Chattanooga, Tennessee : Gateway to the Appalachians

We are starting a series about the things to do in the Appalachians Mountains. In the first of the series, we want to look at the main city of the region, Chattanooga. It is also one of our 18 cities to visit in 2018.  What does this city of almost 200,000 people have to offer?  Read More “Chattanooga, Tennessee : Gateway to the Appalachians”

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Ultimate Travel guide to Golden Gloves Boxing

It is spring time again and that means it is the time of Golden Gloves boxing across the country. It all got started in late January for Buffalo Golden Gloves and will end with late April in New Mexico. This year, the national Golden Gloves will be in Nebraska in early May.  Read More “Ultimate Travel guide to Golden Gloves Boxing”

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Bass Pro Shops are a redneck’s paradise : Why the popular outdoors store has developed a cult following

When I was in college, my room mate would go to the Bass Pro Shop in town to dream of what he could buy at some point. It was his love for fishing, hunting and camping that drove him to spend money he really did have to get things he really wanted to have for his passions. He is not alone. The truth is the brand has quite a following…..almost a cult following surrounding Bass Pro Shops.

Back in the those days, it was just a five mile drive to get to the store in Springfield, Missouri. There is an endless supply of eye candy for people like him that love lures, boats, rifles and about anything related to hunting and fishing that you could dream of.

It is amazing how a little side business in the back of a local liquor shop has become a national iconic obsession. Back in those days, you could get a fifth of Jack and some bait on your way to Table Rock Lake in Branson. By the end of the third year as a company, they had already build quite the mail order business.

After all the decades in business and opening several stores across the country, the name is very much part of the discussion for any fisherman, hunter or redneck. Visiting one of the “Wal-Mart of fishermen” is a rite of passage to many.

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Ultimate travel guide to Kansas City : Home of America’s best barbecue

Kansas City, Missouri has become the home of America’s best barbecue and jazz music but there is much more to the city than just those. The city known as the bread basket of America is also one of the most cost effective cities to visit for the American traveler.

One of the benefits of visiting Kansas City is that you can easily travel by car, train, bus or plane. The city is serviced by the Kansas City International Airport, Amtrak at United Station, and Greyhound is downtown. You can also easily reach the city by car from St. Louis, Tulsa, and Minneapolis.

The important thing to know is you will need a car or to use the bus system because Kansas City has 7,952 square miles that spreads across 15 different counties. If driving to the old Air Force base in Belton from the airport, you are looking at an hour drive in ideal traffic conditions.

It is also important that if you are visiting in the late fall for college football, Chiefs games, or the lights at the Plaza; remember, this is the middle of the United States and it can get quite cold. Make sure you dress accordingly or you will get very cold.

Corpus Christi International Airport

 Getting to Kansas City

When coming to the city of fountains, you have several different options on the table. You can get to the home of the Chiefs by car, bus, train and plane. All of them have their benefits.

If you are coming through the Kansas City International Airport, you can choose from several airlines that serve the city. In 2018, the city also voted to build a new super terminal that will be finished by 2020.

AirlineMain DestinationTerminal
Air Canada ExpressTorontoC
Alaska AirlinesSeattle B
Allegiant AirlinesOrlando C
American AirlinesChicagoC
American EagleDallasC
Delta AirlinesAtlantaB
Frontier AirlinesDenverC
Southwest AirlinesDallasB
Spirit AirlinesLas VegasC
United AirlinesHoustonC
Via AirlinesSteamboat SpringsC

Once you land in the city, you can walk out of Terminal C and get a Ride KC bus to downtown for $1.50. This is the public bus system and it is quite good.

If you would rather come by train, Amtrak comes to Kansas City Union Station daily from Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles. Traveling by train is a very effective and fun way to travel in the United States.

If you are using Greyhound, they have a terminal right outside of downtown that services St. Louis, Denver, Dallas, and Minneapolis. Jefferson Lines also uses the terminal for their bus line as well.

The most popular way to travel to Kansas City is by your own car. In the city, I-70, I-35, and I-71 all meet through downtown Kansas City. It is easy to get to the city from basically anywhere in America. Having your own car while traveling in the city is also very handy due to the how spread out things can be.

The one thing to be careful about when traveling on any of these is to remember that the city can be hit with ice and large snowstorms. It is not uncommon for ice to shut down travel in the Midwest. There has even been cases where the airport stopped all flights for several days due to weather.

Hotels in Kansas City

Once you have arrived, you need to find a place to stay. There are several options and it seemed that the there is pockets of areas that they focus around. Places like the Airport, Crown Center, Country Club Plaza, Royal Stadium and hugging I-70.

In the area around the airport, about every budget to midrange hotel has a facility that is close and many of offer pickup right from the terminals. The one of our choice is the Holiday Inn next to the KCI Expo center.

However, it is recommended that staying in the heart of the city because most of the things that would bring you to Kansas City are between downtown and the south side of the city. The only thing that most people look for in the Northland is Worlds of Fun or Oceans of Fun.

Downtown has several hotels include Marriott, Hotel Philips, and Hampton Inn. If you can afford it, our suggestion is without question using the Hotel Philips by Hilton. This is where the US Presidents stay when in the city.

One of the most best places, in Last Kodiak’s opinion, to stay is the Crown Center. It is a collection of shopping, hotels, and the Kansas City Union Station all interlinked together by a footbridge that cover several blocks of real estate. They also have an outdoor ice rink just outside of Parena Bread. This is where the Sheraton and Westin both operate from.

If you are mainly coming to see the Christmas lights at the Country Club Plaza, you might consider staying right in the area. You will need to book ahead in December but you can find a midrange to higher end hotel. The recommended one for us would be  Sheraton Suites Country Club Plaza which is right in the heart of the Plaza festive.

 

Restaurants in Kansas City

People from all over the world fly to the city of fountains to have the iconic Kansas City barbecue that is talked about around the world. It does’t matter if you are talking about Arthur Bryant’s, Gate’s, Jack Shack, or Q39; it is all high quality barbecue that people will get on airplane to taste. In fact, everyone from Barack Obama to Sarah Palin to Danny Glover has walked through the doors of barbecues shops in Kansas City.

While there is a growing debate over the best barbecue in the city, it is a lot of other restaurants in the city that are just as good. In fact, there is a group of Facebook that just evangelizes about great eateries. It is currently over 20,000 members strong. Click here for more information.

In the same way as the black immigration to the urban core fueled barbecue culture, Kansas City is currently seeing the rise of many quality Mexican and Caribbean restaurants popping up all over the city. A growing favorite is El Sombrero in Claycomo. They currently have authentic tacos for $1.25.

There is a several great options for authentic international food in the Westport district of the city. The days of being an outpost for the Oregon Trail are over and the days of being a place to get unique meals and to drink are here. One of the most popular eateries there is Jerusalem Cafe.

If you are downtown, there is really two highly recommended places to try. The first of them is a pizza shop in the River Market area. This is the old city market where all of the action in the city started over a century ago. The restaurant is called Minsky’s Pizza. It is a little upscale from Domino’s that is just up the street on Main.

The other popular option is to the west in the historic West Bottoms district called EJ’s Urban Eatery. They offer a farm to market burger that many locals love to get and will drive across town to buy. It is on West 9th on the way to Kansas.

Downtown Kansas City to Crown Center

There is a street car that was built that runs from the Union Station by Crown Center to the River Market District and back to the Union Station along Main. This places everything you would need within a few blocks of the free train connecting restaurants and attractions in the area. Make no mistake about it, downtown is mainly for business and government but there is some cool places to check out.

One of them is the original city market that has been re-development for commerce. It is mostly mid-range specialty shops these days but it is pretty cool to check out. Saturdays has the place buzzing with vendors buying and selling just like did back in the late 1800’s. There is also a museum in the area about steamboats.

On the other end of the streetcar route is Bartle Hall and Power and Light district. This is where the city comes alive, especially during March Madness (NCAA Basketball). There is several upscale restaurants between the Sprint Center and Main where there is a IMAX theater (that is upscale too). This is just a few blocks away from the Kansas City Convention Center that is build around Bartle Hall. It is a regional epic center for major events in the Midwestern United States.

At the end of the KC streetcar route is the Kansas City Union Station that is completely restored and it is a place of culture and social events. It is home to the largest screen in the United States and has several nice restaurants. It is also still a functional Amtrak Station as well.

Once to go to the second floor of the Union Station, you can walk along The Link that is a climate controlled catwalk that connected you to every major building in the Crown Center including the Westin and Sheraton hotels and the commerce centers that houses Parena Bread and a full size outdoor ice shaking arena.

There is also many different projects that are ongoing at the Crown Center aimed at education and personal enrichment. Crown Center is also home to the Hallmark Vistors Center.

Westport & Country Club Plaza

The area around 39th and Broadway to just past 47th is probably where most of the action goes on in Kansas City. It is Westport District on one end and the Country Club Plaza on the other end. One is for partying and the second one is for upscale shopping.

The old Wesport, Missouri that use to be for trading before crossing for the Oregon Trail is now party central. The corner of Westport Rd and Pennsylvania is ground zero for drinking. This is where you will find Kelly’s Westport Inn, the oldest bar in Kansas City. McCoy Public House and Harry’s Pub are also quite popular in Westport. If you want drinks to take home, you can check out World Market and the Westport Flea Market.

Down a few blocks is the Country Club Plaza that is known around the world for its Christmas lights. However, it is a pretty cool to shop anytime of the year. There is an outdoor shopping area that was popular long before outdoor shopping was “cool.” Everything from Parena’s Bread to a HUGE H&M store to Cheesecake Factory.

In December, they light up the plaza and it become a very bright North Pole with people handing out hot chocolate. It is not uncommon to see church groups standing on the streets singing Christmas carols.

 

 

 

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Ultimate travel guide to American Samoa : More than NFL players and war dances

American Samoa is some of the most remote places you can still technically be in the United States. In fact, it is the only real estate we own that is south of the equator. Yes, a lot of NFL players with funny last names do come from here. Someone from American Samoa is 57 times more likely to make it to the professional football level than from any other community in the country. Read More “Ultimate travel guide to American Samoa : More than NFL players and war dances”

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America had fewer tourists in 2017: What it means for Americans

I came across an article that questions the decline in arrivals for tourism purposes to the United States. It was making the case of immigration being the challenged. However, I firmly believe it missed the point of tourism in the country. America is driving by domestic consumption.

In Kansas City, just one city of many that has a tourism sector; less than ten percent of the arrivals actually come from international arrivals. The other twenty two millions people come other places around the country. While the international arrivals are down nationally, the local tourism numbers are up by over two percent.

This is not just happening at the home of America’s best barbecue either. Numbers for Oklahoma City, Denver, and Memphis also point to this same trend. In fact, almost every city that was looked at for the writing of this article shows that domestic tourism was growing while international arrivals was down.

While some are concerned about this trend, I am not. If anything, the tourism boards across America and on the national level should be focused on building the domestic markets more than the international markets. There is many benefits to having home grown visitors besides just the reduced concerns for terrorismRide the Ducks.

 

Understanding the dynamics of American tourism

It is not just the rich family that flies on a private jet to Hawaii for a weekend getaway anymore. A lot of the tourism goes on in the country is actually day trips. People who are just taking Saturday to go somewhere that they haven’t been. You multiple this by the thousands of families doing it on any given weekend and you have a lot of income being generated.

If Tom and Diane live in Kansas City but they want to get out of town for a day. They drive to Tulsa, Oklahoma early one day and come back later in the evening. They see the sights and sounds of the former oil capital of America and spend money there as tourist. What they do not know is Tulsa probably has a thousand other couples that did the same exact thing they did that weekend.

Branson is full every day of the summer of American visiting from across the country. Every hotel is full from people that are not from Europe or China but from Texas and Georgia. These people come more often and in larger numbers than anything we will ever get from Nigeria. The story of what happens in Branson is true in many other places like Pigeon Forge, Padre Island and Steamboat Springs.

What is surprising is a coalition of tourism executives would overlook the power of the American tourist and treat the industry like it is Cambodia and must rely completely on foreign tourism. The reality is that the United States is not like the countries of Southeast Asia and arrivals from other countries is not critical to keep the tourism sector up and operating.

Border Control

Keeping American safe does matter

One of the main reasons that America choose to spend their vacation money inside the country is they do not have the issue of security. It does matter. The concept of just opening the borders to anyone and everyone that claims to be want to be a tourist would be a security and ultimately a military nightmare. ISIS would love an open border to tourist policy. Just checking the box next to tourist can not excuse one from being vetted by our border control agencies.

It is an uncomfortable truth but the terrorist that were the pilots on September 11, 2001 came to the United States via Canada claiming to be tourists and for educational purposes. I am not saying anyone from the Middle East must be considered a threat to the people of the United States but I am saying that is a concern that we need to have and that should matter more than a few tourism dollars.

We live in a time of history that protecting our borders has become a major political discourse. It would completely undermine every step to securing our borders to just allow them to come in under the falsehood of “tourist.” What would be the point of building a multi-million dollar wall to slow the human trafficking down from Mexico if we just hand people from Mexico stamps who cry tourism?

The citizens who remain in the country for vacation will generate much money income for local tourism agencies than any amount of guests that come from Syria or Pakistan. One of the driving factors for domestic travel is safety, after all.

Am I calling for America first?

Some people would say that what I am saying is just President Trump’s America first policy. It is basically what I am saying. Our tourism is best when it is driven by Americans. As a country, we are in the position that can drive our own hospitality industry without relying on people from Kenya and Canada to make it happen. It is true that many countries can not do this but the United States is one that can.

This is not a call to close down the borders to tourists from England or Germany that want to come and see New York City or visit Hawaii. We have always had a degree of international tourism and that will continue. It is just to say the focus of the industry should be on building up arrivals from within the region, not from across the world.

I firmly believe that have a market that is mainly driven by domestic domination is the preferred policy of that any tourism board should have anywhere. These countries that have dependency on international arrivals for their income are rolling the dice and hoping to get lucky. My dealings with the Filipinos over the years is evidence that without the Americans and the Koreans, the whole industry would be broken tomorrow.

At the end of the day, the focus of this US Coalition’s report is just misguided and they are not considering the raw power of the American tourist and the economics that drive it.

 

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Cheap Flight to American Samoa?

One of the most common questions that I hear is about cheap flights to American Samoa. After looking online, people want to know if they even exist and if there is a way to get to American Samoa on a backpackers budget. The simple answer is not really. The complex answer is maybe. Read More “Cheap Flight to American Samoa?”

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KOA Campgrounds : Guide to first class camping in America

One of the ways you can experience America is by staying at KOA campgrounds around the country. They are normally competitive with lower end hotels for cabins and hookups for motorhomes can vary a little. I have found staying at these campgrounds to worth the effort. Read More “KOA Campgrounds : Guide to first class camping in America”

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Considering America’s Islands for a exotic vacation in 2018

America is 50 states and we all know that. However, what many people forget about is our territories and our freely associated states. I have traveled to many of them but most Americans could not even locate them on a map. I know of one man that did not even know where Guam was! Read More “Considering America’s Islands for a exotic vacation in 2018”

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