National Car Rental Prize Giveaway. Give Me Your Best Travel Tips About…

Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman starred in the 1986 mini-series Fresno. Fresno was supposed to be this backwater place, an absurd location with which to parody soap operas. I lived there, a few years after the mini-series debuted. And I even have fond memories, there are many more things to do there than when I was there on and off from 1989 through 1996. I spent a ton of time playing $2 blackjack at the Indian casino…

What does this have to do with rental cars? As I’ve written in the past, there are only two real game changing innovations in rental cars that I can think of in my lifetime. One is keeping your information on file so that you can be pre-assigned a car and take off by showing just your driver’s license. The other is picking your own car.

The pioneer in the space, of course, is National with its Emerald Aisle. I love National’s “Go Like a Pro” slogan because their Emerald Aisle concept, to me, is the perfect frequent business renter feature.

National knows that business trips (and leisure trips, especially to visit family!) don’t always take folks to the most popular, most conventionally exciting destinations. If they did, there wouldn’t be air service to Omaha, Des Moines, Milwaukee, or Boise.

National, though, thinks that off-the-beaten path destinations can offer a lot to folks visiting, with the right inside tips. They call these places “Underrated, Over-Traveled.”

And since I used to live in Fresno, I decided to focus there. It’s also been many years since i lived there, and it’s changed a ton. So I’d love to learn the latest tips.

Prizes: When there’s something on offer from a company for me, my practice is to try to make it available to readers instead. I am not taking anything for running this contest. Instead, there’s a ‘grand prize’ in addition to five winners.

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • $250 AMEX gift card
  • National Extreme Sport Duffel
  • National Case Logic Zippered Tech Journal
  • National Ultimate Privacy Luggage Tag
  • National 14oz Striped Coffee Tumbler
  • National BicRoundstic & Notepad

Five additional winners will receive the following prize pack:

  • $50 AMEX gift card
  • National Extreme Sport Duffel
  • National Ultimate Privacy Luggage Tag
  • National 14oz Striped Coffee Tumbler

How to enter:

Leave a tip about Fresno, California either

  1. as a comment in this blog post, or
  2. via Twitter mentioning @garyleff and the hashtag #NationalUOT

You may leave as many tips as you’d like, but each must be a bona fide tip about Fresno.

    The tip can be about anything as long as it can reasonably be put on a map. (National will be sharing tips on its Foursquare page, and by entering you explicity grant permission for this with or without attribution.)

    Subject area examples include Dining, Sports/Activities, Bars/Nightlife, Outdoors/Park/Public Facilities, Arts/Films/Theater, Historical/Famous Landmarks.

If you enter via twitter, you must also follow @garyleff so that I can direct message you if you win. If you don’t follow me on twitter you won’t be eligible.

If you enter here with a comment on this blog post, the email address you identify yourself with (which won’t be published online) must be real so I can contact you if you win.

Entries must be submitted no later than Noon Eastern time on Friday, July 18. I will pick the winners.

The fine print: the contest is open to US residents only (talk to the lawyers on this, sorry!). I’m the final arbiter in all matters related to this contest and in all matters of interpretation. There is no appeal. I’m doing this because there’s an opportunity to send out some cool prizes from a brand I like, and not taking anything from them in return, so please don’t give me a hard time in the process. However do note that National Car Rental is sponsoring the prizes.

    You can join the 30,000+ people who see these deals and analysis every day — sign up to receive posts by email (just one e-mail per day) or subscribe to the RSS feed. It’s free. Don’t miss out!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Check out the Fresno Metropolitan Museum for some local art culture, but not on Monday as it’s closed.

  2. In the mood for Mexican food? try Castillo’s , they are a family owned business that serve Authentic Mexican dishes

  3. Kids have an awesome time at Boomers! lots of things to do and the daily specials makes it even better. In my opinion is better to go on Thursdays around 6pm because for $10 you get 2 hours of unlimited Rides and Attractions.

  4. I am all for Family owned businesses because the always offer great service for a low price, Batter Up Pancakes on North Cedar Ave has simple and delicious food and is not overpriced

  5. Cupcakes Bakery has the best cupcakes in the city, cupcakes are always moist and the frosting is so creamy and delicious.You gotta try the Carrot cupcake, is goood!

  6. Rancho Notso Grande has a great name, and, especially this time of year, is a great place to pick your own mouthwatering berries. And they let you eat while you pick!

  7. For the good chow-hunters out there (Gary, this is a tip you can use for Tyler), check out Rudy’s Chicken Man, not far off the 99 at Clinton. This is a real, old-school, fresh oil, fried chicken joint — father & son enterprise, now just the son (Rudy Jr.?).

  8. Victor mentioned the Armenian community above and suggested Diana’s Restaurant above. I’ve never been there, but those interested in a taste of Armenia would do well to check out Hye Market, which has a great range of Armenian (and Middle Eastern, and Greek) groceries, ingredients, and prepared foods.

  9. First off, love National for being in smaller cities and being able to pick my own (usually upgraded) vehicle!

    Lots have already said Fresno is a great base for visiting national parks, but I’ll add that if visiting Yosemite, avoid the crowd by going to Tuolumne Grove, Tuolumne Meadows, or back-country it in Ansel Adams or John Muir Wilderness…

    But if you want the outdoors without leaving the city, Fresno’s Japanese Garden (mentioned by others, too) is beautiful. It isn’t as planned as San Francisco’s Japanese garden, but what it lacks in order, it makes up for in size being the largest Japanese garden in California. It’s also dirt cheap!

    Speaking of cheap, but oh so yummy, are the hand-made tortillas and tacos at El Mercado on Belmont (near the airport). Actually a Mexican grocery store, if you go in the morning, you’ll pass the enormous grill in the parking lot smoking chickens. Besides groceries, inside you’ll find 8 tables, a salsa bar, flavorful carnitas, spicy and juicy pork, cabesa, tongue and menudo. Don’t forget to ask for chiles!

    My last tip which has to do with National is that the airport car rental facility is literally across the street from most of the airport hotels (at least the Picadilly and Holiday Inn). This is great if you’re trying to shave off a couple hours of rental to not incur another rental day – for example, if you flew in at night, you could just walk to your hotel and get the rental car in the morning saving you at least 8 hours of rental. Yes, the hotels offer an airport shuttle, but trust me, the walk takes all of 5 minutes (if the fence weren’t in the way, it would take 1 minute!).

  10. Just remembered another Fresno tip — for those hot valley days, head to Tropic Hawaiian Shave Ice to cool down — delicious, and run by a dude who looks like the shave ice guy from Hawaii Five-O (the remake).

  11. Head up to Shaver Lake it is a beautiful place to camp or stay in a rental. We have been going as a group for years every summer.

  12. Because of the hot summers, Forestiere carved out by hand over 40 years what’s now known as the Forestiere Underground Gardens. It even has a little house down there with bedrooms.

  13. Arrive real early for early AM flights. The lines are always very long due to a bunch of 6 am +- departures.
    I missed a flight and had ot wait whole day even though I was Pr Exec

  14. I live in Fresno and it is really getting bigger and bigger with all sorts of big name brand business coming in to Fresno. For someone who doesn’t live there anymore, but I’m sure you can remember, you must try and that is the pizza. Not just any Pizza but to me the best pizza in the world, and that is Me-N-Ed’s pizza. I’ve been a lot of places where people say this is the best pizza, but I must say when your in Fresno you will never forget this slice of pure bliss. This pizza is brick oven baked with the cheesy cheese, freshest toppings and a sort of tangy tomato sauce that’s out of this world. So in the end while my mouth is watering my tip if you ever venture to Fresno, California try Me-N-Ed’s pizzeria it will change your life ;@)

  15. Something I’ve wanted to do is to take a walking tour with About Town Taste. You get to walk and see historic buildings as well as sample local restaurants.

  16. The Fresno Metropolitan Museum has an excellent permanent collection on William Saroyan, Fresno native and famous writer.

  17. The San Joaquin River Stewardship Program gives the public a chance to paddle down the San Joaquin River either by canoeing, kayaking, or standup paddling.

  18. Go to th Yosemite Ranch Steak & Seafood Restaurant for a great meal. It’s been there for ages and is a proven winner for top food options in Fresno.

  19. In Clovis, Grilled Chz serves up a fabulous “Sloppy Cheez” — a combo of a grilled cheese and a sloppy joe, on fried sourdough bread. The crispy fries are also delicious.

  20. Cemetery tourists might want to check out the grave of Academy Award winner Walter Huston at Belmont Memorial Park. Huston is also the father of John Huston and the grandfather of Angelica Huston.

  21. If traveling with kids (or if you just love animals), check out the Chaffee Zoo (

  22. Another thing to do with the kids there, if you’re traveling in the summer, is go to Island Waterpark (

  23. Fresh fruit Mochi at Kogetsu-DO Confectionary. To die for! Gotta try it. Also Mochi with ice cream. Yummm!

  24. You can often join a game of horseshoes in one of the horseshoe pits at Roeding Park. Perfect thing to pair with a trip to the zoo, which is right there.

  25. The Water Tower in downtown Fresno is a city landmark. Built in the American Romanesque style, it looks like a part of a medieval castle. It is now open as a visitor center where you can get tourist information and buy souvenirs.

  26. Fulton Mall is a pedestrian-only 6 block long street, shaded by trees and historic high rise buildings dating between 1910 and the 1930’s. There are shops, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, music venues and fountains with many benches to stop and rest along the way.

  27. The Tower district, Fresno’s half mile of culture, features award winning restaurants, performance venues, shops, and galleries.

  28. The Discovery Center is a mostly outdoor museum that is part science museum part botanical center.

  29. Gary, I lived in Hanford near Fresno at the same times as you, so we may have run into each other. I have returned a few times to visit. The Chaffee Zoo is small but enjoyable for families. The Fashion Fair Mall still has plenty of places to shop. And just a few miles to the east, there are three great national parks – Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia. I love the San Joaquin Valley. It is a great place to visit, and just a few hours from anything you want – mountains, coasts, and metropolitan areas.

  30. Architecture buffs will enjoy stopping by the historic Pantages Theatre (1928) in downtown Fresno. The building is “an eclectic blend of Moorish, Spanish and Italian Renaissance Revival elements”. Try to get an inside tour for fascinating windows and ceilings. Originally built for vaudeville acts, it now hosts concerts.

  31. A bit tourist trap-y, but the Forestiere underground gardens are a cool place to check out. Dug by one man, the name pretty much says it all…but it’s pretty unique.

  32. This will sound strange but just stick with Olive Garden. The local food scene is just okay.

  33. Fresno hosts California’s Premier Greek Festival on Fri, Sat & Sun August 23, 24 & 25 – 2013 – the 53rd Annual Fresno GreekFest!

  34. Consider stopping by the Meux Home Museum (1889). Built by a civil war veteran, Dr. Thomas Richard Meux, it is a historic home with a beautiful Victorian exterior and interior. A great time to visit is in the fall when it hosts special period themed activities.

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