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Wisdom from around the world -- by Kelly Watkins

I love to travel.  Since I was a small child, it was my dream to visit all 7 continents and all 50 US states.  By early adulthood, I had visited 48 US states and two continents.  For our honeymoon, my husband took me to Hawaii.  The next year, I visited my 50th state - Alaska.  After that, I began working on continents.  In 2001, I accomplished my life-long dream by visiting my 7th continent - Antarctica.

--Kelly Watkins


For 20 years, Kelly has traveled the world for business and written about her adventures for fun!  To read even more travel stories (including a month-long trip Out West in an RV with 2 teenagers ... yes, they survived!), visit Kelly's blog:  www.GlobetrottingWithKelly.com


Professionally, Kelly helps organizations be more effective by developing their employees - focusing on customized training and consulting in Leadership Development, Communication, & Customer Service.

Kelly Watkins in Antarctica

1.  What to Buy in Dubai (and What to See and Do)

2.  The Magic of a Kenyan Safari

3.  A Dream Comes True in Antarctica

4.  Spending the Day with my Daughter . . . and Her Doll in Chicago

5.  Mother and Daughter Share "Princess Diana - A Celebration"

6.  Little Moments Add Up to Big Fun in Florida

7. Family Adventures at Kentucky Science Center

8. Winding Up & Winding Down in Wisconsin Dells (Part I & II)

9. Mythic Creatures at Frazier History Museum

10. The Lure of the Locks

Originally published in Today's Woman


What to Buy in Dubai
(and What to See & Do)
By Kelly Watkins


On my recent vacation to a cosmopolitan city, I felt very safe, and the taxi drivers spoke English.  Where was I?  Oh, just the Middle East.  Dubai to be exact.


Now, before you freak out like my mother did when she discovered that her only two children were going to a place that was about 1 millimeter from Iran on the map, let me assure you that Dubai is currently the hottest vacation spot on the planet.  If you go in the summer, it is also literally hot, about 100 – 120 degrees.  The humidity is steamy, but their air conditioning works great.


What makes Dubai hot, other than the temperature?  It has everything.  And, everything is the biggest, best, or most. 


Soon to be completed are the world’s highest tower and the biggest shopping mall.  It already has the only seven-star hotel (Burj Al Arab - shaped liked a sailboat) and the eighth wonder of the world (The Palm Islands).  My unscientific observation is that Dubai also has the longest rush hour traffic times (from 4:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.).




Dubai also has great shopping.  If you’re looking for upscale clothes, then Burjuman (Big Bus Tour - Stop #9) is the destination for you.  Dubai is considered the “new Paris,” and all the hot designers are here.


If you’re a budget shopper and interested in bargains and “genuine fake” items such as knockoff purses, watches and sunglasses, then try the Al Karama area (Big Bus Tour - Stop #10). 


In Al Karama, the shops are tiny.  There aren’t even doors – just two sheets of heavy clear plastic overlapping to keep the air conditioning inside. 


In the first two stores, the salesmen asked me, “Want to go upstairs and see purses?”  I look around the store.  It’s not as big as my bedroom closet.  There is no stair case.  I’m a little nervous.


At the third store, my curiosity wins.  I answer affirmatively to the “upstairs” question.  The salesman walks to a wall of shelves.  I’m staring at him like he’s an idiot.  Maybe he’ll pull out a magic wand?  Instead, he pulls on a section of the wall.  Ah!  It’s a small door on hidden hinges.  When opened outward, this door reveals a miniscule landing and a set of stairs.  Now, my mouth is hanging open, and I look like the idiot.


The stairs are so narrow you can barely put both feet side by side.  Every inch of wall space is lined with genuine fake purses.


What about the real stuff?  Dubai is famous for its Gold Souk (Big Bus Tour - Stop #6), featuring 22 karat gold.  There are hundreds of little shops – all selling different gold designs. 


At the Deira City Centre Mall you can buy a Big Bus Tour pass, or your groceries for that matter.  As I shopped, the Arab men (in white robes) and women (in black robes), would occasionally give slightly disapproving looks at anyone not similarly clad.  It was never mean or harmful, but I did feel a little uncomfortable.  Of course, there were far more people not wearing robes than those who did.


Leaving the mall with all my goodies turned out to be an adventure.  Imagine my dismay when I joined a taxi line that stretched down the entire wing of the mall. 


This taxi line looked like a UN meeting on a busy day.  There were representatives from dozens of countries.  It was a melting pot of beliefs - on everything from religion to clothing, as evidenced by the scantily-clad, the heavily-clad, and everything in between. 


Amid all this diversity, the people were co-existing with peace and tolerance.  (Is there a lesson to be learned there?)  I was focused on the differences among the group, until I saw something that proved the oneness of the world.  A boy started crying loudly.  He was obviously lost. 


The din from 200 people speaking 20 different languages stopped instantly.  The sea of cramped people parted, and the boy walked forward.  During his trek, no one said a word except to murmur concerned comments to their companions.  The crowded room stayed quiet long after the boy arrived at the Security Guard. 


Tears welled up in my eyes and threatened to leak out.  Forget the differences!  Some issues are universal.


Despite my enthusiasm for shopping, there is lots more to do in Dubai.  How about some snow skiing?  No, I’m not delusional from the heat.  The Mall of the Emirates (Big Bus Tour - Stop #23) has an indoor ski slope. 


What’s it like?  My sister had the quote of the day.  She said, “It makes Paoli Peaks look like Colorado.”  (No disrespect to Paoli Peaks [located in the hills of Southern Indiana] intended.)  On the positive side, there wasn’t a line at the lift. 


After spending a few days in the lush green areas of the city, it’s easy to forget you’re in the desert.  I took a tour into the countryside.  Trust me, I was immediately reminded that I was in the desert.  There were even camel crossing signs along the road. 



About 70 miles from Dubai is the small town of Hatta.  It contains the Hatta Heritage Village, an authentic restoration of a fortress originally built in 1896.




I could’ve spent hours there looking at the displays and reading the signs (in English, thank you!).  I wish my tour guide would’ve shared some additional information.  But, he didn’t say 10 words during the entire seven-hour trip.


He was with a well-advertised tour company.  So, I learned an important lesson.  Next time, I’ll use the services of Mr. G. V. Panicker, President & CEO of Sears Tours, who has vast experience in Dubai. 


Another fun activity is eating.  The food is as diverse as the people.  I stayed at the JW Marriott, and the hotel has 12 restaurants.  The chefs at the JW Marriott defined the concept of “new Arabian cuisine” and even wrote a cookbook about it.  I have a copy on my coffee table.  It makes me hungry just looking at it.


If you want to stay at the JW Marriott and be close to all that wonderful food, Cleo Eleazar, Public Relations & Marketing Communications Manager, Marriott Dubai Cluster, offers some “secret” advice.  Special discount rates (up to 50% off) are often available from June 15 to August 31.


If I described Dubai in one word it would be - diverse.  Nowhere else in the world can you visit one place and see so many different cultures.  Although the activities were great, the best part was observing the people.


If You Go

Sears Tours:  www.searstours.com (Offices in Dubai and Louisville 502.472.6888.  They can assist with all aspects of your trip.)

JW Marriott:   www.marriott.com

Events by JW:  www.jwmarriottdubai.com (The events planning arm of the Marriott.  See them if you’re getting married or planning a corporate event.  The hotel has the largest hydraulic lift stage in Dubai – for your company shindig, hopefully not necessary for your wedding party.)

The Big Bus Company:  www.bigbustours.com  (At the main entrance of Deira City Centre Mall.  Tickets are $42 per adult and are good for 24 hours.)

Ski Dubai:  At the Mall of the Emirates.  ($39, includes lift ticket, skis, boots, jacket, and bibs.)


Kelly Watkins, MBA, is a Global Thought Leader - helping organizations be more effective by developing their employees - focusing on customized training and consulting in Leadership Development, Communication, & Customer Service. For tips & articles:  www.KeepCustomers.com & www.LeadershipArabWomen.com.




Originally published in AMEinfo -

the ultimate Middle East Business Resource


The Magic of a Kenyan Safari

By Kelly Watkins


Within a few hours of leaving Nairobi and embarking on my safari, I was face to face with an elephant. I was too shocked to say a word - and as a professional speaker, not much leaves me speechless. Nothing separated me from that massive, gorgeous beast but air and a couple of metal bars that covered the opening where I stood.

That elephant, and the rest of his herd, had come to drink at the watering hole behind our hotel, the Serena Mountain Lodge. The elephants didn't just guzzle some water and leave. They stayed and played for hours.  Maybe I was wrong, but I believed they were staging their elaborate performance just for my benefit.

Later, while unpacking in my hotel room, I came face-to-face with another creature. Luckily, a window separated me from the Sykes monkey. He was playing on the second-storey ledge outside my room. James, our guide from All Seasons Safaris, reminded us to keep the windows closed, or the monkeys would 'help us unpack.'

As our first adventure, the two-hour wildlife walk offered by the Serena Mountain Lodge turned out to be a great investment. The walk itself was quite an experience. It is not every day you take a walk with an armed escort. It was a stark reminder that this wasn't the zoo. We were in the animal's natural habitat. The 'wild' image was distorted just a bit when they
served tea in the middle of the forest. But, no one complained.

At dinner, the Serena staff visited each table with a checklist of animals that were typically hard to spot. We selected the ones we wanted to see. The watering hole was only 20 metres from the hotel. Every room had a perfect view. The hole was lit with floodlights all night. So, if any of the animals on your list were spotted, someone would knock on your door. All you had to do was roll out of bed and take a few steps to the window. Unfortunately, no leopards or hyenas appeared that night.

However, many other animals visited all day and night. I awoke about 1:00 am and walked to the window, where I stood for some time, just staring at the nocturnal animals as they went about their business. It was so tranquil - not eerie, but peaceful. It was a quieting, calming feeling.

The Serena Mountain Lodge also offers a view of Mt. Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa. The local Wakamba tribe thought the snow and rock speckled mountain top resembled an ostrich's tail feathers, so they named it Kiinyaa. One of the early European explorers changed the spelling, and it eventually became Kenya.

With great reluctance we left the Serena Mountain Lodge, and Mt. Kenya quickly became a small dot in our rearview mirror. Our departure was bittersweet, since we were headed for more adventures in Kenya.

Masai Mara Reserve

On a wildlife safari in Kenya, the afternoon game drives are hot. The morning drives are cold. Everything is dusty. The non-existent roads are rough and jarring. There are no restrooms, no snack shops, and no mobile phone signals. And...I didn't care! The wildlife was so fantastic that I didn't notice the discomforts.

We were still miles from the Masai Mara National Reserve when small herds of grazing cattle began to appear in the distance. Amidst the quietly standing cattle were…zebras. They were calmly munching grass, as if they were all the best of friends.

After one particularly long game drive in the Masai Mara, it was beyond time to return to camp. Instead, James, our fantastic guide, suggested we take one last detour - to check on the lions we had spotted earlier. Sure enough. There they slept. We were two metres from a pride of lions!

I am not a morning person. The morning we took the balloon ride with the Skyship Company, we awoke at 4:00 am. As my grit-filled eyes struggled to open and my aching muscles, sore from bouncing along rutted roads, screamed - I was wondering if it was worth it. It was!

The balloon liftoff was so gentle I didn't even realize we had left the ground. We sailed just a few metres off the ground. It was such a different perspective to see the animals from above. A few gazelles were skittish, but most animals ignored us. We were at eye-ball level with the ever-curious giraffes. The young ones would gaze directly at us.

As the balloon rose higher, we had a view of the vast bush - it was endless. We could see all the way to the Serengeti in Tanzania. Without that viewpoint, I never would have understood how the Mara River winds and turns back on itself. It resembled a slightly warped, uncoiled spring. Apparently, the hippos didn't care about the shape of the river. There were pods of them in every bend, happily rolling in the shallow water.

'Roughing it'

Our balloon pilot, Gelbart, said, 'It's a great job. I get to make people smile.' And, yes, I was doing a lot of smiling. And the joy continued even after we landed. The Skyship Company hired a professional chef to cook breakfast. It was such a pleasant paradox to sit in the middle of the wild bush, eating off china plates and drinking from crystal glasses. That was my idea of 'roughing it.'

On another early morning (ugh!) game drive, James found a cheetah lazily resting in the shade of a bush. She occasionally swatted flies with her tail, but otherwise she didn't move.

Throughout the trip, our eyes were eagerly searching for an elusive leopard. They hang out in trees. In fact, a leopard can leap into a tree while holding its kill in its mouth.

When we returned to camp that evening, we discovered a leopard had been spotted at the edge of camp. Our tent was also located at the edge of camp. How ironic; we spent all day hoping to see a leopard, and we spent all night hoping NOT to see one.

People keep asking me - what is the key to a successful safari trip? The answer - don't share the van with strangers! I love meeting new people. We met lots of people at meals, around the hotels, etc. But, this was my dream vacation, and I didn't want to miss something important to me just because a stranger wanted to do something else. The best thing I did was let All Seasons Safaris design a private safari for us. We were the only people in our van for the entire week-long trip.

By the end of the journey, I was accustomed to seeing exotic wildlife. Although I no longer reached for my camera as we passed each grazing giraffe or graceful gazelle, I also never grew complacent. Seeing such majestic animals in their natural habitat never lost its magic.

Kelly Watkins, MBA, is a Global Thought Leader - helping organizations be more effective by developing their employees - focusing on customized training and consulting in Leadership Development, Communication, & Customer Service. For tips & articles:  www.KeepCustomers.com & www.LeadershipGlobalWomen.com.




Originally published in The Quill


A Dream Comes True in Antarctica

 By Kelly Watkins 

 Antarctica is the land of blue tabular icebergs the size of aircraft carriers; penguins by the hundreds of thousands emitting the pungent smell of guano; seals perching silently on ice floes; and skuas screeching overhead against a backdrop of jagged, ice-covered mountains. 



It is also the land of one more thing—my dreams.  Or, more specifically, the land that let my dream come true.


Since I was a little girl, it’s been my dream to visit all 50 American states and all seven continents.  Now, I have.  I’ve placed a check mark beside an item on my life-time to do list – at the age of 34.


Antarctica is not for warm-weather fans.  The temperature reached 30º F on some days, which isn’t bad, until you factor in the “breeze” you acquire from an ocean containing large chunks of ice and a ship that’s moving rather quickly. 


At our first stop, we anchored off the coast of Point Wild on Elephant Island, made famous by the explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.  Twenty two of his crew spent four winter months here in 1916.  I don’t know how they survived.  I would’ve gone nuts.  This spot where they lived was nothing but an outcropping of un-level rocks, no larger than a football field.  In winter, it would’ve been pitch black.  One wrong step, and they would’ve been in freezing water.  I hope none of them were sleep walkers. 



Point Wild on Elephant Island                      Shackleton's crew wintered on that flat spot


Yet, Shackleton and five of his men endured worse, as they rowed a small boat 800 miles across the world’s most ferocious body of water to seek help.  Their perilous journey involved leaking water barrels, broken rudders, a navigator who could take only a few sightings, and a trek across uncharted mountains.


As we were leaving Elephant Island, we spotted something floating in the water.  It appeared to be litter.  We cruised toward the offending item, only to discover it wasn’t trash left by humans.  It was nature’s trash.  A leopard seal had eaten a penguin.  His razor-sharp teeth had removed all the meat, leaving nothing but the skin.


At our next stop, we went ashore.  That is no small task.  This isn’t the Love Boat; there are no fancy docks.  They only time we used stairs to enter/exit the ship was upon our embarkation in the Falkland Islands and our disembarkation at Punta Arenas, Chile. 


Otherwise, we stepped from the ship directly into a Zodiac, a small motorized boat.  The Zodiac would get as close to land as possible.  Then, we would climb out and walk through the water (28º F!) to the shore.


My first landing was a complete assault on the senses.  As I walked ashore, I felt the cold water swirling around my boots.  I heard a brown skua screeching above me.  All along the shore and up the sides of the mountains, I saw penguins – 200,000 of them.  And, I smelled them.  When 200,000 penguins emit guano, it’s quite “fragrant.”




After adjusting to the initial shock, I sat on a boulder to absorb the experience.  Some penguins were curious and would approach my boots.  Others were cautious, observing from a distance.  Still others were disdainful, waddling past without so much as a glance.  


At another landing spot, I observed a seal creeping along the ice until he reached the water’s edge.  There, he flopped in, and the ungainly 500-pound creature transformed into a graceful ballet swimmer.



Although I could have touched the seal he was so close, I didn’t.  In Antarctica, tourists must follow strict rules.  This is the last truly untouched spot remaining on earth.  Fewer than 100,000 humans have ever stepped foot on the continent. 


So, animals have the right of way.  Visitors walk slowly, never getting between an animal and the ocean, because it’s stressful to the animal and dangerous to the human.


Some other landing spots offered warm-weather sports.  At Deception Island, I donned my bikini and swam in the ocean.  At Devil Island, my husband and I shared a two-person kayak as we paddled among icebergs the size of 10-story buildings.  We didn’t get too close, though, because these huge, floating works of odd-shaped art will flip over with no warning. 


One day, the eagerly anticipated cry rang out, “Whales!”  The ship stopped, as 80 passengers poured onto the decks.  We watched as humpback whales frolicked in the water.  Each of their tails is unique, much like a human fingerprint.  At another time, we spotted Orca (killer whales), but they didn’t stay and visit for as long.


Due to good weather, we not only made it below the Antarctic Circle, we also had time to stop at a place where only a few people had ever visited.  Wow!  I walked on a spot where only a few dozen human beings had ever set foot.  One of them was Bernard Stonehouse, a Naturalist onboard our ship.  Bernard spent three winters in Antarctica in the late 1940’s, and he was a walking (and entertaining) encyclopedia.       


We also saw what no other humans had seen.  Our tour operator, Lindblad Expeditions (www.Expeditions.com), was the first to have an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) onboard ship.  The attached camera recorded scenes on the ocean floor.  The starfish, plants, and algae provided an unexpected burst of color in this land known for being white.


This was supposed to be a relaxing vacation (19 days devoid of television or telephone), a chance to turn my brain off.  But, there were too many adventures, photographs, and inspiring tales of explorers.  I had to share this experience.  By the time I returned home, ideas for the motivational speech “Leadership Lessons from Antarctica” were bouncing around in my head.


Well, how quickly we go from the glories of nature to the rigors of work!


Kelly Watkins, MBA, is a Global Thought Leader - helping organizations be more effective by developing their employees - focusing on customized training and consulting in Leadership Development, Communication, & Customer Service. For tips & articles:  www.KeepCustomers.com & www.LeadershipGlobalWomen.com.




Originally published in Today's Family


Spending the Day with my Daughter . . . and Her Doll in Chicago

By Kelly Watkins



Who knew that spending a day with a doll could bring so much happiness to a grownup’s heart?  I had promised my daughter, Autumn (age 7), a special trip to visit the American Girl Place (www.AmericanGirl.com) in Chicago.  She began feeling special the moment she arrived at the Sheraton Hotel & Tower (www.SheratonChicago.com).  The hotel gave her an American Girl bed just for her doll.   


That night, I looked at Autumn sleeping in the hotel room.  There was my precious little girl smiling in her sleep.  And, sitting next to her was the doll bed, with her doll tucked under its own blanket.  It was one of those moments that tugs at a mommy’s heart. 


The first impression of the American Girl Place was a bit overwhelming – two floors of doll stuff.  Our personal shopper, Cheryl, was a great help.  Yes, the store had shoppers for the dolls!  They’re available by appointment.  


This day was all for Autumn, and she was allowed to make all the choices.  By the end of the day, we were joking that she was tired of deciding!



We began our adventure by taking “Little Autumn” (my daughter’s “Just Like Me” doll) to the Hair Salon.  There were at least 20 hair style options.  Autumn made a selection, and we watched the stylist work her magic.  The stylist also gave us good pointers on maintaining the doll’s hair.


We looked at the “Just Like Me” items (matching clothes and accessories for the doll and Autumn).  What fun!  At home, I’m always in a hurry when shopping.  I dash in, buy what I need, and dash out - alone.  I can dash faster without the kids.  This time, it was a treat to hear Autumn’s comments on the clothes, as we leisurely walked around. 


I wasn’t sure what to expect at the café - having spent too much time at mouse-themed children’s restaurants, with over-priced souvenirs, yucky food, and screaming kids.  Thankfully, the American Girl Café wasn’t any of those things. 



The hostess seated us at a lovely table and placed “Little Autumn” in her own high chair.  She received a lovely black and white checked plate and matching cup.  My favorite treat was the mini cinnamon bun appetizer.  I wasn’t too sad when Autumn didn’t like hers, because that meant I was able to eat two.  Hey, don’t label me selfish until you’ve tasted those buns yourself. 


The servers were very attentive.  In fact, I know some grown-up restaurants that could take a few lessons on how to treat customers.  Best of all?  The price was only $21 per person.  Trust me – in Chicago, that’s down right cheap!


We ended the day with a photo session.  The two Autumns had their picture taken and pasted on the cover of an American Girl magazine for a take-home souvenir.


Apparently, we weren’t the only ones with dolls on our minds.  Throughout the weekend, I saw lots of little girls walking around the hotel lobby with their American Girl dolls.  Why not?  The Sheraton’s location was great, and they offer an American Girl Package that includes a doll bed (to keep), a complimentary upgrade (when available), and complimentary valet parking. 


Okay, it’s confession time.  I couldn’t spend an entire weekend in Chicago and not do something educational.  However, we had so much fun at the museums, the kids didn’t even care that they were learning.  Yes, we did allow my son, Ethan (age 10), and my husband, Ross, to tag along for the rest of the weekend.


At the Museum of Science & Industry (www.MSIChicago.org), Autumn and I loved the Fairy Castle.  The miniature castle, which contained chandeliers with real diamonds and murals painted by Walt Disney, was approximately 8 ½ feet by 8 feet by 7 ½ feet.  Because the castle sat atop a table, I was too petite to see into the attic, but not quite petite enough to sit on Ross’ shoulders, like Autumn did.  Yet, she had fun describing the contents to me.


Ethan loved the large-scale LEGO® models of the world’s tallest buildings.  My favorite was the Burj Dubai, since I’ve spent so much time in Dubai and have watched the building being constructed. 


Ross’ favorite exhibit was the submarine – which is inside the museum.  Even more impressive was the story of how the US captured the sub.  I had goose bumps just listening to the tale.  The museum did a great job of designing the display to share the drama.


After being cooped up all day, eating outside at Riva’s Café (312.644.7482) on Navy Pier was great.  The Pier itself was too crowded and too touristy for my taste.  But, once we arrived at Riva’s, there was a perfect view of Lake Michigan.  I enjoyed watching a four-mast sail boat leave the pier – even though she managed to “sail” out without her sails unfurled.  I could’ve sat there for hours, but the kids had reached “that point.”  As a parent, you know what I mean - it’s time to go.  Now. 


I was hoping the 20-minute walk back to the Sheraton would wear them out.  But when we reached the hotel, Ethan insisted on going to the lower level and walking outside to the Chicago River.  I hate it when the kids are right, but he was right.  Watching the boats was a great way to wrap up the evening.  The best part?  It was only five steps from the river back into the hotel.


The next day, we went to Shedd Aquarium (www.SheddAquarium.org).  I didn’t think Ethan would ever leave the Amazon River display.  He was determined to locate every animal mentioned in every display’s plaque.  We both loved the cool (and huge!) anaconda.  However, while Ethan thought the tarantula was amazing, awesome, and astounding - I thought it was hairy, scary, and yucky!  


Autumn enjoyed the “Polar Play Zone,” where she dressed up as a penguin and ran around with other kids in a faux Antarctic environment.  They resembled real penguins, but with one big difference.  I’ve been to Antarctica, so I can tell you.  Those children didn’t smell nearly as bad as the real thing!  


Even though we let the boys join us later, the highlight of the trip was spending one-on-one time with Autumn.  I don’t get to do that very often.  It might have been Autumn’s special day, but it was my joy. 


Autumn’s Perspective (as told to Mom)


At the American Girl Place, I got to make all the decisions!  I had to make a huge decision about purses.  I liked the purple one with the stars best, but there was no purse for my doll.  I also looked at the red purse.  It wasn’t as cute, but it had a matching purse.  In the end, I chose the red ones, because then my doll and I would look good together.


At lunch, I chose the Tic-Tac-Toe pizza.  My best decision at lunch was the hot chocolate.  It was even hard to decide what my favorite activity was – either the hair salon or getting my picture taken with my doll. 


Kelly Watkins’ speaking and consulting services have taken her all over the planet - to all 7 continents.  Kelly loves to write about her traveling adventures. kelly@keepcustomers.com or www.KeepCustomers.com.




Originally published in Today's Family Everyday


Mother & Daughter Share “Diana: A Celebration”

By Kelly Watkins

I was a (young!) teenager when Lady Diana married Prince Charles. I sat glued to the TV, watching the ceremony, the pageantry, and … the dress.

When I heard that “Diana: A Celebration” was coming to the Frazier History Museum, I had to go and take my daughter, Autumn (age 10). To watch Diana’s dress on TV was great. To see the real thing, to walk 25 feet along the train, to see all the tiny pearls that were hand stitched, to see the tiara that topped her head - now that was magnificent.

And, to share that with Autumn was just icing on the dress … oh, I mean cake.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Diana Exhibit. All my expectations were blown away upon seeing the first item on display. A diamond-filled tiara was mounted simply and elegantly upon a red velvet pillow in a small display case. The case was right in front of me.

Then there were her family jewels – from the Spencer family. Autumn and I counted the diamonds that formed a chain in one of the necklaces. There were about 42. And, let me tell you, those weren’t diamond chips. They were probably one to three carats each. I couldn’t even guess how many carats were in the pendants that hung from the diamond chain.

In one room, there was a home movie of Diana as a baby and child. Autumn and I talked about the similarities and differences between her childhood and Diana’s. There were all types of childhood memorabilia, even Report Cards. It made me shudder to think that my first grade Report Card might be on public display. I seem to recall making good grades, but still ….

After seeing “The Dress,” I thought the exhibit was about over. I was happily wrong. The Style Gallery held 28 designer dresses and suits. Each contained a description card of the designer and the occasion.
The exhibit paying tribute to Diana’s death was touching. The world’s outpouring of grief and respect was heartwarming. Over 1 billion people watched Diana’s wedding. Over 2.5 billion watched her funeral. It reminded me that while Diana liked fashion, she loved people.

This display only travels in the non-summer months. During the summer, it stays at Althorp, the Spencer home. The Exhibit is in Louisville from September to January 13. Think about that, my friends. Do you recognize what a rare opportunity this is for Louisville? I encourage you to take advantage of the Diana Exhibit while you can.

Autumn’s Perspective – age 10
Diana’s wedding dress was unique. The train went on forever. It was huge. My favorite part of the exhibit was seeing all the dresses in the Style Gallery. Mom tried to rush me a few times, but I wanted to enjoy each dress.

“Diana: A Celebration” (Now through January 13)
Frazier History Museum
829 W. Main St. Louisville, KY 40202
Exhibit Tickets: $21.50 - Adult; $10 - Child (ages 4-14)

Special Event: Princess Tea Party
Sunday, December 30 at 2:00
Package price is $50. This includes event & exhibit for BOTH one adult & one child. Plus, it includes tea, sweets & sandwiches, and activities.
Today’s Family discount: Use promo code “teatime” for $5 discount to Tea.

By Kelly Watkins, Global Thought Leader on Corporate Effectiveness & Communication. Kelly travels the world for business, but writes about her adventures for fun. Kelly@keepcustomers.com www.KeepCustomers.com




Little Moments Add Up to Big Fun in Florida

By Kelly Watkins


When you live in this region of the country, chances are good you’ve vacationed in Florida.  After awhile, you begin to take it for granted.  To keep that from happening during my family’s last trip, I decided to focus on the little moments of the trip, not just the big ones (such as visiting the house of that famous mouse). 


I started by reminding myself that the journey could be as much fun as the destination.  To put that sentiment in perspective:  I drove alone with my children, Ethan (11) and Autumn (8), all the way to Bradenton Beach, Florida.  That’s about 14 hours drive time, excluding stops.  Now, before you become too impressed, we did stop in Atlanta and spend the night with some friends. 


When you’re driving, there are so many interesting sights, but you won’t see them if you aren’t looking.  So, we looked.  As we pulled off on an exit ramp for our 243rd restroom stop, there was an SUV in front of us.  On the bumper was a banana peel.  I laughed, thinking of all the things I’d set on my bumper through the years.  The kids had fun speculating how long the peel had been there and how far it had traveled.


Some of our best adventures were not only small, they were free, sort of.  We stayed at BridgeWalk Hotel (http://www.silverresorts.com/bridgewalk or 1.866.779.2545) at Bradenton Beach.  They are the only hotel on the beach to offer a free breakfast.  With some instruction from the hotel’s fantastically friendly staff, the kids learned to make waffles in a “magic machine” that turned out perfect waffles every time.


Autumn also admired the flip–flop tablecloths and plates in the breakfast room.  When she discovered there were even flip–flop designs on the mints, she was truly in love.


BridgeWalk provided the kids with sand buckets and shovels, so Ethan designed a game.  He dug a hole by the edge of the ocean.  The object of the game was to protect the hole from the water.  He built tall walls and engineered trenches and “run off” canals.  It was a challenging task because as the tide was coming in,  he and Autumn frantically tried to build up the defenses.  Their enthusiasm was contagious.  The next thing I knew, I was rushing around filling buckets with sand and dumping them as fast as my aching arms could move.


Another time on the beach, Autumn asked me to help her build a moat.  My first reaction was to suggest a castle, or a fortress, or something traditional.  Then I realized, “Phooey!  We’re on vacation!  If she wants a moat, then I’ll start digging.”  Autumn ended up happy and with a moat.  I ended up happy and with sore arms, again.


One of the hotel’s freebies turned out to be expensive.  BridgeWalk provided us with complimentary appetizers at the Sun House Restaurant.  Ethan chose coconut shrimp for his appetizer, and now he’s hooked!  I was more delighted with the view.  I could’ve sat for hours on the third-floor deck, sipping my frothy, fruity drink and enjoying the sun setting on the Gulf of Mexico.



My husband, Ross, joined us later in the week.  The day he arrived we ate lunch at the Beach House Restaurant (http://www.groupersandwich.com or 941.779.2222).  Our server, Greg, brought umbrellas for Ethan’s and Autumn’s drinks.  They were ecstatic.  You would’ve thought he had handed them hundred dollar bills.  Autumn looked at her fancy umbrella, looked at the ocean, smiled, and said, “Now, this is paradise.” 


As we drove up and down Gulf Drive, we kept passing a barbecue restaurant called Mr. Bones (http://www.mrbonesbbq.com or 941.778.6614).  The dancing skeleton on the sign was so intriguing that we had to eat there.  While we waited to be seated, the kids selected a drink from an open coffin filled with ice.  The walls were lined with masks which kept the kids entertained.  Ethan and Autumn made funny comments.  Well, at least they thought the comments were funny.  I was just glad they weren’t harassing me.


My kids are picky eaters.  It drives me crazy.  They like pizza and chicken nuggets.  Ethan decided to be brave and try the ribs at Mr. Bones.  He loved them.  Yes, they were delicious, but couldn’t he fall in love with something cheap?  Between the ribs and the shrimp, this trip was becoming more expensive all the time.


Our only disappointment – other than Ethan’s new pricey food preferences – was the size of the crowds.  Anna Maria Island (where Bradenton Beach is located) has been called an undiscovered gem.  Well, let me tell you, it’s been discovered at Spring Break time.  It’s too crowded!  However, summer and fall haven’t fallen prey to crowds and are still great times to visit.


Here’s some friendly advice.  The island is NOT a good fit if your family prefers non-stop children’s activities, wild nightlife, or even fast food.  (There’s none on the island.)  Personally, I like a place to relax and enjoy the beach.  So, this laid-back island was perfect for me. 


It was bittersweet to leave Bradenton Beach and head to Orlando.  We stayed at the Gaylord Palms Hotel (http://www.gaylordhotels.com/gaylord-palms or 407.586.2000).  The hotel provided a free bus to Walt Disney World, where we had a magical day, of course.  The weather forecast called for rain, so it wasn’t crowded until afternoon.  In fact, the beach on Anna Maria Island was more jam-packed than Disney.


Happily, so many of the things we did on non-Disney days were magical, too.  We ate at the hotel’s Villa de Flora restaurant (407.586.1114).  It was fun to discover all the goodies at the food stations at the breakfast buffet.  Rob Gioia, the Villa de Flora General Manager, told me about their sustainable program.  It always impresses me when restaurants use produce from local growers.


Rob mentioned that the orange and tomato crops had been damaged this spring, but that the strawberries were the worst. I wasn’t worried about the strawberries. I was worried about the oranges.  We can’t grow those in Southern Indiana. 


By the time we arrived in Florida, I was starved for a sweet, juicy orange. I drank three glasses of their incredible fresh-squeezed orange juice. 


We could’ve spent days exploring inside the Gaylord Palms.  We’re talking four  acres of indoor gardens.  Call me a wimp, but I can’t think of a better way to walk through the jungle than on lovely paved walkways.


Sadly, we didn’t have time play with the outside “toys” at the hotel.  Ethan and Autumn did manage to look longingly at the outdoor pool with the cool slides when we went to the H2O Sports Bar & Cantina to pick up a pizza.  Ross also looked longingly at the putting green and grumbled because he didn’t get to inspect the sand volleyball court.


All of our little adventures added up to one big fantastic trip.  Now, if I could just find a way to get some of Gaylord Palms’ orange juice with a Beach House umbrella in my glass delivered to my house, life would be perfect. 


Ethan’s Perspective (Age 11)


On the outside, the Gaylord Palms looks like a hotel.  On the inside, it’s like a jungle.  There are paths to walk with cool plants and a glass roof.  They even have alligators.  Some would swim around while others would lie on the rocks.  There were also turtles, who were mainly swimming.  They were both fun to watch.


The balcony of our room was right over top of the Häagen-Dazs ice cream store.  We stopped by one night, and the ice cream was delicious.  It really hit the spot. 


The beach was exhilarating.  I played football, volleyball, and Frisbee.  No one joined me in the ocean because they all thought the water was too cold.  The first two days, I couldn’t swim very far because of the undertow.  The waves were huge.  Some of them were over my head.  I would try to jump either at, or over, the waves.  Sometimes I would dive into them.  Occasionally I’d get a mouthful of salty water, but it was still a lot of fun.


At the Beach House Restaurant, my soft drink came with an umbrella in it.  For dessert, I had Italian shaved ice.  The food was awesome, and the service was great.  The whole time I had a great view of the ocean.  My trip to Florida was incredible.


Kelly Watkins’ speaking and consulting services have taken her all over the planet - to all 7 continents.  Kelly loves to write about her travel adventures. kelly@keepcustomers.com or www.KeepCustomers.com.





Originally published in Today's Family Everyday


Family Adventures at Kentucky Science Center

By Kelly Watkins

I need to make a confession. I went somewhere I wasn’t supposed to go. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And, given the chance, I’d go again.

Technically, it was okay for me to be in the...
...“Science in Play” exhibit at the
Kentucky Science Center. But, it was designed for someone else. Someone much younger – ages 3 to 7. Everything in the room was meant to be played with. It was also intended to help children build, test, and explore science using their senses and imagination.

I wasn’t the only guilty one. When my husband, Ross, and my children (Ethan, age 13, and Autumn, age 10) entered the Exhibit, they headed straight for one of the building areas. Scattered on the floor were various sections of ramps and supporting blocks. We worked together to collect blocks and elevate the ramps. We good-naturedly argued about how many loops and curves to put in. Then, we seriously argued about whose turn it was to let loose of the ball at the top of the ramp to see how far it would go along our loopdy-loop, curvy course.

Eventually, we migrated to the back section of the room, where an entire wall (floor to ceiling) was covered with a maze of clear plastic tubing. Ethan and Autumn lifted the lid at one of the entry points and dropped in two colorful balls. A compressor pushed air at great pressure, propelling the balls. They whooshed through 135 feet of tubing and came flying out one of several open holes.

We finally dragged ourselves out of the exhibit and went to explore the rest of the museum. Even with the ever-changing displays, one of my favorites is still the machine from the 1940’s that gave your hair a permanent wave. This helmet apparatus with wires coming out resembles a cross between Frankenstein’s new hairdo and an alien mind probe. It makes me smile to think what women used to go through (and we still do!) to have pretty hair.

What Ethan Worrall Liked (A boy’s perspective)
The IMAX theater was humongous. The screen took up an entire wall and was bigger than a drive-in movie screen (or at least we were a lot closer to the screen). We watched “
Born to Be Wild,” a movie about elephant orphans in Kenya and orangutan orphans in Borneo.
I liked the elephant part best because I have visited one of the Sheldrick’s orphan locations in Kenya! When I was there, they also had a baby rhino. He really liked me . . . or at least I think that’s why he tried to knock me over!

What Autumn Worrall Liked (A girl’s perspective)
I liked the Chemistry Lab demonstration. We saw different chemicals make different colors when they burned. The best one was copper sulfate. It burned green. I bet that’s what they used to make Floo Powder in the Harry Potter movies.

Kentucky Science Center (formerly Louisville Science Center)
727 W. Main St. Louisville, KY 40202
Adult = $13 ($18 with IMAX – and you don’t want to miss the IMAX!)
Children (2 – 12) = $11 ($16 with IMAX)

By Kelly Watkins, Global Thought Leader on Corporate Effectiveness & Communication. Kelly travels the world for business, but writes about her adventures for fun.
Kelly@keepcustomers.com www.KeepCustomers.com


Originally published in Elite Professionals


Winding Up & Winding Down in Wisconsin Dells

 Part One:  Winding Up


By Kelly Watkins


I wanted to relax and wind down.   My children wanted to wind up with an activity-filled trip.  So, like Super Moms everywhere, I accomplished the impossible and made everyone happy … with a little help from Wisconsin Dells.  I’ve divided my column into two articles:  “Winding Up” and “Winding Down” in Wisconsin Dells.


The Dells is like one big amusement park.  My kids (Ethan – 13 and Autumn – 10) were determined to see and do as much as possible.  We visited Ripley’s Believe It or Not®, where Autumn pushed on a chandelier – making it swing to scare the people below us.  Ethan, being a 13-year old boy, loved every eerie, weird, and gross thing in the museum.  I was most awed by the car parked on the side of the building about 20 feet in the air.  I was especially impressed because it was a Corvette. 


We enjoyed a little family competition on the Go-Kart track before stopping in at the Dells 4D Theater for some experiential movie watching.  We were misted, poked, and shook.  Ethan said the most fun was hearing the startled cries and comments from people who entered the theater after us.  I agreed.


My family is competitive.  I like to think it’s at the healthy level and not the “beyond reason” level.  But, that was sorely tested at Wizard Quest.  


This is a newly-created interactive activity.  It’s like a scavenger hunt inside a creative world of enchantment.  There are four realms. Each is a huge room filled with first-class scenery and props.  We chose to explore the Earth realm first.  It was a two-story high room filled with secret passages, slides, and trick mirrors - which Ross bumped into on several occasions. 


I won’t tell you if we solved all the clues within the 90-minute allotted time.  But, I will tell you that Ross wouldn’t leave until we had found the four wizards.  Ethan, Autumn, and Ross decided this was their favorite activity in the Dells.  For me, it’s hard to compete with the spa (see “Winding Down” post) or hiking.


The Kalahari Resort is home to the largest indoor water park in the United States.  Ethan and Autumn weren’t concerned with bragging rights of the water parks, all they cared about was how much fun they were having. 


Their favorite activity was the Kalahari Surfari.  Officially named the FlowRider®, it produces five-foot waves to simulate the surf.  In fact, 50,000 gallons of water flow under you each minute.  That’s a lot of water pressure.  You could learn to surf, but Ethan and Autumn opted to ride the Knee Boards. 


Our whole family likes roller coasters.  At Kalahari, they “just add water” to give us the Master Blaster, a 575-foot uphill water roller coaster ride.  Wheee!  


The best part about this waterpark?  It’s free – when you stay at the Kalahari Resort.


When the Tommy Bartlett Exploratory says it’s an Interactive Science Center, they aren’t kidding.  There were so many hands-on displays and fun experiments to play with, I didn’t think I’d get the kids past the first few exhibits.  After encouraging them to move along after playing with the puzzles, the trivia game, and the basketball challenge, we finally made it to the space travel exhibit. 


There was an original trainer for The International Space Station, along with many other fascinating tributes to space travel.  This is where my husband, Ross, stalled.  I had to drag him from the exhibit. 


My favorite part of the Exploratory was that every activity had an explanation of how or why it worked.  After three days of fun activities purely for the sake of fun, it was nice to see my children enjoying something educational.


Wait.  Did I say that was my favorite part?  Oops.  Education wins second place.  First place goes to the soccer simulator.  You see, I beat my husband.  Yes, all 6’1” of him couldn’t block as many goals as just 5’ of me.  Perhaps it’s childish, but I’m still relishing in the glory of my victory. 


In addition to all the commercial activities, Wisconsin Dells also provides some beautiful nature.  Just a few minutes outside the Dells, we were a world away at Devil’s Lake State Park.   


We scoffed when we saw that the trail map suggested 45 minutes for the 4/10 mile Balanced Rock Trail.  About half-way through the straight up climb, we realized why it took so long.  But the view of Devil’s Lake was encouraging as we continued upward.  At the top of the cliff, we were able to look down on the treetops into the forest below.  I love being able to look at things from a different perspective.  And, looking at the tops of trees from above is certainly unique.  These particular trees were arrayed in hues of yellow, orange, and red – and every shade in between.


Ethan climbed at least twice as far as the rest of us because he shunned our path in lieu of blazing his own trail.  He climbed over and around the boulders on the cliff face.  He did stop occasionally and deign to peer over to check on our progress.  Being the naturally slightly over-protective mom, I did occasionally admonish him to be careful and reminded him that if he broke his leg, his soccer coach would strangle him. 


When we returned to the parking lot, I looked up … and up … and up to the top of the cliff.  Wow.  Did we really climb all the way up there?


Kelly’s Comments (If you go …)


Waterpark (at Kalahari Resort).  Included with your stay at the Resort: indoor & outdoor waterpark and indoor theme park.  This is the best place to stay in the Dells!  www.KalahariResorts.com/wi/   

Tommy Bartlett Exploratory (Interactive Science Center).  www.TommyBartlett.com  608.254.2525

Devil’s Lake State Park www.WIParks.net

Concept Attractions.  They offer a combo ticket that includes:  Wizard Quest, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!®, and Dells 4D Theater.   www.ConceptAttractions.com


About Kelly Watkins

Kelly Watkins, MBA is a Global Thought Leader on improving corporate effectiveness and employee communication.  Although Kelly travels the globe for business, she writes about her adventures for fun. 

Wisconsin Dells – Part Two:  Winding Down

By Kelly Watkins



When we visited Wisconsin Dells, it was time for me to relax and wind down.  Hoping to be a “mother of the year” nominee (smile!), I also managed to provide my children with the action-packed trip they desired.  (See previous post:  Winding Up in Wisconsin Dells) 


The Spa Kalahari (http://www.kalahariresorts.com/wi/amenities/spa/) was happy to oblige my need to relax.  I signed up for the Signature Massage.  It’s 80 minutes of sheer bliss, accentuated with soothing music, a few hot stones, and a lot of tension relief.  Although I’m a long-time devotee of massage, I’d never tried the hot stones before.  They were great.  As someone who’s always cold (my toes start freezing in November and don’t thaw until April), it was nice to feel something warm against my skin.  


There is a reason the word “spa” rhymes with “ahhh.”  During a trip to Boston, I also discovered that the word “spa” rhymes with “car.” In the Midwest, we pronounce the “r” in car.  But, those folks in Boston say it differently.  Anyway, I was at the spa in Wisconsin Dells, so I focused on the “ahhh.”


After the massage, I managed to maneuver my noodle legs and limp doll body down the hall to the Pedicure Room.  There, I indulged in 90 minutes of foot fantasia. 


To add to my relaxing experience, I was able to enjoy this spa indulgence guilt-free.  My children (Ethan and Autumn ) were having a blast at the Kalahari Waterpark, being “supervised” by my husband, Ross.  (See previous post)


I left the spa with a serene mind and body.  My state of tranquility allowed me to ignore a few strange looks from the hotel guests as I padded through the lobby in my disposable flip flops – courtesy of the Spa Kalahari.  I didn’t care how silly it looked.  There was no way I’d don socks and shoes and run the risk of ruining the expertly-applied pinkish plum polish on my toes.


All that relaxing built up an appetite.  After one bite of ribs covered in barbecue sauce with the perfect combination of sweet and tangy, I understood why House of Embers (www.HouseOfEmbers.com) restaurant has been in business since 1959. 


I had heard about the Omar Sharif room, so I had to see it for myself.  It was an elegant, but intimate room, just large enough to accommodate a table for two, with a curtain over the doorway to provide privacy.  According to Mike Obois, hundreds of wedding proposals and anniversary celebrations have occurred in this cozy room.  They also have a Rudolph Valentino room that seats six to eight … and is perfect for slightly-larger, but still intimate, gatherings.  (I suppose you could use this room if you plan to propose to several women at once.  If so, I’d also recommend you locate the nearest hospital in advance.)


At House of Embers, dessert didn’t arrive on some dinky little dessert plate.  It arrived on a large white plate, beautifully presented with fresh flowers and fruit.  It was almost too pretty to eat.  Almost ….


The next relaxing event was also entertaining - Jeremy Allen’s Grand Illusions. (www.JeremyAllensGrandIllusions.com)  I’ve attended shows in big theaters where you needed binoculars to see the stage.  Jeremy’s theater was small.  At first, it appeared a bit shabby and the chairs were worn.  But, when the lights went down, I understood the wisdom of a small venue.  I truly felt a part of the show.


And, it was a complete show.  To our surprise, Jeremy Allen’s Grand Illusions was much more than just an illusionist doing tricks.  At times, the music was a bit loud, but the singing and dancing nicely complemented the program.  There was also a lot of audience participation.  Finally, and best of all, there were world-class illusions.  They were amazing!


It was even more fantastic that Jeremy could perform his illusions so close to the audience, and we still couldn’t figure out most of them – although Ross and Ethan spent the entire evening trying.  Me?  I focused purely on being entertained, and I left happy. 


It’s not a trip to the Dells, if you don’t visit its namesake.  We took a two-hour ride with Dells Boat Tours (www.DellsBoats.com) on the Wisconsin River, so we could see the Dells.  The cliffs are 65-feet tall in certain places.  They are made up of some of the oldest bedrock in the country (650 million years old – give or take a few centuries).


Many of the sandstone rock cliffs have unique formations.  Our expert guide told us the name and story behind many of them.  He even provided some humor when he pointed out “twin” formations, saying their names were either Kate and Duplicate or Pete and Repeat.  (If that doesn’t make sense, try saying them aloud.)


The highlight of the boat trip was landing at world-famous Stand Rock.  We disembarked and walked a few hundred yards.  There was a free-standing column of sandstone about 45 feet tall.  It was separated from the main cliff by about five feet.  As we watched with awe, a beautiful German Shepherd dog leapt from the cliff to the column and back.


Not only were we impressed with this feat, but we were enamored with the dog.  We have a German Shepherd of our own at home, named Xena.  Ethan immediately wanted to know if we could train her to jump like that.  I immediately envisioned trips to the vet. 


During our ride on the Dells Boat Tours, we were also able to disembark at Witches Gulch.  It is several hundred yards of narrow passageway – surrounded by sandstone cliffs on both sides.  There was barely room for the four-foot wide boardwalk.  I loved the chance to be so near the cliffs and to see up close the beauty of nature.


Whether it was the power of nature, the power of an illusionist, or the power of a massage therapist – I was in awe of the benefits of winding down in Wisconsin Dells. 



Kelly’s Comments (If you go …)


Spa Kalahari.  They offer spa and hair salon services.  The spa is conveniently located inside the Kalahari Resort – the best place to stay in the Dells. http://www.kalahariresorts.com/wi/amenities/spa/  608.254.3200

House of Embers Restaurant.  They take reservations.  Make yours now!  www.HouseOfEmbers.com  (608) 253-6411

Dells Boat Tours.  Be sure to ask where the boat dock is located.  It’s easy to find, but only if you know where to look.  www.DellsBoats.com  608.254.8555

Jeremy Allen’s Grand Illusions.  Ask about VIP tickets – where you can see the white tiger up close.  www.JeremyAllensGrandIllusions.com  608.254.4999



About Kelly Watkins

Kelly Watkins, MBA is a Global Thought Leader on improving corporate effectiveness and employee communication.  Although Kelly travels the globe (all 7 continents and all 50 US states) for business, she writes about her adventures for fun.   www.KeepCustomers.com




Originally published in Today's Family Everyday


Mythic Creatures at Frazier History Museum

By Kelly Watkins


Did you know that the Cyclops was really an elephant, or that mermaids were possibly manatees? These and other enlightening theories are part of the temporary Mythic Creatures Exhibit at the Frazier History Museum.

When ancient folks on the island of Sicily found the skulls of elephants, there was a large hole in the middle of the skull - where the trunk would have been attached. However, never having seen an elephant before, the inhabitants assumed the single hole must have been an eye socket.

When I saw the skull on display...
...this explanation made sense to me. Sure enough, there was a big hole right in the center. It was easy to see how the people could’ve leapt to imagining a gigantic one-eyed creature.

By the way, does that mean Homer’s Odysseus really outsmarted an elephant, instead of a Cyclops? I hope not. Elephants have long memories.

Now, mermaid sightings are harder to explain. They were possibly fish or seaweed, or maybe even manatees. At the exhibit, there was an activity that allowed us to peer through a scope at a manatee that was suspended from the ceiling. As we looked through the scope, it overlaid images to show us how the full length of the manatee, with its larger body and smaller "tail," could be viewed as a mermaid. (I’m still not sure how those ugly manatees could be mistaken for a beautiful mermaid, but . . . .)

Within the exhibit, my son, Ethan (age 14), was impressed with the huge and terrifying Roc, which appeared to be flying through the air. He said, “It looks so ‘realistic’ – with the massive wings and lethal talons exactly like descriptions I’ve read.”

What did my daughter, Autumn (age 11), like best? Being a horse fan, she liked the life-size replicas of the unicorn and the Pegasus.

Although Ethan and Autumn have different tastes, they both agreed on their favorite part of the exhibit. It was “A Mythic Adventure!” - a 20-minute live performance. The actors kept us entertained and amused while they included many of the mythic creatures in their act.

For this Mythic Creatures Exhibit, it’s wise to know what to expect … and to share those expectations with your children. This is "The truth behind the legend." So, you won’t see Ariel the Mermaid swimming, or watch Percy Jackson battling a Cyclops, or witness Scooby Doo being chased by Bigfoot. This exhibit focuses on the history of the mythic creatures and offers theories on how the legends began.

Just like the elusive creatures featured in this exhibit, this show doesn’t stay around for long. It's only at the Frazier until September 15. You'd better hurry.

Kelly’s Comments (If you go …)
Frazier History Museum
829 W. Main St. Louisville, KY 40202 502.753.5663 or
Exhibit Tickets: $18.50 for Adult; $14.50 for Students (ages 14-17); $10.00 for Children (ages 5-13)

By Kelly Watkins, Global Thought Leader on Corporate Effectiveness & Communication. Kelly travels the world for business, but writes about her adventures for fun. Kelly@keepcustomers.com




Originally published in Today's Family Everyday


The Lure of the Locks

By Kelly Watkins

In the 1970's, my grandmother worked at the McAlpine Locks and Dam. Specifically, she handled purchasing for the Corps of Engineers. That was quite an unusual job for a woman in those days. But, as a young child, I was only interested in the cool aspects of her job. For example, when a barge carrying hazardous chemicals got stuck for weeks near the locks, Grandma had to carry a gas mask to work. The best part? I got to try it on!

Every time we'd drive along I-64, my mom would point to the drawbridge that connected Louisville to the end of Shippingport Island where the offices were and say, "That's where Grandma works." You can’t see much from the expressway. So, the locks were always a mystery to me.

When I found out that the Spirit of Jefferson offered a cruise through the locks ... I jumped aboard the chance to see the elusive locks up close.  It was a beautiful afternoon, and my whole family went.



My children weren't sure what to expect. My daughter, Autumn (age 11), was surprised she could walk around on the boat. I think she was expecting a speedboat, similar to the type she tubes behind on the lake.

My son, Ethan (age 14), liked watching the barges float by. He was fascinated by how low in the water they sat when they were full versus how high they rode when they were empty. There was plenty of river traffic to observe. The McAlpine Locks are the busiest locks on the Ohio River.

Ross (my engineer husband) was in heaven. The tour guide gave us great commentary throughout the voyage, and Ross was loving all the details.

When it was our turn to enter the 1200-foot chamber, I felt like we were on a tiny toy boat in a huge bath tub. Once the gates shut, the water level lowered effortlessly about 26 feet (and raised on the return trip). I couldn't even feel the boat move.

One of the many bonuses for the day was being able to go downriver past New Albany. This isn't a part of the river that many people get to see from water level. We cruised all the way to the Gallagher power plant before turning around.

It was a relaxing journey, as well as a nostalgic one for me. After the return trip through the locks, I looked up, as we floated underneath the new suspension bridge that has replaced the drawbridge that leads to the offices on the island. I think Grandma would have missed the old bridge.

Although the trip through the locks was a special event, there are regular cruises on the Spirit and her big sister, the Belle of Louisville. The Ohio River is such an important part of this area’s past (and future). Everyone who lives here should get a river perspective at some point. And, there’s no better way to do it than aboard the Belle. She is a National Historic Landmark and is the oldest operating steamboat in the world.  

In fact, the Belle will be celebrating her 100th birthday next year (http://belles100.com/). I hope I’m still steaming along that well when I turn 100.

Kelly’s Comments (If you go …)

Belle of Louisville & Spirit of Jefferson

401 W. River Road Louisville, KY 40202

502.574.2992 or www.BelleOfLouisville.org

Ticket prices vary, depending on whether you want to enjoy a meal or simply cruise


By Kelly Watkins, Global Thought Leader on Corporate Effectiveness & Communication. Kelly travels the world for business, but writes about her adventures for fun. Kelly@keepcustomers.com www.KeepCustomers.com


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