A Commercial Vacation…Priceless


A couple of weeks ago my husband, daughter and I set off on a 4-year-old’s summer odyssey: Wisconsin Dells, Nickelodean Universe at the Mall of America, and Fort Snelling. We started out spending a few days at the Great Wolf Lodge where we swam all morning, took a nap, swam all afternoon, ate and slept again. Our daughter’s favorite activity was to climb on top of the front of an inner tube and have one or both of us push her around the pools, under waterfalls or through the water streams of squirting elephants.

“Faster! Faster! Go faster.” She would say.

At times, I could imagine myself a servant gently pushing Cleopatra’s raft down the Nile. Except that “Cleo” wasn’t interested at all in gentle.

After day one of unmitigated play, I even found myself unwinding as I quickly forgot the iPad with its internet connection and my email accounts. I was napping and swimming right along with the little girl. I even found a favorite waterslide, and climbing the stairs to the top and floating down the tide of water in the brilliant sunshine was sheer joy.

In the evenings we explored Magic Quest, equipping the little one with a pink and silver magic wand and a silver wizard’s cap. Mom and Dad figured out the quests, and she pointed the wand, making treasure chests open, pictures talk, and stars light up. Magical indeed.

After our few days in the Dells we packed up the car and headed to St.Paul, Minnesota, and that capitol of capitalism, the Mall of America. Our destination was the Nickelodean Universe where our daughter met some of her favorite cartoon characters: Kai Lan, Dora and Uniqua. She rode rides including a ferris wheel and her first log flume. We ate at the Rainforest Café, played in Lego land and read books at Barnes and Noble, the only two stores we visited in the entire mall. It was a great, one-time experience.

The next morning we were up and off to Historic Fort Snelling, a great place for kids and parents. Our daughter really enjoyed playing Grace’s game with one of the docents. I was amazed to learn that the infamous Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court involved slaves that had served the surgeon at Fort Snelling. I was taken aback when we entered what were their quarters at the time. Our daughter spent a great deal of time with the black smith, organizing the many hooks and horseshoes that he had on display. She even managed to talk him into giving her a souvenir of some nails to take back with her, along with the dirt and grime that had accumulated on her hands and face from the forge. The final treat was the spiral staircase up to the top of the watch tower to see the river, the Minneapolis sky line and the forests and woods around the fort. It was beautiful.

After lunch and nap, we went to the aquarium at the Mall of America. The jellyfish display was eerily beautiful, and the collection of sea horses was impressive. Our daughter enjoyed being able to touch anemones and horse shoe crabs in the tide pools, but the sharks, so often advertised, made absolutely no impression.

It was mostly a commercial vacation, and that’s okay because a good time was had by all. Whether we were pushing an inner tube commanded by Cleo around volcano falls or questing for enchantment runes in an “ancient forest” or quizzing a black smith about his trade, we were doing it as a family, and that is what this short break was about. We stopped the rut of days where our time as a family is limited to morning, nights and weekends and spent morning, noon and night together, playing, having adventures and laughing. There’s no commercialism in that; it’s priceless.

©2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

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