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Museums are educational, entertaining and a great way to spend an unexpectedly rainy day when you are in a new city. When you can get into those museums for free, well, that’s just the cherry on top. Here are seven of the best free museums to check out on your next trip.

Red penguins adorn the outside of the 21C Hotel Museum in Louisville. Courtesy of LuAnn Snawder Photography.

Red penguins adorn the outside of the 21C Hotel Museum in Louisville. Courtesy of LuAnn Snawder Photography.

21C Museum Hotel
700 W. Main St.
Louisville, KY 40202

This nine-room boutique hotel features contemporary art throughout the lobby and public spaces, as well as ina basement gallery area. Admission is free, and exhibits rotate. Grab a flight of bourbon in the hotel bar on your way out, because why not. 21C also has locations in Cincinnati, Bentonville, Ark., and Durham, N.C.

An a cappella group sings in a grand room at the Chicago Cultural Center. Courtesy of Ally Marotti.

An a cappella group sings in a grand room at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602

The Cultural Center’s might among the Chicago’s museums is a little unexpected, especially since the city is so famed for its art and museum scene. But nestled along Michigan Avenue, the 1897 building could be an art exhibit of its own with this vaulted ceilings, mosaics and stained glass windows. Rotating art exhibitions incorporate the building’s beautiful spaces into their displays.

 

'Eve Hearing the Voice' by Moses Jacob Ezekiel, at Cincinnati Art Museum. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

‘Eve Hearing the Voice’ by Moses Jacob Ezekiel, at Cincinnati Art Museum. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Cincinnati Art Museum
953 Eden Park Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45202

Cincinnati’s art museum is to die for. Before you’ve even made it into the main galleries, you will have already a mummy and a couple Van Goghs. It’s variety is reminiscent of London’s National Gallery (another fantastic free museum). Occasionally, a special exhibit will roll through town that costs you a couple bucks, but the rest of the expansive museum is free.

 

A piece of artwork from the Museum of Bad Art on display in Taiwan. Courtesy of Connie Ma.

A piece of artwork from the Museum of Bad Art on display in Taiwan. Courtesy of Connie Ma.

The Museum of Bad Art
55 Davis Square
Somerville, MA 02144

This collection of “offbeat” art is a community-driven effort, accepting both monetary and artistic donations. You can decide whether the art is bad or just, well, artistic. The museum is free daily. There are also locations in nearby Brookline and South Weymouth.

 

Among the best free museums is New York's stunning Natural History Museum, which features this incredible T-Rex skeleton. Photo courtesy of Ally Marotti.

T-Rex. Courtesy of Ally Marotti.

American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West and 79th Street
New York, NY 10024

This free museum suggests you pay $22 to get in, but that is considered a donation and is not mandatory. You can donate any amount or nothing. Officials understand that those on a budget like to appreciate art and history as well. Check out millennia of history at this museum just off Central Park. See dinosaur bones and get a picture taken with a life-sized version of Teddy Roosevelt.

 

A child takes advantage of one of the many interactive displays at National Museum of the United States Air Force. Courtesy of Marada.

A child takes advantage of one of the many interactive displays at National Museum of the United States Air Force. Courtesy of Marada.

National Museum of the United States Air Force
1100 Spaatz St.
Dayton, OH 45431

Near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, this interactive military museum gives visitors a look into Air Force vessels through the ages. Visitors can climb in and out of cockpits and see planes soaring overhead. There’s also a nice tribute to Ohio’s own flight pioneers, the Wright brothers.

 

The Hope Diamond is on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., one of the world's best free museums.

The Hope Diamond is on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Courtesy of Ben_Lei.

Smithsonian Institution

Washington D.C. and New York City

All 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park run by the Smithsonian Institution are free and open every day of the year except Christmas. Not sure where to start? Head to the National Museum of Natural History (one of the best free museums on earth) at the corner of 10th St. & Constitution Ave. in Washington D.C. to see dinosaur bones, a solid gold Monopoly set and the famed Hope Diamond.

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Tagged: Cheap Tips, City, Family, FREE!, Last minute travel, New York City

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Oh the humble diner, where comforting, hardy breakfasts and hot coffee are always on special. The perfect throwback to a mostly bygone era. Here are some of the best diners in America, by region, in no particular order.

Vintage diner photo

The best diners in the west

Bertie Lou’s Cafe — Portland, Oregon

From its menu to its walls, Bertie Lou’s shows its funky, Portland-esque style without losing that classic diner vibe. Specifically, by proudly displaying napkin drawings as fine art and offering tasty concoctions like the Bertie Crisco, an incredibly hearty sandwich of spicy chicken sausage and pepper jack between two layers of french toast. Unsurprisingly, this place is known for its delicious breakfast dishes, which also happen to be cheap—breakfast or lunch can cost you anywhere between $5 to $10.

Steuben’s — Denver, Colorado

A little bit more of an upscale and modernized take on the classic diner, Steuben’s has been featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives for its recreations of American regional classics. Unlike some diners on this list, Steuben’s is notable for more than just its breakfast fare. Early risers can indulge in treats like from-scratch biscuits and gravy and all-you-can-eat buttermilk pancakes. But the lunch and dinner menus also shine, thanks to updated takes on classic dishes, including pot roast, cayenne étouffée and meatloaf. This one’s a bit more of a splurge than the other diners on this list, but the green chili cheeseburger is well worth it.

Golden Coffee Shop – San Francisco, California

It’s not often that you can find a good meal for under $10 in San Francisco. Enter the Golden Coffee Shop: a haven for old-school classics like corned-beef hash and short stacks of buttermilk pancakes, which you can enjoy at its perfectly old-school wrap-around counter. But what really sets this apart are the Chinese essentials you’ll also find on the menu—tuck into some fried rice or chow mein if you’re not in the mood for hash browns. But we’ve got bad news for the night owls: This may sound like the perfect late-night hangout, but it closes mid afternoon. We’ve got a solid silver lining for you, though. Most dishes cost between $6 and $8.

Eggs and hash are a staple at the best diners.

True Midwestern diners

Diner Grill – Chicago, Illinois

This is what it’s all about—the diner’s diner. The diner your great-grandfather would love. The bare-bones, vintage variety that’s been slinging burgers since the 1930’s. Enter Diner Grill’s the Slinger: two hamburger patties on top of hash browns, with two slices of American cheese and two runny eggs, all of which is covered in chili. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s served with a side of toast. But if you’re not in the competitive-eating business, there’s also patty melts and egg sandwiches. You will not have a hard time keeping your check under $10 in this 24/7 former railway car diner, since most of its dishes are around $6.

Fleetwood Diner – Ann Arbor, Michigan

Open since 1949, Fleetwood Diner is known for its hip vibes and its famous Hippie Hash. What is this, you ask? Why, a mixture of homemade hash browns, grilled tomatoes, green peppers, onions, mushrooms and broccoli topped with feta cheese, of course. And this dish is the perfect start—or end—to your day, thanks to the diner’s 24-hour schedule. The menu also boasts the classics, including burgers, milkshakes and omelets, as well as traditional Greek foods and salads. All reasonably priced, so you have no reason not to add that hippie hash onto your meal.

Vintage diner photos

Diners with Southern flair

Danny’s All American Diner & Dairy Bar – Tampa, Florida

Don’tdrive too fast, or you might miss this small, humble diner—which happens to serve up sandwiches that are anything but small and humble. And if you love sports, you’ll love Danny’s All American Diner’s burger-naming conventions. There, you’ll find the Roberto Clemente Burger, the Field of Greens salad and the Pitcher’s Mound sandwich. As well as the famous ‘must-have’ chili, which can be found slathered on various menu items or ordered as a side. The best part? Prices at Danny’s All American Diner & Dairy Bar are a home run, as nothing on the menu is more than $10.

Uncle Lou’s – Memphis, Tennessee

Uncle Lou’s has only been operating for a fraction of the time that some of the diners on this list have, opening in 2001, but has already made an imprint on the Memphis community. Although this diner’s main focus is fried chicken, it also serves several specialty sandwiches and desserts. Uncle Lou’s menu was created with families in mind, offering six different “meal deals” to fit various party sizes. Pro tip: This is also great if you’d like to store 35 pieces of chicken, 12 sides and 18 biscuits for yourself, for future meals. Prices at Uncle Lou’s are pretty cheap and you should be spending around $10 per person… That is, if you share (as you should).

The best diners always serve piping-hot coffee.

Seriously good Eastern diners

Square Diner – New YorkCity, New York

If you’ve ever seen Edward Hopper’s painting titled “Nighthawks,” you’ll swear it was inspired by the Square Diner, which opened in 1945 and was once known as the Triangle Diner. Its exterior is the classic train-car style, but with a unique grey roof. The interior is highly stylized and truly transports you to the diner’s heyday, with wood-paneled walls and ceiling, essential fire-engine red booths and bar ample seating. The menu is full of hardy breakfast and lunch entrees that will give you flash-backs to Grandma’s homey cooking. Eggplant Parmigiana, London Broil and even Gyros can be found on the menu. Prices range, and although it is not guaranteed you’ll eat for less than $10, it certainly can be done, which is not an easy feat in the Big Apple.

Mul’s Diner – Boston, Massachusetts

We bet creme brûlée would not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you gaze upon the big, silver lunchbox that is Mul’s Diner, where the decor screams ‘retro’ from the shiny outdoor paneling to the checkerboard tiles inside. Regardless, bottomless coffee and creme brûlée French toast are what Mul’s Diner is known to do best. Serving a variety of both sweet and savory twists on classic diner fare, Mul’s offers deliciously cheap breakfast and lunch, with only a couple items on the menu that are more than $10: The New York Sirloin and the Irish breakfast, both of which are worth the extra cost.

Vintage diner sign

The Non-Continental

Rainbow Drive-In – Oahu, Hawaii

Welcome to the place that Guy Fieri most likely sees in his dreams. Yes, Rainbow Drive-In was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and for good reason: They serve one of the cheapest and best lunches in all of Hawaii. And its food is, naturally, wildly different from anything else on this list. First of all, you can add mahi to any plate. And what are those plates, you may ask? BBQ ahi tuna, fried rice with eggs and the famous Loco Moco bowl, which is a scoop of rice topped with a hamburger patty, an egg and gravy. If you’re not feeling adventurous, you can still get cheeseburgers, chili dogs and corned beef sandwiches. Plus, you can eat them outside on the giant patio. The average price of a plate at Rainbow Drive-In is roughly $7, so start looking for a cheap flight toHawaii immediately.

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Tagged: California, Florida, Food & drink, Hawaii, New York City

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Although winter will likely still have its icy grip on Boston throughout March, there aren’t many better places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the weekends leading up to it. So brave the chill for a trip to Boston in March and soak yourself in some true Irish heritage. And while you’re at it, you can learn a little about the founding of our great nation, too.

Boston Logan International Airport

Boston Logan International Airport from East Boston. Photo: Bill Damon – Flickr

Plane, train or automobile — Training from city to city is a breeze on the East Coast, but if you’re coming from a home base that’s a little farther out, you’ll likely touchdown at Boston Logan International Airport. The Blue Line subway service and Silver Line Bus Rapid Transit run directly from the airport to downtown Boston.

 

The T

The T. Photo: Andrea Monari – Flickr

Cheap local transit — Walking is probably your best bet if you’re staying pretty close to downtown, as you can experience the rich history of Boston best on foot. But if you’re going the extra mile, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority runs the city’s buses, trains, commuter rail and even boats. Get a CharlieCard and ride the subway (or the T, as they call it) for $2.10.

 

St. Patrick's Day Parade

St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Boston. Photo: William Murphy – Flickr.

Ship up to Boston — Nearly 14 percent of Bostonians have some Irish heritage, and they won’t let you forget it, especially this month. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 20 last for three hours, so make sure to catch at least a bit of it before you start your pub crawl. It starts at 1 p.m. at the Broadway T Station on the Red Line.

The Beehive

The bar at The Beehive, a jazz club in Boston. Photo: Ally Marotti

Get jazzy — Pick up on some of the best vibes in the city at The Beehive. It serves dinner, but go later once they turn the lights down and the music up. There’s live jazz music nearly every night and no cover. The bar, voted the best jazz club in the city, is nestled just off Tremont and Clarendon streets.

Harvard Yard

Harvard University in the fall. Photo: Ally Marotti.

Visit Harvard Yard — Harvard is just outside of Boston in Cambridge, and it’s worth the short train ride to spend a few moments among some of the brightest young minds there are. Grab a beer at a pub near campus or just poke your head into some of the buildings. You’ll feel smarter just walking through campus.

 

Boston Common

Boston Common, America’s oldest park. Photo: Doug Kerr – Flickr

Stroll through Boston Common — The nearly 50-acre park is the oldest in the country, dating back to 1634. Cattle grazed there until 1830, and public hangings until 1817. Nowadays, it’s home to a host of other colorful activities and things to see (most of which are a little less nefarious than the public hangings), and is sure to provide some entertaining people watching experiences, at the very least.

 

Old State House

The Old State House in Boston, near the site of the Boston Massacre. Photo: Charles Hoffman – flickr

Hop on the Freedom Trail — This self-guided tour of Boston’s historical sites starts at Boston Common and takes you through some of the city’s must-sees, such as the site of the Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall, Old North Church, Paul Revere’s house and more. This could be turned into a day-long expedition, but since it’s self-guided, feel free to visit only the top sites on your list before moving on to the next activity.

Little Italy

A bottle of wine in Boston’s Little Italy. Photo: Ally Marotti

 Holy cannoli — Boston’s Little Italy is bursting with some of the best treats this side of the Atlantic. Swing into one of the neighborhood’s bakeries and feast your eyes on the delicacies. We recommend making an evening out of your Little Italy visit, grabbing dinner at one of the myriad authentic Italian restaurants, topping it off with a bottle of wine and saving that cannoli for dessert.

 

Tagged: Food & drink, FREE!, Holidays, Uncategorized

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You don’t need white tablecloths or an overpriced meal to impress a date. This year, leave the predictable date itinerary behind—here’s what to do (while saving some dough) on Valentine’s Day in some of America’s coolest cities.

Sample wine, cheese and theater in Austin

Your romantic day begins with a challenging, thought-provoking play at Austin‘s Zach Theater: Tribes ($29+). The story of a deaf man understanding the nature of community and belonging will give you plenty to talk about as you walkover to nearby House Wine and settle in for some of its namesake libation. This place is about as unpretentious as it is intimate—meaning you can relax and nibble on cheese plates, artisan pizza and s’mores in the dining room or patio. The staff will happily explain the wine list and offer suggestions as you two crazy kids giggle and blush, wiping melted marshmallows from your face. Best of all, you can get 10% off or BOGO dessert if you show them your ticket stub.

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Get artsy—then down-home—in New York

It’s not that often that you can do something in New York for literally $0. But welcome to Greater New York, MoMA PS1’s annual exhibit, which explores our contradictory desires for nostalgia and the new. See the works of emerging and established artists in this Long Island City mainstay before heading down to Williamsburg’s The Commodore. Once tucked into the low-key, no-frills bar, indulge in a little post-art-show conversation over a Tom Collins ($6) and a fried chicken plate with biscuits and hot sauce ($12). If the date’s going well, wander a few blocks to St. Mazie for some cheap-for-New-York cocktails ($10 apiece) and maybe even some live music.

Experience the refined and at-ease sides of Chicago

Joffrey’s Bold Moves marries visual art, groundbreaking musical compositions and history into a trio of visually stunning ballet performances. It’s also quite cheap for a production of this quality—tickets start at $58. Afterwards, you and your hungry date can head to Furious Spoon in Wicker Park for one of the city’s best bowls of ramen ($7–$12). After downing the last of your thick, savory tonkatsu broth, wander across the street to Revel Room. This dark, trendy bar will create an intimate setting for the last leg of yourdate. Toast to a successful evening—and the fact that (s)he is okay with watching you shamelessly slurp down noodles—with a craft beer ($5–$10) or a house cocktail ($10).

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Start your romancing early in Boston

This Valentine’s Day, start the festivities early, and with a kick! Sample some Spanish brunch options like breakfast lamb bocadillo ($13) and churros con chocolate ($8) at Jamaica Plain hotspot Tres Gatos. Then, head into Chinatown and the brisk outdoors for the Chinese New Year Parade to see lion dances, firecrackers and catchy drum beats as performers flood the streets. But your date isn’t over yet—make sure you dress warm, because it’ll be cold on the nearby Frog Pond ice rink. If you don’t have skates of your own, fear not (and channel any worries into not falling down). You can rent skates onsite for $12.

See Atlanta’s wild side

Craving a creative way to celebrate with your sweetheart in Atlanta? Start with a good, hearty lunch at bartaco. Then, after having your fill of shrimp bahn mi rice bowls ($8), al pastor tacos ($2.50) and mushroom mole tamales ($5), head on over to the High Museum of Art for the cheekily named heARTS in the City scavenger hunt ($50 per couple). From 1:00-4:00 p.m., you can scour the museum—filled with pieces by Georgia O’Keefe, Gerhard Richter and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec—to solve puzzles and complete challenges. Along the way, you’ll run into some tasty snacks, too.

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Pull out all the stops in Denver

Planning an old-fashioned, romantic date for your Valentine? Denver’s the perfect town. After enjoying an intimate feast at Osteria Marco—think butternut squash pizza with gorgonzola ($13) and meatball sliders ($7)—enjoy an intimate murder at Murder for Two, a ‘musical murder mystery’ whose intrigue and twists are playing out on the Garner Galleria Theatre’s stage. After this two-man ensemble solves the crime, harnessing only their wit and a piano, cab it over to The Bar Car for a sexy yet laid-back nightcap amid this beautiful, antique-inspired bar and its jukebox of ‘80s hits. We recommend the the Irish mule, made with a hardy splash of Jameson ($8).

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Tagged: Holidays, New York City, Romance & honeymoon, Tips & advice, Uncategorized

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It’s Christmastime. In towns big and small all over America, people are gathering around Christmas trees as they are illuminated for the first time this year. Some of those trees are iconic, adorning Christmas ornaments and postcards, but for some of them, their glory lies in their story. And the best part? It doesn’t cost a dime to take in their majesty, save for the cup of hot chocolate you’ll likely buy on your way. Take a look at this list of some of America’s best public Christmas trees.

The Iconic Tree:

Rockefeller Center Tree

Rockefeller Center Tree | Flickr CC: Shinya Suzuki

Rockefeller Center, New York City — This is about as iconic as you can get when it comes to Christmas trees. New York City’s massive tree overlooks the ice skating rink in Rockefeller Plaza and has made it into many a classic Christmas movie scene. Something that really makes this tree iconic though, is its origins. The New York Times did a story earlier this month that revealed the history of the tree, noting that hard-working Italian immigrants first pushed a tree up in 1931 after a long day of constructing the city into what we know it as today.

 

Millennium Park Christmas tree

Chicago’s Christmas tree sits in front of the city’s skyline at Millennium Park. Photo: Ally Marotti

Millennium Park, Chicago — Chicago’s giant public Christmas tree usually sits in the middle of the German Christmas market, Christkindlmarket, in Daley Plaza in the heart of downtown, but this year it was moved to Millennium Park. Now it rises above Cloud Gate (aka, the Bean) in front of Chicago’s skyline.

  

Gifted trees:

Boston Christmas Tree

Boston Christmas Tree | Flickr CC: Eric Kilby

Boston Christmas Tree — A tree has been lit in Boston each year since 1941, and since 1971, each tree has come from Nova Scotia. Illuminated in Boston Common, the tree is gifted to the city each year by Nova Scotia as a thank you for assistance provided during the 1917 Halifax explosion, which destroyed much of the city. Boston sent help immediately, although their train was delayed by a blizzard. Still, the Nova Scotians never forgot.

 

Union Station Christmas tree

The Christmas tree inside Union Station in Washington D.C. is a gift from Norway. Photo: Chris Gladis – Flickr

Union Station, Washington D.C. — Norway gifts a Christmas tree to Washington D.C. each year as a symbol of friendship with the U.S. and as a thank you for the help the U.S. provided to Norway during World War II. The tree is displayed in Union Station, and the Norwegian Embassy chooses a theme with which to decorate the tree each year. In 2013, when the theme was Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” the tree was fashioned with dozens of tiny reflective versions of the shrieking man in Norway’s most famous painting. This year’s theme is Norwegian music.

 

Public Square Park, Nashville — The Christmas tree in downtown Nashville is often gifted to the city by residents. This year, Tammie Myles donated 42-foot Norway spruce to honor her parents. It will be decorated with 5,000 lights. This idea of individuals donating Christmas trees is common throughout the country, especially when the trees or activities surround them feature some sort of charitable aspect. Local Christmas tree farms will often donate trees for display near the courthouse.

Big trees in small squares:

Rittenhouse Square Christmas tree

The Christmas tree in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square. Photo: Marc Cappelletti – Flickr.

Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia — Rittenhouse Square is one of five original open spaces in Philadelphia planned by William Penn. It is about two short blocks long on eachside, and in December a 30-foot Christmas Tree rises out of its center. It makes the little historical park even cozier.

 

Cincinnati's Christmas tree

Fireworks go off at the tree lighting ceremony in Fountain Square in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo: 5ch4r7z – Flickr.

Fountain Square, Cincinnati — The Christmas tree dominates downtown Cincinnati’s Fountain Square each December, and shadows the temporary ice skating rink that is assembled nearby each year. The smaller size of the square, which is mostly enclosed by the city’s skyscrapers, makes the tree seem even bigger and more festive.

When the trees don’t move:

Town Square Lighting, Jackson Hole — Instead of decorating one giant tree, Jackson Hole sets Town Square ablaze with multiple tree lightings. Fitting in with its outdoorsy M.O., the town does not cut down any trees for its Christmas celebrations, so it earns a spot on our list for being environmentally aware.

Coeur D' Alene, Idaho

Coeur D’ Alene, Idaho | Flickr CC: Tracy Hunter

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho — A nearly 200-foot grand fir at Coeur d’Alene Resort is decorated with tens of thousands of lights and at one point set the world record for the tallest living Christmas tree. The star on top is 10 feet alone.

Sardy House Tree, Aspen — This is the 31st year the owners of the Sardy House illuminate the large fir tree on the corner of Main and Aspen streets in Aspen. (New owners spent $250,000 to amp up the lighting in 2006). It is strewn with 10,000 LED lights hooked up to a system that can emulate everything from fireworks to a cascading waterfall. The glory of using a live tree? The lights stay on year-round and can be used during other holiday celebrations.

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Tagged: Cheap Tips, Festivals, FREE!, Holidays, New York City, Seasonal

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At some airports, time in the terminal is a little more burdensome than at others. Maybe it’s because the nearby food options suck, or because the weather around that airport is always bad, so hope of ever making it home begins to slip slowly away. One thing is for sure: a good view always makes time in the terminal go a little quicker, whether your flight is delayed or not.  And some airports boast views that are downright breathtaking. When debating layover options, make sure to route through one of these airports.

View of the Front Range from Denver International Airport. Courtesy of Ken Lund.

View of the Front Range from Denver International Airport. Courtesy of Ken Lund.

Denver International Airport — Colorado

DIA has won awards for its design, but the view of nature surrounding it is much more breathtaking. Althoughit is positioned more than a half hour’s drive outside of Denver, the airport still features fantastic views of the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately, you will likely only see the views if you’re in Terminal West. Terminal East faces toward flat, desolate eastern Colorado.

The view from Honolulu International Airport. Courtesy of Robert Linsdell.

The view from Honolulu International Airport. Courtesy of Robert Linsdell.

Honolulu International Airport — Hawaii

If touching down in paradise doesn’t leave you in enough state of bliss, check out the view out the airport window. The airport is sandwiched between Mãmala Bay and Oahu’s iconic Diamond Head Crater, just beyond Waikiki Beach. If you can peel your eyes away from that glory, check out the Honolulu skyline and nearby Pearl Harbor.

 

Courtesy of Hideyuki Kamon.

Courtesy of Hideyuki Kamon.

Vancouver International Airport — British Columbia, Canada

Another view dominated by mountains and sea. The airport is positioned just on the coast of the Salish Sea, and the snowcapped North Shore Mountain range overlooks it all. It is probably safe to assume all the Winter Olympic athletes that converged in the city in 2010 drew most of their inspiration from this view.

 

A look at Bora Bora's main island from the airport. Courtesy of Michael Stout.

A look at Bora Bora’s main island from the airport. Courtesy of Michael Stout.

Bora Bora Airport — French Polynesia

Flying into any island of tropical paradise is going to be, well, paradise, and Bora Bora is no exception. The lack of land available for runways forces airports to be built in beautiful locations on the islands. This one, also called the Motu Mute Airport, was built on an islet in a lagoon, and a boat transport is necessary to get to the main island.

 

The Mendenhall Glacier and Juneau airport. Courtesy of Sam Beebe.

The Mendenhall Glacier and Juneau airport. Courtesy of Sam Beebe.

Juneau International Airport — Alaska

More people have their pilots license than drivers license in Alaska, a state in which it is impossible to escape nature’s beauty. So one might just assume that all of Alaska’s airports are beautiful. They probably are, but let’s focus on Juneau’s airport. The Mendenhall Glacier seems to decend on it, with Mount Juneau rising stoically above.

 

Courtesy of EandJsFilmCrew.

Courtesy of EandJsFilmCrew.

Boston Logan International Airport — Massachusetts

Although the view from Boston’s airport might not be quite as striking as the mountain and paradisiacal scenes some of our other airports have offered, this one offers a nice blend of urban vistas and nature. It is in East Boston and surrounded by water on three sides, so travelers can see the sailboats on Boston Harbour and the downtown skyline.

 

A view of São Paulo from the air. Courtesy of Roger W.

A view of São Paulo from the air. Courtesy of Roger W.

São Paulo Guarulhos International Airport — Brazil

São Paulo is a city that seems to go on forever, especially if you are taking it in by air. On the ground at the airport, travelers can see that huge city sprawling in front of them. Although they may not be experiencing the hustle and bustle of city life quite yet, it looms before them.

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Tagged: Beach, City, Flights, Hawaii

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One of the truest ways to experience a city is to taste it, and that tour de taste should probably start with a bite of the city’s most iconic food. Pizza by the slice in the Big Apple, a Chicago-style dog in the Windy City, a Po’boy in New Orleans — restaurants that serve these traditional tastes are stops not to be missed on your travels. Tasting the culture of a city does not need to drain your wallet, either. Here’s a look at some joints that serve some of the most delicious iconic foods in cities around the country for less than $10:

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Pizza by the slice in New York City

Joe’s Pizza – 7 Carmine St. or 150 E. 14th St.

Slice of cheese: $2.95

You can’t visit New York City and not eat a piece of pizza bigger than the it’s plate. Joe’s has been using the same recipe to concoct their New York Style pizza since owner Joe Pozzouli immigrated to New York City from Naples, Italy (which is where pizza was invented) in the 1950s. Grab a slice of plain cheese for $2.75, or get a slice with any topping for $3.50.

Courtesy of Manguzmo.

Courtesy of Manguzmo.

Po’boy sandwich in New Orleans  

Parran’s – 3939 Veterans Blvd., Metairie, Louisiana

Fried catfish po’boy: $9.95

Po’boys are so iconic in New Orleans, they’ve got a whole festival dedicated to them. The Oak Street Po’boy Festival only lasts a day, but dozens of types of po’boys are available to satisfy your taste buds. If you don’t land in New Orleans on that one day of the year, swing by Parran’s in Metairie and sink your teeth into a traditional New Orleans seafood po’boy. Served on french bread — soft in the middle with a crispy outside crust — stuffed to the brim with fried catfish, and topped with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, this sandwich sings New Orleans. Creole sauce is optional.

Courtesy of Simon Shek.

Courtesy of Simon Shek.

Clam Chowda in Boston

Boston Chowda Co. – Three locations in Boston

Bowl of clam chowder (8 ounces): $3.99

New England clam chowder is a warm and delicious delight, guaranteed to thaw your bones on a chilly day in Boston. Or just satisfy the intense craving for seafood that takes over when you are near the northeastern Atlantic. Boston Chowda Co. has three locations and draws folks from all over with their traditional soups. Spring for the bread bowl if you are craving the carbs, or set the more traditional oyster crackers afloat in your stew. Bonus: This joint also serves lobster rolls, another New England classic, although the price at $16.99 isn’t quite as sweet.

Courtesy of  star5112.

Courtesy of star5112.

 Chicago-style dog in Chicago

Portillo’s – Multiple locations

Hot dog: $2.85

With any iconic food, variations on the classics are common, as goes the story with Chicago-style hot dogs. The city is teeming with awe-inspiring chefs, many of whom put their own spins on the classics, eventually developing cult followings. Hot Doug’s, for example, used unusual meats such as fois gras to top his dogs. Founder Doug Sohn’s customers would fork out a pretty penny for those dogs, and when the stand closed in October, lines stretched for blocks. Months later, his recreations keep springing up in places like Wrigley Field and Goose Island Beer Co.-sponsored events. But before you start branching out, swing by Portillo’s for a classic, Chicago-style dog. With everything includes mustard, relish, finely chopped onions, kosher pickle, sliced red tomatoes and sports peppers piled onto a steamed poppy seed bun in true Chicago fashion. Wash it down with one of their famous cake shakes (they literally put a piece of cake in the blender).

 

Courtesy of  Jeffreyw.

Courtesy of Jeffreyw.

Cuban sandwich in Miami

Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop – 186 NE 29th St, Miami, FL 33137

Sandwich cubano: $4.35

Miami is overflowing with authentic Cuban food, so picking a place to settle in for a classic Cuban sandwich should not be too difficult if you are in a rush. Seeking out Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop, however, is worth your time. A sandwich cubano, with ham, pork and cheese, is only $4.35, and that’s one of the higher-priced items on the menu. They serve breakfast and have specials every day of the week, except Sunday when the shop is closed, and there’s a take-out window so customers can stroll right up.

 

Courtesy of Krista.

Courtesy of Krista.

Carolina-style barbecue in North Carolina

Lexington Barbecue – 100 Smokehouse Lane, Lexington, NC

BBQ sandwich: $3.90

The sauce that douses Carolina barbecue is a little sweeter than most, probably to satisfy that southern palate that’s so fond of sweet tea and other delicacies. Pulled from a pig shoulder or whole hog, Carolina barbecue sauce is usually mustard-, vinegar-, or tomato-based. It’s often served with a side of coleslaw, although most places just slap the slaw right on the sandwich. Lexington Barbecue does just that. They use only pork shoulder and cook it over hickory or oak coal. The space has grown from a small diner and maintains that down-home feeling. Oh, and hush puppies are only $1.70 so do yourself a favor and tack on a side of those bad boys.

CTIXblog CTA _ cheap of the week

Tagged: Cheap Tips, Food & drink, New York City, Tips & advice

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Calling cities by their nicknames seems to be a trait common among tourists, but that’s not to say locals don’t occasionally use their city’s nickname with endearment. These terms have become commonplace in our vocabulary, but their origin stories dig a little deeper into history.

NYC – The Big Apple

New York City. A breeding ground for culture, excitement and hope. For centuries people have flocked there, be it to visit, study or live. The city has fostered its people and theircultures, making or breaking them. There are languages spoken on the NYC streets that have gone extinct in other parts of the world. There are foods cooked in NYC kitchens that cannot be found anywhere else in America. Everyone has a story to tell or a story to write, and they come to NYC to do it. People the world over know of the endless opportunities the Big Apple presents, and seemingly everyone is eager to take a bite.

But what does that mean, exactly? Where did that analogy come from? And the even bigger question, who decided that an apple represented opportunity?

A clipping of John J. Fitz Gerald's 1920s column "About the Big Apple." Photo courtesy of BarryPopik.com.

A clipping of John J. Fitz Gerald’s 1920s column “About the Big Apple.” Photo courtesy of BarryPopik.com.

Entomologists have traced the origin of the “Big Apple” reference back to a 1924 column in the New York Morning Telegraph. A guy named John J. Fitz Gerald wrote a column called “Around the Big Apple,” which documented NYC happenings and reportedly popularized the phrase.

But where did Fitz Gerald get it? Experts think he heard the phrase being used by some stablehands in New Orleans years before his column ran. They referred to NYC as the “big apple,” and as the most desirable destination. Back in those days, when apples were sold in barrels, farmers used to put the nice big ones on top, for aesthetic purposes. People would assume the rest of the barrel was also full of big, juicy, delicious-looking apples and buy that barrel. Of course if the barrels were shipped, the small apples fell to the bottom anyway.

So the big apples were the most desirable. Horses, as you may know, love apples, which is probably why stablehands were so concerned with which ones were desirable.

Manhattan in the early 1900s. Photo courtesy of Sivi Steys.

Manhattan in the early 1900s. Photo courtesy of Sivi Steys.

And so, the connection was drawn. Big apples were the cream of the crop. New York City is the most enticing place to be. Both were things stablehands longed for. So New York City became fondly known as the Big Apple.

“The big apple. The dream of every lad that ever threw a leg over a thoroughbred and the dream of all horsemen. There’s only one Big Apple. That is New York.”

Honolulu – The Big Pineapple

Possibly a play on New York City’s renowned nickname, The Big Pineapple is one of several nicknames for the capital of Hawaii, and it’s more than just a play on words.

Tourism has been Hawaii’s main industry since it achieved statehood in 1959, but the pineapple industry also plays a significant role in the state’s income.

Pineapple fields outside of Honolulu. Photo courtesy of San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive.

Pineapple fields outside of Honolulu. Photo courtesy of San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive.

Honolulu alone is home to multiple pineapple plantations and canneries, including the Dole Pineapple Plantation and the Hawaiian Pineapple Company.

Although some global powers are starting to move in on the pineapple business, it’s something that has for decades been rooted into the culture of Honolulu, and Hawaii as a whole.

The pineapple is also known as a symbol of friendship and welcome, which also factors in to Honolulu’s nickname.

Aloha.

Chicago – The Windy City

Chicago’s infamous nickname carries two meanings, neither of which are particularly positive. (It’s kind of funny how time has a way of making these initially biting nicknames so endearing, isn’t it?)

One side of the moniker comes from the physical winds that whip off Lake Michigan and are funneled by the skyscrapers Downtown, making for a lovely commute in the winter months.

The other half is a sort of slur toward the residents and politicians of Chicago, meaning that they’re full of wind, bombastic and boastful.

Chicago skyline, 1939. Photo by Charles Dunlap

Chicago skyline, 1939. Photo by Charles Dunlap

The first recorded use of the “windy city” nickname – in the pompous sense – wasn’t even referencing Chicago. Someone in Wisconsin used the term to describe Green Bay in 1856, but Chicago’s rival Midwest cities quickly began using to the term in a more derogatory sense.

In the 1870s, Cincinnati newspapers were constantly using the term to slam Chicago, entomologists have found. The word battles newspapers inthe two cities got into were so vicious other media outlets around the country reported on them. The rivalry might have stemmed from the fact that both Cincinnati and Chicago were referred to as “Porkopolis” in the late 1800s because of their meat processing industries, and Cincinnati was trying to coin a different nickname for Chicago. Of course the rivalry between the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Whites didn’t help much, either.

The newspaper rivalry eventually fizzled out, but the nickname endured.

Las Vegas – Sin City

The origin of Las Vegas’ nickname might seem a little obvious, what with it offering almost any vice imaginable to the visitor. But all that sinning had to start somewhere, and that Garden of Eden was Block 16.

Located on First Street between Ogden and Stewart Avenues, Block 16 became famous in the early 1900s, first for being able to legally sell liquor without licensing restrictions and second for blatantly offering prostitution.

Las Vegas sign. Photo courtesy of  InSappoWeTrust.

Las Vegas sign. Photo courtesy of InSappoWeTrust.

It was a place out of an old Western film. Scantily-clad prostitutes worked the dusty saloons and gave owners a cut of their profit.

One of the first gambling halls, The Arizona Club, was among the saloons and bars on Block 16, the Las Vegas Sun reported. And when prohibition rolled around in the 1920s, Block 16 remained untouched.

City officials were fully aware of the scandalous behavior occurring behind swinging saloon doors on Block 16, but didn’t do anything about it until the U.S. Army built a gunnery school nearby. Army officials started raising hell about the sinning, and the city was desperate for their business, so that was that.

After World War II, Block 16 was bulldozed into a parking lot and remains so today. But the bulldozers couldn’t put an end to the sin in the city, and Las Vegas was built up around it.

Boston – Bean Town

Boston’s nickname, like the city itself, dates back to colonial times. Although experts believe that Native Americans were eating beans long before Christopher Columbus even set foot on the continent.

Brown beans and bread were a staple in colonial America – being cheap, storable and easy to cook – and remained such into the 1900s. But experts say Native Americans taught the pilgrims how to cook beans and sweeten them. Even the bean pot was a Native American invention.

A postcard from 1911. Courtesy of Boston Public Library.

A postcard from 1911. Courtesy of Boston Public Library.

There was one deviation from the Native American’s recipe. Experts think that if they sweetened them, they would have used maple syrup, a product native to the homeland. But the Triangular Trade – a trade route that sailed between Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and New England, often in that order – brought molasses from the British West Indies to New England. Bostonians quickly adapted that as their bean sweetener.

As the pilgrims and Puritans became more established, they strictly observed the Sabbath, and would not even cook on Sundays. Beans could be cooked on Saturday and stored in the oven until Sunday, providing a warm meal on the Sabbath.

View of Boston from Breed's Hill, 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

View of Boston from Breed’s Hill, 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

Beans remained a common food among the plebeians and immigrants through the turn of the century, and in the early 1900s, Boston’s nickname became nationally known as the result of a publicity stunt.

In 1907, Boston hosted a sort of homecoming event called Old Home Week. To promote it, 1 million stickers with the image of two hands clasping over a bean pot were printed and distributed. The image made news, and soon was replicated on postcards and other materials, cementing Boston’s nickname as Bean Town.

Puts a little more meaning behind the bowl of Boston’s baked beans you’re eating, doesn’t it?

New Orleans – The Big Easy

Life in New Orleans is easy going like jazz, and it’s common knowledge the city derives its nickname from its lifestyle. But the origins of the epithet are a bit contentious.

Legend has it that there was once a jazz club in New Orleans called Big Easy, but any concrete evidence of the club’s existence has yet to be uncovered.

Images of musicians in a New Orleans establishment. Photo courtesy of Lindy Duchaine.

Images of musicians in a New Orleans establishment. Photo courtesy of Lindy Duchaine.

A gossip columnist at the Times-Picayune claimed to have coined the phrase in the early 1970s, making a comparison to life in New York City, the Big Apple. Her obituary notes that she helped popularized the nickname, but James Conaway, author of a crime novel called “The Big Easy,” reportedly claims the phrase as his own.

According to his story, the nickname was born in a fashion similar to New York City’s nickname. He says he heard the phrase used as slang on the streets of New Orleans while covering crime, and that the columnist first heard the phrase from him.

Whichever story is true, the nickname stuck, and the city continues to live up to it.

 Story by Ally Marotti

Tagged: City, Las Vegas

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By Susan Johnston

After your St. Patrick's Day pub crawl, retreat to cheap Boston hotels such as The Langham.

St. Patrick’s Day approaches, and short of flying across the pond to Ireland, there are few places that get more into the spirit than Boston. That’s no surprise when you consider that the Boston Irish Tourism Association reports almost a quarter of Massachusetts residents claims Irish ancestry.

South Boston will host its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 20. In addition to the main event, dozens of pubs, bars and restaurants host Irish-inspired events around this time.

Looking for cheap vacation packages this spring? Here are three cheap Boston hotels to consider. Continue reading

Tagged: City, Events, Last minute travel

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Stay at Boston's Seaport Hotel, near the Seaport World Trade Center -- host of the 20th Annual Boston Wine Expo, Jan. 22-23.

By Susan Johnston

There’s something magical about Boston in the winter: the Boston Common covered in a light blanket of snow, couples ice skating on the Frog Pond and then warming themselves up with rich hot chocolate. If you’re planning a Boston vacation this January, you might also consider warming up with a glass of red wine and a visit to the 20th Annual Boston Wine Expo at the Seaport World Trade Center. Running January 22-23, the Wine Expo features over 1,800 wines from over 300 wineries around the world.

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Tagged: Events