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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips. 

With more than 50% of U.S. adults at least partially vaccinated, it’s finally time to put on some real clothes and get back out into the world. But with every state seemingly at a different level of reopening, and many events still canceled or postponed, what is there to do? We’ve got a list of nine great events, from music festivals to immersive art exhibits, to make this summer one to remember.

RELATED: 10 destinations that are huge bargains this summer

Lollapalooza: Chicago

Concert Crowd At The Music Festival

Chicago’s biggest and best-known music fest is making its triumphant return to Chicago’s Grant Park this summer. Featuring Miley Cyrus, Foo Fighters, Post Malone and Tyler the Creator, plus more than 170 other artists, the festival runs July 29– Aug 1. Full vaccination or a daily negative COVID test are required. Get your advanced festival tickets here.

Book your Chicago hotel soon. 

Austin Asian American Film Festival: Austin

The Austin Asian American Film Festival (June 4–20) features tons of short form, documentary, and feature length new Asian and Asian-American films. The two-week event’s centerpiece film is Mei Makino’s coming of age story, Inbetween Girl. The film follows teenage artist Angie Chen as she navigates the fall out of her parents unexpected divorce. Tickets for both virtual and drive-in screenings are on sale now.

Book your Austin hotel right here.

Smorgasburg: New York City

A table of fresh picked berries and peppers at a local mid-west farmer's market.

“The largest weekly open-air food market in America,” Smorgasburg is starting their reopening small. Two of their four locations—World Trade Center and Jersey City—are currently open. There’s dozens of vendors across the two locations and seating for up to 500 at Jersey City. The New York Times calls Smorgasburg “the Woodstock of eating.”

Find a great NYC hotel here.

Cinespia: Los Angeles

Having traded headstones for headlights at a drive in near the Greek Theater in LA, Cinespia will be screening the best in cinema all summer long. Grab some friends, load up the car, and head out for a night of film under the stars. Upcoming films include Beauty and the Beast and Thelma & Louise.

Find a fantastic Los Angeles hotel here.

Pride in the Park: Chicago

Group of Friends Jumping, Laughing and showing Positive Vibes at the Gay Pride Waving Colourful Rainbow Flags in the Middle of the Busy Street

The first major event in Chicago this year, Pride in the Park is kicking off the summer festival season. Held once again in Chicago’s Grant Park, the fest runs June 26 and 27 and will be headlined Saturday by Tiësto and Sunday by Chaka Khan and Gryffin. With the city’s Pride Parade holding off until October, Pride in the Park looks to be Chicago’s one big summer event to celebrate the LGBTQIA community. Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test is required.

Browse great Chicago hotels here. 

Breakaway Music Festival: Grand Rapids, MI

Like so many other festivals, the multi-city EDM/Hip Hop festival Breakaway was forced on a year long hiatus in 2020. This summer, they’re bursting back on the scene with their first American dates August 26-27 at Grand Rapids’ Belknap Park. Featuring the likes of Illlenium, Quinn VCII, Gryffin, Big Wild and Chelsea Cutler, this is a can’t miss for electronic and pop fans.

Book the perfect Grand Rapids hotel here.

Van Gogh Immersive Experience: Various cities

Van Gogh epitomizes the romantic, tortured artist. Unappreciated in his time, it was only in the decades following his death that his works gained their much-deserved notoriety. The Van Gogh immersive exhibition presents the artist’s works in all their vibrant, colorful emotion as never seen before. Tickets are on sale for several major cities around the US, but selling fast! Get your advance Van Gogh Immersive Experience tickets here.

Find fantastic hotel deals right here.

National Mall and Smithsonian Museums: Washington, DC

Hand holding a Polaroid of the Lincoln Memorial during a sunny summer day

Though the Washington Monument and US Capitol Building remain closed for tours, a day on the National Mall is always one well spent. Visit the Lincoln Memorial, grab a picnic on the sprawling grassy areas, and then head for the myriad Smithsonian Museums—an easy walk from the Mall. Eight of the Smithsonian Museums are currently open, including the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, the National Portrait Gallery, the Renwick Gallery and the National Gardens, and the remainder are gradually reopening. All museums require are free, but require an advance reservation.

Get a good DC hotel deal here.

Food Truck Wednesdays: Miami

Come out to Miami’s Pelican Harbor every Wednesday from 5-10pm for a weekly festival showcasing the best food trucks South Florida has to offer. Enjoy outdoor seating, free parking and a location that’s hard to beat.

Snag a Miami hotel deal here.

Tagged: California, Cheap Tips, Chicago, Destinations, Events, Festivals, Florida, L.A., Music, New York City, Texas, Texas, Top 10 list, Types of Travel

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Zach Cunning

Zach Cunning

Zach’s love of travel has led to him walking Roman roads along the Camino de Santiago, bartending throughout South America, surfing the Atlantic coast of Morocco and teaching backpackers everywhere the fine art of shaking up the perfect margarita. When he’s not traveling, Zach lives, works and studies in Chicago.
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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips.

There are vacation rentals, and then there are geodesic dome homes, those quirky, rounded abodes that gained popularity in the 1960s and 70s, when a growing number of young Americans sought out a tranquil existence closer to nature. Today, booking a stay in a modern geodesic dome home taps into this spirit of hippiedom, while anchoring your trip to an eco-friendly architectural marvel. To spend the night in one of these featured dome homes, no need to be a hippie or join a commune. All boast modern comforts and amenities (hooray for air-conditioning) and are available to easily book on CheapTickets.

   RELATED: 12 great American roadside attractions

Joshua Tree, CA

Photo courtesy of CheapTickets

Joshua Tree is one of those quintessential settings for a dome home: The landscape is expansive, evocative and infused with hippie-inspired vibes. A stay at this Joshua Tree dome home pairs a “traditional” home with a dome home. Located in a rural setting about 10 minutes from Joshua Tree National Park, this exquisitely decorated property features four bedrooms, two baths, a fireplace—and a tricked-out bedroom/living room where the landscape and nighttime sky views provide the ultimate “wow” factor.

Austin, TX

Photo courtesy of CheapTickets

Everything is bigger in Texas, including its dome homes. This adults-only Austin dome home boasts a huge wrap-around patio, hot tub and skyline views. It sleeps up to seven people and offers amazing privacy while being just 10 minutes from downtown Austin.

Hatteras Island, NC

Photo courtesy of CheapTickets

The Blue Pearl is a family-friendly, retro dome home within walking distance to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Onsite amenities for the beach—such as boogie boards, umbrellas and beach toys— are included in your stay. The property is also reality-TV famous: It was featured on HGTV’s “Beachfront Bargain Hunt.”

Santa Fe, NM

Photo courtesy of CheapTickets

This spacious Santa Fe dome home offers stunning “Land of Enchantment” views from its private patio. Past vacationers here love that this home provides proximity to the city, but is far enough away so that you won’t feel like a tourist.

ALSO: You can now get hotel-style perks at select vacation rentals —join Orbitz Rewards today to learn more!

Yosemite, CA

Photo courtesy of CheapTickets

Nestled in the mountains of Midpines, this Yosemite dome home offers quiet seclusion, while residing just 26 miles from the Yosemite Arch Rock Gate entrance. Nearby you’ll find hiking, skiing and biking trails, as well as rock-climbing opportunities.

Franklin, VT

Photo courtesy of CheapTickets

This adults-only Vermont dome home in the “Islands & Farms” region of Northwestern Vermont provides a romantic setting. It rests on 33 acres of mostly forested property with stunning lake views. The home also features a cozy fireplace.

Silverthorne, CO

Photo courtesy of CheapTickets

Talk about a Rocky Mountain high. This Colorado dome home perched at an altitude of 9,200 feet is ideally situated between the ski towns of Vail, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Keystone.

Chattanooga, TN

Photo courtesy of CheapTickets

This Chattanooga dome home is the epitome of cute, cute, cute. You’ll be centrally located in Chattanooga, named the “Best Town Ever” by Outside magazine, thanks to its abundant access to hiking, biking, boating, fishing, white-water rafting and hang-gliding opportunities. Of course, the world-famous Chattanooga Choo-Choo is a can’t miss, too.

Grassy Creek, NC

Photo courtesy of CheapTickets

This handcrafted North Carolina dome home is set on 40 acres among the rolling hills of Eastern Ashe County, near southwest Virginia. The location upon which the vacation home resides, “Unforgettable,” is a Christmas Tree farm and wildlife preserve that boasts numerous wooded walking trails that you’re welcome to meander. The dome home’s 300 square feet of windows make you feel as if you are part of the surroundings. A private deck, swing and hot tub enhance the R&R.

Tagged: California, Cheap City, USA, Cheap Tips, Destinations, Texas, Texas

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

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Whether it is a replica Eiffel Tower from Paris or a lovely seashell found on a Fiji beach, every souvenir we collect brings home pleasant memories. But an item that you make yourself—perhaps a decorated T-shirt from a prestigious art museum, or a beautiful lei from Hawaii—can be particularly meaningful and memory-laden because of the time you invested in making it in the place it represents. Here are some our favorite places to make a one-of-kind, DIY souvenirs to take home. Be sure to make a reservation!

RELATED: America’s most amazing vintage record stores

Napa, CA

Blend your own wine 

The Taming The Lion Wine Blending Experience at the Hess Collection Winery in Napa includes a tour of the vineyard and wine production area. It is offered every day but Saturday. After experimenting with blending three varietals, student winemakers compare their blend with Hess’s signature Lion Tamer Red Blend.  Tastings occur throughout. When finished, everyone takes home a bottle of their own custom blend. Also, don’t miss the winery’s stellar free art museum!

Honolulu, HI

Make your own lei

Hawaii hotels are famous for offering workshops where you can learn to make a lei from fresh flowers—often local orchids—or perhaps a hula skirt from fresh ti leaves. Lest you think you can’t take these fresh flower creations home with you, rest assured these items tend to hold up in dried form. The Surfjack Hotel offers free Aloha Friday workshops where hotel guests can make fresh-flower lei wristlets or bracelets from lauhala leaves, and the public is welcome to join if space allows.

Lincoln City, OR

Blow your own glass fishing float

Hand-blown glass floats from Japanese fishing nets were once frequently found on the wind-blown beaches of this Oregon coastal town. Nowadays they are harder to come by. But all Lincoln City visitors can leave happy, because they can blow their very own colorful glass float at Lincoln City Glass Center. Alternatively, you can make a paperweight or a bowl.

Pittsburgh, PA

Silkscreen an Andy Warhol T-shirt

At the comprehensive Andy Warhol Museum, which focuses solely on the Pittsburgh-born artist’s work, visitors can silkscreen their own T-shirt or tote bag in Warhol’s famed pop style. In a studio dubbed The Factory, participants select a Warhol image and paint colors, and then are helped along with the silkscreening process.

Georgetown, SC

Weave a sweetgrass basket

Making sweetgrass baskets—a tradition brought to this area by West African slaves—is a popular craft throughout South Carolina.  The baskets are made of tightly coiled grass and prized for their artistry. In Georgetown, about an hour from Myrtle Beach, you can learn how to make one for yourself when you add a class to your tour of the circa 1740 Hopswee Plantation. Be sure to also reserve afternoon tea in its top-rated tea room.

Austin, TX

Write your own song
In the “Live Music Capital of the World,” guests of the Four Seasons hotel in Austin can arrange for a song-writing session with a local musician. The sessions includes a crash course in musical composition and theory, plus help with writing a unique new song.

Tacoma, WA

Blow your own Chihuly-inspired glass object

In Tacoma, the town of famed glass artist Dale Chihuly’s birth, inside his spectacular Museum of Glass, visitors can create a beautiful piece of glass art. Participants are assisted by artists on the Hot Shop floor, and can choose from a variety of items to make—a paperweight, an ornament or a signature Chihuly flower. You’ll need to plan ahead because these workshops occur only once a month on specific weekends.

Curacao, Caribbean

Paint your own chichi doll in Punda
Most everyone who has seen a colorful, fully-rounded chichi doll wants one. Learn to make your own chichi, which means “big sister” in the local Papiamento dialect, at the Serena Art Factory in Punda. That’s where they produce the doll body sculptures, offer factory tour and regularly offer a drop-in morning classes, as well as an evening workshop offsite that includes sparkling wine.

St. Martin, Caribbean

Blend your own perfume in Tijon

In a small shop on the French side of the island, discover how fragrances are created and then create your own. After participants select from a vast variety of oils, expert perfumologists assist with mixing them. Then you choose a name. Your custom fragrance is put in an attractive bottle and given a custom label, and you can reorder later. Sign up here.

Tagged: Caribbean, Cheap Tips, Destinations, Events, Texas, Texas, Tips & advice, Top 10 list

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Carole is a Berkeley-based travel writer who most especially enjoys cultural and culinary travel. She contributes to an assortment of publications and is the author of 18 books. Carole oversees two websites, berkeleyandbeyond.com and webcamtraveler.com, and she blogs at travelswithcarole.blogspot.com.
Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips. This article was updated May 14, 2020.

Don’t be sad that there were once more than 4,000 drive-in theaters in America; be delighted that there area still upward of 400 left, keeping alive the glorious tradition of watching movies under the stars. In fact, these outdoor entertainment spaces have enjoyed an unexpected resurgence since social distancing has become a normal part of our daily lives, and they deserve our support now more than ever. After all, no one owns a drive-in to get rich. “It’s 100% passion,” says Mark Freeman, who with his wife, Jennifer, co-owns the Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre in North Carolina. Freeman does it because he loved going to drive-ins as a kid, because he loves introducing a new generation to drive-in culture and because he especially loves it when older couples tell him they frequented the Raleigh Road when they were young and now they’re bringing their grandchildren. Here are seven vintage venues that refuse to let drive-ins go quietly into that good night.

RELATED: These are the 9 coolest motels in America

66 drive in theatre

Flickr CC: vhines200

66 Drive-In: Carthage, MO

At last count, there are only 10 drive-in theaters left along America’s Main Street. The 66 on Route 66 in Carthage is celebrating its 70th anniversary. In 2003, it was added to the National Registry of Historic Places. With it’s neon sign, the distinctive 66-foot-high steel-framed screen housing, the original playground and stucco concession stand, it “looks and feels very much as it did when it opened for business,” according to the National Park Service website. Some contend that the 66 inspired the vintage design of the Radiator Springs Drive-in in the Pixar film, Cars.

Hi Way Drive In

HI-Way Drive In Theater

Hi-Way Drive-In: Santa Maria, CA

This single-screen Hi-Way is located smack dab between Los Angeles and San Francisco, about 30-minutes south of San Luis Obispo. Opened in 1959, it boasts an irresistible iconic red neon sign and its ricos nachos served in the snack bar are almost as big a draw as the nightly double-feature of new releases. The movies can be heard on your car radio, but for old school patrons, old-fashioned speakers are available in the first eight rows.

The Mahoning Drive-in Theater: Lehighton, PA

Pennsylvania is home to America’s oldest drive-in (Shankweiler’s in Orfield), as well as this plucky survivor that boasts the largest CinemaScope screen in the state. The Mahoning Drive-In in Lehighton is the subject of a lovely 2017 documentary, At the Drive-In, which chronicles a make-or-break summer in the drive-in’s 70-year history. The traditional opening night double feature is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Wizard of Oz.  This Memorial Day brings the fifth annual Zombie Fest; nine movies in three days.

The Outdoor Theatre drive-in in McHenry, IL

The Outdoor Theater drive-in in McHenry, IL

The McHenry Outdoor Theater: McHenry, IL

The McHenry Outdoor is the last drive-in theater standing in the Chicagoland area, and one of less than a dozen operating in Illinois (The Cascade in West Chicago just closed this year). It opened in 1951 as the Skyline Drive-In and after a renovation, re-opened as the McHenry in 1977. What it lacks in flash and dazzle, it makes up for in history and generational connection, so much so that in 2013 the locals voted in numbers big enough to earn the 800-car McHenry a free digital projector from Honda’s Project Drive-In.

Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre: Henderson, NC

Mark Freeman and his wife, Jennifer, have co-owned the Raleigh Road in Henderson since 2001 and it’s been quite an odyssey. Renovations and digital upgrades aside, this drive-in is still pretty much setup the same as when it opened 70 years ago as the Moon-Glo. It’s got the same 1949 bunker-style snack bar (with a full menu that includes Philly cheesesteaks). The Raleigh Road shows primarily new releases, but in later summer, the double-bills include classics and cult favorites primarily from the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s like The Goonies. Last year’s pairing of the original Halloween and the reboot was a big hit. “I truly love movies and if we can put on a good show and the people come out, we’ve done our job,” Freeman says. 

August 1960 #5 - Dale_Skyway Drive In

The Skyway Drive-In in August of 1960

Skyway Drive-In Theatre: Fish Creek, WI

The Skyway Drive-In sits across from Peninsula State Park in Wisconsin’s Door County, a popular Midwest vacation destination known as “the Cape Cod of the Great Lakes.” The theater opened in 1950 and is reportedly the longest continually operating drive-in in Wisconsin. It’s pure old school with one screen, two movies and vintage “Let’s go to the snack bar” interstitials and commercials. The Skyway not only runs the vintage ads for Pic mosquito repellent (“Light it and forget it”), but the coils are for sale at the concession stand (and it actually works!).

Bluelite, Austin

Blue Starlite, Austin

BONUS: Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In: Austin, TX

This charmingly funky labor of love has a terrific origin story. Josh Frank started his mini-boutique drive-in to impress the woman who would later become his wife; on their sixth-month anniversary, he projected Grease on an alleyway wall. Eight years later, the Blue Starlite comprises three DIY screens on a rented plot of land. The main screen accommodates 25 cars and 25 pedestrians and shows family fare. A side screen showing cult faves can be viewed by eight cars and 30 pedestrians. A back screen in a forested area is for pedestrians only. Concessions are served out of an RV. There is a second location in Vail, CO.

Tagged: California, Cheap City, USA, Cheap Tips, Chicago, Events, Family, Top 10 list, Types of Travel

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Donald Liebenson

Donald Liebenson

Donald Liebenson

Latest posts by Donald Liebenson (see all)

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When you’re far from home, nothing hits the spot quite like comfort food at a comforting price. Try one of these grilled cheese sandwiches, which are truly a meal in themselves, and all at a price worth melting for.

The BBQ Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese

The BBQ Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese | Photo courtesy of Ms. Cheezious

Ms. Cheezious – Miami, FL

Eats like the Frito Pie Melt ($7) and Southern Fried Chicken & Waffle Melt ($10) won’t exactly put you on the fast track to a beach body. So you might as well finish the deal with a S’mores Melt ($7), which is exactly what it sounds like.

The Grilled Cheese Truck – Los Angeles

If combining three comfort foods into one delicious sandwich is wrong, thenwe don’t wanna be right. This mobile eatery offers quasi-healthy fillings like Brie and sliced pears, but its signature melt is the Cheesy Mac & Rib ($8)—barbecued pork with macaroni and cheese, finished with sharp cheddar and caramelized onion, all on French bread. Oh, yes they did.

The Jalapeño Popper

The Jalapeño Popper | Photo courtesy of American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

The American GrilledCheese Kitchen – San Francisco, CA

Get your kicks when you order the Jalapeño Popper: local chèvre, Monterey jack, apricot-jalapeño relish on levain ($9.50). And don’t sleep on the Breakfast Grilled Cheese options, with fillings like veggies, black beans and bacon, natch.

Roxy’s Grilled Cheese – Boston, MA:

Whether you score yours at the food truck or any of Roxy’s four brick-and-mortar locations, you’re sure to hit a home run when you order the Green Muenster: cheese, bacon and house-made guac on organic bread ($7).

Three Sheets – Atlanta, GA

Adulting never tasted so good, thanks to this Hotlanta lounge’s monthly Grilled Cheese Wine Dinner. The evening showcases five sandwich-and-vino pairings ($44.50), like Manchego with caramelized mushrooms accompanied by pinot noir, or cheddar and baked apples on cinnamon bread washed down with Sangiovese. Raise a glass to childhood.

Maine Lobster Grilled Cheese

Maine Lobster Grilled Cheese | Photo courtesy of GCDC

GCDC – Washington, DC

Eating light for summer? Try the Open-Faced Grilled Cheese Salad. Order your favorite sandwich off the menu ($8.50 and up), and it’ll arrive at your table with half the bread, served over a garden salad. The Bacon Jalapeño Popper and the Maine Lobster are both seriously solid choices.

Melt Bar and Grilled – Cleveland, OH

Cleveland really does rock when you’re choosing from more than two-dozen specialty sandwiches, including vegan offerings like the Mushroom Melt ($12.50), Peanut Butter and Banana ($11) and the Purple Parma ($11.50), made with eggplant and marinara. Die-hard diners with a Melt logo tattoo get 25% off for life. We’re seriously considering it—who wants to join us?

The Brielle at Melt Kraft

The Brielle at Melt Kraft | Photo courtesy of Melt Kraft

MeltKraft – Philadelphia, PA

It doesn’t get much more farm-to-table than this eatery that raises its own cows, sheep and goats. Sandwiches like the Brielle (Brie, cranberry chutney, caramelized onion and toasted pine nuts; $8.25) and the Melter Skelter (aged Raclette, pickled green tomatoes, jalapeños, barbecue chips and watercress; $8.50) will have you asking, “What cheesesteaks?”

Burro Cheese Kitchen – Austin, TX

Still saving for that dream vacation? Stay inspired with options like the OG (havarti on Kings Hawaiian bread; $5) and the Coppola (gouda, almond-pesto aioli, basil and tomatoes on sour dough; $8)—neither of which will take a bite out of your vacation budget. Bon voyage.

The Queen's Kickshaw

The Queens Kickshaw | Photo courtesy of Lauren DeCicca

The Queens Kickshaw – Queens, NY

When you’re in your comfy PJs and halfway through a House of Cards marathon, you can’t be bothered leaving the house. Thank goodness this eatery delivers grilled cheese—and beer! The Cheddar and Mozzarella with tomato and fennel soup ($9) will keep you nice and cozy.

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

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

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All is calm, all is bright. In some cases, really bright.

Here are seven of some of America’s most over-the-top holiday light displays.

CheapTickets-St-Augustine-Florida-Christmas-lights

St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights. Photo courtesy of St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau.

St. Augustine, Florida: During Nights of Lights, the 450-year-old city illuminates its landmarks with white lights in a display that’s been called one of the world’s 10 best. The festivities include a bunch of special events, such as carriage and boat tours, outdoor concerts and more.

Blossoms of Light in Denver, Colorado

Blossoms of Light in Denver, Colorado | Flickr Creative Commons: Amy Aletheia Cahill

Denver, Colorado: Denver Botanic Gardens sets the scene for a classy holiday with Blossoms of Light. The flora becomes even more inviting when it’s illuminated with thousands of lights, including a spot named the Romantic Gardensfull of aromatic plants and plum trees. (Can you say marriage proposal spot?) There’s also live entertainment on select nights, and visitors can purchase 3-D HoloSpex glasses to enhance their view of the lights.

Tacky Lights Tour in Richmond, Virginia

Tacky Lights Tour in Richmond, Virginia | Flickr Creative Commons: Taber Andrew Bain

Richmond, Virginia: On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Richmond Times-Dispatch‘s annual list lovingly named the Tacky Lights Tour. Houses must have at least 40,000 lights to make the list; some are tasteful, some downright tacky. The newspaper alerts homeowners that they’ll be included, so when you embark on a self-guided tour of the eyesores, you’ll be laughing with them—not at them.

Glittering Lights | Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Glittering Lights | Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Las Vegas, Nevada: There are drive-through light shows… and then there’s Glittering Lights at Sin City’s Motor Speedway. Roll down your windows, turn up your windows and cruise around the 2.5-mile track that proves the Vegas Strip isn’t the only part of town that glistens.

Christmas in Los Angeles

Christmas in Los Angeles, California | Flickr Creative Commons: Loren Javier

Los Angeles, California: Come to see the stars, but stay to see the lights. Downtown L.A. Walking Tours offers a nightly Holiday Lights Tour showcasing how the City of Angeles celebrates the season. Stops include the Broad Museum, Grant Park with its illuminated fountain, Nutcracker Village at California Plaza and more.

CheapTickets-Clifton Mill-Ohio-Christmas-lights

The lights of Ohio’s Clifton Mill combine old-school technology with new-school glitz. Photo by Tina Lawson/Flickr Creative Commons.

Clifton Mill, Ohio: Millions of lights brighten up this 19th-century the mill, gorge, riverbanks, trees and bridges. The decor includes a Santa Claus Museum, light show synchronized to music on the old covered bridge, 100-foot “waterfall” of twinkling lights and more. Legendary Lights is located about 40 miles southwest of Columbus.

CheapTickets-Austin-Christmas-lights

Everything’s bigger in Texas, even the holiday lights. Photo of Austin’s Trail of Lights by Mark Scott/Flickr Creative Commons.

Austin, Texas: The city’s Trail of Lights gets more elaborate every year. Zilker Park’s display now includes a 155-foot-tall artificial Christmas tree, ferris wheel and carousel. It’s one of the largest holiday events in Austin, with live performances, a lighted tunnel and more.

CTIXblog CTA _ cheap of the week

Tagged: City, Family, Festivals, Florida, Holidays, L.A., Las Vegas, Seasonal

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

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Cheap Right Now gives a snapshot of a cheap weekend getaway each month.

The novelty of rooftop patios and weekend festivals is starting to wane as the hazy days of the last full summer month sets in, and you are ready for a change of scenery. Austin is your place. Steeped in off-beat culture and the allure of the strange, this Texas town is probably the least stereotypically Texas place you could visit in the Lonestar State. The food scene is unbelievable, the youthful abound, and everything is relatively cheap since there’s no major music festivals happening there this month. So now’s the time. Go forth.

 

Guitar art near the baggage claim. Photo courtesy of Ally Marotti.

Guitar art near the baggage claim. Photo courtesy of Ally Marotti.

Plane, train or automobile — Plane is definitely the best way to get to Austin, unless you’re down for a really epic roadtrip. Find a cheap ticket into the AustinBergstrom International Airport, and make sure you check out the giant Gibson guitars on display near baggage claim. They were decorated by local artists and pay homage to the music culture of the city.

B-Cycling. Courtesy of Ann Harkness.

B-Cycling. Courtesy of Ann Harkness.

Cheap local transit — Austin B-Cycle is the bike share program in the city, and the rates are completely affordable. It’s $15 for a three-day pass and $8 for 24 hours. Austin’s public transit system Capital Metro is also affordable, and operates buses anda rail system. A single ride is $1.25 and a day pass is $2.50.

 

Carnitas and an avocado margarita at Curra's. Courtesy of Ally Marotti.

Carnitas and an avocado margarita at Curra’s. Courtesy of Ally Marotti.

Munch on Mexican food — The tacos in Austin are unlike any we have up north. They’re authentic, delicious, bursting with flavor, and hella cheap. And you can have them any time of day or night. Try Torchy’s for the breakfast tacos that cost only a buck or two, and Curra’s for lunchor dinner. Curra’s is known for it’s avocado margaritas, but you MUST try the carnitas. The pork is marinated in Coke, milk and OJ. A strange yet somehow perfect combo. Save a few bucks and share a serving, it’s quite grande.

 

An artist poses in front of her freshly finished work. Courtesy of Ally Marotti.

An artist poses in front of her freshly finished work. Courtesy of Ally Marotti.

Gawk at the graffiti — The Graffiti Park at Castle Hills is like a living entity, constantly evolving and growing. Wear good shoes that will allow you to climb around the park and check out the art from all angles. You’ll likely see an artist at work during your visit.

 

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind," shown in summer 2014. Courtesy of Ally Marotti.

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” shown in summer 2014. Courtesy of Ally Marotti.

Watch a movie under the stars — Parks throughout the city screen films starting in May and stretching through October (because it’s almost always warm and wonderful in Austin). A movie is showing somewhere in the city nearly every night at dusk, you just have to do the googling and find out where. The best part? They’re free. And don’t forget a blanket to lounge on.

 

Lights at a bar on Rainey Street. Courtesy of Ally Marotti.

Lights at a bar on Rainey Street. Courtesy of Ally Marotti.

Rendezvous on Rainey Street — If you’re a total bro or a 19-year-old who thinks it would be super cool to sneak into a club, go to6th Street for a good time. If you gel more with Austin’s hip vibe and just want something chill and low-key, go to Rainey Street. It’s lined with houses-turned-restaurants and bars, and there’s a food truck corral for late night eats. Don’t be surprised to see the next new alt rock band playing at one of the joints along Rainey.

 

Courtesy of Marc Majcher.

Courtesy of Marc Majcher.

Take shelter in the Greenbelt — Escape that Texas sun for a bit in the Greenbelt, a patch of green wilderness that stretches along Barton Creek. There are hikes and bike paths to explore, and even a waterfall. Bring your swimsuit and cool off in Barton Creek, but say a prayer to the rain gods first, as it’s been known to run dry on hot August afternoons.

 

Courtesy of Evan Bench.

Courtesy of Evan Bench.

Bathe in Barton Springs — The Barton Springs Pool is more like a Roman bath than a pool, minus the nudity of course. Natural springs feed the three-acre pool and keep it at an average temperature of about 70 degrees. Pro tip: Don’t go on Thursdays, that’s when they shut down the pool for cleaning. Admission is $3 for adults.

 

Tagged: Cheap of the Month, City, Food & drink, Tips & advice

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Vote for your favorite city in the CheapTickets All-American Barbecue Smackdown

Like the best barbecue, this competition is going to get messy. Claim your city as a BBQ boss! Go to our Facebook to vote for your favorite barbecue destination in the CheapTickets “All American Barbecue Smack Down” through June 29, 2015. Vote and you’ll be entered to win a trip for two to your favorite all-American destination. The best barbecue city gets bragging rights for a whole year.

CTIX BBQ CTANo purchase necessary. Contest open only to legal residents of the United States (including the District of Columbia) who are 18 years or older at the time of entry. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Click here for complete contest rules.

The CheapTickets top 10 BBQ cities

You could just take our word for it. If your fingers have an overwhelming need to be covered in sauce, don’t worry–we’ve taken it upon ourselves to search for America’s best barbecue cities. Our booking and survey data reveals the top 10 cities for BBQ in the United States, with Memphis, Austin and newcomer San Antonio topping this year’s finger-licking list.

CTIX BBQ graph

Think outside the pit with these top BBQ picks

Any ‘cue enthusiast knows that there’s more to the perfect BBQ than ribs and sauce. Don’t get us wrong, it’s important, but we want to think outside the pit to honor those that go the extra delicious mile. Within the top five BBQ cities, we’ve sniffed out two leaders per BBQ category.

BEST SANDWICH

Order the Z-Man at Joe’s Kansas City BBQKansas City, Kansas

Behind every legendary sandwich is a legendaryregular. This one’s name is Mike Zarrick, a local sports talk radio jockey who goes by the name Z-Man. This mouth-watering mammoth is made with “sliced smoked brisket, smoked provolone cheese, a couple of onion rings, and a bit of barbecue sauce all on top of a Kaiser roll.” In 2013, it was speculated that the Z-Man sandwich helped the KC Royals get back on a winning streak, so have yourself a Z-Man before heading to Kauffman Stadium to root for the home team.

Z-man sandwich; Photo courtesy of Joe’s Kansas City BBQ

Z-man sandwich; Photo courtesy of Joe’s Kansas City BBQ

Runner up: The Cochon De Lait Po’ Boy at Walker’s Southern BBQNew Orleans, Louisiana

This sandwich puts all other po’ boys to shame. It is the po’ king. Make Walker’s Southern BBQ your first stop in NoLa, because it’s only three miles from the airport, but a 10-mile trek from Bourbon Street. French for ‘suckling pig,’ the Cochon De Lait is tender pulled pork in a tangy house-made sauce topped with coleslaw. The Walkers open at 10:30 a.m. for lunch and close when they sell out, so get there early.

MOST UNUSUAL BBQ DISH

Order the BBQ Spaghetti at The Bar-B-Q ShopMemphis, Tennessee

Even BBQ purists will be asking fora second heap of noodles topped with smoky, tender pork and a uniquely tangy sub-breed of spaghetti sauce. Though it has become a Memphis staple, this dish is best consumed at The Bar-B-Q Shop where they still use the original recipe from the previous owner and inventor of BBQ spaghetti. What goes better than spaghetti and kids? Bring your brood after a day at the Memphis Zoo, less than a mile away.

BBQ spaghetti; Photo courtesy of Yelp

BBQ spaghetti; Photo courtesy of Yelp

Runner up: The Brisket Ramen at The Granary ‘Cue & BrewSan Antonio, Texas

Come for the Brisket Ramen and stay for the handcrafted brews. Chow down on this Asian-cue fusion of “smoked shoyu broth, brown ale noodles, onsen egg, ‘cue shallots, and collard greens,” and wash it down with The Granary’s rotating seasonal beer like a black IPA. The Granary is set in San Antonio’s Pearl Brewery Community, which is the perfect place to spend an afternoon strolling the riverfront and people watching.

BEST FIXINS (A.K.A. SIDES)

Order the Blue Cheese Coleslaw at Kerlin BBQAustin, Texas

Austin has an undeniable cool factor, so it’s only fitting that it’s also home to the best cool, creamy ‘slaw that ever graced a plate of BBQ. You can forget counting coleslaw as a healthier side option to mac ‘n’ cheese, because this fixin’ is loaded with creamy blue cheese and mayo. Go on a clear day, because you’ll be eating outside. Kerlin BBQ is a no-thrills operation (think stationary food truck and picnic tables) in Austin’s hipster hood: East Austin. You don’t have to have a mustache or cool leg tattoo to get in—just order the ‘slaw, and they’ll know you can hang.

Blue cheese coleslaw; Photo courtesy of Yelp

Blue cheese coleslaw; Photo courtesy of Yelp

Runner up: The Sweet Potato Casserole at The Big Bib BBQSan Antonio, Texas

All good BBQ famously mixes the savory with the sweet, but the folks over at Big Bib BBQ are probably still wondering if their Sweet Potato Casserole belongs on the dessert menu or the sides menu. This dish is so sweet it’s essentially a sweet potato cake. Work up a good appetite before devouring this fixin’ with a hike along the Salando Creek Greenway just across the highway from Big Bib.

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Tagged: City, Family, Food & drink, FREE!, Holidays, Seasonal

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Kelsie Ozamiz

Kelsie Ozamiz

Kelsie Ozamiz

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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, butyou’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.

Tagged: FREE!

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Christina Couch

Christina Couch

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Denver hotels To prove that travel can still be part of a frugal lifestyle, CheapTickets has identified the top three Cheaponomy travel destinations, which offer plenty of free attractions and cheap hotels.

Austin, Texas: With an average daily rate of $78.70 at Austin hotels and dozens of free activities, the Texas capital takes our top spot for Cheaponomy travel. Austin is known for its music scene, and it’s easy to find free concerts just about any day of the week. You can also tour the Governor’s Mansion, visit the historic Paramount Theater and take the trolley around town — all for free.

St. Louis, Missouri: This Midwestern city comes in #2 with an average daily hotel rate of $83.63. Beyond inexpensive St. Louis hotels, the city has one of the best free zoos in the country, and you can also visit the St. Louis Art Museum and Boeing Space Station for free.

Denver, Colorado: The Mile High City takes the #3 spot. Denver hotels boast an average daily rate of $109.85. Visitors can enjoy many of Denver’s natural attractions for free. Coors Brewery offers free tours, and Dinosaur Ridge, with its prehistoric animal tracks, is free.

CheapTickets knows that travel doesn’t have to cost a lot. With cheap flights and hotels and free activities, travel in The Age of the Cheaponomy can be affordable and fun.

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Tagged: City, FREE!, Tips & advice

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.