Sleepover at the National Archives

All Photos: Jeffrey Reed of the National Archives

There’s certainly no shortage of amazing, unique opportunities in Washington, DC. Most visitors to the city hit a lot of the same standard hot spots: the White House, the Capitol Building, a Smithsonian museum or two, the Washington Monument, and so on.

But there’s so much more. And if you have the time – or if you’re a local looking for something truly special – you really should consider spending the night at the National Archives.

What’s that? Didn’t know you could stay at the Archives? Well, normally you can’t. But twice a year, the National Archives Foundation hosts a Sleepover at the National Archives. The next sleepover will be held on October 14, 2017, and you can reserve your spot(s) now. If you’re interested, I highly recommend reserving your spot as early as possible. These events DO sell out.

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The Discovery of King Tut Exhibition

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Manhattan is a mecca for world-class museums, and there’s certainly no shortage of genuine art and artifacts from Ancient Egypt. The Metropolitan Museum of Art holds tens of thousands of pieces of historical significance, and practically all of them are on display – including the magnificent Temple of Dendur and several real-life mummies! The Brooklyn Museum also has two mummies on display.

So it came as a bit of a surprise at how much we enjoyed an exhibit about King Tut composed entirely of reproductions. This is something you should know about The Discovery of King Tut, currently on display at Premier Exhibitions on 5th Avenue (at 37th Street) in New York. It consists of about 1,000 replica objects but is without a single genuine artifact. But that almost doesn’t make a difference.

What came as a shock was just how enraptured my kids (4 and 6) were with the exhibit. I credit much of that to the audio guide that comes with your admission, but neither of my kids wanted to leave until they had listened to all 38 tour stops and seen absolutely everything the exhibit had to offer. As a result, my daughter is currently fascinated by all things Ancient Egypt and has a stack of library books on her bedroom floor. I call that a win.

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Boggy Creek Airboat Rides

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An airboat ride through a swamp or marshland is one of those quintessential Florida experiences. Most people equate this experience with the Everglades in southern Florida, but would you believe me if I said you could set out on an airboat and be almost guaranteed to see wildlife (including gators) in central Florida, almost absurdly close to all of the tourist spots?

You can.

We recently visited Boggy Creek Airboat Rides and, despite the disclaimer you see above, we did indeed see some Florida gators. Alligators, in fact, are so common in Florida that many residents of the Sunshine State have become immune to them. They’re almost like squirrels. (Well, not quite…but almost.) For those of us who don’t live in Florida, though, it’s still an exciting sight.

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Showcase of Citrus

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The Showcase of Citrus is slice of “real” Florida that’s mere minutes from all the theme parks. Located in Clermont, FL, it’s a 2500-acre working citrus farm where guests can pick their own fruit and take a swamp safari on the “world’s largest” 4x4s.

Let me just cut right to the chase. If you’ve got kids, this place is fantastic. If you like picking your own fruit, there aren’t many places where you can pick your own oranges (dozens of varieties), tangerines, grapefruit, lemons, and pomelos. Again, this place is fantastic.

If you’re visiting central Florida on a family vacation, you’re likely planning to spend most of your time inside the various theme parks. But what’s worth your non-park time? Because of the parks (and the visitors), there’s a booming industry of tourist traps vying for your money.

You need to be discerning, right?

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The Capital Wheel at National Harbor

IMG_1755So, apparently huge Ferris wheels are now a thing. This trend probably traces its roots to the opening of the London Eye (still one of the granddaddies of these tourist wheels) in 2000.

Ever since, huge Ferris wheels have been popping up all over the place. And in May of 2014, Washington DC got its very own…..sort of. The Capital Wheel is actually located at the National Harbor, which is in Maryland just across the Potomac River from Alexandria, VA, about a 20-minute drive from downtown DC.

The National Harbor itself is still a relatively new addition to the region. “Phase 1” opened in 2008, and the area is now home to more than 150 shops, 30 restaurants, several hotels (including the massive Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center), the National Children’s Museum, and a Tanger Outlets. And it continues to expand.

The Capital Wheel is one of the newest attractions to open, and we finally got a chance to check it out while the National Harbor was decked out for the holidays.

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NASA Social: Orion EFT-1 Launch @ Goddard Space Flight Center

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On December 3, I was invited to take part in a NASA Social event to celebrate the launch of Orion EFT-1: the first test flight of the Orion spacecraft, which will eventually be humanity’s first step to Mars.

To commemorate this historic event, NASA took the unprecedented step of opening the doors to 10 of its locations around the country on the same day. I was fortunate enough to be one of 25 people invited to Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, just outside of Washington, DC.

Along with learning about Orion, we were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Goddard complex, met some remarkable NASA employees literally bringing science fiction to life, and got a tantalizing glimpse of the James Webb Space Telescope under construction.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be one of three things: an archaeologist, a writer, or an astronaut. I’ve been the first two; I’m forever dreaming of the third. This might be the closest I’ll ever come to it.

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Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour

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On a recent road trip, we found ourselves driving through Vermont. Stunning, absolutely gorgeous Vermont.

As we were cruising along, enjoying the greenery rolling by, something popped into my head.

Vermont’s Finest.

Why does that ring a bell? Of course! Ben & Jerry’s ice cream! A quick Google search later, and we were on our way to Waterbury, Vermont, home of the Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour!

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Tour of Cirque du Soleil International Headquarters

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Fair warning: This is a long post with a lot of pictures. However, if you’re a fan of Cirque du Soleil, it’s totally worth the journey.

Mrs. Roarbot and I are big fans of Cirque du Soleil. Although some of the shows share similar acts, each is remarkably unique from the others. They’re all so distinct that it sometimes seems unfair to compare them. If pressed to name a favorite of the eight or nine I’ve seen, I’d probably say (a resident show in Las Vegas) for the sheer spectacle it presents. It was the first Cirque du Soleil show to present a cohesive storyline, and it is one of the most technologically advanced productions ever made. Plus, the music is really great.

The 5yo Roarbot is also really into gymnastics, so she’s been enthralled by most of the acrobatic acts she’s seen on YouTube or DVD.

Since 1984, there have been a total of 35 different Cirque du Soleil shows. Currently, there 19 shows in simultaneous production around the world. The Cirque du Soleil brand has truly become an artistic juggernaut that is blatantly emulated by scores of smaller troupes (sometimes by simply using the word cirque to lure in audiences).

On a recent trip to Montreal, which is Cirque du Soleil’s hometown, we were fortunate enough to be invited to tour the organization’s international headquarters. Built in 1997, expanded twice in 2001 and 2007, and housing some 1,400 full-time employees, the building is not open for public tours. This made the private tour given to the Roarbots all the more special.

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