Thursday, November 29, 2012

Around town in Key West

Key West has sure changed a lot over the years, and we were really sad to see Fast Buck Freddy's on Duval close, especially before Fantasy Fest and New Years.  Fast Bucks always did the best window displays on party nights.  But to be honest, we party less and less in Key West and instead prefer to enjoy the slow pace of island life.  We like have lunch at places where we can sit on the water, and we don't mind going to dinner at Siboney more than once a week.  We are looking forward to the construction at HOB wrapping up soon, due largely to the white construction dust that is impossible to keep off the car no matter how many times you wash it (such as our record five washes in a ten day stretch).

We've been reading in the paper about possible developments on Rockland Key, and after seeing two Five Guys Burger and Fries open up in Key West, we are optimistic about new businesses coming to the Keys.  Still, we were really sorry to see Albertson's grocery store close because they were open all night and had really good prices on the things we buy most.  So if you haven't been down in a while get ready for some changes, plus a big road construction headache.  But if you do happen to stop by Key West soon, you are sure to enjoy the slow pace of island life, and you'll see how Josh and Joe Travels!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Key West Fantasy Fest 2012 A-Conch-Alypse

If you like visiting the Florida Keys and Key West, you owe it to yourself to visit during Fantasy Fest at least once.  Fantasy Fest is the Mardi Gras of Key West with a week-long festival leading up to the Saturday night parade.  Key West was crowded this year during Fantasy Fest with most hotels reporting strong sales and sold out rooms, so if you plan to go next year and need a hotel it pays to make reservations early so you get a nice place to stay.  So if you're coming to Key West for the first time or returning and looking for a better place to stay, here are our tips for finding a hotel in Key West.

You really have two choices when it comes to finding a place to stay in Key West: Old Town or New Town.  Old Town is basically downtown Key West.  This is the area in and around Duval (which is the longest street in the world stretching from the ocean to the gulf).  If you want to be within walking distance of Duval and all the action, then a hotel in Old Town is your best bet, but if you want something a little more quiet, especially during Fantasy Fest week, you might be better off with something in New Town.  There are several really big resort style hotels you might consider.  We walk by several every morning near the airport that have great views of the water.  We hear the Best Western Key Ambassador has a great pool and and even better poolside bar, and this place is just steps from the water.  Places like the Key Ambassador are perfect if you want a great hotel with an even better view and have a car while your in Key West.  But if you prefer to walk or don't want to spend money on cabs or bike rentals, Old Town is probably your action.

Fantasy Fest has changed a lot over the years.  These days bead trading is virtually non-existant, and you'd better be prepared to see a lot of body paint, even outside the Fantasy Zone and even in the daylight.  We're always amazed by the number of strollers we see late at night during Fantasy Fest, so no matter how cool you are, our best advice for young parents is not to bring toddlers down to Duval once the drinking really revs up.  One of our best jokes is the toddlers sitting at the high tops in Fat Tuesdays, feet swinging because they can't touch the ground.

Want to make your Fantasy Fest a little more family-friendly?  First, plan to watch the big Saturday night parade like the locals.  Instead of jamming onto a packed Duval, we bring our chairs and watch comfortably from Whitehead on the courthouse lawn.  This is normally right where the parade starts to roll, so we see everything first rather than waiting 45 minutes to an hour for it to wind back around on Duval.  Second, look for events off Duval where kids will be comfortable.  A prime example of this is the Pet Masquerade and Parade at Casa Marina.  Plus Casa Marina is within walking distance to the public beach.  And if you are tired of watching sunset from Mallory, come watch with us from White Street Pier, and you'll see for yourself how Josh and Joe Travels!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kansas Road Trip 2012: Liberty Memorial and the National World War I Museum

We love exploring the Crown Center area of Kansas City, and this fall we had a blast checking out the World War I Liberty Memorial.  The memorial is most recognizable by its 217 foot tower but there is a lot more to see and do on the grounds.  Liberty Memorial is home to the National World War I Museum, which was declared by Congress to be the official WWI museum in the United States.  While the original memorial and tower were dedicate in 1926 by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, the museum  wasn't opened until 2006, the very same year Liberty Memorial was declared a national historic landmark.  Exhibits inside the museum include a tank and replica trenches so there is lots to see in the 32,000 square foot facility, and at only $14 for adults its a real bargain.

The National World War I Museum sits under the Liberty Memorial.  If you are in the Crown Center area or at Union Station in Kansas City, you'll see the Liberty Memorial tower sitting up on a hill and you'll just be able to make out tourist standing on the memorial plaza.  You'll need a good pair of binoculars to make out the people in the tower observation deck, but trust that those lucky people are enjoying an amazing view of Kansas City.  Liberty Memorial was designed in an Egyptian revival style and made from mostly limestone so it is truly incredible and on par with other national monuments you might see in Washington D.C.

When you go to Liberty Memorial, and this is another great stop if you have kids and are visiting Crown Center, enter on the memorial drive and park either on the drive or the nearby parking lot.  When we were at Liberty Memorial we noticed lots of people taking pictures.  Even two different professionals showed up with clients to do portraits on the memorial because of the great views of the Kansas City downtown skyline, so this is a perfect place to get some great pictures of your own.  Liberty Memorial is a really special place well worth a visit, and one of the best stops on the 2012 Kansas Road Trip for Josh and Joe Travels!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Kansas Road Trip 2012: Prospero's Books on 39th Street

After we ate dinner at Rosedale BBQ we decided to take the scenic route across town to Country Club Plaza and explore some surface streets rather than just cruise on the expressway.  As we traveled across 39th Street we came across Prospero's Books, and let's just say this is a book lovers dream!

Prospero's is right next to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City located in a really neat neighborhood.   Prospero's is actually in an old historic hardware store, so when you go inside be sure to check out the building and not just the books.  Try to find the safe on the first floor before heading down a super cool curved staircase into the lower level where you'll get to see the second half of the thousands and thousands of books at Prospero's.  Joe absolutely loves old bookstores and browsing used books so this place was paradise.  And we did manage to find a few unique books to take back home.  We stopped on a Sunday night and they were still hopping with a poetry reading upstairs.  If you go, there is a row of restaurants nearby within walking distance so you can find something to eat if you lose track of time browsing the books.  If you enjoy journaling or making photo albums like Josh, look near the counter for a collection of locally handmade books and journals.

One of the things we love most about Kansas City are the distinctive neighborhoods and locally owned shops and restaurants, so if you love books be sure to check out Prospero's in Kansas City.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Kansas Road Trip 2012: Rosedale BBQ in Kansas City

Kansas City is famous for great BBQ and this year we really wanted to try some of the local favorites.  Early in our 2012 Kansas Road Trip we stopped at Bandanas BBQ in Kansas City which is a chain restaurant with really good food but doesn't quite have the local flavor we love.  For truly incredible BBQ you have to go someplace small and local, and Rosedale BBQ has some of the best food you'll find in Kansas City.

Rosedale BBQ has been in business since 1934 and serves ribs, burnt ends and sandwiches.  If you are really hungry you might be tempted to go straight for the "belt buster" three meat sandwich, but trust us when we say that you will leave this place full no matter what you order.  Joe got the long end ribs with fries and corn nuggets and Josh got a burnt end sandwich with beans, and we got more food than we could eat.  Standing in line in front of us was a couple who are Rosedale regulars.  When Joe heard them ordering ribs and asked if they prefer the long or short ribs, we found out they'd been eating a Rosedale pretty much their entire lives.  So on their recommendation Joe got the long ribs.  He got five meaty long ribs, smoked to perfection, piled high on a plate of fries stacked so high Joe had to asked if the corn nuggets were down there somewhere.  And they were, down there somewhere, beneath the slices of bread, gigantic ribs and the pile of fries.  Josh's burn end sandwich was an equally big portion, with tons of lean burnt end meat piled on a bun.  The side of baked beans was enough for two or three people to share and were mild and tasty.  You order at the end of the counter when you come in, fill your own sodas and sit where you can find an open table.  We paid right around twenty bucks for all our food including drinks and tax, and we got more authentic KC BBQ than we've ever had in our lives.  Rosedale comes highly recommended, especially if you love ribs, burnt ends and have a hearty appetite.  So the next time you find yourself in Kansas City wanting a good meal, get off the beaten path and eat like king, or at least eat as good as Josh and Joe Travels!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kansas Road Trip 2012: Crown Center, the Link and Union Station

We first visited the Crown Center and surrounding area last year and we were amazed by everything in the district.  This year we went back, and even though we went on a Sunday afternoon when things were pretty slow, it is easy to see why the Crown Center district in Kansas City is still one of the most impressive mixed use developments in the United States.

Crown Center was opened in 1971 and is named for the crown logo of Hallmark Cards.  The Crown Center development, which is close to 100 acres, was the grand idea of the founder of Hallmark.  Today the Crown Center is home to lots of really cool attractions and a great shopping center anchored by Halls.  For those playing the home game, Halls department stores are part of Hallmark, too.

Inside Crown Center is Legoland, a huge sea life aquarium and several theaters, so if you are traveling with kids this is a great place to visit in Kansas City.  Crown Center is connected to other parts of the district by the Link which is an elevated climate-controlled pedestrian walkway, and you can follow this thing all the way from Crown Center to the historic Kansas City Union Station.  This fall the KC Union Station is hosting a special Titanic exhibit but the building is home to several really cool attractions including a planetarium, science city, and a railroad exhibit.  It is free to go inside Union Station and explore the building, but there is a charge for most of the special attractions.  Still, if you have kids or are young at heart, it will be well worth the money.

This post really doesn't go Crown Center or Union Station justice - you really have to go see this area yourself.  And save time to check out the World War I Liberty Memorial.  We'll have pictures of the Liberty Memorial to show you in an upcoming post, and trust us when we say that this thing is seriously impressive.  Plus it's where you'll find the best view of the Kansas City skyline for photography.  We've still got more to share with you from our Kansas Road Trip 2012 so keep reading Josh and Joe Travels!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kansas Road Trip 2012: Shawnee Indian Mission

Driving across the Shawnee Mission Parkway on our way to Country Club Plaza and UMKC we had probably passed the small sign for the Shawnee Indian Mission dozens of times over the past few years.  So this year we decided to stop.

The Shawnee Indiana Mission historic site is just blocks off the parkway and is a collection of historic buildings dating back to the 1800's when the mission was founded as a manual training school for young boys and girls.  Boys and girls at the mission went to school about six hours each day except on weekends when school was only three hours.  Girls helped with sewing, laundry, cooking and other duties while the boys worked in the farm and shop.  Bedtime was 8:00pm because the boys and girls got up at four in the morning.

The historic Shawnee Indian Mission site can be toured for just a few dollars a person, but we think their annual fall fair would be the best time to visit.  During the fall fair they have demonstrations, storytellers, crafts and even a play.  Check out their website for more information and look for more tips on great places to visit in Kansas City right here on Josh and Joe Travels!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kansas Road Trip 2012: Stroud's Fried Chicken

Stroud's Restaurant in Kansas City is famous for pan fried chicken and we love to eat with the locals when we travel, so it's no surprise that Stroud's was at the top of our list for a Sunday meal.  There are two Stroud's locations in Kansas City and we go to the one on Shawnee Mission Parkway not far from Country Club Plaza and UMKC.  We actually really enjoy the drive across Shawnee Mission Parkway, and we have a post coming up about our visit to the Shawnee Mission historic site, so keep reading Josh and Joe Travels to get a glimpse of the area before Stroud's started cooking up the best pan fried chicken in Kansas City.

Stroud's is all about pan fried chicken, and they serve it up family style, so when you go for the first time be ready for them to bring lots of food to your table.  The menu at Stroud's lets you order fried chicken to share, then get soup, salad, potato and vegetables for each person.  The first time we went we ordered separately and almost got more chicken than we could eat.  Now that we've caught on to this sharing thing we get exactly what we want and we both leave full.

The chicken is really good like you would expect from a place like Stroud's - really tender and juicy big pieces of pan fried chicken.  But if you've never had freshly made pan fried chicken be ready to wait a few extra minutes while you enjoy some of the best chicken soup Joe's ever tasted.  Josh loves the cinnamon roles.  These things come out of kitchen piping hot so be sure to save room.  Stroud's is super family friendly even though they have a great bar with big screen TVs to watch football.  The day we visited they had a big wedding party come in for a meal.  This place is affordable, too.  We shared four pieces of chicken and with tax and tip our bill was under forty bucks.

Kansas City has great food and great places to visit, so keep reading Josh and Joe Travels to read more about the best places to stop in Kansas!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kansas Road Trip 2012: Country Club Plaza and the Plaza Art Fair

We love Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, and we were especially thrilled to be in KC this year on the weekend of the annual Plaza Art Fair.  Country Club Plaza is one of the most extraordinary shopping districts we've ever visited, with unique architecture, great restaurants and apartments lining greenways and parks.  It really is impressive, and it's in Kansas City.

Country Club Plaza is right next to UMKC where we go to see the IUPUI Jags take on the Kangaroos for a conference volleyball matchup.  We could really go on and on about Country Club Plaza, but this year we have pictures to show you of the Plaza Art Fair, which featured over 200 artists, more than two dozen plaza restaurants and three live music stages.

Plaza Art Fair is probably one of the largest art fairs we've ever visited, and it was especially cool to see all the artist in their white tents lining the streets of the plaza.  If you are every in KC, don't miss Country Club Plaza!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Kansas Road Trip 2012: Moon Marble in Bonner Springs

A few years ago, Joe spotted a brochure for Moon Marble in the brochure rack at our hotel in Kansas, and on a hunch that it would be good, hijacked our morning to make a trip out to Bonner Springs to visit Moon Marble for the very first time.  This year, Joe went straight to the back of the store to the marble counters having spent all year waiting to buy another handmade Bruce marble.  And this year, Joe got two.

Moon Marble is a toy store in Bonner Springs, Kansas, that has one of the best selections of toys, games and novelties in Kansas.  But most important, they handmake marbles at Moon, and each one is uniquely special, two never coming out quite the same.  Going to the Moon has become an annual tradition for us, and this year when we pulled into the parking lot there was a big space blocked off for a bus.  It reminded us that they do marble making demonstrations in the back of the store, which is really too cool to pass up when you visit.  If you even think twice on skipping the marble making demo, just ask yourself, when are you likely to see someone handmake a marble again in your life?  If you can't quickly think of another time, then grab a seat on the wooden bleachers and enjoy the 15 minute show.

Joe has bought a new handmade marble at the Moon every year and loves the designs by artisan and owner Bruce Breslow.  Josh has a few crafted by Ernie.  These are handmade pieces of art unlike anything else, and you can get one for as little as about twenty bucks.  We love the Moon, but if you want to find out what an "end of day" marble is, you'll have to go to Moon Marble in Bonner Springs!