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. Teazer Tea Markets are a great showpiece local to Fresno. The downtown location is particularly convenient if you’re taking Amtrak, as NaveJ suggested above.

  2. … and posting about Teazer made me think of Cafe Corazon, which is the one coffee roaster in Fresno that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the big city boys.

  3. The Forestiere Underground Gardens are a pretty sight to see. I’d suggest stopping by if you’re in the city.

  4. Fresno Breakfast House is a great place to have an inexpensive, yet flavorful and filling breakfast.

  5. I lived in the Fresno area for over 18 years. There are a lot of things to do in the area. In order to avoid comment spamming, I’ll number my entries to the contest.

    1. See the Fresno Grizzlies (AAA Giants feeder team) play at Chuckchansi Park, which was built in 2002 and is very nice.
    2. Watch a Fresno State game. Fresno State has some of best athletic programs in the Cal State University system (23 campuses around the state!). Their football team is often nationally ranked and is a perennial Cinderella team. The fans are die-hard and the the games are a lot of fun. Don’t forget to wear red! They also have an excellent men’s baseball team (NCAA D1 Champs in 2008!)

    3. Chuckwagon in Sanger. Eat the best chili in the world at Chuckwagon in Sanger. This is just 5 minutes from highway 180 and is the perfect breakfast or lunch stop if you’re on your way to Sequoia or Kings Canyon National parks.
    4. Superior Dairy. Though not technically in Fresno, this diner in Hanford churns its own ice cream and is a perfect place to stop if you’re driving up to Fresno from the south entrance of Sequoia National Park.
    5. Doghouse Grill. The sister restaurant of Main Street Grill in Cambria and of The Firestone Grill in San Luis Obispo, Doghouse Grill is located accross the street from The Save Mart Center Stadium at Fresno State and serves up the best Tri-Tip in the Valley.

    6. Go white-water rafting on the upper Kings River. There are two companies that conduct white water rafting tours. It’s a lot of fun and only about an hour away.
    7. Leisurely rafting on the lower Kings River. No guide needed. Enter the River at Goodfellow Road (20 minutes from Fresno) for a leisurely 3 hour float to Kelly’s Beach Bar and Grill in Reedley.
    8. Spend the day at Pine Flat lake. Boats are available to rent on the lake for a very affordable price. This 1 million acre-feet reservoir tends to be much less busy than other local lakes, which makes it perfect for water skiing. 40 minute drive from Fresno.
    9. Go skiing or snowboarding at China Peak. (about an hour up highway 168)
    10. See a concert and the new Save Mart Center stadium. Due to Fresno’s central location between Los Angeles and San Fransisco, they are able to get a lot of big name bands to add a tour date in Fresno.
    11. Drive to San Luis Obispo and spend the day at Pismo Beach. This is the closest beach to Fresno and a very popular hangout for Fresnans. However, since it’s much farther away for Los Angelenos and San Fransiscans, it’s not very crowded. For an extra thrill, drive your car out on Pismo Beach, bring a tent and stay the night. No permit or special tires required.
    12. Drive the length of Van Ness. There are some beautiful old houses along this old road. William Saroyan used to play along it as a child.
    13. Play a round of disc golf course at Woodward Park. The course is free.
    14. Spend the day at Wild Water Adventures. There is plenty of shade, you can bring in your own food, and there are ponds to fish in while the kids play on the water slides.

  6. Visit in the fall or spring when the weather is fantastic and have a picnic in one of the many beautiful nearby regional parks in the foothills.

  7. The outdoor Fulton Mall is a very pleasant way to spend a late afternoon or early evening.

  8. Love the Vineyard Farmer’s Market. I’m a wanna-bee enthusist (pun intended) and they have special events including the Be My Honey Festival showcasing Bee Bob’s honey. Yum!

  9. Angel falls and Devils slide is an awesome local chill spot near bass lake. Its a hidden turnoff just before you get to bass lake. Nice hike, pools, waterfalls, underwater swimming holes, and of course devils slide (big natural rock slide).

  10. Check out Woodward Legacy DIsc Golf Course (aka frisbee golf!) for an affordable and fun entertainment option.

  11. The Fresno Art Museum is a really underrated attraction in Fresno. In fact, it is the only art museum anywhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco and it definitely packs plenty of interesting exhibits and informative events to make up for the lack of museums in other cities! Afterwards head over to JJ Dukes for some delicious sandwiches! Enjoy your time in Fresno, it truly is underrated.

  12. The Park Inn – Fresno is a decent hotel that happily accepts pets and it only costs 9,000 points/night. The dogs will love all the mature trees and grass on the property.

  13. Tropic Hawaiian Shave Ice, has amazing shaved ice and Fresno can get hot these months.

  14. The Farm Market on Barstow Ave has a large selection of wines produced at Fresno State Univ — the only on-campus commercial winery in the U.S. (think Nouveau-style red for $6.95.)

  15. Another good vegan restaurant option is Revive Cafe, where they support local organic farms and also make great smoothies!

  16. If you’re flying into Fresno (FAT) to visit Yosemite, I strongly suggest visiting in the shoulder season – in May before Memorial day or in Sept after Labor day. The summer crowds have thinned out, and you’ll have the place to yourself.

  17. The Castle Air Museum in Atwater north of Fresno has an SR-71 and a B-52!!

  18. Looking to start your day with a hit? Go to Batter Up! for a pancake. Great stuff.

  19. Well looking to eat fresh and healthy? Got off your butt and head for Vineyard Farmers Market on Wed and Sat. Ask a local for directions.

  20. Dining plus Activities:
    1.Great jazz(free) every Sunday evening at 6:00pm plus delicious food at the the oldest Japanese Restaurant in downtown Fresno-the Tokyo Gardens.

    2.Take the kids to the Chaffee Zoo and/or Storyland with a train or paddleboat ride on the pond. Breakfast or lunch nearby a few blocks away at Al’s Cafe which has some of the best American/Mexican food around at very reasonable prices. Try the philly cheese-steak or some of the Mexican specialities such as albondigas soup or the monster burritos voted the best in town.
    Al’s is also very convenient if you are just passing through Fresno. It is just one block west of Highway 99 at the Olive St exit(only open for breakfast and lunch).

    3. Meet and make new friends with French conversation from 3:30-5:00pm every Thursday at la Boulangerie in fig Garden Village and enjoy a baguette or other French delicacies.

  21. 1.The excellent summer concert series every Fri. night for only $10.00(with Mexican food, beer/wine available) at the Arte Americas Cultural Center in downtown Fresno.

    2.The summer Band concerts(the oldest continuous summer band concerts in the US) in the downtown park Thurs. evenings at 8:00 pm in Kingsburg, pop. 11,500, the nicest small town in Fresno County(named the Swedish Village after its Swedish heritage). Bring earplugs if you have sensitive ears as real canons are used during the playing of the 1812 Overture!!!
    Enjoy food from one of the vendors along with ice cream deserts. Especially try one of Jonathan’s homemade fresh berry sorbets.
    If you arrive early enough before the concert try a full course dinner at Jonathan’s restaurant or hors d’oeuvres and wine and beer at Blends Wine Bar two blocks down the main street from the park.

    3.If you can’t make the concerts but are driving along on Highway 99 at breakfast time stop for delicious Swedish pancakes at the Dala Horse or Stockholm Bakery.

    4. The Tower District has many venues including excellent productions at Roger Rockas dinner theater,
    the Fresno Filmworks foreign films at the historical Tower theater the second Friday of each month and Art Hop each first Thurs. with many participating local galleries serving complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres.

  22. Since you will have a National car, head south about 35 minutes to Castle Air Force base museum in Merced. One of the most significant B 52 bomber bases during the cold war, it served as a strategic bomber traing base in world war II. Interior and outdoor displays include 50+ aircraft from WWII and the cold war. Certainly this is a great way to spend an afternoon or day.

  23. The Caruthers District Fair, about 30 mins south of Fresno, is the only “free-gate” fair in the state and is incredibly family friendly. Check it out in September/October, and eat at one of the dozen or so diner-esque food booths manned by local non-profits.

  24. Check out the Forestiere Underground Gardens which has a series of underground rooms that remind one of ancient Roman tombs

  25. If you’re trying to nonrev to another destination (say the Bay Area or Las Vegas) and it starts to look like there is no possible way to nonrev to either of those areas; you can always nonrev to Fresno and you’ll have no problem getting a last-minute rental car from there. True story (both times).

  26. China Peak just opened a new 27-hold disc golf course (think frisbees instead of golf balls). Players start by taking a chair lift up a mountain and then play holes back down the mountain. Good fun and a decent amount of exercise to boot!

  27. Visiting the Fresno Chaffee Zoo would be a great experience for children of all ages

  28. Despite of been a bit old the Rotary Storyland Playland is a great place to take your children, rides and attractions are perfect for the little ones.

  29. you can catch pretty good concerts at the Woodward Regional Park, beautiful landscape and perfect for a picnic with the family

  30. River Park Farmer’s Market is a great place to buy fresh produce and is pretty affordable too

  31. If I don’t include this one, my kids would have a major breakdown. Chuck E Cheese never fails, I know you can probably find tons of locations around the country but for the little ones this doesn’t matter, every Chuck E cheese has its own magic

  32. There is a new restaurant that just opened this week in downtown Fresno. It’s supposed to be a good place to drop in after seeing a Grizzlies game. It’s called Sumthin Ta Eat and they offer free Wi Fi.

  33. Fresno’s “Zamora Taqueria” is one of the best Mexican restaurants you will ever eat at. In addition to the amazing food, you feel like you are transported to Mexico while eating there.

  34. Before you head out to Yosemite, head to REI Fresno for all of you outdoor action gear. The staff are really knowledgeable and helpful. Of all the REIs I’ve been to, I found that REI Fresno staff really knew their stuff about everything fun to do nearby and how to prepare for any possible activity in Yosemite or even just outdoors in the Fresno area.

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