Pumpkin Spice & Everything Nice

pumpkin spice coffee

Ah, September–the month when pumpkin spice flavor returns to menus across the globe–even if it’s 80 degrees and fall is nowhere to be seen. Twitter was so abuzz last week with tweets about lattes and breads and candles and pumpkin everything, that one would think it was a national holiday.

Pumpkin spice has already garnered so much attention this season that Starbucks decided to give their latte an acronym–the PSL. Since the world is so in love with this trending seasonal flavor, we figured it fitting to share our Merriam contributions to the pumpkin spice revolution. Take a peek below at our top pumpkin spice finds in Merriam!

  1. Caribou Coffee — pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin white mocha and pumpkin chai latte! Can we get an amen?
  2. Pumpkin Spice Povitica — Strawberry Hill Povitica (shop online, use code T7W for the $19.99/loaf offer)
  3. Mixture’s Pumpkin Spice Candle — voted #1 pumpkin spice fragrance by Huffington Post
  4. IHOP pumpkin pancakes — yes please!
  5. Starbucks PSL–remember the acronym? Well, whether you like it frozen, iced or hot, pumpkin spice is now in stores.
  6. Rounding out the list of pumpkin spice coma inducing deliciousness is the Krispy Kreme Pumpkin Spice Cake Doughnut. Need we say more?

While we may have missed one or two, this list will surely get you on your way to pumpkin spice paradise. Enjoy the beauty of the season and all things PS.

 

The Millennial Traveler

selfie photo - millennials
By the year 2020, millennials* will make up 50% of the workforce. That’s half of all other generational types combined–an astounding number for companies who sell travel related services, especially since millennials are one of the highest traveling age segments too. As a destination that welcomes all ages, young and old, it’s important to routinely review our community’s offerings for the ever-changing traveler interests. Here’s what we know about millennials and their travel preferences:

Five Trends in Millennial Travel

  1. They value experiences over things. In fact, six out of ten prefer to spend their disposable income on travel rather than material items. And, they 24% plan to take more overnight trips in the coming year. In terms of spending, millennials will spend more on travel services than any other age group in the next 12 months.
  2. They use ALL or most of their vacation time. Rather than hoarding it for a rainy day like generations past (read more here), millennials believe their time is earned and should be used! Score one for the millennial mindset.
  3. Not your typical destination travelers, millennials like to experience things that are out of the norm, adventurous or hands-on. While sand and surf might be on the itinerary, a week-long beach vacay is not normally in their plans. Instead, they’re out on foodie adventures, exploring the lesser known community gems or zip lining through the woods.
  4. Have pets, will travel. As more and more destination amenities become pet-friendly, millennials expect to bring along their furry companions, so it’s a good idea to roll out the red carpet (and pet hair roller).
  5. Millennials trust their peer network. They seek out travel opinions on social networks. They’ve grown up along with new digital options that didn’t exist in the Gen X generation so their trusted resource comes from posts, likes and shares of those they know.

As we embark on the busy summer travel season, it’s important to remember that not every destination has a mountain to scale or a volcano to explore, but that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on the millennials. Some are here for meetings and events and others are visiting friends and relatives, so they may only have time for one or two additional excursions during their visit. It’s the unique things found within our communities like food truck festivals, art walks or paddle boarding local streams and rivers that can also have an impact on millennial travel decisions. Here’s a few options for millennials (and all generations) to consider in Merriam this summer and year-round!

Go, See, Do in Merriam…

  • GoStrawberry Hill Povitica Bakery — sample the dessert bread and watch artisan bakers create this popular and tasty treat made right in Merriam!
  • See – Visit the current exhibit on display at the Tim Murphy Art Gallery, then stroll south along Merriam Drive to check-out our newest art installation, “Still Time.”
  • Do – Grab a few friends for a fun afternoon of geocaching in Merriam. Enjoy a game of seek and find along this digital treasure hunt–click here for caches placed by the CVB!

*millennial = person born between 1980-2000

Spring Break on a Budget!

spring break image, books, appleNothing is better than a mid-March dash to a sunny spot along the coast for Spring Break.  Unless you’re broke.

Well, very soon, schools all over the United States will pause for the highly anticipated annual Spring Break. This little respite gives students and teachers a smidgen of rest before the last quarter, which is typically full of approaching exams, banquets, spring sports and activities. While many high school and college kids will head to warmer destinations, not everyone can jet off for a tropical party on the beach. Many students stay in town for sport practices, jobs or other commitments and others just can’t afford a mini-vacation.

In our house, we would love to get away for some fun in the sun, but there’s just too much on the calendar, so we’ll be spring breaking at home this year. If you’re in the same boat, don’t despair–rather, think about all of the things to do and places to see in your own destination (or nearby). Even if you can only explore for a day, there’s a ton of options out there if you plan ahead and set aside a small budget to fund your in-town travels.

Right here in metro Kansas City, I could probably build an entire week’s worth of activities and places our family has yet to visit and we’ve lived here since the early 90’s. But, if planning ahead isn’t your thing, you’re in luck! Take a look at the Top 10 Spring Break on a Budget suggestions below to kick-off your upcoming itinerary:

  1. For the foodies–enjoy a dining day out; pick three restaurants you’ve never been to before and plan to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner between the three.
  2. Sports enthusiasts can make a day out of zip lining, disc golf, indoor skydiving or biking the local trails for an adventure packed outing.
  3. If history is more your speed, many area museums are FREE and even if you’ve been before, traveling exhibits rotate frequently, so pick a couple to revisit and appreciate.
  4. Take a road trip in your state. Rather than jumping on the interstate, travel the back roads and make a few stops in tiny towns along the way to your destination. Some of those places have the best kept secrets including places to eat and one-of-kind attractions.
  5. Capture the moments and #hash tag them. Your entire spring break could be a cool insta-hop from attraction to attraction. Sharing your memories with friends and followers is fun and also provides a digital collection of your favorite memories.
  6. Families can stick to a budget by incorporating traditionally free attractions like parks and outdoor recreation. Check with your local parks department to ask about programs and events during your spring break week.
  7. Take an art stroll around town; from sculptures to permanent or rotating gallery exhibits, finding the vast collection in your destination could be a fun and new learning experience.
  8.  Volunteer! Did you know there are entire groups of students who forego a break altogether in favor of helping others? If you’re interested in giving back during your free time, there are dozens of options from organizations who need your help.
  9. Get out and play! Not everyone is amazing at a sport, but if you wrangle up a group of friends and make a day out of bowling, arcade games, mini-golf or group games, you can create a fun day for all–without the need for competitiveness or highly skilled athletes. Wrap it up with a BBQ in the park or a bonfire in the country.
  10. Contact the local convention and visitors bureau to see what’s going on in your community! The CVB is always a great resource and oftentimes, the staff has insider tips, recommendations and destination referrals.

Spring breaking in KC? Check out this one-day itinerary of CVB picks for budget-friendly fun across the metro!

  • Start the day with a delicious slice of povitica from Merriam’s local Strawberry Hill Povitica bakery or try breakfast at a restaurant you’ve never been to. I love the chicken and waffles with jalapeno gravy at McCoy’s Public House in Westport (but FYI, brunch is only available Sat/Sun).
  • Head over to the FREE Nelson Atkins Museum of Art (Voted Yelp’s Best U.S. Museum) to check out the exhibits.
  • Just a few blocks away, spend the rest of the morning on a scavenger hunt  through the Country Club Plaza or do some light shopping among the bunnies.
  • There’s no doubt that you’ve added 10,000+ steps on your fitness tracker by now, so maybe it’s time to slow down and take in a movie at Cinetopia (135th & Lamar) in Overland Park. From comfy, living room seating to a fully accessible restaurant and bar, this place is the ultimate movie-goers experience.
  • To finish off the day, round-up your buddies for a little Frisbee in a local park or play baseball at a nearby diamond. En route home, stop by Anita’s Cuisine in Merriam for the very best pupusas around, but be sure to arrive before closing (Mon-Sat, 7:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.)

Happy Spring from the Merriam Visitors Bureau!

 

Love is in the air…10 things to do across Kansas City on Valentine’s Weekend!

Sweet, sweet February 14th–same day every year, yet planning ahead for Valentine’s Day seems to sneak up on us. In 2016, this traditional lovebird holiday falls on a Sunday which means you can probably celebrate Saturday or Sunday without last-minute, after-work dinner reservations and daycare shuffling.

To help you prep for a special and memorable V-day, the Merriam Visitors Bureau has compiled a list of 10 things to do on Valentine’s weekend in Merriam and across the Kansas City region. Pick one or be ambitious and shoot for all 10—but, whatever you do, don’t be the person standing in the picked over Valentine card section at the local grocery store on February 14th.

valentine's image

  1. Sample the newest flavor of Merriam’s favorite dessert bread at Strawberry Hill Povitica! The White Chocolate Cherry is the perfect gift to share over dessert coffee or champagne. Stop by the store to pick-up or order any of their 12 delicious flavors online—and, click here for the CVB discount so you can save a little on your purchase!
  2. Lock up your love on the Old Red Bridge in Minor Park (Kansas City). Bring a padlock, whisper sweet nothings and pick a special place to secure your lock on the bridge.
  3. Celebrating with the littles: enjoy Merriam’s Daddy Daughter Soiree on Saturday, February 13th. For $50 per couple, your little lady will be over the moon (or the Eiffel Tower) to share this special event with you. Learn more details here!
  4. Take a cooking class together. The Culinary Center of Kansas City offers weekend classes for couples that are sure to spice up your love of cooking—and, each other. Check out the class listings here.
  5. Hanging out at home? Sway to the tunes of a great playlist on Spotify, nosh on gourmet popcorn from Velvet Crème and sip a bottle of bubbly while watching romantic movies in your PJ’s (our pick: Dirty Dancing).
  6. Visit the Russell Stover Candy Company at 10100 Shawnee Mission Parkway in Merriam to sample chocolates together and then buy your favorite for each other!
  7. Splurge on a fancy restaurant! FEAST Magazine just published the Top 10 Romantic Restaurants in Kansas City. Choose from the list for an impressive start to an evening full of good food and plenty of ambiance to set the mood.
  8. Feeling adventurous? Fly above the trees on a zip line in Bonner Springs at Adventure Zip KC. Check out their website for hours, options and pricing.
  9. Wine tour in Kansas City, anyone? If you’ve got a palate for red or white, the KC region offers an abundance of local wineries to sip and savor. KC Wine Co. is hosting “Love is in the Air” on Valentine’s Weekend.
  10. Wanna get away? If jetting off to somewhere tropical isn’t in the Valentine budget, stay local! Merriam has five affordable hotels and is nearby plenty of shopping and dining venues, attractions and romantic spots across the metro. You can enjoy a staycation right here in KC.

Happy love day to our friends and followers—we heart you and we hope you make this Valentine’s weekend one to remember.

xoxo—The Merriam Visitors Bureau!

Road Trip Packing List–10 essentials you should have!

AAA estimates a projected 35.5 million Americans will travel 50+ miles from home this Labor Day weekend.  Often dubbed the final road trip of the summer season, if you are one of the millions of travelers hitting the open road this weekend, here’s a quick rundown of the essential items you should have on your packing list.

Road Trip Packing List

  1. Visitor guide to the destination you’re headed. It’s a good idea to call and order a guide or download one online at least one month before traveling.  Coming to Merriam? You can order our free guide here!
  2. Travel pillow – road trips are good for sight-seeing and napping. If you’re riding shotgun, take along a travel pillow to support your next as you drift off.
  3. A Reusable water bottle is the number one item I pack everywhere I go next to my cell phone. I prefer a BPA-free bottle with a leak-proof design and plastic or rubberized coating to eliminate breaking or dents.
  4. Emergency roadside vehicle kit – no traveler should be without the basics to get out of a jam. Keep it in your trunk so you’re covered in the event of a breakdown on the road.  Win one from our tourism partner, AAA/H&A Media here!
  5. A map, GPS or mapping app on your cell phone. I love the convenience of digital mapping, but everyone should learn to read and follow a good old fashioned map. Besides, what happens if you have no cell service or battery left? Knowing which way is north could be helpful.
  6. A lightweight, but compartmentalized tote bag. Beyond the luggage you’ll no doubt pack for the duration of your journey, it’s a great idea to toss in a tote bag to use for day-trips, a quick change of clothes, snacks, a blanket, sunscreen and bug spray. I love the line available from Thirty-One Gifts because they have tons of room, lots of pockets and are easy to wipe down and clean up.
  7. Speaking of blanket, if a concert or outdoor hiking destination is on your itinerary, it’s never a bad idea to bring along something lightweight to toss on the ground for a picnic or relaxing break. Consider one with a water resistant backing so you can stay dry.
  8. A great playlist is a must-have for road trips. Explore new music and artists and allow everyone in the car a few song choices to add to the list. I will never forget the vacations with my parents listening to ABBA on 8-track while playing the license plate game with my brother.
  9. Reservations! It seems silly, but some people actually travel without a reservation and sometimes they wind up finding no vacancy at the inn. Booking ahead not only saves you a little money, but it goes a long way in providing peace of mind…not to mention a better room far away from the elevator or the noisy HVAC system. If you’re traveling to Merriam, we can help you find a hotel or you can choose from this list online.
  10. Food and water for the ride is also a must-have since you never know if you’ll be stranded or get the urge for a snack. Traveling with children almost guarantees this is a no-brainer item to take along as it can be used to negotiate good behavior in the car.

AAA Roadtrip kit

*WIN THIS PREMIUM ROAD KIT!
One lucky reader will win the 42-piece premium road kit (left) provided by our tourism partner AAA/H&A Media.  Just click over to www.facebook.com/ExploreMerriam, share a comment on the Road Trip post and you’ll be entered to win this cool kit for your next road trip.
*Facebook does not endorse or take part in this contest/giveaway. Winner will be randomly selected from the comments of this specific FB post only. No cash or trade value. Drawing will take place the week of September 14th, 2015.

To market, to market–10 tips to make the most of your farmers’ market experience!

10 tips to make the most of your farmers' market experience
While summer is indeed winding down, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy those last moments spent outdoors before the snow and muck sets in. Although I personally enjoy the fall and winter months, I do cherish the final bits and pieces of summer’s offering and especially like to stock up at the local farmers’ market before the vendors close up shop for the season. Merriam offers a fantastic farmers’ market (5740 Merriam Drive) throughout the summer with vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods and handcrafted items every Saturday morning from May to mid-October. In fact, the Merriam Marketplace, on average, greets 16,500 market shoppers throughout the season. There are only seven weeks left until the final market Saturday (October 10), so the Visitors Bureau has rounded up 10 tips to make the most of your farmers’ market visit to Merriam.

  1. Come early to find the best selection or come late to find better deals on what items remain.  Merriam’s market runs from 7:00am-1:00pm each Saturday and most vendors offer tasty samples of their goods. Don’t forget to bring cash in small bills.
  2. Bring your own market bag. Many vendors will offer you a plastic grocery bags, but for an eco-friendly option that lets your veggies breathe, invest in a mesh or cloth bag, but be sure to wash them regularly.
  3. Your mama told you…you better shop around.  While I definitely like to stick with certain farmers or shop from the booths I love, it’s a good idea to make the trek around the market comparing prices, flavors and selection.
  4. Pack a cooler to store items that won’t make it home immediately.  Often times, Saturday morning is errand day for many of us, so remember to ice down a small cooler to keep your market buys cool and fresh.  On the other hand, some things don’t prefer the cold, so keep them at room temp (tomatoes tend to become mushy and acidic in the fridge).  Once you arrive back home, it’s time to wash everything and prep for storage or Saturday night dinner!
  5. Take a peek at what’s fresh each month with a seasonal produce calendar so you can be sure to buy your favorite selections when they’re the ripest and most delicious.  I like this one from Muddle a Mint Sprig.
  6. Make a meal plan for the week so you know exactly what items you’ll need.  Here’s a favorite Eggplant Parmesan recipe which makes an appearance on our menu at least 3-4 times throughout the season and it always tastes better with fresh eggplant straight from the market.
  7. Create a list of freezer-friendly foods and stock up on those fruits and vegetables to use in smoothies and soups during the non-market months.  Be sure to label items with a date–no one likes yucky freezer burn taste.
  8. Think outside of the fruit and veggie box.  Even though it’s summertime, farmers markets are a great place to shop for gifts.  With tons of local products (soaps, honey, bread mix, etc.) you can find lots of ideas for an upcoming birthday or other occasion.
  9. Slightly damaged melons need love too.  If you find a bruised item, try offering the vendor a lower price. It’s likely they would rather sell it than throw it out at the end of the day.
  10. Find out what else is going on near the market.  Many regional markets also offer entertainment, cooking demonstrations and other activities. In Merriam, we offer all of that and more.  From chef demos to live, weekly bands and even a great walking trail behind the marketplace, there’s more to do than just sample produce and shop.  Check out Merriam’s line-up of market activity here.

Merriam Marketplace upcoming events | 5740 Merriam Drive

Pianos on Parade | on display under the pavilion through October 10

Farmer’s Market | Saturdays through October 10 | 7:00am-1:00pm

Turkey Creek Car & Motorcycle Show | Saturday, September 12 | 10:00am-4:00pm

Funday Sunday | Sunday, October 11 | 4:00-7:00pm

Halloween Happenings | Saturday, October 24 | 2:00-4:30pm

 

Top 10 Summer Must See & Do’s Across Kansas City!

Summer is officially here and vacationers are on the go!  From booking hotels and buying tickets to planning fun-filled itineraries with things to see and places to visit, Merriam is happy to welcome you to town!  Although many destinations claim they are affordable, fun and unique, the Kansas City metro area should definitely be on your list for that next vacation if you’re seeking awesome attractions, fun, family events and budget-friendly options for lodging, dining and more.  In fact, did you know that Kansas City ranked the “Most Affordable Getaway” for the fourth consecutive year by Travel + Leisure?  And, Merriam was recently named as one of the “Top 100 Small Towns in the U.S.” by Livability(#76).  It’s no secret that some of the regional events, attractions and visitor favorites help to earn these types of designations, so our CVB decided to help you take in a few of our tried and true, some old and new, must-see and do’s across the metro this summer!  Yes, we lean heavy on the Merriam offerings, but we think you’ll like them!  Happy summer everyone–we hope you enjoy your visit! summer in merriam collage

1.  Passport to Summer Fun (Merriam, KS) — this fun-filled activity for the kiddos takes you to six different locations in Merriam to earn a passport stamp and enter to win a prize basket filled with summer goodies.

2.  Bucket List (Kansas City, KS) — designed to give you 94 days of summer fun, you’ll find a great check-list of events, activities, eateries and more!

3.  Where is Modernism? (Shawnee, KS) — if you’re headed to KC with your own transportation, this cool driving tour features  many of the commercial mid-century modern gems along Metcalf Avenue, and the corresponding map invites you to explore some of the area’s residential neighborhoods too!

4.  How About those Kansas City Royals — whether you’re a fan of the boys in blue or not, Kauffman Stadium is a sight to see.  Beautiful fountains, a fantastic kids area with fun games and activities, tons of food options, and, if you’re lucky, a surprise visit in the stands by Sluggerrr make The K one of KC’s beloved sporting attractions.

5.  The Great Lenexa BBQ Battle — Lenexa offers a 2-day BBQ event in June with 185 contestants, 240 judges, children’s activities and live music (June 26-27).

6.  Lego Exhibit at Powell Gardens — nothing is cooler than life-size insects and sculpture completely made of LEGO’s at Nature Connects 2.

7.  If you’ll soon be an empty-nester, go ahead and prepare early for the college dorm life with items and furnishings from IKEA Merriam!

8.  Summer Sundays in Merriam!  Food, music, friends and neighbors joining together for Sunday dinner FOOD TRUCK style is the way to go for a laid-back weekend dinner party!

9.  Red, white and blue, we love you!  Merriam’s Flags 4 Freedom is a contender for the ABA’s Top 100 events across the U.S. and one you should plan to see if you’re in the neighborhood June 27 – July 5.  With over 1,200 U.S. flags on display, you’ll find yourself immersed in Old Glory right in downtown Merriam.

10.  Pianos on Parade!  This summer community art offering is so awesome, it’s a must-see while in KC. With 100 pianos across the metro just waiting for your visit, you’re sure to enjoy the parade and may even decide to tickle the ivories! Merriam’s “I Spy” piano is a seek and find variety located at the Merriam Marketplace, 5740 Merriam Drive.