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Archive for May, 2013

FREE is Good! (part 1 of a 3 part series)

Posted: May 29th, 2013 by

beach by vlitvinov
Schools out, and while many folks plan their summer vacation well in advance, there are that many more who don’t. All, however, face the daunting task of where to take the family, especially if children are involved. Pets are also often a consideration as to whether to leave them with a caretaker or pack their leashes and include them in the summer fun.

The cost of getting away can be a factor, and often dictates how far one can go and how long they can stay. Let’s face it, vacations can be quite costly; I have therefore collected a montage of fun or interesting places for the family, focusing on FREE. I have even included a post script where the family pet is concerned. Read on . . .

marine helicopter by ahisgettAlabama bound? Why not visit the U.S. Army Aviation Museum in Fort Rucker, Alabama, where admission is FREE and it has a kid-friendly environment. A Trip Advisor review stated, “Interesting and kid friendly . . . our 9 year old especially loved it as there was a helicopter he could climb into.”

An interesting factoid: Fort Rucker is a U.S. Army Aviation Center training military, civilian and international personnel in aviation and leadership skills and is situated in SE Alabama near the Florida and Georgia State lines. It is also near Enterprise Alabama, a city that built and dedicated a monument to an agricultural pest, the Boll Weevil (the only monument of its kind in the world).

A popular outdoor recreation area is Cedar Falls in Petit Jean State Park

A popular outdoor recreation area is
Cedar Falls in Petit Jean State Park

Families who live in or near Arkansas are indeed lucky. Check out their on-line calendar featuring FREE FUN ACTIVITIES and EVENTS for the entire year, including the 28th Annual Steamboat Days in Des Arc, or the 42nd Annual Smackover Oil Town Festival and you won’t want to miss Donkey Day: The True Spirit of Independence on the 4th of July in Mountain View.

You might easily hear the strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” when visiting the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest near Louisville, Kentucky. Admission is FREE but there may be a ‘nominal’ Environmental Impact Fee for vehicles during the weekends and holidays. Some events to look for during the summer months include ECO Kids Discovery Day on June 1st, then on June 2, bring the whole family for FREE Fishing Days at Berhneim’s Cedar Pond and Holly Pond.

Photo courtesy St. Louis Zoo.org

Photo courtesy St. Louis Zoo.org

Admission to one of the most well-known Zoos in North America is FREE; however, there are nominal costs for various attractions at the St. Louis Zoo in St. Louis, Missouri. If you get there early, during the first hour of operation, you can ride the Mary Ann Lee Conservation Carousel FREE, featuring “64 colorful hand-carved wooden animals, representing protected and endangered species at the Saint Louis Zoo,” or visit the Children’s Zoo at no cost as well. Another FREE thing in St. Louis is simply observing the iconic Gateway Arch.

Be sure to read part 2 of this 3 part series on FREE is Good!

We Remember . . .

Posted: May 22nd, 2013 by

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - Arlington National Cemetery Wikimedia Commons Image Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – Arlington National Cemetery
Wikimedia Commons Image

Memorial Day is seen differently by many.  There are those who see it as a 3-day holiday, time to gather with friends and family for a backyard BBQ or a picnic in the park.  Others look at it as the start of summer vacation.  Depending on the area you live you might appreciate the warmth it brings; a real end to late spring winter-like weather.  Often young people see it as the official ending of the school year with visions of sleeping late or playing the day away. Late May is also a gardeners’ delight.  No matter how you view Memorial Day, there is one constant for the last Monday in May It is a Day of Remembrance.

Three years after the end of the Civil War, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) established Decoration Day (with the first large observance held at Arlington National Cemetery) a day set aside to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers, on May 30, a time when most flowers were in bloom throughout the country. 

Memorial Day Flickr image by cwwcoff1

Memorial Day
Flickr image by cwwcoff1

Major General John A. Logan declared, in 1868, “to decorate graves with the choicest of flowers of spring time. . . we should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. . . let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners.  Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

There has been some dispute though as to the birthplace of Memorial Day with approximately 25 places named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, and although many were in the south, the official birthplace of Memorial Day was declared in 1966, when Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York as the “birthplace” of Memorial Day; then by an act of Congress in 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday and to honor those who have died in American wars.  In December 2000, Congress passed The National Moment of Remembrance Act, to remember all of America’s fallen heroes.

Interestingly enough, tourism bridges all that is associated with Memorial Day, for the likelihood of travel is a given.

Viet Nam War Memorial Wikimedia Commons Image

Viet Nam War Memorial
Wikimedia Commons Image

Here is a list of some events taking place on Memorial Day ‘Weekend’ 2013

• Saturday, May 25 – 1:00-5:00 pm & May 27 – FREE admission – National Veterans Art Museum – Chicago, Illinois – Exhibit: Tenacity and Truth: People, Places and memories – Note: May 25 – 11:00 am – Wreath Laying Ceremony, Richard J. Daley Center Plaza, Chicago, IL – Parade to follow at Noon – on State Street (from lake Street to Van Buren Street) – For more information visit: www.nvam.org

• Monday, May 27 – 5:45 pm. (FREE admission) – across the river from downtown Wilmington, NCUSS Battleship North Carolina – 48th Annual Observance – visit www.battleshipnc.com/Events/MemorialDay

• Friday, May 24 – Monday, May 27 – Atlanta JAZZ Festival – Atlanta, GA / Chastain Park, Piedmont Park / Loews Atlanta Hotel – for complete schedule and details visit: www.atlanta.net/visitors/atlanta-jazz-festival.html

• Sunday, May 26 – National Memorial Day Concert – 8:00 p.m. (FREE) – West lawn of the U.S. Capitol – Washington, D.C. For more information visit:dc.about.com/od/specialeventphotos1/ss/MemDayConcert.htm

• Friday, May 24 – Electric Run – 8:20 – 11:00 pm – Begin from Home Depot Center – (Carson) Los Angeles, California. Check website for cost and details: www.electricrun.com/losangeles

• Here are some other sites to visit with details about their Memorial Day Weekend Events:
www.Brooklynmemorialdayparade.com
www.denver.org/what-to-do/museum-art/memorial-day-denver-weekend

Please join our company and employees, and our franchises, in taking a moment to reflect in appreciation for those persons who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

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Awe-Inspiring Tourism Sites: For the Nature-Lover in All of Us . . .

Posted: May 9th, 2013 by

I just recently read the latest issue of Vacations where they featured 12 awe-inspiring U.S. preserves. I have always enjoyed nature, as I’m sure many of our blog readers do, so I thought why not join in and feature some lesser know but equally ‘awe’ inspiring natural habitats that just might encourage you to load up the family and hit the road…

orange-chinned parakeet flickr sussexbirderWildwood Wildlife and Nature Center (aka Zoo of the Northwoods in Minocqua) is the 2nd largest zoo in Wisconsin, where you can get “up close and personal” while you have lunch at the all new Jambo Hut overlooking the Giraffe Serengeti habitat area, or with kiddies in hand you might want to have an interactive Budgie encounter where over 500 beautiful parakeets intermingle with the zoo’s guests. For those not into new-found feathered friends, you might want to bottle feed any number of animal bottle babies in their interactive petting zoo. Note: flickr photo of the two orange chinned parakeets is by sussexbirder

Perhaps one of the most unusual ‘animal type preserve’ is Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Georgia, just south of Atlanta, where more than 1,000 exotic, wildlife and domestic animals call home, living side-by-side, as witnessed in these photos. The only way to do this sanctuary justice is to simply point you to their website.
lion-tiger-bear_1538513i

Maybe you’re not into areas of confinement: if so, then the Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway provides plenty of wide-open spaces, impressive any time of year, but more so in the Spring and Fall seasons when millions of migrating birds rest their wings and refuel at the Byway Wetlands. The region is filled with other species as well where you can find “burrowing owls to bobcats.”

The 77-mile Byway, including a stretch of the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas, connects two of the “world’s most significant wetlands” (Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge), and may very well change your vision of the Sunflower State.

Cheyenne Bottoms - photo by dr da wittCheyenne Bottoms is the largest interior marsh in the United States and one of the “most important shorebird migration stopover points in the Western Hemisphere where more than half of all shorebirds that migrate east of the Rockies pass through this 40,000-acre lowland” . . . and surely a favorite of ‘peepers’ also known as bird watchers.

It is said “there remain only a handful of natural places on this planet that display a vast, timeless, landscape,” places like the wetlands treasure, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Others include the Serengeti, the Everglades and the Amazon . . . all a wonder to behold.

bl tail jr wikimiAnother phenomenon that is part of this ecological wonder is the presence of the black tailed Jack Rabbit, where in Kansas it is a sport to hunt Jack Rabbits on horseback and with Greyhound dogs. These rabbits can run up to 40 mph and leap up to 25 feet in one bound. There are also bison, prairie dogs and the not so well known “magic muck” which sustains life for the many species that have a temporary or permanent home in the wetlands.

The beauty of nature is captivating, and we indeed are fortunate to have places such as the Zoo of the Northwoods, Noah’s Ark, and Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway. So, if touring Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska, or ‘scoping’ out lava in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is not on your list this year, perhaps Kansas, Wisconsin and Georgia are on your mind . . .