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Must-See Exhibits for Kids at Boston’s Museum of Science

Kids love science like peanut butter loves jelly. So if you’re visiting Boston with kids, be sure to stop by the Museum of Science: “kid-friendly” doesn’t begin to describe it. The MoS’s exhibits – including over 700 interactive ones – are so hands-on, so beautifully geared toward the enjoyment and excitement of science, it’s a perfect fit for the curious kid in your life. Here are six of the must-see exhibits for you and the kiddos to enjoy.

Archimedean Excogitation (entrance hall, lower level)

Upon entering the museum, you’ll encounter Archimedean Excogitation, the audiokinetic sculpture by George Rhoads. You can’t miss it – it’s a 27-foot tall sculpture that demonstrates the relationship between potential and kinetic energy through a complex system of chutes, balls, gears, paddles, and pulleys: picture a huge Rube Goldberg machine, forever in motion.

Colossal Fossil and Dinosaurs: Modeling the Mesozoic (Blue Wing, lower level)

No one – and I mean no one – gets more excited over dino poop than kids do. That, along with bones, footprints, and other dino artifacts, will turn any curious kid into a mini-paleontologist. The exhibits’ centerpieces, however, are a full-size model of a Tyrannosaurus rex and “Cliff,” a 65-million-year-old Triceratops fossil. Older kids will be impressed that it’s one of only four nearly complete Triceratops on public display anywhere in the world.

The 65-million-year-old Triceratops fossil at Museum of Science, one of only four on display in the world. Photo © Emily Roose.

Science in the Park (Blue Wing, level 2)

When my kids see this exhibit from a distance – essentially a playground inside the museum – they immediately bolt for it. Science in the Park takes everyday play objects like seesaws, slides, balls, swings, and bicycle wheels, and shows how they demonstrate scientific concepts like mechanical advantage, leverage, momentum, and force. Kids can participate in their own experiments, like racing a set of lights down a track to measure their speed, or twirling ice-skater style, seeing how different ways of positioning their legs contribute to or hinder their momentum. It’s the principles of mechanics, literally brought to life.

Lightning! (Theater of Electricity, Blue Wing, levels 1 and 2)

Upon entering the Theater of Electricity, you’ll immediately see what looks like two giant metal spheres on pedestals: the world's largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator. What, you may well ask, does a Van de Graaf generator do? As you’ll see demonstrated in a live, loud, edge-of-your-seat 20-minute show, it creates lightning. (Note that this show may be better suited for ages seven and up; younger ones might be afraid of the loud noises and flashes.) The show runs at certain times throughout the day; check the schedule beforehand so you can grab a good seat.

Lightening created in the Van de Graaff generator. Photo © Nicolaus Czarnecki.

Hall of Human Life (Green Wing, level 3)

Kids love to learn about their bodies, and many aspects of human biology – from your DNA to what you eat to where you live – come to life through 70 interactive exhibits. Kids will love exploring questions like “How well can you keep your balance?”’ “How does your body grow?”, “Why does one person get cold faster than another?”, “Why are some faces easier to recall than others?”, “How efficient is your walk?”, “Does the sight of an animal change your pupil size?”, and “How easily are you distracted?” My kids usually gravitate to the Exploration Hub, where they’re mesmerized by a hive of honeybees and an incubator with chicks hatching. Among many hands-on activities, they can piece together a skeleton, learn about nutrients in different foods, examine a dissection of a sheep’s eye, and visit some cotton-top tamarin monkeys.

Kids learn about how their bodies work in the Hall of Human Life. Photo © Michael Malyszko.

The Discovery Center (Red Wing, level 1)

If you have little ones in tow, put the Discovery Center on your must-see list: It’s especially created for babies, toddlers, and young children, with an “Experiment Station” for trying different experiments and building projects. Kids (little and big) will also get a thrill out of Live Animal Story Time, presented at various times throughout the day (Shapiro Family Science Live! Stage, Green Wing, lower level).

An abacus for little ones in the Discovery Center. Photo © Michael Malyszko.

Finally, be sure to check the current offerings for the 4-D Theater, the Charles Hayden Planetarium and the Mugar Omni Theater’s IMAX screen. As of the time of this writing, the 4-D Theater is presenting The Polar Express 4-D Experience, the Planetarium is showing The Magic Tree House: Space Mission (required viewing for fans of Jack and Annie!), and the IMAX is showing Pandas: The Journey Home. While all of these require additional ticket purchases, they’ll make your MoS experience truly spectacular.

Enthusiastic Experts Lead Walks of New York

Walks of New York - "Broadway Behind the Scenes"

Everyone has their preconceived “musts” when they visit New York City. For some, it’s the landmarks: Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Times Square. Others prefer the riches found in some of the world’s greatest museums, such as the Met, MoMA and the American Museum of Natural History. And there are those who find pure joy in getting to know the different boroughs, sampling the ethnic flavors, visiting quirky haunts and eating incomparable cuisine.

The fact is that there’s just no way to see everything in a visit or three. You’ll still just scratch the surface of what New York City has to offer.

For a fuller visitor’s experience, Walks of New York provides affordable walking tours led by enthusiastic experts. The groups are kept small, no more than a dozen per tour, so it’s easier for people to stay engaged and converse with the guide.

“This isn’t a ‘hop-on/hop-off’ charter bus, or a parade of Segways,” explained Stephen Oddo, who cofounded Walks of New York and Walks of Italy in 2009 with Jason Spiehler. “We’ve branded ourselves by offering a higher-quality touring experience, because our guides research their tours and they can speak with authority.”

Walks of New York - "Mario Batali Greenwich Village Food Tour"

Recently, Walks of New York achieved a coup by recruiting famed chef Mario Batali to craft the itinerary for its Greenwich Village Food Tour. Priced at $64 for adults, the three-hour tour takes walkers to Faicco’s for arancini, Raffetto’s to see pasta making, O&Co. olive oil store, and Grom for gelato. The tour includes stops at two Batali restaurants: Otto and Lupa Osteria Romana.

The Broadway Behind the Scenes tour is less about going backstage than being regaled by an insider who will share his or her secrets about life in New York’s famous floodlights. The tour explores the history of landmark theaters, how a show is produced and scuttlebutt about legendary performers. Walkers will see and learn about Times Square, 42nd Street, Rodgers & Hammerstein Way, Sardi’s and Shubert Alley.

“Our goal is to provide a diverse array of tours,” Oddo said. “Broadway is a perfect example. Because we have insiders in the theater industry, you can ask them how much performers make, how the Guild works and everything else that is involved in a show.”

One of the great New York experiences is just being out among the hustle and bustle of humanity. For that, journey to the different boroughs.

Walks of New York - "Lower East Side Stories"

“Each of our neighborhood tours has a unique twist and includes places that are often overlooked,” Oddo said. “A perfect example is our Lower East Side tour, where visitors can tour the Eldridge Street Synagogue Museum, enjoy a bialy at a local, traditional bakery, and even sample pickles at the last pickle stand.”

The three-hour Lower East Side tour also has stops at Straus Square, a Buddhist temple, and the Chinatown fire brigade’s building.

A stop on many visitors’ agendas is the new 9/11 Memorial Museum. Walks of New York adds value to the experience with an explanation of the events and the important landmarks surrounding the World Trade Center. Led by a local, the World Trade Center Tour with 9/11 Memorial Museum Ticket tour starts with a visit to Trinity Church and Wall Street, and then to Chase Manhattan Plaza and the New York Federal Reserve Bank, where most of the world’s gold is deposited.

Walks of New York - "9/11 Memorial Tour & Museum Ticket"

Next is St. Paul’s Chapel, where George Washington worshipped, and which served as the headquarters for the Ground Zero rescue and relief workers. Before entering the 9/11 Memorial Museum for a self-guided tour, walkers will stop at the firehouse of Engine 10, Ladder 10, where they will hear about the heroism of that fateful day.

Lastly, there’s also a Welcome to New York tour of Midtown Manhattan that encompasses landmarks such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, Grand Central Terminal and a rooftop view of Times Square.

The Best Beer Gardens Around the U.S.

The biergarten as we know it has come a long way from its German ancestor. (I can’t imagine Bavarian dukes playing ping pong or bocce ball, can you?) Yet, one idea ties them together: being among friends outside on a crisp autumn afternoon is one of the best ways to enjoy your beer.

Cities across the United States have caught on, continuing to combine the traditional biergarten with their unique, local characteristics. There are many fantastic beer gardens throughout the United States, but we’ve narrowed down the list to a few notables you must keep in mind when traveling to any of these cities.

New York - Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden

Let’s start off by going back in time - to the oldest existing biergarten in New York City. The Beer Garden at Bohemian Hall is over a century old, established in Queens, New York in 1910. This historic venue originated in a growing Czech and Slovak community in Astoria during the late 1800’s and was created by an immigrant support organization that still works to preserve these cultural roots throughout Astoria.

The Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden is an open environment that can provide a relaxing break from the world of attractions in New York City. Take a load off, recline under an umbrella, and soak in the shade of the trees while enjoying one (or several) of the 15 beers on draft. You’ll find the usual barbecue fare here, but don’t miss out on a feature that distinguishes the food - its Czech menu, including Tlacenka, goulash, Svickova. You may not be able to pronounce all those words, but don’t worry, the taste is what’s important.

Chicago - Sheffield’s

There are almost too many things to do in Chicago, but Sheffield’s is essential for anyone stopping by. Chi-town has always had a robust beer and barbecue scene, and Sheffield’s is one of the best places to experience it to its fullest. In fact, Sheffield’s has several bars within its establishment. The beer garden itself is located under a canopy of cottonwood trees. But make sure you get there early - this is one of the most coveted spots in Chicago.

Besides the immense beer list (nearly 50 drafts of craft beer on tap and 100 in bottles), be prepared to get some bangin’ barbecue - lamb burgers, smoked beef brisket, and pulled pork that’s been smoking for 14 hours. Sheffield’s isn’t all about beer and beef. It’s got a sensitive side too, hosting literary events, such as Reading Under the Influence. Drinking is not required, but strongly encouraged.

San Diego - Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens

In May 2013, Stone converted the Naval Training Center in Point Loma to one of the most extravagantly designed beer gardens in the United States. The garden itself is 11,315 square feet, complete with courts for bocce ball and a movie theater. In its entirety, the Stone Brewing World Bistro takes up more than 23,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor space for both dining and drinking.

With so much space and so many features, Stone is a world of its own for the beer garden enthusiast. The menu is a refined mix of international cuisine and 40 craft beers on tap, including selections from its namesake, the Stone Brewing Company.

For a brewery with some unusually strong beers (they have a draft named “Arrogant Bastard”), the experience of the beer garden is almost the opposite - letting you unwind and take in the idyllic setting. Be warned, if you stop at the Stone Brewing World Bistro, it may be difficult to leave.

That concludes our list of some of the most noteworthy biergartens in the United States. We’ve visited the old and the new, but no doubt, we’ve just skimmed the surface of America’s biergarten culture. There are certainly more amazing venues out there, so tell us, what are your favorite biergartens?

Haunted Places: Fact or Fiction? You Decide.

Every town and city holds their share of unsavory secrets and horror stories. Passed on from person to person like an unreliable game of “Telephone,” the good ghost stories only get better with time. And with Halloween only days away, it’s time to dive into the creepy end, or more accurately, through the walls of hotels and homes across the country. read more »

Taste Seattle: Off the Eaten track

Seattle begins at Pioneer Square, the historic heart of the city’s original downtown. Rebuilt after a catastrophic fire in the late 1880s, this neighborhood of Richardsonian Romanesque style enjoyed a turn as Seattle’s “it” scene before deteriorating into the city’s “skid road.” A brief revival largely fueled by artists took place in the 1980s and early ’90s. Once home to the storied Elliott Bay Book Company, the area again lost a bit of favor with both residents and tourists at the end of the 20th century, when suddenly trendier districts such as Belltown and Capitol Hill started to attract more attention. For a few years, jury duty seemed to be the only reason anyone would visit. read more »


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