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

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Birchmere: Charles Esten and N'est Pas

Date of Visit: December 26, 2017

This year has been kind of disappointing in terms of there haven't been any artists playing in the D.C. area that we were even tempted to go see. Thus, we were glad Chip continues the tradition of playing The Birchmere when he's home for the holidays and with two shows again this year.

Mik didn't particularly like the opening band, which was also Chip, but in his college band. Not that he didn't like the music, but it went long and thus the concert seemed to last longer than Mik expected. He also just found it weird that Chip basically opened for himself.

Mik's favorite part was when Chip did the walk through the room thing. Since Mik can't really turn his body to see, he lost track of where Chip was and when Chip touched his shoulder from behind I thought Mik was going to be like I’m never coming again because usually he hates when things cause him to jerk and start to tip his chair back, but instead he was smiling and like that was awesome.

The Birchmere continues to be our favorite venue and we particularly like how when they repaved their parking lot they made it so it's ramped up to the sidewalk along the side of the building so the line up before it opens really is accessible now. However, they seem to have an official policy to let wheelchairs in first and a line number isn't really needed and I'm not so sure I agree with that policy.

Hopefully next year there's more than Chip that we want to see there. (The Oak Ridge Boys are playing in March, but unfortunately it was announced after I went through the hassle of getting Blake Shelton tickets in Baltimore that night and as much as Mik has been wanting to see Blake we so would've rather got tickets for The Oak Ridge Boys here and tried to see Blake at pretty much any other venue.)

Destination Info:
The Birchmere
3701 Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22305

Monday, November 27, 2017

U.S. Botanic Garden: Season's Greenings 2017 - Roadside Attractions

Date of Visit: November 27, 2017

This year's theme seemed like a good one and overall it was, but as Dad had warned us it wasn't one of the better years. It really was probably the least enjoyable and part of it is that they are making a new exhibit or something in the West Gallery so there isn't the big Christmas tree that is always one of our favorite things to see. Also, it just didn't seem like there was a much to see as normal or it really could just be that last year was our favorite.

Mik's favorite part was Lucy the Elephant.

He was yet again disappointed by the little tunnel that is too short for him to roll under, especially since that is where the Cadillac Ranch model was located.

The Jolly Green Giant, though, was quite impressive and my favorite part.

We also liked the new addition of the National Museum of African American History to the National Mall landmarks in the Garden Court.

Destination Info:
United States Botanic Garden
100 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20001

Monday, November 20, 2017

Museum of the Bible

Date of Visit: November 20, 2017

I had reserved our tickets for the Museum of the Bible as soon as they opened reservations and ended up with 8am tickets. Apparently, the museum doesn't open to the general public until 10am and the system shouldn't have let us, but they honored the tickets for the few of us that had ended up with the tickets as they do open at 8am for members (and sounds like also groups, but there were no groups). It ended up being a great way to enjoy the museum almost entirely to ourselves, which makes us think that museum membership is potentially worthwhile even if you only visit once.

The start of the museum is a little awkward because at least at this point I don't think anyone is showing up without tickets yet you are directed to the ticket counters to get started. I don't get why they don't just have people standing inside the door after security to scan your ticket like they do at the ballpark, for example. With there being less than ten people there at 8am it wasn't a big deal, but when we were leaving at 11:30am the line was backed up to security because there really isn't space for a line for the ticket counter. It just doesn't make sense other than they just really want to have you go to the ticket counter so they can try to get you to donate and do the paid attractions.

We started our visit on Floor 2 with the Bible in America exhibit. Mik had fun with the interactive Bible on the Map display. We kind of rushed through it, though, and also never got back around to the Bible in the World exhibit because we had 8:45am tickets for the Hebrew Bible on Floor 3.

On Floor 3, we ended up only checking out The World of Jesus of Nazareth exhibit because the Hebrew Bible was currently not working. The World of Jesus of Nazareth was an interesting exhibit designed to be an immersive experience that reminds me of visiting historic sites that have reenactors as there were a few people there acting as villagers that you could interact with. While it was kind of a small exhibit, it was probably our favorite because it was well done with there even being sound effects such as water splashing in the ritual bath area.

Our other favorite part of the museum was the elevators. The ones to the Mezzaine level are sort of interesting with the walls having script on it, but the ones between the main floors are really cool as they have video screens showing scenes on them. Also, the buttons are big and nicely labeled with what's on the floor rather than being just numbers.

The exhibit we spent most of our time in, though, was the History of the Bible. Here it was interesting to see not just the various Bibles, but the evolution of writing and printing in general as the some of the examples texts on display were cuneiform on clay, Torah scrolls, and illuminated Bibles. It was also interesting that it focused on how the texts became translated into more and more languages.

After the History of the Bible exhibit, it was around 10:30am and Mik was hungry. All along we had planned to try out the Manna Restaurant on the top floor, but they ended up not being open yet. Thus, instead, we checked out the Milk & Honey Cafe, which is worth visiting even if you don't get anything as there's a small display about the history of the building on one wall. In particular, it was interesting to learn that they took out every other floor in the building as part of converting it into the Museum of the Bible and it explains why the cafe level has such low ceilings as they preserved the original floor height in this area.

Overall we enjoyed the Museum of the Bible, although having it almost to ourselves probably significantly contributed to our ability to really enjoy what we did get around to seeing. We still plan to visit again to see the Hebrew Bible attraction and what we missed on Floor 2 and the temporary exhibits on Floor 5, but we'll probably have to become members because it really was nice to be able to start at 8am other than we were then done too early to check out the Manna Restaurant.

Destination Info:
Museum of the Bible
400 4th St SW
Washington DC 20024

Monday, September 11, 2017

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

Date of Visit: September 11, 2017

Since we ended up having to cancel our WDW trip that was supposed to start yesterday, Mik and I decided it's about time we go to the Sackler Gallery. Well, that didn't happen as seems to always happen when we plan to go. This time it's because it's closed until the new temporary exhibits open next month. Thus, we decided to visit the National Museum of African Art, which is another Smithsonian that we have never visited (even I hadn't!).

The National Museum of African Art building is located in the Enid A. Haupt garden behind the Smithsonian Castle. The entrance has a button to activate the automatic door (and also serves as the accessible exit). It is a set of two doors and the button for the first door worked going in and out, but we couldn't get the next door to open either way. Both doors work, but there's only one button in the area between them. I'm not sure if there is a trick of like being patient enough for the first to close and then hit it to open the second or what, but it sure was quicker to just open the door manually.

We spent most of our visit in the main permanent exhibit called "African Mosaics." It seemed to contain mostly masks, but there was still a decent amount of variety to the art on display, especially considering it's not that big.

Visiting the African Art Museum for the first turned out to perhaps not be the best choice currently as at least half of its temporary exhibit space was currently in transition and even the supposedly indefinite Disney-Tishman Collection was closed. Also, for us, the only temporary exhibits open were not of much interest because they were video art. We did enjoy the permanent collection exhibits open ("African Mosaics" and "Currents: Water in African Art"), but found it ended up feeling more like when we go to a museum just to see a new temporary exhibit since there wasn't much to see here. Definitely, a museum that should probably be visited when you can connect over to the Sackler or at least the second sub-floor temporary exhibit space has something in it.

Destination Info:
National Museum of African Art
950 Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20560