Posts Tagged ‘US travel’

Exploring New Mexico: Meow Wolf in Santa Fe

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A furry creature in Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return

Santa Fe, New Mexico is one of my favorite small town destinations for a weekend getaway. The city has a rich culture, good restaurants, a great art scene and tons of culture to check out. But during my last visit, I felt like I hadn’t discovered anything that felt fresh or new in Santa Fe for a long time. Then I went to the arts collective Meow Wolf.

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Day of the Dead inspired vending machine

Located on the south side of Santa Fe in a repurposed old bowling alley, Meow Wolf is an immersive art experience and event space housed in a building owned by Game of Thrones author (and Santa Fe resident) George RR Martin. The main space is occupied by Meow Wolf’s first permanent exhibit, The House of Eternal Return. It’s a hybrid of a Victorian haunted house, interactive storytelling, a jungle gym, and a choose your own adventure that makes every visitor’s experience different.

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Giant tongue at MeowWolf

Meow Wolf was packed. And it’s trippy interactive appeal isn’t for just one demographic. There were groups of school children, couples on dates, and families exploring the arts and entertainment complex. The House of Eternal Return has a party/dance space which hosts a line up of interesting calendar of events including EDM concerts and and musical acts that defy being labeled by a genre. Words and pictures fail to do Meow Wolf justice. But it’s an unforgettable experience, and a fun one to share with others.

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The aquarium space in the House of Eternal Return

Meow Wolf’s mass appeal and interactive genius was obvious to me from the second I entered. I’m not surprised that the Meow Wolf team recently purchased a former Caterpillar plant to turn into its manufacturing space. Meow Wolf is going to need it since they now have their eye on expanding their brand of entertainment nationally, beginning with a mobile exhibit.

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Families taking selfies at Meow Wolf

Austin and Denver are rumored to be on the map as potential locations for the next permanent Meow Wolf location.

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Neon goodness at Meow Wolf

I particularly liked the 80s inspired arcade at Meow Wolf, complete with Nagel-esque murals that reminded me of Duran Duran album covers of yore.

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Interesting interior design choices in the House of Eternal return

Meow Wolf is well worth the price of admission ($18.00 for adults, $12.00 for children, seniors $16.00). If you’re headed to Santa Fe, it’s worth checking out this interactive storytelling multi-media experience.

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Nagel-esque mural at Meow Wolf

Meow Wolf 

1352 Rufina Cir, Santa Fe, NM

(505) 395-6369

Mon, Wed, Thurs, Sun 10AM-8PM
(closed every Tuesday)
Fri, Sat 10AM-10PM

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Where to Stay in New York City: 1 Brooklyn Bridge

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A view of the Brooklyn Bridge from my Bridge View King room

I recently went to New York City for a quick trip and wanted to try staying someplace new. I’d heard good buzz about the new eco-luxury property 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, the third property from from the chic brand, 1 Hotels.

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Exterior of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

The 1 Hotels brand has the right kind of buzzwords attached to it… including a mission to be “nature led” and a core philosophy that states “The world around us is beautiful, and we want to keep it that way.” Sometimes having so many on point keywords can make a place feel “too Gwyneth” and preachy.

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The lobby cocktail area

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the vibe of the place is pretty chill. It’s only when you pay attention to the details that you discover how thoughtful they are.

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The 25 foot green wall in the lobby

Not to be shallow, but 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is a stunner. The property, which is the first ground up build from the brand, looks industrial chic and blends in perfectly with it’s DUMBO neighbors. The lobby features an impressive 25 food vertical garden and rustic yet warm eco-conscious design. But you’re not sacrificing comfort for style. All the small things work in this hotel. The upcycled wood chip room keys are clever and feel fresh. But when you discover to the repurposed pine flooring originally came from the Old Crow Distillery in Kentucky, you get the sense that 1 Hotels is the real deal. It’s chic, it’s cool… and it’s confidently laid back.

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A communal table in the lobby

Many NYC hotels have impressive lobbies and shoebox sized guest rooms. Fortunately that’s not the case at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. My Bridge View King Room was large enough to be comfortable for two people, and well-designed so that there was no wasted space. It also had a cool triple water filter so that guests can have tasty and clean water at their disposal without the clutter of plastic bottles. and the built-in dining area served double duty as a desk when it wasn’t occupied with a room service tray.

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Smart storage above the built-in dining area

The hotel also has a complimentary shuttle. It’s a Tesla that will drop guests off within a three mile radius and is available on a first-come, first served basis.

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Comfortable bed, excellent storage in the nightstand

Guest rooms are designed with comfort and usability in mind. The design packs a lot of storage punch, with enough closet space for a couple and bonus coat hooks.

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Fabulous robes at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

My stay was quick but I look forward to coming back to 1 Brooklyn Bridge to check out the hotel’s spa and 10th floor lounge, both set to open this summer. In the meantime, the cocktail service in the lobby was top-notch and included small plates from Neighbors, the minimalist chic Brooklyn-centric cafe off the lobby.

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Interior of Neighbors

Most guests might won’t notice that the property operates on 100% wind power energy or that the edgy/cool sculpture by Jarrod Beck was created from pieces of salvaged roofing found in aftermath of a tornado. But learning these details don’t make you like the property any less. They draw you in deeper. I’m curious what I’ll learn about the hotel on my next visit.

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Delicious crostini with lovely presentation in the hotel lobby

In addition to be comfortable, stylish, and well situated at Pier 1, 1 Brooklyn Bridge goes out of it’s way to be good with the ‘hood. I enjoyed getting my morning coffee at Neighbors next to locals using their neighborhood discount. The cafe’s menu had all sorts of locally sourced artisanal Brooklyn goodness one would expect. Mixing with the locals definitely added to the home-away-from-home attitude of the property, and added to the organic sensibility of the hotel.

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Cheers to 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

Wifi was speedy and easy to connect. Service was great and devoid of attitude.

My biggest complaint? The property doesn’t have gift shop and the fluffy terry robes were so comfy I wanted to take one home.

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Address: 60 Furman St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, USA
Phone: +1 347-696-2500

Rates from $509 per night (I paid a media rate).

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Exploring the Pacific Northwest: Portland and Seattle with High School Students

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UHS Faculty member Maggie Beckman hiking Portland’s Forest Park

I’ve long held the belief that travel is the best kind of education. So when my friend Wes Priest, an English teacher at University High School in Indiana, told me that he was bringing a group of students to the Pacific Northwest with his colleague, art teacher Tasha Barger, I agreed to join them and give a few photography tips.

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Wes and the JTerm students at the Witches Castle in Forest Park (photo credit: Maggie Beckman)

These 23 teenagers spent the first part of January studying the art, photography and literature of the Pacific Northwest with Wes, Tasha, and faculty member Maggie Beckman during their school’s January Term (J-Term). During J-Term, the students take a break from their normal studies to immerse themselves in a single subject that interests them. This interdisciplinary class culminated in a trip to Portland and Seattle.

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PDX snowpocalypse in Forest Park

I met up with the group in Portland, Oregon while the city was still pretty much shut down after experiencing the biggest snowstorm in 20 years. As a seasoned traveler, I know plans how often plans go awry and you need to embrace that. But I had no idea how a group of teenagers would handle it. Their upbeat attitudes and lack of complaints caught me off guard. It was refreshing. There really is nothing you can do about the weather and the students got to see Portland in a really unique way.

Time lapse of the students working on zines in Portland. What a cool class.

Spending time with this group taught me a lot of great things to do with teenagers in Portland. We hiked through snowy Forest Park to the Pittock Mansion to get a view of the city. We hit legendary Portland institutions including Powell’s City of Books and Voodoo Donuts.

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Hiking the Upper Macleay Trail in Forest Park

I learned donuts are very popular with high school students. Top Pot Donuts in Seattle was also on the week’s agenda. The students documented their trip with cameras and used photos and found items to create hand bound zines. It was fun to watch so many young creative minds get busy making art.

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Snoqualmie Falls

Spending the week with this group of students was both exhausting and inspiring. They appreciated both cities as well as the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest and they reminded me of what it is like to have a youthful perspective.

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Eating Ramen at Pine Market in Portland (photo credit: Wes Priest)

Eating Ramen at Pine Street Market was a big hit with this crew on a cold night in Portland.

Watching the students document their trip made me want to include some of their photos and impressions on this blog. Featured below are some images the UHS students shot on their trip to the PNW and their own captions.

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I took this photograph of my friends’ and my feet right before our hike at Twin Falls.”- Kathryn Papp

These students came prepared and learned the best way to handle the Pacific Northwest’s moody weather is by dressing correctly. Every one of these students was wearing appropriate footwear. It made for a cute photo opportunity and I was excited that one of the students captured it.

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Lily in Capitol Hill in front of graffiti- Erin Webb

The students wandered through Portland, checking out local record stores, thrift shops, and the Portland Art Museum.

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I took it because its kind of a perfect depiction of the Seattle vibe. Everyone and everything is accepted, except for lack of acceptance- Lily Hunter

The students broke up into groups and explored different neighborhoods in Seattle, which prides itself on being progressive and a Sanctuary City. I wasn’t surprised the teenagers loved Pike Place Market and my personal favorite, MoPop  (formerly known as the EMP).

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 Gorgeous water fall at Snoqualmie falls in Washington” – Kenzie Binford

Seattle’s weather cooperated with us and the group got to visit Snoqualmie Falls and went for a great hike in Twin Falls.

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 “A different perspective of a piece of wood art at Portland Art Museum”- Drej Cosby

It was my first visit to the Portland Art Museum and I thought it was both user friendly and a nice size. There was lots to see without it being too overwhelming.

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 “Meowtropolitan cat taking some time to chill”- Drej Cosby

Some of the students visited Seattle’s Meowtropolitan, a Japanese-style cat cafe. I’m allergic to cats but was interested in their take. They really enjoyed it, and seemed to think it was quite a bit of fun for the price point!

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 Red and Boji”- Maddie Compton

I was impressed by the student’s genuine appreciation for the post-modern architecture of the the Seattle Central Library. They made me remember just how cool the Rem Koolhas and Joshua Ramus-designed building is.

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 “The Seattle Room at the Seattle Public Library”- Elise Zaniker

Seattle’s Central Library is also a great location to take photographs and the kids got some eye catching shots.

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 The modern built Seattle Public Library is home to many of writers and artists that open a portal of literary bliss to anyone. I felt that this was a good representation of the modern architecture that houses the classic tales of our time.”- Serena Patel

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  “This was on the bus ride from Portland to Seattle. It was just a nice, quiet moment I wanted to capture.”-Kathryn Papp

The students impressed me with their keen interest in the Pacific Northwest, their manners and the general lack of drama. Travelers have always been de facto ambassadors, and this group certainly made University High School look good.

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This bridge that served as our entry point into Forest Park felt like a gateway or portal into another world. Once I crossed under this bridge, I felt like I was in an entirely different universe of snowy bliss. Almost like Narnia.”- Livi Nichols

Spending a week with these kids strengthened my belief that travel is great education. It forces you out of your comfort zone, makes you to think on your feet and switches up your perspective. It was fun being able to share the experience of exploring the Pacific Northwest with these students. Their enthusiasm and curiosity was contagious.

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  Michaela laughed as she hoisted herself up to get a better view of Elliott Bay. It was our first day in Seattle and the rain and fog only added to our ‘authentic’ Seattle experience.“- Livi Nichols

I did not just learn from the students. Wes, Tasha, and Maggie are passionate educators who are dedicated to helping young minds develop. They worked hard to plan this trip and make it a positive experience for all involved. I hope these students know how lucky they are to have such fantastic and accessible teachers.

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“It was really spiritual and one of the best moments of my life because everybody was helping everybody else. People were cold and tired, but everybody stayed positive and struggled together to get the best feeling once we hit the very top.”- Eli DeBrota

The whole J-Term concept is a really cool idea. Where were classes like this when I was in high school?

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The JTerm Crew on the waterfront in Seattle

I have to confess I missed this group once they left Seattle. Hopefully some of them with return to visit. I promise Portland is an entirely different experience without all the snow.

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Wes and Tasha at Snoqualmie Falls

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Exploring Southern California: Sunrise at Joshua Tree National Park

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Colorful sunrise in Joshua Tree

I have a fondness for desert landscapes and love to visit Joshua Tree National Park during the winter. The weather is pleasant and the park never seems too crowded. I find it particularly peaceful to get up before dawn to watch the sunrise.

I shot this time lapse video on my iPhone 7 plus at Joshua Tree National Park

On my most recent trip, I had my two labs with me. Since activities with dogs are limited in the park, I stayed in Palm Springs at the pet friendly Ace Hotel Palm Springs. The Ace Hotel also two dedicated Tesla chargers, which made this road trip easy since since I drive a Tesla.

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Bristled Joshua Trees

If I was traveling without my two dogs, I would have stayed closer to the park. I’m a big fan of the Mojave Sands at Joshua Tree (check out this previous post about a stay at Mojave Sands), but they only allow small dogs.

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Twisted, surreal Joshua Trees

If you’re heading to Joshua Tree National Park from Palm Springs, I suggest coming in through the West Entrance.  Each morning I drove towards Hidden Valley, Barker Dam, and Keys Ranch until I found a spot I wanted to watch the sunrise.

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Here comes the desert sun

If you are driving from Palm Springs, and want to watch the sunrise, allow at least 90 before sunrise to drive to the West Entrance of the park and find a spot to watch and set up your equipment. It can get windy at times, and you might want to use a tripod.

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Colors change dramatically just after dawn in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree has been a favorite spot of mine to just chill. After photographing the sunrise, it’s nice to explore the cholla cactus garden, an easy quarter mile loop with a dense population of cholla cactus.

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Sunrise panorama shot on my iPhone 7 plus

Pet owners should note that activities with dogs are limited and animals must be leashed at all times. You can check out what activities you can do with your dog in Joshua Tree National Park here.

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The last super moon of 2016 seen through a Joshua Tree

My trip occurred during the last supermoon of 2016, so that made both the sunrise and moon interesting to photograph.

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Warm skies in Joshua Tree

After exploring the park for a few hours after sunrise, I like to head to the funky Joshua Tree Saloon for breakfast. The service is friendly and the place is packed after 7:30 with climbers and desert dwellers. They make a mean Bloody Mary, and the potato pancakes are quite tasty.

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Morning walk through the cholla cactus garden

If you head to the Joshua Tree Saloon, don’t miss the vintage photo of Johnny Cash near the front door.

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Rocky landscape at Joshua Tree National Park

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Morning in the desert at Joshua Tree National Park

I’m a big fan of National Parks and Joshua Tree is the one I am most comfortable exploring on my own. It’s pretty user friendly.

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Funky roadside Joshua tree

If you’re visiting Palm Springs, Palm Desert, or the Coachella Valley, I’d definitely recommend spending a morning exploring the surreal desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. It’s one of those special places in California that has a “vibe.”

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Morning sunlight in the cholla cactus garden

Joshua Tree National Park

74485 National Park Dr.
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597

Joshua Tree National Park is open 24 hours a day and may be visited at any time of the year.

Entrance Fee – $20.00 (7-day vehicle permit, admitting the passengers of a single, non-commercial vehicle on the day of purchase and for the next six days).

Motorcycle or Bicycle Entrance Fee/ Walk-In Fee – $10.00 (7-day entrance permit, per motorcycle or bicycle/per person on foot).

Joshua Tree Saloon

61835 Twentynine Palms Hwy.
P.O. Box 289 Joshua Tree
CA 92252 USA

1-760-366-2250

Hours Open:
Sunday – Thursday 7:00 am-12:00 Midnight
Friday & Saturday 7:00 am – 2:00 AM

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Exploring Southern California During the Holidays: Robolights in Palm Springs

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Giant inflatable santa on the roof of this year’s RoboLights display

If you are going to be in Southern California during the holidays and are looking for an outside-the-box holiday experience, consider heading to Palm Springs to see artist Kenny Irwin Jr’s 32nd year of RoboLights, an upcycled holiday lights display unlike any other.

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Robo reindeer outside the RoboLights display

Palm Springs artist Kenny Irwin, Jr.’s more is more aesthetic has been putting on an increasing complex mixed media holiday lights art installation at his father’s home since he was 12. Now in it’s 32nd year, RoboLights is truly something to behold.

Video of the RoboLights reindeer

Visiting RoboLights is like walking through a surreal winter wonderland.

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Surreal winter wonderland at RoboLights

Built on the outdoor property of the artist’s father’s home, the greeter outside RoboLights told us the display has over 4 Acres of lights. It’s wildly impressive in a Watts Towers meets Willy Wonka sort of way. Sculptures are made from repurposed toilets and mannequins, and old dog crates re-worked into Sci-Fi art containing giant spiders, all bedecked with holiday lights.

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Sleigh pulled by team of jackalope

Visiting RoboLights, I felt I was walking through a surreal winter wonderland. Some of the sculptures seemed better suited for a haunted house or dystopian futuristic film set than a holiday light show but that’s what makes RoboLights so interesting.

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Left: Upside down Santa Clause Right: Bunny driving a sleigh straight out of Mad Max

I spoke with some locals who visit RoboLights every year and asked them how much the display changes from year to year. They guessed about 30%– sometimes new elements like color schemes or themes get introduced, or the layout changes.

Video of one of the displays of lights at the 2016 RoboLights

This year’s addition of an inflatables on the roof, including a Santa and a Godzilla with a candy cane,  bit of an uproar. The City of Palm Springs attempted to close down this year’s RoboLights citing safety concerns but the artist prevailed in court last week and the city was denied a restraining order that would only allow residents of the property and contractors to access the robotics and light displays.

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Walls of dolls and fairy lights at RoboLights

RoboLights is open to the public and accepts donations ($5 is recommended).

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Dangling mannequin installation at RoboLights

Sensory overload comes with the territory and some of the subject matter is non-traditional enough that I think adults will enjoy RoboLights more than children with more traditional expectations.

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Mannequins on display at RoboLights

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One of the more light hearted sculptures at RoboLights

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Christmas trees at RoboLights

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Dog crate sculpture at the 2016 RoboLights

Artist Kenny Irwin Jr. has really gone above and beyond and RoboLights is unlike any other holiday lights display I’ve ever seen. If you’re in the Palm Springs area, I’d recommend checking it out. The display runs through January 1, 2017.

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Dystopian holiday spirit on display at RoboLights

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tunnel of lights at RoboLights

Opening hours for RoboLight are from  4-9:30 pm but the display is capacity controlled. If you don’t want to wait in line, consider getting to the outdoor light show when they open.

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RoboLights exterior is hard to miss

 

ROBOLIGHTS is OPEN to the public from Thanksgiving to January 1st 4:00-9:30PM 
The installation – free to the public, but donations are suggested to help defray costs.
Address:
1077 E Granvia Valmonte
Palm Springs, California
(Located in a very residential part of Palm Springs, Robo Lights is in/around the 1077 Property).

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