Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April Showers

The first part of that old expression about April showers bringing May flowers is arriving right on time in 2011. Just about everywhere you look on the U.S. weather map is showing some sort of precipitation. Some of it is even the frozen kind. But that expression is as much about patience and taking the good with the bad, as it is a fact of nature. Sure the soaking rains of April can put a damper on certain activities, but oh those flowers of May. It's a good lesson to keep in mind when vacationing too, especially during springtime in the U.S. Sure that hike on the Appalachian trail - gazing at wildflowers and songbirds - sounded great when you planned it back in January. But what to do when it starts pouring down rain?

Well just about any place worth visiting has indoor attractions to help occupy your time. Museums and galleries usually top my list. Rain or shine, Washington D.C. is the museum and gallery capital of the U.S., in addition to being - well - the capital of the U.S. There are literally hundreds to choose from. Heck the Smithsonian alone has 19 separate museums and is thought to have at least 137 million objects in its collection. This is an estimated number because by the time they finished counting it, they had acquired a few hundred thousand more things. Sounds a little like my basement.

When it rains, of course, you are going to have a lot of company indoors. So maybe consider one of the more "off beat" museums, like the National Museum of Health and Medicine. Established during the Civil War as the Army Medical Museum by Surgeon General William Hammond, its mission is to collect "specimens of morbid anatomy... together with projectiles and foreign bodies removed." Now if that sounds a bit morbid, that's because it is. We're talking gruesome here, folks. They've got the bullet that killed President Lincoln, the head and shoulders of a girl preserved with an arsenic-laced embalming formula, and the amputated leg of Major General Daniel E. Sickles. Get this, he had his leg blasted by a cannonball at Gettysburg, and after its amputation sent it to the museum in a tiny coffin with a note reading "With the compliments of Major General D.E.S." Can you imagine having to sign for that delivery? And his story doesn't end there. No, he healed and returned to fight until the war's end. And for many years thereafter, he would visit his leg at the museum on the anniversary of its loss. Are you kidding me?! If that is all a little too gross for your tastes, consider The International Spy Museum, dedicated to the decades of spookery between the CIA, KGB, and the rest of the world's espionage communities who have had operatives in D.C. over the years. I'd tell you where it is located, but I'd have to kill you afterwards. Maybe try Googling it instead. You can rent a timeshare at Wyndham Old Town Alexandria and use the Metro to get everywhere.

Let's say you find yourself in San Francisco when the weather turns south. Fear not, the City by the Bay has you covered (pun intended). If you grew up in the stone age like I did, then you probably spent much of your youth reading comics. And even if you didn't, the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco's Mission District is a must-see. "From editorial cartoons to comic books, graphic novels to anime, Sunday funnies to Saturday morning cartoons, the Cartoon Art Museum has something for everyone," is how their website describes it, and I couldn't say it any better. Also plan to stop by Fisherman's Wharf to see Ripley's Believe-It-or-Not Museum. 10,000 square feet of the strange, unusual, and at times, down-right gross. Whatever you do, don't miss the Marvelous Mirror Maze. It's worth the extra $10 bucks.

Assuming you will fly in or out of San Fran, plan a ten minute detour south of the airport to the Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia. That's right, an entire museum dedicated to all things PEZ. From vintage to the latest releases, this is the largest collection of PEZ dispensers around. Hey did you know that PEZ is an abbreviation for the German word for peppermint? Yeah, they originally came in only PfeffErminZ flavor and were intended to help smokers kick the habit. And they were sold in simple metal boxes, just like Altoids are today. Rent a San Francisco timeshare, and learn how they came to take on the form you know today.

I guess the best defense against wet weather is to plan on it in the first place. Head to Seattle in April (my neck o' the woods) and you are almost guaranteed to get rained on. Pack a poncho and an umbrella, and set out onto the wet streets of the Emerald City to take in sites such as Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, Experience Music Project, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and much more. You can rent a timeshare at The Camlin (WorldMark Seattle) and use it as your base for exploring this lovely, albeit soggy, Pacific Northwest city. Go ahead and get wet, you won't melt. You might wrinkle and shrivel a bit, but trust me, that's going to happen eventually anyway.

1 comment: