3 Days in Kansas City: happy 816 day

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Happy one year anniversary to this blog!  In honor of that milestone, here’s the very first blog post showcasing one of my favorite places I’ve lived, Kansas City!  And it just so happens to fall on 8/16 day!

Kansas City is underrated.  You will hear me say this over and over again, but it’s true.  There is literally something there for everyone, for all budgets and tastes.  It has Midwestern values combined with a sophisticated art and dining scene comparable to any of its urban counterparts, but psst…it’s more affordable.  I used to tell people back in California that KC is a sleeper city (I’ve heard the term flyover country more times than I care for), but the secret’s out.  KC is having a real moment right now.  After the MLB All Star game in 2012 and the Royals winning the World Series in 2015, people have started to take notice of this city as a travel destination.

I lived in the heart of America for eleven years, so when I visit, I try to hit all of my favorite spots in 2-3 days.  This is a tall order because there’s so much to eat do! Of course, this itinerary assumes that you’re not coming for a specific concert or sporting event.  I could write a thousand posts about that (and maybe I will), but for now here’s my way to spend 3 days in Kansas City, MO (with a cameo from Kansas City, KS, too).

Click those red heels like Dorothy, because there’s no place like home…

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know before you go: Las Vegas (LAS), Stanley Cup Final edition

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Ovi here

The Stanley Cup final returns to Las Vegas for Game 5 tonight, and I’m hoping that luck will be a lady bing trophy to the Golden Knights so they can extend this series!

McCarran International Airport (LAS) serving Las Vegas, Nevada, is one of my favorite airports through which to fly.  There’s a lot to do here on a layover…like gamble!  I’m not sure I’ve ever flown internationally from here, but I would say I average 6-8 domestic connections per year.  It’s a huge hub to and from the west coast with 110 gates.

First of all, it’s fairly close to the strip (less than 5 miles), and it’s cool to see Las Vegas boulevard from an aerial view as you start your descent.  This part always makes me very excited.  However, because Las Vegas is very hot, both takeoffs and landings can be very turbulent.  This part makes me hesitant.  That’s Las Vegas in a nutshell.

The worst thing about flying into Vegas is that inevitably, one of your flight attendants will call it “Lost Wages.”  This is the worst joke, it needs to be retired.  Please.

Southwest, I’m talking to you…

The confusing thing is that it is split into Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.   There is no Terminal 2.  Not sure if David Copperfield made it disappear or what, but it’s not there.  Terminal 1 (concourses A-D) has a lot of domestic, but not all.  Terminal 3 (also D along with E) has international and some domestic.

I love people watching here.  There’s no other airport where the arrivals and departures are so bipolar.  When people get here, they’re ready to party, all bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  And then when they leave…well they look more like they’ve been cross-checked by TJ Oshie.

The security lines are always a bit hairy, and you’ll watch the TSA video featuring celebrity impersonators/Vegas entertainers like a hundred times, but once you’re in, there’s chimes and flashing lights and all sorts of commotion from the slot machines!

They have good fast food options, it’s easy to get from one concourse to the other (although from the Southwest C gates takes half your life).   You have to take a tram from the gates to baggage, but it’s quick.  The baggage claim area is huge.  Their rideshare waiting area can be tricky to get to (have to cross the street into a parking structure whose elevator levels have the weirdest designations)–random mezzanine level, huh?). But overall, if you had to have a layover here, it wouldn’t be a complete loss (unless you do get tempted by the shiny machines with the flashing lights).

Remember: ✈️ = lost wages to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = viva, las vegas!

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (good signs, it’s a long walk)

Convenience of security lines: ✈️✈️ (get there early)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (mostly fast food, great hours, and there’s Coffee Bean and Starbucks)

Bathrooms:✈️✈️ (always crowded, need more)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi available, not enough charging stations in the gate areas, but have designated areas that are always packed)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Gaming facilities.  People watching can occupy you for hours.  Only a few lounges (AmEx and United), some Xpress Spas, weird B list mall stores, no luxury purveyors because I think they want you to spend the money in their casinos instead)

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know before you go: Reagan (DCA)

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Well I was hoping I’d have this whole week to post about Stanley Cup Finals cities of Washington, D.C. and Vegas, but so far, it looks like the Caps are about to run away with this one…hopefully Vegas can make this a series, but if not, better head over to the nation’s capital by Thursday.

DC metro area has a plethora of options transportation wise, being our nation’s capital, with three major airports allowing for travel to this area.  Dulles, Baltimore and Reagan all feed our nation’s capital.  Reagan National is probably the least chaotic and most convenient. Located in Arlington, VA, it’s a quick Metro ride away from the city center.

As a hub for American Airlines, there are very limited international flights allowed to land here (must be from countries that have pre-clearance US Customs facilities), instead those flights go to Dulles or Baltimore.

Terminal A has 9 gates and operates flights from Air Canada, Frontier, Southwest and Sun Country.  Where it gets a little tricky is that B and C are split into three concourses. Terminal B serves Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue and United with gates 10-22, Terminal B/C gates 23-34 and Terminal C gates 35-45.  Terminal C is used by American and Virgin.

Remember: ✈️ = popcorn jelly belly to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = pear jelly belly

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (quick train ride from the city, traffic in DC can be bad so plan accordingly)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (it can be a long haul from the train station to Terminal A, like so long I thought I had crossed into another state)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️ (security is long here, but for good reason)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (Starbucks, of course, Chick Fil-A, Legal Seafood, Pinkberry)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️  (not the newest or cleanest)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, designated charging areas)

Amenities: ✈️✈️ (lounges available, it is DC after all; Smithsonian and Spanx stores–just in case you forgot your shapewear?)

 

36 hours in Cleveland: NBA finals edition

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How great is Lebron James?  Honestly.  As an observer of the game, having been alive (but maybe not as cognizant of greatness at that age) to watch Magic/Kareem, Jordan, and seeing my team, the Lakers live their best lives during the Shaq/Kobe era, I can appreciate the magnitude of what this man has done on for the game. 8 straight finals! I mean,   We are the same age, and I can’t believe what he can accomplish pouring his soul onto the court.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to get out of my car without feeling old.  The dude is defying age, gravity, odds, you name it.  Legend.

If you’re headed to Believeland, here’s some recs for a quick trip:

Cleveland rocks.

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day trip to Louisville: Derby time!

Derby City has a long, illustrious history of horse farms, and of course, the Kentucky Derby, but there’s so much more to the city.  It’s the hometown of the Greatest, Muhammad Ali, Louisville Slugger and great southern eats like Kentucky Fried Chicken. Come on, you know you love those 13 spices.

I only got to drive through this city, but the roadtrip through this part of the country is serene and beautiful.  There’s fields of bluegrass for as far as the eye can see and pastoral scenes of horse farms and billboards advertising bourbon distilleries and caves.  It does not get more southern than this.  If you’re coming from the South, you will pass Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, too.  Louisville sits on the banks of the Ohio river and for that, was/is considered the gateway to the South.  And in fact, if you cross the river, you’ll be in Indiana.

Louisville, even though steeped in Southern history, seems very vibrant and young, maybe in part due to the college atmosphere.  There are a lot of trendy coffeeshops, I really liked Quills and local chain Sunergos.

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My first must see in the River City was the Muhammad Ali Center, a cultural museum dedicated to Cassius Clay, the man who would become the greatest American boxer of all time.  This center has interactive displays, movies and even a boxing ring.

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There’s tons of paintings and art featuring him, including this gorgeous piece by LeRoy Neiman.

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It’s not for profit, and celebrates the life of a man who inspired so many.

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The center sits on Louisville’s waterfront, which features a large lawn and green area, with playgrounds, paths and an outdoor event venue.

Louisville’s downtown is actually larger than I expected, with the center being the KFC YUM Center, where the Louisville Cardinal NCAA team plays basketball.  You are in Bourbon country, so there is a Woodford Reserve Club in the arena, and just down the street is one of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, Evan Williams.

The buildings in the West Main District and Whiskey Row have facades in the cast iron revivalist style, similar to those in SoHo in NYC.  There are tons of art galleries and museums, hotels in this walkable area.  It’s also home to the arts district of Louisville, with the Center of the Performing Arts and Actors Theatre.  Inside the Actors Theatre is MilkWood, one of severeal Top Chef allum Ed Lee’s dining experiences in the city.  I wanted to try this place so badly, but it was closed when I was passing through.  Louisville has a ton of high end dining options: maybe you’ll run into Tom Brady at Decca or the Fat Lamb, you never know.

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Behind that large gold replica of Michelangelo’s David (not sure the reason for that), lies Proof, a funkily decorated dining room that features everything from catfish dip to bourbon pie.  And of course, they’ve got juleps, which you’ve got to try when you’re in Kentucky.

Just a few blocks down is the Louisville Slugger museum.  You can’t miss it, it’s the one with the 120 foot tall baseball bat in front of it.

IMG_7115.JPGThis museum also serves as an active factory and you can take a 20 minute tour where they show you from start to finish how the bats are made.  Everyone gets a free mini-bat, but just remember not to put it in your carry on if you’re flying (it will be confiscated).  There’s a wall of famous “slugger” autographs and batting cages, of course.  There’s also famous bats that you can hold.  It’s kitschy, but I’m into baseball, so I liked it.

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This was a super quick trip, but that’s a good starting point to your Derby weekend.  Even though Churchill Downs is the main event, don’t forget to explore the other amazing attractions this city has to offer.

Famous Louisvillians: Muhammad Ali, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lawrence, Hunter S. Thompson, Diane Sawyer, and Rajon Rondo (a motley crew if there ever was one)

Listen to: Nicole Scherzinger, My Morning Jacket, Patty Loveless and Bryson Tiller (Louisville gets more and more interesting as this list goes on)

Souvenirs: umm, Bourbon and a Louisville Sluggers — that should make for a fun night?

3 days in Portland

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Portland is one of the great food cities in the country.  Add the lush backdrop of Mt. Hood and the proximity to natural beauties such as Columbia River Gorge, and you have a perfect destination to spend a few days.

There are so many distinct personalities of the city, as depicted on Portlandia.  While maybe a slight exaggeration, it certainly is an amalgam of cultures and types of people. So come with an open mind and an open stomach, grab a pair of Portland based Nikes and…

Just do it.

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Mount Rushmore

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Happy Presidents’ Day! How better than to celebrate with some founding fathers: an oldie but goodie, 36 hours in Rapid City, South Dakota.

One of the first items I ever put on my bucket list when I was a kid was Mount Rushmore.  Growing up, it was ultimate symbol of our country, even more so than the individual monuments in Washington DC.  Even now to me as an adult, after seeing it in person, it still very stirring, very American, a grand memorial to our stalwart forefathers.  It’s certainly worth seeing once in your life, it’s beautiful country out there, with wide open spaces and plains as far as one can see.

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3 days in Tucson

IMG_7488.jpgA few years ago, for her birthday, I promised my sister that I would treat her to one of her bucket list destinations, Miraval Spa near Tucson, Arizona (it was one of mine, too).  It took a few years before I became financially solvent enough, but we finally made it.

Started from the bottom, now we’re here.

So, we packed our bags for the vast, arid landscape of the Sonoran desert to enjoy some pampering, national park sights and southwestern culture.  Listen to the Blink 182 song, that you’ll beat to death in Tucson, okay?

In the desert, you can remember your name…

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24 hours in Minneapolis

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Did y’all see that game last night? It was a classic, with the Minnesota Vikings pulling off a miracle last play to win over the Saints.  And since the Super Bowl is happening in Minneapolis this year, here’s a repost of the 24 hour guide to the city of 10,000 lakes to prepare those who are heading that way in February!

 

you’re gonna make it after all…

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