Larry Olmsted

Correspondent

  • Vermont, USA

Larry Olmsted is an at-large Forbes Travel Guide correspondent who lives in Vermont but regularly treks around the world as an award-winning journalist who has covered travel for more than 15 years. He writes the “Great American Bites” column for USAToday.com, previously wrote the “Life on Vacation” column for USA Today, and is the longtime contributing travel editor to Cigar Aficionado magazine. He has contributed to numerous travel guides, including the Michelin Green Guide, and writes regularly for both US Airways’ and American Airlines’ magazines. He also writes “The Great Life” column for Forbes.com.

  • On June 21, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Should visitors rent a car in Kansas City?

    Yes, it is helpful since the city is relatively spread out, there is little traffic and parking is generally easy. In short, it is an easy place to use a rental car and a helpful place to have one, especially if you are visiting the many museums, seeking out Kansas City’s famous barbecue joints, or heading to popular suburbs like Olathe. And whether you stay downtown or in Country Club Plaza, the two most popular areas, many of the sights are far enough away to require driving.
  • On June 12, 2013
    Amanda Frasier is now following Larry Olmsted
  • On May 28, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What’s the best time to visit Memphis?

    Memphis is not quite south enough to be warm and welcoming in winter, yet it gets hot and sticky in summer, often uncomfortably so. The best times to visit are April-May and October-November, and if you have compete flexibility, October statistically offers the very best combination of reasonable temperatures (mid-70s) and low rainfall. September is next best, and the spring, while temperate, is appreciably wetter. In general, June-September are the most rain free months, but summer gets quite hot, low to mid 90s daily. It’s still warm, but June and September are preferable to July and August – besides being the hottest months, they are also the city’s busiest, thanks to school vacations. You can get lucky in February, or more likely March, when temperatures typically are in the low 60s, sometimes warmer, and crowds are at a minimum.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What is the best way to see Memphis in one day?

    There is too much to see Memphis in one day, but if that’s all you have, hit Graceland first thing in the morning, because the many tours buses begin arriving mid-morning and it’s much faster and easier to get in – and out – before them. Do the full tour, with the option for his plane and car collections, it’s worth it. Head back to downtown and hit Gus’ Famous Fried Chicken, within walking distance of the rest of your day, for an early lunch, again beating the crowds – it is very locally popular. For a single day you will have to skip the excellent zoo, and focus on the cluster of downtown attractions. You can walk to the must-see National Civil Rights Museum, then the Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum. If you have item and energy, squeeze in a tour of the Gibson Guitar Factory. Head back to your hotel and freshen up, the make it barbecue, the city’s most famous cuisine, for dinner – Central Bar-B-Q or the Bar-B-Q shop are excellent choices, though both require a cab. The night is yours on Beale Street where one bar after another offers live music, with a focus on blues, soul and rock ‘n roll.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best things to see and do in Memphis?

    Memphis has a stunning number of must-see attractions, from museums to neighborhoods. The National Civil Rights Museum, built around the preserved façade of the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, is a must-see. The 800-pound gorilla of Memphis tourism is Graceland, Elvis Presley’s former home, and the only thing in town other than perhaps barbecue that inspires global pilgrimages. The tour is excellent, including the King’s former highly customized private jets, and will be surprisingly impressive even to non-fans, but given its stature, it is shocking that Graceland is not the city’s top tourist attraction. That would be the Memphis Zoo, which has been rated number one in the nation by Tripadvisor.com, is over a century old, spans 70-acres, and is one of only four in the nation with Giant pandas. Another top attraction is the Beale Street Historic District, the pedestrianized several block zone of live music bars and restaurants that every tourist in Memphis ends up strolling, usually at night, for food, drink and blues. Music is omnipresent here, and the other major attractions revolve around it including the Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, the excellent Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Sun Studio, where Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded, with an excellent tour, and the Gibson Guitar Factory, also with tours.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best Memphis museums?

    For its size, Memphis has some excellent museums, all of them directly related to the city’s historic past and unique flavor. First and foremost is the National Civil Rights Museum, built from a cluster of buildings around the preserved façade of the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, including his actual room, the balcony where he was shot, and even the boarding house across the street where James Earl Ray took the fatal shot from. In addition to its unique and wonderful architecture, the museum itself is excellent, very moving and one of a kind, simultaneously tracing the assassination of King and the entire history of the Civil Rights movement in America. The other top museums are devoted to Memphis’ major cultural influence, music. These include the interactive Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, right in downtown near Beale Street, with more emphasis on the city’s role as a home for exploding popularity of Rock ‘n Roll figures such as Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, along with the excellent and also highly interactive Stax Museum of American Soul Music, a must-visit. The Stax Records label was born here in Memphis and emphasized soul, jazz and R&B, introducing many big stars such as Otis Redding. Stax went out of business, and the museum now occupies its former studio.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best Memphis food experiences?

    Memphis is world famous for its slow smoked, pork-centric barbecue, and justifiably so, but has relatively little else that is exceptional on the culinary front, and is still awaiting the “new Southern” fine dining revolution that has hit Nashville, Charleston, Birmingham and elsewhere. The most notable exception to this rule is Gus’ Famous Fried Chicken, a hole in the wall which is among the best in the country for its simply exceptional combination of poultry, breading and deep frying, worth a special trip. On Beale Street, local favorite Dyers is famous for its deep fried burgers, and has a loyal following, but real burger fans will not be impressed. Fortunately, the barbecue is excellent, so make the best of it and have word class smoked meat, with plenty of variety. Memphis is best known for its ribs, wet and dry, and you’ll find the best of the former at Central Bar-B-Q, and the best of the latter at the Bar-B-Q shop, which outshines the more famous Rendezvous. Bar-B-Q Shop also has the best BBQ Spaghetti in town, a distinctly Memphis specialty. A top all-around choice and locals’ favorite is Cozy Corner, with very good ribs and pulled pork, but most famous for its novel barbecue Cornish game hen, and less well known for its excellent rib tips. If you have just one barbecue meal in you, it’s hard to beat Central BBQ, which has exceptional ribs, very good pulled pork and unique specialties like BBQ nachos and homemade fresh pork rinds, along with fantastic house-made kettle chips.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best places to stay in Memphis?

    For tourists and especially first time visitors, Memphis has one hotel so unique it rises above all others, and that’s the historic Forbes 4-Star Peabody, a Southern grande dame steeped in history, with an elegant ambiance, several restaurants including Chez Philippe, the city’s top fine dining eatery, and the city’s most popular cocktail spot, the lobby bar. It also has the best location in town, two blocks from Beale Street and within walking distance of several famous attractions and eateries. But the Peabody’s world renowned claim to fame is its morning and afternoon “duck marches,” when the hotel’s uniformed Duck Master escorts a family of ducks between the lobby fountain where they spend their days and the rooftop coop where they spend their nights. A major tourist attraction in its own right, this spectacle packs the lobby with outsiders but only hotel guests even have the option to serve as honorary Duck Master and help lead the procession. Otherwise, the top choices for upscale lodging are the boutique River Inn of Harbor Town with less than 30 rooms and tons of charm, the Madison Hotel in the neoclassic former Tennessee Trust Bank Building, and the Westin Beale Street, combing a predictable level of quality and Westin’s signature Heavenly Bed & Bath with a perfect location for dining and entertainment. For Elvis fans only, there’s the kitschy Heartbreak Hotel, part of the greater Graceland attraction and located directly across the street from the King’s mansion and its ultra-popular tours.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best five Nashville food experiences?

    Any food lover visiting Nashville has to try the city’s indigenous specialty, hot fried chicken, and the best place is at the source, where it was invented, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack – but don’t let your ego get in the way even the mild is very spicy. “Meat and Three,” is a more widespread Southern food traditional, but Nashville is its epicenter, coupling your choice of a Southern main course like country ham, pork chops or chicken fried steak with three rib-sticking sides like macaroni and cheese, collard greens and creamed corn. Many traditional places feature communal tables, and this is the case at Monell’s, close to downtown. The Loveless Café is a renowned institution that serves meat and three at dinner, but is more famous for its incredible breakfasts, especially its world famous biscuits, excellent country ham and oddities such as BBQ pork and eggs. Memphis overshadows Nashville when it comes to barbecue, but there is still plenty of great smoke going on, and with a convenient downtown location, Jack’s is a good place to start. Nashville is currently at the forefront of the “New Southern” gourmet movement, and great places to try fine dining featuring the best of southern ingredients and cooking styles are the critically acclaimed Catbird Seat, Capitol Grille and Lockeland Table.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What is the best Nashville nightlife?

    Nashville’s nickname is Music City, and nightlife revolves around live music, mainly in the city’s many “honky tonks,” bars that feature non-stop bands, and usually cheap drinks and food in a welcoming setting. Unlike other music-centric cities such as  New Orleans, Memphis or Austin, bars in Nashville go all day long, from late morning to late night. You can have lunch, walk into a nearly empty bar and catch great acts, go to another, head back to your hotel, freshen up, have dinner, and start again, but these places really come alive at night, and thrive well past midnight, and can be packed until as late as 3AM. There are options all over the city, some more focused on locals, but for visitors the easiest thing is to go by foot and hit the many downtown honky tonks lining Broadway, one next to another, inviting and easily navigated, such as Robert’s Western Word, Legend’s Corner, Second Fiddle, Nashville Crossroads, the Stage, Honky Tonk Central and Bluegrass Inn.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best attractions in Nashville?

    The two biggest attractions in Nashville are the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The Grand Ole Opry does a weekly live music broadcast that is the nation’s longest running radio show, since 1925, and is now almost a musical theme park comprised of dining, shopping, and two performance venues, the Grand Ole Opry House and the 1893 Ryman Auditorium, a National Historic Landmark. Concerts and performances, some of them major, are held at least weekly, and every day backstage tours are offered of the auditorium, recording and broadcast studios. The $37 million Country Music Museum opened in 2001, in the heart of Nashville’s easily walkable downtown, and is very well designed, from the top down, and appeals even to visitors who thought they had no interest in the genre. Music is a key industry in Nashville, and “Music Mile” includes the recent $123 million Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum, the Music City Walk of Fame, and the Bridgestone Arena. The top non-musical sight is the Hermitage, not the hotel but rather the personal home of Andrew Jackson, President of the Confederacy, with both group and private tours available of the mansion, gardens and farm.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What is Nashville’s restaurant scene like?

    Nashville’s dining scene is quite diverse but almost everything has a Southern twist. The most purely local Nashville specialty is Hot Fried Chicken, very spicy but not simply spicy fried chicken, rather fried chicken embedded with heat through and through, not slathered with hot sauce or powder, sort of it is its own unique food group, found almost no place else, and also giving rise to a spinoff, Hot Fried Fish. The two classic joints are Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish. Another Southern specialty centered around Nashville is “Meat and Three,” where you select from a few daily meat entrees, things like fried chicken, country ham, meatloaf, pork chops and chicken fried steak, plus three sides such as vegetables, macaroni and cheese, potatoes or corn dishes. Meat and three places abound in Nashville, but the most famous are Loveless Café, Arnold’s Country Kitchen and Swett’s Restaurant. There are also many options for modern upscale Southern fine cooking, including Capitol Grille at the Forbes 5-Star Hermitage Hotel (no association with the steakhouse chain), 1808 Grille in the Hutton Hotel, the critically acclaimed Catbird Seat, or the new Lockeland Table, nominated for Best New Restaurant in the 2013 James Beard Awards.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where are the best places to hear live music in Nashville?

    People come from all over the world to hear shows at the Grand Ole Opry, which hosts the nation’s longest running radio show, since 1925, broadcast live each week. The Opry consists of two venues: The Grand Ole Opry House hosts shows each weekend, and on Tuesday evenings spring to fall, consisting of eight or more different artists, rather than a typical concert, usually anchored by a headliner like Amy Grant, Josh Turner or Keith Urban. The2,300-seat Ryman Auditorium, originally built as a church in 1893, and now a National Historic Landmark, is one of the nation’s best concert halls and features more traditional concerts by big names, with less purely country focus, including Peter Frampton with Robert Cray, Vince Gill and Hall & Oates. Then there are the famous “honky tonks,” countless bars through Nashville that feature live music every day, often from morning to late night, with one aspiring act after another, some of the best bar scene live music on earth. These can be found all over but several line Broadway downtown, including Robert’s Western Word, Legend’s Corner and Bluegrass Inn.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where are the best places to hear live music in Nashville?

    People come from all over the world to hear shows at the Grand Ole Opry, which hosts the nation’s longest running radio show, since 1925, broadcast live each week. The Opry consists of two venues: The Grand Ole Opry House hosts shows each weekend, and on Tuesday evenings spring to fall, consisting of eight or more different artists, rather than a typical concert, usually anchored by a headliner like Amy Grant, Josh Turner or Keith Urban. The2,300-seat Ryman Auditorium, originally built as a church in 1893, and now a National Historic Landmark, is one of the nation’s best concert halls and features more traditional concerts by big names, with less purely country focus, candling Peter Frampton with Robert Cray, Vince Gill and Hall & Oates. Then there are the famous “honky tonks,” countless bars through Nashville that feature live music every day, often from morning to late night, with one aspiring act after another, some of the best bar scene live music on earth. These can be found all over but several line Broadway downtown, including Robert’s Western Word, Legend’s Corner and Bluegrass Inn.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best places to stay in Nashville?

    The Hermitage is easily the top choice for lodging in Nashville - and has been for over a century. It is rare for a city this size to have a Forbes 5-Star hotel, yet the Hermitage is just that, the only one in Tennessee, and ideally located in the heart of downtown. It also is a bargain for a luxury hotel of this stature with weekend rates often under $300.  Its Capitol Grille restaurant is unrelated to the steakhouse chain of the same name, with a focus on Southern-style fine dining, its Oak Bar is one of the coziest and most traditional in town, and its staff oozes Southern hospitality. At the much newer end of the spectrum is the wonderful Forbes 4-Star Hutton Hotel, a contemporary boutique hotel, but more upscale than the Ws or Kimptons it resembles, and another fantastic value, often under $200, complete with free courtesy cars, well-appointed rooms and the wonderful 1808 Grill, a casual yet elegant eatery featuring everything from crispy Quail to the best gourmet burger in town. It’s also dog friendly.