Tag Archives: museums

Everyone MUST go to Columbus, Georgia

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We spent a fast paced 3 days in Columbus, Georgia over the US Thanksgiving long-weekend and LOVED every minute of it. We knew very little about the town other than what I had seen online from the Kellogg and Holcombe families kayaking experiences and were blown away by the amenities, the history and the people.

Columbus is located on the Alabama/Georgia border with the Chattahoochee River running right through the middle of town. It was built on a bluff beside the river and founded in 1828, named for Christopher Columbus. In 1850 the railroad arrived and by 1860 it was one of the more important industrial locations in the south, with textile mills up and down the river. With the civil war in 1861 Columbus industries increased capacity and Columbus ranked second to Richmond as a centre of commerce within the Confederacy.

Although much of the town was destroyed at the end of the Civil War by union troops, most things were quickly rebuilt and by the Spanish-American War the town was thriving again. The addition of Fort Benning has also been a significant contribution to the community and local economy.

The late 1990’s saw a significant revitalization occurring through the establishment of a Business Improvement District downtown. This non-profit group has focused on major capital investments that have resulted in Columbus being noted as a top place to live as a young person.

We made good use of our bikes to explore Columbus and rode all the way out to Fort Benning and the National Infantry Museum (37km round trip). It was a beautiful fall day and the river walk trail is very scenic and well maintained. The museum itself is a bargain – there is no entry fee, just a requested donation of $5.00. The exhibits cover off the life of the Infantry from the Civil War to current day as well as highlighting the role that Fort Benning plays in the development of the Infantry. Needless to say, Hunter was thrilled and we spent a good 3 hours wandering around the various exhibits.

The main draw for us to go to Columbus was the whitewater play park that they have built right downtown. As part of their Ready to Raft 2012 campaign, the community developed over 8 miles of whitewater features on the Chattahoochee and some great play features right in the middle of downtown. This created the longest urban whitewater rafting venue in the world. The river is dam released and while we were there the water ranged from 1 Turbine (about 1,000 cfs) up to 3 turbines (about 8,000 cfs). At times it can run full out at between 15-18,000 cfs, which makes it the biggest water volume on the east coast outside of the Ottawa River. On both Saturday and Sunday it was running at 1 turbine during the day and then shifted to 3 turbines at 5pm. We planned our paddles to warm up at 1 turbine and then get to ride the flow increase all the way up to 3 turbines – it was really neat to see the features change as the flow increased.

There is a nice big island right at the put in and it usually attracts lots of people for photos along the river and to watch the paddling scene. The lights kick on just as dusk starts and stay until 10pm in the winter and 11pm in the summer making you feel like a total rockstar! It does help to have paddled the features during the day so you have some sense of the water…

IMG_3157Broadway Avenue is 2 blocks up from the river and full of shops and restaurants. We did not move the truck between when we arrived Friday night and when we left on Monday at lunch time. Everything we needed was in walking or biking distance, which was so handy. Best dinner was had at Your Pie – a custom pizza place in the historic district. Hand made, brick fired pizza plus yummy drinks on tap. It was so good (and came after our epic day of biking) that we ordered a full second round of pizzas!

DSCN1501Our amazing experience in Columbus was completely due to the five star service from the staff at The Outside World, a local gear store in town. They helped us find somewhere to park, pointed out everything we needed to know and were beyond friendly. They also have great gear in their store! In addition to that, every kayaker we ran into was happy to contribute to our knowledge and education about the water and the waves.

Columbus has something for everyone and we will definitely be back again!

 

 

Ottawa – a homeschool playground

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Hunter and I extended our usual Ontario trip by 5 days and headed eastwards to Ottawa to kick off the school year and immerse ourselves in all things Canadian History and Government related.

IMG_2627We talked Grandma Lynne into joining us for the week and kicked things off by venturing four hours east down the rails with ViaRail in business class. At Grandma’s suggestion, we also based ourselves out of the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, which is right in the heart of Ottawa and was a thrill for Hunter on so many fronts.

We spent our first afternoon and evening at Parliament Hill. We caught the last tour at Parliament Hill and learned all about the House and the Senate as well as some of the history behind the building itself. We were also lucky to experience one of the last nights of the Canadian History lights show called Mosaika. It was 20 minutes long and walked you through the history of Canada using stories, lights and visual displays using the Parliament Buildings as the back screen. You parked yourself on the front lawn and it felt like a big summer party with a thousand of your friends…

Day two was spent split between the Supreme Court of Canada and the National History Museum. Our tour of the Supreme Court was really well done. We had to book ahead of time and it was a small group of 8 people which made it easy to engage and inquire about both the physical location and the processes. I think that Grandma Lynne and I got more out of this tour than Hunter as we learned many new things about the mechanics of what brings a case to the Supreme Court.

We took advantage of the nice summer weather and walked from the Supreme Court to the Museum over the Portage Bridge. Half way along the bridge is this really high-tech bike counter that counts the traffic in the bike lane. Hunter tried a number of times to get counted as a pedestrian but it was too smart! When we hit Gatineau (other side of the bridge), Hunter was thrilled that he was now in Quebec. Lots of discussion then quickly followed with respect to first language laws and all of the french signage.

Our primary reason for hitting the Museum of History was to attend the Imax movie about D-Day Normandy 1944, which was a big hit. One of the best educational war movies I have seen over the past few years and a great foundation for our year of studying World War I & World War II. We had some time prior to the movie so chose to explore the Children’s Museum. What an amazing resource for elementary school age kids. Through various interactive exhibits the kids travel around the world. One of our favourite stops was learning to spell our names in hieroglyphics. Travel hint – if you land at the museum around lunch time, check out the cafeteria on the ground floor which is very kid friendly compared to the fancier, more expensive restaurant on the main floor.

 

The Ottawa River runs between Gatineau/Hull and Ottawa and acts as a border between Ontario and Quebec, and it’s an interesting example of cross border collaboration and the area being called the “National Capital Region”. After a long day of walking we enjoyed the fun of taking the water taxi from the Museum across the River to the bottom of the Rideau River at the base of the Chateau Laurier Hotel and Parliament Buildings.

Day three was all about WAR… We spent a good chunk of the day at the Canadian War Museum and it was definitely a highlight for the trip for Hunter. The War Museum was only established 5 years ago so is a very new face in Ottawa. They have done a very good job building historical content in a number of different mediums to appeal to varying ages. I think we all learned a lot of interesting things here. The museum also has a lot of very helpful educational resources on-line on their website.

Tucked in between the Chateau Laurier Hotel and the Parliament Buildings is the Rideau Canal System, which stretches 202km between Ottawa and Kingston. We walked by the locks almost every day and were really curious about the actual mechanics of the lock system as they looked really old and very manual compared to our experience at the Bobcaygeon locks the week before. Hunter and I got lucky on our walk back from the War Museum as there was a boat going through the lock system. It truly is all hand operated and seems to take 3 staff to make it work. The signs say that it takes up to 1.5 hours to go through the last 8 locks in Ottawa as you are moving up or down 80 feet.

Byward Market was right around the corner from the hotel and I LOVE local farmers markets. I love the ambience and the air of possibilities – being surrounded by so much fresh food and so many yummy smells! We grabbed burrito’s for lunch one day from a local mexican food vendor and Hunter also had his very first Beaver Tail experience, which he deemed a full success!

Day Four was a slower day – it was our last full day in Ottawa and people were running out of steam. Our morning stop was the National Art Gallery. It was another sunny day so we enjoyed the walk over and how bright the sun made everything inside the gallery itself. Hunter is not quite at the full art appreciation level so there was some speed walking through parts of the gallery. We checked out the Group of Seven collection and did some basic compare and contrast discussions with respect to the various European styles vs the Group of Seven. We also went through the Gustave Dore special exhibit and spent some time learning to draw caricatures, which was one of Dore’s many talents. The other special exhibit was a photography exhibit on World War I – it was all in black and white and extended our ongoing discussion about War and it’s various facets and impacts. The National Art Gallery also has a small but well run and highly engaging kids area. They have many resources to help make an art gallery tour fun, as well as many ever changing hands on art activities.

Our afternoon was spent at a tour of the National Mint. Super Duper security and you must book ahead for these tours. We had a lot of fun playing with the displays outside the main building. Even more impressed with the large brick of gold that we got to pick up (it was heavy!! and heavily guarded). The actual tour itself was somewhat of a disappointment. As it was on a Sunday, the Mint was not running so there wasn’t a lot of action. Hunter’s opinion was that it “sucked sucked sucked” as at the general currency coins are made at the mint facility in Winnipeg and that was what he was hoping to see. He wasn’t impressed with the investment and collector coins that they make in Ottawa.

One of the most memorable parts of our visit to Ottawa was our Fairmont Experience. We shared a room with Grandma, which made it more affordable and chose to stay on the Fairmont Gold floor as it included breakfasts and evening cocktail hour, which well exceeded the incremental room cost. Our very first cocktail hour Hunter got a magical hot chocolate from one of the staff – it was perfectly made and in a big cafe au lait bowl cup. The next morning the same staff member was working breakfast and he recognized Hunter from the night before and proactively brought him a hot chocolate… Talk about smiles from ear to ear. Hunter was on cloud nine and the service our entire stay was memorable and the cherry on the top was the postcard that arrived for Hunter a week after we got home from this staff member wishing him safe travels. This will be hard to beat!

Our five days in Ottawa was really just a scratching of the surface. There are so many amazing learning resources and experiences that I think you could easily spend 10-14 days in the region to cover everything off. We had a great time and, as always, in person learning is so much richer than book learning. It was a great way to launch ourselves into Grade Six Social Studies. Thanks to Grandma Lynne for hanging out with us and making the adventure that much richer.

Adventures in Tucson, Arizona

hunter bmx park 3We stayed in Tucson for 10 days and it was full of fun and adventure. Yet another stop where we experienced so much more than what you can find on paper…

The first part of our adventure was choosing to stay at the Voyager RV Park. It is a massive (4000 people) adult only community that is geared towards active retirees. We were wooed by the amazing number of facilities and activities and they swore that Hunter was welcomed. Having stayed with Tim’s parents in Florida at an “RV Park”, we were in for quite the surprise here – everyone was incredibly friendly and very very active, physically and socially. I did water aerobics in the pool in the morning (a good level for my side that is still in rehab), the boys spent some time with the wood carving club, Hunter and I played water volleyball most afternoons and we played tennis in the afternoon or evening each night.

We explored the local National Park – Saguaro National Park and learned a great deal about desert plants and animals.

We stopped on the way back home at Ben’s Bikes, learned about the local trails and got invited to check out the BMX track that night – another first for Hunter and so much fun!

We explored the Pima Air and Space Museum and the boneyard – airplanes as far as the eye can see…

All around – a great stop. Tucson seems like a little big city – lots of amenities but still easy to get around in and a very human feel to everything. It also helps that the weather was fabulous!!! Sunny and warm each day.

St. Augustine – North America’s oldest city

tim hunter ponce de leonSt. Augustine was founded in 1565 and has the title of the oldest city in North America. It is a fairly small city (population approx 30,000) and it is packed with historic buildings and sights.

We had originally planned to stay a week and spend our days surfing and sightseeing. A cold front blew in with very cool temps, high winds and rains so we dropped the surfing idea and packed in 2 very full days of sightseeing!

Over the two days we checked out the Visitors Centre, the Pirate Museum, the Government House, the Castillo de San Marcos, the Colonial Quarters and wandered around the old historic town checking out buildings and seeing the sights.

On Friday night we checked out the Light up the Nights display (on National Geographic’s Top 10 light display list), caught an outdoor magic show at the Colonial Quarters and wandered historic St. George Street checking out the cool shops and comparing weapons with other fellow pirates…

hunter pirate st. augustine

hunter weapons shop st augustineWe also had fun experiencing different foods while here – we tried fried alligator, fried green tomatoes and chocolate covered bacon. Fried Alligator was a hit – almost like a white fish, definitely not like chicken. Fried Green tomatoes were “OK” – I had higher hopes for them. Chocolate covered bacon was a thumbs down, which was a surprise based on it combining 2 favourite things…

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