Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sea lions, matchsticks and railroads, oh my!

What do the following have in common?
- An underwater viewing area for seals and sea lions
- A matchstick model of Notre Dame Cathedral
The "Building America" exhibit at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum

A) They are all in Iowa
B) They are all new for 2012
C) They are all worth a trip
D) All of the above

The correct answer: D - all of the above!

The Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines invested $1.3 million in a new pool for their seals and sea lions. New guest amentities include underwater viewing of the animals, signs and interpretive displays and a new overlook into the pond. Two giant shade structures, a deeper pool and a redesigned island used for demonstrations are just a few upgrades the animals enjoy. Later this spring, watch for two young harbor seals in the pool.

Iowa's matchstick master strikes again. Iowan Pat Acton has crafted his own version of Notre Dame Cathedral (complete with lights!) out of nearly 300,000 matchsticks. The model took more than 18 months to construct. Find it on display, along with other amazing creations modeled out of matchsticks, at Matchstick Marvels museum in Gladbrook.

The "Building America" exhibit at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs will put visitors to work at the scene of the transcontinental railroad construction using video game technology. From entering a tunnel at Donner Summit to trying their hand at driving a spike, visitors see the 19th century feat of technology and engineering come to life like never before. The UP is the first museum to incorporate Kinect full-body gaming technology to create a truly immersive experience. Hundreds of artifacts, images and other railroad memorabilia are also on display.

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