Lee's headquarters Gettysburg

Lee's headquarters Gettysburg
The recently restored area around Lee's Headquarters in Gettysburg PA!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Salem Massachusetts Museums and other attractions




We have been through Salem four times. I love this town. It is actually pretty small, but jam packed with history. Anyone who appreciates history and especially weird history will love this place!

I will try not to rehash what most people already know. There are many books covering the events of the 1692 Salem witch trials. It is still a fascinating and mysterious point in American history.

The town has capitalized on it in a big way too. There are several museums, gift shops and other attractions relating to the trials and the general historical strangeness of the area.

As we have been through this area, as travelers several times, I will try to give a brief review of some of the attractions we have enjoyed the most.

I should take a moment to say that the town is very touristy with many novel tourist stops. Expect to pay $8-$15 at each museum or attraction on admission, even the smaller ones. Take a few extra dollars to each stop for post cards and gifts.

One thing that surprised me on our first visit was the use of the word "museum." I expected to see many artifacts and actual items from the witch trials. That is not the case. Few actual relics still exist, and the best ones are the obvious ones in the cemetery and the "Witch House" (the only building still standing directly linked to the trials).

The New England Pirate Museum, The Witch Dungeon Museum, and The Witch History Museum are three separate museums that offer a deal when you buy passes to all 3. They are within walking distance of each other and the other main attractions.

All three pretty much involve period dressed actors leading tours through life sized scenes of historical figures and events. The actors do a great job, and the scenes are pretty fun too. The Witch Dungeon Museum did have a piece of wood from the actual witch jail. The pirate one was just a lot of fun too. Our pirate guide really got into the part.

There are other cool museums in the area too, including the most noticeable one, the Salem Witch Museum. There is the newer Lizzie Borden Museum too. I can't get enough Lizzie Borden (more on her later). There is a traditional haunted house attraction there too, I can't think of the name at the moment, but we had fun taking their tour.

I love Nathaniel Hawthorne. The part in the House of the Seven Gables where Judge Pyncheon is setting in the house dead is about some of the creepiest writing ever. Hawthorne was born in Salem and spent a lot of time here. There are several references to him in Salem. Obviously, one of the big attractions in Salem, especially relating to Hawthorne is the actual House of Seven Gables. As much as I love Hawthorne and the preservation of historical houses, I must say that the house tour is disappointing, in my opinion. I would suggest going only if you are a huge fan of the novel, and really feel the need. It is the House of the Seven Gables though, and many people will see it just because of the name. Unfortunately, I get the impression that it is being managed with that same kind of attitude.

The Peabody Essex Museum is huge, and can take up a day or so on your travel schedule by itself. It is the oldest continuously operating museum in the US and has impressive collections of Asian and maritime art. The museum is also in control of many historically significant buildings in Salem.

Depending on your time and budget, I would pretty much suggest seeing all of the museums and attractions. Even if you think the period dressed actors and the life size scene museums are cheesy, they are fun.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Charleston WV.



OK. I haven't spent a lot of time here, but I have been through a few times lately. I don't have a lot to say about Charleston, but I am interested in getting back soon. It did take a second visit for me to realize it, as the area seems to not have a lot going on at first.

First off, this is a bit of a neglected area for day trips from the Eastern Kentucky area. Sure, I think most of us might pass on Charleston West Virginia opting instead for a day in Louisville or a bigger town with more going on in general.

Charleston does have a really cool SAL minor league baseball park that I have mentioned on my other blog. They have a Quaker Steak and Lube. If you are a buffalo wing fan, this is a great chain that I would love to see hit Kentucky.

Charleston has a nice mall too. I know many people hate malls, but, as they become more scarce by the moment, I am really developing an appreciation for them. The Charleston Town Center Mall seems is nice and spacious, and it is maintained well. They have a nice food court on the third story where you can look out over the other stories on the mall. This is very relaxing.

Huntington and Marshall University are also close by. We stopped briefly in Huntington and hit their mall too. They have a nice one. I don't know why, but I love those big mall book stores with a Seattle's Best Coffee in them. I would like to see more of these too. Also, on the same exit at the Huntington Mall we went to, there is the Billy Bob's Pizza place that I mentioned before.

The area does have a bit of a X-Files vibe going on, and I love areas with that kind of feel. Flatwoods (birthplace of the "Flatwoods Monster") and Point Pleasant which is associated with Mothman are close by. Also, and I plan on talking about this later, the Weston State Hospital (aka the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum) is not too far off either. That is a cool place I will need to talk about more!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New England

I originally wanted to write mostly about the great state of Kentucky and other areas close by. I still want to keep the theme here pretty much related to Kentucky or areas outside of Kentucky that can easily be visited in a day or weekend trip. For the moment, I hope my reader(s) won't mind my writing about my travels through New England and the states between there and Kentucky.

I know, this is a pretty big stretch for a Kentucky Travel blog, but, for what it is worth, I did the entire trip, there and back, in my car within about 1 week. We left Friday evening around 5 and got back the following Saturday pretty late. We made it a little north of Portland Maine. We made notable stops in several cities.

I will write over the next few weeks about some of our favorite stops. This was our 4th time making this specific trip, so a few areas are becoming pretty familiar to me as a traveller. We did visit 10 minor league baseball parks, seeing games at 5 of them. Feel free to check out my mentions of them on my other blog, kentuckybaseball.blogspot.com.

I love Kentucky and I love the entire country. Getting in my car and just going somewhere is such a treat and a privilege. Not many decades ago, it was an event for someone to travel just a few miles. A trip for my grandfather in to town was somewhat of an event. Now, it is no big deal for me to make a 2500 mile trip in a week just for the fun of it!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Louisville Mega Cavern

roadsideamerica.com (one of my favorite web sites) recently linked to an article about the Louisville Mega Cavern.

Wow! I had the opportunity to check this place out this weekend. I am a little speechless.

Frankly, while on my tour, I did try to listen to the stats, numbers, and figures, but I was so amazed looking around that I missed out on a lot. I am going to have to take this tour again VERY soon.

In a nut shell, the Louisville Mega Cavern is a bit of a work in progress. It has been around for about 50 years if I remember correctly. It is 17 miles long. It is very secure, and the temperature, like in a cave, stays a constant 58 degrees. It is now being used as a very secure place for companies to store candy, wine, vehicles, etc. According to our guide, MGM stores some of their original films there, including the Wizard of Oz. Tell me that isn't cool!

Also, there is a large scale life size diorama showing what life might be like if the Cavern took on residents during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The diorama is very big, and very strange. On the tour, they note that 50,000 people had been invited to come in and live there, if needed. It was a very secret situation. They actually show a short film, in the Cavern during the tour on this.

The tour seemed to last nearly an hour and a half, and it was all on a train car. There is no walking involved at all, which is good and bad. I do like walking on a tour, but the riding has a lot of benefits too. I know of some relatives that have trouble walking even short distances. I think this would be a great adventure for them. It was actually relaxing and fascinating.

There are signs as you ride around noting that you are exactly under K-Mart, Wendy's and the Zoo. We had lunch at the Wendy's after our tour, thinking about the tours going on underneath us.

Maybe I should warn you, the end of the tour is a bit creepy. Our tour guide, Woody, ate a worm from the worm farm in the Cavern. Seriously. I am not kidding. Let me say it again. He ate a worm. I asked him if it is OK to assure others who come to the Mega Cavern that they will also get to see this. He told me that it is part of EVERY tour. That alone is worth the price of admission.

So, the Louisville Mega Cavern is just cool. I could see taking any school group there. Also, it has the very creepy life size diorama displays (the way they are posed, and the way the light moves around them as you ride around them, they reminded me of slow moving zombies from old 70's horror films). I could also see taking any fan of caves or of history there.

The only disappointment about Mega Cavern is the gift shop. They have lots of rocks, and pretty generic "cavern" stuff. They need to get to work on their exclusive items. I always pick up patches and postcards when we travel somewhere unique. The gift shop had neither. Also, after the tour, I was craving MORE info on this place. The generic "factoids" posted on the walls, and the bits of information in the pamphlets weren't enough for me. This place is begging for a 300 page book to be written about it. The gift shop is in need of such a book too.

Also, as far as a tourist stop goes, Louisville Mega Cavern is VERY young. They do have some things to iron out. The tour is still a bit raw. Get down to Mega Cavern and enjoy that rawness while you can. Over the next few years they will without a doubt shape the tour up, and give it a glossy coat. There has to be a legal issue with making your tour guides eat worms. I can see myself bragging to my friends in 20 years, "I took the Mega Cavern tour back when they made the tour guides eat worms!" Surely that can't continue!

I hope they exploit the Caverns to their fullest potential. It would be a great place to have a Halloween party or haunted house. Camp outs would be cool. 17 mile multi day hikes would be something to brag about too. Check out their web site.

http://www.louisvillemegacavern.com/