Shedd Aquarium in Chicago

We had been to Chicago several times before visiting the Shedd Aquarium, but we were glad that we finally made our way to this attraction. The aquarium hosts an amazing variety of species of both saltwater and freshwater fish and other animals. It is certainly a great place for families as there is plenty for children or adults that are children at heart. Not everyone agrees with zoos and aquariums, but it depends on both the treatment of the animals as well as their commitment to rescuing injured animals and conservation of animals in the wild. It truly seems that the Shedd Aquarium is committed to both and we were even told about a giant sea turtle that was rescued after being injured by a boat and now lives in the large Caribbean Reef exhibit.

There are some very interesting exhibits including Amazon Rising, Polar Play Zone, Wild Reef, Caribbean Reef, and more. In addition to the exhibits there are also several interactive activities that you can enjoy such as animal encounters, animal chats, and aquatic presentations. We were able to watch and listen to a diver as he fed fish in the Caribbean Reef exhibit, which has a prominent location in the center of the aquarium. If you are willing to reach out to the aquarium in advance, there are opportunities to do a variety of special activities like sleepovers in the aquarium, behind the scene tours, and even the opportunity to be a trainer for a day.

IMG_2195
Diver Feeding a Stingray in the Caribbean Reef Exhibit
IMG_2176
Beluga Whale Grabbing a Scarf
IMG_2184
Part of the Amazon Rising Exhibit

We really enjoyed watching the Beluga whales play with what appeared to be strips of fabric, almost like scarves. They would grab them with their mouths, drop them, and then grab them with their fins or tail. It seemed that they really enjoyed playing with them and they were not doing it as part of a show or to receive any treats from a trainer. Another favorite thing to see while at the aquarium are the penguins as they are always cute and adorable. On the flip side, watching the sharks as they circle the large tank is equally fascinating, but everyone is certainly glad to be on the other side of the glass.

IMG_2203
Diver Talking about Caribbean Ocean Life
IMG_2167
Beluga Whale Playing
IMG_2220
Sharks Circling the Tank (Sorry It is Blurry)

If you are planning a trip to Chicago, visiting the Shedd Aquarium is certainly well worth the visit. It is a perfect place to go when the weather outside is cold and rainy or snowy. Prices for non-Chicago residents are twice the price of Chicago residents although it is included in the CityPASS ticket, which makes that a preferable option to just buying tickets to the aquarium itself.

IMG_2214
Colorful Fish and Reef

IMG_2183
A Learning Experience

 

Steamboat Springs, Colorado

DSC_3383
Colorful Wildflower

Most people associate Steamboat Springs with being a destination for skiing, which would be correct, but it is also a popular destination during the summer. Situated in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, there is ample hiking, biking, zip lining, golf, and other activities. The town of Steamboat Springs is a typical Colorado mountain town with historic buildings and ample choices of restaurants and local shops. Whether mountain biking, walking or riding bikes along the Yampa River, playing miniature golf, or riding down the Alpine Slide, there are plenty of things for children as well as adults.

DSC_3397
View of Downtown Steamboat Springs
DSC_3380
The Yampa River
IMG_5861
Stunning Views as You Drive to Steamboat
DSC_3411
Fun for the Children
DSC_3390
Shopping and Dining in the Old Town Square

Getting into the mountains is a wonderful way to beat the heat and enjoy fresh air, good food, and get away from the daily grind. If you are looking for solitude, though, you will need to get out of town and go hiking or biking on a nearby trail as the resort town is extremely busy as tourists descend upon it in droves. The weekends are especially congested as people escape from Denver and other surrounding cities to join tourists from around the world. Friday and Saturday nights feature a pro rodeo as well as an opera series during the summer. There is also a farmer’s market on Saturdays with a large variety of local artists, fresh vegetables, and other oddities for sale.

DSC_3396
Farmer’s Market
DSC_3402
Court House
DSC_3400
Busy Streets Downtown
DSC_3382
Walking the Trail along the Yampa River
DSC_3403
Whimsical Statue Downtown

If you make your way out of town and up to the actual ski resort, you take the gondola to the top to enjoy the views or, if you are more daring, rent a mountain bike and take a thrilling ride down the side of the mountain. There is also horseback riding or white water rafting for those who want a true mountain experience. With so much to do, you may find yourself jumping in the hot tub of your local condominium or hotel to sooth those aching muscles at the end of the day. Also, be aware that Steamboat Springs is at 6,700 feet (2,050 meters), so be sure to drink plenty of water as well as sports drinks. When not refueling, perhaps enjoy one of the many local craft beers that are available in the restaurants and pubs.

DSC_3410
Gondola to the Top of the Mountain
DSC_3395
Bike Rentals and Rafting Adventures
IMG_5857
Enjoying a Drink at the Ski Resort
DSC_3405
Biking across the River
DSC_3399
Downtown Steamboat Springs

Steamboat Springs is definitely a wonderful place to enjoy the best of what Colorado has to offer. Stunning views, outdoor activities, friendly people, and gourmet dining. Regardless of your fitness level, you will be able to find activities that suit your lifestyle. Also, being a large ski resort area, you can find accommodations ranging from upscale hotels and resort condominiums to motels and cabins catering to almost any budget.

IMG_5863
Rugged Scenery
DSC_3421
Miniature Golf
DSC_3407
Statue at the Resort
DSC_3387
Downtown Stores and Restaurants

Washington DC – A National Treasure

With its array of monuments, museums, and landmarks, Washington DC is truly a world-class city.  You could easily spend a couple of weeks in Washington and still not see everything that it has to offer, which is somewhat ironic for the two of us.  We both lived outside of major cities growing up, one of us outside of DC and the other outside of Philadelphia and other than taking friends and family into the city when they came to visit, we avoided the tourist locations due to the crowds.  So, despite living close to great cities for much of our lives, we actually saw more of those cities later, after we had moved to Colorado and then gone back as tourists ourselves.

The United States Capital
The United States Capital
The Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument
The Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument
Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
War Memorial Statues
War Memorial Statues

We had taken the kids to Washington during the summer of 2001 and it was an amazing time, albeit a whirlwind trip.  Unfortunately, it was one of the hottest and muggiest summers for the area, one where the heat was downright oppressive.  At the time, the kids complained literally every fifteen minutes about how miserable they were due to the heat and that all they wanted to do was go inside and do nothing.  But these were the days of what we like to call “education vacations”, so we were determined to see as much as possible, despite the complaints and weather.  At the time it seemed like none of the children enjoyed a single moment of the trip, but years later we would find out that they actually truly appreciated everything that they saw.

The Kids with a Statue of Roosevelt
The Kids with a Statue of Roosevelt
Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
Washington Monument
Washington Monument
The Capital Dome
The Capital Dome

There is so much to see in Washington that is hard to know where to start.  Being the nation’s capital, it is obviously important to see the United States Capital as well as the White House.  We were there before the attacks of September 11 and access to these seats of government was greater than it is today.  There is so much history associated with these great landmarks and every American should see them at least once in their lives.  Seeing the National Mall and the Washington Monument is another absolute must while you’re visiting Washington.  Completing the tour of the monuments by visiting the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial should put you in a patriotic mood as you pay homage to the founding fathers.  While at the National Mall, you should also be sure to go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, it is a very moving tribute to the victims of the holocaust and meant to educate people about the atrocities that man is capable of so that future generations don’t repeat the atrocities.

The White House
The White House
United States Capital
United States Capital
The Jefferson Memorial
The Jefferson Memorial
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial and the Korean War Veteran’s Memorial are both beautiful and haunting.  Seeing all of the names on the memorial wall of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial is something that is very meaningful to people of our generation who had family members who served at the time.  Visiting the National Cemetery and watching the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is something that you will never forget.  Seeing the respect that our current military pay to the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice is incredibly humbling.

Changing of the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Changing of the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Then there is Old Town Alexandria, just across the Potomac River in Northern Virginia, truly one of our favorite places.  Seeing Ford’s Theatre where President Lincoln was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth is another place that will make you pause and reflect.  Not everything in Washington is about the memorials, there are the Smithsonian Museums with their dazzling array of artifacts and pieces of American history.  There is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which still has performances on a grand scale that are definitely worth attending.  And certainly there are no shortage of restaurants to suit anyone’s tastes.

Ford's Theatre and the Balcony where Lincoln was Shot
Ford’s Theatre and the Balcony where Lincoln was Shot
Display at Ford's Theatre
Display at Ford’s Theatre
The Smithsonian Museum
The Smithsonian Museum
Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum

Washington DC is probably America’s greatest city.  It is truly a different experience and was designed specifically to be that.  From the layout of the streets that was planned by Pierre Charles L’Enfant in the Baroque style, with avenues radiating out from rectangles to the height restrictions that ensure that the Washington Monument and United States Capital are visible for all to see.  Washington DC is the closest thing that the United States has to an “old world” city and it is truly a pleasure to visit and see.  There is so much more to see than just the monuments and museums, too much to describe in a single post.  It is truly a city that everyone should visit at some time or another and definitely a city that every American should be proud to have as our nation’s capital.

Funeral Procession at the National Cemetery
Funeral Procession at the National Cemetery
Ford's Theatre Sign
Ford’s Theatre Sign
Jefferson Memorial
Jefferson Memorial
John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame at the National Cemetery
John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame at the National Cemetery
Washington Display
Washington Display