Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

***** (5 stars)

I’m a huge fan of BRC Imagination Arts, the designers of this experience. Bob Rogers is a master storyteller, and this facility demonstrates the power of storytelling like few others I’ve encountered.

It’s amazing how much information you can retain when it is presented in a meaningful and moving context, and that’s what the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is all about.

Both of the automated shows are real blockbusters, with amazing effects and immersive narration that really draws you in.

The “Holovision” show Ghosts of the Library uses a live performer and many of the effects developed for BRC’s famous Expo ’86 Spirit Lodge Show (and Knott’s Berry Farm’s Mystery Lodge), plus some new effects that will delight even jaded theme park goers like me.

The Lincoln’s Eyes show uses multiple screens and a lot of moving scrims and impressive theatrical sound to very effectively tell Lincoln’s story in an unconventional way.

Don’t let these elaborate shows fool you into thinking this is shallow theme park-like entertainment. You’ll leave them with a truly deep knowledge of history, having learned many things you never knew you didn’t know about a seemingly familiar story.

Equally impressive to me was the way that Lincoln’s childhood and presidency were presented in two separate walkthrough exhibits. Signage didn’t overwhelm, but was just enough to invite reading and interpreting each stop. I wish all museum curators would learn how to do this.

Similarly, the displays of artifacts were perfectly interpreted, with just enough information to draw us in without overwhelming us with verbiage, yet with plenty of hard information that was easy to absorb. I certainly learned ten times as much as I expected to.

This museum is a delightful place to spend as little as a couple of hours, or as much as a full day. Highly recommended.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum
212 N 6th St
Springfield, IL 62701
(217) 558-8934

Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum

***** (5 stars)

We began our exploration at the museum itself. The ground floor of the museum provides a fairly elaborate interpretation of some of Twain’s books, including Tom Sawyer, The Innocents Abroad, and his time in the gold rush territory of California. While these displays looked nice, they didn’t do a great job of conveying their message, especially to their intended audience, which seemed to be children.

The upper two floors of the museum did a much better job, displaying artifacts and artwork from Twain’s life and books. For those with the patience to read the detailed signage, there was a lot of interesting information here.

The museum ticket is available as a package that also grants access to other buildings down the street, and that’s definitely worthwhile. You can tour the homes that provided the inspiration for Tom, Huck and Becky, and all were interesting.

Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum
120 N Main St
Hannibal, MO 63401
(573) 221-9010

21c Museum Hotel

***** (5 stars)

I love this unique boutique hotel, where every wall is filled with captivating modern art. There are extensive galleries off the lobby and downstairs, and many different media are represented. There is also an excellent restaurant, Proof on Main. Many of the city’s most interesting attractions are within two blocks. This is definitely the place to stay when passing through Louisville.

21c Museum Hotel
700 W Main St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 217-6300

Old Jameson Distillery

*** (3 stars)

The Jameson “Distillery” is really a visitor center, as the distillery is now on the other side of Ireland.

The regularly scheduled tours include a well produced film, and recreations of several of the original distillery’s operation. Our tour guide was knowledgable.

At the conclusion of the tour, everyone gets a generous serving of Jameson, and a few lucky guests are chosen to taste comparative samples of Jameson, Scotch and Jack Daniels. I was chosen, and it was interesting, since I’m a fan of Jameson 18 and single malt Scotch. The Jameson was much smoother, the Scotch was peaty/smokey and a bit harsh, and the Jack very perfumey and rough. But I found the regular Jameson also pretty rough after having only had the 12 and 18 before.

The point was that Irish whiskey is triple distilled, which makes it smoother, adn that point was well made.

A large percentage of the facility is devoted to a very nice tasting room, shop, and a cafe.

Old Jameson Distillery
Bow Street
Smithfield Village
, Dublin 7
+353 1 8072355

Orlando Science Center

**** (4 stars)

This is a really nice museum facility, but what I particularly like are the special events, especially the annual Spring “Science of Wine” which includes a very informative seminar and the best food of any wine event in town, even including the much more expensive Epcot food and wine festival. It’s great fun to eat and sip beneath the dinosaur bones! Sign up for the mailing list and you’ll find out about these special events in advance, before they sell out.

Orlando Science Center
777 E Princeton St
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 514-2000

Little Hollywood Land Movie Museum

**** (4 stars)

This place is a hoot. Our tour group stopped here for lunch, and they cast us in a pretend movie, providing costumes for everyone. The graciousness and enthusiasm of the staff turned what could have been a forced, tacky experience into a lot of fun. Afterward we had a buffet lunch that was… delicious! They make a mean homemade barbecue sauce, and also had some great salad dressings. I was skeptical, but I’d go back.

Little Hollywood Land Movie Museum
297 W Center St
Kanab, UT 84741
(435) 644-5337