Sunday, July 2, 2017

Grants: New Mexico Mining Museum

On a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is losing an arm in a freak accident in a cave and 10 is suddenly growing wings, the New Mexico Mining Museum in Grants, NM ranks a 8 in our book.

This museum was  so much more fun than could have anticipated probably because of the miner guide, Jack Farley. He, himself, worked in a mine in Grants, NM, so his stories made the whole experience seem so much more real. The tour began with a video about the history of mining on the ground level. Following this, the tour group was lowered via an elevator into a mine simulation below the museum.

Mr. Farley showed us some of the equipment they would use to carry the uranium deposits which were mined, as shown above. Below is an example of the columns they would leave up to hold the ceilings inside the cave. In some areas, wooden beams would also be placed as an added measure of safety. 

Below is a device which pulses fast and deep to reach deeper into the earth. They would be able to test what came up to see where they should continue mining.

Mr. Farley said that he's found many treasures mining deep in the earth. He's found dinosaur bones, pockets of gold, and even mysteries such as this sphere below. When we visited, they were making plans to take this sphere to New Mexico Tech to get it x-rayed and to see what might be inside.

Mr. Farley became a safety coordinator for his mine and they won many awards for going vast periods of time with no injuries at all. Below is one such medal. He recounted a funny story of one inspector arriving to check on the safety of the mine. While there, the inspector sprained his ankle and everyone present became extremely upset because they wouldn't receive their bonus because of his injury.

This is a tool sitting outside the museum. It was used to dig huge holes deep into the earth. Standing beside it, you can't help but have a sense of wonder as to the magnitude of the mines which were created.

As we concluded our tour, Mr. Farley handed each of us all a beautiful stone which was gold in color. He wanted us to be able to joke that we had found gold in the mine. It was this kind of attention to details which made the entire experience extremely memorable. We would definitely come back to visit such a wonderful museum. It is only a few hours outside of Albuquerque as well!

The tour is $5 for adults and $3 for kids. Definitely worth it!!

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Here is an index of the places we've been to help you navigate.  We one day hope to have most if not all states listed with fun activities.

**NOTE: options without a link are posts we have visited and plan on writing about in the future!




  • Coconino National Forest: Lake Mary
  • Petrified Forest National Park
  • Williams: Bearizona Wildlife Park



New Mexico:
  • Acoma Pueblo
  • Chaco Culture National Historical Park
  • Rama: El Morro National Monument
  • Rio Rancho: Blades
  • Rio Rancho: Hot Tamales
  • Rio Rancho: Tenpins & More
  • Zuni Pueblo


Orlando: Medieval Times

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is being trampled by a horse and 10 is getting to time travel back to a castle in the Medieval Era, the Medieval Times Dinner and Live Show in Orlando, Florida was definitely a 10/10.

The first thing to know is that there are several packages to choose from for this show. We, of course, chose the King's Royalty Package and for us it was worth it. If you are on a tight budget the cheapest ticket option isn't a bad option at all; none of the seats are bad and you all still get the same food and show. The higher the package option you choose, the more perks you get including VIP seating on the front row, a King's Ralley Towel and cheering banner that you get to take home, a framed group photo per person, priority castle access, et cetera.

 Arrive plenty early. Doors open 75 minutes prior to the show times. If you arrive early enough, you get to witness the fanfare trumpets and the welcome of the King. If you buy the VIP pass, you get the skip the line and enter right away. You will have plenty of time to wander around the castle and view all the items on display for sale including princess gear, beverages, and even swords. In this area of the castle, a few children are knighted before the show as well. I assume these children are brought fourth because it is their birthday. The Medieval Times in Florida is special because it was the built in the US. Because of that, it is the only one to have a special twelfth century village built right next to the castle. This village is open 1 hour before each show time and entrance is free with an admission ticket. Though the village is modernly built, the doors, wooden windows, furniture, and most of the other objects found therein are 100% original, some of them dating back 800 years. The village includes a metal smithy workshop, a basket weaving shop, and even a dungeon featuring quite a few items that used to be used for torture at that time. 

When it come closer to the time for the show, make sure you make your way back into the castle. If you have the King's VIP Royalty Pass, you will be seated before others. Though the whole spectacle up to this point has been phenomenal, this is the moment when you really start getting excited. You are seated in a section of 1 of 6 colors. This color is the color of the knight you cheer for throughout the night. When everyone from your section is seated, you all practice a mighty cheer for your knight, the Yellow Knight, in my case. After this, you all practice booing all those sitting on the opposite side of the stadium from you. When everyone finishes that, the food begins to arrive and the show begins. 

The food in itself was extremely delicious. You are served four courses including garlic bread, tomato bisque soup, roasted chicken, sweet buttered corn, herb-basted potatoes, and a pastry. Be aware, the chicken they give you seems like the majority of a chicken which takes up the whole plate. Make sure you come with an appetite! This food is of the highest quality and is served very hot. The tomato bisque soup was to die for and will leave you ready for the rest. The herb-basted potato was likewise extremely delicious and is worth a special mention. It would be very difficult to leave with any amount of hunger! There are also vegetarian meals available upon request. Also note that eating utensils didn't exist in the 12th century, so you will be eating everything with your hands!

Last but not least, the show is of the highest quality caliber. I have previously been to dinner shows where a scene plays out and then there is a break while you eat one course and these are in turn alternated until the grand finale. Medieval Times didn't pause at all. It was non-stop action, competition, and ultimately a romantic show for the two full hours from the beginning until the end. There are beautiful horses who show off their years of training majestically, there is a falconer, and there are medieval tournament style games including jousting and sword fighting. The knights train tirelessly and each night they compete with everything they have. 

Between the lights, the music, and the drama of fighting for the hand of the princess, this show is everything I hoped it would be. I don't give 10s out very lightly, but this show absolutely merited it. I would recommend this dinner and show to everyone I know as something they must attend at least once in their lifetime!!

Cost: General Admission starts at $62.95 and goes up from there to $84.95 for the King's Royalty package. Children 12 and under are $36.95. Though this is the price, from what I have seen, they are constantly running deals on their website and also running email promotions. So if you are wanting to find cheaper tickets, they are available if you search for them! Here is the website you would go to if you want to learn more.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Peter Pan: Landmark Musicals

On a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is falling asleep at  the theater and 10 is believing that you just saw a production which somehow literally is made of magic, Landmark Musical's production of Peter Pan ranks a 7. Peter Pan, or the original 1904 The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, is a fantastical musical which brings 3 children into the world Neverland where you don't have to grow older. In this process, Wendy comes to learn about herself and how ultimately growing up isn't such a bad thing.

This play begins in the nursery of the Darling Residence where the parents leave for the night after putting the kids to bed. Peter Pan soon enters the room in search of his shadow, which he had previously left behind. Between Wendy sewing his shadow back on, the grand introduction of Tinkerbell and her snide remarks, and the process of learning to fly with fairy dust, the first scene got the play started off on a high note which only went up from there. The flying team did a fantastic job lifting the energetic Zoey Reese, actress for Peter Pan, off the ground. She lifted our heart and our views.

From "the second star to the right and on 'till morning," we were introduced to the magical world of Neverland where you can experience spring, winter, summer, or fall all on the same island, depending on which part you go to. Here we soon meet the Pirates, the Indians, and the Lost Boys. Ultimately, the pirates kidnap the Lost Boys and the Indians and Pan are able to outwit the pirates and make the dreadful pirate Hook walk the plank! With this, Wendy returns back to Earth ready to grow up, accepting every good and bad consequence this brings.

There are 3 moments in this play I wish to discuss further because they were the scenes which truly made this play magical for everyone present.

Firstly, every dance of the Indians was completely, jaw-droppingly, spectacular. Specifically, the "Indian Dance" and "Ugh-A-Wug" dances were unlike any I've ever seen in a musical before. The "Indian Dance" was an outstanding display of athleticism with great themes such as a repeated shoulder shrug to suggest the beating of the drums as the beating of the heart. I can't get their leaps, jumps, spins, and circular formations out of my head because I wish I was one of them up on that stage! Then when they began to use walking sticks and drumsticks on the stage during "Ugh-A-Wug," I couldn't help but pulse my body with the fantastic rhythms created. For these outstanding creations, I personally applaud choreographers Courtney and Louis Giannini.

The next outstanding moment was Pan's hilarious piece "Oh, My Mysterious Lady." Here, Pan drapes himself in a cloak and tricks Hook into thinking he is a wonderful lady because of his lovely singing. This trick kept the audience laughing for minutes on end. Moments like this, more than anything else, helped drive home Pan's personality and why he wants to cling onto his youth with all he has. In the coming scenes when Pan lets all his friends leave him because he refuses to leave Neverland, it makes the audience begin to realize a cost of his clinging. In centuries past, people have wasted lifetimes searching for the fountain of youth and today people spend thousands of dollars on products and surgeries to try to fight aging. With this in mind, these scenes played beautifully by Pan help elucidate two matters in this discussion: first, for him the youth meant more than current friendships and the promise of loneliness and second, that the youth was so important to him because he feared that with age he would no longer be able to have complete creative freedom to be the trickster that brings him so much joy. Everything has a cost.

Finally, just before the intermission was perhaps the most magical moment of the show, the moment when the audience's belief in Tinkerbell helps save her from the threat of death by Hook's poison. As Pan described that Tinkerbell needed people to believe in her or she would surely pass on, we heard the cries of children in the audience yelling out, "I BELIEVE!!" Even if we know fairies don't exist, we, the adults of the audience, felt ourselves wanting to mimic these children and so we joined together in a roaring applause when we were told that was the key to help her live. This moment was perhaps the most magical moment of the night because in it, even we adults were longing to have faith if that meant we could help one being continue to live. That faith is exactly the definition of humanity. It is the hope that our loved ones don't have to suffer, it is compassion for strangers, it is love for all living beings. That is what makes childhood magical, that children instinctively know that everyone can have a "happily ever after". These magical moments of the show which help us realize that we haven't lost our inner child are what Peter Pan is all about.

This show is $22 for adults for the cheapest seats and discounts are available for youth and senior citizens. The show goes on in the Rodey Theater at UNM until December 11th, 2016. These are the times you can check out the show according to

10 PERFORMANCES • The Rodey Theater

Miami: Fruit and Spice Park

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is the first time you bit into a lemon unawares of the consequences and 10 is a a taste of the fruit of the tree of life, the Fruit and Spice Park 35 miles south of Downtown Miami, ranks a solid 8. This park is a beautiful 39-acre park full of more than 500 varieties of exotic fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices. This park was established in 1944 and is essentially an oasis from the crazy city life of Florida.

Entrance to this park is $8 for adults and $2 for children age 6-11 (free under 6). For this reasonable price, you are able to try out any of the fruit in the park and attend the tour on a tram pulled by a tractor for free. Tours run at 11:00am, 1:30pm, and 3:00pm and I would highly recommend going on one!!

We arrived plenty early before our planned tour time, so we ate at the Mango Cafe outside the park and we got to wander around the beginning sections. The Mango Cafe was a cute homestead restaurant with one room for dining and plenty of options of sandwiches, wraps, and other great deli items for lunch. The prices were reasonable and I would recommend this if you stop by and are famished. 

As we wandered around the park before the tour, we came across fruits we've never seen before like the jackfruit shown above. Bananas were also in season and bunches were set up on some stands ready for us to try. These tiny bananas were jam packed with flavor that our typical grocery store definitely lack. 

Eventually the tour started. We learned about a variety of fruits as we drove by and we got to taste the fruits which were in season. There were a few notable fruits. I cannot post this blog without mentioning these. The first is called Miracle Fruit. This is a tiny fruit with a large seed. After you peel back the skin, you let the fruit slide around on your tongue until you coat the entire thing. At this point, our guide gave us a lemon to try and after the coating of Miracle Fruit, the lemon tasted like a delicious sweet candy. Miracle Fruit makes everything taste more sweet and so it can be used in several important ways in medicine. For instance, when undergoing chemotherapy, the tongue tends to take on a metallic taste which makes everything taste awful. This can make many people unable to eat. By coating the tongue in Miracle Fruit, other foods begin to taste much more palatable. Additionally, people with diabetes who aren't supposed to be eating sugar can coat their tongue with miracle fruit to help other foods take on the sweet qualities they may crave immensely. 

Another amazing plant we learned about is the leaf of the Moringa plant. According to Pure Healing Foods online, "Moringa leaf is best known as an excellent source of nutrition and natural energy booster. This energy boost is not based on sugar, and so it is sustained. Moringa is also soothing. It helps lower blood pressure and is a sleep aid. Its detoxifying effect may come from Moringa's ability to purify water. Moringa acts as a coagulant attaching itself to harmful material and bacteria. It is believed that this process is taking place in the body as well." It is a highly recommended healthy food, so that is why you would have caught us all chewing on leaves that tour day!

Finally, I couldn't miss out on mentioning how many mangoes this park has! It has rows with possibly hundreds of types of mangoes. We were told that when it is mango season, there is a festival where people can taste all the different species to determine their own favorites.

This park was beautiful and, for a biologist like me, it was a magical land full of beautiful new treasures of knowledge. Upon returning back to New Mexico, I visited a few international food stores and was thrilled to see some of these fruits which I learned about at this park including Dragon Fruit and Jack Fruit. This park has picturesque areas with lilies and fountains. It also is a park which you can return to month after month to try out the different fruits currently in season. You can easily spend hours wandering and trying out the various fruits. I highly recommend this beautiful park!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Nassau: Stuart Cove's

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is getting mugged in a strange country and 10 is literally living your dream for an afternoon, my experience at Stuart Cove on Nassau, Bahamas was an absolute 10

There was snuba, there was snorkeling, and there was swimming with sharks. I couldn't possibly recommend this excursion more highly, especially for those who want to really experience the corals but who don't yet have scuba diving experience.

Having landed in the Bahamas on a cruise ship, they couldn't have made the process of picking us up any easier. We had called them in advance to let them know that we would be needing a ride to the Cove. They told us the time they would be arriving and to simply look for a pink bus by the water fountain where we enter from the port. They arrived right on time and we got to see so much of the island capital of Nassau on that 30 minute bus ride. The bus driver was quite entertaining and he told us all about different areas we passed on Nassau. Below is a picture of one of the beaches we passed on the bus ride.

When we arrived at Stuart Cove's, we were greeted with the amazing view below. We proceeded to check in and wait until our snuba/snorkeling mixed group gathered all together.

Eventually we piled onto a boat and began our ocean journey. Have I mentioned that this trip was my second time seeing the ocean ever? The ocean here was beautiful, clear, and warm!


Eventually we made it to our first site where we stayed for about 30 minutes. It is a site where many Hollywood films have been shot. The snorkelers in the group got to jump right in and the snuba people worked on getting all the equipment set up. Upon dismounting the boat, we were instructed to exhale to allow ourselves to sink. I did this perfectly. And then I had a mini freak-out moment when I realized that I now needed to breathe in. Not having ever breathed out of a tube previously, I quickly struggled to the top of the water to breathe some surface air. This was made more difficult by the fact that I had weights bucked around my waist purposely so that I could sink. I got a delightful mouthful or two of salt water and I held onto the boat for a little while to calm down before I trusted myself to go down.

The first difference between snuba and scuba diving is that in snuba diving, you don't have to know what to do with the tanks at all. All equipment is handled and hooked up for you. The air tanks you're using sit on a little raft which the instructor pulls along. After then figuring out how to equalize your ears every few minutes to avoid pain, we were ready go go. We got to go right along the coral, about 20 feet deep. I loved having my GoPro to be able to capture footage!.

We gathered together again on the boat and went to our second area. This area was right next to the island with the lone palm tree on the film Pirates of the Caribbean. We got to snorkel here. I was mesmerized by the schools of fish I got to see here of all sizes. 

In the 3rd and final location, we went to an area where sharks are trained to come. They hung a box with chunks of fish 30 feet under the boat. The sharks could smell this and they began swarming. We were allowed to snorkel in the water with very strict rules for safety. At times, some sharks came within about 10 feet of us! It was intense. We only got to stay in the water for about 5-10 minutes. We then got back onto the boat, they pulled up the fish food box, and then began throwing out chunks of fish to the sharks. The sharks' behavior changed dramatically as they went into a feeding frenzy. 

With this, we finished the excursion and were brought back to the Cove. If you plan on doing this event, it will take up most of your day (we were picked up at 11am and dropped off at about 5 or 6pm. The cost is $117, which was absolutely worth every penny in my book! 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Grants: Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is unexpectedly being greeted by a mountain lion at a bend of the trail and 10 is discovering a new, unexplored cave full of precious gems, the visit to the Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano near Grants, NM ranks a 6 in our book.

This adventure was very enjoyable with three main areas to explore. The road signs to arrive couldn't be more easy to follow as billboards seem to be placed every few miles advertising this attraction for 50 or more miles away. This is a privately owned area featuring an ice cave, a self guided tour of a volcano, and a gift shop a water tour outside in which to sift gems out of a sand bag you can purchase. This was definitely a unique stop with about 1-2 hours worth of entertainment. The one thing we didn't like about this area was the price, with each adult being $12 and children 6-12 years old being $6 per day.

After making the 28 mile drive west of Grants, the first place to stop at would be the gift shop where you can pay the admission fee and thus get the paper to read during the self guided tour. You then have the option to walk to the volcano or to the ice cave first.

For those wishing to begin with the volcano, the trail starts behind the gift shop building. From beginning to end (at a nice lookout area) is about one half of a mile long in one direction with a climb of about 150 feet. We didn't realize it until about halfway up the hike, but along the trail are numbered trail markers. At each of these stops you can match up the number to a paragraph on the self guided trail guide paper. Here we learned much about the history of the volcanoes of El Malpais. We learned how they were formed, how far away the lava flowed away from the Bandera Volcano, and other details such as about the local flora and fauna. I would consider this hike easy if traveled at a reasonable pace. I wouldn't call it handicap accessible, but I'm sure several have successfully made the climb. The trail is well maintained and the views are terrific.

Upon traveling back down to the store, head left of the store (if you are facing the store) to enter the trail head for the ice caves.This path is mostly level and is only about 400 yards before you get to a staircase which you must descend to see the ice cave. At one point in the descent, you will feel an almost immediate temperature decrease. At the platform at the bottom of the stairs, the ambient temperature in the cave is about 31 degrees F. Tempting as it may be, you are not allowed to climb past the platform to stand on the ice. The ice is currently about 20 feet thick and it has been forming for at least 3,400 years consistently. As the temperature is low inside the cave, it may be wise to bring a light jacket or, alternatively, go down after having completed the volcano hike on a hot New Mexico summer day.

The final noteworthy detail of this stop was the water tour constantly pouring water through the day. You can purchase a sand bag with gems in the store then come outside and act like a miner sifting through dirt near a river. A case allows you to compare your gems to a sample so you can know exactly which stones you found. This may create a memorable experience for children!

Overall, we had a great hour at the ice cave and volcano. I loved reading about the sink holes, twisted tree formation, and other special features of the geography and biology of the area. Their website, has other details about the family history of the owners and a detailed FAQ section. As it is only about 90 miles away from Albuquerque, it is a great day trip for just about anyone! If you've made this stop and have great stories or details you'd love to share, please post them in the comments below!!