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Don’t Dismiss Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey

April 28, 2015 by · Comments Off on Don’t Dismiss Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey 

My daughter-in-law Amy thought I would enjoy touring Grounds for Sculpture, a mostly outdoor park near Princeton. So, she made brunch reservations for the family during my recent visit to New Jersey. And, she was right! Amy, my son, the two grandchildren (ages 10 and 12) and I made it a memorable day.

 

Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey

Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey

As we were nearing the address, we were greeted by large outdoor sculptures in the surrounding industrial park. I was surprised by this location, but learned the park sits on the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds. The larger than life, 3-D version of Grant Wood’s famed painting, American Gothic, was my favorite.

Entrance to Rats Restaurant

Entrance to Rats Restaurant

We parked at Rat’s Restaurant, inspired by Kenneth Grahame’s beloved classic, The Wind in the Willows. The eclectic eatery incorporates whimsical architecture including a variety of secluded nooks, dormers, exposed beams and slanted ceilings. You’ll also find typical indoor and outdoor dining spaces. Walls are brightly painted and covered with artistic murals, or objects’ art. The surrounding gardens make you feel like you stepped into Monet’s beloved French town of Giverny. In fact, the aptly named Monet Bridge crosses over a lily pond just a stone’s throw from the rear patio.

Diners at Rats Restaurant near the Money Bridge.

Diners at Rats Restaurant near the Money Bridge.

Country French cuisine is the specialty of the house where diners can order off the menu or indulge with the all-inclusive brunch buffet. We chose the buffet including delectable French pastries, stuffed French toast, breakfast meats, eggs to order, quiches, and salads, an array of fresh vegetables and a prime rib and lamb carving station. A sampler of desserts was brought to the table and included small-sized portions of carrot cake, cheesecake, cookies, brownies, and other sweets.

Following the meal, we headed out the back door that leads to one of the entrances. Grounds for Sculpture, located in Hamilton Township, is a 42-acre, well-tended and beautifully landscaped park plus a museum, visitor center, and a few less-pricey cafes. The mission of the park is to let the public experience sculpture in a relaxed setting rather than a formal museum. It succeeds.

Poppy Hill Sculpture

Poppy Hill Sculpture

Hundreds of people of all ages were strolling the walkways or across the grass. Kids are free to run and even climb on or into some works. Some remain hands-off. One piece is a musical sculpture that calls for spirited banging; Kyra gave a concert! Both grandkids grabbed the lifelike bronze kids linking their hands with the semi-circular work. The whole family momentarily joined the men standing in the Depression Bread Line. A super large copy of Marilyn Monroe’s famous pose with her wind-blown skirt provides provocative photo opts. Don’t forget to bring your camera and make sure to look for the hidden art behind shrubs, off in a corner, or behind a fence.

Mega Marilyn

Kids join the sculpture

Kids join the sculpture

Johnson Impressionist_

You will run into many of J. Seward Johnson’s life-size impressionist-inspired sculptures as well as his creations of everyday people. In fact, many of them are so lifelike, you think they are real: a couple pushing a stroller or a teenager napping near the pond. The artworks are castings of living people.

Back in 1984, J. Seward Johnson, philanthropist of the Johnson & Johnson family, New Jersey native and famed sculptor, envisioned a public outdoor art arena. Construction began in 1989 on the site, but none of the rare, beautiful trees or flowering shrubs existed at the time. Public tax-exempt bonds and private foundations associated with Johnson financed the landscaping and sculpture acquisitions. Today you will discover hundreds of pieces in permanent outdoor collections, seasonal exhibitions, and many educational programs.

Sunday in the Park

Sunday in the Park

By all means, if you find yourself anywhere near the Princeton area, don’t miss this unusual, carefree outdoor world of art.

 

If you go:

Tickets: $15 – adults, $12 – seniors, $10 – students, children 5 and under are free.

www.groundsforsculpture.org

Art by a pond at Grounds for Sculpture.

Art by a pond at Grounds for Sculpture.

Disney’s New Mine Train Ride in Fantasyland

May 28, 2014 by · Comments Off on Disney’s New Mine Train Ride in Fantasyland 

The largest expansion in the history of Disney World is now complete. The Seven Dwarfs have been busy. They dug out the old 20,000 Leagues under the Sea space and discovered a mine. A roller coaster was built on top of the mine as the final addition to the make-over of Fantasyland. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Ride will open to the public on May 28th.

The Beast's Castle in Fantasyland

The Beast’s Castle in Fantasyland

A few of the Seven Dwarfs.
A few of the Seven Dwarfs.

I had the opportunity to meet those dwarfs, visit their facility, and take a test run recently. I assure you, it’s not Dopey or Sleepy. The ride strikes it rich.

The mine train is a very high tech, a silent roller coast that gives a rousing but not too scary adventure. I’d say the ride ranks more thrilling than the Barnstormer, but doesn’t go as high or drop as much as Big Thunder Mountain. Perfect for young children tall enough to qualify for the attraction.

Disney's Seven Dwarfs
Disney’s Seven Dwarfs

 

 

The best part, in my opinion, was the time spent underground. You see the dwarfs dig, dig, digging and Hi- Ho-ing while they work and sing. I’m sure children’s eyes will light up as the mine sparkles with beautiful gems. When your car exits that area, you once again soar over Fantasyland catching a gorgeous view of the Beast’s Castle. The ride finishes with a peek into the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs. Don’t miss Snow White dancing with the gang.

 

Cottage of the 7 Dwarfs

Cottage of the 7 Dwarfs

Last year Disney added The Enchanted Forest, inspired by The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Here, you can venture through lush landscapes, discovering roaring waterfalls and royal castles along the way. The Enchanted Forest attractions and experiences include:

• Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid : Enter Prince Eric’s castle, board a giant clamshell and rock out on this new musical attraction.

Ariel in the Under the Sea  attraction.

Ariel in the “Under the Sea” attraction.

• Be Our Guest Restaurant: Feast in one of 3 incredible dining rooms in the middle of Beast’s Castle.

• Enchanted Tales with Belle: Become part of a lively retelling of the “tale as old as time,” hosted by Belle and Lumière.

• Ariel’s Grotto: Take photos and get autographs with everyone’s favorite undersea princess.

• Gaston’s Tavern:The manliest of manly places, this eatery serves up tasty tavern fare.

Last June, I was in the Magic Kingdom with my three granddaughter’s and this charming area was by far their favorite. Well, how could I have gone wrong taking three little princesses there? They met Belle and, of course, had photos snapped.

I personally adore Sebastian, the crab, and loved the Under the Sea ride so much that I chose to return by myself. I also hopped into a honeypot for Winnie the Pooh’s Adventure in the 100-acre Wood. Then I walked over to Tomorrowland. Couldn’t leave without taking a spin with Buzz Lightyear- truly a great kid’s ride for adults.

Magic Kingdom Fireworks

Magic Kingdom Fireworks

The fireworks spectacular is always a favorite, but in recent years Disney added nighttime projection onto Cinderella’s Castle. I found this adds an awesome new dimension. This year’s show is “Wishes,” the largest fireworks display ever presented at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

The night time spectacular is narrated by Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy. Guests of the Magic Kingdom are told a thrilling “story in the sky” featuring hundreds of brilliant pyrotechnic effects exploding above and around Cinderella Castle.

You’ve just got to love the Magic Kingdom!

Debi enjoys Disney and MagicBand

Debi enjoys Disney and MagicBand

By the way, I also visited Epcot and saw “Illuminations,” their fireworks display the night before. Amazing lighting effects around the spinning globe of nations.
Below are two video’s you can click on to experience the new Mine Train Ride. Enjoy.

First Half of the Mine Train Ride

Disney’s Mine Train Ride- from the middle section.

 

Revisiting the St. Augustine Alligator Farm

December 3, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Before I moved to Florida, I would have expected a place named the Alligator Farm to be a tacky tourist trap. But, not so at the St. Augustine site which is official known as the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. It was founded in 1893 and is one of the oldest zoos in the country, and also accredited with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

 

The American Alligator

The American Alligator

One of my earlier visits came in 2007 when I took my 4-year-old grandson and 2-year-old granddaughter. RJ, my grandson, wanted to have his photo taken with an alligator and we agreed. Don’t know if that experience turned him onto reptiles but he is now the proud owner of a leopard gecko named Percy and a walking encyclopedia on the creatures.

 

RJ and the Albino Gator

RJ and the Albino Gator

Since I now live in St. Augustine, I buy an annual membership to the Alligator Farm because I love to photograph the birds that return to nest. Seems the gators keep their predators away and birds flock here by the thousands between February and May. So do photographers from all around the world- that’s part of the fun.

 

RJ with a gator and snake.

RJ with a gator and snake.

 

 

 

But, RJ and Kyra were in town for Thanksgiving and they wanted to see the animals. We watched and listened as a zookeeper feed some of the biggest gators and then followed him down to the swamp where everyone got to throw large pellets of alligator food into the water.  The area under the walkway churned with gator jaws and tails. It was pure mayhem. You might think it was frightening, but most of the people loved the show. The trainer threw in a pumpkin as an object for enrichment. Gators don’t usually get this kind of treat and many of them seemed intrigued, others totally ignored it.  For a while the squash bobbed around like a greased watermelon, and then one gator took a big chomp and scurried away with it in his mouth.  Eventually the pumpkin was shared by others.

 

Kyra makes a new friend

Kyra makes a new friend.

We also observed a female Komodo dragon down a Cornish hen. Now, that’s something you don’t see everyday. She had a little trouble getting the whole thing in her jaw, but once she did, she swallowed it whole! Amazing critters.

 

Komodo Dragon eats a Cornish Hen.

Komodo Dragon eats a Cornish Hen.

We continued through the Land of the Crocodiles where all 23 species of crocodilians in the world are on display.  Most of these animals were simply lazing in the sun or in the water.

Gators grabbing at a Pumpkin.

Gators grabbing at a Pumpkin.

 

We also saw some exotic birds and good old Maximo- a 1,250-pound saltwater croc. On the way out, RJ bid good-bye to the two albino alligators (one was the former little one he had held in 2007.) Indeed, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm is a wild and fun place. We’ll all return again.

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