Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer in the 'Nati - Take Three

Where else but the Tri-State can you pet a penguin and a shark, travel through space and visit Noah's Ark, and eat grilled cheese on a glazed donut?

Sheila here with part three of my little Summer in the 'Nati series here on the 'blog, and we start with my family's once in a lifetime experience at one of our all-time favorite places, the Newport Aquarium.

I've been taking my kids, Katie and Eric to the Aquarium for years, but when we went last week we got up close with some of the wildlife there for the first time. Ric Urban is the guy who takes care of many of the animals who live in this Tri-State treasure, and he showed us around behind the scenes. My husband Ric and I took Eric and Katie, and we had some extra kids along - Ella and Andrew, our daughter Kasey's kids. Ella knew we were going, and all she talked about was wanting to pet a penguin. She got her wish, and so did the rest of us. I am always so bowled over by how soft they are. Ric U. told us penguins have 170 feathers per square inch. That's pretty soft! He also let the kids shake hands with a baby alligator, see the huge refrigerator where they store the food for the animals, and meet a couple of the divers who get to swim with the sharks. Eric is a member of the Newport Aquarium, and it's one of his favorite place. He can't wait to touch a shark, and where else can you watch those toothy guys or a huge sea turtle or shark ray swim right over your head? Anyone can get up close and personal with a penguin. Check out the Aquarium website for more information. Http://

We also took the whole family to visit the Creation Museum in Petersburg last week. More than a million people have visited Answers in Genesis, and this was our first time. With 160 exhibits, it would take more than one visit to see everything. I was impressed with some of the historical documents there, like a sheepskin fragment of the Torah and a scroll on loan from a Christian Museum in Maryland. Kids can see stories from the Bible come to life in the Garden of Eden and a Noah's Ark construction site.

Our kids loved the animatronic dinosaurs. The facility is top notch, and while my favorite things were the planetarium show (that's the space travel part) and the beautiful gardens outside, the kids wanted to see the dinosaurs again and again. Many visitors go because of the Christian themes, and if that's your impetus for going, you won't be disappointed.

Ric and I grabbed lunch with all of the kids last week at Newport on the Levee's newest restaurant on the Riverwalk - Tom + Chee. Oh man, was it good!!!! The kids got, what else, grilled American cheese on whole wheat. Ric and I got a little more creative with his BLT and Chee and my Turkey and Pesto Grilled Cheese. Trew Quackenbush and the whole crew made us feel special, and they just laughed when three-year-old Andrew took a run through the restaurant. It's a great family place to eat. As much as I ADORE their best creation, the Glazed Donut Grilled Cheese, I was afraid of what it would do to three children five and younger, so we didn't order it that day.

After four days of visitors, Ric and I were ready for a little time to ourselves! We headed to the Palm Court at the Hilton Netherland downtown for an early evening cocktail with some old friends on Saturday. You can't beat the atmosphere -- from the live piano music to the fantastic service. I felt relaxed the minute we walked in. We saw two wedding parties, and I can't think of a better place than the Art Deco Netherland hotel for beautiful pictures! It was a great place to unwind and catch up with some people we hadn't seen for awhile.

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