Free Museum Day – Two Tickets to Create Memories.

Smithsonian Magazine’s annual Free Museum Day is Saturday September 26, 2015, a day when more than 1200 museums across America will offer free admission. The annual event provides two free tickets to each registered household and thus offers the perfect excuse to share a one-on-one museum experience with a child.

Adler Planetarium Space Light Dance

The positive energy of making discoveries at Adler Planetarium is not just enjoyable but contagious.

The collection of participating locations spans all interests from living history and natural sciences to art, culture, transportation, gardens, and hands on fun at children’s museums.

On this year’s list is the world famous Adler Planetarium in Chicago as well as the inspiring Arizona Museum of Natural History in Phoenix. Three of my favorite living history locations – Gibbs Museum of Pioneer & Dakota Life in St. Paul, Fort Worth Log Cabin Village and Conner Prairie Interactive History Park are participating.

Young At Art in Miami is loaded with possibilities for nurturing young imaginations. It’s the place to create masterpieces and make discoveries. Dig in ArtScapes, build sand sculptures and recycled puppets in GreenScapes and explore customs in CultureScapes.

Young At Art in Miami

Young At Art invites visitors to join a creative journey designed to inspire, educate and entertain the artist in everyone.

Anchored on the shore of Lake Michigan, Chicago’s Adler Planetarium features three full-size theaters, including the renovated Grainger Sky Theater, the all-digital projection Definiti® Space Theater and the 3D Johnson Family Star Theater.

At Conner Prairie Interactive History Park there is no end to the innovative interactive activities. The complex has five outdoor experience areas, and oodles of creative ways to connect science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with history.

On Museum Day at Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa activities will include panning for gold, a territorial jail, and time to enjoy Dinosaur Mountain, Dinosaur Hall,  Cretaceous Seas, Southwest Cultures and Arizona in the Movies.

Overlooking the nation’s oldest port city, St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum showcases discoveries in shipwreck archaeology, features lives of keepers and their families, and an energizing climb with a rewarding view of land and sea.

To create your own one-on-one museum memories register at Smithsonian’s Free Museum Day, make your choice and secure your tickets.

I’ve made my choice and have my tickets on my phone.

Happy browsing.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

Yippee for Labor Day! Family Fun Times Ten.

Before we make plans for Thanksgiving or iron out the details for the Christmas holidays let’s celebrate the end of summer. From LEGO animals at the Denver Zoo, Shakespeare in the park, and the American Music Festival in Virginia Beach to Bumbershoot in Seattle, Festival of Sail in San Diego and the lively Celebrate Bandera in Texas, family fun is the whole idea.

Native American Dance Practice at Celebrate Bandera.

Celebrate Bandera features uniquely American cultural experiences including lively music and colorful dance ceremonies.

The best festivals for families are both interactive and engaging making it easy share extra fun with kids. I always add another level to Labor Day weekend festivals and celebrations. I think they should not just be fun for families but also provide on-the-spot learning experiences as a bonus to jumpstart the school year.

Plenty of celebrations do just that. There are oodles of terrific ways to spend quality time with kids which makes me say, “Yippee for Labor Day!” I have my favorites and I have heard from folks who have theirs.

Virginia Beach American Music Festival includes great music, fireworks on the beach and Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is showcasing dinosaur roars.

Festival of Sail 2015 in San Diego has not just tall ships, yummy eats and great music but plenty of chances to sail in the harbor.

Duplos and LEGOS at KidFest.

So many LEGOS, so little time. Celebrate KidFest Labor Day weekend in Austin.

Bumbershoot in Seattle celebrates with music, arts, comedy and has Youngershoot – a festival within the festival created just for kids.

LEGOS, my new favorite thing to do, make the scene in Denver at the Zoo, and KidFest in Austen, Texas.

William Shakespeare sets the stage in Washington DC with Midsummer Night’s Dream performances as part of the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s annual “Free for All.” In San Francisco SFShakes presents free Shakespeare in the Park productions of Romeo and Juliet at The Presidio.

Add to these ideas a slew of Renaissance festivals which fall during Labor Day weekend and inlcude themed celebrations, interactive quests, and royal parades. The send-off to summer looks promising.

For the full list of family-friendly festivals and events including the best of Labor Day celebrations go to the Festivals and Events folder featured at

Yippee for Labor Day!

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files

Summer Road Trips to the 16th Century.

Renaissance festivals can be the perfect stress reliever for an over scheduled family. My family and I have enjoyed more than a dozen Ren faires in various locations always dressing the part and melding with the faire atmosphere.  I know from experience that one of the best parts of any Ren faire experience is imagining together about another time in history and play acting along with everyone else. There really is no substitute for being there.

Renaissance faire magic.

Being a princess for a day is part of the Renaissance faire magic.

The best Ren faires create a 16th century time capsule (sometimes loosely translated) where royalty reigns and jousts are the order of the day. There’s music and dance, royal parades and artisan shops plus scrumptious food. It is a place where bards, jesters, puppeteers, falconers, magicians and fairy folk mingle with gallant knights, beautiful princesses, an occasional dastardly dragon, and uncommon folk from this century.

Ren faires create an atmosphere punctuated by lively entertainment and living history moments, creating the perfect setting for a carefree family experience difficult to duplicate on your own. Where else can you dress up and pretend to be a pirate, or a jester, lady in waiting or a forest fairy? Where else can you practice speaking like a citizen of the shire; enjoy falconry, human-powered rides, enchanted mazes and organized quests? Where else can you hear storytellers, see a royal court, watch jousting, puppeteers, and jesters? And where else can you eat with your fingers?

Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin.

Huzzah! Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin makes summer in the 16th century magical for everyone who attends.

The faire atmosphere creates the ultimate interactive family experience with seeing, doing, and pretending all part of the fun. It’s an easy way practice imaging together without the aid of electronic devices. The immersive experience is bound to stretch your child’s comfort zone with 16tth century activities, sights, sounds, aromas and costumes all part of the day.

If a road trip to the 16th century makes sense then head for one of the best locations. My suggestions include Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin, Great Lakes Medieval Faire in Ohio, Holly Michigan Renaissance Festival, Ohio Renaissance Festival, Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, New York Renaissance Faire, and Minnesota Renaissance Festival.


Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files

Dr. Suess & Nano Science, Really?

The annual Read Across America Day coincides with the birthday of Dr. Seuss. The National Education Association’s nationwide reading celebration takes place at thousands of museums and libraries this weekend as well as on Monday, March 2. This year’s theme focuses on the Seuss classic, Oh, The Places You’ll Go.

For anyone who appreciates art, loves science and a good story, Theodor Seuss Geisel, much better known as Dr. Seuss, is a hero. He was born March 2, 1904, and is known for his 46 children’s books, including such classics as The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, Green Eggs and Ham, and my favorite, Horton Hears a Who.

Horton Hears a Who in Fort Worth

A special moment in the sun where Horton Hears A Who outside the Museum of Science & Industry in Fort Worth, Texas.

So what do Dr. Suess and nano science have in common? NanoDays also held in March has an obvious connection to Dr. Seuss. As my favorite 10 year-old explained to me, “Think tiny, tiny, I mean really tiny, less than micro and you will have nano.” His best example for me was the book Horton Hears a Who. The example, though not highly scientific, makes sense to me.

NanoDays is a nationwide celebration of nanoscale science created to enable participants to imagine, discover, and explore a world that’s too small to see. I feel like Horton would love the idea.

Each spring at the very end of March more than 200 children’s museums and science centers, across the country host engaging events combing nano science with storytelling, interactive activities, and family fun.

What parents really need to know is that in the future nano science will play a big part in the wellbeing of our planet. So it pays to get children interested and excited about the possibilities offered by nanos. Maybe start by reading Horton Hears a Who.

But for this weekend maybe I will find a copy of Oh, The Places You’ll Go.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.


Bird Encounter Milan

Windows to the World.

Throughout the year I encourage parents and grandparents to share unique experiences and mini adventures with their young companions and more times than not my suggestions and recommendations have to do with nurturing citizens of the world.

Bird Encounter Milan

Milan offers unexpected surprises and contrasts to engage all ages in celebrating life on the planet.

The sharing part is key because children learn what they live and ultimately live what they learn. I could wax on about the raising citizens of the world, one of my favorite topics, but not in a family travel blog. My point, as it relates to family travel is that when children share positive cultural experiences with adults whom they love and respect the result can only be good for everyone. And with each positive experience the nurturing of a young citizen of the world evolves.

Hence I continue to post terrific ways for families to discover the world with or without passports. I believe the best cultural experiences combine music, dance, and cuisine and offer ways to participate in activities.
At the top of my list Chinese New Year celebrations which span the country from Zoominations – Chinese Lantern Festival of Lights in Tampa to Chicago’s urban celebrations and a string of events at Westfield shopping centers in California. However possibilities punctuate the calendar year.

Each Spring Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee hosts Festival of Nations and all year long the Irish Music School of Chicago hosts family-friendly events. Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, Minnesota conducts cross-cultural programs for multiple generations. Attending the Ceilidh presented by College of Piping in Summerside, PEI cannot be beat and the immersive programs at Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village in Alberta are always lively and inspiring.

The celebrations, activities and locations which provide families with windows to the world enrich lives and nurture citizens of the world while creating memories to be cherished. For family fun my list is endless and includes kite flying ceremonies, tapas tasting, big birds in Milan, and mariachi music as well as tea ceremonies, dumpling making, and lefsa. I do not have a favorite window.
Ciao for now. Nancy Nelson-Duac Curator of the Good Stuff for Family Travel Files.