World War II Museum

It’s been awhile since I wrote a blog post. I haven’t written since the 1st of the year! Life’s been pretty boring, and I haven’t been doing anything too exciting. But today, I visited the National World War II museum in New Orleans for the first time.

I have heard for years about what a great museum it is. It is actually the number 1 rated tourist attraction in New Orleans on Trip Advisor. But I had never visited until today. The museum is very well done with lots of exhibits. I learned a lot, but could go back and learn so much more. Because I was visiting with my family (including my seven year old daughter), I did not have the time to read all the information or watch all of the videos. A history buff could easily spend a whole day there.

I took a lot of pictures.

At the start of the museum, you can get a dog tag card. You board the train and are able to scan your card to learn one particular person’s story during the war. Each card is unique, so if your family gets multiple cards, you can follow the stories of multiple people. Throughout the museum, there are places where you can scan your dog tag and learn more about that person’s journey. My daughter enjoyed this interactive feature. The museum also provides each person with their own stylus to use on the touch screen displays instead of your finger!

While I was well aware of the United States’ extreme reluctance to join the war (prior to Pearl Harbor), I had no idea how small our army was compared to other countries at the time. The U.S. was 18th in the world in terms of armed forces during the 1930’s.

Throughout the museum, the stories and artifacts from particular soldiers was shared. Personal anecdotes, a copy of a journal, a uniform, etc. give a real view of how the war affected individuals. I liked seeing this poem written by a high school senior from the Westbank (where I grew up).

It is so interesting to learn about how everyone in the U.S. contributed to the war effort. Women took over the factory jobs for men to make the supplies needed. And of course, women served overseas also.

The museum did not shy away from the discussion of racism in America and how it was during wartime. There were definitely inconsistencies in our nation’s own practices and the fight to stop the evils associated with extreme racism by the enemy. But it took all of our nation (black, white, Latino, Chinese, Native American, etc.) to win this war. The Japanese interment camps are a particularly sad part of our history at that time.

The Four Freedoms

I learned that the Merchant Marines suffered the highest casualty rate of any branch of the armed forces.

The museum spans across several buildings and several floors. The buildings are connected by walkways that go over the street below. In one of the buildings, there are two separate immersive exhibits – The Road to Tokyo and The Road to Berlin. Each one gave detailed information about the battles fought on the two different fronts (in the East and in the West). I call them immersive, because the exhibits were designed to showcase the unique landscape of each battle.

There is a huge gallery (four stories high) that houses planes and other vehicles used during the war. You can climb all the way to the top to look down at the planes, also, but we didn’t do that for two reasons. 1) a museum employee warned us that it can be quite scary up there for those scared of heights and 2) the elevator was not working, so we would have had to take the stairs!

An interesting interactive exhibit gave you ethical dilemmas that had to be made during the war. First, you watch a video explaining the pros and cons of making the decision. Then you vote with what you would do. The statistics are put up on the screen of how your group and visitors in general voted. Next, you watch another video telling you what actually happened and how it turned out. My daughter and I are definitely not cut out to make those difficult wartime decisions.

We also watched the 4-D movie, Beyond All Boundaries, narrated by Tom Hanks. You buy tickets for this when you purchase admission. It is an immersive theater experience with props on stage with the screens. There are also special effects, such as gun shots, your seat shaking, snow, etc. There is a warning before you enter that it may be a difficult experience for those with sensory issues or post traumatic stress. The movie was very powerful, but a bit much for my daughter, who had to cover her eyes several times. It is an emotional journey through the war, bringing to life some aspects in a way that can’t be seen just through the exhibits. I definitely recommend attending the show if you visit the museum.

We also had lunch at The American Sector, the restaurant located in the museum. I needed a fork and knife to tackle this po-boy, but it was quite tasty.

Peach BBQ pulled pork po-boy.

We did not go to the main museum store across the street, which in addition to souvenirs and World War II memorabilia had super-cute vintage style clothing. We did pass by the two stores located in the museum, however. Among all of the Rosie the Riveter merchandise, I found this awesome shirt and had to take a picture.

After leaving the museum, we headed down the street to the Higgins Hotel, where my brother-in-law works. The hotel is World War II themed and very nice.

Playing General Patton’s piano

I hope you enjoyed my pictures from the National World War II museum in New Orleans. It is an excellent museum, and I definitely recommend that you visit!

Sea World Orlando

We visited Sea World Orlando on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Compared to Universal Studios, the crowds were less, but it felt that the Covid precautions were a bit less also. They did not give hand sanitizer before you got on rides and did not seem as strict in general. Due to the lower crowds, it wasn’t that hard to socially distance. But it also meant that whole sections of the park were not open in the morning. If I had known this, I would have planned differently. We arrived for park opening, but everywhere we went, rides and sections of the park were blocked off. It was also the warmest day of our trip. In addition to an excessive amount of walking (the park is quite spread out), it is the only day that I felt uncomfortable and sweaty in my mask. All this is not to say that we did not have a good time. I just don’t know that I would recommend a visit during the pandemic.

I was excited because Sea World was supposed to have a lot of Christmas celebrations, but we didn’t see them because we didn’t stay until the evening when they all took place.

The only attractions opened at the start of the day when we arrived were the large roller coasters. Sea World has taller, faster, more intense roller coasters than Universal Studios. I don’t ride those types of rides, but my husband did get to go on a couple of them without a long wait.

We were excited about visiting the Sesame Street Land in the park. It was therefore disappointing to find out that it did not open for a couple of hours. Once we did get to visit, it was certainly cute. The quality of the kiddie rides though was more along the lines of a smaller carnival. My daughter had fun, but it was nothing too fancy.

But, of course, the main reason for visiting Sea World is to see the animals, not the rides. It’s been many years since I have been here. The last time was before the controversy of the Blackfish documentary. I’ve been uncertain over the years whether or not to visit again. On the one hand, I love zoos and aquariums. I love interacting with animals. I do believe they are important for conservation and education in this world that has endangered their natural habitats so much. On the other hand, can the natural habitat of a whale (the great, wide ocean) be replicated in captivity? No, it cannot. Sea World has changed their killer whale shows since the last time I was here. No more trainers in the water, as there have been great tragedies. They also no longer breed orcas at Sea World. Ultimately, I decided that as a fan of zoos and aquariums, I was also comfortable with visiting Sea World again.

One of the whales was celebrating his birthday on the day we were there. He got a special cake treat.

We also enjoyed the dolphin show.

There are small aquariums spread throughout the park.

I always love petting sting rays. They are soft and friendly.

I also love manatees.

One of my favorite parts of the park was visiting Antarctica.

The penguin ride was closed due to Covid. There was a walk-through exhibit to get to the penguins, however. I love penguins.

Overall, despite my complaints, we did enjoy our day at Sea World. I would visit again, just not during the Covid-19 pandemic, but at a time when everything was open.

LSU Rural Life Museum

On Sunday, I visited the LSU Rural Life Museum for the first time. I’ve been to other things on the property such as the corn maze at Burden and Arbor Day celebrations, but I had never went to the museum before. It was the perfect place to visit during the pandemic because most of the museum is out in the open air. There were few visitors and it was really easy to spread out. Most of the time, it felt like we were the only ones there.

There were several rooms inside that we explored first. They were full of all kinds of objects from southern Louisiana that show what life was like in the past.

There was a lot of historical information on slavery and plantation life.

There was clothing and art.

Model T with Mike the Tiger on the side

There is lots to see if you are interested in historical artifacts. It’s fun to see local history also.

After exploring the indoor rooms, you go outside. The majority of the museum consists of many historical buildings which have been relocated here. They come from various parts of the state, but represent many different parts of rural life. There are slave cabins, a post office, a school, country houses, barns, and more.

If you love history and southern Louisiana culture, I definitely recommend a visit to the Rural Life Museum when visiting Baton Rouge. There are also other things to see on the property, including gardens and trails. We finished our visit with a stop at the playground towards the front of the property.

Universal Studios Florida Pt. 2

Here are the remaining pictures from our trip to Universal Studios Florida. I’ve already shared the pictures from Diagon Alley, so here is a peek into the other parts of that park. Be warned, there are a lot of pictures in this post!

The Simpsons-themed section of the park has a fun 3-D ride, carnival games, and lots of food options.

We rode the Men in Black ride several times, as it usually did not have a long line. You get to shoot aliens. One time, we got stuck on the ride and had to get off and walk back to the front. It was like a backstage peek at the ride.

Most of the kiddie section of the park was closed due to Covid, as it consists mainly of themed playgrounds. We rode the Woody Woodpecker kiddie coaster over and over again.

We did take pictures with Barney, Baby Bop, and BJ!

The Minions ride is another 3-D ride. It is very popular, so we only rode it once.

There is normally a Christmas parade. Due to Covid, it was cancelled for 2020. In place of the parade, however, there was a walk-through Christmas exhibit with real Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloons. It was festive and cool to see the balloons up close.

At the end of the exhibit, you could see Santa (socially distanced, of course).

Another fun 3-D ride is the Race Through New York featuring Jimmy Fallon. It was fun to watch all the clips from The Tonight Show as we waited in line.

We even saw Hashtag the Panda.

The Horror Makeup Show was really fun. It is full of jokes and gags. It is also informative as you learn about how they do many of the special effects in horror movies.

We also loved the Animal Actors on Location show. We saw how they train animals to be in movies.

There was a Shrek 4-D show. It was okay, but not quite worth the long wait in line. We did take a picture with Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey, though.

We also rode E.T., of course.

Also, Transformers. My daughter wouldn’t go on that one, so we had to child swap.

In addition to rides, we met lots of different characters in this park. Of course, they are all socially distanced pictures. We saw the trolls twice. The first time, we saw Poppy and Branch. The second time, we saw Poppy and Guy Diamond. He even had a Tiny Diamond with him.

Spongebob and Patrick.

Back to the Future.

Scooby Doo and the Gang.

Madagascar characters were on parked floats since the parades were cancelled.

An Egyptian walking down the street near the Revenge of the Mummy ride (one that I did not go on!).

There are lots of cute, themed stores, such as Hello Kitty.

The whole park is of course Hollywood and movie themed, so there were other cute touches, like seeing Marilyn Monroe get driven down the street.

Of course, it is always fun to take the Jaws themed pictures.

We had a great two days in Universal Studios Florida park. There is a lot to do to fill your time.

Celebration in the Oaks

My personal Christmas tradition is going to Celebration in the Oaks in my hometown of New Orleans. I’ve been attending almost every year since I was a child. In elementary school, I performed at it one night each year with my school choir. It was always a fun time, because after the performance, I could run around with all my friends seeing lights and riding the rides.

Through high school and college, I usually attended with a large group of friends. Some years, I went with my family. I’ve been living in Baton Rouge now for 14 years, but I still go into New Orleans every year to attend Celebration in the Oaks in City Park. There is something awesome about experiencing the same lovely fun year after year.

This year, of course, was different. It is 2020 and nothing is the same. It was only open for a driving tour. We still drove down last week to see it.

It was a mixture of lights used each year with some new ones thrown in.

Many of the lights are NOLA themed.

One unique touch is that your family’s names showed up on the nice and naughty lists as your car reached them. My daughter showed up on the nice list and my husband on the naughty list.

There was a special tribute to our healthcare heroes this year during the global pandemic.

Here are a few pictures from the past years at Celebration in the Oaks. My absolute favorite ride in all of City Park is the carousel, also known as the flying horses. I love carousels, but this is my favorite carousel ever.

Another great part of our annual tradition is visiting Storyland. It was updated a couple years ago, but many of the classics remain, including the dragon slide and Cinderella pumpkin.

And then of course there is the annual picture in front of the poinsetta tree.

During a normal non-Covid year, I recommend visiting Celebration in the Oaks. It is full of fun experiences. From walking through the lights, seeing the decorated Christmas trees, riding the Ladybug roller coaster, roasting marshmallows, riding the train, and more, it is always a great time.

Universal Studios Florida Pt. 1 – Diagon Alley

I’ve posted our pictures from Islands of Adventure. Now, I shall share some of my pictures from the other park, Universal Studios. We spent two days in this park also. This post will be focused on the Harry Potter themed section of the park.

You enter through a replica of Kings Cross Station in London.

The Knight Bus and it’s driver are available for a chat and photos. There is even a talking shrunken head.

Diagon Alley is just like in the books and movies. A place for witches and wizards to shop and get all the things they might need.

My daughter wanted her very own Crookshanks from the Magical Menagerie shop.

She was also able to keep using her interactive wand purchased at IOA to do spells. With a little assistance from a witch, we started to get better at them.

Escape from Gringotts is the big ride in this park. We went straight there on our first day and had no wait. We all sat down on the ride, but my daughter was freaking out and scared. We ended up taking her off and using the child swap room so that my husband and I could each ride individually. It is an adventurous ride through the bank just like in the book and film.

We saw two different shows during our time at Diagon Alley. The first was Tales of Beedle the Bard, which was a puppet style show telling some of the classic wizarding fairy tales.

We also saw Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees, a celebrated witch singer. They sang and danced to some unique holiday tunes, including “My Baby Gave Me a Hippogriff for Christmas.”

We had some delicious ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour. I had the clotted cream flavor. Delicious!

Like any good wizard visiting a shopping area during a global pandemic, we made sure to wash our hands!

Overall, we had a great time exploring this part of the park several times over our two days.

Islands of Adventure – Pt. 3

I have already shared two blog posts with pictures from our recent trip to Islands of Adventure. Those included my pictures from Hogsmeade and Seuss Landing, where we spent the majority of our time. This last post shares a few more pictures from other parts of the park.

We visited Jurassic Park. I declined to go on the Jurassic Park water ride, but my daughter and I did do Pternadon Flyers which is only for children and one parent.

We did do the raptor encounter which is fun. I got a fun video out of it of me acting like a spaz.

We also spent a small amount of time in superhero island. Since I don’t ride the big roller coasters, our time here was limited to one ride on Spiderman, which is a 3-D ride.

We did a socially distanced meet and greet with Spiderman and Captain America. They sang a fun birthday song to the boy who went right before us.

Each store in different areas of the park had themed Christmas trees, which was quite fun. There was an official Christmas tree scavenger hunt that one could participate in, but I didn’t do that.

We saw these characters in front of where the Poseidon’s Fury show would normally be. It is currently closed due to Covid.

Overall, we had a really fun two days in the Islands of Adventure park at Universal Studios.

Islands of Adventure – pt. 2 – Seuss Landing

I got kind of busy after my first post from our recent Universal Studios trip. I’m finally getting around to sharing my next post with pictures from Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure.

Of course, this was one of my daughter’s favorite parts of the park as it has rides designed for children (and Dr. Seuss fans of all ages). We spent a lot of time here over our two days in this park and were able to ride each attraction several times.

My daughter’s favorite ride was definitely One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. It is basically a Dumbo style ride, except that you can steer your fish up or down in order to get your parents soaking wet. Any seven year old’s dream.

There were socially distanced character meet and greets.

We had to make a reservation for the meet and greet with the Grinch, I suppose because it is more popular. It was fun, because he acts extra Grinchy, but of course, they are really trying to sell you on a photo package, which is why I only got a random picture that I took myself at the end.

There were also several cute shows telling Dr. Seuss stories or singing Christmas songs.

Our second day at IOA, we wore cute social distancing Grinch shirts that I had made for our trip. I wouldn’t touch you with a 39 1/2 foot pole.

Cute photo ops, but many of the stores and food establishments were closed, I suppose due to Covid?

Horton and his egg

We did order some pizza one day from Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous and enjoy it outside.

We enjoyed the theming of Seuss Landing a lot. We even watched The Lorax movie one night during our trip.

Islands of Adventure Pt. 1 – Hogsmeade Village

We decided to take a last minute trip to Universal Studios in Orlando right before Thanksgiving. We haven’t traveled anywhere since Covid-19 started, and I was feeling an itch to go. Tickets were discounted, so we just decided to go. It was a controversial decision, but I think we did the best we could to stay safe and had a lot of fun in the process.

This post will share some of our pictures from Islands of Adventure. We spent two days in this park. The first day of our trip was the least crowded. Our second IOA day was a few days later on the weekend, so crowds had picked up a bit. On that day, we went to the park at opening, left around lunchtime, and came back at night to avoid the most crowded part of the day.

The part of Universal Studios that I was most excited to visit were the two Harry Potter themed lands. I have not been to Universal since these were built several years ago. In Islands of Adventure, you get to visit both Hogsmeade and Hogwarts!

Hogsmeade was a wintry wonderland covered in snow and Christmas decor.

My family represents three different Hogwarts houses, so we wore masks to represent. My husband is a Slytherin, my daughter is a Gryffindor, and I am a proud Hufflepuff. We just need a Ravenclaw to round out our group.

We visited stores all themed down to the details according to the book’s descriptions.

My daughter got an interactive Hermione Granger wand that allowed her to do spells around both of the parks. Completing the spells was a bit trickier than I expected and did require some practice to get right.

We had a lunch of fish and chips at The Three Broomsticks, which were quite tasty. I also sampled some Butterbeer.

The Hogwarts castle was a sight to behold and even more fun to see lit up at night.

The castle is home to the Forbidden Journey ride, which I quite enjoyed, but my daughter was a bit frightened of. It is an adventure as you fly around Hogwarts with Harry.

My daughter’s favorite ride was Flight of the Hippogriff which is a family friendly roller coaster. She could have ridden that one all day if we let her. Kiddie roller coasters are as far as I go in the roller coaster world, so we didn’t even attempt the popular Hagrid’s Magical Creatures ride.

We saw two shows during our time in Hogsmeade. The first was the Triwizard Spirit Rally, which showcased perfomances by students from the other two magical schools, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons.

We also saw the Hogwarts Frog Choir which performed some great Christmas tunes.

We did not get a chance to ride the Hogwarts Express, as we did not buy park to park tickets. Maybe one day!

JAMNOLA

The lack of travel posts on my blog over the past several months makes me sad. Thanks Covid-19! But today, I did go to an awesome place in my hometown of New Orleans. It is called JAMNOLA. The JAM stands for Joy, Art, and Music and it is an artistic celebration of New Orleans culture.

It is a guided tour through themed rooms which are each full of unique, colorful, and truly NOLA art. I highly recommend checking it out. It is fun and they encourage photography and fun selfies. It is a great place to spend an hour.

Much of the art is made with reclaimed materials, such as the lanterns in the feather room (made out of Gatorade bottles).

There were paintings, fun wallpaper, or other art installations on every wall and floor.

There was a room made up completely of recycled Mardi Gras beads and the reflective mirrors from parking garages.

The bling bayou was super sparkly of course.

This whole room was hand painted.

The crawfish themed room had lots of fun photo opportunities and the coolest wallpaper.

The costume room had lots of cool stuff inspired by Carnival.

The garden of legends had huge statues of famous NOLA musicians, from Irma Thomas to Louis Armstrong to Lil Wayne and more.

JAMNOLA is a uniquely New Orleans experience full of color, joy, and music.