You can experience an earthquake
such as the ones that rocked this area of Northwest Tennessee
in 1811 and 1812 changing the terrain and creating a brand new
waterway, Reelfoot Lake. The Earthquake Simulator is only one of
the reasons you will want to visit Discovery Park
The other reasons are as varied as life on earth. From dinosaurs
to space travel, it's all here. The park is so much more than a
park as you think of the average park as just a place to relax
and have fun. Sure, it is all of that and more. It's also a
place of knowledge, yet it can't be called a museum either. This
is no stuffy building where you wander around and look but don't
touch. This is a totally new interactive experience. Robert
Kirkland, the philanthropist funding Discovery Park, uses the
phrase, "go beyond." Perhaps Discovery Park needs to go beyond
current language and coin a new word; "parkseum" best fits for
|The Discovery Center
Starting with the Natural History Gallery, an
eye-catching 100,000 square foot
building filled with over two dozen exhibit rooms. The
center is totally complete in its tracing of our planet's
evolution. It starts with dinosaurs, fossils and rocks and
minerals that make up our planet, you move on through eons of
time and history to Space Travel.
There are two other features.
The Earthquake stimulator which is much more than a ride since
it also is a theater in the round with a cute film explaining
the history of earthquakes in West Tennessee. Then there is
Starship Theater. It's much more than just an Imax Theater.
Jessica, one of the many helpful employees stationed all over
the center, explained how Starship Theater works.
Each chair in the
theater has a set of controls. Each guest chooses a role
passenger, engineer and one lucky one is captain. There are
choices of which planet to visit and many other exciting space
travel discoveries. You can spend days wending you way through
the center and discovering treats like a set of humanoid skull
reproductions tracing man's evolution from Neanderthal to Homan
Sapiens, a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, a set of war
weapons, aircraft and vehicles that will blow you away. Guys
don't miss the transportation. Those of us of a certain age love
seeing the beauty of those big finned powerhouse autos again.
They have everything from W.C. Fields limo to Dale Earnhardt,
Jr.'s race car.
you like to run into this big boy?
|Just a tiny portion of the
||Part of the Military Exhibit
This place is for all ages not just kids
but they do have a special toddlers area for the tiny ones.
Then there is The Tower, a meeting room
area that will have all the guests staring at the panoramic
views surrounding them so any speaker would have to be really
compelling to get any attention.
Along with exhibits, the center offers
several learning experience for children of all ages. Russell,
one of the instructors at the center, was doing a class in the
Natural History Center. He explained how he works his class with
the children. "I explain
earthquakes here in exhibit room where I can use the interactive
globe. I can show fault lines, drain oceans, visit other
planets, show all recorded earthquakes and lots more. Then the
kids go to the traveling exhibit room and do games related to
earthquakes and have and then lunch."
|The Cafe at Discovery Park
Speaking of lunch, the Cafe at Discovery
Park is a beautifully Deco style area with lots of food choices
and great views while you eat.
that's just inside Discovery Center. Outside, you have two paths
you can follow to explore the 50 acre park. Both equally
fascinating. Two food wagons are set at the entrance if you want
to grab a fast bite and dine outside.
If you choose the North Path, you step
back in time to the 1800s and visit a pioneer settlement
complete with a 150 year old dogtrot cabin and every other home
and building you would expect to find in Davy Crockett's time.
Across the small lake, there is the mill settlement where you
find the necessities of life in the 19th century, a gristmill, a
blacksmith shop, a one-room school and others. Follow the path
and you arrive at a barn filled with tractors and farm equipment
from past to present.
|A family discovers the Pioneer
||The stature on the path to the
Mill is so realistic
If you choose the South Path, you visit
American's towns as they were in the early 1900s. There is a
depot complete with trains you can tour, Freedom Hall containing
many of America's historical treasures such as a replica of the
Liberty Bell. There is an old fashioned drug store and a
firehouse. The highlight is a 1852 chapel that was moved to the
grounds. A stature of Abraham Lincoln oversees the square.
|Who doesn't love vintage trains?
||Ave Lincoln oversees Freedom
Two of the park's three gardens, the Japanese and the
European, are located behind the Mill Village.
The third, the American,
is on the South side.
John Watkins, the park's grounds director, gave me some
statistics on the vast number of plants on the grounds. There
are 5000 azaleas, 22000 shrubs and 500 to 600 trees all watered
by 17 miles of irrigation
system. The grounds are an ever changing paradise. John said,
"It's a constant struggle. Because of the cold winter we had a
problem keeping the azaleas alive. We try to plant hardy plants
natural to the area. We will be putting in about 5000 roses
scattered around the park soon."
The benefactor behind this place, Robert
Kirkland and his wife, Jenny, have endowed the park amply so it
has the best chance of succeeding in spite of its location. In
fact, it wouldn't surprise me to see this attraction do like
another attraction did for an unknown place in Florida. When
Disney World arrive on the scene, Orlando was just another
little inland Florida town. Look at it now. This place could do
the same for Union City. As a self made millionaire and
visionary, Mr. Kirkland
has a unique and creative point of view. He said, "The world
needs more misfits."
|Just imagine moving this chapel
down the highway.
He defined "misfits" as those people who
are not satisfied with things as they are and want to make
things bigger and better. He has certainly done that with
As if the permanent attractions at the
park are not enough to keep people coming back, there are all
kinds of events to be held there. Things like a card boat race,
wood carving, pottery classes, paining, a garden walk and a
Summer Concert series featuring really big names like Charley
Daniels, Travis Tritt and others.
The night we visited we had a real treat.
Phillip Coleman and friends preformed a Singer Songwriter Night
in one of the Traveling Exhibit Halls. These are the guys that
write the songs that soar to number one on the charts. They have
written songs for some of the biggest names in Nashville.
Phillip's latest success was
All Kinds of Kinds,
recorded by Miranda Lambert. His
Cost of Living,
Ronnie Dunn's first solo after life as Brooks and Dunn, garnered
Phillip a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year.
|Songwriter/singers from right to
left: Troy Jones, Phillip Coleman and Winn Varble
Troy Jones' latest include
People are Crazy
which earned him a Grammy nomination and stayed at number one on
the charts for two consecutive weeks. He has written winning
songs for the likes of Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson,
George Strait and the list goes on.
Winn Varble has had a string of winners.
Topping the list are
Waiting on a Woman, by Brad Paisley,
I'm a Little More Country
Than That, by Easton Corbin and the unforgettable Darryl
Worley hit, Have You
Forgotten. As you can imagine it was quite a memorable
night. Don't take my word for it. Go see for yourself. As
Discovery Park's CEO, Jim Rippy says, "Discovery Park is unique.
There's no place like it anywhere."
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