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Posts Tagged ‘Museums’

  1. Discovery World

    January 11, 2015 by admin

    We were recently gifted with a membership to the Discovery World Museum (DWM) in Milwaukee.  We immediately started making plans for a visit.  We’d been to this museum before, so we knew it would be a great trip.  In fact, our kids had been asking when we’d get to go back!

    Tip1:  DWM has very steep admission prices.  If you don’t have a membership, you’ll need to plan ahead for the expense.

    We started our exploration of the DWM at the science and biology end of the building- a three story wing that faces Lake Michigan and offers amazing views along with great interactive displays.  We particularly love the Great Lakes map exhibit where you can actually make rain fall from the ceiling.  And our Bluey greatly enjoys scrambling around on the full sized boat on the 2nd floor.

    IMG_9770In the basement level, a top-notch aquarium can keep you mesmerized for quite some time.  There are jellyfish to watch, and sting rays and sturgeon fish that you can touch!  They feel like… well, that would be telling. You’ll have to find out on your own. 😉

    Tip2:  A snack before romping through the DWM’s 2nd wing is a great idea.  There is only one small, overpriced cafe at the museum.  We recommend you enjoy your own snacks from home!

    At the other side of the building, you’ll find the technology in Wisconsin wing.  It holds fabulous displays on various machines that have been developed and built in Wisconsin- from Evinrude engines to Les Paul guitars.  There are countless devices to manipulate and learn the science and technology that went into making them.

    Also within this wing, The Kohls Design Center allows you to take a break from the museum exhibits and create various arts and crafts projects – for FREE.  A team of assistants will help you find all the materials you need to make a unique craft that you can take home from the museum.IMG_9768

    Exploring the entire DWM will easily take all day, if you can last that long.  If possible, we recommend you break your enjoyment of the DWM into several separate day trips.

  2. Science Expedition

    December 14, 2014 by admin

    IMG_2549For Bluey’s birthday expedition this year, we surprised him with a trip to the Museum of Science & Industry (MSI) in Chicago.  It was quite a day and a great trip!

    We don’t often go on day trips of this magnitude (a 3 hour drive each way!) – but a special occasion calls for a special event!  We told Bluey and Plum about the trip a few days in advance so they’d both have time to prepare and get excited.  And it worked!  Our whole fam was stoked about this adventure.  None of us had ever been to MSI before, so we didn’t know exactly what to expect.  But everyone was ready!

    A few well chosen stops along the way fueled our spirits and we arrived at the Hyde Park neighborhood museum just a  few minutes after it opened. We were surprised that MSI was already getting quite full of visitors so early in the morning.

    Tip1:  MSI offers parking in an underground lot for $20 a day.  There is NO reason to pay this fee.  We found free street parking within a stone’s throw of MSI.  Just read the street signs carefully.

    IMG_9118We typically visit museums on the weekend, so we were a bit thrown by the number of school groups.  The nice thing about dealing with school groups is that the students are supposed to stay with their leader.  So in a museum this large, we found it fairly successful to blitz past the students and find other sections of the museum to explore.

    And boy, is there a lot to experience!

    Tip2: We spent a long time at the Museum and probably only saw about half of it.  We recommend taking time before your visit to map out exhibits that are important to you.  Then come back a second time to explore the areas you missed.IMG_2541

    We began at the ToyMaker3000– an automated toy machine that will create a personalized gyro-top souvenir for $5.  We figured this would become quite crowded later in the day and we thoroughly enjoyed having it to ourselves first thing in the morning.  The  assembly of the gyro-top was fascinating to watch and it was even more fun to play with the toy later that day.

    Tip3:  We absolutely recommend you get a free map from one of the information kiosks!  There is a ridiculous amount to experience, spread out over 4 levels.  You’ll need a map to guide you from one exhibit to another.

    We took a break midday for a meal from the MSI food cafe.  The choices were plentiful but pricey.  We highly recommend you pack your own food.  In good weather, you can eat on the lovely lawns surrounding the museum.

    After lunch, we saw a few more exhibits.  We also visited the gift shop.  There are not a ton of lower price point items and in retrospect, we recommend purchasing the gyro-top and skipping the gift shop.  We then we headed home, exhausted but happy.

  3. Make The Best Of It

    September 26, 2014 by admin

    IMG_7431Everything that we set out to do as a TR family doesn’t result in astounding success with high fives all around. A few of our adventures fall just short of the mark, and some others are utter failures. But we never give up. We have found that if you don’t allow yourself to take some risk, you won’t reap as many rewards.  And one point of heading out on a jaunt is to spend time together- we can always find a way to pull some fun out of any experience!

    We recently headed out to the town of Racine, WI. We had read that their local art museum (RAM) was hosting a fairytale inspired exhibit. And then we discovered that Racine has a small Heritage Museum that is free to visit. Sounded like a great combination for a day trip!

    But it didn’t quite work out that way…

    After paying to gain admittance, we found RAM was smaller than we had hoped and the fairytale exhibit was a bit esoteric for our kids.  But we had a great time when we discovered an unexpected display on pop-up books- including some titles we all recognized.  We also enjoyed an avant garde clothing display, where everything was made from recycled food containers (like juice boxes and sugar packets that were sewn together.)

    Nonetheless, we didn’t spend a tremendous amount of time at RAM and headed up the street to the Heritage Museum.  This museum also not very big, nor particularly geared for kiddoes.  It didn’t take us long to cruise through their exhibits.  Soon enough we found ourselves back on the sidewalks of Racine.

    But our eyes are always open for an unexpected treat, and our family is accustomed to the fact that not every jaunt is going to knock it out of the park.  When we head out to an unknown place, we tell the kids quite clearly: “We don’t know what to expect.  We’ve never been here before.”

    Knowing our proximity to the Lake Michigan shoreline, we looked for a chance to continue exploring Racine in that direction.  We found a parking spot near a marina and walked along the pier for a bit.  We also stumbled upon a little memorial to the Underground Railroad.IMG_2170

    Recharged with some fresh air, we headed for the S.C. Johnson Company factory.  An architecturally unique building, designed in part by Frank Lloyd Wright, it seemed like a fun place to visit.  But it was not to be– tours are permitted only when scheduled in advance and are talking tours aimed at adults only.

    Ah well.

    We decided that it was time for lunch, knowing that some food would help everyone refocus.  We found a fantastic meal at Z’s and finished up our trip to Racine.

    By keeping our spirits up, and our eyes open, we were able to take aways some good memories of Racine.  When our research turns up some more places to check out in that town, we’ll head back.  And if it doesn’t work out– we’ll still find a way to make it a worth while trip.

  4. Your Museum Of Natural History

    August 27, 2014 by admin

    IMG_2160We have a growing collection of sticks, rocks, feathers and other items collected on our various wanders.  We could say it’s just the kids, but TRMom and TRDad are just as likely as anyone to spot a cool something and pick it up for inspection.  We’ve started to dub our ever-growing collection “The Museum.”  And like any other museum, it offers learning opportunities to those who pause to check it out.

    Primarily located on a window sill on our back porch, the Museum houses many natural wonders, which our chief curator Bluey will gladly interpret.  There’s a bird skull from the parking lot of his swim class, the honey comb we found on the bike path.  We have many cool rocks from various parts of the country, and feathers from many birds- especially birds of prey and turkeys, both of which live in our neighborhood.

    IMG_2159Recently, we found a part of a mammal’s lower mandible on our way to the library.  This triggered a full-on investigation about what animal it may have come from.  Bluey offered his own hypotheses, and disproved several contenders by examining animals we had on hand: the cats and the dog.  An internet call-out to our friends who are animal experts and outdoorsy types offered a number of leads.

    We finally decided to head to a nearby state park to compare our sample with their small display of various skeletons.  It has been a great investigation.  We have thoroughly enjoyed all the related conversations about what foods the animal might have eaten, and how it came to be in our neighborhood.

    All from our Museum collection.

    So we encourage you to let your kiddoes bring home their finds.  And to keep them, study them and learn from them.  Start your own museum.

  5. Oh my gosh! It’s Oshkosh.

    August 13, 2014 by admin


    Looking for an inexpensive day trip in the Fox Cities region of Wisconsin?  Then we highly recommend that you check out the Oshkosh Public Museum (OPM).

    IMG_7112The OPM is housed within the historic Sawyer home, which was built by a local lumber baron in 1908.  Along with many museum displays of life around the Lake Winnebago region and various art works,  you can explore some of the homes original interior design.  One of the very special exhibitions is the Apostles Clock which still chimes on the top of every hour, lights up, and begins a not-to-be missed mechanical parade.

    We were very impressed with the number of interactive displays within OPM.  There are some much larger, and well endowed, museums that don’t seem to grasp the positive impact of allowing guests to get hands-on with history.  But OPM understands.  They offer up everything from a scavenger hunt with a prize if completed to a grandma’s attic filled with toys, dress up clothes, and trunks that play music when opened.  We were lucky enough to visit while they hosted a temporary interactive exhibit on parasites!

    Even OPM’s gift shop is better than many we’ve seen.  Along with expensive home decor pieces and books, it offered numerous items for under $5 (even choices under $1), so every family member can get a keepsake to remember their trip.

    The museum also displays numerous xeroxed news articles and original source works regarding OshKosh’s participation in national events, available for free perusal to all guests in the basement level of the museum.

    Admission is free (kids under 6 get in for no charge) if you are a member of ASTC and can fit within the weird confines of those exacerbating distance rules.  Parking is plentiful, restrooms are clean and have changing stations, and the grounds of the museum are worth exploring.

  6. Destination: Neenah

    June 22, 2014 by admin

    IMG_6438We recently discovered the wonderful city of Neenah, Wisconsin.  We’d never even really heard of Neenah before, although we’ve been many times to other cities in the Fox Valley.  We recommend you check out this destination.

    We headed up there to visit the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass.  The museum is located in the former Bergstrom residence in a very swanky neighborhood of Neenah, along the Lake Winnebago shoreline.  After a brief review in the car about ‘looking but not touching once inside,’ we went into the museum.  We were enthusiastically greeted by a docent on the front steps, who made sure to remind us to check out the upper level.

    Tip:  Admission is free with a note about a suggested donation.  There are restrooms but no other services.

    We were impressed right away to find that in the lobby there was a hands-on display!  The kiddoes played with colorful glass triangles on a light table, creating their own little art works, before we headed into the main museum.  And there we found another hands-on display inviting us to use paintbrushes to manipulate glass sand into designs of our own making.  What fun!  We hadn’t expected to be able to touch anything in this museum, but we were pleasantly surprised.  IMG_1953

    After viewing dozens of glass paperweights and beautiful artworks, we were surprised again to find that the museum gift shop had small glass items for sale that were very suitable for young patrons.

    You won’t spend a lot of time at this museum, but it is well worth incorporating into your day trip!

    IMG_6418Directly across the street from the museum, we discovered a fabulous park and playground.  Located right on the waterfront, Riverside Park features a rocket-ship themed play area with a giant rocket climbing structure, moon cars, and more!  The kids tired themselves out before we headed for lunch.

    Downtown Neenah hosts a lively farmers market and has numerous fun shops and cafes along Wisconsin Avenue.   We had a quick lunch and grabbed some ice cream before heading home with the whole family asking when we’d come back to Neenah.

    We look forward to our next trip to this city- what unexplored treasures await us?  The lighthouse? Another cool park?  We’ll let you know what we find.

  7. Yerkes Observatory

    January 12, 2014 by admin

    IMG_4661We walked where Albert Einstein walked.  We stood where Albert Einstein stood.   All while learning about the science and history of astronomy at Yerkes Observatory.

    The Yerkes Observatory is located in Williams Bay, Wisconsin.  It was built in 1897 to house the University of Chicago astronomy department.  This beautiful building is located in what is now a public park.  Take a few moments to admire the building from the outside- the many carvings and intricate details are impressive.  Everyone in your group will be able to find a favorite animal or person carved into the building.IMG_4658

    Inside the building we found a small museum of telescopes and related equipment.  There is a small gift shop, including a number of items at the $5 or under range.

    But the highlight is the tour of the big observatory tower.  This gigantic room houses the observatory’s main telescope.  Your tour guide will explain how the telescope is aimed and how the dome and its giant doors work.  And then they’ll operate the elevator!  The entire floor of the observatory tower is a huge elevator.  It was pretty amazing.  Albert Einstein made a point of visiting Yerkes after winning the Nobel Prize, you can stand right where he stood for a fun photo opportunity.

    Tip:  The tour/museum requests a suggested donation of $5 per person.  You can absolutely enjoy the building and grounds for less than that amount, or for free.

    IMG_4648We’re not sure the entire guided tour is really enjoyable for younger children, but make sure you catch the tail end or you’ll miss out on the big telescope!


  8. Great Museums In Milwaukee

    December 9, 2013 by admin

    IMG_3792Milwaukee is a great city, and we are fortunate enough to live nearby.  As winter sets in, we find that a museum is a fantastic place to visit on the weekends.  Milwaukee has several options.  If you are looking for a place to go in Cream City, check out any of these museums!

    MPM:  We LOVE the Milwaukee Public Museum.  There are three floors of history and science to explore!  We never tire of going here.  It is so big, in fact, we’re pretty sure there’s a nook or two that we haven’t seen yet.IMG_2334

    Discovery World:  A science and technology center focused on Great Lakes ecology and manufacturing, this museum is a whirlwind of activities.  Be prepared to be exhausted when you are finished here.  Admission is steep.

    Harley Museum:  Do you like motorcycles, engines, and/or Americana?  Then the Harley- Davidson Museum might be just for you!  It’s a rather expensive entry, but a fun trip.  Unless you plan on numerous return trips, opting for a membership isn’t worth it.

    Haggerty Museum of Art: This museum on the Marquette University campus is a fun (and Free!) stop.  You should bundle this stop with another destination because you’ll go through the whole museum in under an hour.

    Mitchell Domes:  If the space ship from Silent Running crashed into Milwaukee, it’d look like this: giant futuristic domes filled with plants from all around the world.  Consider a membership as they reciprocate with many public gardens across the U.S.A.

    Milwaukee Art Museum:  We always have a great time here, and we never get through the entire museum in one visit!  If you can, check it out on the first Thursday of the month, when admission is free thanks to Target (children under 12 are always free).  If you have kiddoes in tow, make sure you seek out the free art kits!  These bags full of art activities encourage kids to interact with the exhibits; by trying to create their own versions of some of the works they’ll see, or by following an art scavenger hunt.

    IMG_1155These museums will keep you busy for many weekends of exploring in downtown Milwaukee.

  9. Museum Memberships

    September 30, 2013 by admin

    IMG_0849We’ve spoken at length about how important museum memberships are to support the Arts and to partake of the associated benefits.  But lately, this position has been tested.

    We are proud members of Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM).  Membership to this museum allows you to visit ASTC museums for free, or dramatically reduced rates.  But there is fine print that we didn’t understand until recently (not the fault of MPM).

    If participating museums are within 90 miles of each other, they are “excluded from the Program unless this exclusion is lifted by mutual agreement.”  And to further exacerbate you, “90 miles is measured ‘as the crow flies’ and not by driving distance.”  But wait, there is more:  this rule is “based on your museum’s location,” – the spot where you have membership.  The description then goes on to explain that “based on residence, you must live more than 90 miles away ‘as the crow flies’ from the museum you wish to visit.”

    I’m sure you are as confused as we were when trying to comprehend the rules?  See this hyperlink to help you!

    Now, since we assume you aren’t a crow, and since you can’t use googlemaps to confirm distance, how on earth do you figure out if you are within 90 miles?  Shame on ASTC for adding such ridiculous restrictions when they claim to “promote equity and diversity by providing members with resources and tools to increase the number of individuals from underrepresented and/or underserved groups who visit and work in museums.

    We understand that museums rely, in great part, on their admission fees to continue their programs.  But at the end of the day, we would be quite surprised to see that the admission of ASTC members really breaks any museum’s bottom line.  We encourage them to lift the restriction.  It is absurd.

    Are we not supposed to be neighborly?  Or are our goals not to encourage visitation, education, and the spread of favorable reviews by visitors?  Most people looking for free or discounted admission aren’t doing so just to “mess with the system.”  These are families, or lower income people that can’t afford the typically outrageous admission costs; i.e. the target audience of the ASTC mission .  For example, to visit Discovery World in Milwaukee, our family would have to pay $60 for the day.  This does not include gas from Madison, food, or parking.

    And if you are going to enforce the 90 mile rule, rather than lifting the exclusion, be forthright about it.  Put a list of museums that you will not honor on your website.  We have visited Discovery World twice in the past 2 years without any trouble.  Until just recently when someone decided that they would be the mighty enforcer of the “as the crow flies” and subsequently ruined our weekend plans.

    Of course, if you go to Discovery World’s site, they encourage you to become members to enjoy the benefits of ASTC.  But these benefits are minimal if they only apply to people that are able to drive two hours, and afford the associated costs, to get to a museum for the day.

    Our only advice would be to become a member to a museum with caution and always call ahead to the place that you plan to visit.  Then take notes on who you speak with, as there seems to be nothing but confusion about how to enforce the ASTC policy.

    We hope that the ASTC and their member museums will see the value of increased museum attendance vs. trying to squeeze additional entry fees from the people least able to afford it.

  10. Paper Chase

    August 19, 2013 by admin


    In our research to find all the best places to explore we discovered a museum in Appleton, dedicated to Wisconsin’s paper industry.  We had to check it out.  We took a trip up to Appleton to visit the Paper Discovery Center.

    IMG_1485After some wrangling with the desk clerk about how to process our MPM membership towards the admission, we were free to explore the museum.  We had arrived right as the museum opened (our usual strategy), so we had the place to ourselves.  Much of the museum consists of cardboard models of paper factories that were pretty cool to examine.  And there were also history displays about paper, which our kids breezed by with little interest.

    But there were two great highlights to this visit that made it worthy!  First, a crawl through paper machine, which our kids IMG_1495loved climbing on!  And second, a chance to make recycled paper!  This was the most memorable and enjoyable part of the museum.  A docent lead our kids step by step through the process of shredding old paper, adding color and glitter, and creating our own one of a kind sheets of paper to take home.  What fun!

    At check out, when we were picking up a few small knick-knacks from the gift shop, the receptionist surprised us with a free, large fold up cardboard tractor-trailer truck for our kids!  What a great added bonus!