Travel With Sara

An Adventure Around Every Corner

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Three Midwest Day Trip Ideas From Minneapolis/St Paul

Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota are home to many people and there are several amazing locations nearby for memorable day trips. We have found three midwest destinations that we think you will enjoy. A little day trip can brighten your spirits and offer a new leash on life.

Stillwater, Minnesota

Stillwater Main Street

 

Stillwater, Minnesota is located about a 1/2 an hour East of St. Paul. This community is a river town that is bursting with history. Stillwater is the 1848 Birthplace of the state of Minnesota and is located on the scenic St. Croix River. We recently visited on a nice early April Spring day. The town had a sense of “waking up” as Winter had recently tried to exit.

Stillwater Trolley

The bed and breakfasts, restaurants, antiques and fun shops brought smiles. A stroll along the waterfront is always refreshing. Parking was abundant, but it was easy to see that during the busy season, parking could become an issue. I would plan to arrive early in the day to get the most out of a day in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Clear Lake, Iowa

Clear Lake is located two hours to the south on I-35 and makes for a fun summer day trip. It’s no secret that Clear Lake, Iowa offers some of the best water activities in the midwest. From boating to fishing, this lake is a happening place. While in town be sure to take a swing into the world famous Surf Ballroom & Museum. Here you will find some fun pictures and memorabilia that performers have left to share with visitors.

Beach Boys

And before you leave town, be sure to swing into The Barrel Drive-In, here you will find the best broasted chicken around! And in case you do not have plans for the 4th of July, I would highly recommend making lodging reservations a.s.a.p. to visit here!

Mall of America

The Mall of America is located in Bloomington, near the Minneapolis Air Port, and many local folks in the metro Minneapolis area have never been. So, here’s your invitation. Go and visit! This world famous mall is in the backyard of many that are, in my opinion, missing out. There are shops for everything you can imagine.Thrill rides, as well as kiddie rides all under one roof. And the beauty of this mall, the weather is always perfect! Where else can you experience shopping, unique dining experiences, an amusement park, miniature golf, and even an aquarium all under one roof?

Mall of America

So…. tell me. What are some of your favorite day trips from the Minneapolis/St Paul area? I’d love to hear about them. There are many amazing midwest destinations that are often overlooked and I’d love to hear your recommendations of where I need to venture to next.

 

 

 

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Cedar Point Opens For The Season On May 9th, 2015

Cedar Point is a roller coaster enthusiast’s paradise. If you love roller coasters, you will instantly fall in love with Cedar Point. If you are passionate about theme parks in general, Cedar Point will leave you with your jaw dropped. From the traditional Antique Cars to roller coasters of all speeds and size, you will find several attractions that meet your needs. Cedar Point opens for the season on May 9th, 2015.

Cedar Point Attractions

Rougarou (roo-guh-roo) is the new coaster for 2015! This floorless train will take riders on a legendary journey that travels 60 mph, while passengers feet dangle inches above the track and the murky water below. Rumor states, ” It Feeds on Screams. All Season. Long.” And I can tell you, the good folks over at Cedar Point, are usually spot on when it comes to describing their attractions.

Rougarou

Rougarou Ride Train (Photo Courtesy of Cedar Point)

If you are looking for a swamp like, fun roller coaster adventure, Cedar Point is where you will want to be this Spring!

What I really can’t wait to experience is the new rooms at Hotel Breakers. This hotel has underwent two years of renovations and I will admit, I am anxious to see the final product. I have stayed at Hotel Breakers several times and I can tell you, it’s a very nice place to stay.  It’s conveniently located near the park entrance and offers a fantastic way to experience Cedar Point and all it has to offer. Take a peek here at the newly renovated Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point.

 

 

With 511 Rooms and Suites, Complimentary Wi-Fi, Cedar Point Beach Access, Outdoor Water Play Area, and a Full Service Starbucks, just to name a few amenities when you stay at Hotel Breakers… Oh yeah, and how could I forget early entry into the parks? What’s keeping you from booking your stay now? With newly remodeled rooms, I have no doubt that Hotel Breakers will be booked solid most of the 2015 season, so do NOT delay booking your room today.

Cedar Point has become a family favorite of ours. It’s been fun for our family through the years. With so many fun opportunities, there is truly something for everyone at this mid-west vacation destination. Now is when you want to plan your summer visit to Cedar Point, so you won’t be disappointed to find your hotel booked. Book your room today and plan your vacation at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.

I’d love to hear about your favorite attraction at Cedar Point. With so many to choose from, it’s hard to nail one down. Personally, I guess I am a softie, I really enjoy staying at Hotel Breakers and walking out to the beach. Can’t go wrong with a beach, right?

 

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The Carnival Sunshine: What’s A Little Rain?

Cruising on the Carnival Sunshine is always a fantastic experience, even when the rain begins to fall from the sky. Cruising is unique in that a little rain will not limit you from fun! On our last Carnival Cruise on the Sunshine, we had some days of sun and others we experienced rain.

 

Carnival Sunshine In Port

 

When people think of cruising they often think of sunshine and the beach. Yes, cruises are often made up of those things, but a little rain makes things a little more interesting. Cruise Director, Jaime Dee, made sure that everyone had somewhere to go, with something to do around the clock. If you can’t find something to do on the Carnival Sunshine, you are not going to find anything to do anywhere during your travels.

LIVE MUSIC

The Carnival Sunshine has live music playing in several areas of the ship. From country to rock ‘n roll, you will find a style of music that fits you. The friendly servers will gladly sell you the “drink” of the day, as well as a drink of your choice. If dancing is your thing, there will be an opportunity to try out some of your grooves. Rain or shine, the music plays on.

SHORE EXCURSIONS

Depending on your port of call, your shore excursion may or may not go on. By booking your shore excursion through Carnival Cruise Lines, you will know when your excursion is cancelled and what your other options may be. We arrived in St. Thomas on a very rainy day. Several cruisers had their excursions cancelled and spent the afternoon in the port area. We had planned on checking out St. Thomas by foot, so we had not booked an excursion.

 

Rain In St Thomas

 

However, we did get caught in a heavy downpour and were pleasantly greeted with warm towels upon returning to the Carnival Sunshine!

FINE DINING

Several options await you in regards to fine dining. If you find you are looking for that extra fun, due to the rain- go ahead, book that fine dining experience! Your spirits will quickly be lifted. I would highly recommend the Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse and then head right across the hall to get ready for some fun in the Piano Bar.

PIZZA

Pizza on Sunshine

 

Pizza lovers will love the fact that pizza is available from 11 am- 11 pm. Rain or shine, you can always count on a hot slice of pizza.

GAME ROOM

The Kids Club and Game Room will keep kids entertained for hours on end. Take advantage of this opportunity while cruising, as your kids will have a blast. The Carnival Sunshine is not only an adult friendly ship, but also one of the best family oriented ships in the fleet.

Do you love taking photos? Cruising on the Carnival Sunshine, in any type of weather, offers amazing photo opportunities.

St. Thomas Rain

 

A little Caribbean Sunshine, as well as a little rain can make for some amazing photos. So, tell me…. Have you experienced a cruise in the rain? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience.

*We paid for our own cruise. A thank you to Carnival Cruise Lines for providing wi-fi so we could stay connected.

 

 

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Tips For Navigating The New Orleans Cruise Terminal Area

Cruising out of New Orleans

 

We recently cruised out of New Orleans on the Carnival Dream and found the area to be a challenge to navigate. We quickly learned that the cruise terminal area in New Orleans is quite small. The best advice I can give someone cruising out of New Orleans that is driving to the cruise terminal, is to arrive early and pack your patience. This was the first time that we had ever driven to any cruise terminal to park for the week, so it was a whole new experience for us.

We arrived near the New Orleans Cruise Terminal area around 10:00 a.m.. We were officially checked in for our Carnival Cruise by noon. The signage near the port area was not easy to see, as there were several semis blocking the signs that we needed to view. So, we found ourselves in “turn only” lanes when we needed to be in the other lane. There were police officers directing traffic which did help, but we found it frustrating to be in the “wrong” lane when we had no idea that we were in the “wrong” lane. We asked the police officer which lanes we needed to be in up ahead, which did save us some added agony.

We pulled into the parking garage and were relieved. Once you arrive here, you are pretty much set. Follow the signs through the Cruise Terminal, as they will guide you through security and all the necessary check points. Are you checking bags? Make sure your bags are ready upon your entry to the parking garage, You will not see your checked luggage until much later in the day. This is why you will want to pack your medicines and any other necessities in a carry on bag that is easy to take up and down escalators.

One week later you will get to do this whole process all over! We did have a long wait getting through Customs and were eventually reunited with our vehicle and sunglasses that sat here the whole week!

 

sungasses on truck

 

Exiting the parking garage was an experience in itself. Again, we found ourselves in a “turn only” lane. We kindly asked a police officer how to get out of the area and he stopped traffic to send us to the lane we needed to be in.

We have never spent much time in New Orleans and thought it would be fun to find an authentic New Orleans Restaurant. We did not have to look far. We turned left out of the Cruise Terminal area and found Mulate’s.

 

Mulate's New Orleans

 

We walked through the front door and were greeted with a family, friendly dining area.

 

Dining Room Mulate's

 

We were looking for some authentic New Orleans food and we were pleased with what we found. We found amazing cajun food. The gumbo and cat fish were cajun tasting all the way- and delicious!

 

Mulate's cajun food

 

Mulate’s offered the perfect original cajun meal while in New Orleands. It was close to the cruise terminal and offered a lot of convenient parking, which was right across from the restaurant and 1 1/2 blocks from the cruise terminal. This cajun tasting meal hit the spot with our family, and gave us a quick bite of New Orleans before we headed to the beaches of the Alabama Coastline. 

 

My family and I paid for our own meal and I am looking forward to spending more time in New Orleans, as it looked like a fun place to explore. Cruising out of New Orleans was definitely a challenge, but you know what? I would do it all again tomorrow! Have you cruised out of New Orleans? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience in the New Orleans cruise terminal area?

 

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Clear Lake, Iowa + Air Choice One + Chicago = Fun Travel

Clear Lake, Iowa is home to family fun all year around. With spring here in North Iowa, families will begin to swarm in for warm weather fun. If you and your family are beach enthusiasts you will quickly embrace Clear Lake and all it has to offer. From the beaches to all the fun you can imagine on a lake, Clear Lake is a fantastic MidWest travel destination. And in case you don’t know, Clear Lake is located about 30 miles South of the Iowa/Minnesota Border, right off of I-35.

4th of July Clear Lake

 

This family friendly community happens to be in my back yard. I live approximately 15 miles South East of Clear Lake. I grew up on the lake, as our boys did. We boated a lot while our boys were younger. We not only enjoyed boating, but we enjoyed fishing and water skiing. Clear lake is a community that will welcome you with open arms.

The world famous Surf Ballroom is also in Clear Lake. With events and concerts happening on a regular basis, chances are you will be able to take one in while you are in town. Buddy Holly enthusiasts will want to make a trek out to the “Crash Site.” This memorial is a little off the beaten path, but well worth the short hike!

 

Buddy Holly Glasses

 

This charming town in North Iowa is one that will take you back to some of the quieter times of your life. There are people in the area, but it is possible to find your own little peace and quiet while visiting Clear Lake.  Do you want to know more about Clear Lake, Iowa? I’d encourage you to sign up to receive Clear Lake’s Visitors Guide, as you will be happy you did! Once you arrive in Clear Lake be sure to stop into the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce Office, located at 205 Main Avenue, to check out the fun memorabilia that is available for purchase as well as a place to have your questions answered. Oh yeah… are you a bicycle enthusiast? They even have bicycles for rent- go for it!

Myself and several other North Iowa Bloggers are gearing up for a fun trip with Clear Lake Tourism Director, Libbey Patton and Air Choice One. We will be venturing to Chicago and invite you to follow along with us. We hope to find people in Chicago with ties to Clear Lake. How many people do you think we will find? I can’t wait to find out… stay tuned, as a fun little getaway with folks from North Iowa is just a little over a month away.

Be sure to follow Clear Lake, Iowa on Facebook and Twitter for all the day to day happenings in Clear Lake. For fun stories on events in the area, read Clear Lake Iowa’s Tourism Blog.

* A special thank you to Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce and Tourism for working with the North Iowa Bloggers. Myself and several other bloggers are gearing up for a fun adventure that will showcase Clear Lake, Air Choice One and how easy it is to travel to and from Chicago.

 

 

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Hilton Garden Inn Gulport Airport Hotel: Gulfport, Mississippi

Hilton Garden Inn Airport Gulfport

 

I have found Hilton Garden Inn Hotels to be very nice and super welcoming for folks like me, the business traveler. The Hilton Garden Inn Hotel located near the airport in Gulfport, Mississippi did not disappoint. Great customer service and a smile was what I received upon my arrival.

The business center was absolutely the best. It seems every time that I stay at a Hilton Garden Inn Hotel the business centers get bigger and better. It may have been that I had been cruising for seven days and needed to play catch up. I had e-mails to send and a couple documents to scan. The equipment in this business center met my needs and I would add, it was nice to work in a great office environment with state of the art office equipment.

 

 

Office At Hilton Garden Inn Gulfport

 

The Gulfport, Mississippi Airport is directly across the road from the Hilton Garden Inn Airport property in Gulfport, Mississippi. We did not hear airplanes all night long, so I can tell you that this hotel was also a good one for sleeping. There are not any fast food restaurants nearby, but I can tell you that the American Grill Restaurant served us a wonderful meal at supper time.

And if you are longing for the beach and wonderful view, it’s just a few miles down the road and this is what you will find!

 

Beach in Gulfport

 

The nice thing about the road that runs along the beaches along the coastline near Gulfport was the fact that there were several places to park alongside the road with park benches nearby. Look at that fine sand. I don’t know about you, but I love a nice beach on any given day of the year.

A swimming pool, fitness center, laundromat and snack shop were some of the other amenities that the Hilton Garden Inn Airport Gulfport, Mississippi Hotel had to offer. I would highly recommend this property for someone looking for a clean place to stay that offers a lot of amenities that todays busy traveler wants. Thank you to the Garden Inn Hotel in Gulfport, Mississippi for providing me a wonderful place to call home for a night. I look forward to a return visit, as I had less than 12 hours to spend in the area on this particular get-a-way.

* I did receive a reduced press rate for my one night stay. As always, the opinions expressed here are mine and nobody else’s.

 

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Wilmington, North Carolina Offers Spring Fun For Visitors Along This Coastal Community

I had a whirlwind of a one day visit to Wilmington, North Carolina last summer and I thought I’d share all of the fun things they have planned for spring 2015. Spring is a wonderful time for travel and spring has arrived in Wilmington. Normal spring temps are in the 60s and 70s. Wilmington is surrounded by water, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Cape Fear River to the west and the Intracoastal Waterway and marshes, lakes and creeks in between. Wilmington and Island Beaches provides one destination with four distinctive coastal settings. From the river to the sea there are parks and gardens in bloom, and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities for hiking, cycling, paddling, surfing, fishing and golfing.

Before you begin the planning process to visit Wilmington, North Carolina, be sure download the 2015 Official Visitors Guide for Wilmington, North Carolina’s historic river district and island beaches. It’s important to note that Wilmington, NC was recently voted the #1 Best American Riverfront in (USA Today/ 10 Best Reader’s Choice Awards).

Visit Wilmington

 

Spring welcomes several signature events, beginning with the 67th annual North Carolina Azalea Festival (April 8-12; the North Carolina Azalea Festival) with associated events that include the Cape Fear Garden Club’s Azalea Garden Tour (April 10-12) and the Azalea Historic Home Tour (April 11-12).

Azalea

 

Island events include the Pleasure Island Chowder Cook Off /Waterman Ocean Festival/ Wrightsville Beach SUP Surfing Pro-Am, a 2-day Standup Surf event (April 17-19).

Spring fun continues in Wilmington, North Carolina right into the month of May. The Wilmington Wine and Food Festival will be held May 1-3 at the Bellamy Mansion. I was fortunate to tour this gorgeous mansion while I was in Wilmington, and it’s truly an amazing property. Throw in food and wine with a beautiful historical building, you will have an epic event.

Bellamy Mansion

May wraps up with the Orange Street Arts Fest in Wilmington (May 23-24). Visitors seeking a Hollywood East experience will enjoy spring/summer weekend tours of EUE/Screen Gems Studios, which resumed the end of March with sets from the CBS series “Under the Dome” and ABC’s “Secret Lies”.

Wilmington, North Carolina is also relatively easy to get to. Wilmington’s Historic River District and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach are a convenient drive along major highways, including I-40 and U.S. 74, both with easy access from I-95. I arrived by car from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and the Historic River District was easy to get to. I flew out of the Wilmington International Airport (ILM) to head home. The airport was smaller and super easy to navigate through.

Wilmington Flight

 

This is just a quick glimpse of what Wilmington, North Carolina has to offer. Plan your get-a-way to day. Trust me, once you visit Wilmington, NC, you will not be disappointed. Have you visited this gorgeous coastal town along the Carolina Coast? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

*A special Thank You to the Wilmington CVB for hosting me for the day.

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The Best Beaches In The U.S. Are Along The Alabama Coastline

Alabama Beaches

My travels the past few months have taken me a lot of amazing places. I do have to share, the best beaches I have found over the course of the last year have been on the shores of Alabama. Have you visited Orange Beach or Gulf Shores, Alabama? These communities are home to some of the nicest, finest beaches you will find anywhere. I had the opportunity to travel to Grand Turk in November and you know what? The beaches in Alabama were cleaner and nicer! There are beaches in the United States that offer amazing views and great sand. The best part? You don’t have to wait in the long lines to return to the U.S. through Customs.

The wildlife is also pretty amazing off of Alabama’s Gulf Coast. During my time in the area, I did not see a dolphin, but I saw several birds that were fun to watch.

Bird on beach

Fisherman were reeling in fish all along the Alabama Coastline, as well. The beaches of Alabama Gulf Shores were easy to access by foot. You do have to walk a little ways (some places further than others) to access the beach.  And if you stay at The Beach Club, you will have instant beach access. And I might add, The Beach Club offers all the amenities that you need to keep you happy your whole stay!

Make sure you get up early to see sunrise on the beach.

Sunrise on Beach

There’s something magical about a sunrise along the shores of the Alabama Coastline. And then there is sunset. Make sure you don’t have supper plans to keep you away from the gorgeous sunsets!

While walking the beaches of the Alabama Coastline I can honestly say that I never had to dodge trash on the beach. The beaches were clean and safe for kids to play around in. There were also several volleyball nets along the beach, so be prepared to join in a pick up game of volleyball.

If you are looking for a family friendly beach, the Alabama Coast is your go to beach. And if you are into adventure, don’t forget to try out the Hummingbird Ziplining Course which gives you a birds eye view of the beach. I can’t wait to return to the beautiful beaches that make up the Alabama Coastine, as they are simply amazing!

* Thank you to The Beach Club, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores Alabama for hosting us.

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April MidWest Travel Chat Featuring Hendricks County Indiana- #MWTravel

The Walking Tourists and I are so excited to share the fun that we will be talking about at our April #MWTravel Chat. We will be introducing you to Hendricks County Indiana on April 1, 2015 (no fooling). If you’d like to take a glimpse of what’s going on in Hendricks County, just head to twitter and search #InHendricks.

I have personally visited Hendricks County and it offered a lot of fun and history. I visited during the holidays, so all of the stores and streets were decked out for Christmas. I do need to get back to Hendricks County during the summer as they have so much to offer! From The Splash Island Family Waterpark to the Mayberry Cafe- Hendricks County has you and your family covered when it comes to fun times.

Mayberry Car

If you are a new Twitter Chat participant, here’s a step by step guide to follow on how to participate.

WHEN:  April 1 , 2015 11 am- Noon (CST)/ Noon -1 pm (EST)

WHO:  Hosts @walkingtourists  @travelwithsara  @HendricksCounty  (Follow these Hosts on Twitter)

WHAT:  Monthly #MWTravel Chat Featuring Hendricks County Indiana

HOW TO JOIN: Follow the hashtags #MWTravel  and  #InHendricks

And check out the amazing list of prizes that you have the opportunity to win, just by hopping on Twitter and having a conversation with us.

PRIZES

         Splash Island Family Waterpark package – Swag from the waterpark including free admission passes, a Splash Island towel and other promotional materials.

        Two (2) tickets to the April 24th Lucas Oil Raceway Stock Car Series Race presented by Visit Hendricks County, including access to the Visit Hendricks County Suite, a parking pass, food and beverages.

       Visit Hendricks County Swag Bag – A Visit Hendricks County cinch sack filled with a variety of promotional items including coffee mug, phone screen cleaner, lint brush, koozies, chip clip, manicure set, etc.

        Another two (2) tickets to the April 24th Lucas Oil Raceway Stock Car Series Race presented by Visit Hendricks County, including access to the Visit Hendricks County Suite, a parking pass, food and beverages.

         Rural Routes To Main Street Cultural Trail package – $25 Perillo’s Pizzeria gift certificate, $20 uPaint Pottery Studio gift certificate and a Rural Routes bottle opener.

        $25 Mayberry Cafe gift certificate

 

To be eligible to win prizes, you must:

Have at least one tweet in the Twitter Chat from 11 am – Noon (CST)/ Noon – 1 pm  (EST) on April 1, 2015.

I love everything about Hendricks County Indiana and I am so excited that they have partnered with The Walking Tourists and Travel With Sara to bring all of this to you through Twitter. See you on April 1st on Twitter! Be sure to use the Hashtag #MWTravel

Thank you Hendricks County for partnering with us. It’s always a pleasure to showcase the awesomeness that we have in the MidWest!

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Mary Jane Burgers & Brew In Perryville, Missouri Scores a 10

On a recent road trip from Iowa to New Orleans, we stumbled on one of the most memorable ( in a good way) restaurants on the planet. While traveling between St. Louis and Cape Girardeau, Mo on I-55, we were getting hungry! Mary Jane Burgers and Brew in Perryville, Missouri is where we landed- 102 North Jackson Street to be exact.

This restaurant was not located right on I-55, it was a short drive off of the main drag but well worth it. Mary Jane’s is located downtown and it’s super easy to find. Parking was easy to find and once we arrived, all we could say was, “Wow!”

Mary Jane

 

The atmosphere was fun and inviting. We arrived around 8 pm on a Friday evening and it was fairly busy. We were asked to take a seat in the room next door where music was playing. We waited maybe 10 minutes and a table was ready. I had glanced around the restaurant and it was quite obvious that the burgers were extremely popular.

So, we ordered burgers!

Burger at Mary Jane

 

 

The steakhouse burger arrived and it was absolutely delicious! Mary Jane Burgers & Brew prides itself that their burgers are made using Mid-West raised cattle that have no gmo’s, and no antibiotics while serving them up on a fresh baked bun.

If you like a craft beer, they have you covered here as well. From craft beers to signature cocktails, Mary Jane Burgers & Brew will satisfy your taste buds. We were hungry and the appetizers looked super appetizing, so we ordered friend mozzarella as an appetizer which was made with real mozzarella!

Fried Mozzarella

I would definitely recommend an order of flash-fried mozzarella to start off your meal. The deep fried pickles, hummus and beer cheese fries also looked delicious. With several appetizers to choose from, you will be sure to find one that fits your taste buds.

There’s something to be said about driving off the beaten path while traveling. Mary Jane Burgers and Brew in Perryville, Missouri did not disappoint. From the atmosphere to the tasty food- Mary Jane Burgers and Brew in Perryville, Missouri gets a 10 from this traveling family!

*My family and I paid for our own meals and the opinions expressed here are mine and nobody else’s.