Bucket Lists, Part II: Be a Box Checker!

Bucket Lists, Part II:  Be a Box Checker!

Bucket Lists, Part II: Be a Box Checker!

Author’s Note: The following is the second installment in a series of articles which may resonate with King Air corporate and charter pilots as it relates to making the most of travel downtime. But it can also apply to the owner/pilot, whether it’s making a stop on the way to a planned destination or adding a future destination to visit. After all, making the most of layovers and planned or unplanned travel downtime is a goal any pilot can pursue. If you have layover pursuits or places you’ve enjoyed and feel are “must sees,” please feel free to drop the author an email with any ideas you might have for future installments of this series (contact information follows the article).

In Review

In Part I of this series, we introduced the concept of list making. A sort of bucket list, used to enhance your layovers (long and short) by encouraging you to get out and explore, checking boxes off your list(s) along the way; or by making a stop on your way to a planned destination or making the bucket list visit a future destination itself. Starting a list or two is Step 1, but checking the boxes is the real goal. When surplus time is in your day’s clock, exploration is hard to beat for using that time to remind yourself that flying really can take you to interesting places.

During my many years of flying as a corporate, charter, fractional, airline and traveling-instructor pilot, I’ve had many layover lists running concurrently. Today, I’ll discuss one of my more successful lists, if progressing steadily through said list is the gauge for ‘success.’ Along the way, we’ll touch on some related list types that might better suit your personal style or interests.


OK, I admit it. I’m an official history geek. I love history and all the different avenues of interests it can lead to. History is the topic that never ends and nearly any human-interest you name has historical ties that bind it together. For me, one of those interests is architecture. No, I’m not an architect, nor do I have any desire to be one. But I grew up in a small Midwestern town that has been world renown for decades for its abundance of notable modernist and postmodernist architecture. The founders of Columbus, Indiana, made a commitment early in the city’s history to hire prominent architects to design unique buildings. Prominent and philanthropic citizens and corporations have kept that commitment alive for well over a century. Dozens of churches, the public library, most of the schools, banks, office buildings, fire stations, the courthouse, city hall, malls and even the jail all display panache and character not often associated with such utilitarian buildings. The city consistently ranks in the Top Ten U.S. Cities for Modernist Architecture, with eight buildings on the National Historic Register and over 60 buildings considered to be outstanding examples of modernist architecture. As a result, Columbus has earned the nickname, “Athens of the Prairie.” One can scarcely grow up in such an environment without having some lingering appreciation for fine architecture, even long after life has rendered me far removed from my hometown.

Often being both technically and historically minded, I’ve found many pilots seem to share my appreciation for architecture. Some prefer historical buildings, with their organic materials and hand-crafted details, while others lean toward the cleaner lines of more contemporary, modern or post-modern buildings. Whatever your taste, layovers in cities and towns of nearly any size can offer something architecturally interesting to see. As with the museums discussed in
Part I of t
his series, web searches can help you develop a wish list of must-see buildings, organized by style, purpose or era. Some potential ideas to get you started might include:

Architectural Tours: Many cities offer formal tours of their architectural sites. Such tours come in a variety of forms. In New Orleans, Louisiana, tours via horse-drawn carriage are popular (especially through the narrow streets of the French Quarter or the Garden District). In Chicago, boat tours along the Chicago River allow that city’s famous architecture to be viewed easier than from street level, opening up wider angle sight lines. In Philadelphia (and other cities), similar tours are offered via amphibious vehicles (known as “Ducks”) that both drive the streets and cruise the waterways. While in countless cities, big and small, architectural bus or van tours are available at reasonable rates. If you want to get some exercise at the same time, walking tours (both guided and self-guided) are popular in many cities around the globe.

The Milwaukee Art Museum is one of the largest and most architecturally bold art museums in the U.S. It is often referred to simply as “The Calatrava,” though that is actually only one building of the 25,000+ sq. ft. complex. The “Brise Soleil” is the foldable wing-like structure which spans 217-feet. The wings open and close daily, generally remaining closed only at night and in inclement weather conditions. Built on the shore of Lake Michigan, it is said that when viewed from the water, the building resembles the bow and sails of a great sailing ship headed out to sea.

Architects: Build a list around a specific architect. Some are quite famous, like Frank Lloyd Wright or I.M. Pei and have well-known buildings in cities the world over. Others may not be as well-known but are equally prolific designers.

Styles: Specific styles can be pursued in large or small categories. For me, the stylings of 1930’s-era Art Deco buildings never fail to captivate. Due to their age and their heyday having been relatively short, finding well preserved examples is becoming increasing rare. But they certainly look like nothing else being built in the modern era. The Empire State Building in NYC is probably the most famous example.

Manor Homes: The grand palaces of the industrial Barons of yesteryear top this category. Though, most towns of even moderate size have one of more manor homes built by whomever was at or near the top of that area’s net-worth pyramid at the time. Usually a citizen that was proud of wherever they called home and was happy to build a no-expense-spared residence to prove it. Thus, such homes range in size from modest (by today’s standards) to literal castles. What they all have in common is magnificent old-world craftsmanship, abundant character and attention to every detail. Those built on the grander scale took large staffs and massive annual budgets to run, making so many of them white elephants as subsequent generations inherited them. Far too many have been lost to the wrecking ball, deemed too expensive to maintain. Those that have survived often resort to giving tours and renting their glorious spaces for weddings and large events to cover their monumental operating budgets. However, because they need every penny to keep the bills paid, walk-up tours are often available and offered at reasonable prices. The best-known example is probably The Biltmore Estate, in Asheville, North Carolina, built by railroad giant George Vanderbilt. It remains the largest private residence ever built in the U.S., exceeding 178,000 square feet. Other examples, in decreasing scale, include Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, by newspaper and publishing tycoon, William Randolph Hearst, the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, of beer Baron, Capt. Frederick Pabst, and the Culbertson Mansion, in New Albany, Indiana, – now a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky – built by William Culbertson, once the richest man in Indiana from his dry goods and investment empire. The first two have become major attractions and are priced accordingly, while the latter two remain less publicized and reasonably priced.

Capitol Buildings

I have an ongoing list of U.S. State capitol buildings I’ve been checking the boxes of for many years. These government buildings vary dramatically in architectural style and grandeur. Some, like the Illinois Statehouse in Springfield, can compete with the U.S. Capitol Building for beauty, splendor and even scale. Others, like North Carolina’s Statehouse in Raleigh, are far more diminutive, but are still loaded with character and old-world craftsmanship. A few, like Maryland’s Statehouse in Annapolis, are quite aged and show it in their uneven floors, roughly hewn timbers, and steps worn by centuries of foot traffic. In newer capitol buildings, like North Dakota’s in Bismarck or Hawaii’s in Honolulu, you’ll be hard pressed to find a single element reminiscent of the columned, domed, marbled capitols which typically come to mind. Instead, you’ll find modernistic-styled office buildings. Nonetheless, they all offer something unique architecturally, and copious amounts of state history come rushing at you from within their walls, statues, busts and sculptures.

Spring flowers brighten the grounds of the West Virginia State Capitol Building in Charleston. Constructed between 1924 and 1932, it has recently undergone significant preservation efforts to ensure its future for another century and beyond. Its 333 rooms and 535,000 sq. ft. of floor space dwarf many other state capitols, even some in states much larger than West Virginia (both in size and populace).

Touring State Capitol buildings is as easy as walking through their doors during normal business hours (some even offer extended hours for tours). Admission is almost always free, and security will typically require no more than a walk through a metal detector and presentation of a government issued I.D. Building maps and history brochures are generally offered for self-guided touring. However, most State Capitol’s also offer guided tours on a schedule (also usually free). If you happen to find yourself there at the right time, you can rest in a gallery seat while watching the wheels of government turn on the floors of the state Senate or statehouse of Representatives below you. Next time you’re in a capital city, visit the Capitol building (and impress your friends by knowing that spelling it with an “a” refers to the city, while using an “o” refers to the building).


Not in a state capital city? Don’t give up and cage yourself at the FBO! Each county in each state has a city or town designated as the county-seat (or the home of that county’s governmental affairs). In all but the smallest of the hundreds of county seats within the U.S., a County Courthouse building is designated. Many are simply stunning buildings, offering free self-guided touring to all comers. Scores of them are historical enough to be included on the National Historic Register and include significant architectural elements (especially for the times they were constructed). The same can be said of many City Hall buildings. In Philadelphia, for example, the City Hall is one of the most prominent structures among a city teeming with architectural masterpieces. Philly’s City Hall not only forms the center of the downtown’s geography, it dominates the scene, covering a full city block and towering above the height of the U.S. Capitol building! Wherever you find yourself, governmental buildings tend to be some of the most interesting any given city has to offer. Plus, since they were constructed and are maintained with tax dollars, they are publicly owned and should be open to all citizens.

The Grand Masonic Temple in Philadelphia is one of only three “Grand” examples of Masonic Temples worldwide. While its grand exterior is impressive, its interior is truly stunning in both detail and scale. Guided tours are available without appointment for a modest fee.

Houses of Worship

Ever been to a town without a single church, temple or other house of worship? Such towns are few and far between. Many houses of worship are simple structures that would not register on anyone’s must-see architecture list. Yet, even in tiny towns, the most prominent, most beautiful building is often a church or temple of some kind. Religious structures, of course, have an incredible variation. Cathedrals and bassillicas, tabernacles, grand mosques and temples, and everything in between, down to tiny, one-room, country churches. Nearly all have something unique to see. Climb a bell tower for a magnificient view of the town or even a distant metropolis (on a clear day). Be accidently treated to a concert by a gifted organist, playing a centuries old pipe organ (practicing for upcoming services or learning new pieces). Be amazed at the towering columns or the ornate architectural elements. Study the details and nuances of  statues depicting holy scenes, saints or religious deities. Try your hand at interperting the scenes depicted in delicate stained glass windows. These are all things I’ve experienced simply by walking into some previously unknonwn (to me) house of worhip. You need not be affiliated with the religion or belief system the building represents to appeciate its attributes. Art is a universal passion that nearly every religion pursues within their particular guidelines. They use it to tell their stories, explain their faith, or strike awe in all those who enter. As a visiting outsider, its often easier to appreciate the efforts involved when detached from the related dogma. Plus, its probably better not knowing what the congregants paid for it all! Some noteworthy examples within the U.S. Include:

  • The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., a nonspecific house of worship, where people of all faiths are welcome. Many national events take place within, including many presidential funerals.
  • San Miguel Mission in San Miguel, California. Dating to 1797, this mission still contains its original interior paint, as well as many original murals, relecis, statues and paintings.
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. This stunning, mid-1800s, Neo-Gothic building is possibly the most famous church in America.
  • Byodo-In Temple, O’ahu, Hawaii. Escape the urban sprawl of Honolulu to visit this peaceful, nondemoninational, temple in the mountains outside the city.
  • Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, Arizona. An architectural masterpiece and wholly unique in both its structure and setting. A perfect compliment to a flight into Sedona’s equally iconic airport.
  • Whatever architectural style or theme piques your interest, it is likely well represented across North America. If you’re in an area populace enough to merit an airport that can support King Air operations, you’re likely near something architecturally interesting. Sometimes that might exist on the airport itself (early era hangars or terminal buildings). Other times, such structures are across the street or just a quick drive away via airport countesy car. Go ahead, check off a box!

Copyright 2019, Matthew McDaniel
First publication rights granted to Village Press for King Air Magazine
All other rights reserved by copyright holder

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