Monday, April 2, 2018

National Museum of American History: Cultivating America's Gardens


Date of Visit: April 1, 2018

Since we had about half an hour before seeing America's Musical Journeys, we checked out the exhibits on the first floor, which includes several that are temporary exhibit spaces that had changed since our last visit. In particular, we enjoyed the "Cultivating America's Gardens" exhibit, which I had forgot all about wanting to check otu.

This exhibit is the current one in the Smithsonian Library Gallery, which has been my favorite temporary exhibit space since we saw the "Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction, 1780-1910" exhibit back in 2015. I just love how they use mainly books as the artifacts to give thematic history even when it's not really even so specifically about books like the science fiction one was.

Destination Info:
National Museum of American History
1400 Constitution Ave NW
Washington DC

Metro Accessibility Note: Closest metro station is Federal Triangle (Blue/Orange/Silver). Smithsonian (Blue/Orange/Silver) is often also recommended as nearby for this museum and if you take the escalator exit it probably is closer or same distance as Federal Triangle, but the elevator is several blocks further, so Federal Triangle is definitely closest if you are exiting Metro via elevator. We used to just use Archives (Yellow/Green) since it was a shorter train ride for us to take Yellow instead of Blue into D.C. and it's only a little more walking. Now that we live in the District, though, we just walk since it's free as well as usually faster.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

National Museum of American History: Warner Bros. Theater


Date of Visit: April 1, 2018

I had been wanting to see America's Musical Journeys movie for over a month and we originally planned to see it at the Air & Space Museum since it is closer to home, but we took too long to get around to seeing it there. Thus, we decided we better go see it at the American History before it stops playing here as well.

Before this movie, we didn't even know this museum had an IMAX. Well, it turns out that, in fact, they don't despite it clearly saying IMAX 3D Showtimes right on the movie page. Thus, we were kind of disappointed as soon as we got in the theater.


However, the theater actually is good. In particular, Mik enjoyed how they had a place for wheelchairs at both ends of two rows about half way down (there's also spots at the back). It was just disappointing that we expected a huge IMAX screen and it was smaller than most movie theaters.  Plus, it costs the same as the Smithsonian's actual IMAX showings.

We both enjoyed the actual movie. The musical journey through the U.S. as Aloe Blaac went on tour and showcasing different genres and their development was interesting and well done. Unfortunately, the 3D and visuals were not so good, but we think that was mostly due to it being meant as an IMAX movie and it didn't translate well to a smaller screen. Also, there was light (green exit sign, I think) coming from behind us that caused a glare in my glasses. Basically, we learned our lesson to just go right away when something comes to the real IMAX at the Air & Space and not go here unless it is a non-3D movie.

Destination Info:
National Museum of American History
1400 Constitution Ave NW
Washington DC

Metro Accessibility Note: Closest metro station is Federal Triangle (Blue/Orange/Silver). Smithsonian (Blue/Orange/Silver) is often also recommended as nearby for this museum and if you take the escalator exit it probably is closer or same distance as Federal Triangle, but the elevator is several blocks further, so Federal Triangle is definitely closest if you are exiting Metro via elevator. We used to just use Archives (Yellow/Green) since it was a shorter train ride for us to take Yellow instead of Blue into D.C. and it's only a little more walking. Now that we live in the District, though, we just walk since it's free as well as usually faster.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Royal Farms Arena: Blake Shelton w/ Carly Pearce, Brett Eldredge, and Trace Adkins


Date of Visit: March 16, 2018

Seeing a Blake Shelton concert is something Mik has been wanting to do for awhile, especially when the County Music Freaks tour was announced with openers he particularly liked. Because the ticket buying process is totally messed up at least for Royal Farms Arena, it was almost another one of his tours we were going to skip hoping eventually he'd play a reasonable venue nearby (or actually just go somewhere farther from home).

The main thing that made me annoyed with Royal Farms Arena is that they don't allow you to buy accessible tickets during presale. This in itself doesn't bother me, but then when they go on sale for everyone you cannot buy them online. In general, it really wasn't that difficult to call when they went on sale other than the phone number didn't open on time and the person had trouble understanding that my card was a Visa and thus kept failing to make the charge go through. It also is annoying that if you bought tickets online you got a free digital copy of Blake's latest CD and the way they handle accessible seating means you miss the special offer and it's a deal I've seen offered for several tours visiting Royal Farms Arena.

I really tried to give the venue the benefit of the doubt and that it wasn't going to be as bad as all the reviews make it sound. To some extent, it really isn't as bad as I thought it would be. Mainly, it's just a really old venue and it's age shows including that it seems there are only two sections with wheelchair accessible seats at the top on each side of the stage area (i.e. four total sections). However, what really made us frustrated with the venue right away was that we tried to enter from the first side entrance we came across the lady went as far as letting us in the door and almost scanning our tickets before realizing that the steps right behind her might be a problem (I wouldn't give the tickets because I saw steps and wanted to know if there was a ramp if we came in that way) and had to ask several people before someone finally pointed out that we had to go around to the Baltimore Street entrance to get in.

Once at the correct entrance the staff was good including being very patient with me having trouble getting the backpack off Mik's chair to be searched. The usher for our section was also good.


We sat in section 103. Overall it was good and at least probably the best wheelchair accessible section (or at least as good as the one across from it). However, I was rather disappointed in that when I bought the tickets the lady made it seem like I was buying tickets for right in front of the stage. I mean, I knew it wasn't true as in we didn't have floor seats and the sections were going to be raised, but she really made it sound like it was at the front of the section and not at the top, although I kind of knew it was based on the seating charts on the arena's website. I guess what she really meant by close to stage was I was purchasing the closest possible wheelchair accessible seats.


Initially, it seemed like the view of the stage would end up being a problem because of people standing in the row in front of us. Luckily, it seems that they may not actually seel this row except as companion seats for the wheelchair row (we actually had one ticket in that row, which thankfully they didn't end up having to use because we actually had seats for opposite ends of the row). Thus, the row only had a few people. Also, the people in front quickly realized they were blocking the view and were good at staying aware to not block our view.


For the most part, the view of the stage and performance was pretty good, but the stage is set up so you mostly are getting a side view and while the openers, especially Carly Pearce, actually did pretty good at also performing to the sides Blake and especially Trace didn't as much. Because of this, it seems the farther away accessible section might have actually been preferable because the angle would've allowed you to see the stage front on, although I still think the closeness to the stage and not needing to look up the screens to really see the artists was still probably better.


Overall Mom and Mik were glad we saw this concert, but I doubt we will ever go to Royal Farms Arena again. I will admit the main reason I wish we didn't go to this concert was that after I had purchased the tickets it was announced the Oak Ridge Boys were playing The Birchmere the same night and they're like my favorite to see in concert and The Birchmere is our favorite concert venue. However, I also was disappointed in that the sound quality and really I am not the type to really notice that kind of thing except Mom and I saw Blake when he played Wrigley Field and that just was way better. Also, that tour was just plain the best ever because of Neal McCoy and not just because he's my fav entertainer, but because of how they set it up to have him perform while they did the stage changeover between sets was just the best concept ever.


Destination Info:
Royal Farms Arena
201 W. Baltimore St.
Baltimore, MD 21201

Friday, March 16, 2018

Colonial National Historical Park: Yorktown Battlefield



Date of Visit: March 15, 2018

Visiting Jamestown/Yorktown has been something we've been wanting to do ever since we moved to Virginia almost four years ago. We didn't have time to do both this time, so I choose Yorktown since that seemed to be at least Dad's preference.


We started our visit with the ~15 minute movie at the visitor center. The movie was a pretty good overview of the battle. Mik wasn't a fan of how they had wheelchair spots at the back, but we had to sit in the row in front of him, but it isn't bad.



The visitor center also has a small museum. We all thought it was pretty cool that they had some of Washington's original tents in it. The ship walkthrough exhibit is also really well done, although it was almost too narrow to get through with the wheelchair and Mik freaked out about Dad taking him in it.


Mik's favorite part of the Visitor Center was the Lafayette Cannon.


After exploring the visitor center we decided to walk into the town and have some lunch and then check out the stuff we missed on our way back to the truck parked at the visitor center. The only place there was a sidewalk was along the riverwalk, but the traffic was light and walking in the street wasn't a big problem, although it is quite a hill to go down/up from the victory monument to the riverwalk. There is parking by the riverwalk, though, so the hill can be avoided.


We enjoyed lunch at the Yorktown Pub. It had two steps up to the main entrance, so we just took Mik up them and into the place. We found out when we were leaving that they do have a back entrance we could've used, but it really wasn't that difficult to just go out the front.


After lunch we walked along the riverwalk to where there was a bookstore. No luck finding any books we wanted, but it was surprisingly accessible for a used bookstore and Mik could actually browse through much of it.


On the way back to the visitor center, we stopped at the Yorktown Victory Monument. We ended up not exploring the stuff on Main Street because Mik was getting cold.


Since we didn't want to get home too late, we then decided to do just the Battlefield Tour drive. Mik stayed in the truck at most of the stops because there really wasn't much accessible to see. In fact, he only got out at the last stop at Surrender Field, which has an accessible trail.


Destination Info:
Colonial National Historical Park - Yorktown Battlefield
Accessibility page on their website
1000 Colonial Parkway
Yorktown, VA 23690

Monday, February 5, 2018

Disney's Animal Kingdom: Satu'li Canteen


Date of Visit: January 6, 2018

Considering how long the lines were for the attractions in Pandora, we were surprised to find absolutely no line inside Satu'li Canteen when we went for an early dinner. We also went for lunch another day and it was probably the least crowded counter service we've ever experienced at peak hours. Plus, we really enjoyed everything we tried there.


Mik enjoyed the grilled beef bowl and the chocolate cake.


We also enjoyed the blueberry cream cheese mousse, although we did prefer the chocolate cake.

Destination Info:
Disney's Animal Kingdom - Satu'li Canteen
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Canopy by Hilton The Wharf DC

Date of Visit: December 29, 2017 to January 1, 2018

We originally had planned to stay at the Canopy by Hilton The Wharf only for New Year's Eve, but ended up there a few days early due to losing part of our power (the important part that ran the heat just enough to make our boat liveable in the cold). The first few nights we stayed in a one-bedroom suite and then moved to our original reservation of just a room. The one-bedroom suite was definitely better with more space, but the room was still quite adequate for just the two of us.


The one-bedroom was nice in that it did allow us to each have our own space and TV. However, it was a little awkwardly designed in that one switch controlled both the lights above the TVs so Mik couldn't have it on like he wanted in the living room area overnight because then the bedroom one would also be on and it was too much light for me.


The dining table area was also nice to have in the one-bedroom and the bathroom area was a little large with double sinks outside of the shower/toilet area. Other than that the room amenities were pretty much the same.


At first, I thought the showers were too confusing to use as they have a standard shower head and then another handheld one by the fold down seat and I couldn't get it to come out of the handheld in the suite. Turned out that it was stuck because the little button I thought was the way to make it work was how it worked with no problem.


Mik really liked the grab bars in the bathrooms (suite one pictured above) and the extra vertical one turned out to be surprisingly useful. What he didn't like, though, was the toilet paper holder not having something to hold it on both sides and with its location beneath the grab meant he kept knocking it off every time he used the toilet.


Both rooms had drawer style mini-fridges (room pictured above), which initially seemed awkward, but actually turned out easier for storing our stuff than when we had a regular mini fridge at the Hyatt House next door our last night before leaving for vacation.


The room we book was one with a river view, which was somewhat better of a view than the courtyard view from the suite. However, the view is basically entirely blocked by the television. There is barely enough room to stand and look out the window much less roll up to the window. Not that the view really mattered to us since it's hard to compare to our view living on a boat in the marina where we can actually see the Washington Monument.


Our favorite feature of the Canopy by Hilton was the breakfast. It had a nice selection including cheese, smoked salmon, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, doughnuts, and more. The ability to have a little breakfast delivered in a bag hung by your door for free was also nice, but it only actually arrived half of the time when we left it out the night before.



Overall we enjoyed this Canopy by Hilton, but found other than the breakfast that the next door Hyatt House was more functional and enjoyable. In particular, the Hilton lacks microwaves in the rooms, although I later found the website describes at least the suite rooms having microwaves and it's odd that we definitely did not have that feature. Also, the coffee machines are fancy Nespresso, which I found didn't actually work half the time and seems so wasteful with pods being destroyed and getting nothing.


Suite's Living Room Area




2 Queen Beds Room


Room's Bathroom


Room's Sink


Room's Closet/Kitchen Area

Destination Info:
Canopy by Hilton The Wharf
957 7th Street SW
Washington, DC 20024

Monday, January 8, 2018

Disney's Animal Kingdom: Na'Vi River Journey


Date of Visit: January 6, 2018

Mik and I were quite disappointed that they added a whole new land without adding any new attractions to experience without having to transfer. In particular, it just makes no sense why they didn't design an accessible ride vehicle for the Na'Vi River Journey since it's a slow boat ride like 'it's a small world' and it doesn't have a hill like Pirates or Frozen to explain why there isn't an accessible boat. Luckily for our annual family trip, Mik has people willing to transfer him to rides so he did get to experience the ride.


Overall our whole group was slightly disappointed by the ride. We thought the scenery was great and all, but it just was too short of a ride. Worthwhile for us since we did have Fastpass+, but certainly not even close to worth the 2 hours plus line it had.

Destination Info:
Disney's Animal Kingdom - Na'vi River Journey
Lake Buena Vista, FL

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