In Italy

Expo 2015 (with kids)

We’ve lived in a single hotel room in Italy without a microwave for more than two weeks now. Staying in is no longer an option. So we braved the heat last weekend and made a family trip to Expo 2015 in Milan.

Expo 2015 with Kids

If you’re not familiar with Expo, it’s the world’s fair. Perhaps you’ve seen the iconic remnants of previous world’s fairs, such as Seattle’s Space Needle, Atomium in Brussels, Hemisphere Park in San Antonio, and, uh, the Eiffel Tower. Every few years a city builds an impressive temporary village to host laudatory exhibits of inventions and contributions of countries around the world. (Random but relevant-to-my-life fact, Omaha hosted the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in 1898. You can view information about it at the Durham Museum.) This year’s theme is Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.

We didn’t learn all that much with our small kids in tow, but we did have a really great day.

Expo 2015

Israel, Brazil, China, South Korea, Belgium, Spain, Iran and, of course, USA all graced us with air conditioning at some point in the day. We did learn about the innovations in irrigation developed in Israel, fermentation in South Korea, aquaponic farming in Belgium. Brazil’s pavilion features a giant climbing net that was fun for everyone, though not particularly toddler friendly. We had to scootch the kids past the Czech Republic pavilion, which boasted a splash pool. (Had we known, we would have brought spare clothes!) Pavilion Zero was an excellent place to rest, with short films about food projected on a wall in a large, dark room.

Collecting rain

There is also a Children’s Park, which is a series of activities that engage each of the senses. At the first stop, a dome descends upon your child and sprays a scent, which they then match to an herb in a terrarium next to it. Not your usual fair fare! They loved collecting “rain”water in funnels to spray a wall of plants. Of course the big guy’s favorite was a bike that powered a fountain. A separate KinderSport area looked like a blast for kids 5 and up. Our guys were only allowed to try one activity: jumping on a post to shoot water in the air.

Expo Parade

We caught a parade of mascots. The kids loved it, and we were amused by its Mario Brothers-meets-Charlie’s Chocolate Factory homespun feel. A parade makes any event feel more special.

Expo Food

We ate brisket, fish tacos, fresh fruit punch, Belgian frites, Nutella crepes (at the Nutella concept bar, which is basically my whole motivation behind the visit), a tiny Pimm’s cup, gazpacho and sangria, ice cream, sushi… it was all necessary to fuel our 10 hours there!

The Expo website and app provide daily schedules of talks, demonstrations and interactive activities. We barely scratched the surface during our visit.

Had the weather been cooler, I would have tried hard to peel away to Vino, the Italian wine pavilion. I felt dehydrated and the thought of selecting just 3 of the 1300 wines that offered to taste was overwhelming. (By the way, there are water bottle refilling stations around, and they spout sparkling water.)

It was a long day, but there was something fun for each of us. Don’t miss it if you have the chance!

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