Showing posts with label Dearborn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dearborn. Show all posts

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Walk Through Pandora - Exploring Avatar: the Exhibition

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Ever found yourself inside of a movie?

Okay, me neither.

BUT--a visit to Avatar: The Exhibition (currently at The Henry Ford) comes pretty close. I got the chance to stop by a few weeks ago for a walk through Pandora, getting a behind-the-scenes look at movie props and interactive displays that created a world similar to the motion picture. 

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Brad, figuring out this interactive screen--the little floaty-critters gravitate towards your shadow.
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Life-like busts that served as character inspiration for the film makers
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This is what I'd look like wearing a life-size Avatar's boots.
I now realize how lucky I am to NOT have gigantic feet.
While wandering around, I found Brad and my parents (who were in town for a few days) huddling around a table . . . doing something more interesting than hanging out with me. Okay, let's go see what they're up to.

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They were playing a game on this giant touch-screen, where everyone has a fish that eats other fish. You control the movement of your fish, when it lights up (to attract smaller fish), and when to turn off your light (to avoid bigger fish). I think that's right. I don't know--my fish lost, so I'm probably not the best person to explain all of this.

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The coolest part of the exhibit was probably seeing how Avatar actors were filmed and transformed into computer-animated characters. And guess what? I got to be one of those characters! Check it ouuuut . . .

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That's me. I'm in a [pretend] movie.
Inside this little stage area, a video of James Cameron popped up on a TV screen, letting me know he'd be my director that afternoon. Hey, Jim, nice to meet ya. A real person also stood nearby to tell me how to follow the lights on the floor (I guess even Jim Cam needs a little help now and then), but I considered myself to be a big-time actress all the same. Hey, nobody can make an eight- (ten?) foot Na'vi move gracefully through a sparkly forest quite like me.

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Warming up with a robot dance. The final video was supposed to be emailed to me, but alas--it never reached my inbox.

Keep an eye out--I'm coming soon to a theater near you.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Glowing Faces in Old-Time Places

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Jack-o-lanterns adorn trees for Hallowe'en in Greenfield Village
Hallowe'en in Greenfield Village is one of those things that's been on my to-do list since I moved up here. Originally intrigued by the idea of a Halloween-themed event, but a little hesitant because I'm a wimp when it comes to haunted houses and the like, I took two years to finally buckle down and buy some tickets.
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As it turns out, it's a good thing I didn't shy away from the event. What I originally imagined as a super-creepy haunted village was actually a lot of fun--just the right amount of spooky (not scary) for families with small kids (and people like me who have a low level of scare-tolerance).

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Costumed Creatures Kids Hanging Out in an Autumn-ized Greenfield Village
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Village Decor Details
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Plenty O'Pumpkins
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Creepy critters hanging out on the Eagle Tavern.
The village looked awesome. Jack-o'-lanterns lined the streets (remind me to get in on the carving action next year!), side shows and movies waited in every corner, and candy stations dotted the path for a little trick-or-treating fun. I was actually surprised to find out that the event was set up as a self-guided tour along a pumpkin-lit path (rather than a free-for-all throughout the village), but I kind of liked that idea better since it didn't involve wandering into dark, hundreds-of-years-old houses in the middle of the night.

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Glowing skeletons danced atop the gazebo . . . Macarena, anyone?
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A pop-up theater played old Betty Boop and Looney Tunes-type movies
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Stages were set up for dramatic readings of stories such as
 The Tell-Tale Heart  and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
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And the food. This gigantic caramel apple officially made my night.

One of my favorite stops? The singing Jack-o'-lanterns, of course! These guys put on an awesome show.

"Jaaaack-o'-lannnntern . . . "

Lots of colorfully-costumed characters also greeted us along the way, taking on an old-time Halloween style:

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I'm not sure who this guy was supposed to be, but he hammed it up just the right amount for my photo.
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Me and my new BFF--love her costume!
Of course, there were some eerie sights along the way--but it wouldn't be Halloween without some scare factor, right?

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This ghost bride called out for her long-lost love in a creepy, high-pitched voice. I did not stay here for long.
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Creepy McCreep Face, a.k.a., "The Face on the Wall."
He talked to passersby and contributed to the general creep factor of the evening.
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What lies beyond this "doorway?" Dun dun dunnn.
On the way out, I had to catch a glimpse of the Headless Horseman, who had been riding through the village all night. How does a person accurately guide a horse in the dark without eyes, anyway? Galloping past the onlooking crowd, the costumed Sleepy Hollow villain took a swipe at us with his sword, but I ducked out of the way just in time. And I'm sure you're glad that I lived to tell the tale.

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Camera flashes have a way of taking the fear factor out of some things, but to have this guy charge towards you in the dark--you actually forget for a second that he's not really out to make you his next prize.

Are you a fright-seeker during Halloween, or like me and just in it for the candy and festivities? Share your favorite Halloween stories in the comment section below!

Friday, June 21, 2013

All the Motors You Can Muster

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If I had absolutely no obligations in life, I think I'd spend a day every weekend at Greenfield Village. Of course, I've visited most of the historic homes and ridden in an old Model-T, but the park itself is fantastic for an afternoon picnic or just wandering around. Lucky for Brad, however, our Saturday visit to Greenfield Village happened to align with the annual Motor Muster event. Old cars on old-timey turf? Okay, I'll take that compromise.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Primary Colors and Plastic Towers

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Brad and I had been wanting to visit the LEGO Architecture: Towering Ambition exhibit at The Henry Ford ever since it opened in November, but leave it to us to wait until February to go (on the last afternoon the exhibit was open, mind you). The upside of visiting the exhibit so late in the game, however, meant small crowds on a quiet afternoon. That, to me, has the makings of a relaxing trip.

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Towering Ambition boasted a display of intricate LEGO buildings, all replicas of structures from across the United States (and a few from overseas). I can't imagine the amount of time that it would take to build a similar structure of my own, even if I was a LEGO mastermind, but surprisingly, most of the toy towers were architecturally adapted and created within a matter of days.

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A LEGO replica of Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building (you can watch the assembly here).

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Ford Field (one of my favorites).

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Tributes to NYC (Left: The Empire State Building; Right: 2 World Trade Center)

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The Chicago Skyline

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Just outside the exhibit was a play area for kids to build their own LEGO creations. I kind of wanted to get in on the fun, but decided to leave the germs to the kids and just take pictures. Plus, I didn't want to make anyone feel bad--nobody can construct a multi-color box quite like me. Except for maybe every other kid in this room.

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Craftsmanship. Sometimes, I wish the whole world was made up of these colors.
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This one was probably my favorite.

Do you guys miss LEGOs? Were you a technical builder, down to the last plastic wheel or propeller, or more of a master color-brick-maker, like me?

Or maybe you never actually gave up the hobby . . . that's okay, too. Brad still has all of his LEGOs in a plastic tub in our basement, but shhh--you didn't hear it from me.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Holiday Nights


Holiday Nights was just about the cutest little event I've ever been to. I heard about the whole shebang last Christmas season (2011, to clarify), but by that time, it was too late to get tickets or plan around our travel itinerary. This year, however, I wasn't going to miss out on an evening of colonial carolers, lights, mulled cider, or Model-T rides. No, sir. Not when it set up a perfect excuse for me to wear my new hat.

Brad and I got to The Henry Ford about 20 to 30 minutes before the event began, and the lines to get in were stretched wayyy beyond the front gates. I wanted to shop in the meantime, but Brad was smarter than me and pointed out that if I left for the gift shop, I'd lose my spot. So I waited. And other than the fact that I had to hop around a little to fend off the chilly night air, it wasn't so bad. Before we knew it, things were up and running, and the lines flowed inside to a magical, Christmas-themed evening.

Since we'd visited Greenfield Village just a few weeks before, Brad and I had somewhat of an idea about the park's layout. This meant high-tailing it over to the glass shop (Brad's favorite), where we huddled inside a toasty room and watched artisans do their thing with lava-like concoctions. The theme of the night was glass candy canes, which the glass blowers created as they stretched hot, spiral-patterned glass across the room in strands that miraculously never broke.

Candy canes in progress. This strand of hot, molten glass would eventually be cut into several, small pieces and twisted into cane shapes before being cooled and sent to the Greenfield Village gift shop.

Brad mentioned that he could've spent the entire evening watching the glass artisans, but I had plenty of other items on my agenda. So, it was off to explore the grounds, where we made our next stop at the line for free Model T Ford rides.


Zooming through Greenfield Village with our driver/tour guide.

If you've never ridden in an old Model T, I highly recommend it. Granted, you can only fit about three or four people in the car, but the light, swift feeling you get as you float by pedestrians--nearly pushing little, old ladies off the street--is one of a kind (I can assure you that no one was hurt in the process--at least not during our ride).

After we had gotten our fill of 20th-century road rage, Brad and I strolled around Greenfield Village, taking in the decorations, sights, and smells of the season. The night was cold, but there was no wind, making for . . . well, a perfect evening, really.

An old Ford sitting out front of the Model T ride area.
Inside the Wright Brothers' Home. The rooms were decorated for Christmas, all in authentic styles for the time period.
Mrs. Cohen's hat shop, decked out in Christmas decor.
Charming shop window.
Silent Christmas movies were projected directly onto the Tintype Studio building.
This film was a silly, Santa-themed flick. A small-scale sleigh and reindeer were part of the mix.
More carolers, singing atop a lovely gazebo.

In one particular spot of town, there was a small bunch of creepy characters donning masks and frilly, festive attire. They didn't talk, and their main job seemed to be intimidating passersby. I didn't get very close, but watched a couple of them sneak up on unsuspecting pedestrians.

That photographer is very focused, what with Terror staring him down and all.

The star of the night, though, had to be Kris Kringle himself. Perched atop a balcony on the Robert Frost home, Santa spent the evening waving to crowds of spectators and calling out the names of actual children who stood below. I don't know how he did it . . . must have been Santa magic. He also had a few reindeer in tow, but the pick of the herd seemed a little tired and unimpressed by all our cooing and picture-taking.

". . . And I see Jennifer, and Brad . . . hello there!"

Eventually, we mustered up the courage (okay, I was the only one who was nervous) to go ice skating on the outdoor rink. It had been years since I took a pair of blades to the ice, so I wasn't expecting much. Which is probably a good thing.

The ice rink. Dun dun dun.

We laced up our skates and waddled out to the rink, which was choppy like snow from the constant crowds. And then, my premonitions came true: the ice was slippery, so I held onto the railing like a little girl. You know what, though? I didn't really see anyone else doing much better, except for maybe that one kid with a hockey helmet who sped around us all, rubbing in our feelings of inferiority. Long story short, people were wiping out right and left, so I kept my composure and slowly scooted around the rink. Once. And I laughed a lot.

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Cell phone pictures, because we were smart enough to not take the camera out of its bag while we struggled to stand on the ice.


Near the end of the night, Brad and I joined hundreds of other people in gathering around the town hall for a Christmas carol sing-along and grand finale. Everything started out cheerful, just music and milling about, when suddenly, a series of bell tolls rang out, and we looked across the village green to see a mob of lantern-carrying townspeople advancing towards us. The whole thing was very reminiscent of the mob scene from Beauty and the Beast.

Blurry photo to drive home the intensity of the mob.

Great news--the mob didn't turn into a real-life Walking Dead scenario! Rather, the townspeople met up with the rest of us 21st-century time travelers and joined in the festivities by proclaiming a celebration of Christmas and leading us in more caroling. Then, the fireworks started and we all just stood there being happy and enjoying life.

Fireworks over Greenfield Village

Then, just as quickly as it had begun, Holiday Nights was over. We made one, last stop at the gift shop before leaving to pick up a few Christmas gifts (if you're looking for unique, Michigan-made or Michigan-related souvenirs, this is a great place to browse), then rolled out with the rest of the crowds. I can not emphasize enough how great this experience was . . . and the fact that there's so much going on during the event just makes it possible to return year after year to see more (I still have to try some roasted chestnuts and go on a horse and carriage ride!). I think I must be destined to memorize this village like the back of my hand.

Have any of you visited Holiday Nights recently or in years past? How about something similar? Let me know in the comments! :)

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