Budget cuts may axe Washington historic sites

Washington, washington, Tacoma, tacomaAs the Great Recession drags on, more and more state programs are feeling the pinch. This includes many sites of historic interest. In the latest budget announced by Washington Governor Chris Gregiore, the state’s three Historical Society museums will all have to close.

The State Capital Museum in the Lord Mansion in Olympia, and museums in Tacoma and Spokane, would all be affected. The governor has earmarked $2.4 million to maintain the sites and their archives, but it would cost twice as much to keep them open, The News Tribune reports.

The Lord Mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places and in addition to having a museum, it hosts many public events. The Washington State Historical Society Museum in Tacoma gets an average of 100,000 visitors a year.

To be fair to Governor Gregiore, she’s facing a serious problem. If she keeps the museums open, that means $2.4 million less for other programs, and then some non-travel-related blog would be complaining about her budget. But museums and historical societies are important parts of the community, not just for old-timers who want to reminisce and tourists interested in history, but newcomers who want some background on their surroundings. I’ve moved way too many times, and one thing I always do to get grounded is study the history of my new home.

I also do Civil War research, and that means I’ve seen the inner workings of many historical societies. One place you’ll often find me is the State Historical Society of Missouri. Once or twice a week my studies are interrupted by a crowd of schoolkids coming into the library to see the treasures of the archives. Some researchers grumble about this, but I’m always happy to see them come in. One object that always arouses interest is a long, thin map of the Mississippi River that unrolls like a scroll. Steamboat pilots used it to navigate the perilous waters of the river more than a century ago. The students are fascinated by it, not just because of its odd appearance but because of what it symbolizes. More than once I’ve overheard kids talking about what it would have been like to use the map to avoid sandbars, sunken logs, and dangerous currents just like Mark Twain did.

This historical society, like so many others, has had its share of budget cuts. They recently had to stop a theatrical series and a traveling lecture tour. Both were popular, but the society simply can’t afford them.

It would be a shame if they had to cut the tours. Missouri schoolkids wouldn’t get their imaginations fired by that map anymore.

[Photo courtesy Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons]

Pre-nuptial last rites get fun, expensive

Bachelor parties used to be so simple. A bunch of guys would cram into a limo, get wasted and let the sounds of Motley Crue fill their ears while some nice young lady works her way through college a dollar bill at a time. Eventually, you’d go home and wake up sans cash, stomach contents and a few brain cells. I’m not sure what bachelorette parties involved, but I suspect there are many similarities and the differences being limited to the anatomy of the performers and the guests.

All this is changing.

The parties used to celebrate the end of single life are becoming long, intricate and costly.Las Vegas is the top destination, followed by Florida, and the average price for one of these getaways has reached a substantial $1,250 a person. The guests are usually on the hook for their own tickets.

The tourism and travel industry, looking for ways to climb out from a two-year economic hole, sees the pre-wedding party business as a way to draw some more cash into the coffers, especially for those who are looking to have as many “last hurrahs” as possible. Travel agents and destinations are even creating programs designed to appeal to this specific segment.Notes Alex Trettin, of Travel Leaders in Tacoma, Washington, to Reuters:

“We’ve created a number of programs for brides- and grooms- to-be. Most popular are Vegas and short cruises,” he said. “Even with the economy in a slowdown, more and more people are using this as an opportunity to get together with friends.”

In a further departure from tradition, some final flings are combined, with the soon-to-be spouses hitting the same destination at the same time. Once on the ground, though, the parties split to enjoy different activities.

Yeah, pre-marital partying has come a long way. But, I’ll still take a seedy strip club with “Doctor Feelgood” and a would-be medical student over the alternatives. I believe in tradition.

[photo of Social Vixen by Steve Zak]

Top Fourth of July fireworks spots across the US

Here are ten of the biggest and best (as well as some smaller and more regionally or otherwise distinctive) fireworks displays to anticipate this Fourth of July across the United States. And even if you can’t be in ten places across a continent in a single day (you can’t? weird!) these spots might just provide a good reference list for your next decade of Fourth of July vacation planning.

1. South Lake Tahoe, California.

The largest synchronized fireworks display west of the Mississippi will kick off on the southern end of South Lake Tahoe, starting around 9:45 pm. Lake Tahoe provides a mesmerizing surface for reflected pyrotechnics.

2. Seward, Alaska.

Seward, south of Anchorage, is flooded with tourists on July 4. The town’s festivities get off to an early start with Seward’s waterfront fireworks, which begin at 12:01 am on the morning of July 4.

3. Washington, DC.

A display over the Washington Monument is one of the country’s most distinctive. Fireworks are set off from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool after 9:00 pm.

4. New York City, New York.

The Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks show, set along the Hudson River, will kick off at 9 pm with Justin Bieber tasked with the job of getting the patriotism flowing. (How’s that for Canadian-American cross-border good will?) This year’s display is graced with a score titled “American Harmony,” performed by the New York Pops and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

5. Amarillo, Texas.

The largest fireworks display in the Texas panhandle gets started at 9:30 pm at John Stiff Memorial Park. 10,000 people are expected this year.

6. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Jordan Park, on the arty west side of Salt Lake City, hosts a 10 pm fireworks display.

7. Ala Moana Center, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Hawaii’s biggest fireworks display kicks off at 8:30 pm at the Ala Moana Center shopping mall in Honolulu, following several hours of musical entertainment.

8. Tacoma, Washington.

Tacoma’s fireworks will get going at 10 pm on the city’s Commencement Bay, the grand finale of Tacoma’s annual Freedom Fair. The bay provides a glorious expanse for the fireworks display.

9. St. Louis, Missouri.

At 9:15 pm, a fireworks display will close out 2010’s Fair Saint Louis at Gateway Arch. The St. Louis display is regarded to be one of the best in the country by hardcore fireworks fans.

10. New Orleans. Louisiana.

The Big Easy’s Dueling Barges Fireworks Extravaganza makes for an especially vibrant and exciting fireworks display.


Don’t see your city listed? More great destinations
here!

[Image: Flickr/Clearly Ambiguous]

Travel or home improvement? How about travel to a home and garden show?

When I lived overseas some friends of mine, who also lived overseas, complained that when they were in the U.S. on vacation, they couldn’t relate to what excited people.

For example, one friend said that a friend of hers in the U.S. was excited about getting a new deck. My friend didn’t think that getting a new deck was exciting news. Planning an adventure vacation was exciting, however–unless you are a person who enjoys staying home enjoying a party on your new deck.

I did point out that for people who live overseas, buying items like carpets and unusual furniture can also give one that new things rush and that people like to show off at their parties. She agreed.

Once we moved back to the U.S., I discovered that we were fresh meat when it came to people trying to sell us stuff for home improvement. Let’s just say we have a whole house water improvement system that we have to feed salt, because we lived in two countries where we couldn’t drink the water. I have become more savvy since that purchase. Still, there are always home improvements that loom while we are off traveling.

This is the time of year when, now that vacation fun is fading into the past, the need to nest before winter kicks in begins to build. Somehow, each fall, I’m hooked into some “Let’s spruce up the place” endeavor. A friend who is a handy fellow is doing some plaster repair work today.

Because my friend who was less than impressed with decks has not moved back to the U.S., she is unaware that there are places to go dedicated to decks and other wonders of home improvement. Home and garden shows are a nesting bonanza. This month kicks off a flurry of fall activities geared towards getting people to focus on the place where they live.

At such shows, I’m one of those people who picks up brochures just so I can imagine what a sunroom might look like in the backyard. I won’t actually put a sunroom in the backyard, but the brochures are enticing. I also like to tour model homes and trailers. It’s not like I’d actually like to live in one, but it’s like visiting a movie set where you can imagine another kind of life.

A home and garden show, to a traveler, is a place to fantasize what your house might look like if you were ever home enough to fix it up–or what life would be like if you lived in one place.

Of course, a travel show opens up the possibilities of where you might go if you didn’t need to fix the leaky roof, or felt the draw of energy efficient windows. With some financial juggling, it is possible to take the trips and do home improvements.

The Home and Garden shows listed here are some of the ones I found for September and October.

Although there is an admission price, check local grocery stores or other venues for discount tickets. For example, the Best of Fall Show in Columbus, September 12-14 has free tickets at Krogers.

One thing I noticed about the Columbus show is that there are exhibitors specific to Ohio such as Longaberger baskets, as well as local celebrities. Chances are, if you go to a home and garden show, it’s a way to learn a bit about the state where the show is located. The one in Columbus also has travel related exhibitors which illustrates the fix up the house AND travel lifestyle.

Home and Garden Show in Canada

Toronto Home Show: September 18-21

Here’s a link to a site that lists several others. If you miss the ones this fall, there is always the spring.

Tacoma’s Museum of Glass

GlassBummed? Yes, I’m a bit bummed and undecided on my recent trip to the Museum of Glass. Before I get down on what disappoints me let me tell you what’s hot and worth your $10. Upon entering the facility your attention is going to be directed to the Hot Shop on the left. Inside the Hot Shop museum-goers can kick back in the warm auditorium and watch the glass making process live. This is really cool if you know nothing about how all those fancy designs or simple glass vases are made. During the session I caught, there were three gentlemen working with the glass and an interpreter explaining the whole deal. The art, science and history of glass making are all explained. When the temperature inside the Hot Shop became too much to handle I excitedly walked off to head into the gallery where I was almost positive I would find tons of glass exhibits – not so much.

To my disappointment there were few glass installations. The ones featured were pretty impressive, but as I moved deeper down the halls I saw more contemporary art craziness; oversized stuffed horses making love and some questionable paintings. The horses were apart of the Fresh! Contemporary Takes on Nature & Allegory and overall I think they were indeed fresh, but it would have been better if they were glass. I haven’t a clue where the paintings came from, but there was an awesome one comprised of various greens blending in the swell of an ocean wave. Still there wasn’t enough glass in the building and that goes to include the building for my needs. Perhaps I expected too much, I mean how many glass artists are out there in the world?

That’s my take. Been to the Museum of Glass? What’s your opinion?

The Museum of Glass is located at 1801 Dock Street, Tacoma, WA 98402.