Kansas City’s Ethnic Enrichment Festival

One of the things I love the most about traveling is tasting the unique cuisine from different countries and regions around the world. The Ethnic Enrichment Festival held annually in Kansas City has been my escape to experience a small part of many of the countries I’m longing to explore. The Ethnic Enrichment Festival is one of the largest festivals of its kind in the country and features more than 60 different countries selling their native foods, crafts and performing ethnic music and dances. Booths line the event representing the unique cultures of countries from across the globe.

Kansas City's Ethnic Enrichment Festival

Kansas City's Ethnic Enrichment Festival

Kansas City's Ethnic Enrichment Festival

A pavilion is situated in the middle of the event and features a demonstration from the many countries represented at the festival. The demonstrations range from traditional dances to music and singing that symbolize the cultures and traditions of each country.

Kansas City's Ethnic Enrichment Festival

This festival is the perfect way to get exposed to a variety of different cultures and foods from around the world without leaving the comfort of home. I love the opportunity to taste the cuisine from countries that I’m considering trips to because I can get a better idea of what to expect once I get there. Plus, tasting the native cuisine gets me even more excited for future adventures to far away lands. On the flip side, this festival is the easiest way for me to feast on all my favorite dishes from the countries I have visited. There’s no way you’ll catch me leaving the festival without devouring a nutella crepe from France and patatas bravas from Spain (just a couple of my favorites).

Kansas City's Ethnic Enrichment Festival

Kansas City's Ethnic Enrichment Festival

The festival is held in Swope Park and the venue offers free parking with an event admission fee of $3 for adults and free for children 12 and under. The different booths determine prices for the food and crafts that are sold representing the various countries. This event is the perfect opportunity for families to explore cultures unfamiliar to their own. The children are offered a “passport” when entering the festival which can be used to collect passport stamps from the many countries represented at the festival.

Kansas City's Ethnic Enrichment Festival

If you’ve been itching to travel but can’t make it happen at the moment, then definitely make plans to check out the Ethnic Enrichment Festival each August in Kansas City. Spend an afternoon sampling delicious dishes from around the world while watching traditional dances and demonstrations performed on the festival stage.

Have you experienced Kansas City’s Ethnic Enrichment Festival? What is your favorite travel related festival?

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Best of the Midwest: Devil’s Den State Park

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

Devil’s Den State Park is very similar to Natural Falls State Park except that there are many more hiking trails and they are much longer. My favorite time to visit Devil’s Den is during the Fall when all the leaves are changing because the Ozarks are simply stunning during that time of year.

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

Devil’s Den State Park is my favorite place to hike during the Fall because the park offers a huge variety of hiking trails with varying lengths and incredible scenery for as far as you can see. You can find out more about the different hiking trails here — the longest trail is 15 miles and the shortest is around 1/4 mile.

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

In addition to a variety of hiking trails, Devil’s Den has something to offer for everyone. The park offers tent and cabin camping so you can make a weekend out of exploring the beautiful Ozarks and there are also horseback riding trails for all the horse lovers.

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

On a clear day you can see the colorful treeline reflection on the peaceful lake in the heart of the park. This beautiful scenery is just steps away from the parking lot with the lake spilling over into an enchanting waterfall. The close proximity to parking makes the lake and waterfall easy access for everyone. Pair the stunning scenery with a picnic lunch and you have the perfect, relaxing afternoon in the Ozarks.

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

Best of the Midwest: Devil's Den State Park

Devil’s Den is one of my favorite parks for hiking, especially during the Fall months. Cooler weather, scenic views, and the peaceful outdoors makes for the ideal weekend getaway in the Ozark Mountains. If you’re looking for more ideas on what to do and see in the Midwest, check out my previous posts in the Best of the Midwest series.

Have you even been to Devil’s Den State Park? Where is your favorite place for hiking in the Midwest?

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

Last week I took a quick trip to Natural Falls State Park in Northeast Oklahoma to explore a little more of the Ozark Highlands. Natural Falls State Park is definitely one of the most beautiful state parks I’ve been to in quite a while. Springtime was the perfect time to go because everything was just so green and the waterfalls were stunning.

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

It costs 5 dollars per vehicle to enter the park for day users and you are able to stay until dusk. If you’re wanting a longer stay, the park has camping options with tent sites at $12 per night and RV sites at $20-$23 per night. The park offers a variety of activities including 5 different short hiking trails (the longest is 1.5 miles), disc golf, fishing, and volleyball.

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

The most popular view in the park is a 77-foot waterfall cascading through rock formations known as Dripping Springs Falls which attracts visitors from all over. It’s an easy, short walk to get to the overlook above the waterfall, and for those that wish you can walk down 47 steps to the base of the falls (which I highly recommend!).

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

The view from the base of the waterfall (pictured above and below) is absolutely beautiful. The water falls through the rock formations with lush greenery all around the waterfall. Definitely take a few minutes at the base of the waterfall to just relax and soak in the beauty of Dripping Springs Falls and the nature surrounding the falls.

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

Below is a picture of the stairs you have to walk down to get to the base of the falls and consequently back up to get out, but it’s definitely worth it! The stairs really aren’t too bad but if you’re not able to make the climb, the overlook at the top of the falls offers stunning views as well.

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

During my day at Natural Falls State Park, I hiked three of the five trails and the first one I hiked was Ghost Coon Trail. This trail is just 1.3 miles long and meanders along the forest edge to the stream bank and through prairie fields. It’s a pretty moderate hike with not much elevation change.

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

Another trail I hiked was the Dripping Springs Trail which takes you to the waterfall and if you continue along the stream it takes you to the lake area.

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

The lake area (pictured above) allows for fishing and wildlife viewing. If you continue past the lake you’ll discover a breathtaking waterfall where the lake spills over the dam and continues on into the stream (pictured below).

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

The last trail I hiked was the Fox Den Trail which is 1.5 miles long that travels down to a rock overhang, cavern area and to the stream below the dam. This trail is the most strenuous with significant elevation change.

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

Below is a picture of the cavern area along the Fox Den Trail, unfortunately there were some other visitors exploring the cavern when I passed through, but it was such a gorgeous day to go hiking so I knew it would be hard to get photos without anyone else in them.

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

Best of the Midwest: Natural Falls State Park

As I passed back by the lake to head back to my car, I spotted some turtles sunbathing on rocks in the lake and I had to get a picture. I loved spending a gorgeous, sunny day exploring Natural Falls State Park and seeing the breathtaking waterfalls. Everything in the park was literally SO green and it was beautiful. Springtime was a great time to visit Natural Falls but of course you can visit year round and I’m sure it’s just as pretty during all times of the year. If you’re in the Northeast Oklahoma or Northwest Arkansas area and you love waterfalls then definitely spend a day exploring Natural Falls State Park!

Have you ever been to Natural Falls State Park? Do you have a favorite state park in the USA? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Best of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through Safari

In honor of the first Sunday of April also being Easter, I thought this would be the perfect time to showcase a family friendly activity in Northwest Arkansas. The Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari located in Gentry, Arkansas is the perfect way to spend an afternoon seeing all the exotic animals inside the park. The park has two parts: a 4 mile drive-through safari and petting parks with walk-through areas to allow for interaction with some of the animals. TIP: Make sure you use the restroom before going on the drive-through safari portion because it’s a one lane path all the way through the safari with no where to stop.

Best of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through Safari

The park is open 9 am to 5 pm every day of the year, including holidays (weather permitting).

Admission:
Ages 13+ —–$15
Ages 3-12 —-$10
Under 2 ——-no charge

After paying the admission fee at the gate, you have access to the park all day so you can drive through the safari part as many times as your heart desires. There are also picnic tables so you can bring your own lunch or purchase snacks and drinks from the snack bar.

Best of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through Safari

The drive-through portion really allows you to get up close to a variety of different animals. A lot of the animals roam freely throughout the park and will walk across the driving path and be standing just feet from your car; it’s pretty neat to be so close to the animals as you drive through the safari.

Best of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through Safari
Best of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through Safari

Some of the animals are not shy, especially the emus. The emu in the picture above was checking out the truck in front of us then it walked back by our car and was pecking at the window. I thought it was really cool how close the animals get to your car!

Best of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through Safari
Best of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through Safari

After we finished the 4 mile drive-though safari, we stopped at the front of the park to check out all the petting areas. Luckily, when we were there they had two lion cubs that visitors could pet and play with which was so much fun! The opportunity to play with some of the baby animals is dependent on what babies they have in the park at the time, nevertheless there are tons of other animals to feed and interact with in the petting areas.

Best of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through Safari
Best of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through SafariBest of the Midwest: Wilderness Drive-Through Safari

I really enjoyed spending an afternoon exploring the park and seeing all the exotic animals. The drive-through portion of the park was a lot longer than I thought it would be and allows you to see a huge variety of animals. My favorite part was interacting with the animals in the petting areas, especially the lion cubs. It was such an awesome experience! I definitely suggest stopping by the Wilderness Drive-Through Safari if you are in the Northwest Arkansas area.

If you want to make a weekend out of your trip to Northwest Arkansas, check out Hemmed-In Hollow, the tallest waterfall between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains, and the Buffalo National River for some awesome floating!

Have you ever been to the Wilderness Drive-Through Safari? If not, would you want to go? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Best of the Midwest: Buffalo National River

The Buffalo National River is one of Arkansas’s largest draws. 

Best of the Midwest: Buffalo National River

Northern Arkansas’s Buffalo National River was the first national river in the U.S. and is roughly 150 miles long. The Buffalo River is home to numerous breathtaking geologic marvels hidden within the thousands of acres along and surrounding the river. Natural springs, waterfalls, caves, towering bluffs and natural bridges lie within the depths of the Ozarks waiting to be discovered. The two best ways to explore the Buffalo National River is either by floating the river or by hiking the Buffalo River Trail.

Best of the Midwest: Buffalo National River

One way to discover the Buffalo River is to float the river during canoe season (March – June) or during periods of heavy rain. Buffalo River canoeing attracts hundreds of visitors every year to witness the magnificent bluffs and picturesque scenery. This is one of my favorite things to do in the spring- grab some friends, pack a lunch and set out on the river for a day of floating and fun.

The most popular Buffalo River float trip stretches a little over 10 miles from Ponca to Kyle’s Landing. This stretch of river is definitely the most scenic and features the tallest bluff and waterfall between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains.

Best of the Midwest: Buffalo National River

If you’re floating the Buffalo River don’t miss out on seeing Hemmed-In Hollow– the tallest waterfall between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. Hemmed-In Hollow is super easy to get to from the river or if you’re not floating the river you can reach the waterfall from the Compton trailhead. Hemmed-In Hollow is one of the scenic icons in the Buffalo River region and shouldn’t be missed!

Best of the Midwest: Buffalo National River

The other way to discover the Buffalo River is by hiking the Buffalo River Trail. It’s said to be some of the finest backpacking in mid-America due to the abundance of spectacular scenery and opportunity to encounter wildlife along the trails. Whether you’re looking for a short day trip or a week-long backpacking trip, the Buffalo River Trail has something to offer no matter the type of adventure you’re seeking.

Best of the Midwest: Buffalo National River

My thoughts: if you’re looking for a relatively cheap, weekend getaway head to the Buffalo National River in Northern Arkansas. It’s the perfect location for camping, hiking, floating and discovering the beauty within the Ozark Mountains. 

Have you been to the Buffalo River? Is this somewhere you would escape to for a weekend getaway? Leave your thoughts in the comments below- I would love to hear what you think!

Best of the Midwest: Hemmed-In Hollow

The tallest waterfall between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains.

Best of the Midwest Hemmed-In Hollow  || Travel Far, Eat Well

Nestled in the heart of the Ponca Wilderness Area of the Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas lies the tallest waterfall between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. The waterfall is 209 feet tall and is situated in Hemmed-In Hollow, a small valley enclosed on three sides by 200+ foot bluffs. Late winter and early spring (times of heavy rain) are the best times of the year to visit Hemmed-In Hollow since the water generally flows heavily over the cliff. For most of the rest of the year the flow over the falls is light and can diminish to almost nothing during dry periods.

Best of the Midwest: Hemmed-In Hollow

As the water streamed over the cliff it broke into thousands of individual droplets. The wind swirling around the canyon pushed the falls in all different directions and it seemed as if the falls were doing a dance around the canyon. It was really fascinating to watch the falls dance back and forth as we sat gazing at the beautiful surroundings.

Best of the Midwest: Hemmed-In Hollow

Hemmed-In Hollow can be accessed two different ways: either from the Compton Trailhead or from the Buffalo River when it’s floatable (which is a lot easier and much shorter). It’s a 5 mile round trip hike from the Compton Trailhead, 2.5 miles downhill to the waterfall and a difficult and sometimes steep 2.5 mile climb back to the trailhead.

Best of the Midwest: Hemmed-In Hollow

The other, less strenuous way to reach Hemmed-In Hollow is by floating the upper Buffalo River (generally, Ponca to Kyles Landing) during canoe season (March – June). About 6 miles into the float, you’ll reach Jim Bluff (there’s a stone at the base of the bluff with the bluff’s name written on it). About a mile later, you’ll want to pull out of the water on the left side of the river and park your canoe/kayak to start the walk to the waterfall. I have heard there are signs on the river pointing to the beginning of the trailhead but we didn’t see any signs last May while floating. If it’s a good floating day, keep an eye out for a lot of parked canoes on the gravel bar around the general area of the trailhead, this is how we found the trail. After parking your canoe, it’s about a 3/4-mile walk from the river to the waterfall.

Best of the Midwest: Hemmed-In Hollow

My thoughts: definitely visit Hemmed-In Hollow, it’s one of the scenic icons of the upper Buffalo River and you don’t want to miss it! It’s a really beautiful area, pictures don’t quite do the whole experience justice. It’s so serene sitting on the rocks watching the water as it splashes off the base of the cliff.

Have you been to Hemmed-In Hollow? Is Hemmed-In Hollow a place you want to visit? Leave your thoughts in the comments below- I would love to hear what you think!

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New Travel Feature: Best of the Midwest

Discover America’s Natural Beauty.

Since the start of the new year, I have been thinking a lot about Travel Far, Eat Well and the direction I want to go with my blog. I want to have more regularity with my posts and some new content, so I have decided to start a new travel feature that will showcase the Best of the Midwest. I have spent my whole life living in either Missouri or Arkansas and as I’ve grown older and had the opportunity to travel and explore more, I’ve developed a huge love and appreciation for these beautiful states. Now technically Arkansas is not part of the “geographic” Midwest but in my eyes it’s still part of the Midwest, so we can look past that, right? A good portion of the locations I feature will be in Missouri or Arkansas but I will also feature places in the surrounding states. I have been able to discover more and more of the natural beauty hidden within these beautiful states and I can’t help but want to share it with the world. On the first Sunday of every month I will feature a unique and lesser known destination within the Midwest that will surely get you thinking of spending your next vacation discovering these natural wonders.

Best of the Midwest

Stay tuned for the first destination in the Best of the Midwest series coming this Sunday.