American Visionary Art Museum

Got plans for July 4th?

Still wondering how and where to celebrate July 4th this year?

Finding a fireworks display won’t be very hard. Towns small and large set those off.

South Dakota – fireworks over Homestake Mine

But here at, we have a few offbeat celebrations to suggest.

The tiny town of George, WA, promises a “Family-friendly, Old-Fashioned Independence Day in a Great Little American Town.”

Festivities include a parade, a fun run, music, food, kids activities, pie eating and cherry pit spit contests and evening fireworks.

But our favorite part of the day features free slices from the World’s Largest Cherry Pie, which is 8-feet by 8-feet and made each year by The Georgettes, a local community group.

And in Baltimore, we love the July 4th pet parade hosted by the American Visionary Art Museum.

Pets – and their people – can participate in the parade for free. There are trophies awarded in categories such as Best Costume, Most Patriotic, Most Visionary Pet, Owner & Pet Lookalikes and Least Likely to Succeed as a Pet.

After the parade, there’s a Pet Talent [or Not] Show.

How are you celebrating July 4th this year?

Replay for National Pinball Museum – in Baltimore

Since 1995, Baltimore, Md. has been the home of the American Visionary Art Museum, a magical place that displays a vast amount of unusual and offbeat work by outsider artists, such as these carved Styrofoam cups made by Mark Swidler.

Now there are even more reasons to hightail it to Baltimore. This weekend the city welcomes its newest attraction: The National Pinball Museum.

Here’s the story I put together about the museum for Travel:

David Silverman, founder of the National Pinball Museum opening Saturday, Jan. 14, in Baltimore, Md., first discovered the coin-operated, arcade-game known as pinball when he was 4 years old.

“Back then, New York was one of the cities that banned pinball,” Silverman, 63, told “Lawmakers considered it gambling and they thought it was associated with the mafia. So I first saw a pinball machine while on a vacation with my parents in upstate New York.”

Silverman grew up to be an avid pinball player and, eventually, a pinball machine collector. “My first machine was ‘Fireball,’ which was made by Bally, a major pinball company. My wife liked the game, so we kept it lit up in the living room. One game led to another and now I have more than 900 machines.”

While searching for parts and people to repair and maintain the machines in his collection, Silverman learned the history of pinball and discovered that it had roots reaching back to the 18th century.

“The early games were handmade and were played liked billiards with a cue stick,” said Silverman. “Then the coil spring came along and the cue stick was replaced by the plunger. Flippers didn’t come along until 1947, but that changed pinball from a game of chance to a game of skill.”

Like the metal balls in the pinball machines, the National Pinball Museum has been bounced around. Until it lost its lease in September 2011, the museum was located in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. It’s new location, in Baltimore’s attraction-rich Inner Harbor, is smaller (two floors instead of four) but still offers a history gallery with original artwork and more than 40 vintage machines and an interactive gallery with more than 50 working machines, including some classic film and TV-themed machines dating back the 1940s and 50s, that may be played.

If you go:

The National Pinball Museum is located at 608 Water St. in Baltimore, Md., and will be open Friday-Sunday beginning Jan. 14. Admission tickets include play time on the machines in the museum’s Pinhead Gallery.

Flying this weekend? Get free museum admission

No telling how long any bank will be around these days, so if you’re traveling this weekend take advantage of a bank-sponsored program that offers free museum admissions.

For at least two years now, Bank of America’s Museums on Us program has been offering bank cardholders (ATM, credit, debit)  free admission to more than 70 museums around the country on the first weekend of each month.

A good choice for this weekend: Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum or perhaps the Autry National Center of the American West which currently has an exhibit called Bold Caballeros Y Noble Bandidas.


George Yepes, Adelita