Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Virginia is for Tourists

We have just recently returned from a great little trip to Virginia. We were going to go to Newport, Rhoad Island to check out the mansions but hurricane Irene had other plans. Virginia was our Plan-B and it was simply wonderful. It was the whole family including our dog, Kenji. We stayed for two nights in Winchester, VA.

Before we checked in we hit Luray Caverns; which are, by the way, some of the largest known caverns in the world. It was simply spectacular. This was my third time there but it ranked right up at number one for the simple fact that my family had the chance to discover it together. The formations are breathtaking and the “Dream Lake” section I could stare at for hours.

After Luray we took the ride to Natural Bridge, which turned out to be a tourist trap. There are 5 members in my family and $28.00 for the caverns and to walk down to see the bridge was just too steep. Fortunately, a local artist has a creation that must be seen to truly appreciate – Foamhenge! Foamhenge is an exact replica of Stonehenge except it’s made out of foam and there’s a cool statue of Merlin the wizard amongst the stones that is a load of fun to pose with. Foamhenge is free but with the family it’s priceless.

The next day we toured the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley; which consists of “the house, the gardens, [and] the museum”. The grounds were beautiful. The Chinese and water sections of the gardens were my personal favorite. The house was nice enough and the museum was ok. Perhaps I am jaded after being to the Princeton Art Museum, which has an marvelous collection of works from around the globe. In comparison, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley was nice but it didn’t have all that many pieces. Still it is worth the visit for the gardens alone.

After the trip to the museum we paid a visit to the theater – not just any theater, mind you; we went to the Alamo Drafthouse. The good folks at the Alamo get it. They understand what it means to be a movie fan. We saw, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (which was GREAT, by the way), and instead of the commercials that are shown at movie theaters these days before the preview trailers start they have a series of shorts that have some pertinence to the film that you are going to be seeing. We walked in and placed our order for dinner to a Kinks video from the early 70’s “Apeman”, after that they showed some other footage of monkeys, chimps and apes in various scientific shorts edited together interspersed with snippets from the old “Planet of the Apes” cartoon from the 70s. For dinner I had a “Royale with Cheese”. This made me smile. If you get the reference then you’ll be happy to order one for yourself one of these days. When you do I highly recommend an order of ‘Fried Pickles’ too.

The next day we hit “Dinosaur Land”. If you have an affinity for anythin that pertains to ‘roadside America’ then Dinosaur Land NEEDS to be on your radar. As their sign says, “An Educational Prehistoric Forrest Featuring Over 40 Replicas from the Past”! Our family had a blast here. We took all sorts of crazy pictures and had two tons of crazy fun. Some of my favorite poses had to be my youngest child lamenting the death of a huge dinosaur at the teeth of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, my middle daughter hugging a vicious creature around the middle, my oldest sticking her head into a Velociraptor’s jaws and the three of them attacking a giant-mutant praying mantis. Oh yeah, we had a good time. If you start to feel guilty thinking that you may be enjoying the experience too much remember it’s “educational”. The whole experience got me looking for other people’s crazy vacation pictures and that is when I found Tacky Tourist Photos I loved what I saw and knew that I had to share it with you, Gentle Reader. I think you’ll like their site too.

All told we traveled about 714 miles from the flatlands of New Jersey to the mountains of Virginia. I picked up a ticket in Maryland for not wearing a seatbelt. It’s true, I wasn’t. I am thankful to the Good Lord that we made it there and back again. Although, I must admit the more of these trips we take exploring what’s out there and just around the bend, the harder it is for me to come back.

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