to 5pm year round, to 7pm during the summer months. Admission is free.  Asides from viewing the Liberty Bell (which is a lot smaller than I expected), there are various exhibits highlighting the history of the Liberty Bell.

Last, but not least, is the Independence Visitor Center. I started here to get tickets for Independence Hall, but didn’t see the exhibits inside until the end. The visitor’s center contains a theater where visitors can enjoy films about the founding of the United States and the Revolutionary War. In addition, there’s an exhibit inside showcasing some prominent historical events and figures related to Philadelphia, such as the Underground Railroad and Benjamin Franklin.

Seeing all of the above took me about 2.5 hours total, including travel time to each place, and waiting for tours to begin and in lines . The majority of the time was spent with the guided tours as the time was predetermined; in the self-guided areas, I spent significantly less time, not more than 20 minutes in each area, and looking back now I don’t feel it was an adequate amount of time for some of the sites. Thus other visitors will most likely need more time to see all of the above, but the minimum time to spend is 2.5 hours (however, you may spend less time too, if you read and move faster). Everything at Independence National Historical Park is free, thus it’s a good place to bring your friends and family as there’s enough to do that everyone will find something interesting. People who enjoy history will definitely have a field day as every where they turn, a piece of history is staring back. So put on your good walking shoes and learn about the founding of the United States at Independence National Historical Park.

Benjamin Franklin Museum

The weather is getting warmer and the summer is coming soon, I hope to see more places this year, but we’ll see how that goes. Any who, continuing on with my previous adventures in Philly…

Benjamin Franklin Museum, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Benjamin Franklin Museum is open 7 days a week, from 9am to 5pm. Admission to the museum is $5. The museum is part of Franklin Court, which was Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia residence from 1763 until his death. Franklin Court contains the “Fragments of Franklin Court” exhibit, a Printing Office and the courtyard, which all are accessible to visitors. (My one-tracked mind latched onto to the museum as the main event, so I was unaware about the additional exhibit and the printing office. I suppose they are also part of the reason as to the small crowds when I visited.) The museum is accessible by car and public transportation. There is no onsite parking for those who intend to drive, but there are various parking lots within a mile of the museum. For those who wish to use public transportation, take the SEPTA Market-Frankford Subway, the blue line, to the 2nd Street station or 5th Street Station (they’re about equidistant from the museum) and then walk a few blocks to reach the museum. Visitors can see the other attractions at Franklin Court if they have time, or walk a little further to visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. If it’s too much history for one day, then stroll around the corner to the museum at Chemical Heritage Foundation (which I highly enjoyed).

The Benjamin Franklin Museum is located underground, beneath Franklin Court. The museum is one floor and contains five exhibits exploring the different aspects of Franklin’s life. Right at the start of the museum, visitors can find Skugg the squirrel, who is a sort of scavenger type-like guide for visitors; he can be found sporadically throughout the museum, pointing out fun tidbits. The first exhibit is “Ardent and Dutiful”, which focuses on Franklin’s personal life. Visitors can learn about his family, his friends, his hobbies and even his household expenses. Franklin suffered from gout, due to excessive eating of red meat and drinking wine, hence he wrote a story about a conversation he would have with his personified gout; visitors can view a clip of the story at this exhibit.

The next exhibit is “Ambitious and Rebellious”, which focuses on Franklin’s life as a printer. Franklin bought the Pennsylvania Gazette, oftentimes contributing pieces to the newspaper under various alias, and made it one of the most successful newspapers during his time. The exhibit contains some of the tools that are needed for printing. Following is “Motivated to Improve”. This exhibit highlights various inventions and ideas that came about because of Franklin, such as bifocals, the “Franklin Stove”, universities, lending libraries and home deliveries by the postal system.

Most people have heard the story of Franklin flying a kite with a key during a thunderstorm, thereby discovering electricity. “Curious and Full of Wonder” focuses  on his other experiments with electricity and science, in general. The last exhibit is “Strategic and Persuasive”, which showcases Franklin’s time as a diplomat. Included in the exhibit is the “Join or Die” cartoon used to encourage the American colonies to unite against British rule. The museum ends with a small segment on Franklin’s efforts to write an autobiography that he never finished.

My travel buddy and I spent about 45 minutes at the museum, but the timing will vary from person to person. Admission to the museum is reasonable for the amount of material that is on display. Adults and children will both enjoy a visit as there is enough information to keep the adults busy and equally as much for children to touch and interact with, thus it’s a good place to bring the whole family for a visit. If you’re visiting Philadelphia, it is only appropriate to take some time to learn about Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and “The First American”, and a great place to start is at the Benjamin Franklin Museum.

Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation

 Life’s been a bit hectic lately, so I’ve been busy attending to it, and neglecting this a bit, but now I’m back… Considering that I’ve lived in NYC all my life, and that Philadelphia is only 2 hours away, it’s a pity that I’ve never been there until last summer when I took a spontaneous trip to Philadelphia. Philly has so many things that I want to see, but on the top of my list is one that is less well-known…

Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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The Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm; on the first Friday of the month, from March to December, the museum is open from 10am to 8pm. (I think they’ve changed the hours since I went as I distinctly remember them not being on open on the weekend, which is why I went on a Friday.) Admission to the museum is free, but they  have a suggested donation of $5. The museum is accessible by both car and public transportation. Should you decide to drive, which you may have to if you’re coming from out of state, note that the museum doesn’t have onsite parking, but there are plenty of parking garages within a mile. Public transportation to the museum is pretty simple if you are already in Philly: take the SEPTA Market-Frankford Subway, the blue line, to the 2nd Street station and then walk a few blocks to reach the museum. There are plenty of other things to do around the area, such as the Benjamin Franklin Museum, which is right by the museum, and if you walk a little further, you’ll be at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

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The Chemical Heritage Foundation is an institution that promotes and preserves the understanding of the history of science; it consists of a library, museum, archive, research center and conference center. The Museum at CHF is a rather small museum within the Foundation, but is comprised of 4 exhibits, 3 of which are permanent and 1 is a rotating exhibit. The main exhibit “Making Modernity” provides an overview of how chemistry is part of everyday life. “Making Modernity” is broken into 11 different sections that focus on different aspects of chemistry. The first section is  about the origins of chemistry and what people considered as chemistry. The next section is “Materials for the Masses”, which shows the contributions chemistry has made to society, such as synthetic fibers and plastics. “Tools for the Task” focuses on the tools used in chemistry, such as beakers, balances and other specialized glassware.

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The largest section is “Empowering Technologies”, which focuses on how chemistry helped overcome the limits of time, space and speed through the developments of batteries, light bulbs and computer chips, respectively. There are 4 smaller sections in the middle of the room that highlight the more sophisticated tools, such as microscopes, spectrometers and various types of chemical detectors. Also in the middle of the room is a video column that has an interactive panel and a video on the periodic table.

On the second floor are the last two sections of the exhibit, “Becoming a Chemist” and “Chemists and the Wider World”. “Becoming a Chemist” contains a variety of notes and books related to the field. The section also contains some games and lab kits that were available to children. “Chemists and the Wider World” focuses on how chemistry is portrayed in the arts, how chemistry became a more unified field with the introduction of chemical symbols so that all scientists know that C stands for carbon or O for oxygen, how chemistry has impacted the world-both the good and the bad, and how chemistry continues to evolve.

The rotating exhibit that was on display when I visited was “Science at Play”, which was on view from October 2015 to September 2016. The exhibit highlighted the various toys and kits that came about to encourage kids to explore science. Chemistry kits and miniature laboratories came about in the early 1900s and became mass produced consumer goods. Early kits predominantly featured boys on the covers, but as more females became involved in the sciences, girls started appearing on the covers, too. The exhibit also contains other toys that came about due to science, such as the View-Master (I had one way back when, I adored the thing.)

The museum has two other exhibits,  “Transmutation: Alchemy in Art” and “The Whole of Nature and the Mirror of Art”. Unfortunately, I missed these two exhibits as they aren’t directly connected to the main exhibit, so I didn’t even know there is more to see. (If you decide to visit, remember to look out for these two, they are elusive.)

My travel buddy and I spent about an hour at the museum, but as always others can spend more or less time depending on their interest levels. (My buddy took about half the time that I did, so the time allotted is just an estimate.) Admission to the museum is free, so it’s a great place to drop by, take a look and learn a little chemistry. The museum is more suitable for adults and older children as there is plenty of reading involved, and the museum isn’t really interactive so it may not keep younger kids interested for long. When people think of chemistry, they think of a laboratory with flames and boiling liquid, but that’s not all it is,  just visit the Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation and find out how chemistry is actually a part of the everyday.

Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration

I’ve been busy during December and also lazy at the same time, so there was no post, but now I’m back, and continuing on with the posts. Last we left off was in Salem, Massachusetts.  Traveling from Massachusetts back to New York, we had time to stop at…

Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, located in Mystic, Connecticut

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The Mystic Aquarium has quite varied operating hours: April to Labor Day, the aquarium is open 9am to 5:50pm; Labor Day to November, 9am to 4:50pm; December to February, 10am to 4:50pm; and March, 9am to 4:50pm. (Check the aquarium’s website for the most accurate operational hours.) General admission to the aquarium is $34.99; if you plan ahead and buy the tickets online, you’ll save  at least 10% (when I visited, the discount was 15%, so it seems to vary, but saving is saving). Driving seems to be the only way to get to the aquarium, as I don’t remember seeing any public transportation in the area. Parking is free at the aquarium, so that’s a plus. If you have time after visiting the aquarium, you can consider visiting Mystic Seaport to make it a fun day out.

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Mystic aquarium has various outdoor and indoor exhibits, and I started with the outdoor ones. First up is the “Arctic Coast” where visitors can see the beluga whales. They are the only beluga whale exhibit on the east coast and one of the highlights of the aquarium. Following along the outdoor path will lead to the “Pacific Northwest” where the Stellar sea lions and Northern Fur seals are located. Next is the “Penguin Pavilion”, which contains both an outdoor and indoor exhibit featuring penguins. Visitors can see the penguins swim underwater in the indoor portion.

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Next up, walk the boardwalk along the “Marsh Trek” to see native animals, such as frogs and ducks. There were mostly frogs of various shades of green and yellow along the way, and if you look closely you can spot some tadpoles in the water; they also jump out of the water from time to time. There is a “Birds of the Outback” exhibit that is both seasonal and requires an additional entry fee ($3), thus I skipped it. Right across from the birds exhibit is the “Seal Rescue Clinic” where visitors can see how the animal rescue team works.

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The “Main Gallery” is the first indoor exhibit of the aquarium that I visited. In this gallery  visitors can view a variety of aquatic animals, including jellies, sharks, and tropical fishes. The Mystic aquarium has a touch tank for sharks; it’s the first time I’ve seen or heard of such a thing, so if you’ve ever wanted to touch a shark, here is your chance. There is also the standard touch tank containing horseshoe crabs and sea stars. Highlights in the “Main Gallery” for me include the sea jellies, they have upside down sea jellies, which I’ve also never heard of before (sea jellies were my animals when I volunteered at the local aquarium, so I knew plenty of facts way back when); the stingrays, they look like they’re flying around in the water; and the exhibit about fluorescent aquatic animals, I like things that glow in the dark.

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While waiting for the sea lion show to start, I had a chance to look at the “Roger Tory Peterson Gallery”, which is located on the second floor of  the same building as the Main Gallery. Visitors can see a variety of drawings by the gallery’s namesake. Don’t miss the California Sea Lion Show, where one can learn the difference between sea lions and seals, and see them perform some tricks. The show is about 20 minutes long. Also, there is stingray touch tank outside of the Main Gallery building; it’s easy to miss it since it’s kind of hidden, so look out for it if you want to touch some stingrays.

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Last, but not least is the Ocean Conservation Center that features two exhibits, “Exploration:WILD!” and “Frogs!”. “Exploration: WILD!” focuses on five different environments: the desert, the rain forest, the open ocean, the wetlands, and the Arctic, and the various creatures that call these environments home. The exhibit is filled with fascinating facts, and even an opportunity to touch some reptiles. “Frogs!” is an exhibit about frogs; learn all about the life cycle of frogs and other fun facts while being surrounded by a multitude of frogs. (It’s frog-land in there, frogs are everywhere you look). There are two additional theaters in this building that shows featured films, but they require an additional fee.

My travel buddies and I took about 3.5 hours to explore the aquarium, but others will take more or less time depending on their interest, and if they decide to do the additional activities. The aquarium is a great place for families and/or friends to visit, although a bit expensive, so look around for discounts and deals (check the aquarium website and around internet for deals). Although the admission is kind of pricey, the aquarium is one of the bigger ones I’ve been to so far, and the money does go to help the animals (I think), thus it’s worth it. So pack some snacks, bring your family and/or friends, and go enjoy all the aquatic animals that the Mystic Aquarium has to offer.

Salem Witch Museum

Last Massachusetts post from May, met my own expectations of posting within half a year of visiting. Yay! This post would’ve been much more relevant  if it was posted around Halloween, but still a fun visit…

Salem Witch Museum, located in Salem, Massachusetts

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The Salem Witch Museum is open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm; with extended hours during the summer and the month of October. Admission to the museum is $11. The museum doesn’t have its own parking lot, but there are several parking garages with nominal fees that are within walking distance should you desire or need to drive. If you are already in Salem, walking to the museum is the best option. The Salem Witch museum is a bit out of the way from the main tourist area, but it is right next to Salem Common, a wonderful outdoor space with monuments and a gazebo where one can just sit and enjoy some sun and grass.

The Salem Witch museum is divided into two sections, and both are guided: the first section is a presentation where visitors take a seat and watch for an allotted time, and the second section is with a live museum guide.  (I’m not exactly sure about their photography policy, but I don’t think they allow it, so there’s no other photos in this post.) The first section is a presentation of the Salem witch trials where visitors get to experience the trials through a combination of narration, lighting and 13 dioramas. The trials lasted a little over a year, but they resulted in the death of 20 innocents: 19 people were hanged and 1 was pressed to death by rocks, and even 2 dogs were hanged by association. If you’ve read The Crucible by Arthur Miller, you will realize that the characters in the play are actually real people who had a part in the trials, such as Abigail Williams, Tituba and John Proctor. The second section is an exhibit called Witches: Evolving Perceptions, where a live guide explains how witches evolved from pagan midwives who used healing herbs to the modern day witch with the green skin. A bit of pagan history and Wiccan Religion is also covered. Lastly, the guide explains about the phenomenon that is “witch hunting”, which is brought on by widespread fear and a trigger that leads to a scapegoat deemed as the “witches” of society. Through this explanation, one understands that the Salem witch trials isn’t an isolated event, this phenomenon has happened again and continues to happen in society, e.g. McCarthyism.

My buddies and I spent about 1 hour at the museum; the presentation section is about 30 minutes long and the live guide section is about 10 minutes long. One should allocate an additional 10 minutes to waiting on line to get a good seat for the first section as the ticket is timed, and the doors don’t open till then, but if you don’t particularly care, you can just head in when the doors open. For the second section, the group is split into two groups (your ticket will have either A or B) as the exhibit area is smaller and can’t accommodate the large group, so while one group is in the second section, the other group can hang out in the gift shop. (Their gift shop easily fitted the second group of people. Also, what a good way to entice visitors to buy something at the gift shop.) The museum is a fairly good family trip idea, but younger children may not respond so well to the dark setting and lighting.  As Salem is most famous for the witch trials in 1692, a good place to learn about it and more about Salem is at the Salem Witch Museum.