To DVD or not to DVD

I’ve been surfing a lot of family travel blogs the past couple of weeks and the portable DVD debate has piqued my interest.

A year ago, I would have told you that I was completely against having a DVD player in the car, that travelling is family time, not movie time. I probably would have been quite haughty.

But last summer, we drove across the country with our newest family member and Kendra, at 16, had never been on so long a trip. She’s not a reader and she was a ball of nerves over the drive, so we made the executive decision to buy a two-screen player and bring along about 50 movies.

And you know, one of my favourite memories from our 11,000-kilometre journey is of driving along an empty road, the music on low because the kids were watching Short Circuit with headphones on and – they were giggling. It was just this pure, sweet laughter. They were bonding back there, in front of a TV screen, and their delight was contagious.

Kendra and Trevor at the House on the Rock, their brains intact despite movie-viewing in the back seat.
Kendra and Trevor at the House on the Rock, their brains intact despite movie-viewing in the back seat.

We were also taken aback by how little they used it: not every day, and generally no more than one movie in a day.

We didn’t feel compromised in the least. They also talked to each other and to us, took pictures and made up funny stories. We got closer to them in that three weeks than we might have in the same amount of time at home – where we have a DVD player.

We’re lucky that we have the kids we do. It’s probably not this easy for everyone. But it is possible to have a great family vacation and sneak in a movie or two.

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The House on the Rock

I could show you pictures of the World’s Largest Carousel at the House on the Rock. I could probably even find some YouTube of it somewhere. But until you’ve been there yourself … until you’ve walked into that basement and been blinded by thousands on thousands of lights and assaulted by the loudest carousel music ever … until you’ve stood there and stared up at hundreds of mythical creatures going round and round and round … there is no way you’d understand. It is a thing of beauty.

The House on the Rock, built by collector and visionary Alex Jordan, is a wonder itself. It is (and this will shock you) built into the rock. It’s huge, but built small. There are staircases leading everywhere, through narrow hallways with low ceilings. Bookcases are built into every cranny, as are long, low benches with dark cushions.

Infinity room at the House on the Rock. It goes on for ... well, y'know.
Infinity room at the House on the Rock. It goes on for ... well, y'know.

A mountain stream runs through the house, coming inside as a small waterfall along the rocks that make up one wall. It’s so, so beautiful. After touring the house, there are two more tours, filled with animatronic wonders. And then, of course, there is the World’s Largest Carousel. Just down the road a few miles is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, which we oohed and aahed at but did not tour.

As I write this, we are in Wisconsin Dells, Wis. We’re not far from where we were yesterday morning (in the peaceful home of Benet and his wonderful wife), but it’s because we spent so long having fun at the House, taking pictures of Taliesin and touring the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum.

Trojan coaster in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
Trojan coaster in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.

For your continued viewing pleasure, here’s a small piece of the Madison, Wis., Monona Terrace community centre, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright:

They came in 50 great motherships ...
They came in 50 great motherships ...