Road Trip Destinations

By Susan Spero

Every summer I get an enormous road-trip itch. I want to just jump into the car and head out to almost anywhere.   Inevitably, given my addiction for visiting museums, I head towards one, or to a park where I am sure to see the visitors’ center.  This year, as this itch hit, I reached out to contacts for suggestions on what to see.  What follows is a highly eclectic compilation of places to visit and special events to attend in the nine U.S. states in the WMA region plus B.C., Canada.  Some of these are obvious suggestions; many are way off the beaten path.  In the comments please crowd-share your own adventures to cultural sites,  grand and small, sure hits and quirky suggestions.    This post covers half the region:  Hawaii, Alaska, B.C. Canada, Washington and Oregon.  Next week's second installment highlights the other half (Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and California).

Start out in the Pacific in Hawaii where all of us will be able to be there in person during our conference in September 2011.   In Hawaii, where it really is forever summer, get your surfboard thrills at the Bishop Museum and see Surfing, featuring historic surfboards from the museums collections.   Also on view is E Kū Ana Ka Paia that brings together the three largest Kū images in the world in a collaboration of the British Museum, The Peabody Essex and the Bishop .

Next fly north towards Alaska where on May 22, 2010, the Anchorage Museum opened their final expansion projects.  Now when you visit you can also see the Thomas Planetarium, the Conocophillips Gallery, the Imaginarium Discovery Center as well as the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center.   This 170,000 square foot place seems to offer much to see and experience. If you’ve been there please tell us more, the images of the new facility on the website are enticing.

Moving south into B.C.  Canada, contacts offered time-specific events:  On Saturday, August  7 attend the Nanaimo Museum Chowderfest at the Swaylana Lagoon.  Chowderfest teams up with the Symphony in the Harbour this summer where you pick your spot for the Symphony and try up to 10 different seafood chowders prepared by local chefs.  When you have tried them all you are eligible to place a vote to help determine the Best Chowder in town.  While in Nanaimo (after July 16) you will want to catch the opening of their latest permanent exhibition Nanaimo Museum Coal Mine Experience

While still in Canada experience the Richmond Maritime Festival held on August 20 – 22. This free family event attracts 25,000 people over three days and celebrates Richmond's traditional connections with the sea at the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site. Participate by knot tying, rope making, model boat building, and net mending (all within the wafts of sea air, I assume).

Keeping with the sea-loving theme a contact in Washington wrote:

Personally, I *LOVE* the MAST (Marine Science and Technology Center) at Highline Community College in Des Moines. It's a pier with a free (free!) aquarium, classroom, community/student volunteers, summer camps, great public programs, etc. They just had a big party to celebrate the release/graduation of their octopus George. It's way off the beaten path, but I think they do a terrific job of connecting with locals, celebrating nature, and getting people jazzed about science. Recently, they were assigned the task of dissecting/flensing/cleaning the dead grey whale that washed up in the South Sound. They are tweeting and facebooking the process, which is awesome!

Soon enough, we will all be in Portland, Oregon for the conference in October.  Just down the road a bit, off of I-5, you can see the new exhibit at the Lane County Historical Museum in  Eugene,  Tie-Dye And Tofu: How Mainstream Eugene Became A Counter-Culture.  Alice Parman tells me:

It's a kick because of the unique objects, memories, and handmade aesthetic associated with businesses, bands, publications, politics of the late60s/early 70s in Eugene. Some of the businesses have endured and prospered, e.g., Springfield Creamery, owned by Chuck and Sue Kesey (Chuck is KenKesey's brother). They make Nancy's Yogurt...

It's also a kick because the Lane County Historical Museum is housed in a barn of a building with lots of 19th century and early 20th century vehicles etc. that can't be moved aside. But the TIE-DYE AND TOFU exhibit works well; its splashy colors make the scattered elements easy to find and fun to discover. The museum's attendance has boomed. Exhibits Coordinator Mary Dole grew up in Eugene in the late 60s/early 70s. She put out an invitation for contributions of information, objects/images, and financial support on craigslist and got an amazing response.

More summer travel suggestions to come next week.  As a side note, in gathering information for this I found the Wikipedia museum lists.  I must confess that as I waited for information to come in from far corners,  I was tempted to compile this post based on a random draw from the 10 tables.  If you want to use this idea: search [state-of your choice] Museums in Wikipedia  and you get Wikipedia’s version of the cultural institutions located in our region.   These lists make my personal goal of seeing almost all of the museums in the west, much, much more daunting.   In the meantime, where are you headed and what have you seen this summer?



Thanks for the blog post on the amazing variety of museums in the west. My recent experience? I spent a lovely hour with my niece and sister at a small history museum in Johnsville, CA -- a state park site with the story of one of the state's most productive gold mines, the Eureka gold mine. It's a small museum, and has not been updated in decades, yet the original gold mining structures, artifacts, and fantastic photographs from the late 1800s to the turn of the 19th century are unforgettable. My favorite object is a snow shoe for horses -- they worked hard all year round in service to the miners and their families. The best part of this experience, however, was visiting the small cemetery, less than a mile away, and seeing the family grave sites of the people I had just seen in the museum's photographs -- I found it touching, and felt a connection to this early generation of immigrant pioneers trying to survive as they innovated technology that changed our state -- to both good and bad ends, as we now know. The museum was manned by a single state park volunteer who cared deeply about the site, the history, and visitors.

For Nevada: don't miss the fabulous Nevada Northern Railway Museum in Ely, NV. A mostly intact industrial site built in 1906. Ride a train pulled by a steam or diesel locomotive on 14 miles of track through beautiful sagebrush country. For a few hundred bucks, you can DRIVE the train. When I was there doing an interpretive plan, I rode in the fireman's seat. It was a thrill!

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