Category Archives: Tips from a local

Tips from a Local: Winfield, Kansas

TFAL is a feature where local residents give tips on what to do, see, eat, and check out while you visit their town.  Today’s tipster is Michele Boucher.  Michele Boucher is an English professor at the local college and part-time plant nursery worker.  She is also affiliated with Prairie Outfitters and Excursions, so check them out next time you are in the area.

If someone was in town just for a day, and wanted three really fun or interesting things to do, what would you suggest to them?

Picnic in Island Park,  Gallery 1001,  Wheat State Winery

What are your favorite non-chain-restaurant places for cheap lunch on the go?

Biederman’s Bistro

Which touristy things are worth doing in your city/town? Which ones are all hype in your opinion and are safe to skip?

Worth the price of the ticket: Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival, Kayaking/nature excursions with Prairie Outfitters and Excursions

Any special suggestions for visitors about clothing or footwear to be worn in your area?

Hot and humid in the summer

How is your city/town in terms of accessibility and acceptance?  Would you personally characterize it as easily navigable for a single parent with young children in tow?  For the mobility impaired?  Would you say that it is accepting of racial diversity and of LGBT people?

This is small-town Kansas, but because of the Bluegrass Festival (which has a national audience) and a local college, we are pretty accepting of visitors. We have a large contingent of former state hospital patients that live in group homes around town, so the town is friendly to the mobility impaired. We lack a diverse population, and you’ll find some people who have never left the county, but in general, all types of people are welcome.

Where is the best place to buy reasonably priced non-tacky souvenirs?  To buy kitchy tacky souvenirs?

Cowley County Historical Museum

What is your favorite day trip from city? (Out and return same day.)

Going to Wichita, to Farmer’s Market and Old Town shopping or taking the bridge tour. Also, kayaking in the local rivers.

What are your three favorite places in your city?

Campus of Southwestern College, Island Park, New library

Any faux pas to note?  Tips on how not to irk or otherwise offend the locals?

Ha ha ha–we’re Kansans. We would never let on if we were irked.

Please feel free to add anything you wish that I may not have thought to ask about but that you want to share.

The only time I would name Winfield as a tourist destination is in September, for the Bluegrass Festival. But you’re always welcome!

Tips from a Local: Traverse City, Michigan

TFAL is a feature where local residents provide tips for visitors on what to do, see, eat, and otherwise experience.  Today’s tipster goes by the handle “Modern Alewife.”

(Mod note: I’m going to embed all of these links later so that you just click on the name of the place and can get there – but that isn’t happening today.  Thanks for your patience. And thank you Modern Alewife for doing all of my homework for me!)

If someone was in town just for a day, and wanted three really fun or interesting things to do, what would you suggest to them?

If you’re staying in Traverse City: 1) Go check out the Grand Traverse Commons (http://www.thevillagetc.com) — where the former Traverse City State Hospital (i.e. asylum) has been turned into a gorgeous community with retail shops, condos, and restaurants. No visit is complete without a stop at Left Foot Charley (http://www.leftfootcharley.com) for a glass of wine or cider. 2) Take a brewery tour that gets you outdoors and moving with TC Cycle Pub (http://tccyclepub.com) or Kayak, Bike & Brew (http://kayakbikebrew.com). The beer is good and cold, but being outdoors in northern Michigan is even better. 3) Rent a bike from The River Outfitters (https://theriver.checkfront.com/reserve/) or Paddle TC (http://paddletc.com) and take a ride along the TART Trails (https://traversetrails.org/trail/tart-trail/). Ride along the beautiful Grand Traverse Bay from West End Beach to Clinch Park and then bike through historic neighborhoods to get to the Boardman Lake Trail. The six mile round trip takes you through wooded areas around the edge of an inland lake. When you are back the beginning, you can grab a beer on the patio at the Filling Station Microbrewery (http://thefillingstationmicrobrewery.com) in the historic depot. You’ll have a view of both the lake and the Children’s Garden at the public library.

If you have a car and fancy a short drive (shorter than a day trip): 1) Go up Old Mission Peninsula. There are breathtaking views of East and West Grand Traverse Bay, and loads of pretty orchards and wineries. Stop at the lighthouse at the top of the peninsula and check out the historic exhibits and the rock strewn beach. 2) Check the schedule and see if there is a show at Interlochen Center for the Arts (www.interlochen.org). Between student performances, the Shakespeare Festival, and a summer series of nationally touring artists, there’s always something to see at one of the nation’s premier arts centers. 3) Drive up the Leelanau peninsula and stop at L. Mawby winery for a glass of bubbly. (http://lmawby.com) Specializing in sparkling wines, they grow pinot noir, vignoles, pinot gris, regent, riesling, chardonnay and pinot meaner. If you have time for a longer drive, you can drive to Sutton’s Bay and shop in the colorful downtown, or up to Northport to see another historical lighthouse. You can also head west on the peninsula and explore the docks at Fishtown (http://www.lelandmi.com/fishtown/) in Leland.

What are your favorite non-chain-restaurant places for cheap lunch on the go?

In no particular order: 7 Monks Taproom has been named to Draft Magazine’s list of 100 Best Beer Bars in the country twice. In addition to their 47 rotating craft handles, they have burgers, salads “monk” & cheese, and all sorts of elevated bar food for reasonable prices. (www.7monkstap.com/) The Little Fleet (http://www.thelittlefleet.com) has nine food trucks with budget friendly options, plus a full bar and a great patio. Finally, Harvest (http://roamingharvest.com/harvest/) is a little counter service place in an alley with amazing food. All of the taco options are great, but the ones with blackened local whitefish are a true summer treat, and both the ramen and pho are on point. You should also order the flash fried “street beets” with wasabi mayo or the sweet potato fries with chimichurri sauce. There’s no bar at Harvest, but the food more than stands on its own.

Which touristy things are worth doing in your city/town? Which ones are all hype in your opinion and are safe to skip?

In beautiful weather, you simply can’t beat being outdoors in northern Michigan. For those who can bike or walk, the trails and tours are absolutely worth it. The breweries vary in quality, but are all worth a visit, and the wineries up both the Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas are always fun. The casinos are a waste of both time and money. Who wants to be shut up in a smokey building when you could be outside?

Any special suggestions for visitors about clothing or footwear to be worn in your area?

Comfortable shoes! You’re going to want to be able to walk along the Bay or the Boardman River (especially when the salmon are running). Comfortable footwear (like Chacos or Tevas) that go in the water is never a bad idea since it’s always tempting to wade in the Bay or amble out onto the rocks at the lighthouses. Also, bring a sweater! The weather can turn on a dime in northern Michigan, and we get lots of breeze from the water. Layers are always appropriate, even in July.

How is your city/town in terms of accessibility and acceptance?  Would you personally characterize it as easily navigable for a single parent with young children in tow?  For the mobility impaired?  Would you say that it is accepting of racial diversity and of LGBT people?

For the rural midwest, Traverse City is fairly tolerant place. There is a visible and active LGBTQ population. In the summer, it can be crowded, but it tends to be child friendly as it has been a family vacation spot in Michigan for generations. In recent years, the city has made an effort to become more accessible, instituting things like restrictions to the size of sidewalk cafes in order to comfortably accommodate motorized assisted mobility devices.

Where is the best place to buy reasonably priced non-tacky souvenirs?  To buy kitchy tacky souvenirs?

For both, the place to go is the Front Street downtown shopping district in Traverse City. The one way street boasts everything from cheesy t-shirt shops to two bookstores, a spice shop, a shop selling artisanal olive oil, several fudge shops, two shoe stores, and numerous clothing boutiques at a variety of price points. An honorable mention goes to the rapidly expanding Warehouse District (walkable or bikeable from front street for those with no mobility issues).

What is your favorite day trip from city? (Out and return same day.)

Sleeping Bear Dunes (http://www.sleepingbeardunes.com) is about a 45 minute drive and is one of the most stunning places in the country. (Even Good Morning America said so!) Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is a great option for those with mobility issues, while visitors looking for a workout can try the Dune Climb. Make a day of it, pack a cooler, and pick one of the many Lake Michigan beaches for an afternoon in the sun. (Empire Beach, North Bar, Elberta Beach, and Frankfort are favorites for our family. In Frankfort, be sure to check out Stormcloud Brewery which specializes in Belgian styles. http://www.stormcloudbrewing.com)

What are your three favorite places in your city?

1) Grand Traverse Commons (and the patio at Left Foot Charley!) 2) Hannah Park on the banks of the Boardman River 3) The Open Space on the shore of Grand Traverse Bay

Any faux pas to note?  Tips on how not to irk or otherwise offend the locals?

1) Don’t walk into a craft beer bar and order a Michelob Ultra. Read the menu. If you have questions, ask. 2) Park in the lines. Parking is at a premium in downtown, so be respectful of others. 3) In recent years some tourists have attempted to bring badly behaved animals into bars and restaurants under the “service animal” law. Don’t do it. A true assistance animal is well trained, and if you try to fake it, you’re just creating a problem for those with a need for true service animals. 4) Beer and wine are big in Traverse City, but that doesn’t mean everyone is drunk all the time. In fact, the locals would truly appreciate it if you would drink responsibly. 5) PICK UP YOUR TRASH. After festivals, the town can sometimes look like a garbage dump until our teams of volunteers have a chance to tidy up. Be polite and don’t contribute to the problem.

Please feel free to add anything you wish that I may not have thought to ask about but that you want to share.

Getting here can be challenging. We have an airport with commercial flights, but the sheer volume of tourists here in the summer can make those flights pricey. Consider driving up from Grand Rapids (2.5 hours) or even from Detroit (4 hours). You’ll get to see more of the state, including forests, farmland, and classic midwestern small towns.

Tips from a Local: Charlotte/Huntersville, North Carolina

TFAL is a feature where local residents give tips on what to do, see, eat, and check out while you visit their town.  Today’s tipster is LK, a librarian in Huntersville.

If someone was in town just for a day, and wanted three really fun or interesting things to do, what would you suggest to them?

I would probably go to the Latta Plantation and Raptor center and then walk around Davisdon and eat at the soda shop or one of their other eateries.

What are your favorite non-chain-restaurant places for cheap lunch on the go?

Soda Shop in Davidson, Phil’s Diner in downtown Charlotte, The Pickled Peach in Davidson, Fuel Pizza or Price’s Chicken Coop for the best Fried chicken I have ever had (don’t tell mom).

Which touristy things are worth doing in your city/town? Which ones are all hype in your opinion and are safe to skip?

Mint Museums, Rosedale plantation, Latta Plantation, and the Raptor center, and Carowinds if you like amusement parks. Skip NASCAR museum – it is overpriced for what you get – unless you are a die-hard fan – it has some interesting history of racing. If you like racing come during one of the big races. You can also tour the racetrack and take driving lessons and the drag racing place nearby offers times that you can speed on their track monthly – check out their information online. If you are a Billy Graham fan – the Billy Graham Library, which is not a library, but a memorial/homage to Billy Graham and his wife and their lives – the house was an interesting tour, but the barn was a little too preachy for me. Unless you have very young children skip Discovery place kids in Huntersville. It is great for those under ten especially the younger ones, but the kids will be bored if they are older. Discovery Place uptown has a lot to see and is a fun place to go and is right across the street from the public library. If there is a children’s show at Imaginon – they do a good job.

Any special suggestions for visitors about clothing or footwear to be worn in your area?

Seasonal – we have all four seasons here although sometimes all in the same week. I go from boots to sandals and back in the fall. I have a lighter weight winter jacket that I use a few times on the worst days.

How is your city/town in terms of accessibility and acceptance?  Would you personally characterize it as easily navigable for a single parent with young children in tow?  For the mobility impaired?  Would you say that it is accepting of racial diversity and of LGBT people?

It was one of the more racially diverse cities when we moved here and very accepting and still is for the most part with the exceptions of certain laws we do not wish to talk about and hope get repealed very soon.

Where is the best place to buy reasonably priced non-tacky souvenirs?  To buy kitchy tacky souvenirs?

The Village shop in Davidson has some really cute, practical things. There are also some cute stores/boutiqes in Cornelius. Kitchy stuff – airport or some of the uptown shops.

What is your favorite day trip from city? (Out and return same day.)

Asheville, of course. They have some of the best food and lots of outdoor and indoor things to do. If you have not been ziplining, Navitat just outside of Asheville has a couple of tours ($80ish) that have fantastic veiws. There is also the Reed Gold Mine which is great on a hot day as you get to go into the mines which are a constant cool temperature. And you can mine for gold.

What are your three favorite places in your city?

More like in the county – Walking around Davidson whether it is a busy festival or normal day. The Raptor center although I don’t get to visit enough, but they have birds that have been injured and are being rehabilitated to go back in the wild and birds that will not be able to go back because of their injuries that live there safely. The Blumenthal – Live theater at a fairly reasonable price especially if you are a student. They have broadway shows as well as smaller productions and include all of the local college/school performances. everything from the Symphony to local comedy. Oh, go see the Frescos in the Bank of America corporate center (Blumenthal is attached)- they are a sight.

Any faux pas to note?  Tips on how not to irk or otherwise offend the locals?

Locals tend to be friendly southerners. They say maam and sir. Talk to them, listen to them, just like anywhere else. And call downtown uptown or they get upset.

Please feel free to add anything you wish that I may not have thought to ask about but that you want to share.

Feel free to visit me at the library in Huntersville if you can find it.

Tips from a Local: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

TFAL is a feature where local residents share tips and insights regarding their town or city.  Today’s expert is Michele Radi.  Michele is a “proud Milwaukee commuter for 15 years, and  graduate of UW-Milwaukee, Ph.D in 2016. Mother of 6, including a special needs child. I also have a transgendered daughter.”

If someone was in town just for a day, and wanted three really fun or interesting things to do, what would you suggest to them?

Milwaukee Public Museum, Discovery World, Public Market

What are your favorite non-chain-restaurant places for cheap lunch on the go?

Downtown, weekdays, Food Trucks- Streetza, Taco Shack, so many choices

Which touristy things are worth doing in your city/town? Which ones are all hype in your opinion and are safe to skip?

All hype? Hmmm hard to say- depending n your interest the Milwaukee Art Museum COULD be considered “hype” (it was in a Transformer movie, BUT- it is amazing. . .I can honestly say that any of the summer festivals or Summerfest would be well worth the time and money spent. An underrated attraction here in Milwaukee are the trips offered at Discovery World- sails on the Dennis Sullivan ship, which are not expensive, and really awesome. The Milwaukee River cruises offered on the Edelweiss Boat cruises are amazing and reasonable

Any special suggestions for visitors about clothing or footwear to be worn in your area?

Good walking shoes, not crocs, unless you are going to the Lake (Michigan) then crocs and capri pants’shorts- so you can wade in

 How is your city/town in terms of accessibility and acceptance?  Would you personally characterize it as easily navigable for a single parent with young children in tow?  For the mobility impaired?  Would you say that it is accepting of racial diversity and of LGBT people?

It depends- the Betty Brinn is a Children’s Museum, very hands on and of course, child acceptable. Discovery World, also very VERY inclusive of both typical developing children and special needs (my son is autistic). I had a temporary mobility issue, sprained Achilles tendon, and found that my access to the Milwaukee Public Museum and Discovery World, was unimpaired. Racial diversity. . .sadly, on paper, Milwaukee is one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States. However, there are, shall I say, pockets? of acceptance, and they center around downtown. UW-Milwaukee and the surrounding areas, mostly Brady Street (Lower East Side), RiverWest (a neighborhood) and Bay View(another neighborhood) are VERY safe places for my LGBT sisters and brothers of any race or ethnicity.

Where is the best place to buy reasonably priced non-tacky souvenirs?  To buy kitchy tacky souvenirs?

Brady Street! Also, at any of the festivals held from June through September

What is your favorite day trip from city? (Out and return same day.)

Plan a day at the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Betty Brinn or all three (they are that close) snack at any location, but hit Alem for Ethiopian Food or The Pasta Tree for Italian, stop for custard at Kopp’s on Silver Spring- head home on 43

What are your three favorite places in your city?

Milwaukee Public Museum, Discovery World, Milwaukee Art Museum

Any faux pas to note?  Tips on how not to irk or otherwise offend the locals?

Use the term “bubbler” if you need water to drink that is not from a bottle (a “water fountain” is something in the middle of a mall that you throw coins in and make a wish)- and say something nice about the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Brewers

Please feel free to add anything you wish that I may not have thought to ask about but that you want to share.

Milwaukee is a great city- be prepared to see a ton of things, and if you venture past the small amount of information I have included here, feel free to look up Milwaukee Neighborhoods, this is a CITY of such diverse areas, each with a proud tradition. Do not be intimidated by mass media depictions. This is a Midwestern “big city”- you can stand in line at a store or shop and have conversations with people you have never met, will never meet again. . .and they will be awesome conversations. Frozen custard and butter burgers are huge here, as are ethnic festivals- if you come in the summer, goodness, look at your options, Summerfest, a music fest, is 10 days, starting the last Thursday in June, Bastille Days in July, Italian Fest, Pride Fest, German Fest, Irish Fest, Harvest Moon Fest. . .so many to choose from, and you will not be disappointed by any.