Best Midwest Travel Blog Posts of 2014

What is the best Midwest travel blog?  Well the best Midwest travel blog is hard to nail down, but there are several fantastic Midwest travel writers, many of which I follow very closely, all of whom have fantastic Midwest travel blogs themselves.  As I do at the end of each year, I like recap the top posts from those sites as well as my own, all focused on the topic of Midwest travel.  I write exclusively on family travel in the Midwest, as do all of the awesome writers featured below, and I have found this annual list to be a great way to expose readers to other Midwest travel sites.

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The list of the best Midwest travel blog posts of 2014 was tough to narrow down, so I have taken a different approach this year and asked other travel bloggers what they felt was their favorite post of their own.  They all choose their favorites for different reasons; sometimes it’s not about the most popular post, or the best written, but more about how they enjoyed the travel experience.

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The most read and my personal favorite post of my own in 2014: the best donut in St. Louis!

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Denver, CO: Denver Botanic Gardens

Usually ranked in most lists of the top 10 botanical gardens in the United States, the Denver Botanic Gardens are considered one of our nation’s finest botanical institutions.  The 23 acre garden is home to North America’s largest collection of plants from cold temperate climates, and pays particular reference to botanicals of the Rocky Mountain region.  Given its focused and unique collection of plants and the variety of quality special exhibits throughout the year, The Denver Botanic Gardens are one of the top sites to see in the downtown Denver area and certainly worthy of a visit from any botanical garden enthusiast.

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Denver Botanic Gardens

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Denver, CO: Denver Zoo

It’s one of the nation’s oldest zoos, home to the nation’s first naturalistic zoo habitat, and houses the most expensive (and largest) elephant habitat in the world!  Colorado’s Denver Zoo is located in City Park, minutes from downtown Denver and conveniently nearby the Denver Botanical Gardens and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  As a heavily wooded and well-landscaped zoo, the Denver Zoo is more than just animals; it is a nice reprieve from a big city and an excellent way to spend a Denver afternoon.

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The Denver Zoo

The Denver Zoo feels big, although at 80 acres it’s fairly small in comparison to other big city zoos (my hometown St. Louis Zoo is 90 acres; my favorite zoo, the Henry Doorly Zoo is 130 acres, and another favorite is the Milwaukee County Zoo at 200 acres).  It’s also a bit pricey compared to most (granted I am spoiled in St. Louis where everything is free), especially since reciprocal memberships are not accepted (which is very rare for a big zoo not to accept such memberships).  Those points aside, the Denver Zoo is a solid zoo filled with history, natural beauty, and several brand-new world-class exhibits. Continue reading

Rick Steves: “We gain understanding through travel.”

Over a year ago we canceled our DirecTV subscription.  We never watched it much anyway, mostly because we did not have the time, but partly due to the waste commercial TV really is in the first place.  Although we have watched a few movies since and have a Netflix account (and worthwhile programming like PBS are available online and at local libraries for free), I have not seen regular commercial TV since the summer of 2013.  This changed a few days ago when visiting a family member who had CNN on in his living room.

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Standing in the lobby of the CNN Headquarters in Atlanta

Perhaps it’s because I haven’t seen commercial TV or any news program in over a year, but wow, it was almost comical.  I watched for about 20 minutes, and found that the sensation, drama, and extreme urgency the reporters conveyed over every tiny news item (much of which wasn’t news in the first place) was laughable.  It’s also saddening, as people who watch these types of programs consistently will likely create in their minds an unfair and inaccurate view of the world, and ultimately be afraid of it.

But the more I travel, the clearer it seems to me: Fear is for people who don’t get out much. These people don’t see the world firsthand, so their opinions end up being shaped by sensationalistic media coverage geared toward selling ads. Sadly, fear-mongering politicians desperate for your vote pile on too. (Rick Steves)

One of the inspirations for starting this blog was actually Rick Steves.  I’ve always been told, and believe, that if you want to accomplish your goals or dreams in life, that you have to take specific actions every day to ultimately achieve them.  One of my favorite quotes is from Conrad Hilton, founder of Hilton Hotels, where in part he states “Success seems to be connected with specific action.”  I’ve always enjoyed traveling, and Rick Steves Europe is my favorite travel show.  It’s long been one of my dream jobs, to be Rick Steves on PBS, and so I decided I needed to start doing something every day to get closer to achieving that goal, which started this blog.  So Rick Steves has always been an inspiration; and that leads me to his wonderfully written editorial in the LA Times regarding travel, fear, and the media.

It seems that the most fearful people in our country are those who don’t travel and are metaphorically barricaded in America. If we all stayed home and built more walls and fewer bridges between us and the rest of the world, eventually we would have something to actually be fearful of.  (Rick Steves)

This editorial was not only incredibly timely, it is absolutely true.  Though many fear travel internationally, I know many that fear it locally as well, even in the Midwest.  Even in St. Louis.  That fear is usually unfounded, and if those with that fear would travel and visit the people and places they are fearful of, I’m confident that their fear would subside.  I’ve long advocated that travel opens one’s mind to people, cultures and ways of life different than our own, and that is one of life’s most genuine experiences.

The flip side of fear is understanding. And we gain understanding through travel.  (Rick Steves)

You can read Rick’s full editorial, in the LA Times, by clicking this link.

Visit Bentonville: Interview With a CVB

Typically known as the home to Walmart, Bentonville, Arkansas is quickly building a new reputation as a tourist destination home to world-class art, museums, lodging and outdoor activities.  The well-reviewed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened recently, garnering a wave of positive publicity as one of the most picturesque art museums in the nation; and in 2015, a new children’s museum opens!  Together with some of the world’s best hotels (including the 21c Museum Hotel, whose sister location in Louisville was recently named the best hotel in the world) and outdoor activities, Bentonville seems to be a top of the list family destination.

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Visit Bentonville, Arkansas

I recently interviewed Blair Cromwell of the Bentonville Convention & Visitor’s Bureau regarding Crystal Bridges, the new children’s museum, 21c, and the many family friendly activities in Bentonville.  It’s great to learn that many new exciting attractions are coming to Bentonville! Continue reading