Travel articles you can use.
Top

Tale of Two Kansas Cities

October 31, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

Part 1: Whirlwind Tour in Kansas

If you’re goin’ to Kansas City (like in the song) you are headed to Missouri.  However, if you ‘re driving in Kansas City, Missouri and cross State Line Road, you enter the state of Kansas, but not Kansas City, Kansas.  That aptly named city lies across the river.  Got it?

Chateau Avalon in Kansas City, Kansas

Chateau Avalon in Kansas City, Kansas

I was thoroughly confused until my recent trip to the area.  I landed at Kansas City International Airport and then drove about 15 minutes into Kansas City, Kansas, aka KCK. I had been booked into Chateau Avalon, a 61-room boutique Bed and Breakfast where I found a tin man in my room.  Why Aunty Em, am I really in Kansas or Oz?

Actually the tin man was a knight and my suite named Camelot, but I thought the coincidence was far too wonderful.  The eclectic hotel, with a labyrinth of hallways, is chockful of posh rooms, some with kitschy themes like Egyptian, Hemmingway, Wild West and pirate. Couples find the Chateau a romantic getaway; a hotel where breakfast is always served in bed.  As for me? The tin man didn’t say much, but it was nice to have the gallant fellow in my room.

The tin man in the Camelot Suite, Chateau Avalon

The tin man in the Camelot Suite, Chateau Avalon

During the 1980’s-90’s residents of Kansas City, Kansas found their hometown in a downward economic spiral. Luckily, they got a break. Plans developed to build the $208 million Kansas Speedway that eventually opened in 2000. The NASCAR track spun magic, the opposite of a tornado, and the surrounding county surged with new business. Today, Speedway racecar drivers zoom around a 1.5-mile oval track and new road course.  NASCAR presents two main events per year, overfilling the 75,000-seat grandstands while creating lots of jobs to support all those fans.

Kansas Speedway

Kansas Speedway

For anyone who truly wants an enviable race experience, reserve a window table at Turn 2 Restaurant in the new Hollywood Casino.  You’ll get an optimal view of the race with less noise.  The restaurant serves American comfort food and features a heart-stopping dessert -phyllo encased brownies.  Of course, gamblers can play the slots, blackjack tables and roulette wheels found downstairs on the casino floor.

 

 

 

 

Phyllo Wrapped Brownie. Turn 2

Phyllo Wrapped Brownie. Turn 2 Restaurant

 

Across the street lies Legends Outlet Mall with over 100 restaurants and shops.  Statues and plaques honoring famous folks from Kansas are scattered throughout.  These include former President Dwight Eisenhower, Amelia Earhart, basketball pro Wilt Chamberlin and of course, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.  My favorite part of the complex was the yellow brick road, and yes, I followed it.

Following the Yellow Brick Road in Kansas

Following the Yellow Brick Road in Kansas

 

 

 

Should hunting and fishing be more your thing, visit Cabela’s. Even if hunting and fishing are not your thing, visit Cabela’s and don’t forget to take the kids.  The store is an attraction on its own including a Mule Deer Museum, aquarium, exotic taxidermy safari animals and lots of other critters. The average shopper spends two and a half hours and won’t leave hungry. Anyone want  a smoked elk sandwich? You’ll find one in the second floor deli.

 

Sports fans celebrated the recent construction of Livestrong Sporting Park, a soccer only stadium, and adjunct to the Speedway.  The venue is the high techiest park in the US and KCK area fans are die-hards. Sitting in the “Cauldron” is like being engulfed in the student section at a major college football game. Watching their constant cheering and waving of flags, banners and arms was almost as entertaining as following the play on the field.

 

LIVESTRONG Sporting Park

LIVESTRONG Sporting Park

My whirlwind day in Wyandotte County also included a stop at the National Agriculture Hall of Fame, a spot I didn’t think I’d enjoy, but…was I ever wrong. They display a machine that normally sits out in the fields.  Cows enter at will and somehow the machine mechanically finds and then attaches what I’ll call ‘milking hands’ onto a cow’s teats. The apparatus is programed to know how long to attend to each cow and then records the information. Very cool.

Milking Machine at National Agriculture Hall of Fame

Milking Machine at National Agriculture Hall of Fame

 

Kansas City, Kansas whirled such surprises, I felt my head spin like Dorothy’s house. It wasn’t quite time for me to click my heels and to go home, however. The next morning I was scheduled to follow the road back over the river to explore Kansas City, Missouri or KCMO.

 

Please return to read Part II of my Tale of Two Kansas Cities.

 

 

 

 


Kansas City on Dwellable

Happy First Birthday LEGOLAND Florida

October 12, 2012 by · Comments Off on Happy First Birthday LEGOLAND Florida 

Legos, those small brightly colored interlocking bricks, were designed as a child’s toy but many adults consider them a hobby.  A stash of Lego’s can provide hours of stimulating creative fun for almost any age. In fact, the company name “Lego” was derived from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means “play well”. Perhaps that’s why they remain popular some 60 years after their debut.

Entrance to Legoland Florida

Entrance to Legoland Florida

Florida unveiled Legoland, its newest theme park, in October, 2011. The former grounds of Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven were transformed into what I’d call “the ultimate world of Lego.” Visitors are greeted by life-sized Lego creations and entertained by an assortment of 50 family-friendly rides, shows and other attractions.

Big Lego Monsters

Big Lego Monsters

Miniland, a marvelous model village of landmarks and scenes from around the world, acts as the hub. The city layouts include buildings, bridges, lakes or famous structures made entirely from Lego’s–some with moveable parts like a parading band in front of the White House.

Miniland at Legoland Florida

Miniland at Legoland Florida

On October 15, 2012 Legoland is celebrating its first birthday and guests can join the party with a 50% off single day admission. In addition, a prize patrol will give away hundreds of gifts and free cupcakes for the first 5,000. Gifts include prizes such as: Meet a Master Model Builder, free Hero Passes for front-of-the-line access to rides, and free single day or annual passes to Legoland Florida.

 

 

Previous visitors to Cypress Gardens may remember the famous botanical gardens and Legoland wisely retained this beautiful serene space. (Hint to grandparents- sneak off here to get away from the crowds.)

Lego Southern Belle at the former Cypress Gardens

Lego Southern Belle at the former Cypress Gardens

The ever popular water ski show was rejuvenated and now features a Lego-Pirate themed performance. The chance to sit and watch under a covered amphitheater becomes a joy for tired feet. A forewarning — Legoland’s property covers 150-acres.

 

 

A few more tips:

The water park was added before the summer of 2012, but requires a higher priced ticket.

Tourists visiting nearby Orlando can take a $5 shuttle bus directly to the Legoland, eliminating the parking fee and drive after an exhausting day.

Purchasing tickets online saves money and avoids long lines at the entrance gate.

Gift shops sell all things Lego and I dare say every kid will leave with a new Lego product.

Legoland Florida has a free phone app for android and i-phones.

Debi Lander with Lego Darth Vader

Debi Lander with Lego Darth Vader

Park operating hours are 10am-5pm. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.legoland.com

Lego-Pirate Themed Water Ski Show

Lego-Pirate Themed Water Ski Show


Orlando on Dwellable

I’m Alive in the Dead Sea

October 4, 2012 by · Comments Off on I’m Alive in the Dead Sea 

No splashing. That’s the first rule when you immerse yourself in Dead Sea.  Even a tiny drop in your eyes or mouth burns fiercely.

A Dip in the salty Dead Sea

A Dip in the salty Dead Sea

I wasn’t worried; it was January and I’m a Floridian. Call me wimpy, but I don’t swim outside when the temperature hovers around 40 degrees.  Nonetheless, some do.

Empty beachfront at the Dead Sea

Empty beachfront at the Dead Sea

Israel’s Dead Sea isn’t really a sea; it’s a lake in the Negev desert, about 1,300 feet below sea level. That makes it the lowest point on Earth that’s not under water.

My first glimpse of the glass-like expanse came from Highway 90 (the world’s lowest road) as we drove beyond the Judean Mountains toward Masada. The water looked oddly colored through my camera viewfinder. In some places it appeared neon green and in others, electric blue. Undoubtedly, the water’s mineral content contributes to this psychedelic effect.

Masada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Masada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The bus drove on to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Masada, the ancient mountain top palace-fortress of Herod the Great. Back in 70 A.D. Jews fleeing persecution in Jerusalem joined fellow refugees there. The Romans made violent organized charges and attempted to takeover, but the Jews held out for two years. In the end, they chose suicide rather than be conquered. The site is considered a Jewish cultural icon.

Visitors at Masada

Visitors at Masada

Tourists enter the rather posh Masada Visitor Center and either hike or ride a cable car to the dramatic summit. (Watch the short introductory film first as it helps understanding.) Rising nearly 1,500 feet above the Dead Sea, the hazy views from the plateau seem endless and the 2,000-year-old ruins are impressive and well preserved. Stroll among some original enclosures and other areas and lookouts that have been restored.

Scenic view from Masada.

Scenic view from Masada.

 

On the ride back to Tel Aviv, my group stopped at a seaside resort. Only a few hardy folk felt like a dip, but everyone wanted to see the salty sea up close.

Salt Crystals in the Dead Sea

Salt Crystals in the Dead Sea

As I walked along the near empty beachfront, I passed crusty edges at the shoreline rimmed in white. These salt deposits were created when the water hit the shore and dried in the sun. The Negev gets about 330 sunny days a year, but this day was not one of them.

Nothing grows in the Dead Sea (hence the name) because the salinity is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. The mineral content ranges around 30 percent compared to 3.5 percent in the Mediterranean.  That’s known as heavy water with high viscosity (love that wonderful word I learned in Anatomy and Physiology 101). The surface air is also heavy from mineral compounds in the evaporating water.

Applying therapeutic mud

Applying therapeutic mud

The area’s dark mud or clay is believed to have therapeutic qualities, along with a soak in the briny liquid. The usual procedure is to apply thick mud all over your skin and let it dry for 10 minutes. Then, slowly walk into the water and float on your back. Swimming is not a good idea because it creates a splash. No more than 20 minutes is recommended or you’ll become dehydrated.

 

 

 

Mud Treatment

Mud Treatment

I didn’t partake the treatment on my January trip to Israel, but as luck goes, I made a visit to Jordan five months later. (Jordan is clearly visible from Israel, on the opposite side of the bank.) In May, I whole-heartedly caked my arms, legs and face with mud, chuckled at myself and then sat and baked in the sun.

Laughing at yourself is part of the therapy.

Laughing at yourself is part of the therapy.

 

Feeling rather prune-like, I slithered off the edge of a low platform into the water. I could barely keep my feet down. They wanted to pop up, honestly demanded it, and so, I let them. Floating on my back took no effort because of the buoyant properties of the salt water. As a swimmer, the sensation was strangely different, laughably fun and totally liberating.

Floating in the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

While in the water, I rubbed the mud off my skin, which then felt rather slimy, but in a good way.  My hands slid over my skin as if gliding over waxed paper. When I came out of the Sea, I could have recorded a commercial for baby soft skin. The experience brought to mind a costly spa treatment, but a free one you give yourself. Some medical experts say a dip helps those suffering with psoriasis and arthritis. Whether curative or not, who cares? I came alive in the Dead Sea.

 

Alive in the Dead Sea

Alive in the Dead Sea

If you go:

Israel: www.goisrael.com

Jordan: www.jordantours-travel.com

Bottom