BASEBALL - Since the theme of this trip was baseball, let's start with the stadiums. All the stadiums were top notch, but here's how we rate them starting with the best.
KAUFMAN STADIUM, Kansas City, Missouri - Beautiful stadium with awesome fountains in the outfield for their signature feature. Very little to no overhang from the upper decks means you can see everything. Great employees and fans and some of the best pricing in baseball. We got seats just a few rows back from home plate (in the Dugout Boxes) for only $52 including taxes. The team is not doing well but did win the night we were there, the day after they fired their manager. The only other knock I'd give it is that it's out in the suburbs and you need to drive there. I wish it were downtown, but that's ok. Great wheelchair accessible seating at all levels. They just renovated the stadium last year and it seems brand new...I can't believe this stadium is around 40 years old! To my home team, the Angels...this is how you renovate an old stadium and this is how you include wheelchairs in your seating plans, not the Mickey Mouse way you guys did (pun intended).
BUSCH STADIUM, St. Louis, Missouri - Another beautiful stadium. Big, expansive. Many different seating levels to choose from. Many "private" clubs to sit in...we sat in the Infield Redbird Club along third base and had a food court with two full bars and gift shop that was only available to ticket holder of this section. That meant short lines, a very comfortable indoor area to go to if the weather got bad, and great views of the field from the second club deck where we sat. Again, accessible seating available at all levels. Great views of the arch and an easy-to-walk-to downtown location two blocks from our hotel. The most expensive of all of our tickets at $57 each...still a bargain.
GREAT AMERICAN BALLPARK, Cincinnati, Ohio - Situated downtown on the Ohio River, not quite as easy to walk to as St. Louis but still walkable. Great pre-game party atmosphere across the river in Newport, Kentucky. A small looking stadium with great seating at all levels. Our seats were halfway to
BALL PARK FOOD - Here, St. Louis shines with barbecue, about 10 different sausages to choose from (including bacon-wrapped hot dogs like you'd find here in LA), Asian stir-fry made as you watch, pulled pork, barbecue, dessert bar, and on and on. Prices are the highest for food and drinks we saw on the trip and the only beer I saw on tap was Bud, Bud Light, Bud Select, which you might expect from a team owned by Anheiser Busch (or InBev now). Craft brews were expensive and available in the bottle only.
Kaufman in Kansas City comes in second with a huge selection of different sausages and the best popcorn in the bigs from the Topsy's stands. Their funnel cake however kinda sucks. Other selections include barbecue (how can you not in KC?), pan-fried chicken, and cheesesteak sandwiches. Many craft brews on tap at reasonable prices.
In Cincinnati you basically have hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza. Pre-made grocery store sushi is available but I wouldn't touch it. Good beer selection at good prices (great happy hour, pre-game prices across the river) and for dessert, only ice cream and candy bars. Not the best food.
HOTELS - Drury Plaza at the Arch in St. Louis is an outstanding hotel. A real hotel, with big marble encrusted lobby and a Lewis and Clark Diorama fountain like you'd find in the theme park. Large and very comfortable two-room accessible suite with a roll-in shower and recliner in the living room. GREAT service and lot's of extras included such as hot breakfast, lite dinner and three cocktails a day per person, 60 minutes free long distance each night, 15 minutes free international long distance to Mexico or Canada each night, free wifi or ethernet high speed Internet access, and free soda, coffee, and popcorn from 10 am to 10 pm each day. There's also two reasonably priced upscale restaurants in the hotel if you get tired of the free food, swimming pool, hot tubs (indoors with a view of the river), fitness room, and guest laundry. Wow! What a hotel at only $150 per night.
At the other end of things, the Residence Inn in Kansas City was a big disappointment. The roll-in shower was about an inch above the bathroom floor so each time we took a shower, the bathroom flooded. There were tears in the carpet that housekeeping tried to hide by moving the sofa (we had to move it back to make room to fold out the bed). Air conditioner that didn't work (but they fixed it). Pool closed and the coup de grace was the huge, open air rock concert that took place 200 yards from the hotel...make that VERY LOUD, death metal concert which also filled the hotel with its drunk and chemically alterred fans. We checked out and went to the Drury Plaza in nearby Overland Park which was not as spectacular as the one in St. Louis but still very good and enough to be the second best hotel of the trip.
We also stayed at a very average and just adequate Comfort Suites while in Cincinnati.
BIGGEST SURPRISES - The Louisville Slugger factory tour and museum. Awesome, just awesome. If you have any interest in baseball whatsoever, you need to come here. It's like visiting the hall of fame...they even let you hold the real bats of legendary players such as
Mickey Mantle and David Ortiz.
The Truman Library in Independence, Missouri and the Brown vs. Board of Education historic site in Topeka, Kansas are both moving and important places to visit.
BEST FOOD - Gates Barbecue in Kansas City and the Hanover Pancake House in Topeka, Kansas were both extremely delicious. Five Guys had great hamburgers as well.
MOST INACCESSIBLE NATIONAL PARK (that should be easily accessible) - Jefferson Expansion Memorial Park (the Gateway Arch) in St. Louis. Chairs cannot go up the elevator (or trolley) to the top. Debatable as to whether one of the world's top architects should have envisioned that in the 60's, so that gets a bit of a pass BUT able bodied people can walk down a short staircase to the riverfront. Wheelchairs must make at least a 1/2 mile, unmarked detour to get to the bottom of the stair when a ramp could EASILY be installed on the adjacent hillside.
WORST AIRPORT - Kansas City International (MCI). I thought LAX was a bad airport...it is...but this one takes the cake. Usually, you get to an airport and go through the hassle of checking in and dealing with the ridiculous TSA security checkpoints but then you get to relax (if you have time) and have a bite to eat, get something to read, and go to the bathroom before you leave. Not here. Once you're through security, you find 3 or 4 small snack stands, no news stand, and a total of 8 toilets (4 for each sex) for hundreds of travelers. Not bathrooms...toilets. All the other stuff is outside of security so once you're in, you'll either have to go back outside or just do without. Most people do the latter. Awful airport (the picture above is outside the secure zone).
Of the three cities, the most fun was Cincinnati...or more accurately Newport, Kentucky across the river...with it's many restaurants, bars, and attractions including a pretty good version of a German beer garden. I'd also like to go back and explore Kentucky more which seems like a very interesting state.
Copyright 2010 - Darry Musick