Thursday, January 10, 2019


epic ink
This movie geek is always fascinated to learn details from science fiction films that further bring these motion pictures to life beyond the silver screen. I love to read books that share background biographies about characters, blueprints of vehicles, maps of locations and other details that expand upon the scenes shown in films and provide a greater glimpse into these fantastic settings. So I am really geeked about a new book that The Quarto Group sent my way to peruse called STAR WARS: SCUM AND VILLAINY -- Case Files on the Galaxy's Most Notorious by Pablo Hidalgo.

This book is filled with law enforcement investigative files from three time periods in Star Wars canon: (1) Clone Wars and the fall of the Old Republic, (2) the Empire, and (3) the New Republic created after The Return of the Jedi. Star Wars: Scum and Villainy introduces readers to the Divo clan where they learn about the experiences of Tan Divo (an Old Republic Police Investigator on Coruscant whose assignments included looking into the assassination attempt on Senator Amidala in Star Wars Episode II), his daughter Andressa Divo (who served as an Imperial Security Bureau Agent whose caseload involved hunting for terrorist Saw Gerrera), and her son Exantor Divo (Police Commissioner on Hosnian Prime at the time of the planet's destruction in Star Wars: Episode VII).

star wars artwork

Hidalgo, a creative executive in the Lucasfilm Story Group that is responsible for the development of Star Wars storytelling across all mediums, including feature films, animated television, video games, novels, comic books, and more, is obviously the perfect author for this book that delves into the exploits of notorious criminals through out the saga. He has crafted case reports which make up the bulk of this book that engrain these three new characters into  Star Wars' canon of feature films,  television shows, comic books, and novels.

These case reports include written memos, surveillance images, artifacts, warrants and other evidence compiled during the Devos' criminal investigations of the likes of Doctor Aphra (Marvel Comics), Cornelius Evazan (Star Wars: Episode IV / Star Wars: Rogue One), Boba Fett (Star Wars: Episodes II, V, VI), Moloch of the White Worms Hold (Star Wars: A Solo Story) and the Guavian Death Gang mercenaries (Star Wars: Episode VII) that expand upon the back stories of these rogues and enhance the backdrop of the Star Wars galaxy where the space opera takes place.

Scum and Villainy expands beyond the military conflicts that are often the focus of Star Wars and delves into the seedy side of this galaxy that includes gangsters in the dank lower levels of Coruscant, smugglers making the Kessel Run, pirates preying upon vessels at hyperspace jump points, and organized crime syndicates taking advantage of the less civilized areas within the Outer Rim of the galaxy's explored space. I appreciated that this book wasn't adding more details about the Galactic Civil War between the Empire and Rebel Alliance but rather examined the Star Wars galaxy from another perspective.

Of all the characters in Star Wars, my favorite one isn't actually from a movie but rather from the Clone Wars cartoons. For years my kids and I shared an enjoyment of Star Wars watching a new episode of Clone Wars each week. It really was some special family time spent together during the years this show was on TV. My favorite character is a bounty hunter named Cad Bane from that show who presented himself with a wild west attitude and always seemed to get the best of anyone he encountered. No wonder Tan Divo describes Cad Bane as the "best bounty hunter in the business" in File 7956.901.3 in his case files on the Galaxy's Most Notorious.

star wars

Other aspects of this book that I found really interesting was learning more about the red-clad Guavian Death Gang mercenaries that were chasing after Han Solo and Chewbacca in The Force Awakens, the doctor and his monstrous walrus looking friend that assaulted Luke Skywalker in the Mos Eisley cantina during A New Hope, and the Enfy's Nest Cloud Riders from Solo: A Star Wars Story. I also enjoyed how Hidalgo included elements from Marvel's publications into Scum and Villainy including a segment about the Megalox Beta prison pulled from a story arc in the Poe Dameron comic book and including Doctor Aphra within a Imperial Security Bureau dossier that is connected to a story in a Darth Vader series.

I've also always been a fan of the bounty hunters featured in The Empire Strikes back so really enjoyed reading through the case files in the book about Bossk, Boba Fett, Dengar, IG-88, Zuckuss and 4-LOM. In addition to hiring them, the Empire was also keeping close tabs on these bounty hunters as well. These bounty hunters are also some of my favorite characters from the Star Wars galaxy.

star wars

As a kid, I had a book full of Star Wars artwork by the concept artist Ralph McQuarrie that I would flip through the pages over and over again examining all the details of his incredible illustrations and imagining exploring alien worlds in outer space. Having the chance to see some of McQuarrie's original Star Wars sketches during an exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 2018 was one of my personal highlights from that year. So have to say that my favorite aspect of Scum and Villainy is the book's artwork.

STAR WARS: SCUM AND VILLAINY -- Case Files on the Galaxy's Most Notorious has 120 original illustrations within it that were created just for this book. From an image of New Republic police officers on patrol to a reproduction of the view from a surveillance camera at Canto Bight, I found the art in this book captivating. Much of the artwork has a McQuarrie style to it that I especially found appealing being that his concept art really created the sense of place for the overall Star Wars galaxy.  There is also artwork though that has its own vibe in the book too including an energetic group shot of the Krayt's Claw gang and imagery of a cloud rider swoop that appears as if it is a photograph of a real version of this sci-fi vehicle. The artwork is what truly earned the book nod of approval.

star wars art

star wars book

STAR WARS: SCUM AND VILLAINY -- Case Files on the Galaxy's Most Notorious is from EPIC INK, an imprint of the Quarto publishing company. Epic Ink is known for publishing deluxe, collectible books that celebrate entertainment and pop-culture brands through incredible artwork, in-depth information and original content. Scum and Villainy is a 128 page hardcover book that does just that and is sure to delight Star Wars fans. It will have you scouring through its pages from cover to cover garnering all sorts of interesting details about the most notorious criminals from a galaxy far, far away. The book also includes a sturdy plastic slip cover to protect the book and make its front cover stand out.

quartos knows

For more information about the book or to find out where you can buy it, head over to

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


first man
When asking my son what he wants to do for a future career answers you will like get from him include veterinarian, race car driver, comic book artist and astronaut. He gets really excited about the topic of space exploration always wanting to go outside to observe celestial events through a telescope or take trips to science museums that have exhibits on astronomy and astronauts. So the boy was thrilled when a package from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment with the movie FIRST MAN inside happened to coincidently arrive at our house while he was in the midst of reading about Neil Armstrong in a National Geographic book.

FIRST MAN portrays the events of the first manned mission to the moon from the perspective of astronaut Neil Armstrong. Based upon the biography First Man: The Life of Neil A Armstrong written by author James R. Hansen who wrote it after conducting more than 50 hours of interviews with the first man to walk on the moon, this movie depicts the astronaut 's life for the decade leading up to the historic Apollo 11 flight. FIRST MAN shares the triumphs and tragedies that impacted Armstrong, his family, NASA colleagues, and the nation during this memorable occurrence in history.  It looks like we'll be traveling to the moon this weekend for a family movie night!

FIRST MAN is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for some thematic content involving peril and brief strong language. Because that rating is primarily due to some limited profanity and is a historical bio pic on a topic of interest to my son, I felt this movie was fine for my 10 year old twins to watch with my wife and I for a family movie night. We aren't that stringent when it comes to my kids watching PG-13 movies as the Marvel superhero and Star Wars movies have earned that rating; but I am still a bit cautious when it comes to this rating based upon my kids age and there have been movies like Once Upon A Deadpool that I've said no to them about seeing. With that in mind, I checked out FIRST MAN with a number of family-friendly movie review sites including Common Sense MediaKids-In-Mind, and ScreenIt, and didn't come across anything that changed my mind about viewing this film for a family movie night.

FIRST MAN is available now on digital followed by a release on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and VOD on January 22, 2019. Thanks to Universal Pictures Home Entertainment we got our hands on the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital combo pack for family movie night before the movie's official release date. Of course in addition to the motion picture, the home entertainment version includes bonus features:
  • Deleted Scenes 
  • Shooting for the Moon – Take an intimate look at the production of FIRST MAN and the collaborative relationship between Director Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling. 
  • Preparing to Launch – It’s difficult to believe that FIRST MAN is the first major feature film to tell the journey of Apollo 11. Hear from Director Damien Chazelle and his cast why now is the time to tell the story of this historic event. 
  • Giant Leap in One Small Step – A heroic character study, FIRST MAN sheds light on all the hard working individuals that got us to the moon and back. 
  • Mission Gone Wrong – Watch as Ryan Gosling reenacts a test piloting sequence gone terribly wrong. Go behind the scenes to see how he trained to nail the landing, performing the majority of his own stunts. 
  • Putting You In the Seat – Through the use of innovative technology, most of FIRST MAN was shot in-camera. Take an in-depth look behind the lens of this epic film. 
  • Recreating the Moon Landing – Filmed in IMAX to show the vastness of the moon, find out all that it took to recreate the most famous moment in NASA history. 
  • Shooting at NASA – Hear from Ryan Gosling and Director Damien Chazelle on how shooting at NASA brought unparalleled authenticity to FIRST MAN. 
  • Astronaut Training – Go behind the scenes of the three day boot camp each of the actors underwent prior to filming FIRST MAN. 
  • Feature Commentary with Director Damien Chazelle, Screenwriter Josh Singer and Editor Tom Cross.
neil armstrong

Oscar®-winning director Damien Chazelle and actor Ryan Gosling reteam for Universal Pictures’ FIRST MAN following the success of their six-time Academy Award®-winning smash, La La Land. As a fan of orchestral movie soundtracks, it caught my attention that FIRST MAN one a Golden Globe award for Best Original Score. I've also seen some rave reviews about the movie's cinematography.

My whole family is looking forward to watching this biopic about Neil Armstrong and his space flight to the moon.  For more information about FIRST MAN when it comes to having your own family movie night fly over to

home video release

Monday, January 7, 2019


Disney Movies Release Dates
It looks as if 2019 is going to be a fantastic year for enjoying Disney films! Walt Disney Studios has provided with its slate of motion picture releases and I can tell from looking at it that I'm going to be visiting the movie theater a lot with my kids this year. Live action remakes of classic Disney animated films, the exciting culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universes super hero showdown, and the final chapter of the Skywalker clans story in Star Wars are sure to generate a lot of box office excitement, and revenue, for Disney.

In addition to remakes and sequels, Disney is also releasing some interesting brand new stories too including an animal documentary on penguins, a super heroine called Captain Marvel leads a movie that looks to make her a central figure in the next phase of comic book inspired motion pictures, and Artemis Fowl will is a sci-fi fantasy adventure that will transport audiences into a high tech fairy world.  Recently went on a daddy-daughter night out to see the Broadway in Detroit showing of the Aladdin musical at the Detroit Opera House and she is really looking forward to seeing the new movie coming at in May. Of course, I'm geeked to see Avengers Endgame and Star Wars Episode IX. My wife is counting down the days until The Lion King arrives while my son seems most intrigued about Artemis Fowl though like is dad he is very excited about the Avengers and Star Wars movies as well.

After our Toy Story Land trip to Walt Disney World last June the whole family is enthused about seeing a new franchise sequel on the big screen this summer. Have to admit there is some Frozen fatigue with our family and wonder how many other families feel the same way as a sequel arrives at theaters for the holiday movie watching season. All in all it looks to be a blockbuster year for Walt Disney Studios. I really should consider buying some Disney stock this year!

Go ahead and check out the official Walt Disney Studios calendar of movie releases and film synopsis for yourself. Click on the images below to enlarge the view of each of these movie promo sheets. Here is to a year full of entertaining and exciting times at the movie theater in 2019! As the late great Stan Lee would have said → Excelsior!

Release Date
movie release date
Disney Nature
Release Date
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Disney movie release date
Disney movie release date
movie release date
Disney movie release date
movie release date

So I've shared the movies my family is wanting to see ... which is just about all of them actually. What movies are you must looking forward to seeing this year for family outings to the movie theater?

Wednesday, January 2, 2019


I am back into the full swing of things on the second day of this new year with a busy caseload. Four clients had sentencings in circuit court plus had some matters relating to an upcoming trial to take care of while there. So didn't have time to get away from the courthouse for lunch today.

Instead I spent a few moments of downtime in the courthouse reading a book the Quarto Group sent my way that I had tucked in my briefcase for occasions such as this.  STEVE JOBS: A BIOGRAPHIC PORTRAIT by Kevin Lynch provides a vibrant look into the up and downs in the life of one of history's great innovators. This 272 page hardback book immerses readers into the story of Steve Jobs life with vivid photography and colorful graphics that compliment a thoroughly researched biography filled with insights and trivia about a man that fundamentally changed technology's place in our world.

As co-founder of Apple Inc.,  Steve Jobs was a pioneer of the personal computer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s who was forced out of the company he helped create by its board of directors. He then went on to create a new business called NeXT that was successful at selling computers directly to businesses and colleges. Jobs used his personal profits from NeXT to partner with George Lucas of Star Wars fame to create a computer animated special effects division of Lucasfilm. He eventually bought out Lucas and spun off this division into an independent movie studio called PIXAR that produced the first fully computer animated motion picture called TOY STORY. Out of coincidence both Lucasfilm and PIXAR over time have both been purchased and become part of Walt Disney Studios.

While NeXT continued to be profitable, Apple Inc. had fallen on tough times and was on the verge of bankruptcy by the mid-1990s.  NeXT merged with Apple in 1996.  This reunited Steve Jobs with the company he originally founded with Steve Wozniak as the merged company kept the Apple name and made him CEO.

During his second stint at Apple, Steve Jobs initiated a second technological revolution as he steered the company away from producing PCs and into manufacturing mobile devices like the iPod and iPhone and providing Internet services like iTunes and the App Store. This led to a transformation which made Apple one of the most powerful businesses on Earth.  In fact, according to STEVE JOBS: A BIOGRAPHICAL PORTRAIT at one point Apple Inc. had more money in cash reserves than the United States Treasury. Think about that … a business had more cash than the country that was printing the currency. Wow!

With the sale of PIXAR, Steve Jobs became Disney's largest shareholder which combined with his stake in Apple Inc. gave him a net worth of approximately 7 billion dollars! He was at the pinnacle of a career that had made him one of the leading innovators and wealthiest men on the planet. Unfortunately, Jobs than encountered a problem that his ingenuity and money couldn't overcome … pancreatic cancer. He lost his fight with cancer in 2011 and passed away at the age of 56. A life cut short way too soon.

What I really liked about STEVE JOBS: A BIOGRAPHICAL PORTRAIT is that it is not a book geared just for people with an interest in computers and technology. It is a book about overcoming adversity, leadership, entrepreneurship and living your best life that all of us can take away something from. Kevin Lynch writes the book so that it really delves into the talent and genius of Steve Jobs without getting too bogged down looking into personality flaws and relationship troubles.

That being said, the book also doesn't just focus on the highlights of Steve Jobs life but also points out some of his rotten apples. For example there was the Apple Lisa that had ground-breaking features but was a flop because of its nearly $10,000 price tag; Pippin video game console that sold less than half the 100,000 units produced, and the iPod Hi-Fi speaker system that couldn't compete with other audio brands like Bose. It also points out mistakes like how Jobs sold all his initial shares of Apple, except one share so he would continue to receive an annual report, after he was ousted from the company he helped create.

If he held onto those shares instead of selling them their value alone after the company's turnaround during his second stint with it would have made him the 5th richest person in the world. Of course, if he did that may not have had the resources to start NeXT and PIXAR and history may have well been much different. So maybe his selling them was a good thing!

Another nice touch to STEVE JOBS: A BIOGRAPHICAL PORTRAIT is that it is laid out similar to a corporation's annual report with a look that mimics Apple's marketing style. It is not a bulky text book but rather is full of vibrant imagery which is pleasant to peruse through. Colorful photography, graphics and charts further draw your attention into the book's text making it very enjoyable to read.

Since I'm reading for leisure rather than as a school or work obligation its is nice the way the layout provides a relaxed tone for some weighty subject matter.  I've found STEVE JOBS: A BIOGRAPHICAL PORTRAIT to be both an educational and entertaining read keeping my interest throughout the book so glad to give it A Geek Daddy nod of approval. If you are looking to join me in doing some leisurely reading this year, make some time to flip through the pages of this great book compiled by Kevin Lynch.

Find out more about STEVE JOBS: A BIOGRAPHICAL PORTRAIT over at

Monday, December 31, 2018


From racing around a motor speedway track in a Dodge Hellcat to embarking on a dinosaur expedition, 2018 was filled with adventures. This blog is all about creating opportunities for my family to have fun experiences we might not otherwise have and last year was filled with good times. Here is a look back in retrospect at some of the best blogging adventures we had in 2018:


A Geek Daddy added a new member to the family with the addition of our new Boxer puppy that we named Penny. We caller her that because her brown coloring reminded us of the color of the coin. White fur on her front legs also make it look like she is wearing socks. I wanted to call her Sox after the White Sox but the kids vetoed that name idea saying it sounded to much like a cat's name.

She sure grew up fast! Penny went from 10 pounds when we brought her home to weighing 50 pounds by the end of the year. For the first few months we had her, Penny would sit on my lap while I would type up blog posts. She is a bit heavy for being a lap puppy now but still has been involved with the blog doing some reviews for a water fountain and dog toys from Petmate. We are looking forward to celebrating Penny's first birthday coming up in February.


My family served as brand ambassadors for Goldfish Swim School in 2018 and I have to say this has been one of the most wonderful experiences we've had related to  The twins have not only learned how to be safe in and around water but have also excelled at being able to utilize a variety of swimming strokes. Goldfish Swim School even hosted the girls soccer team I coach to visit for a special water safety presentation with their mascot Bubbles and to spend a day having fun playing in the pool. This was a great way to kick off their summer break!

My son is still making his way through the last level of Goldfish Swim School lessons, but my daughter graduated in 2018. What do you do when your child has passed all the classes at Goldfish Swim School? You have them join their Swim Force club which teaches kids about participating in swimming as an athletic sports and hosts competitive meets for them to race in. My daughter was so excited to participate in her first competitive swim meet in 2018. We also had some great times stopping by Goldfish Swim School during their open swim times when families can have fun together in the pool. My kids even went trick or treating with Bubbles last Halloween.

If you have a child between the ages of 6 months and twelve years old, you are missing out if not involved with Goldfish Swim School. Based upon the incredible experience my family has had, Goldfish Swim School absolutely has earned A Geek Daddy nod of approval. In fact, as you can see from this post a lot of dad's appreciate this place. Visit for more information and to locate a pool near you.


We didn't have to travel to a galaxy far, far away to have a Star Wars adventure.  It just took a road trip to downtown Detroit's cultural center to have a spectacular time by visiting the Michigan Science Center and the DIA. Both were featuring Star Wars themed activities and exhibits during the summer.

The science center staged a "Science of Star Wars" show which had experiment styled skits with demonstrations on how sci-fi move special effects are created and how a real life light saber might work. The center's Spark!Lab also was featuring activities tied to the Star Wars movies like letting kids construct their own droids and space craft mock ups. The planetarium show at the Michigan Science Center even incorporated Star Wars references into it including imagery of one of Saturn's moons that looks like the Death Star.

After spending a morning over at the Michigan Science Center, we headed across the street to spend the afternoon at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).  The whole family was excited to see their special exhibition "Star Wars and the Power of Costume." This provided the chance to see more than 60 costumes and 150 sketches used in the producing the Star Wars movies.

Wow! This exhibit would make any Star Wars fan roar like a wookiee in excitement! It was amazing to get a close up look at an actual Chewbacca costume that appears in shots of the movies as well as an R2D2 prop Kenny Baker sat in and Princess Leia dress worn by Carrie Fisher while filming 1977's original Star Wars: A New Hope motion picture. I'm a big fan of Ralph McQuarrie's artwork and it was incredible to see some of his original concept art for the Star Wars movies on display at this DIA exhibit.

The Force with us during our downtown Detroit Star Wars adventure as it was really one of our most memorable days of 2018. While the Star Wars activities may be over now, there are always interesting things to see and do at the cultural center which in addition to the DIA and Michigan Science Center is also home to the Detroit Historical Museum, main branch of the Detroit Public Library, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, College for Creative Studies, the Scarab Club and Wayne State University.


It was a father-son weekend on an expedition to Pittsburgh in search of dinosaurs.  We took a dinosaur trek through the Pittsburgh Zoo and strolled around one of the world's most prestigious fossil collections at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Spent some time at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh making dinosaur crafts plus saw a Tyrannosaurus Rex made from LEGO bricks on display at an art exhibit hosted by Carnegie Science Center. We also saw Jurassic World 2 on an impressive screen 38 feet tall at the science center's Rangos Giant Cinema.

Our dinosaur road trip provided a great bonding experience. Our time in Pittsburgh searching for dinosaurs was an entertaining and educational opportunity for us to spend some quality time together. We discovered why the city has earned the nickname "Kidsburgh." It really is a great place for a family vacation with lots of interesting and fun things to do throughout the city ranging from going to the Kennywood Amusement Park filled with thrilling rides to taking in a baseball game at PNC Park. We are absolutely going to have to make a return trip soon bringing my wife and daughter along with us.


I was so geeked that Dodge invited me to participate in their Detroit area Roadkill Nights event that took place at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan over the summer.  This is an event meant for gearheads! It includes a car show, vehicle demonstrations, and actual drag racing. Oh yeah!

It was time to buckle up because I jumped in a Dodge Challenger Demons and Charger Hellcats to swerve around a skid pad and speed around a race track. That was so much fun!

I also competed in a virtual reality racing simulator. Didn't do too bad either winning 2 out of 3 races. It took me a race to get down shifting the manual transmission than I dominated on the simulator. Hey, I won a t-shirt!

Then it was time to watch real drag racing taking place on historic Woodward Avenue. The smell of motor oil and burning rubber as a mix of hot rods, sports cars, and even a classic 1980s era station wagon raced down the street was intoxicated. That combined with a great meal and open bar with front row track side seating courtesy of Dodge made for a perfect evening.


Walt Disney World invited to participate in the grand opening festivities of Toy Story Land at its Hollywood Studios amusement park. That was an invitation that we of course weren't going to turn down. So, my wife, I and the kids were off to Orlando, Florida!

The twins were some of the first kids to get a chance to ride the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster before it opened to the public. What an amazing opportunity! That is now there favorite ride at Walt Disney World! It may be mine too … Slinky Dog Dash really is fun roller coaster that little kids as well as adults can equally enjoy riding.

We also rode the Alien Swirling Saucers ride over, and over and over again.

Disney Imagineers really did a fabulous job with this new addition to Walt Disney World. Kids and kids-at-heart are going to love stopping by to play with Woody and his gaggle of Toy Story friends. We can't wait for the chance to go back again!


Did you know you can go to the top of the famous St. Louis arch? There is a viewing deck 630 feet up in the air at the pinnacle of the Gateway Arch. Head up there for a birds eye view of St. Louis.

While walking the grounds around the Gateway Arch and visiting the museum underneath it are free there is an admission fee to go up to the viewing deck. Explore St. Louis provided us some complimentary tickets during our visit, but otherwise it would have cost us $40 for our family of four to go up to the top. That being said if we hadn't been offered a perk I would have paid for the tickets for the tram ride to the top of the Gateway Arch anyhow. It is just too unique of an experience not to do while you are there in my opinion.

We've been to the top of the Arch in St. Louis. A family vacation moment to remember forever. Another thing I can cross off my bucket list!

From our road trip to St. Louis, I learned that this city really is a great spot for a family getaway. Did you realize they have a number of attractions with free admission including an art museum, science center and zoo. I hadn't realized just how great a place it is to visit until we actually spent some time there this year.

HELLO 2019!

2018 was full of family fun that also included camping trips, some special events at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Michigan, and enjoying some theatrical shows among other neat things we did throughout the year. Looking forward to what blogging adventures are in store for us during the new year! Stay tuned to and to keep up with what we are doing in 2019.

Sunday, December 30, 2018


zoo travel
Taking a trek around a zoo is one of our favorite family activities. From animals to artwork there are always educational and entertaining experiences to be had while visiting a zoo. Because my wife and I enjoy exploring zoos just as much as my kids do our family always incorporates visits to them in our travels.

In 2018, we visited some zoos close to home as well as some others that were a bit further away.  In addition to regularly visiting the Detroit Zoo which is a few miles from our home throughout the year, we also took road trips to see some other Michigan zoos in the cities of Lansing and Grand Rapids. Our zoological adventures in 2018 also included Animal Kingdom at Orlando, Florida's Walt Disney World, the Pittsburgh Zoo, along with the St. Louis Zoo too.


We had planned out a nice spring break visit over to the Lake Michigan side of the Great Lakes State to visit the JOHN BALL ZOO located in the city of Grand Rapids. The days leading up to our road trip had forecasts of the weather being sunny with temperatures in the 60s. Nope .. it was overcast with snow flurries and brisk temperatures the day we spent at the zoo. Doah!

Grand Rapids Zoo

grand rapids zoo
Unfortunately, due to the cold weather most of the outdoor exhibits were closed for the day. Still we made the best of our visit and had fun anyways. There was a feisty otter that delighted my son engaging in races with him across the display area for nearly half an hour. Friendly penguins interacted with my daughter playing around with her through the glass of their viewing area. Those encounters along with a jumping competition to see if anyone in the family could jump as high as a snow leopard were highlights of the trip.

Grand Rapids Zoo

We are going to have to try and get back there for a visit again when the weather is warmer so we can see everything the zoo has to offer.  I've always had a fondness for tigers being that they are the mascot of my favorite pro sports team. The John Ball Zoo is known for having a great tiger exhibit which unfortunately was closed while we were there.


Our next animal encounter involved a visit to Disney World's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida while the kids were off school for summer break.  We stayed at the Walt Disney World Resort Animal Kingdom Lodge while there which provided us with a unique opportunity to go outside once it was dark out and view giraffes through night goggles.

Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney World

During the day, we took safari rides through the savanna that Disney recreated within its Animal Kingdom theme park. We got some impressive close up views of elephants and lions during these treks that recreate the African wilderness.

Disney World
disney world
The kids also earned their Wilderness Explorer merit badges by participating in a variety of activities and scavenger hunt searches that provide teachable moments regarding animals and habitats. If you are going to be spending time at Animal Kingdom with children this really is a memorable activity to participate in.  Kids will leave the park having learned a lot while having fun as they earn Wilderness Explorer merit badges.

Disney World Animal Kingdom


We also went on a summer trek to explore the Pittsburgh Zoo in Pennsylvania. A favorite part of our trip here was taking a stroll along an African savanna themed trail which provides impressive views of leopards, rhinos, elephants and zebras.

pittsburg zoo


The Pittsburgh zoo also has a wonderful aquarium that has displays which showcase arctic, ocean and rainforest habitats. See colorful tropical fish, penguins, sharks, seahorses, stingrays and more. There is even a touch tank where you can feel creatures that live in coral reefs. PPG Aquarium at the Pittsburgh Zoo is a great spot to take a relaxing walk enjoying the scenery around you.



There is also a special place at the Pittsburgh Zoo called the "Kids Kingdom" that has a petting zoo, pint sized log ride, and docents provide animal encounters among other things in this space meant especially for young zoo visitors. As a parent with kids who have food allergies, I particularly appreciated the Bean Sprouts Café in this area which specializes in providing tasty meal options that are nut-free, gluten-free, egg-free, and soy-free, among other health conscious options.

zoo travel
kids zone
polar bear


We wrapped up the kids summer break with a road trip to Potter Park Zoo in Michigan's capital city of Lansing. While the zoo is relatively small in size only being about 20 acres it is home to hundreds of animals. For being a smaller sized zoo, it has some really large animals on display ranging from moose to rhino.

Lansing Zoo

Lansing Zoo
The zoo recently invested in constructing a moose habitat. We've never seen a live moose so made this trip specifically to visit this exhibit.  I have to say the area they constructed looks wonderful, but we didn't see any moose during our visit. To be honest that really was a let down.

On the other hand, we had one of our closest encounters ever with lions and tigers during this visit to the zoo.  You don't realize just how big these cats are until you get right up next to them. These up close experiences made our drive up to Lansing from Detroit well worth while.

Potter Park Zoo
Lansing Michigan

If you are going to be in the Lansing, Michigan area, I recommend spending some time at the Potter Park Zoo.

Lansing Michigan


We took a fall family getaway to St. Louis, Missouri and of course had to swing by the zoo. I was wowed by the impressive Animals Always sculpture that greets visitors as they drive up to the zoo as well as by the fact that there is no admission fee to get in. Yes! it is FREE to visit the St. Louis Zoo.

zoo art

Since we didn't pay to get in, the family spent money that would otherwise been spent on admission instead on all sorts of other things within the zoo including food, souvenirs, carousel and train ride tickets. The Sea Lion Show which is a ticketed event is a must see that is well worth paying to get into. The whole family really enjoyed this show and it was one of the best parts of our visit to the St. Louis Zoo!

zoo shows

The train rides are somewhat pricey but they do provide a full loop around the whole zoo that can cut down significantly on the amount of walking you need to do to get between the different exhibit areas. The trains themselves are really a sight to behold and are some of the most impressive locomotives we've seen giving rides at a zoo. Plus a ticket to ride the train is good for the whole day.

st louis zoo

During our visit, we also got much better views of the zoo's elephants while circling the enclosure riding the train than we did while walking through the trails that meander around this habitat. Another thing to keep in mind when determining if you want to buy a ticket for a train ride.

zoo travel

My daughter loves giraffes and this was the first time we encountered a carousel that had one of these animals that could be ridden. It was a very merry time as she rode around on it while wearing some giraffe ears we picked up from her at the gift store. This along with seeing real life giraffes on display had my little girl in heaven during this trip to the St. Louis Zoo.

zoo travel


We visited the Detroit Zoo a number of times throughout the year as it is only a fifteen minute drive from our house. Of course, we always stop by to see the giraffes because that is where my daughter wants to rush over to whenever we get there. Heading over to view the lions is always at the top of the list for what my son wants to do while we are there. 

detroit zoo

The zoo recently opened state-of-the-art penguinarium that makes visitors feel as if they are taking part in an Antarctic expedition. We always take some time to walk through the Polk Penguin Conservation Center during our visits to the Detroit Zoo.

As you enter a giant glass panel gives a bright view of a recreation of the Antarctic landscape full of penguins.  Often times penguins will come right up to the glass and interact with people. That is not all though!


There is a giant pool in the middle of the habitat. Make your way down a ramp that heads to the lower level of the pool. Surrounding you on the walls around the ramp is the projection of a 19th century schooner setting sailing to explore Antarctica.

It is an enjoyable simulation of what it would be like to walk along the schooner's deck during a historic voyage. The sound of wind and sea gulls fills the air. The motion of the screen makes it feel like the boat is being rocked by sea waves and mist being projected makes it seem as if the water from the ocean is washing up onto the deck. At times the boat will be traveling on a sunny day and in other instances it will be under a star covered night sky. Sometimes there will be a storm with rain and snow being dropped onto your from the ceiling above. This is always a really interesting and fun space to walk through.

Upon reaching the lower level, walk through glass tunnels that crisscross the bottom of the penguin's pool. It is a great sight to see penguins diving and swimming all around you! Sure to put a smile on anyone's face.


After your visit to Antarctica head over to the zoo's Arctic exhibit which features foxes, seals and polar bears. If you are lucky you may see a polar bear swimming beside you or walking over your head as this habitat has a tunnel system similar to the one in the penguinarium. It is always a thrill to have a close encounter with a polar bear!

zoo travel
polar bears


We had a lot of fun adventures traveling to zoos during 2018. Looking forward to more exciting expeditions with my family as we embark on new zoo travels throughout 2019. Stay tuned to see where and take us next.

Is there a favorite zoo your family loves to visit or one you really want to go to but haven't visited yet? Share your own stories about zoo travel with us!