Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for the ‘Kentucky’ Category

Want to Actually Touch a Shark? Visit Newport Aquarium

Touch a shark! Play with the penguins! Experiences such as these happen every day at Newport Aquarium in Newport, Kentucky just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio.  Here over 7,000 aquatic creatures from around the world have been gathered in a million gallons of fun.

Following the map on this  World Aquatic Tour, visits are made to every continent, every ocean and lots of waterways in between. Excitement begins as many walkways actually are tunnels through the ocean scene.  There are fish swimming above, below, and on both sides…surrounding visitors with the feeling of actually walking on the ocean floor. Two hundred feet of tunnels, somehow constructed of acrylic without seams, amaze the eye.  Many aquatic creatures soar overhead or pass under everyone’s feet…even a legendary giant sea turtle!

Jellyfish Gallery displays over one hundred jellyfish that possess that magical ability to illuminate under water, making for quite an attractive display. Located in clear tubes, the mesmerizing jellyfish float with ease while performing their elegant dance. Recent research indicates that the protein extracted from jellyfish may help keep human brain cells alive longer. Just another great reason to enjoy watching them.  Youngsters also have fun playing tag with the moon jellies on the Jelly Wall, or hop their way to excitement on Frogger, a video game part of the Frog Bog exhibit.  Here’s the perfect place to take a break from walking, sit down on the benches and watch the jellyfish and the children at play.  You might be tempted to join in the games!

The Shark Tank draws children and the young at heart like bears to honey. After instruction on the proper method for petting a shark, supervised touching is allowed. The official “two-finger” technique gently rubs the shark from front to back. Actually the sharks really enjoy this experience as it produces a satisfying electrical connection for them…reiki for sharks! Young boys especially, return again and again to pet these dangerous creatures. And yes, this writer experienced the thrill of it personally.

Penguin Palooza features cold-water penguins in temperatures similar to those in their natural Antarctic home. The viewing area has seating so you can give your feet a break, while watching the antics of these cute little guys in their tuxedos.  If you want to play with the penguins an additional fee is charged and children must be accompanied by an adult.

Newport on the Levee combines a fantastic entertainment area with an outstanding shopping complex. Besides Newport Aquarium, guests will find  movie theaters, live concerts, Fun Zone, Ride the Ducks, exclusive places to shop, and of course, fine dining establishments.  There is something here for the entire family so you might as well stay for a day or two at the hotels located in Newport.

Close by is the Purple People Bridge, the longest pedestrian bridge connecting two states, Ohio and Kentucky. Formerly tracks for the L&N Railroad built in 1872, it now provides a pleasant half mile walk across the Ohio River. What a great place to relax on the frequent benches, and watch the busy boat traffic down below.

While Newport Aquarium was probably originally designed for youngsters, adults also can have an interesting day learning about aquatic creatures from all over the world. Lose yourself in an underwater experience of unusual and interesting sea creatures. If you need to call the aquarium, use a “shell” phone!

Newport Aquarium is easily reached from I-471 at Exit #5 in Kentucky.  Follow Route 8 and signs will lead you easily into the parking garage for Newport on the Levee.  Admission is $23 for adults and $15 for children (ages 2-12). For additional information please visit their website at  www.newportaquarium.com . 

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Blue Heron Coal Mine in Cumberland River Valley

After walking along the beautiful Cumberland River, decided to take a break in an abandoned coal mining town.

Today this old mining camp has been restored as an historical tribute to the people who lived and worked there…kind of a museum to Old King Coal. No. 18 Mine Blue Heron is located in the hills of Kentucky near Stearns in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Carved in the side of a mountain, it overlooks the Big South Fork of the beautiful Cumberland River.

Since this stop was in the winter time, the museum was not open, but still could enjoy the atmosphere of the mining camp. There wasn’t another living person around that day so had the freedom to move at a leisurely pace along the paved walkways in this re-created mining town.

…”I owe my soul to the Company’s Store.” That was the life of the coal miners in this small town of Blue Heron  from 1939-1962. From this isolated location, everything they purchased had to come through the Company Store. Instead of cash, miners would “draw scrip”, unexchangeable credit vouchers which could only be used at the company’s store. Coal companies had their own scrip coins with their personal emblem , thus indeed miners did end up owing their soul to the Company’s Store. They had no way to establish cash savings to find another workplace.  Luckily, some coal mines gave their miners a choice of cash or scrip for payment, and eventually the United Mine Workers Union forced them to discontinue the use of scrip completely.

Stops along the way contained recordings of the miners’ stories and provided a resting place as well.  The voices heard were those of long ago residents of Blue Heron as they shared their stories and memories of life at the mining camp.

Just looking into the entrance of the Blue Heron Coal Mine gave an understanding of what these miners faced each day. Inside there were figures of miners picking, drilling, and loading.  One of the recordings there described the mine as “dark as a dungeon, camp as the dew,” as singer Merle Travis portrayed the mines in his 1946 recording.  Outside this entrance the coal cars and locomotives were originals from the mining camp.

Was exciting to walk across the old tipple bridge to get a bird’s eye view of the area. This tipple was able to screen, separate, and load about 400 tons of coal an hour.

Sometimes over 200 men worked in this camp. When they got off work, most headed to the big bath house so they could shower and change their clothes before heading home for the day.  That saved a lot of coal dust in the houses! Workers actually went on a two day strike to get a bigger bath house, but of course didn’t get paid while on strike. Imagine their families really appreciated the cleaner workers coming home at night.

Learned a little more about the life of a coal miner…their living and working conditions. Next time perhaps will take the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, which reaches the heart of the canyon along the Cumberland River and drops passengers off for a visit to the Blue Heron Coal Mine.  Add a Coal Miner’s Lunch all wrapped up in a bandanna for a better taste of the mining experience.

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