Win a Trip to Washington, DC for July 4 Festivities

The National Archives
The National Archives — Check it Out!

Washington, DC is blessed with so many interesting museums that the exhibitions and programs at the National Archives may not be on your radar.

We visited recently for a screening of the animated shorts that had been nominated for the Oscars, one of many free film events offered regularly.

The updated Archives Museum is an interactive display that brings the Archives to life.

Sleepover in the Rotunda The National Archives
Sleepover in the Rotunda at the National Archives

Twice a year, the Archives invites 8-12 year olds to participate in a sleepover in the Archives Rotunda.  Pretty cool!

Celebrate July 4th with a Trip to DC

The National Archives Foundation is sponsoring a  contest to fly a family of four to Washington, DC for the Independence Day celebration on the National Mall on July 4, 2016.

The contest prize includes flights, three nights in a hotel, and dinner at one of DC’s hottest new restaurants.  (Check out the Japanese-themed spring menu here!)

Win a trip to DC!
Win a trip to DC!

The contest winner will receive:

  • Round-trip airfare for four on Southwest Airlines
  • Three night stay at a local hotel
  • Three course tasting menu for four people at Derek Brown’s Columbia Room
  • Membership in the National Archives Foundation
  • VIP experience on July 4th at the National Archives
  • Private tour of the National Archives Museum
  • July 4th gift basket, courtesy of the National Archives Store, including a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence

I don’t often post about contests, but this one seems to have pretty good odds.

To enter, submit your zip code and sign up for a newsletter here!

The last day to enter the contest is June 10, 2016.

Read the Terms and Conditions here.

Flip Out at the Paris Pinball Museum

Paris Pinball Museum is rich in history.
Paris Pinball Museum is rich in history.

4.5 of 5 starsGiven that the Pinball Hall of Fame is now #13 of 692 things to do in Las Vegas on Trip Advisor, I wanted to put in a plug for another fabulous pinball gallery.  

The Paris Pinball Museum is an incredible historical collection of slot machines, jukeboxes and over one hundred pinball machines from every era, from the 1930’s to the present.
Every one of the games is top condition and in working order!

Play All You Want at the Paris Pinball Museum

You need an advance reservation to visit the Paris Pinball Museum, which is only open on weekends.

The Paris Pinball Museum also features one armed bandits.
The Paris Pinball Museum also features one armed bandits.
A $15 Euro admission ticket grants you access to play all the games as much as you want.
The owner, Raphael Lanker, was kind enough to arrange an opportunity for us to visit, even though he was away at the time.
Lanker has been in pinball since the 1950’s, and his love for the game is evident in the collection he maintains.
All the games at the Paris Pinball Museum are set to free play.
All the games at the Paris Pinball Museum are set to free play.

Each room in the museum is devoted to another decade.

There are an abundance of the wood-railed machines from the 1940’s, especially Gottlieb machines.
 The Paris Pinball Museum is a blast from the past!
If there is time in your schedule, you may wish to include a visit to the museum on your next trip to Paris!
The artwork on the back glasses is amazing.
The artwork on the backglasses is amazing.  Sky Line is a personal favorite!

Where to Buy Discounted Tickets for Paris Museums

Check Out the Paris Museum Pass
Check out the Paris Museum Pass

Yesterday, I wrote about where to find cheap transit tickets for Paris, France.

Today, I have another travel tip to share.

You may also be able to snag a discounted Paris Museum Pass on Ebay.

I was able to buy two 4-day Paris Museum Passes at about 25 percent off the retail price on Ebay.

Where Does the Paris Museum Pass Offer Free Admission?

These passes provide admission to 60 museums and monuments in Paris and the surrounding area.

With admission at Paris museums averaging about 10 Euros, I am sure we will get our money’s worth out of this baby.  The pass allows you to skip the lines for ticket purchases at the Louvre, and you can visit multiple times with a single pass.

The sites included in Paris are:

Twenty additional  sites around Paris are covered, including Château de Versailles et Trianon and Château de Fontainebleau.

Do not confuse the Paris Museum Pass with the Paris Pass, which is a different product.  If you do a google search for Paris Museum Pass, the Paris Pass is the first listing.  The Paris Pass includes the Paris Museum Pass, a Paris Visite transit pass, and a number of other admissions, and is much more expensive than the museum pass alone.

A purchase of transit or museum passes on Ebay presents some risk, so be sure to verify the seller’s track record before bidding.

Museum Free-For-All in Los Angeles January 31, 2015

Museum Free-For-All in Los Angeles January 31, 2015
Open House at 20 Los Angeles Museums

Twenty Los Angeles area museums open their doors to the public on Saturday January 31, 2015 for the tenth annual Museum Free-for-All.

The list of participating venues includes diverse art, cultural heritage, natural history, and science museums.

There are a number of top attractions participating — such as the Los Angeles Museum of Art and the California Science Center, but if I had my druthers I would head over the the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits.

Kids love dinosaurs and what could be better than an active excavation site for dinosaur fossils?   We spent half a day at the Tar Pits when we last visited LA with our then school-aged daughter.  Regular admission is $15 per adult and $8 per child, so free admission is a really great deal for families!

 Los Angeles Museums Participating in 2015 Free-for-All

Here are links to the museums that are participating in this year’s open houses.  The Jan. 31 offer is good for general  admission only and does not apply to specially ticketed exhibitions.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 
Annenberg Space for Photography 
Armory Center for the Arts 
California African American Museum 
California Science Center
Chinese American Museum 
Craft Folk & Art Museum 
Fowler Museum at UCLA 
The Getty Center 
The Getty Villa (Timed tickets required)
Hammer Museum 
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Los Angeles Fire Department Museum and Memorial
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) 
Museum of Latin American Art 
Museum of Tolerance (Feb. 1)
The Paley Center for Media 
The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits 
Pasadena Museum of California Art
Santa Monica Museum of Art 
Skirball Cultural Center
The Torrance Art Museum 
USC Pacific Asia Museum 
William S. Hart Museum 
Zimmer Children’s Museum (Feb. 1)

Weekly/Monthly Free Admission Days in Los Angeles and Other Major Cities

If you can’t make it this coming weekend, plan to take advantage of the regularly scheduled free admission days at Los Angeles area museums.

FreeMuseumDay.org publishes a calendar of free museums and free museum days for LA and for these major cities:

Check it out!

Pay What You Wish at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pay what you can at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Pay what you wish at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of the commercial travel deals sites that I follow is Travelzoo.

They regularly send out enticing offers — not just for flights and hotels, but also for shows and cultural attractions at a deep discount.

 Economize on Visits to the Met

New York City is an expensive city to visit so a Travelzoo deal for cut rate admissions to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum caught my eye.

Travelzoo is offering admission tickets to the Met for $19, or four tickets for $60.

The usual “recommended” admission to the museum is $25 per adult, and free for children under 12.

The regular fee includes admission to the museum including all special exhibits plus same-week admission to The Cloisters.  The website states:  “To help cover the costs of exhibitions, we ask that you please pay the full recommended amount.”

But when you go the purchase tickets page, you see this notice in the fine print:

If you would like to pay less than full recommended admission, please go directly to The Metropolitan Museum of Art to pay as you wish.

I turns out that that the Met and a number of other New York City institutions are required to accept voluntary donations for admission.

You can pay whatever you want, every day, all year long.

The execution of this policy was the subject of some litigation in 2013.  The lawsuit contended that the  museum was obscuring the option to pay less than full price, because the sign by the entrance indicated “suggested donation” in small print.  You can read more about this issue in The Atlantic and the New York Times.

I have fond memories of visiting the Met and the Cloisters as a kid.  Both were pretty magical places, where I felt transported back in time.

I think the admission fee is fully worth it to visit a world class art museum.  However, if the cost of admission is holding your family back from a visit, know that you can pay what you wish and it is perfectly okay.

Pay What You Wish at the American Museum of Natural History

Pay What You Wish at the American Natural History Museum
Pay what you wish at the American Museum of Natural History

Some other New York museums that have the pay what you wish policy are the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Cloisters, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Continue reading —>

Get in Free to Richmond’s Historic Home Museums

Richmond Virginia Time Travelers Passport
Free Admission to 10 Historic House Museums in Richmond, VA September 13-14, 2014

Residents of Washington, DC are spoiled by easy access to free museums.

Here’s a reason to expand your horizons and travel to Richmond, Virginia.

On September 13th and 14th, 2014, ten historic home museums in Richmond are putting out the welcome mat and offering free admission.

Free Admission to Richmond’s Historic Home Museums — No Strings Attached

Ten of Richmond’s historic homes and museums will offer visitors a passport to time-travel during a special admission-free weekend on Saturday and Sunday, September 13 and 14, 2014.

Ten participating sites will offer complimentary admission to visitors who show a Time Travelers Passport available for free online. 

The ten museums are:   

If you manage to max out this offer, it equates to savings of more than $55 per person.  Here’s the link for more information.  

Some of the highlights include:

 Agecroft Hall was first built in England in the 1500s, then transported across the ocean and rebuilt in Richmond in the 1920s. The Tudor mansion is furnished with art and artifacts from 17th century England and there are manicured gardens overlooking the James River.

The John Marshall House, built in 1790 in the fashionable Court End neighborhood of Richmond, was the home of the Chief Justice for forty-five years. Listed on the National and Virginia historic registers, the John Marshall House has undergone remarkably few changes in the last 200 years.

The Poe Museum holds the world’s largest collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s manuscripts, letters,  memorabilia and personal belongings.  The Poe Museum provides a peek into early nineteenth century Richmond where the author of  The Raven lived and worked.  One of the structures in the museum’s four-building complex is the 1754 Old Stone House, the oldest residential structure within city limits.

Maymont, a 100-acre estate, was the home of businessman James Dooley and his wife Sallie from 1893 through the 1920s.  The Maymont Mansion with 21 restored rooms offers a complete depiction of upstairs-downstairs life in the Gilded Age.  The upstairs interiors are adorned with Tiffany stained glass, and frescoed ceilings and filled with original furnishings and artwork.  Downstairs service rooms tell the story of household tasks and technology and the challenges of working in domestic service during the Jim Crow era.  The surrounding landscape features Italian and Japanese gardens, and a carriage display as well a children’s farm and nature center.

Wilton House Museum overlooks a placid stretch of the James River.  It was constructed in the 1750s as the centerpiece of a tobacco plantation by the prominent Randolph Family.  An impressive example of 18th-century Georgian Style architecture, Wilton House boasts its original detailed paneling and a collection of fine and decorative arts from the Colonial and early Federal eras.

Save 30% on Amtrak Companion Tickets to Baltimore and BWI

30% Off Amtrak Companion Fares
30% Off Amtrak Companion Fares

Amtrak offers lots of regional and seasonal discounts as well as regular savings for students, seniors, military, and AAA members.

But here’s a special deal you won’t find on Amtrak’s deals page!

Through a partnership with the Maryland Office of Tourism, you can get 30 percent off on companion fares on Amtrak to Baltimore, MD or Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI).

This offer is especially attractive to people who may be travelling via BWI, thanks to lower airfares on some routes.

30% Off Amtrak Companion Fares to Baltimore and BWI with Maryland Welcome! Passport

The Maryland Welcome! Passport features online coupons for attractions, accommodations, and transportation which you can access at www.marylandwelcomepassport.com.  

The offer that caught my eye is for 30% off the best available rail fare for one companion in coach, when a second adult fare ticket is purchased at regular price.

To access the offer for the Baltimore area, go to Amtrak.com/VisitBaltimore

To access the offer for BWI area, go to: Amtrak.com/VisitAnnapolis

The offer is only redeemable online; reservations must be made three days in advance and tickets cannot be purchased in person.

The offer is valid for travel within the Northeast Corridor on the Northeast Regional service to Baltimore, MD or Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and return only.

The last date to travel is December 19, 2014.

Some popular travel dates are excluded.  Upcoming blackout dates are:

  • August 29, 2014
  • September 1, 2014
  • October 10, 2014
  • November 25 – 26, 2014 November 29 – 30, 2014
  • December 1, 2014

With the purchase of two tickets, each person can save 15 percent off the regular fare.

25% Off Advance Purchase Amtrak Tickets in the Northeast Corridor

If you are the kind of traveller that plans ahead, you may find better savings on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional service with Amtrak’s advance purchase fare.

You can save 25 percent off the lowest available fares when you book 14 days in advance.

Continue reading —>

Anime and Claymation Camps at Smithsonian

Anime Young Artists Residency Program
Anime Young Artists Residency Program

If your kids have too much time on their hands this summer, maybe you can interest them in these bargain-priced summer workshops at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

There are two programs to choose from:  the Anime Young Artists Residency, and the Claymation Young Artists Residency.  Both are part of the Imaginasia series of family programs the Sackler and Freer galleries.

Anime: Young Artists Residency:  Monday, July 28 through Friday, August 1, 2014

ImaginAsia’s five-day workshop is for eight to sixteen-year-old art students interested in anime drawing.

Trace the origins of manga drawing and anime films through the Freer and Sackler collections of Asian art.

This five-day program  runs from 10 am to 3:00 pm each day. Bring notebooks of your drawings to the workshop and your own brown bag lunch. Art supplies provided.

The cost is $100.  Application available online.

Act quickly because today, July 15, 2014, is the application deadline for this program.

Claymation: Young Artists Residency: Monday, August 4 through Friday, August 8, 2014

Claymation Young Artists Residency Program
Claymation Young Artists Residency Program

Learn storyboarding, scene design, and claymation techniques from Erik Swanson, an instructor at the Corcoran School of Art + Design.  Students create their own claymation videos featuring a heroic figure they discover in the galleries.

Participants receive a DVD featuring all of the videos made in the class.  iPads will be used to create the claymations.  For ages 9–18.

This five-day program runs from 10 am – 3:30 pm each day.  The registration fee is $100.

The application deadline is July 20, 2014.  Apply online.

Meet a Spy: Tony and Jonna Mendez at the Spy Museum

Meet a Spy
Meet a Spy — Tony and Jonna Mendez

Did you see the Argo?  Now you can meet the spy that inspired the movie at one of three free events sponsored by the International Spy Museum!

International Spy Museum Briefing

Meet the Tony and Jonna Mendez.  Both are former CIA Chiefs of Disguise, responsible for changing the identity and appearance of thousands of clandestine operatives around the world.

Tony is most famous for his rescue of American diplomats from Tehran during the Iranian Hostage Crisis as depicted in the award-winning film Argo.

Rendezvous Info

The rendezvous takes place in the book store at the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC.  Admission is free, and no pre-registration is required.

There are three dates scheduled:

  • Friday, June 27, 2014; 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
  • Friday, July 25, 2014; 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
  • Friday, August 22, 2014; 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

 

Why We Chose Wildwood Crest for Our Jersey Shore Vacation

Doo Wop in Wildwood, NJEvery town on the Jersey Shore has a distinct personality.

One summer, we landed in Wildwood because of our interest in neon signs and mid-century architecture.

The thing that attracted us to Wildwood  were the dozens of mid-century motels still standing, though sadly, many have been razed to build condos.

There are three distinct towns on the barrier island:  North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest — where the greatest concentration of mid-century modern resorts still operate.  The motels, are themed, with Vegas-like neon signs, plastic palm trees, and fantastical architecture.

The Wildwoods
The Wildwoods — Great for a Family Beach Vacation
Photo by Joel Shprentz

Doo Wop Motels in Wildwood Crest

In Wildwood Crest, which is the family-oriented southern stretch of beach, you’ll find the Jolly Roger, the Astronaut, the Apollo, the Gondolier, the Safari, the Aztec, the Tangiers, the Viking, and many others.

The architectural style is known as Doo WopGoogie, or Populuxe.  These  terms describe the kitschy style of Wildwood’s 200 motels built in the 1950s and 1960s.

Continue reading —>