With school ending, summer outings are ramping up. Here are some tips from local author Mark Di Vincenzo on the best times to visit local attractions. You can find more advice in his New York Times bestselling book "Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon."
What's the best time of the day and day of the week to visit the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News? 9 a.m., when the doors open. The outdoor animals are more active when it's cooler, and it's cooler in the morning. In the afternoon, they're looking for shade, and they may find it behind a tree and out of sight. Also, the museum tends to be less crowded in the middle of the week -- Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday -- and it's easier to see the animals and other exhibits when there are fewer people around. Best month? September. Families are getting into their back-to-school routines and fewer go to the Living Museum then. By the way, the museum's dinosaur exhibit, which started Memorial Day weekend, ends on Labor Day.
The Mariner's Museum, in Newport News, is considered the nation's best maritime museum. When is the best time to go? If you like a quiet museum, the slowest time is late afternoon, especially between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. The busiest time of day is between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.. And the busiest months of the year are June and July, as is December, especially before and after Christmas. Best day? If you're looking for some action, Thursdays in June and July are good days because the museum stays open longer and hosts free outdoor concerts. On Saturdays, the museum often hosts lectures, demonstations, book signings and other programs.
What's the best time to visit the Virginia Zoo, in Norfolk? 10 a.m. weekdays. Go when it opens. Like at the Living Museum, most of the animals at the zoo are more active in the morning and more interesting to watch. And it's always less crowded any day during the week rather than on the weekend.
What's the best time to visit the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center? Before 10 a.m. and after 2 p.m. on weekdays. Fewer people visit then, so it's easier to see everything when there are no crowds. Best month? February or March -- the slowest months of the year. Worst month? April or May. That's school field trip season at the aquarium, and Thursdays and Fridays in April and May are the most crowded.
Which is the best day of the week to go to the beach? It depends on why you're going. Saturday is the best day if you want to people watch. Most people are off work on the weekends, but Sunday is a church day for a lot of people, so beaches are especially crowded on Saturdays. Wednesday is the best day if you're looking for peace and quiet and more parking options. In the summer, out-of-town beach-goers who want to extend the weekend might take off Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday but usually not Wednesday.
What's the best time of the day and day of the week to go to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA? Any day during the week. The weekends are always busier, especially as the summer wears on. Best time? The earlier, the better. Both parks get busier as the day goes on, particularly Busch Gardens, where season pass holders often come after work and stay until the park closes. Best summer month? June, especially while the public schools are still in session. It's less crowded then, and lines are shorter.
Which is the best day of the week to go to the Chrysler Museum? Wednesdays. The museum, which has not charged for admission since last year, has extended hours and special programs on Wednesdays. The museum offers wine tasting and free jazz concert on the first Wednesday of the month, a Norfolk history lecture and family-focused tours on the second Wednesday, a wine and cheese and book club meeting on the third Wednesday and an "Art After Dark Film Series" on the fourth Wednesday. For young families, the museum on Fridays in July and August will show children's movies.The worst days? Mondays and Tuesdays, when the museum is closed. :-)
Let's say you decided to stay at home and vacation in Hampton Roads this summer, but you want to splurge and spend a night away from home at a hotel. Which is the best day of the week to get a free upgrade at a hotel? Sunday or Monday. It all comes down to supply and demand. There are more vacancies those nights, so you have a better chance of having your upgrade request fulfilled. But chances are you won't get a free upgrade if you don't ask for it, and you almost certainly won't get one if you're rude to the person at the front desk. Also, remember to be specific because upgrades mean different things to different people. Do you want a king-size bed? Or a room with a nice view? Or a suite? You need to be specific. And one more thing: If you reserved the cheapest room in the hotel, you probably can forget about an upgrade. You'll have a much better chance if you reserved at least a mid-priced room.
Here are some interesting tourist-related tidbits that even very few locals know:
Big: The Mariners' Museum Park, in Newport News, is this nation's largest, privately owned park that the public can visit for free.
Bigger: At 8,100 acres, Newport News Park, in the northern part of the city, is the second largest city park in the nation -- a city park in Phoenix is the largest -- and the largest city park east of the Mississippi River. Newport News Park is nearly 10 times larger than New York's Central Park.
Small but mighty: You can see an 8-inch by 10-inch painting by Johannes Vermeer, the 17th-century Dutch painter, at the Chrysler Museum until Aug. 22. Although there are a few Vermeers permanently displayed in Washington, D.C., this is the first time a painting by Vermeer has been displayed in Virginia.
The Deep South in Virginia Beach: First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, formerly Seashore State Park, is the northern-most place in the United States where Spanish moss grows year round.
Local author Mark Di Vincenzo, who wrote "Buy Ketchup In May And Fly At Noon: A Guide To The Best Time To Buy This, Do That And Go There," wanted to find out the best times to go to local attractions this summer. Here's what he came up with. If you want to know more about his New York Times best-selling book, go to www.buyketchupinmay.com.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun