Babcia (n.): Polish for Grandma~Yia Yia (n.): Greek For Grandma~ See also: wise counsel; life well lived; very cool travel junkies
Category: Travel With Terri: USA 101
It’s me, Terri! Join me as I enjoy the most that the US has to offer. From epic road trips to amazing weekend getaways, our country has some of the most amazing people and I can’t wait to share it all with you.
Alaska is one of the hottest destinations around these days. Road Trips and National Parks are the new buzz words in the travel industry. I think it’s safe to say that we are all going to be enjoying a lot more nooks and crannies of our country in these next few years as the travel and tourism industry dusts itself off and gets back on its feet. So, where do you even start? Well, when it comes to the ultimate American trip, I can think of no place better than Alaska!
I always say it! When we are out traveling the world, don’t just look at it, do it! And Alaska is a paradise for those who like to join in and experience things first hand. Whether you choose to visit by cruise, RV rental, tour package, or in your own mini-van, Alaska has something for absolutely everyone! In fact, there are so many choices, you may not be able to get to all of them. So, grab the kids and Grandma! Check out this great list of 8 of the most family friendly activities that Alaska has to offer!
Whether you know it as Denali or Mt. McKinley, this central point of Alaska and its surroundings never ceases to amaze! Once you are in the park, you can take on a hike on your own or jump on a school bus and enjoy a guided tour. Be prepared for a little ranger history and a few distant animals. If you’re lucky, you will get a chance to see the grand daddy of them all: the moose! This is definitely a trip to bring binoculars!
Step back in time and try your hand at a little gold panning in the shallows of the brisk streams that surround the area. Kids will love getting elbow deep as they search and scoop and dig for treasure. It’s a can’t miss!
While much of Alaska can be a bit overcast and gray, Glacier Bay sparkles! Learn about the glacier ice and catch a calving as the ice gives way to the water below. Watch the chunks of striped ice float by you and, if you are willing to get up early, you may run in to a pod ofwhales enjoying the morning light.
Whether you are a fresh water fisher or prefer the salt water, Alaska has something for everyone. I highly suggest a guide that will make the most of your time. Guides are also helpful in keeping you safe from uniquely Alaskan dangers like bars while you fly fish or whale bubble nets while you fish for salmon. Many guides also include the processing and shipping in their fees. Our salmon arrived perfectly packaged on our door step the day after we returned home. Brilliant!
For an enchanting meal, try out a salmon bake. These outdoor venues nestle themselves in the woods and allows guests to get comfy around a campfire. We felt like little pixie fairies could show up at any time as we made s’mores. Watch out though, the squirrels are onto the marshmallows and may try to take one or two!
Get ready to try out Alaska’s best sport! Dog Sledding! Having the chance to visit a dog sled camp is quite the treat. Most of the year, these amazing animal athletes are preparing for the Iditorad race. As a visitor, you can help out these furry friends by allowing them to pull you as they mush (you are a fraction of their winter haul). They are so excited when they know they are going to run! After that, socialize with the newest generation. They need to get to know lots of people in order to be successful on the race circuit. So, take a ride with the big dogs then go cuddle with the newest members of the pack- the puppies!.
Zip up your dry suit and get ready for the thrill of a lifetime! Alaska has some of the best rapids going and they are picture perfect in the Summer months. The water is cold and the great rafting guides will take you through some of the most beautiful bush country Alaska has to offer. Be sure to ask about the expected rapids level so that you are comfortable with the activity level.
Talkeetna lies in central Alaska. This quirky town is a great day trip and has an excellent zip lining course. With a super family friendly attitude, you can spend the afternoon, zipping and repelling to your heart’s content. The finale of your course is a great over water run that will keep your heart racing! This is my mom taking on the long fly across! So much fun!
It’s time to head off to the mountains and enjoy one of our country’s most unique small cities. Asheville, North Carolina is most famous for the largest private residence in the country: Biltmore. And while the estate should definitely be toward the top of you list, there are two or three other gems that make Asheville a well rounded getaway for anyone. We’ll get to our take on the Biltmore Estate later on but, let us tell you about the rest of the area. Look for Asheville to be a great drive from big destinations like Washington, DC and St. Augustine, Florida with times clocking at about 6 hours each.
The River Arts District
Winding through all of Asheville is the French Broad River. It seems to be a lifeline for making Asheville hum. These days, most of the energy centers on a few neighborhoods including the River Arts District. Full of plenty of art galleries and hipster happy coffee houses, this district is all about the slow down pace of browsing and perusing while you learn what all the local artists have been up to. There are plenty of riverside pathways that let you enjoy this little slice of the city and some of the best eateries call RAD home. Expect to spend a couple of hours along Lyman Avenue to fully enjoy. Other areas include Biltmore Village (for that Disney feel) and West Asheville (for the great eats).
Connecting with the mountains out your window
While the main draw to the Asheville area might be the big house up on the hill, the surrounding area has much to offer. And the river is certainly where most people start. Enter French Broad Adventures. With great trips like rafting and ziplining, French Broad has something for every age and stage. Our choice? Canyoneering in the Pisgah National Forest. This hybrid mix of repelling waterfalls, rock slides, hiking and more immerses you into nature and gives you a fresh look at an area that can start to feel a little over-urban.
We know! We know! You don’t think it’s for you! But it totally is! If we can do it, so can you! Listen in to our Asheville podcast to hear the ins and outs of canyoneering and why you should totally take up offers from great guides like Alerie and Aldon to enjoy a new adventure. We promise to help you feel brave!
Crown Plaza on Resorts Drive
If we have a pan among our picks, it’s this throwback hotel that has so much potential. Located minutes from everything and on lovely grounds, this throwback hotel is now best known for it’s convention business. The rooms are clean and well maintained but the outside is dated and just a little sad. Additionally, the facility offers no lunch service. While there are plenty more places to stay, many come at quite a cost or are not as centrally located. This may be a reasonable compromise to make an Asheville stay more reasonable when you argue with you wallet.
Listen, we are the first to tell you that we are not food experts or that our focus is on the culinary arts. But, we know good eats when we taste them. Asheville had so many hits for us that we couldn’t pass up the chance to tell you about some of our favorites. It was definitely part of the amazing experience that Asheville offers any visitor. Before we walk you through an epic day of amazing dishes, we do want to tell you about one big pass that we recommend. Tupelo Honey seems to be a reservations only institution around here but we’ve got to say, we weren’t impressed at all. The menu wasn’t too inspiring and much of the food was bland or not prepared well (read microwaved!). There are so many good choices instead.
Breakfast at Biscuit Head
Look for the line out the door. Now stand in it. You won’t regret it!!! Biscuit Head has mastered the cathead biscuit and everything that they put on top. This small cafe with counter order only knows how to dish out amazing dishes like fried green tomatoes and biscuits as well as classic full breakfast with biscuit featuring the very best bacon we’ve ever had! We are all about starting our day on the right foot and Biscuit Head certainly did their part!
Lunch @ Sunny Point Cafe in West Asheville
This easy, breezy laid back garden patio makes sure that you leave miserable from all the great food! From Peach Pound Cake Bites to seriously good Chicken and Waffles, there’s not one thing on the menu that will disappoint. The yellow and blue vibes ensure that you enjoy the laid back patio with plenty of urban charm. Look for plenty of signature cocktails and great service. Ask for Tessa for some of the best service around!
Dinner at Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village
Walk up onto the porch of this old school Victorian Cottage and get ready for a fresh take on some old favorites. The little house once originally belonged to the parents of one of the estate workers and now has plenty of nooks and corners to enjoy the great food that’s coming out of the kitchen. Look for seasonal southern twists on staples like the amazing charred peach and tomato caprese. The chef also ensures there’s something for everyone like huge heritage porkchops with cherry bourbon glaze and classic shrimp and grits. The best part? The lovely staff leading foodies through the whole dining experience. To finish off the whole evening was the over the top, don’t miss out, maple blondie sundae that our favorite server, Allie, recommended. By the way, Allie was totally the best server ever! This was a great choice!
Now, onto Biltmore and it’s 8,000 acre playground!
So, there’s this house. Or should we say that there’s this mega mansion that started to take shape in 1889? George Washington Vanderbilt worked with Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park fame to create the largest private residence in the United States. So, why should you go see a big, huge, old house? There are many many reasons and none of them disappoint. Basic tickets to the house allow you to go through the main gate house and wind your way through the property and park to either take a shuttle or a walk up to the main house. And what a house it is! 250 rooms including 43 bathrooms! Unlike many of its European counterparts, however, Biltmore touts an extensive amount of turn of the century technology while maintaining that old world feel.
The House Tour
Walk in the front door and be welcomed into the foyer of the Vanderbilt home. Take in the open conservatory and the grand staircase. Guests can walk around with a self paced audio guide and learn all about the formal, family parts of the house from the seven story great dining hall to the two lane bowling alley in the basement. Be sure to pause on the back veranda to take in the view that convinced George that this was the perfect spot to break ground.
Take in the “modern” art from masters like Renoir and Monet; both artists that Vanderbilt thought highly of. Then, continue understanding how this massive house worked by touring some of the service areas like the kitchen and pantries. It is here that you will see most of the state of the art technology that made this place hum. Look to spend about 90 minutes exploring the major rooms that the family spent most of their time in.
But, wait, what else?!
Now that you’ve had a chance to immerse yourself in the guilded age, it’s time to explore beyond the splendor of the big house and see how the rest of the over 80,000 acres worked and how the present 8,700 acres is now a modern day playground. The closest thing to the house are the gardens. But… maybe don’t start there. The thing that makes Biltmore well worth the visit is menu of activities that bring the entire estate to life. Look for three major categories to keep you entertained: outdoors and wellness, food, and cultural experiences. Here is a short list:
Lazy river rafting and kayaking on the French Broad River. The gentle current makes this perfect for all ages.
Horseback riding on the estate trails in the Deerpark area.
Archery and falconry lessons that turn back time and not only let you participate in the sport but also inform you about how these sports played a role on the estate.
Yoga and immersive nature experiences that get you out into the grounds and allow you to connect with this picturesque corner of Carolina.
Landrover trail expeditions that let you try your hand at navigating through the backfields and woods while learning how to use the dynamics of the car to become a better handler.
Mountain biking on the pristine trails that crisscross the property (which is a great way to explore those gardens!)
All of these activities are yours to book as long as you have a ticket to the house. And, it’s okay if the outdoor activities don’t exactly work for you. Biltmore has plenty of cultural experiences to round out your visit. They include:
Shop at the stable shops just next to the house with plenty of charming items that reflect the house and its history. The stable yard is also a great place to grab a snack in between tours and activities.
Rooftop architecture tour lets you climb and explore the different balconies and rooftop areas and take in the exceptional views over the house and gardens area.
Backstairs tour will give you a proper dose of Downton Abbey fun as you learn about the upstairs maids and the butler’s domain. If you are truly interested in the inner workings of the house and how Mrs. Vanderbilt’s maid assisted her throughout the day (it was A LOT!) Everything on this tour is not available on the extensive main house tour.
Winery tours and tastings are available in Antler Hill Village where there are some lovely shops and eateries that include Cedric’s Tavern which is named in honor of the family’s huge, sweet, good boy!
Painting workshops that match the current exhibit theme are available seasonally and well worth it to enjoy the experience and walk away with a little keepsake!
Immersive art exhibits featuring artists like DaVinci or Monet are installed for limited runs at the Ashcroft building and are a lovely way to connect to fine art. The Monet exhibit relates to the house particularly well as Mr. Vanderbilt truly enjoyed these modern masters.
Asheville has so very much to offer every sort of traveler. From the great food to the amazing experiences and even that big house up on the hill all contribute to an amazing getaway!
On the banks of the Missouri River lies Kansas City. It’s a strange situation in that it technically overlaps the border of two states. However, its downtown area, full of revitalized neighborhoods lies clearly on the Missouri side of the mighty river. So, besides eating that famous BBQ, what are the best things to do in Kansas City? Let’s dig in to our 9 favorite picks that make a perfect weekend getaway!
First thing’s first, you may be a bit confused on which airport to fly into: Kansas? Missouri? The answer is Kansas City Missouri and the airport code is MCI. I don’t who thought having two states involved in the naming process but he was simply wrong! Now that we’ve gotten you into the right airport, you’re probably going to take an Uber to wherever you choose to stay. There are plenty of nice choices downtown. And keep that Uber app at the ready. It will get you from place to place efficiently.
The downtown area is divided up into all kinds of great neighborhoods and it is easy to see all of the hard work that has gone into the revitalization of this mid west gem. At the top of the revitalization efforts are architecture from the industrial boom and outdoor art installations. This makes the entire town rather Insta ready.
The Library District
The Public Library Garage: You know us! We love a good library! I never thought, though, that I would fall in love with the parking garage next store! Kansas City changed my book loving mind! Jump into the world of books as you walk past a serious of larger than life stories that were once banned. The stone steps give you page upon page to perch on and enjoy the view.
The Fountain on Main and 10th
Right in the library district is this lovely throwback to the early 20th century. This lovely fountain sets the tone for the many fountains that you’ll discover throughout the city. They are both modern and classical in design and have become a point of pride for the downtown area. Use this beauty as a jumping off point to discover many of the hidden gems KC has to offer including lots of great art installations on buildings so get your camera ready for those insta perfect shots! Visit KC has all of the information about this beauty and more. Click here to get a free map to all of the fountains and create your own walking tour.
Just on the edge of the library district are 88 stairs that beg to be climbed. this laid back dive is a great break from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area. Head on up for drinks and a cool breeze that’s sure to put you in holiday mode. Big John’s has standard fare on the menu and full bar for plenty of rooftop vibes.
18th and Vine
The American Jazz Museum and The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum sit side by side in this area of town and both are well worth the visit. Learn how Kansas City revolutionized both jazz and baseball with such legends as Charlie Parker and Jackie Robinson. Baseball and jazz may not be your thing but let these facilities try to convince you otherwise. Fabulous installations and great times await you in both museums!
While we are on the topic of sports, check out the groundbreaking work that the Kansas City Current is doing as they establish and host women’s soccer, a sport that is growing by leaps and bounds! This female backed team, is right in the middle of it and the timing is just right to grab some tickets and cheer on these incredible athletes!
The Kansas City Power and Light District
Has plenty of restaurants and Insta ready shots to enjoy. Look to find great food in this area as you stroll around. This is also a great area to rent a few electric powered bikes to really enjoy the architecture and sites along the hilly streets. Check out Pedego’s Electric Bikes for more. As for that world famous BBQ? you know we couldn’t leave you without a seriously great option! Check out KC Barbecue for a great sampling of all the city has to offer.
Hotel Kansas City
Mid west architecture meets modern interior design at this landmark hotel that used to be a private social club. The lobby features a moody whiskey bar that’s perfect for a late night nightcap. Four floors up you’ll find the fully restored, two story event space with lovely stained glass and polished wood that gives anyone a trip back in time. Great food, great atmosphere and well worth the stay.
The Main Street Streetcar
As KC evolves and opens more and more to travelers and tourists, they’ve taken the time to invest in a little infrastructure. Enter the modern version of a Kansas City streetcar. Free to everyone, look for this light rail model to usher passengers up and down Main Street from Union Station to the main library intersection.
This iconic centerpiece of the city sits front and center as any grand dame should. Built in 1914, this great American transit hub has seen its share of events which means that its full of stories! The most infamous must be the bullet holes in the wall left from the assassination of mobster Frank Nash as he was being escorted by federal agents.
By far, our favorite stop in the whole city was this incredibly well thought out museum to “the great war”. While the memorial itself was built in 1926 but has since become our nation’s official museum to WWI. Enjoy the memorial and its views then take in the multimedia exhibits that explain the start of the was and how Americans wound up being involved in this world wide conflict. Find a cafe and a very interesting uniform exhibit to round out your visit. Located super close to Crown Plaza shopping, Union Station and the city park, it’s a can’t miss destination!
Enjoy Kansas City!
There you have it! Kansas City has plenty to offer for the perfect getaway! This great city has done so very much to truly highlight its history while giving a nod to everything that’s new and progressive about it. It’s certainly nice to see so much thought and foresight put into great city revival.