Alder Planetarium

Free museums this weekend

When I’m not in an airport, I’m checking out museums – especially on the first weekend of each month when the Museums on Us program gives Bank of America cardholders free access to more than 150 museums and cultural institutions around the country.


Ivory telescope from the Alder Plantarium

If I could zip around the country, I’d use my bank card to gain free access this weekend to the Alder Planetarium in Chicago (general admission: $12), to see the telescope collection and the temporary exhibition that explores the post-Pluto question: What is a Planet?.

Alder image

I’d also head to American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore to see the Big Hope Show – which is closing soon – and to Morristown, New Jersey to see the Toothpick World exhibition and the fortune -tellers, gambling machines and other early coin-operated entertainment machines at the Morris Museum.

1_Intro_assorted machines_courtesy Morris Museum

Free museums & expensive luggage delivery

Photo courtesy Harvard Museum of Natural History via Flickr

I’m a big fan of “free” and a big fan of the Museums on Us program that offers free admission on the first weekend of each month to more than 150 museums around the country to anyone who has Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card.

The list includes museums, zoos and attractions such as Chicago’s Alder Planetarium, where general adult admission is usually at least $12, and the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, Mass. where adult admission is usually $9.

With the money you save, you might want to fly down to New Orleans and hop on one of the new riverboats  now cruising up the and down the Mississippi or buy yourself a meal at the new full-service Wolfgang Puck Express restaurant in Terminal 7 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), where things like bacon-wrapped meatloaf and oven roasted salmon are now on the menu.

Or use your saving towards the new baggage delivery service being sold by American Airlines and BAGS VIP Luggage Delivery. Beginning Monday, Aug. 6, you can pay ($29.95 for one bag, $39.95 for two bags and $49.95 for three to 10 bags) to have the bags you check at more than 200 U.S. airports delivered to your home, office or hotel instead of having to go pick them up at baggage claim and tote them with you.

Passengers can purchase the service on-line up to two hours prior to departure and, for delivery locations within 40 miles of the airport, expect their bags to be delivered to their destination within one to four hours of arrival.

A good deal? For some, maybe. But keep in mind that the price for Baggage Delivery Service is in addition to the regular bag fees that need to be paid at check-in. And for bags that need to be delivered between 41 and 100 miles from the airport, there is an additional $1 per mile charge and an estimated delivery time between four and six hours instead of one to four hours.

No word yet on whether all fees are returned if your luggage goes missing or if delivery times are not met.

Earth to the Universe via Chicago O’Hare Airport

ord-jupiter(JUPITER  –  Photo: Travis Rector (U. Alaska Anchorage), Chad Trujillo and the Gemini Altair Team, NOAO / AURA / NSF.)

This is the International Year of Astronomy, recognizing the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s use of a telescope to study the heavens.

So it’s appropriate that Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and the Alder Planetarium have teamed up to host an exhibit that’s out of this world.

From Earth to the Universe is a collection of more than 50 astronomical images, including planets, comets, starts, nebulae and galaxies.  It’s on view in the pedestrian walkway tunnel near the O’Hare CTA Blue Line station.

ord-passengerviewsexhibit-1The exhibit, which is put together by NASA, also makes use of  Microsoft’s new mobile phone technology, Tag, which allows viewers with an Internet enabled mobile camera phone to photograph the bar code on each image and get information about that image from a special mobile website.


18 million light-years
Photo –  R. Boomsma, T. Oosterloo,  F. Fraternali,  R. Sancisi, M.J.
van der Hulst