Be Careful How You Vet Your Next Resort Vacation

The year was 2005 when my wife and her sister had made big plans.   For months they had strategized a family trip to Colorado promising to rival all past trips we had known.   Indeed, their enthusiasm created quite a stir within our families generating so much anticipation.   It seems the stars were aligning to make for one of the most memorable get-aways our respective families had ever experienced.

Of course, the enthusiasm quickly waned once we arrived at the destination.

After expensive plane tickets, renting cars, taking time off work just to enable the trip to happen…we had finally arrived at a broken down motel that just so happened to have a fancy name and a webmaster who tended to stretch the truth.   The upshot was we had invested our entire summer vacation plans into a destination that deeply disappointed all of us.

Long story short — we did not spend a single night at the place and eventually got better accommodations at a suitable property after someone had cancelled out during the last minute.

The point I’m trying to underscore is be careful when planning your next big escape to the outdoors.   Here in Minnesota we are blessed with a plethora of resorts, lodges, etc. to accommodate just about everyone’s summer vacation needs.   Some prefer it rustic and inexpensive…other folks like at least a few basic amenities while on vacation.   Yet, others want luxury accommodations nestled along some secluded northern lake.


Not every vacation destination offers idyllic views like this.

It has been my experience the Internet can fool a person as much as it can help out while choosing the right destination property.   So many times I have seen fancy pictures splattered all over a website only to learn upon arrival how most of them were taken in the main lodge or office.   Then when you go to the cabins you find them somewhat less than what you had envisioned for your 7–day stay.

We are certainly in a time of the year when plans are being made for summer travel.   Typically, folks rely on past experiences or friend recommendations for some guidance on where to go…but this is not always possible.   Even some of the sportsman shows which display these destinations can be confusing and misleading.

I wish I could tell you a foolproof way to vet these destinations to avoid surprises.   In most cases, a little careful checking can go a long way.   But the truth is there are times when a person must play the odds and keep fingers crossed.   Summer vacations can be a major investment in both time and money.   New, previously unexplored adventures can be exciting…but they also can be wrought with many factors faced by the unknown.

Let’s hear some of your tricks and/or tips on how to book destination vacations that might be off the beaten path or outside the radar of Internet rating services, like   Also, if you have a horror story similar to our adventure to Colorado, let’s hear it.   It’s always nice to discover a person isn’t alone when it comes to bad travel experiences.

©2012 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Random Thoughts On The 2012 SHOT Show

It’s been a week now since returning home from the 34th annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show and I’ve been ruminating on the experience ever since leaving.   No doubt about it…the energy experienced at SHOT this year was very palpable and positive.

To begin, we are three years into the Sands Convention Center experience and I would have to say it’s getting better each year.   While I still yearn for the days back when the show was hosted largely in one main room with aisles long and predictable, I have to say SHOT has done nearly everything possible to make navigating this show floor an easier experience.   Still not perfect, but now with a little past experience and tools such as the smartphone SHOT Show app, navigation has dramatically improved to check out all 1,600 exhibits.

Now, if you’re looking for me to talk about what’s new in this blog post…I’m sorry to disappoint.   Instead, I want to point you to a few other sites that do a wonderful job fleshing out many of the new products on display.   The first site is put together by a friend and fellow blogging colleague, Richard Johnson, over at Guns Holsters and Gear.   His pro staff does such a good job of reporting on many the new product details you deserve to check it out.

Another good source of SHOT Show information is available in video format from the Professional Outdoor Media Association’s new Media Center.   Currently they have about 100 short two minute or less videos showcasing news both from the recent Archery Trade Association show as well as SHOT.   Click on the graphic to check it out.

One final source for good 2012 SHOT Show information is Field and Stream magazine’s online coverage that can be found HERE.

Some might ask why I don’t provide a rundown of new products on this blog.   It’s a good question.   During previous SHOT Shows I have certainly dedicated blog space within these pages to talking about the products—the new, the interesting and the strange.   Truth is I don’t go to SHOT these days with the primary objective of seeing (and reporting) on what is new in the industry.

There was a time earlier in my career when writing about such aspects of the show was important.   As I’ve matured, I suppose it could be said it takes more innovation to impress me.   After all, how many ways can you tweak a flashlight and still be excited about it after watching product development for two decades.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, new products still excite me.   But over the years I’ve learned the SHOT Show for me is much more about making connections and networking than it is observing everything new on display.   Quite honestly, I don’t know how anyone within this industry can fail to find great benefit by attending the trade show.   It is the keynote event within the outdoors and shooting industry.

Today, I’d like to wrap up this post by showing some iPhone pictures snapped at this year’s SHOT.   Here’s hoping they’ll give you a better sense of what it must be like to walk the busy show floor and to take in the unique experience:


One of the cool products I did see at SHOT. Plastic tree stump ground blind marketed by







Many of us walk by this exhibit drooling and dreaming of winning the lottery.


Many exhibits feature celebrity autograph sessions. Here, Lynn Swann, HOF NFL football player greets show attendees for Colt.


Even the SHOT Press Room was a busy place this year with 2,400+ media in attendance covering the show.

©2012 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.


SHOT Show 2012: After Hours-It’s Time To Eat In Vegas

Okay, I know this blog posting has absolutely nothing to do with the outdoors, hunting or fishing.   But as a public service to my fellow gastronomically challenged peers heading to the SHOT Show in one week, here’s a listing of some recommended Las Vegas dining establishments you might want to check out.   Much of this list was compiled courtesy of, while bits and pieces were also distilled from other sources on the web, as well as my past personal experiences.

Aside from seeing all the great products at the tradeshow, one of the other important elements of SHOT is winding down after a long, productive day.   Thankfully, Las Vegas has a multitude of great dining and lounging experiences to finish out the perfect day.

If you have any additional suggestions on other great places to try out, please leave them in the comments section below.   Otherwise, enjoy the list.Buffet

Top Las Vegas Buffets

1. The Buffet, The Bellagio
2. The Buffet, Wynn Las Vegas
3. Carnival World Buffet, Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino
4. Cravings, The Mirage
5. Feast Buffet, Green Valley Ranch Casino
6. Flavors Buffet, Harrah’s Las Vegas
7. Le Village Buffet, Paris Las Vegas
8. Spice Market Buffet, Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino
9. The Buffet, CityCenter
10. Wicked Spoon Buffet, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Value Dining (Cheap Eats)
1. BLT Burger (Burgers) The Mirage
2. Earl of Sandwich (Sandwiches) Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino
3. ‘wichcraft (Sandwiches) MGM Grand Hotel & Casino
4. Ports O’ Call Buffet (Buffet) Gold Coast Hotel & Casino
5. In-N-Out Burger (Fast Food)  4888 Dean Martin Dr. 
6. Buffet at Monte Carlo (Buffet) Monte Carlo Resort & Casino
7. Peppermill Restaurant (Cheap Breakfasts 24 hours) 2985 Las Vegas Blvd.
8. America (American) New York New York Hotel & Casino
9. Dick’s Last Resort (American) Excaliber Hotel & Casino
10. Red, White & Blue (American) Mandalay Bay
New & Notable (Fine Dining)
1. 35 Steaks + Martinis (Steakhouse) Hardrock Hotel & Casino 
2. Bacio by Carla Pellegrino (Italian) Tropicana Casino
3. Central Michel Richard (American) Caesars Palace
4. China Poblano (Chinese & Mexican) The Cosmopolitan
5. Comme Ca (French) The Cosmopolitan
6. Fleur by Hubert Keller (Eclectic) Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino
7. La Cave Wine & Food Hideaway (American) Wynn Las Vegas
8. Ri Ra Irish Pub (Irish) Mandaley Bay Resort & Casino
9. Scarpetta (Italian) The Cosmopolitan
10. STK (Steakhouse) The Cosmopolitan
©2012 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.