Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Huntsville Space Center

We stopped by the Huntsville Space Center on our return leg from Chattanooga. My first impression was that there was a SR-71 Blackbird out front. It wasn't a Blackbird but an A-12 OXCART which was a predecessor to the Blackbird. Still pretty interesting.

There are 2 buildings open to the public. The first one has the gift shop and ticket counter. There is an IMAX that we didn't visit. Generally the first building seems somewhat rambling. The second building is the Saturn V Hall and is centered around a Saturn V on its side. To get from the first building to the have to go through the first building and walk across the Rocket Park which includes a vertical Saturn V.. There are good photo ops in the Rocket Park as you walk.

You could spend hours in the Saturn V Hall. Everywhere there are interactive exhibits, videos and gadgets to see and play with.

We timed it so we could have lunch there. This facility is a working research center and there are a number of full time employees so they have a nice snack bar that even has a salad bar.

We spent about 2 hours including lunch but could have made an entire day of it.

Their web site is here and the TripAdvisor reviews are here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tennessee Valley Railroad

It was a cool weekend in Chattanooga so we were looking for warm activities. The depot is only 10 minutes from downtown.

The area surrounding the depot is full of engines and train cars.

When we arrived the steam engine was nearby and fired up giving off smoke and steam. What an exciting sight. I took our granddaughter to stand in front of it for a picture.

The depot is authentic and fun to just browse around in. There is a nice gift shop and a sandwich bar.

We took the 12:05 Missionary Ridge Local that lasted 55-60 minutes. We called ahead and they said we could buy sandwiches there and take them on the train.

However the 60 minute trip is really in 3 segments: an outbound trip for about 15 minutes, a turntable demonstration and shop tour for about 15 minutes and an inbound trip for another 15 minutes.

We didn't have time to eat before we arrived at the end station and were told to get off the train. In actuality you don't have to get off unless you want to see the turntable demonstration and the shop tour.

I would encourage taking the turntable demonstration and the shop tour and eat elsewhere.

Their web site is here and the TripAdvisor reviews are here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Tennessee Aquarium

This is an incredible aquarium. I just want to share a tip or two to help others.

We visited with our daughter and her 2 children, 8 years old and 11 months old, so we were using a stroller. My wife and I took the 8 year old up the loooong escalator and my daughter and the 11 month old took the elevator.

The issue is that the route starts at the TOP of the aquarium and flows downward. This is fine but the elevator had stops at each level and didn't indicate to my daughter where to START.

So she got off on the 2nd level and was dumped into the middle of the route. She called me and we figured out what had happened to her. She opposed the traffic to rendezvous with us near the top.

While it appears that there is a zig-zag ramp from the top to the bottom the route actually diverts into galleries that wrap around the central core.

The whole aquarium is DARK and the intended route is poorly marked. The route markings aren't normally so important but were with our confusion.

Their web site is here and the TripAdvisor reviews are here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

DoubleTree Chattanooga

We spent 3 nights here in early March 2017. The rack rate was almost $400 for a suite but a phone call got it down to $209! The location is perfect, close by the Tennessee Aquarium and the Creative Discovery Museum.

Valet parking was $15 per day and the valet staff was exceptional.

The bartender in the lobby bar bent over backwards to help with milk for our toddler.

But they drop the ball on the details.

The clock in each bedroom was wrong and had a screwed down cover over the Time Set button.

The lamp between the beds in one room didn't work at all.

The thermostats were flaky, i.e. the technique to change the temperature wasn't intuitive.

The cable box in one room didn't work. After 2 days I discovered it was just unplugged from the power.

All of these could have been identified by housekeeping in less than a minute and readily corrected by housekeeping or maintenance. They just didn't care.

Their web site is here and the TripAdvisor reviews are here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Acadian Boat Tours

We wanted to get the perspective of Mt. Desert Island from Frenchman's Bay. We found Acadian Boat Tours Sightseeing/Nature Cruise. It's a 2 hour cruise that sails 3 times a day. They also have a shorter 1 1/2 hour cruise if you're crunched for time.

You can buy tickets at their gift shop at Sea Dawg Gift Shop at 47 West St. or at their boat location at 119 Eden St. (Atlantic Oceanside Hotel). The Atlantic Oceanside Hotel is just over a mile out Route 3 so you'll probably want to drive. There's plenty of free parking but realize that it's at the top of a pretty good hill. The free Island Explorer shuttle bus stops there as well so that's another choice.

The Acadia is a nice boat with upper and lower decks as well as an enclosed heated cabin. Dress warmly even if it's warm on land. We chose to sit on the lower deck as we boarded and we were almost alone for 10 minutes or so until those on the upper deck started coming back down where it was warmer. There were binoculars for rent for $3 and a modest snack bar.

There were 2 naturalists on board one of whom (Gabby) spoke on a speaker system. The presentation was easy to hear and very informative.

Calling this a Sightseeing/Nature Cruise is very appropriate as we saw lots of wildlife. We saw countless ducks, many seals and 7 (yes, seven) bald eagles.

As well as wildlife we got a different view of many of the features of Acadia National Park such as Thunder Hole and Sand Beach. We also sailed by Egg Rock Lighthouse.

Acadian Boat Tours offers discounts for seniors so be sure and ask for yours.

Their web site is here and the TripAdvisor reviews are here.