Share an Out of Gravity Experience with Your Kids.

This summer the Science Museum of Minnesota is showcasing an awesome and most enlightening exhibition about space travel, space living and space in relationship to our future.  It’s a WOW! in Earth terms.

Gigantic Spaceman Science Museum of Minnesota

A gigantic spaceman beckons earthlings to Space: An Out of Gravity Experience at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.

The Minnesota Science Museum has always been on my list of must see museums but until last week I had never stepped inside. Six hours later with two snack breaks, much needed to quell mind overload, I know one visit is not enough. The place is amazing at every turn.

Space: An Out-of-Gravity Experience is one reason to make plans to be in St. Paul with your kids. It is an eye opener. A gargantuan spaceman guards the entrance hall of the Museum beckoning earthlings to get in line to see really cool stuff about the future of travel in space. The presence of the three-story giant is exciting no matter what your age and from the third floor landing it’s possible to see your own surreal reflection in the spaceman’s mask.

Science at Museum of Minnesota space station playhouse.

Science Museum of Minnesota space station playhouse for miniature astronauts attracts kids of all ages to engage in imaginative travel with a mission.

Space poses the question, what does the future hold for earthlings and space travel? It does not cover historic moments or status quo thinking but instead focuses on possibilities. I was enthralled at every turn. The experience begins with a well-scripted cinematic introduction which describes in easy to understand terms the huge challenges facing future explorers and shows how preparations are being made to solve the situations.

Every means of engaging visitors is used to convey concepts which are still on the edges of comprehension for most of us. Interactive stations simulate robotic tasks and consoles allow users to engage in mission planning simulating tasks essential to survival in outer space. Stacking blocks is not as easy as it seems when the task must be completed using a robotic arm. It’s possible to board a life-sized rotating space pod simulating the International Space Station, slightly dizzying but intriguing.

If you are anywhere near St. Paul Minnesota, this is the summer to have an  out of gravity experience with your kids and while you are there sample the gelato for an out of this world taste treat.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

#WestVirginia: Zip-lining & rock-climbing with @ACEadventures

ACE Adventure Center - Zip LineHeights are not really my thing – I don’t like roller-coasters, cliffs or suspension bridges. Increasingly in recent years, I’ve had many friends (and family members) tell me how great zip-lining is, and how it’s “not-to-be-missed.” Who can pass up that sort of recommendation? Continue reading

WOW! Factor Family Adventure Vacations Naturally Loaded with Fun, Energy & Memory Making Value.

Whitewater rafting @ ACE Adventure Resort near Oak Hill in Southern West VirginiaFor active families summer family vacation time is precious and it is pointless to spend a minute or a dime on predictable and boring activities in vacation places without a natural WOW! Factor.

Here’s the scoop. Vacations with a natural WOW! Factor deliver not-to-be-missed moments and one-of-a-kind thrills often seen on the Discovery Channel. Things like surfing a river rapid; hearing the roar of the incoming tide; watching a geyser explode; creating echoes from a mountaintop. I know of dozens of amazing family vacation ideas guaranteed to amaze, thrill, and yield unique family vacation memories. My list includes places where Mother Nature will impress even the most jaded adults and generate a WOW! from the kids. I am sharing a few examples on a short list below. For more ideas browse our Family Adventures lifestyle folder and see just exactly who delivers adventures with a natural WOW! Factor? Continue reading

#Maine – @KingsleyPines #FamilyVacation Camp – Waterskiing, Tennis, Swimming, Free Time, and Great Food.

Maine Kingsley Pines HikingSummer camp by definition is pure fun, so imagine a summer camp for the whole family. A place with no schedule conflicts, no dishes to do, no chores to complete, forget the laundry – a place where everyone gets in on the fun. Each summer Kingsley Pines provides just that – a family camp. Continue reading

California: San Jose, Family Vacation Ideas – NASA, Raging Waters, and STEAM.

San Jose Obon FestivalSan Francisco’s South Bay area is the ideal spot to share fun and learning. From lively festivals and events to inspirational theater and live music, the area is loaded with ways to share fun with kids.

Here’s the scoop. When I think of Mountain View I think of Stanford but the San Jose area offers dozens of opportunities for young families to share fun and learning including watery adventures, shopping, and ways to interact with science and nature. From the tranquility of the Japanese Friendship Gardens or shopping excursions at San Jose’s Santana Row to discovering mammoth bones at the Children’s Discovery Museum or watching movies taken of Mars, there’s something for everyone. For planning purposes I have assembled a list of sure bets – some of them free and the rest worth the coins.

Continue reading

Canada: Family Summer Vacation Adventures – Just Drive North.

Because I lived in Wisconsin as a child I thought a family vacations were taken in Canada – Manitoba or Ontario to be precise. Our family has carried on the “vacation in Canada tradition” having expanded our destinations to include PEI, New Brunswick, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and BC.

The obvious benefits, aside from the pure “fun” value, Canada offers parents a safe friendly way to introduce another culture. The exchange rate is favorable; there is no jet lag involved – well unless you need to cross the Atlantic.

Here’s the deal. It’s Canada (not the excited states) and while there are many similarities, there are plenty of differences worth sharing. For kids the differences will be obvious. The coins look different; the ice cream is better; bi- lingual means English/French; Canadians have a different view of the Revolutionary War. When pressed to name a favorite province we cannot agree. Our youngest stands by Saskatchewan; my husband names New Brunswick; our oldest daughter splits her vote between Quebec and PEI; I love British Columbia and Ontario – think wine. For us every vacation seemed better than the last. But as we look at years of great family vacations, really anywhere in Canada will be terrific.  My short “not-to-be-missed” list of family adventures includes truly awesome experiences meant to be shared with kids.

  1. Attend the Charlottetown Festival and enjoy the fun of being on the island that made Anne of Green Gables a legend. Make sure to have potato fries.
  2. Walk on the ocean floor – no kidding. The Bay of Fundy cannot be explained unless you go there and touch and feel. Spend a day (or a week) at Kings Landing where living history is not exactly like Williamsburg, VA.
  3. Even though it is a bit touristy Niagara Falls is a splendid spot for families. Ride the Maid of the Mist and checkout the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory.
  4. Walk the streets of Quebec City and practice your guidebook French.
  5. Enjoy Montreal’s museums and then ride VIARail from Montreal to the Maritimes.
  6. Walk the tunnels of Moose Jaw, and hear stories at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, or dig for old bones at Eastend in Saskatchewan.
  7. Eat cowboy pancakes and do the two-step at Calgary Stampede.
  8. Dig for old bones at the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller.
  9. Kayak God’s Pocket and go ziplining in Whistler.
  10. Spend a day in Vancouver’s Stanley Park – all the cool stuff in one place.

If kids are happy then everyone will be happy – NO! If mom isn’t happy…

Lawnby Beach, Naples Beach Hotel

I am annoyed at the propensity of family vacation choices which emphasize kids only. We all know family vacation planning is not rocket science – it’s a juggling act with a little sleight of hand to make it happen. The point woman (person) who is charged with making it happen – the family vacation that is – should get some extra benefit. So, I am basically tired of hearing if the kids are happy then everyone will be happy – NO! How about if mom isn’t happy then the vacation will not go well? How about if mom and dad don’t get vacation time fun the whole year could tank? Continue reading