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Space Center Houston - Houston, Texas

Dear Travel Diary,

While our visit to Space Center Houston took place in October 2015, I felt I had done the experience a disservice by not discussing it at length. I posted a round-up of our trip to Houston here.

More than 18 million people have visited since its opening in October 1992, and the facility hosts more than 1 million visitors annually. Upon entering the site, you're greeted by this replica. When we visited, it was not yet open for tours, so it means we're due for a return visit.

At over 250,000-square feet, the complex is massive. It's also a Smithsonian Affiliate, with its mission as an educational center to highlight all eras of U.S. space travel via exhibits, tours and attractions. Naturally, it's focus is on STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and utilizes space exploration to inspire interest and wonder in these subjects.

Space Center Houston features more than 400 space artifacts, including the world's largest collection of moon rocks and lunar samples.

Of course, I was drawn to the chronological history of the U.S. space program.

There are two tours offered at an additional charge - one takes you through an active work shop, a rocket graveyard of sorts, and the location of the Saturn V rocket; the other is of Mission Control. Due to a time restriction, we opted to not participate in the tour of Mission Control, so we have another reason to return.

(This and the following sequence of photographs were taken in the active workshop we toured.)

(The rocket graveyard ...)

(The Saturn V is so huge, it's impossible to get it all in frame.)

I will never forget how small I felt standing beside this behemoth, simultaneously in awe of the fact that this touched our atmosphere and outer space. Does every kid dream of experiencing such a thing? To this day, the idea still ignites my curiosity.

To have this access to the NASA Johnson Space Center was very interesting.

A brief history - first established as the Manned Spacecraft Center in 1961, the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) is responsible for the design, development and operation of human space flight. For more than 40 years, JSC (the name was changed to this in 1973) has been the leader in human space flight operations for NASA.

Currently, it is the training base and home for our nation's astronauts and the site of Mission Control. Space missions are launched from Cape Canaveral, FL, which I had the opportunity to visit and tour when I was 14. I would highly recommend experiencing both.

If you go:
1601 E NASA Parkway, Houston
Tickets: $30 Adults, $25 Children

Around Atlanta: Photo Diary

Dear Travel Diary,

One of my favorite things to do in any city, is to go for a walk with my camera in hand.

You just never know what you'll stumble upon.

Like a skyline glittering in the late summer sun ...

Or a huge ferris wheel just begging to be experienced ...

Or a line-up of street lights awaiting their turn ...

Where should we explore next?

College Football Hall of Fame - Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Travel Diary,

It was Landen who discovered the College Football Hall of Fame was located in Atlanta, and he requested our visit.

The College Football Hall of Fame was established in 1951 to immortalize the greatest players and coaches as positive role models for future generations. It is for that reason we were surprised that Joe Montana has yet to be inducted. Still, the facility houses a 45-yard indoor football field, 50 engaging and interactive exhibits across 95,000-square feet located in the heart of downtown Atlanta.

Upon entrance, you're greeted by a giant wall display of college football helmets. You're able to "register" your pass with a team, learn interesting facts about it and create a more personalized experience.

Nick was surprised to discover his alma mater represented.

Madelyn tried one of the interactive drills. She clocked a time of 12 seconds on a run.

Posing with the National Championship trophy, which Madelyn could care less about ...

We saved the best for last.

The indoor football field.
It was impossible to get the kids to leave.
But, it also made our experience there even more worthwhile.

Nick tried. Even though he caught the balls, we awarded him zero points for style because he refused to dive for it like Landen did.

If you go:
250 Marietta St. NW, Atlanta
Web site
Admission is pricey (Adults $22, Kids $18), but worth every penny.
Hours: Sun-Fri 10-5, Sat 9-6

Centennial Olympic Park - Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Travel Diary,

Atlanta hosted the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, and part of the infrastructure included a 21-acre public park. Now it hosts a popular summer music series, Fourth of July fireworks display, and of course, communal gathering area in the heart of the city proper.

Unfortunately, the celebrations were marred by the July 27 bombing that killed 2 people and injured 111 others. A tornado tore through Atlanta in 2008, and the park sustained minor damage. The public space obviously has quite the story to tell.

We walked through. Nick and I were 13 years old when the Olympics took place here, and we recall watching the news reports regarding the bombing. It was immediately following that incident that metal detectors and bag searches were required for security purposes at all sporting events.

It was also a detail that we omitted from our discussion with the kids.

Overlooking the park is a giant ferris wheel known as Skyview Atlanta, which we rode to see above the towering skyline to the surrounding area. I shot this image of the Olympic rings as we approached the top.

It's kind of cool to consider this park a catalyst for the urban development and improvement of Atlanta. There were numerous attractions and areas to explore, but with our limited time, we had to pick and choose. I'm sure we will make return visits in the future.

If you go:
265 Park Ave W NW, Atlanta
Web site

Mellow Mushroom - Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Travel Diary,

One night, we ate dinner at Mellow Mushroom.

It's one of the more quirky establishments I've visited, with unexpected pieces of art and murals to liven up the restaurant. With college football playing on TV, the atmosphere seemed to contribute to the energetic environment.

Founded in 1974, Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers has been serving up fresh, stone-baked pizzas to Atlanta-area patrons in an eclectic, family-friendly, art-filled restaurant. They offered gluten-free crust, which for our money, certainly heightened its draw.

Link to the Mellow Mushroom Web site, with more information about its menu options and locations - if you find yourself in the greater Atlanta area, it's definitely worth checking out!

Fly Delta Jets

Dear Travel Diary,

Labor Day weekend presented us with the opportunity to meet Nick in Atlanta.

He was on 'short call reserve,' but thankfully for us, wasn't called. We were able to explore quite a bit of Delta's campus and the surrounding area.

We were unable to get into the Delta Flight Museum because a wedding was being held there. However, we got to see the plane Nick flies up close.

The airline with its subsidiaries and regional affiliates operate over 5,400 flights a day that include 319 destinations in 54 countries on 6 continents. Delta is the oldest operating airline in the United States, the 6th-oldest airline according to its foundation date and is considered one of the 5 remaining "legacy carriers."

The company's history can be traced back to Huff Daland Dusters, founded in 1924 in Macon, Georgia as a crop-dusting operation. The company moved to Monroe, Louisiana and was renamed Delta Air Services in reference to the nearby Mississippi Delta region, and commenced passenger services in June of 1929.

In 2013, Delta was the world's largest airline in terms of scheduled passengers carried and the second-largest in terms of both revenue passenger kilometers flown and capacity.

From our perspective however, it provides us with a lifestyle we once could only dream about.

How cool is that car?!

If you go:
The Delta Flight Museum is located at 1060 Delta Blvd., Building B, Department 914 in Atlanta.
Hours: M/T/Th/F 10-4:30; closed Wednesdays; Sunday 12-4:30
747 Experience Hours: T/Th 12-4