Oct 22

Sydney Opera House

What to do on a rainy day in Sydney? I visited the Sydney Opera House and took the Sydney Opera House Tour. Tours are a bit pricey, just like everything else in Australia, and last about a hour.

  My tour guide was great and seemed to love the facility and the story about it.  The tour primarily keeps you in the common areas of the opera house, but when they can, you are brought into some of the different the theatres. We were able to see rehearsals in 3 of the theatres. We also had Hugh Jackman’s wife walk by us, apparently their daughter was rehearsing in one of the theatres.

But the story of the building is interesting in its own right.  Jorn Utzon didn’t exactly have a plan for how to build his ship sail designed building, but it impressed the committee choosing designs.  The 14 year building process didn’t go quite as well and eventually Jorn returned to Denmark and never returned to see his design completed.  The story is amazing, as well as the history of all the great actors who have performed on the stages of the Sydney Opera House.

Of course you could also see a show at the Opera House, it’s not just operas, but concerts, plays, ballets and we saw a rehearsal for an awards show.
The tour was interesting and informative. It’s great on a rainy day or as a break from the summer heat.  If you’re on a budget, try to book in advance with their online discounts.

Jun 11

The Rocks Museum

On a chilly and rainy day in Sydney, after spending too much money on my trip, I decided to investigate some cheaper activities in the city.  Being close to my hostel and free, I decided to visit The Rocks Museum.

The first thing I will caution about is that the entrance is not easy to find.  It is down an tight street or a wide ally and although there is a sign nearby, the door is not well marked.  But once inside the museum was worth the money.  Ha ha, it’s free!

It really was a nice museum though.  The museum starts with the settlement of the rocks area and moved on to recent history (the attempt to develop it into a modern area with sky scrapers.)  There were sections about the convicts (many who worked in more of an apprentice type situation), the development of the police in the area (they have stayed in The Rocks).

The museum had a small area where you could watch films about different issues in The Rocks. I enjoyed the one about the protests of the “revitalization” of the area.  My only complaint was that this room was too small and didn’t have much seating.

I would recommend budgeting about an hour, maybe a little longer.  I liked this museum, aside from the fact that it was free, I enjoy history museums, which is what this is.  The Rocks Museum brought this area that I had been staying in alive in a new way that made me appreciate it even more.

Apr 09

Old Melbourne Gaol

When I was in Melbourne I was conveniently staying across the street from the Old Melbourne Gaol and since I’ve visited many a jail in my day, I thought this would be interesting. Although I found the experience a bit pricey, it was a good museum.

The museum includes Melbourne’s oldest prison, the historic Magistrate’s Court and former Police City Watch House. While you can visit the prison section at your leisure, the rest of the museum is by guided tour. Tours start every hour or two and are included in the price of admission. If a tour is not starting when you arrive you can simply tour the prison until the tour starts and finish where you left off when the tour is over.

Inside the Gaol

The prison section has 3 floors of prison history. Everything from the history of woman in prison to more contemporary and famous prisoners of the Australian system. They had some very interesting stories of prisoners, those who were falsely imprisoned, to their most famous prisoner, Ned Kelly. There is also an extensive history of hangings in Australia.

Cell

I did not visit the Magistrates Court, I didn’t even realize it was an option while I was there, but it also has limited hours so it may not be available to all guests. But, I did enjoy my tour of the Watch House.

The tour of the Watch House is done by the “Sergeant” on duty. He starts out by giving us all cards explaining who we are and what we did to get put in gaol. It opened up a good conversation about the common crimes that people were brought in for. Public drunkenness was common for men and there were many ladies of the night visiting…

While there we got to experience what a proper search would have been like (minus the touching), but it was enough to remind you of how much it would have sucked to be arrested. Next we got to see the overnight cells were prisoners were kept in darkness for 8-10 hours a night. We got to experience a couple minutes of it, and it was also unpleasant. But prisoners were allowed into the yard during the day, an outside yard, that they couldn’t leave, no matter the weather. Oh, and it looked like it could hold 20-30 people comfortably, but it would hold over 100 during the weekend.

Yard

We did get to see the “rubber room” and the cell for the special prisoners, they had their own yard, conveniently next to, and only separated by a fence from the regular yard. Not that much better of an experience. At the end of the tour they had a fun little feature where you could make your own mug shot, or get a picture of yourself at the goal. It was a nice (though expensive) touch at the end of the tour.

Overnight Cells

The Old Melbourne Gaol was an interesting and informative experience. I think the experience is best for kids around 10 or older and adults who enjoy a bit of history or have an interest in jails or law enforcement.

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 07

Sydney Harbor Bridge Pylon

Last week I wrote about climbing Sydney Harbor Bridge, but I know it’s not for everyone. So this week I will write about a great alternative if you can’t do it due to time, money or fear. You can climb the bridge pylon for great views of the city and learn a lot about the bridge too.

Admission to the pylon is only $13.00, much cheaper then climbing the bridge. There are 200 steps inside the pylon and museum. There are a couple levels of museum, telling the story of building the bridge from the politics of it to the actual building of it.  You wont have to walk all 200 steps at once.

At the top there is a walkway where you can see 360 degree views of the harbor, it’s amazing and windy. It was really windy the day I was there.  The only disappointment was that it is not open at night for night views of the city, that would be amazing. If you’ve done the bridge climb and have the time, I would still recommend doing the pylon. You can learn a bit more about the bridge and take your own pictures of the harbor. It might be even better if you did it on a day with different weather so you can get a different perspective on the city.

Mar 19

Denver Museum of Art

On my rainy day in Denver after visiting the Colorado History Museum and CELL it was time to walk one more block and see some art.  I was a bit weary about this museum, as it seemed to be heavy in contemporary art. I’m just a bit skeptical about contemporary art because I’ve seen too much art that seems more like someone was high and had a “brilliant” idea then like art.

While there was some contemporary art, some good, some not so good, there was a wide variety of art in the museum.  I really enjoyed some of the paintings of scenes from around the state, gave that local touch.  There was also European art and African art and Oceanic art, Photography and Asian art. Basically, there is a something for everyone at this museum and it’s quality art too, in my non-expert opinion.

If you’re looking for some non-nature activities to do in Denver, since Colorado seems to be the “go outside and do stuff state,” then this museum will meet anyone’s interests.  The museum is actually quite beautiful by itself, with an open and airy feel to it.

Mar 05

CELL (Terrorism Museum and Learning Center)

 Being interested in terrorism, a by-product of having your city attacked, I was intrigued when I saw the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (CELL) in the museum area of Denver.  Thecell.org

Their description is “The only one of its kind, The CELL’s exhibit is a dynamic, interactive experience with content developed by world-renowned experts that provides visitors with an in-depth understanding of the history of terrorism, the methods terrorists employ and the extent to which terrorism impacts societies around the world.”

I think it’s a perfect description.

The lab is self-guided and is very natural the way it is set up.  None of that guessing about where to go or what to do that you sometimes end up doing at a museum or exhibit.  It’s high tech, educational and powerful.

You start with some history of terrorism, and then move into some of the tools of the trade.  I now know what an RPG looks like. After that they lab moves into the area of who might be a terrorist and signs to look for in terrorist activity and of course the best way to report it.

The exhibit is suggested for 14 and over.  However, I would caution that you have to know that 14-year-old child.  I wouldn’t suggest it for my own 14-year-old nephew. Some exhibits are just a little too violent or real and may be too much for them.

Feb 05

Colorado History Museum

After gallivanting through the state of Colorado I finally finished with a day in Denver, a rainy day in Denver.  It was time to visit museums.  My first stop was the Colorado History Museum.

The museum is only a few months old and was recommended by my friend and Trip Advisor.  While I thought the museum was better geared towards children, it would certainly appeal to adults too.  For children I would suggest middle school age, plus or minus a year or two.

The museum told the stories of the early Colorado settlers, skiing, Native American’s, Japanese and a few more topics.  It’s a self-guided tour with a variety of video and wall card things to tell the story.

 As much as I enjoyed the museum, it is geared towards a younger crowd who will have fun while being educated.  But adults can also have some fun and learn too. They may find themselves skipping one or two smaller pieces or exhibits as they’re obviously designed for kids. But otherwise they’ll be able to fill and hour or two in this museum. Words of caution though, there are quite a few school groups during the week. Although they are well managed by the staff, you may find exhibits getting over run at times.

 

Sep 19

Fun With Spam

Many years ago in college one of my guy friends tried to convince me of the virtues of Spam, it didn’t work.  Fast forward to last June when  I was informed my tour would be stopping at the Spam Musuem in South Dakota, I had a chuckle to myself.  Lets just say, no one expected much from this museum and we were all pleasantly surprised.

Thank you for the sign!

The museum was highly interactive and fun.  I didn’t learn a lot about spam that I didn’t already know.  Incase you are unaware, it’s very popular in Hawaii, an after effect of WWII.  They had displays of Spam from around the world, and games.  The museum was also pretty photogenic, giving some interesting opportunities for photos.  The store was surprisingly expansive, you could buy anything from an air freshener (no, it didn’t smell like Spam) to a costume or a christmas village house.

England
Hawaii
If you’re in the area then you already know it’s not a hot bed of activity in this area, but the museum is worth a stop either way.  It’s fun for kids and adults and it is free.  Plus, you might find you like some of the recipes they offer.

Aug 29

Shedd and Field Museums

When I was in Chicago I bought the Citypass for the fast pass entry to the Willis Tower, so I naturally decided to explore some of the other sites included with he Citypass, I decided on Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum.

Shedd Aquarium is considered one of the best aquariums in the country.  As far as fish in giant fish tanks, this is not the best aquarium I have been to.  But this aquarium also had a dophin and beluga whale show which was very well done in low lighting (meaning not good photos).  They also had a nice exhibit on Jellies. I recommend taking a look at what the special exhibits are before you go, there are several different levels of tickets, knowing what is offered before you go will make purchasing tickets much easier.  Also, arrive a few minutes early to the dophin and beluga whale show, it can fill up pretty quickly and is worth seeing.  I was not impressed with the dining options here, they were quite weak for such a busy museum.  But do not forget to visit the store, they have the best museum shirts I have ever seen!

Field Museum is a natural history museum with exhibits on dinosaurs, Egypt and Genghis Khan.  The only dinosaur I saw was Sue, she’s hard to miss being in the lobby and all, and she’s a pretty cool dinosaur.  After snapping some pictures of her I went to my Egypt movie that was included in my ticket, it was a pretty good show for all ages.  After that I went through the Egypt exhibit, which included a tomb that was moved from Egypt.  It wasn’t terribly big, but it was cool to walk through and then you can climb stairs and look down at it, a very different view then you usually get.  The rest of the Egypt exhibit was good, not as expansive as you would see at The Met in NYC, but still they had a nice selection of pieces.  I also went to the Genghis Khan special exhibit, I’m don’t know his history that well, but I believe he has a very bad reputation.  The exhibit really tried to show the positive side of his life, I wonder how someone who knows his history would have viewed the exhibit?  I thought the exhibit had a lot of interesting stuff, and it piqued my interest to learn a little more about him.