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Friday, July 18, 2014

Fun and almost free: top 5 bike-friendly towns

Ah, what a feeling to have the world at your fingertips when beginning to make your travel plans, mapping out the places you want to see, the food you want to eat, and the things you absolutely must do. But, wait, how are you going to get around without breaking the bank on transportation costs, once you get to your desired vacation spot? Consider two wheels to cheapen the deal. When travel prices hike, the answer is to bike!

Major cities—the ones you totally want to take an extended weekend trip to—are earning top makes on Walkscore’s list of bike friendly cities. Tight wallets, rejoice! When it comes to your travel expense list, you can cross off cab rides and car rentals.

Join the fleet of penny-wise pedal pushers. Plan your next trek to these bike-lovin’ cities utilizing bike share programs and traveler-friendly bike rental shops:

1.  Portland, OR
Bikescore: 70.3

portland sto size

It makes sense that Portland is number one. Every good hipster has a bike and Portland is to hipsters as a hive is to bees. Surprisingly, Portland has yet to launch a bike share program. Not to worry; you can rent a bike for the whole week for $100 at Pedal Bike Tours. They have five stars on Yelp and are located only two blocks from the Waterfront Park Trail—no brainer.

2.  San Francisco, CA
Bikescore: 70.0

An image of San Franciscans with totally ripped thigh muscles comes to mind when one thinks of all those hills, but alas, it must not be that hard to get around on two wheels if SF is ranking in at number two. These West Coasters have the bike share thing down. A cheap $22 rental for three days of access to Bay Area Bike Share is perfect for you weekend travelers.

3.  Denver, CO
Bikescore: 69.5

denver to size

The mile high city is home to a monstrous 96 miles of bike lanes, which provides a safe place to ride for those new to city cycling. Denver B-cycle is the bike share program in town. At $20 for a week of unlimited rides, this might be the best deal on the list!

4.  Philadelphia, PA
Bikescore: 68.4

philly to size

Liberate your inner child on a ride to the Liberty Bell and right hook those wheels over to the Rocky Steps in the same day. While Philly has yet to adopt a bike share program, there are tentative plans in the works to bring one by spring 2015. Fairmont Bicycles is in your corner for rentals and only a six-minute ride to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The best deal there is a two-day rental for $60.

5.  Boston, MA
Bikescore: 67.8

bigboston to size

Cobblestone streets are no match for the savvy cyclers of Boston. Ride like Paul Revere in and around the circular hub of Bean Town’s central neighborhoods. Although it’s closed during winter, for obvious reasons, bike share is the way to go with The Hubway system. Best deal on the menu is $12 for a 72-hour access pass, leaving plenty of budget left for some chowdah.

Click here for a list of other major US cities with high bikescores.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

10 ways to make Austin awesomely free

Photo of the SXSW 2013 Gaming Expo courtesy of South By Southwest,

Photo of the SXSW 2013 Gaming Expo courtesy of South By Southwest.

The South By Southwest music, interactive and film festival kicks off March 7, which means a boatload of free parties, concerts and swag is about to invade Austin, Texas. Lucky for penny-pinching travelers, Austin is already rife with free entertainment. Here are the ten coolest free finds in town.

 

Party up

Even if you don’t buy a SXSW badge, the fest still provides a smorgasbord of free fun ranging from a video game expo to eco art installations. Sxsw.com/free contains the official events open to the public, but net-savvy travelers can also get the deets on free private events by keeping up with local publications like Austin360.com, AustinChronicle.com, RSVPster.com and Do512.com.

 

Take a dip

Barton Springs, the mother of all pools, charges an entry fee, but there are still plenty of spots along the city’s greenbelt that you can visit without paying a dime. Throw on your bathing suit and hit up local faves like Lost Creek, Sculpture Falls or Secret Beach.

 

Go gaming

Get a gander at brand new games at the SXSW Game Exposition or head to Kung Fu Saloon in downtown Austin to kick it old school. This ninja-themed bar boasts an impressive selection of 80s and 90s arcade classics, all of which are free on Sundays.

 

Grab a paddle (board)

If you’ve never tried stand up paddle boarding, now is your chance. SUP ATX offers free lessons every Sunday morning for beginners of all ages.

 

Get historical

A few museums in town are perma-free and bless them for it. You can always peek at the fossilized remains of dinos at the Texas Memorial Museum located at the University of Texas, Austin, or hop over to Camp Mabry just north of the city to see the Texas Military Forces Museum. A trip to Austin would be remiss without boning up on the state’s history. Thankfully the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum offers free admission the first Sunday of each month.

 

See some art

Historical museums aren’t the only place where you can score a deal. You can also slip in to see exhibits at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas every Thursday, the Mexic-Arte Museum every Sunday or at The Contemporary Austin modern art gallery every Tuesday on the house.

 

Go batty

Austin is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony and it’s basically a crime to leave town without seeing them. Living under the Congress Avenue Bridge, an estimated 1.5 million bats take flight at twilight. Bring a blanket and nab a seat near Lady Bird Lake for prime viewing.

 

Catch a flick

The illustrious Alamo Drafthouse runs free screenings of kids movies the last Saturday of each month during the school year and provides gratis children’s films every Monday through Thursday during the summer. You can catch the occasional non G-rated freebie at the Alamo locations, but you’re more likely to score complimentary films at Spider House Cafe and Ballroom or through the Austin Film Society.

 

Take a tour

Austin is the capital of the great state of Texas and you can learn all about it through the Texas State Capitol’s free guided tours. If you’d rather hoof it on your own, the Austin Visitor’s Center can hook you up with self-guided tours of downtown Austin and the Texas State Cemetery.

 

Take in some tunes

With more live music venues per capita than anywhere else in the country, you simply can’t leave town without getting your groove on. There are far too many free shows to list here, but head to Do512.com/free to bask in the overwhelmingly awesome selection of no-charge concerts at your disposal.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

5 ways to score free vacation entertainment

rsz_underwater_hockey

You ponied up for the flight. And you ponied up for the hotel. Now save big on your vacation fun with these five tips and tricks to score free activities and entertainment.

Work it

Taking tickets and passing out programs can score you gratis entry to film fests, concerts and live theater. Many year-round playhouses including New World Stages located off-Broadway in New York City and Briar Street Theater, home to the Blue Man Group in Chicago, allow volunteer ushers to see shows without paying a dime. Larger festivals like the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and the Bonnaroo music fest in Manchester, Tennessee, offer loyal volunteers free entry to events they’re not working. Not all volunteer opportunities are advertised. To find out what’s available, call local theaters and cultural institutions several weeks or months in advance.

Go public

From concerts in the park to Saturday morning workout programs, cities offer a variety of publicly funded fun, especially during warm months. Many towns post events on their community calendars, but public libraries and budget-friendly blogs are also great sources for finding freebies.

Take a tour

New York, Paris, Moscow and a wealth of other destinations offer complimentary guided tours in English led by locals. If you can’t track down a greeter tour program, create your own by heading to iTunes and check out the hundreds of free walking tour podcasts available for download.

Try something new

What do the Samarya Center yoga studio in Seattle, the Rick Steves’ Travel Center in Edmonds, Washington, and the Chicago Underwater Hockey Club have in common? They all let newbies come test the waters for free. A little research and a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone can translate to fee-free introductory dance and cooking workshops, language classes, guest lectures, crafting courses, history lessons, photography seminars, fitness classes and more.

Use your connections

You may also be able to get perks through your bank or credit card provider. Bank of America, for instance, offers all of its credit and debit card holders free entry to more than 150 museums throughout the country two days per month, while Citi card members can use their Thank You points to score concert tickets through Live Nation. Contact your financial institutions and ask about their perks.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cheap Family Labor Day Getaway: St. Louis

We know that when you’re trying to travel with family, there’s only one thing better than cheap—free. For a cheap getaway filled with free things to do this Labor Day, look no further than St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis is, after all, the patron saint of savings (probably). Considering the free zoo and the free museums, this is our kind of town, and we put together a list of stuff to do in the Lou.

Saint Louis skyline

City Views and Muddy Blues

The Gateway Arch defines the St. Louis skyline and if you haven’t had a chance to see this architectural masterpiece, we recommend you head straight there. After you take the ride to the top ($10 adults, $5 kids), take some time to walk along the riverfront.

If you have a taste for those St. Louie blues, or some fun festival food, stroll on down the cobblestone streets of Laclede’s Landing to the Big Muddy Blues Festival. Two of the three stages are free, and kids are welcome.

After you walk around, let your kids climb around at the City Museum. Don’t let the name fool you—this place is less like a museum and more like a four story jungle gym made out of recycled materials (including an airplane, a school bus, and—you guessed it—a giant whale). It’s something your kids will never forget. The playtime experience is 12 bucks a pop, but this uncommon place, and the uncommon chance for you to take a breather, is worth every penny.

End the night with some of the best ice cream in the country. Ted Drewes on Chippewa is one of the oldest and best known ice cream (sorry, frozen custard) shops in America. Located on the old Route 66, this place serves concretes so thick you can hold them upside down, and has done since 1929.

 

Z is for Free Zoo

Start off day two with a little adventure by checking out the Saint Louis Zoo. This is our absolute favorite type of zoo—the free type. With over 90 acres, the zoo is one of the largest and best in the country. And if you get there before 9am, the children’s zoo is free too.

Afterward, save a few bucks on lunch by packing a picnic in the park. Then browse around the free art museum, free history museum and free science center, all of which have free parking.

When dinner time rolls around, it’s a short drive to St. Louis’ Italian neighborhood, the Hill. These authentic, family owned Italian restaurants serve up the best food in the city. Taste the classics as they were meant to be tasted, or try the city’s signature toasted ravioli.

Before you go to the airport Monday, try out Ari’s Restaurant and Bar for breakfast. St. Louis Magazine calls this the Cheapest Breakfast in Town, and it’s hard to argue with their math. Ari’s buffet style breakfast is $6.95 for adults, and $3.95 for kids. And that includes the coffee.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

My cheap Arizona hotel crush: The Montelucia

 

Luxe for less: Scottsdale's Montelucia teases with Camelback Mountain views & affordable weekday stays.

By Valerie Moloney

When online shopping, I’m painstaking and stalkeresque in my search. What’s a few hours of comparing, clicking and reclicking when the ultimate fruit the best deal on travel? So it’s nice when I don’t have to do the work, and an upscale beauty blazes to the top of the search results with everything on my wish list: a gorgeous pool, heavenly spa and otherworldly décor that channels the Andalusian region of Spain. Read the rest of this entry »

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Boardroom meets bedroom in a Fort Lauderdale suite

A room that multitasks: The conference suite at Sheraton Suites Plantation, Ft. Lauderdale West.

By Mara Tilen

We get it. Spending your work week in hotel rooms can get monotonous after a while, but look at the bright side: Sometimes that hotel room is a gateway to a cheap vacation. Case in point: South Florida, a sunny, affordable destination that begs to be explored when the client meetings are said and done. With a thriving nightlife scene, serene spas and a 600,000-square-foot convention center, you’ll feel that much more productive in beautiful surroundings. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beignets to churros: The best bites at Disneyland

Top dogs: Get your hand-dipped, golden-brown corn dogs at several stands around Disneyland.

By Amanda Ficili

Snacking your way around the Disneyland Resort is an attraction all its own, and with so many deliciously tasty opportunities, it’s easy to see why. Sure, the spot is home to a multitude of fabulous restaurants and eateries, but sometimes you just need a little pick me up in between, especially after a few hours of adventurous park hopping at the Disneyland Resort. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Disneyland on a dime: 7 money-saving tips

 

Catch Disneyland's new Mickey's Soundsational Parade, one of many freebies within the park.

By Amanda Ficili

There’s never been a better time to visit the Disneyland Resort and with the upcoming openings of Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, you’ll want to get those bags packed and ready for an unforgettable summer vacation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rainy day plans: Disneyland’s best indoor adventures

Find refuge at Disneyland's Animation Building to create cartoon characters & sing with the Seven Dwarves.

By Ari Krell

You know the old saying, “It never rains in southern California.” Well it’s totally true. Until it rains. And if it happens to be raining cats and dogs on a day you already planned on going to Disneyland Resort, then prepare yourself for a magical time even under threatening skies. Read the rest of this entry »

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The less you pay, the better it feels on CheapTickets

By Valerie Moloney

There are certain luxuries in life where you can – but shouldn’t – skimp on price. A great leather jacket. That pair of designer jeans. New hardwood floors for your house. But travel? The less you pay, the better it feels. With our Best Price Guarantee, we’re all about cheap flights, cheap hotels and cheap vacations. See our new commercial, and spread CheapTickets’ travel deals with your friends.

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