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The semifinal college football playoffs game at the Fiesta Bowl 2016 kicks off Saturday, December 31 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Don’t pass on the 46th annual event, where the winner will go off to compete against the winner of the Peach Bowl semifinals in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship.

So, who will take home the Fiesta Bowl Trophy? That, we don’t yet know. We don’t even know which two teams will be competing. No one does—except the psychics with ESPN. But we do know how to get your tickets and where to stay when you go.

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GasLight Inn

The moment you step inside this wonderfully charming three-star bed and breakfast, you will feel at home. It’s located right in the heart of Glendale, close to Cerreta Candy Factory and Sahuaro Ranch Park. The parking and wifi are free. The building is old and enchanting. The free homemade breakfast is a touchdown. The rooms themselves are affordable, so that’s worth a few more points. And 96% of guests recommend it, so you know this is the truth.

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Four Points by Sheraton Phoenix North

The indoor and outdoor pools are probably what gives this hotel its final half star (out of three and a half). You’ll be resorting near the western sect of the Arizona State University campus, just a snap away from Castle N’ Coasters and Cave Creek Golf Course…and a short five miles from Glendale. Every room has a private balcony to take in the scenic, quintessential Arizona mountain views. And of course there’s a bar and an inviting spa tub, both perfect places to pregame or come home to unwind after the big game.

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Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort

Touch down on four stars of fantabulous. Freakin’. Fun. You know the perf complement to your pregame beverage at one of the delish dining establishments? A postgame facial. Or body scrub. Or…scratch that. If your veins are overflowing with excitement from the game, jump on over to the water park, and visit one or two or six or eight of the outdoor swimming pools. Yes, water park. There’s a water park here! Oh, and 8 pools. With 27 acres of waterfalls, waterslides, lazy rivers, mini golf, tennis courts, spa amenities and more, one weekend of Fiesta Bowling at Squaw Peak may not be enough time to enjoy everything this resort has goin’ on.

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Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass

An official hotel of the FB (Fiesta Bowl 2016), this oasis is just about a half-hour drive to the game and proudly boasts 4 stars. This Native American-owned respite from real life celebrates the detailed architecture, design and legends of the Pima and Maricopa tribes—making it one of a kind (not just another luxury resort, even though it definitely is a luxury resort). So, besides being a drop kick away from the stadium, you and your fellow travelers can splash around in the four pools with cascading waterfalls and 111-foot waterslide (modeled after the ancient Casa Grande Ruins, duhhh). Or take riding lessons. Or challenge your friend, hubs, wife, partner to a tennis match or a race along the extensive jogging trails. You can also go on a boat ride along the 2.5-mile river that surrounds the property. There’s even an Adventure Club with daily activities for the li’l boys and girls. I mean, saying there’s something for everyone is like saying Friday is the best day of the work week. Duhhh again.

The official (and sprawling) hotel of Fiesta Bowl 2016.

Phoenix Marriott Tempe at the Buttes

Making it a football weekend with the fam? This official Fiesta Bowl 2016 hotel has precisely what you need. No ifs, ands, or buttes about it. It’s a free kick away from Sea Life Aquarium, the Phoenix Zoo and Arizona Mills Mall. It’s also close to Sky Harbor Airport, so you don’t have to trek your people and things too far after you disembark from the plane. The kiddos will heart the waterslide and two outdoor pools; you’ll love the majestic hillside backdrop and panoramic views. It’s about a thirty minute drive from the stadium, and zero minutes from affordability and cactus-balls of fun.

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Tagged: City, Family, Sports

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Spring has sprung, meaning your surroundings may finally start looking less like a desolate wasteland and more like that beautiful Earth we hear so much about. And frankly we all deserve to celebrate a victory of making it through the doldrums. Here are some ridiculously colorful destinations to jumpstart your spring travels.

sedona arizonaSedona, Arizona: It won’t take long to figure out why this part of the Grand Canyon State is known as Red Rock Country. Rust-colored sandstone formations set the backdrop for a warm Western escape, whether you’re into hiking, touring the mountains an off-road vehicle or just admiring them from the window of a spa retreat.

south beach miami

Miami Beach, Florida: With its pastel-colored Art Deco buildings, colorful cocktails and glitzy nightclub lights, South Beach’s Ocean Drive will dazzle your days and nights. For even more color, head to the Wynwood Art District on mainland Miami, where seemingly every exterior wall has been transformed into a mesmerizing mural.

san juan puerto rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico: Whether you’re vacationing in the island’s capital or just disembarking from a cruise ship for a few hours, a jaunt through this 16th-century city will brighten your spirits. Pastel-colored architecture lines the narrow streets, and the seemingly endless monuments and souvenir craft are a feast for the eyes.

st john's new foundling and labrador canada

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada: It’s easy to have Eastertime on the brain in this historic fishing town, where the streets are filled with candy-colored houses known as Jelly Bean Rows. Visit the cafes, boutiques and galleries by day, and after dark hit George Street, where you’re sure to stay warm as you dance the night away under the nightclub lights.

harbor island bahamas

Harbor Island, Bahamas: White sand beaches are so overdone. But Pink Sands Beach on Harbour Island breaks the mold. Lounge on the coral-hued sand, or go for a dip in the calm, turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

grand prismatic spring wyoming

Grand Prismatic Spring, Wyoming: #NoFilter needed here. The largest hot spring in Yellowstone National Park looks amazing on its own. The natural wonder, also known as Rainbow Hot Spring, gets its coloration because from the various bacteria that lives in its rings of heat. Hey, the science may not be sexy, but it sure looks cool.

fairbanks alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska: With average high temperatures struggling to reach the freezing mark, Fairbanks may seem like an odd choice for a winter getaway. But if it’s color you’re after, then winter’s clear skies make now the perfect time to witness Aurora Borealis, a.k.a. the northern lights.

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In this age of online shopping, it’s easy to forget that our favorite goods come from actual, you know, places. See where everyday items are born during one of these made-in-America factory tours.

Crayola Factory in Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy of Frances MacLeod

Crayola Experience, Easton, PA

Let your imagination run wild through four floors of colorful fun at this attraction about a 90-minute drive from Philadelphia or New York City. Watch a live-action theater show that explains how crayons are brought to life, create custom crayons and run wild in the two-story color-themed playground.

Photo courtesy of Darah Thomas

Photo courtesy of Darah Thomas

Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory Tour, Louisville, KY

This bat factory will score a home run with baseball fans. As you enter the building, you’ll walk past the world’s largest bat—a 120-feet-tall replica of Babe Ruth’s own Louisville Slugger. Then it’s onto the factory and museum, where you can watch bats being made, hold bats used by Major League Baseball legends and test out the batting cages. At the end of the factory tour, take home a free miniature bat or order a full-size personalized Slugger.

Photo courtesy of Jelly Belly Candy Company

Photo courtesy of Jelly Belly Candy Company

Jelly Belly Factory Tour, Fairfield, CA 

You’ll feel like a kid in a candy store at this factory located between San Francisco and Sacramento. See what goes into making jelly beans that taste like buttered popcorn, toasted marshmallow and A&W Root Beer, and discover why it takes up to 20 days to create a single bean. But don’t fill up on the free samples; save room for bean-shaped burger or bean-shaped pizza in the Jelly Belly Cafe.

Stuffington Bear Factory Tour, Phoenix, AZ

Before there was Build-A-Bear, there was Stuffington Bear. Watch bears and other stuffed animals come to life as they are cut, sewn and stuffed, and learn about the history of teddy bears. After the tour, stop by the retail store to take home a cuddly companion of your own.

Ben and Jerry's Factory Tour in Vermont

Photo courtesy of Nick Caruso

Ben and Jerry’s Factory TourWaterbury, VT

How could an ice cream factory tour not be fun? Learn about the history of the company, watch as sweet treats come to life on the factory floor and, yes, indulge in free samples. Find even more sweet treats in the Scoop Shop, which offers traditional ice cream treats and specialty desserts. 

Photo courtesy of: linearclassic | Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of  linearclassic | Flickr Creative Commons

Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Washington, DC, and Fort Worth, TX

Anyone can make money, but not everyone make money. In each of these tours, you can stand above the production floor as millions of dollars roll off the printing press, watch a video about the production process and, ironically, buy souvenir currency in the gift shop.

Photo courtesy of Becky Musgrove.

Photo courtesy of Becky Musgrove

Tabasco Pepper Sauce Factory Tour, Avery Island, LA

The hottest tour in the South starts with a visit to this lush Louisiana island. Watch a film about the history of the spicy condiment, see where Tabasco is aged in white oak barrels and look on as the sauce is bottled and packaged to begin its journey to kitchen tables across America.

Photo courtesy of Harinder Singh

Photo courtesyof Harinder Singh

Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing TourEverett, WA

Take your knowledge of air travel to new heights during this rare public tour of a commercial jet assembly plant just north of Seattle. Interact with exhibits, walk through tunnels and ride a freight elevator to a balcony high above the factory floor as you watch 747s and other aircraft being assembled.

Photo courtesy of Tillamook.

Photo courtesy of Tillamook

Tillamook Cheese Factory, Tillamook, OR

Tillamook ages its cheeses for up to three year,s but you won’t need to wait that long to sample the goods during a self-guided tour of its Pacific Coast factory. Get a bird’s eye view as milk is transformed into 171,000 pounds of cheddar, pepper jack and more every day. After the tour, nosh on grilled cheese sandwiches, ice cream and other dairy delights in the on-site restaurant.

Photo courtesy of: ooitschristina | Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of ooitschristina | Flickr Creative Commons

Gibson Guitar Factory Tour, Memphis, TN

First come the instruments; then comes the music. Watch and listen as the legendary guitars are bound, neck-fitted, painted, buffed and tuned on at this famed Beale Street factory. After the tour, stop by the retail shop for a guitar of your own, and start singin’ the blues.

Photo courtesy of: Matt Lehrer | Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Matt Lehrer | Flickr Creative Commons

Budweiser Brewery Tour, St. Louis, MO

Before the craft beer phenomenon took off, there was good ol’ Budweiser. Learn about the company’s century-old brewing process as you walk through its historic building. Save room for a cold one at the end of the tour. Additional tours are available at these Anheuser-Busch factory locations: Fort Collins, Colorado; Jacksonville, Florida; Merrimack, New Hampshire; and Fairfield, California.

Tagged: California, Family, Food & drink

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Lake Geneva EDIT

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Just north of the Illinois/Wisconsin border, this laid-back watering hole has become quite the Midwest getaway for slowed-down weekends of lakeside moseying through shops and finding a good patio at sunset to lazily sip on a beer. Personal boat rentals can cost you a few mackerels, so get your float on with a boat tour via the Lake Geneva Cruise Line. Whatever you’re into–they’ve got a specialty boat tour for it: ice cream social, champagne brunch, jazz dinner. Step back on land (and back in time) at the Baker House, an 1885 mansion turned hotel, bar, and restaurant great for sipping a cocktail while overlooking the lake.

Click here to find the cheapest Lake Geneva hotel  

Lake Tahoe Edit

Lake Tahoe South, California or Nevada

Ski town in the winter; lake town in the summer. As far as “lake-cations” go, Lake Tahoe has made a name for itself as a “play hard, then play harder” destination. Daytime means plunging into crystal clear waters with your closest kayaking friends or finding yourself in a hot air balloon peacefully floating in a crystal clear sky. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the highly praised Base Camp Pizza Co. for a powerful pie (tease your taste buds with flavors like “Thai Curry Chicken” and “Pear & Gorgonzola”) and live music that will get you ready for an even livelier night ahead. There’s no time to relax because once you’ve eaten your weight in pizza it’s time to chug a cold one at local watering hole, Macduffs, bring your best poker face to Harrah’s casino, or dance the night away at Peek Nightclub. The best part? Wake up and do it all over again.

Click here to find the cheapest Lake Tahoe South hotel 

Lake Clark

Lake Clark, AlaskaBeat the summer heat with a cool Alaskan breeze and hangout session with Mother Nature. At Lake Clark you’ll find yourself exploring miles of untainted land and get up close with its local fauna. Silver Salmon Creek, Chinitna Bay, or Crescent Lake are the most popular areas to spot a brown bear from a distance. If befriending a bear isn’t quite your thing, find some inspiration at late, great nature enthusiast Dick Proenneke’s handcrafted cabin. Proenneke built his cabin by hand and lived independently with nature for roughly thirty years makinghim an Alaskan icon. At night, keep the serenity alive and find yourself sipping on a cold brew under the stars.

Click here to find the cheapest Alaska hotel 

Lake Placid

Lake Placid, New York

If you haven’t started to relax from just the name alone then that is reason enough to head here. Lake Placid literally becomes more placid in the summer months so grab the whole family for some “gentle” whitewater rafting(ahem, oxymoron much?) or step up the adventure with a rigorous hike up the tallest mountain in New York: Mount Marcy. If you are thinking about a winter trip, don’t miss the opportunity to experience the snowcapped great outdoors with man’s best friend as your guide; take a dog sled ride with Thunder Mountain Dog Sled Tours or Mike Arnold Dog Sled Rides. Still not convinced? The Breakfast Club, a crowd pleaser restaurant located on Main Street, offers breakfast all day long. Think about all of the bloodies! Sold? Thought so.

Click here to find the cheapest Lake Placid hotel 

Lake of the Ozarks

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

The only thing better than free stuff is free stuff on vacation. Lake of the Ozarks offers a ton of free attractions–it’s the adventure vacation that just keeps on giving. At Ha Ha Tonka State Park you’ll find your gaze stuck on the remains of an early 1900s castle; the product of a wealthy businessman’s crumbled dreams. At the Camden County Museum you can grab a quick history lesson at what fittingly wasa former school building. And at the Ozark Distillery you’ll find yourself with a free tour and tasting of spirits such as vanilla bean moonshine, vodka, and whiskey. Cheers to freebies.

Click here to find the cheapest Osage Beach hotel

crater lake

Crater Lake, Oregon

Forget “there’s no place like home,” and remember that Crater Lake is “likeno place else on earth.” Embark on a magical journey with the Wizard Island Tour, where you will set off by boat into one of the deepest lakes in the world and find yourself exploring the mysterious volcanic crater that lives in the lake. If you aren’t feeling adventurous, you can ditch the hike and take in the beauty of Wizard Island from afar on the Standard Lake Cruise. After working up an appetite all day, head to Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room, known for its locally grown ingredients, to indulge in elk chops, bison meatloaf, or a rack of lamb.

Click here to find the cheapest Oregon hotel

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu, Arizona

You don’t need to hop over the pond to experience London. Instead you can jump in a lake. In 1968 the founder of Lake Havasu purchased the old London Bridge, moved it to Arizona, and the rest is well, history. Take a 90-minute walking tour of the bridge or grab your boat and drop your anchor right below. History lovers aside, Lake Havasu is also the place for those who are looking to party in paradise, minus the whole cost of paradise. Think brews, boats, bros, and babes on a budget. Forget water sports and hikes, this is the ultimate in finding your tan, your fun, and your friends all day (and night) long.

Click here to find the cheapest Lake Havasu hotel 

Lake Caddo

Lake Caddo, Texas and Louisiana 

At Caddo Lake you’ll find yourself amongst the alligators, swampy waters, endangered species, and Bigfoot. Wait, what? Yep, rumors swirl about Bigfoot leaving its footprint in the wetland and after researching reports of an “ape-like” figure you’ll soon want to join in on the hunt. If finding a mysterious creature isn’t your thing you can take an educational outing at the park headquarters. Here you can learn about Lake Caddo, the Great Depression, and prohibition (you’ll be thankful it came to an end if you do spot Bigfoot). And if the idea of Bigfoot traipsing the land around you is truly terrifying you can always head to the water and hop on a boat tour with Caddo Lake Steamboat Company. Bigfoot can’t swim, right?

 Click here to find the cheapest Texas hotel

Tagged: California, Family, Last minute travel, Off-season, Seasonal, Sports, Tips & advice

Ciara Collins

Ciara Collins

Ciara Collins

Latest posts by Ciara Collins (see all)

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You’ll find tepid tacos, edible hot dogs and passable pizza pretty much anywhere, but you want to feel like you’re getting something special for your meal ticket. So we scoured North America for bargain-priced, refreshingly creative plates, and found 11, all 10 bucks or under.

1. Killer Combo at Komodo, Venice, Calif.: $10

For your 10-note you get four tacos that are so above run-of-the-mill, you’ll be licking your fingers and wondering what just happened. L.A.’s rising star chef Erwin Tjahyadi has all the right notches on his belt: Le Cordon Bleu training, apprenticeship with Wolfgang Puck, lead cook at Hotel Bel-Air, Zagat’s “30 Under 30.” He took his love of Asian fusion cuisine and created a sought-after food truck, which got so popular, it morphed into two standalone cafes. One of your four tacos should definitely be the Asian marinated chicken, jalapeño stir-fried rice, green onions, mandarin oranges, sesame seeds and sweet soy sauce glaze.

235 Main St., Venice; 8809 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, www.komodofood.com

Killer combo; Photo credit: Desi Mendoza ©

2. Ramen at Urban Belly, Chicago: $8

The late chef Charlie Trotter nurtured many an award-winning chef, including Bill Kim whose Urban Belly sits just beyond the hubbub of Chicago’s West Loop cluster of trendy dining. It’s the place locals bring friends from out of town to show how in-the-know they are. With the $8 ramen bowl, a perfect lunchtime size, they also get bargain bragging rights.

2UrbanBelly_JrRamenCreditConnor Rudny

Ramen; Photo credit: Connor Rudny ©

3. Arnabeet Mekle Sandwich at Souk & Sandwich, New York: $7.50

Chicken, beef, veal tongue, Lebanese sausage. It’s hard to choose just one of the 16 (nearly all under $10) lovingly filled and grilled Lebanese wraps at this take-out sammie spot in New York’s Hudson Square neighborhood. But we direct you to the Arnabeet Mekle because you might otherwise overlook it and because it makes marinated fried cauliflower crave-worthy.

Cauliflower sandwich; Photo credit: Michael Tulipan©

Cauliflower sandwich; Photo credit: Michael Tulipan©

4. American Buffalo Chicken Crepe at Simply Crepes, Canandaigua, New York: $9.29

In the Finger Lakes of New York, this crepe place turns the froo froo French staple into an accessible dish for any taste level. The Buffalo chicken, in particular, takes what’s usually reserved for football-game wings—the sauce, the lettuce, the blue cheese, the celery with dressing on the side—and rolls it up into a lightly sweetened crepe, a recipe that has been in the restaurateur’s family for generations.

Buffalo chicken crepe; Photo credit: Finger Lakes  ©

Buffalo chicken crepe; Photo credit: Finger Lakes ©

5. Poke Bowl at Pa’ina Café, Honolulu: $9

Apologies to the fans of this friendly, off-the-tourist-path gem who asked us not to divulge their secret. We couldn’t resist, especially when amassive poke bowl here is under $10. Poke (pronounced po-keh) can be found all over Hawaii and usually refers to a raw fish salad. It was popularized by iconic Hawaiian chef Sam Choy who even created a festival celebrating the dish. Pa’ina’s signature version hits all the right flavor notes: white or brown rice, spicy tuna, shredded nori and their special glaze.

Signature bowl

Signature bowl

6. Secret Poutine at Marker 92 Waterfront Bar & Bistro, Westin Cape Coral Resort, Florida: $9

One peek at the steak- and seafood-heavy menu at this intimate waterfront hotel restaurant and you’ll beeline-it back to the hot dog stand, but never mind the printed menu. Take a seat and tell the server you’d like the secret poutine menu. Hailing from poutine-reigning Canada, the general manager has taught the chef to keep a poutine recipe in his back pocket. The “loaded” version gets you a plate piled with crispy French fries topped with bacon, shredded mozzarella cheese, hot brown gravy and drizzled with sour cream. Dining amid the ocean breeze, pub fare never tasted so good.

Poutine; Photo credit: Westin Cape Coral Resort ©

Poutine; Photo credit: Westin Cape Coral Resort ©

7. Pozole at Barrio Queen, Scottsdale: $8

Mexican in Arizona is as original as barbecue in Kansas City, but, seriously, this place was given a place on Esquire magazine’s best new restaurant list in 2012, and for good reason. Specifically for its spicy Pozole Verde, a slow-cooked green pork chili and hominy soup, flavored up with onions, radishes and cilantro, served with three warm tortillas. It’s a centuries-old, hearty meal, made even better by its low, low price.

Pozole; Photo credit: Barrio Queen ©

Pozole; Photo credit: Barrio Queen ©

8. Frito Pie Bowl at The Beestro, Santa Fe: $8.95

We realize this may seem pedestrian to some foodies out there, but this match-up is a legendary throwback to the Woolworth’s original and now served with flair and a fun-loving attitude at this super-cute farm-to-table bistro (the owners are sweet on honey bee productsand preservation) in downtown Santa Fe. The Fritos add the crunchy-salty finishing touch to chef-made buffalo red chili that’s garnished with sour cream, lettuce, locally made Tucumcari cheddar cheese, diced red onion, fresh cilantro and spicy pickled jalapeños.

Frito pie; Photo credit: The Beestro

Frito pie; Photo credit: The Beestro

9. Fried Shrimp Po-Boy at Shrimp‘N Stuff, Galveston, Texas: $6.99

They’re doing something right at this no-frills Galveston Island mainstay; it’s been serving up delicately fried fish to the neighborhood since 1976. In this chosen po-boy, are deep-fried jumbo Gulf shrimp, with lettuce, tomato and house-made tartar layered into toasted French bread. It’s so darn cheap, you could splurge for the $2.99 side-and-drink deal or just a side—we suggest the sweet potato fries—for $2.29. Take it all to the outside patio.

Shrimp sandwich; Photo credit: Galveston CVB

Shrimp sandwich; Photo credit: Galveston CVB

10. Full Bellied Pig Sandwich at Café Patachou, Indianapolis: $8.95

What might look like a same-ol’ PB and J from the outside is actually a pumped-up twist that we think only Martha Hoover’s famous Café Patachou could pull off so smoothly: peanut butter, strawberry jelly, Smoking Goose bacon and fresh jalapeños on toasted wheat bread, served with a side. It’ll hit your heart with a whollup, but what really makes this concoction heartwarming is that all the proceeds benefit underserved children in Indianapolis.

Full bellied pig sandwich

Full bellied pig sandwich

11. Gai Yang at Sticky Rice, Los Angeles: $10

L.A.’s historic, always jammed Grand Central Market is fittingly very NYC, with hip vendor booths selling culinary treats from cheese to ice cream to fresh-baked breads and fresh-pressed juices. So you could feasibly nibble your way through, but you should save your money for a meal at Sticky Rice, lauded as tinseltown’s first “Thai comfort food” restaurant that cooks with organic, free-range and locally sourced ingredients. The Gai Yang is our winner on price: tender Thai barbecue chicken with papaya salad, sticky rice and sweet-tangy dipping sauce.

Sticky rice; Photo credit: Amparo Rios

Gai Yang; Photo credit: Amparo Rios

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Tagged: California, Cheap Tips, City, Florida, Food & drink, Hawaii, L.A., New York City

Elisa Drake

Elisa Drake

Elisa Drake

Latest posts by Elisa Drake (see all)

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Arizonablog
Foodies, you may want to book your Phoenix hotels now because Arizona Restaurant Week takes over the metro area September 20-26.

The first ever Arizona Restaurant Week features special three-course meals for $29 per person or $58 per couple (excluding drinks, tax and tip). More than 90 restaurants in Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale will participate, including Tommy Bahama, Bourbon Steak and La Fontanella.

At La Fontanella, choose from more than 15 homemade pasta entrees and eight chicken dishes for your main course. Tommy Bahama’s dessert selections include pina colada cake, key lime pie, and flourless chocolate espresso cake.

Several restaurants in Scottsdale hotels also are participating. At Deseo in the Westin Kierland, you could have rainbow ceviche, bone-in ribeye and mango creme brulee. Or you could visit Trader Vic’s at the Hotel Valley Ho for an ahi slider, pork tenderloin and rum gelato with praline sauce.

If you’re looking for a reason to travel to Phoenix, Arizona Restaurant Week may be it.

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Tagged: City, Events, FREE!