Museum Day Live 2017 in Tampa, FL

Museum Day Live 2017 in Tampa, FL

Museum Day Live is an annual event in September where the Smithsonian Magazine offers you the chance to visit a museum (or two, if you go with a friend) for free!! All over the country, various museums participate in this free, live and awesome event in a chance to inspire viewers with amazing art, sculpture, natural landscapes and historical houses/places.


When is the next Museum Day Live?

Mark your calendars for 2018 as Museum Day Live will be Sat, 9/22/18.


Which museum(s) did I go to on Museum Day Live 2017?

I had the opportunity to visit two museums this past fall: Bok Tower Gardens and The Ringling Museum! Yes, it was a long day as these two museums are in opposite directions from my base in Tampa, FL. Bok is in Lake Wales and Ringling in Sarasota. Nevertheless, it was a total value and I really enjoyed both. I would recommend either especially if free.  As well, I would definitely take a trip back out to Ringling as I didn’t have the time to leisurely wander around and experience it all.


What’s the process for Museum Day Live?

The process is simple. Simply go to the museum day live link (for 2018, not yet published) and fill out your email address.  Then, select the museum you want to go to. This is good for up to 2 people. There is a list of participating museums. I’d suggest that you check the list of participating museums to which one interests you prior to getting your tix. If you are going with a friend, your friend can request another museum with his/her own email address. Once an email address is used, it can’t be re-used for another museum.

Check out my posts for the 2 museums I visited on Museum Day Live: Bok Tower Gardens and The Ringling.

Bok Tower Gardens in Central Florida: Take a leisurely stroll

Bok Tower Gardens in Central Florida: Take a leisurely stroll

Did you know that Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr was the landscape architect behind the Bok Tower Gardens?  I didn’t until I visited. I chose this historic place as part of a free museum day live ticket mainly because I had heard the name on the radio but didn’t know that much about it. Fredrick L Olmstead was a landscape architect that worked on the National Mall, National Zoo, National Cathedral, Jefferson Memorial & White House grounds (DC) as well as the Everglades, Acadia, Yosemite and others. He focused on conservation and in bringing out the natural landscape of America for all to enjoy.


Bok Tower Gardens:

Bok Tower Gardens however, is owned by the Edward Bok family. There is a history museum on the grounds where you can learn all about the gardens history as well as the Bok family.

The gardens are sprawling and has a natural and relaxed nature to it. It is laid out in a very organized way and paved from area to area, activity to activity. It is a bit of walking however as it’s on a large grounds. Arriving at the opening of the gardens, I was able to comfortably cover Bok Tower Gardens and Pinewood Estate grounds in about 4 hours.  As you walk towards the Tower, there is a path leading you to it from the main entrance and it’s a really enjoyable scenery filled with plants, ponds and foliage.  The Bok Tower itself is surrounded by a pond filled with Koi that you can feed.

I was early and missed the crowds. Thus, I was able to view the Bok Tower in serenity. However, I was too early for the Tower concert which is at 1 & 3pm. Can’t win ‘em all.

Tip off:

My big helpful tip when visiting Bok gardens is to douse yourself in mosquito and/or bug spray. I was consumed as I walked towards the Bok Tower because there are large ponds filled with fish, wildlife, giant lily pads and who knows what else.  It’s pretty but watch out for those mosquitos in Sept.

Pinewood Estate

Pinewood Estate is within the Bok Tower gardens and you can walk from one to the other.  I didn’t pay extra for the house access and I don’t think you really need to – you can peek into the house from the large windows.  The inside looks old and dusty – a great place for a haunted mansion party in my opinion.  There is a garden in the front and also an orchard with orange trees.  In the back of the house, there is another garden.  Surrounding the house there are large trees.  There is an overall woodsy feeling as you walk around.


Window by the Pond:

Window by the Pond is a fun seating area that is enclosed in front of an active pond.  Sit inside (like you are at the movies) and watch any activity taking place in the pond.  Unique place to relax.


Parking is free with your ticket entrance.  Once you enter the entrance, there is a winding drive up to the main parking area.

For directions, click here.


Museum Day Live 2017:

I visited Bok Tower Gardens as part of a free Museum Day Live 2017 ticket.  If you want to know more about Museum Day, check out my post.  As well, check out my post on the other museum I visited on Museum Day Live, The Ringling.

The Ringling, ‘the greatest circus museum on earth’

The Ringling, ‘the greatest circus museum on earth’

When you hear the word Ringling, it makes you think of the circus, yes? Well, that’s exactly what this museum in Sarasota on the east coast of Florida is all about. It’s about the Ringling family and the Ringling Circus. This may be one of the most unusual and fun museums that I’ve ever visited. The topic is fun, interesting and very historical. Bet you didn’t know Ringling Circus was from Florida and Sarasota? I admit I didn’t but when I discovered this as an option for Museum Day Live, I couldn’t resist.

The Ringling

Brace yourself upon arrival as The Ringling is actually a grouping of several museums on one grounds which is large. There is a tram to take you from building to building but I was too impatient to wait for it. With a museum day live ticket, you gain access to view the Circus Museum and the Museum of Art for free.

Since I arrived later in the afternoon, I was only able to make it to the Circus Museum and the Tibbals Learning Center. I highly recommend both.

The Circus Museum Galleries

In the Circus Museum, you can view the real train that the Ringling family used to travel across the country with the various carriages transporting the circus to different towns. There are also carved wooden carriages that were used to transport the animals on show. It may seem strange to say but I walked away feeling like there was much more respect, care and love for the circus animals back then (versus now). Still, even back then, those animals were in captivity and made to do tricks for our entertainment which isn’t cool.  As well, there is a human canon which I thought was pretty awesome.  Too bad it wasn’t in use for test humans.



Tibbals Learning Center

The Tibbals Learning Center is next door to the Circus Museum galleries and has a lot more paraphenilia from the circus.  Here you can view a documentary of the family’s life and travels, circus props and the main course: the largest miniature replica of the entire circus by Howard Tibbal.  Check out Tibbal on The Ringling blog.



Getting there:

I hope to return at some point and update my post with more information on the Museum of Art, Ca’ D’Zan and the Bayfront Gardens. Overall, The Ringling was fun and it’s a great family friendly museum. There were tons of kids and they were really enjoying.

Parking was/is free. On Mondays, you can also access the Museum of Art for free.  Check for hours of admission.


Museum Day Live 2017:

I visited The Ringling as part of a free Museum Day Live 2017 ticket.  If you want to know more about Museum Day, check out my post.  As well, check out my post on the other museum I visited on Museum Day Live, Bok Tower Gardens.

Kona Hotel Review – King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel

Kona Hotel Review – King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel

Below is my Kona hotel review for the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel by Marriott.  This hotel is a 15 minute drive from the Kona airport.  It is located in Kailua-Kona near the Kailua Pier on Kailua Bay.  I booked my reservation 3-4 months prior to arrival using Marriott Rewards points.

Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel

75-5660 Palani Road  Kailua-Kona  Hawaii  96740  USA


Kona Hotel Review:

During June, I stayed for 2 nights at Marriott’s Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.  I felt like this Kona hotel had more of a busy, convention hall feel although it is located near the water.  There were quite a few Hawaii artifacts and locally made items throughout the hotel which added a nice vibe.

My hotel room was clean, beautiful and faced the street side with all the shops.  Again, it felt more like a business hotel rather than a tropical oasis but it was clean and inviting nevertheless.  Onsite, there is a gym, a pool, restaurants, complimentary wi-fi and beach or pier access.

You can also make a reservation for the luau which happens on specific nights on the beach.  Although I didn’t attend the luau, you can certainly hear and see some of the dancers from afar.  It appeared to be fully booked and fun.



Outside the hotel:

You can see the pier, boats and cruise ships in the water from the hotel and walking along the boardwalk / sidewalk along the water.  At the corner of the pier and sidewalk, people were snorkeling and swimming.  I am not sure that I would chose that spot to snorkel or swim.  The water looked a bit deep there as it’s not a sandy stretch of beach that you walk out toward the ocean.  As well, some were jet skiing and paddle boarding in the area.

From the hotel, if you walk outside, there is a lot of shopping.  Just follow the main road, Ali’I Road, and for a lengthy stretch, there is lots of shopping and restaurants along the way.  All have ocean/beach view as they are on the right side of Ali’I Road (with the sidewalk on the left side).

Shopping is mostly touristy so it’s a good place to pick up souvenirs.  As well, the hotel gift shop is really good place to find souvenirs and to get snacks.

Getting to/from:

The Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel is 8 miles from Kona International Airport (KOA).  I used a rental car, which you can pick up at the airport, to get to this hotel.  It’s a really easy drive south on Hwy 19 with a right turn on Palani Road.  There is a parking lot with lots of spaces for self-parking.  However, there is a daily $17 USD fee to park.

There is also a Kona-Hilo public bus.  I’m including the link to it from the Marriott website.  But I didn’t use it while on the Big Island so I have no opinion to share either way.

Onsite, there is a Hertz rental car service.


For my 2 night reservation, I used Marriott Rewards points.  For this stay, 25,000 Marriott Rewards points were needed per night.  The 25K points represents point-saver award levels.  Thus, 50,000 points total for the stay.

Recommend (Y/N): Yes

I would stay here again and recommend this Kona hotel.


Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehamehea Kona Beach Resort

Kona Airport

Discover Haleakala National Park & Crater on Maui

Discover Haleakala National Park & Crater on Maui

Haleakala National Park gets its own geographic location because it is smack in the middle of Maui…literally.  This is a must-see National Park.  It’s so beautiful and unlike any other park/place in Maui (or elsewhere).  The topography resembles more of the moon or another planet than a tropical island.  The summit sits at 10,023 feet above sea level.  Driving up here is a winding road.  I have bad motion sickness so I stopped several times before getting to the top.  The “Crater” as it’s referred to, is more of a desert valley (and not an actual crater) that houses animals and plants only found in this spot and not anywhere else on earth.

Getting to Haleakala National Park

Driving from Kahului, to reach the summit at 10,023 feet, you only have to go 38 miles.  However, it is a winding road so you will most likely be driving very, very slowly.  I stopped often to manage my motion sickness and to get a breath of fresh air.  Remember, as you ascend, the air thins out and pressure increases on the lungs.  If you have breathing problems, take note, as you may be gasping for oxygen.

In addition, the air gets colder so bring a sweater or jacket.  It is recommended to bring and drink water here.  If you have scuba-dived within the last 24 hours, it’s recommended that you delay your trip to Haleakala National Park.

To enter the park, it’s a $25 fee per car (valid for 3 days).  There are some days when the entrance fee is waived.  Check the official website.

Visiting the Park

Once parked, check out the Visitor’s Center for more information on the Park and Crater.  Definitely read what’s shown there as it’s such interesting information about the geography, topography, animal and plant life.  If you are camping or hiking, you have to check in here.  There are many hiking routes at Haleakala with some overnight and some with reservation required.

Be sure to check out the silversword plant which is native to Haleakala National Park and only found here.



From the Visitor Center (elevation 9,740 feet), you can take a short trail walk out to White Hill.  From there, you will have an amazing view of the valley/crater.

The highest point on Haleakala is Puu Ulaula Overlook (elevation 10,023 feet).  You can view the valley with 360 degree perspective from a glass enclosed building.

Consider a sunrise viewing of this special place.  Reservations are required with the services.



East entrance@Oheo Gulch

Haleakala National Park can also be accessed from the east only via the Road to Hana.  It’s a section of the park called Oheo Gulch in Kipahulu town.  You can use your original entrance pass here so keep your ticket.  However, I didn’t access this part of the Park so I can’t advise either way on what it’s like, what you see or what you can do.  But just know it’s an alternate entrance and area to explore.  This is at mile marker 42 on the Hana Highway.

For other articles on Maui, check out my Maui hotel review of Wailea Beach Resort and my post, Explore Maui in the Hawaiian Islands.