by Alina Kodatt
Hi, my name is Alina. Maybe you have seen me around here the last couple of months, writing about places in Jacksonville that I’ve explored with my daughter. Well, I think it’s about time I officially introduced myself to you. I’m 31. I love to eat foreign food and people-watch. I hate Swiss cheese and standing in line. I prefer the fall and winter months, though the beach and fruit popsicles make the summer months more bearable.
I also love to write. More specifically, I love to write about exploring Jacksonville. You see, when I moved here with my family two years ago, I couldn’t help but compare Jacksonville to some of my former city homes: New Orleans, St. Louis and the California coast. Those are pretty big hitters as far as cool places go. But instead of spending my time being frustrated with what Jacksonville doesn’t have, I decided to explore what it does have and then share it with you.
I’ve titled this column “Have Kid, Will Travel” because, though there are little hands to sanitize and pounds of baby gear to lug, I’m bound and determined to have some adventure. And if you choose to read, be warned: I’m the kind of girl who loves to wander and explore, usually finding myself off the beaten path. Given the choice between a blockbuster tourist attraction or a little-known but must-see locale, I’m probably going to visit the latter.
Of course, now that I’ve shared my personal manifesto with you, I must make myself into a liar and admit I don’t have an offbeat, unusual attraction for you this month. The last few weeks have been nothing short of insanely stressful in our house. Last Wednesday, I woke up with double pink eye, a virus and a broken air conditioner. Within a couple of days, both of our cars broke down. Then there was a big three-year-old birthday party thrown into the mix and a plumber called to repair our only bathroom faucet. As you can imagine, these life events do not make for eager explorers or adventure-seeking writers. On those days, “Have kid, will reluctantly travel.”
What I was able to manage was a quick trip to MOSH with a friend and her two-year-old daughter. I’d never been, and I figured it would be good to get to know this staple attraction since it’s stood the test of time, having been around since 1941. With both of our girls strapped in their strollers, we made our way to the planetarium for the fun, kid-focused show educating us about the solar system.
Following the show, we met MOSH public relations director Kristi Taylor who gave us a brief overview of the museum and explained that the planetarium is about to undergo a massive renovation. The new upgrade boasts technology four times clearer than the best HDTV on the market today. Needless to say, a trip back to MOSH is in order following the October 23 unveiling.
With the brief tour under our belt, we maneuvered our strollers through the masses of summer camp kids and made our way through the exhibits. We oohed and ahhed over the Chronicles of Narnia exhibit, our young girls mostly disinterested, having not yet seen the movie. We walked through the extensive Jacksonville history exhibit, our girls definitely not interested despite our pointing out pictures and interesting artifacts from our city’s history and pre-history.
We trekked through the Body Within exhibit, wide-eyed at the large, mechanical stomach display and closed-eyed at the televisions broadcasting surgical procedures. (Or were those just my eyes closed?) We marveled at the life-size whale feature in the Atlantic Tails and pressed our faces close to the freshwater fish swimming in the tanks of the Water Worlds exhibit.
Then…(cue angels singing)…as if we’d reached the exhibit worth coming for, our girls lept for joy at the very large, very fake tree in the Kids Space. They played princess at the tree top, splashed toy boats in the aqua expo and arranged alphabet letters on the magnetic chalkboard. MOSH visit redeemed, in their minds.
Ok, so maybe they were a tad young for the MOSH at two and three years old, but I looked at this visit as an introductory, “Hi, nice to meet you” visit. As my daughter gets older, we’ll visit the MOSH more and more, and soon enough we’ll stop to read the exhibits and become less interested in the fake tree playground. I look forward to the MOSH hosting other exciting exhibits that will capture her and my interest in new and exciting ways.
So was it the road less traveled? No. But it was a predictable, well-beaten path definitely worth taking, and sometimes that is exactly what you need when everything else in life seems to be falling apart.
HAVE KID, WILL TRAVEL
by Alina Kodatt