Monday, February 20, 2012


In order to get to know our new home better and to save us all from some stir-craziness, I’ve decided that we are going to go visit at least one local attraction per week. That way, we’ll get to see firsthand which annual passes we should buy, if any, while at the same time experiencing a little local flavor along the way.

We first went to see the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. I have to say, all the stuffed animals in these museums creep me out a little, but the boys loved them, though they got bored of them quickly. This museum also has a live animal portion, which was mostly filled with shivering birds. Did I mention it was snowing on the day we visited? We were shivering as well! They also have a planetarium which I think J will love at a later date. In the meantime, they did enjoy the hands-on discovery room for younger children, where they got to see tarantulas and hissing cockroaches and pet a rabbit and watch a possum wrap himself around a handler’s neck and dig for fossils and solve all kinds of puzzles. J was also impressed with the dinosaur fossils in their big dinosaur exhibit, and we will definitely be returning for their next special exhibit, Mythical Creatures: Dragons, Griffins, and Mermaids (or something like that), which is, as the husband points out, an interesting choice for a natural history museum, but J is obsessed with all things fantastic, particularly dragons. However, as a whole, we’re going to hold off on an annual pass for a few years, much as we enjoyed our visit.

Next, we visited the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, our favorite place so far. The zoo is really quite impressive…and really quite hilly! I almost passed out pushing the double stroller up a very steep hill on our way to see the big cats, primates, and aquatic exhibits. Really, I had to take a break half way up and then made the kids get out and walk for the last third. It was pathetic. Fortunately, there is a shuttle that can ferry you to all the high points, including Northern Trek, where they keep the polar bears, tigers, wolves, seals, sea lions, and other cold-loving creatures. On your way, you can see a pond full of waterfowl, giraffes and rhinos and other savannah animals (who were probably freezing to death), and a green house. Beyond those exhibits, you can also see many elephants and lions (they have heated rocks in their cave, lucky guys) and bears and what have you. And THEN, you go across the street to the Amazon rainforest and things really get fun. It’s housed in a giant glass ball-like structure and kept at a constant 75 degrees. In the middle of the structure are the animal exhibits, everything from an impressively diverse collection of spiders to anteaters to ROUSes (or something like that) to fluorescent snakes to hyperactive fruit bats to lizards of every imaginable stripe to a huge gharial. The boys were overjoyed while we were there, our first taste of tropical humidity since we arrived. This will be our first annual pass purchase, and I’m planning on spending lots and lots of time there.

This week we took advantage of free youth Tuesday and headed to the Great Lakes Science Center. It’s right on the bank (banks?) of Lake Erie, so J and I had an entertaining discussion about the differences between lakes and oceans on our drive over. This place is also geared toward a slightly older demographic, but they, too, have a “polymer play area” for the little kids, though J and even Baby E loved the interactive music and sound displays, the crazy pendulums, the spirograph, and the perpertual motion machines. Of particular interest were the cockpits of various spacecraft that you could climb in and out of and the train that circled around the ceiling of one room for which you could raise and lower a complicated bridge. They have a lunar module which is fun to see right up close. We found an exhibit on the science of fear to be too scary (the first exhibit was a shadow screen on which was projected your image and the image of a hunting cheetah. You were supposed to stay very still when the cheetah saw you so he’d ignore you. Otherwise, his shadow ate yours. Energetically. It was pretty freaky!) and too cerebral, but we had a pretty good visit all around and may put the Science Center on our annual pass list, depending how the rest of the attractions go.

Next up: the Children’s Museum and the Botanical Gardens. I’d like to say we’re also going to investigate the Museum of Art, but I know our limits and our collective attention spans. Besides, that one’s free, so we can always stop in for a quick look when something captivating for the preschool set comes to town.

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