Ultimate Dinosaurs / The Science Museum of MN

Today we visited the Science Museum of Minnesota to see the Ultimate Dinosaurs exhibit. This was our first visit to the museum and I have to say I was really impressed with the facility. Not only is it huge and filled with awesome exhibits but it was also extremely well kept and easy to navigate through. Our first order of business was to check out the Ultimate Dinosaurs exhibit before we went to the Omni Theater to see Dinosaurs Alive! on the big screen.

The exhibit starts off with a little station where you can get a "Certified Junior Paleontologist" sheet which has 6 areas in which you need to get stamped. This was a great way to immediately get the kids interested and add an extra incentive to learn along the way. After we acquired the first stamp our son Zachary was hooked and wanted to complete the entire thing. We learned about the shifting of tectonic plates, the differences between herbivores and carnivores, and several facts about specific dinosaurs during our conquest to become certified junior paleontologists. We spent a little over an hour going through the exhibit and getting "certified", it was a blast and really well put together.

Next we went to the Omni Theater for the 12:00 showing of Dinosaurs Alive! Just walking into the Omni Theater was an experience, it's a really neat place and the projection room outside of the theater is pretty darn neat to see. The movie (surprisingly narrated by Michael Douglas) was exactly 45-minutes long and covered a variety of topics. We learned quite a bit more than I was expecting about paleontology and how it has evolved over the years which ended up being very interesting. I particularly enjoyed learning about Roy Chapman Andrews who was an american explorer and paleontologist during the early 1900s. It is said that the character "Indiana Jones" is loosely based on him and I can definitely see why. He lead a team through dangerous parts of Mongolia in the 1920s during which he had to fight off Mongols, survive incredible sand storms and come up with creative ways to survive for long periods in the desert. The other parts of the film talked about specific dinosaurs and how they lived, fought, ate, bred, and ultimately died. New discoveries indicate that many non-flying dinosaurs may have had feathers which is very different than the reptilian, scaly image that most books and other media portray.

After the show we ventured back into the museum to check out the general exhibits. It was time for a pitstop so we had lunch at "Chomp" which ended up being surprisingly good. We had a buffalo chicken wrap and a bowl of mac & cheese, both of which were excellent. After lunch it was time to really dig in so we headed over to the Nano Science event which was going on today. Kids could grab a little booklet that showed where all the activities were and if they completed 5 activities they got a prize. Again, hats off to the Science Museum for gamifying learning, it really works. Once again we were off to the races to complete 5 activities/experiments in order to complete the challenge. We learned about atoms, protons, neutrons, magnets, chemistry and more. It was really interesting and very hands on which is great for the younger (and who am I kidding, hands on stuff is also fun for us old folks) crowd. We completed our 5 activities and collected our prize but we weren't done yet. We checked out several more exhibits many of which provided to be quite awesome.

We spent nearly 6-hours at the museum and I still feel like there was more to see. I think buying a family membership is definitely in our future because this was a perfect weekend activity for the three of us. There was fun for all ages so no matter how old/young your kids are I highly recommend spending a day at the Science Museum.

The Next Chapter

If you have noticed a bit of a decrease in my posts lately it is because we just finished moving half way across the country. As many of you know I accepted a position with Spyder Trap (a marketing firm in Minneapolis) back in April and I have been working remotely for them since May 1st. I am both excited and honored to be a part of such a wonderful, driven and highly successful team. Spyder Trap not only has some amazing clients and projects but is also one of the top 100 best companies to work for in Minnesota.

Moving
While the move came with its share of challenges and surprises we are finally getting settled and are enjoying things out here in the midwest. I will be back on a more normalized posting schedule starting in September but until then things will be pretty hit or miss while we continue to get back into our routines. Until then, here are a few highlights from our time in Minnesota thus far.

IKEA Build Fire PitTARDIS Lunchbox

Ben & Jerry'sStella's Cafe  Wayzata Train Tracks

We are always looking for new things to do and would love to get suggestions (particularly for winter activities) from people who are familiar with the Minneapolis/St.Paul area.  Please leave any thoughts/suggestions/opinions in the comments!

TwinkleTrail

As I mentioned in a post last week, I have been hard at work (w/ Mitchell Hislop and Pete Barry) on a project that just went live last Thursday. The project is called TwinkleTrail and its goal is to make the process of finding christmas lights in/around your city significantly easier. The site allows users to add locations, search for locations already in the database and ultimately create their own customized list of locations that they want to see. When users visit the site they immediately have the ability to search for locations, add new ones and view the most recently added locations. This interface makes it easy to do a variety of tasks right from the home page which provides users with a lot of flexibility. I had thought about posting a series of screen shots from the home page but I think it would be a lot more beneficial for users to check it out for themselves.

Once you have added points to your trail you can click the "View My Trail" button to get a list of all the points you have added as well as the option to create your route/map. By simply entering a starting location and an ending location (these can be specific addresses, zip codes or just 'city, state') TwinkleTrail will find the best route for you and provide you with a map and detailed directions to find all of your locations.

TwinkleTrail - My TrailTwinkleTrail - Map

As you can see the UI is very clean and simple which makes managing your trail a breeze. Points can be added and/or removed at any time and it only takes a matter of seconds to generate a new set of directions/map.

All-in-all we are very excited about this project and would like to hear any/all feedback from our users. Please feel free to post comments here or contact me on Twitter.

For more information please check out our official press release.