Category Archives: Museums

Learn about the Winter Olympics at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum


Those who follow the Winter Olympics know that Lake Placid, New York was the host location for the 1932 and 1980 games. Today, Lake Placid still keeps its Olympic legacy to winter sports thriving, and one of the best ways to see this history up close is at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.

The Lake Placid Olympic Museum has a collection of artifacts, memorabilia, and photographs relating to these games plus the Olympians whose names are still recognized today. Of course, Lake Placid’s place in these chapters is acknowledged as well.

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Olympic memorabilia on display runs from athletic gear to clothing, and, of course, medals. Objects include a selection of attire worn by Team USA during the opening ceremonies, torches, helmets, and equipment. Within this area, the museum will also be ushering in permanent exhibit fixtures. One of them will be focusing on speed skating, a sport that Lake Placid knows well (the village has a speed skating club). Another planned new exhibit involves the Miracle on Ice, the 1980 medal-round match in which the U.S. Men’s hockey team defeated the Soviets.

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Another noted athlete featured in the museum is Sonja Henie, a Norwegian figure skater who won her second gold medal in Lake Placid. Henie, who became a three-time Olympian, retired from her sport and went on to pursue a film career in Hollywood and appeared in a number of films. She also was a smart businesswoman in that she implemented what we now call “branding” in that her image appeared on various merchandise like dolls. She also appeared on a Wheaties box.

Here’s a fact: Did you know that ever since the first Winter Olympics, held in 1924 in Chamonix, France, has competed in each game, to date? Plus Lake Placid native Charles Jewtraw holds the distinction of winning the first gold medal at Chamonix. You’ll see his picture too. Notability also extends to the Shea family. Its three generations participated in the Winter Olympics: the late Jack Shea, the family patriarch who won gold twice for speedskating in the 1932 games; his son, Jim Shea, who competed in the Nordic combined and two cross-country ski races at the 1964 Innsbruck Games; and his grandson, Jim, a 2002 Olympian in skeleton.

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The Lake Placid Olympic Museum is housed inside the Olympic Center, which also contains the ice rink where the Miracle on Ice occurred. It’s now named the Herb Brooks Arena, after the team’s late coach. It also holds the 1932 Jack Shea Arena and the USA Rink. The building itself overlooks the Olympic Skating Oval, where speed skater Eric Heiden won five gold medals in 1980, and where visitors can pay to skate on today. The museum is open on most days, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Iron Man Sunday, a triathlon event.

Another symbol from 1980 Winter Games still standing is the Olympic torch. Or more formally called “1980 Olympic Flame Cauldron.” It’s located at North Elba Show Grounds on Cascade Road, where now horse shows are held at the end of June and the start of July.

Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day Live! Sept. 27

I like scouting out free events, so if you’re into visiting museums (like I am), here is one offer not to pass up.

“Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day Live!” is providing free admission for two to participating museums across the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. territories this Saturday, September 27. This annual event includes a good number of museums and historical or cultural institutions, birthplaces and centers.

The list includes a mixture of places that are either already well-visited, have niche collections or focus on specific subjects. Here is a sampling:

New York City
New York City Fire Museum

Salem, Massachusetts
The House of the Seven Gables

Los Angeles, California
The GRAMMY Museum

San Diego, California
San Diego Air & Space Museum

Washington, D.C.

Yet, with all of them, there’s just a slight catch: You must register to obtain a ticket to the venue of your choosing beforehand. Once your ticket is ready, you can download it and print it and/or access it from your smartphone. My suggestion would be to print a copy to take along. Get your ticket here.


Must See Places in Madrid

As Spain’s capital city, Madrid mixes cultural and culinary influences with politics, commerce and royalty. I got to spend a few days there recently, wandering along streets and plazas and visiting museums, landmarks and districts. Here are some of the places I went that I definitely recommend checking out.

With museums, Madrid has a good standing. In the city center, there is a section known as the Golden Triangle of Art, which consists of three important art museums located along the street, Paseo del Prado.

DSCN1463 DSCN1486First, the most recognized art museum in Madrid is Museo Nacional del Prado. In comparison in size to the Lourve Museum in Paris, the Prado contains a massive collection: around 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 4,800 prints and 8,200 drawings, in addition to a large number of other works of art and historic documents. It’s one of the best collections of European art. Pieces date from the 12th to early 19th century, a number made by artists who were assigned to create works specifically for the Spanish royal crown.

DSCN1470DSCN1473It can feel a bit daunting to try get through a lot of the Prado in one visit. I got there on a Monday afternoon, still recovering a bit from my early-morning flight, and, due to my jet lag, I decided to stick to about two floors. Or perhaps focus on a certain artist or join in a tour. Francisco de Goya has a high representation, as well as Diego Velázquez, Titian, and El Greco, among others. Italian, Flemish, Dutch, German and French masterpieces are also well featured. If all else fails, one painting I recommend seeing is Velázquez’s Las Meninas.

For those who like modern art, the second museum is this “triangle” is also worth a visit. Across from the train station, Estación de Atocha, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is located in a former hospital and holds works by 20th century masters.

DSCN1399 DSCN1398It’s similar to what you would see at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. One of its most significant pieces is Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica,” which Picasso painted in protest of the Spanish Civil War. Major works by fellow Spanish artists, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí, are also here. The museum is also open late on Friday nights, with free admission.

In addition to these museums, consider checking out the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, once a baron’s private collection, and a great navy museum called Museo Naval, run by the Spanish Navy. (Bring your passport with you for this one, as it’s in a government building. An ID is required for admission).

Along with public buses and the Metro, Madrid can be great to explore on foot. In fact, there are different squares you can walk through to reach landmarks as well as stop for a meal or people watching.

DSCN1423-sol DSCN1421Plaza Mayor is cobblestone-lined section is literally squared away, and its remote feeling is like stepping back into a different era. Buildings with beautiful balconies line this square and its different arches open out different streets. Yet, Plaza Mayor has an interesting history. Trials by the Spanish Inquisition took place here, but the location also has been a setting for bull fighting. Nowadays, there are cafes, restaurants and shops here.

DSCN1678 DSCN1676 DSCN1682 DSCN1681Plaza del Sol is a well-trafficked pedestrian area, quite lively in both day and particularly at night. Likewise there are shops and restaurants, in this older section of Madrid. On New Year’s Eve, people gather here to conduct the tradition of eating 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight for good luck for the incoming year.

DSCN1456-SolDSCN1576 DSCN1581 DSCN1582With dining, if you want to try a mix of everything, from tapas to seafood and even something sweeter, pay a visit to The Mercado de San Miguel. Located near Calle Mayor, this older building houses a nice mixture of delicatessens, restaurants and bars. For a few Euros, you can purchase different small plates and appetizers to try. During my visit, I dined on everything from stuffed olives to croquettes to fried calamari and even sampled a few pastries. My entire bill for the evening averaged out at most to 15 Euros.

DSCN1563 DSCN1545 DSCN1546 DSCN1547DSCN1556 DSCN1553Traditionally, the Spanish eat dinner late, so it’s possible you might have to wait until 8 p.m. or so for your restaurant reservation. One place I went to Reservante Botin, a restaurant that has been in existence for almost 300 years (it’s even in the Guinness Book of World Records). Down the street from the Mercado, and in existence since 1725, Botin’s specialty dish is a roast suckling pig that is quite tasty.

One final place that might be of interest to you ties into Spain’s royal history. Palacio Royal is Madrid’s royal palace is built upon an old fortress and is now mostly used for ceremonial occasions. You can check out the views on the patio area, but definitely take a tour of its lavish interior and exquisite rooms!

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Hope my suggestions get you started!

Seeing Suva and Heading to a Cultural Center

Fiji’s capital city of Suva, on the Island of Viti Levu, has a number of retail shops, government buildings, shopping malls, a movie theater multiplex, and eateries. It’s also where heads of state and diplomats reside. Plus, it’s home to Suva Municipal Market, an open-air food market; seminaries and colleges like the University of the South Pacific; a Municipal Handicraft Centre; and the factory for Pure Fiji, a popular line of skincare and haircare products.

While in Suva, we drove by and stopped at many important places. The Presidential Palace is once where Fiji’s British governors resided during colonization. It also has a changing of the guard ceremony on the last day of each month. Next on to Albert Park, where aviator Charles Kingsford Smith landed his plane, a trimotor Fokker VII-3M, in early June 1928. Last Saturday, we saw rugby matches going on there.

Across from Albert Park, the Thurston Gardens is also the location for The Fiji Museum, which has two halls of impressive archeological findings and exhibits on Fiji’s various residents, indigenous and settlers that came to the islands over the past century. The museum has quite a collection, which dates back 3,700 years!


Having a good regular admission price, the Fiji Museum’s lower level contains exhibits relating to fishing and sailing. One eye-catching display is a double-hulled canoe with five steering oars that require a few hands to lift, as well as a house raft made out of bamboo. Pottery is also on view at the museum, particularly with the Lepati, a group of people who created a type of pottery known as Lepita pottery. Visitors can also learn more about Masi, which mixes intricate patterns and warm colors for detailed clothing designs.


There are also exhibits showing historical periods such as the arrival of religious missionaries to Fiji and other nationalities such as Indian peoples who came to Fiji during its time as a British colony as indentured labor.

Heading toward Pacific Harbour, we visited the Arts Village, a cultural center that holds demonstrations on Fijian traditions through reenactments. Locals perform various roles found in a village. On the property, a guide takes visitors to a tribal chief’s bure to meet him and observe interactions between him and his tribe’s various members in his home. First, a “visitor” would give a Tama, which is a call to asking permission to enter the bure. A yes or no answer from the chef would be delivered.DSCN0422photo(45)photo(46)

Removing our shoes upon entering the bure, we learned that the chief has a spokesperson that interacts in him giving order or responding to delivered messages. Inside his home, the chief has one wife, other “wives” serve as concubines, and servants. Each person in a tribe has a specific role such as a messenger or a spokesperson. Actors demonstrated how the chief would react to certain news, as well as showing his interactions with his tribesmen.  Also, while inside the bure, we also participated in a kava drinking ceremony.

Among the shows performed at the Arts Center are a fire walking demonstration. One island where fire walking is credited to being from is Beqa. Only males are permitted to participate in fire walking, where they move across heated stones, and they have to refrain from certain activities like having coconuts in order to do so. Meke, form of traditional communal Fijian dances, were also performed.

DSCN0432The Arts Village also has a number of restaurants and shops, with the option of having a lovo lunch. This type of meal is cooked in an earthen fire pit. Guests too can choose to stay at the site in dormitory accommodations inside its Tsulu Beach Bunkhouse. These cultural offerings make The Arts Village at Pacific Harbour worth a visit!

Seeing Familiar Places and New Ones on Connecticut Open House Day

Indoors or outside, the weather was great this past Saturday, June 8 for Connecticut residents to check out our state’s annual Open House Day. With more than 100 attractions statewide participating, I decided to stick around Fairfield County to get reacquainted with two museums that I last saw as a child. Plus, one has a new neighbor that is worth climbing around.

Fphoto-24irst, I headed out to The Discovery Museum and Planetarium on Bridgeport’s Park Avenue, near the city’s border with Fairfield. A mainstay since I can remember, the three-level museum pays tribute to milestones in science, innovation, and exploration. On the main level, the museum’s “Adventure Science” section starts with a jungle gym set up that provides a miniature version of the Adventure Park located next door. Younger visitors didn’t hesitant to try it out, climbing, jumping and running around the structure.

Moving on across the wing, the next space shows how Bridgeport and other places in Connecticut made major strides in engineering such as Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, whose founder Igor Sikorsky is credited with launching the U.S. With space exploration, Hamilton Sunstrand Space Systems in Windsor Locks (now known as UTC Aerospace Systems) developed a portable life support system for NASA space suits worn by Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong for the 1969 moonwalk.

Speaking of outer space, the lower level holds the museum’s Planetarium and a Challenger Learning Center, along with AV displays about the planets and enlarged photos of the  cosmos. Here youngsters can also go exploring with MoonBase Discovery, a section with shuttles for climbing inside and getting behind the wheel. Don’t forget to head up to the third floor for more hands-on activity with a mixture of exhibits highlighting energy in all its various forms.

photo-33Going back outside, my next stop was at The Adventure Park at The Discovery Museum, which is behind the museum’s property. Opened two years ago, the aerial attraction sits on five acres of woods in Veterans Memorial Park, with 11 different course levels that encourage you to climb, crawl, pull through and step across one platform to the next and reach the end point by zip lining.

Choose to stick in your comfort zone, starting with a new purple line, or perhaps challenge yourself to reach a level like the double black diamond (60 feet up). Go at your own place. Other things help put fears aside. The park’s crew members suit you up in a fitted harness and gloves and give clear instructions about the magnetic clips you’re given to get to each point.

And you’re not left hanging mid-course. Call for help by saying “staff,” which I did, and they will come. I finished with a needed upper body workout and a confidence boost.

Finishing out the day, I drove up to Stamford for a quick jaunt around the Stamford Museum & Nature Center, which is close to the Merrittphoto-43 Parkway. The 118-acre property has a nice mix of family activities: hiking trails, a working farm, a children’s playground, nature center, a nature preserve, and an observatory. Heckscher Farm is home to goats, sheep, pigs and chickens, with an organic vegetable garden and an animal embassy. Step inside Bendel Mansion and Museum Galleries to see the former summer home of New York designer and department store owner Henri Willis Bendel.

Even if Connecticut Open House Day is now closed, get out and see these places!