California RSS Feed

Share with your friends


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

As we head into the final stretch of summer, it’s time to start gearing back up for school. Whether you’re a prospective student, a returning one, or just a curious traveler who loves hanging out in really rad places, there are some college towns that are so awesome they need to be experienced at least once. Here are 8 great college towns to check out this fall.

RELATED:  6 hippest small towns to get off-grid

Olympia, WA

Those lucky souls who chose Evergreen as their college have the great fortune of living in one of the most undeniably beautiful towns in America. The Pacific Northwest is known for its lush green forests, rugged coastline, and panoramic mountain scenery. You’ll  find countless was to explore the outdoors, including nearby Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Priest Point Park, and Hope Island Marine State Park. Meanwhile, Olympic National Park is just an hour away. After soaking in all the pristine nature, head to Medicine Creek Winery, check out the Capitol, stroll the historic district, then finish up the day at Brewery City Pizza.

STAY Red Lion Inn & Suites offers affordable rooms right near downtown.

Boulder,  Colorado


The Flatirons near Boulder, Colorado. Photo: Cara Jo – Flickr.

Lying in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains is one pretty rad college town. Boulder is in so many ways exactly as you might picture it: A town populated with outdoorsy hikers, stoner snowboarders, and college students hanging out at the many cafes, breweries, and dispensaries lining the pedestrian-only Pearl Street Mall. After a day of hiking the iconic Flatirons or Chautauqua Park, knock back a craft beer at one of the city’s many breweries such as Avery Brewing Company. Whether or not you are enrolled, the University of Colorado’s campus is worth seeing thanks to its beautiful architecture and classic college campus feel.

STAY Boulder University Inn offers affordable. accommodations.

Madison, WI

Go Badgers! Wedged between two lakes, Madison’s a great combo of. culture and outdoorsy fun. While the University of Wisconsin dominates this Midwest capital, the city has much to offer visitors, including breweries and a renowned, some may say infamous, sports scene, plus a regionally famous farmers market. Take your pick between tailgating at Camp Randall Stadium or bar crawling The Robin Room and Cask & Ale. Along with drinking holes, lively State Street offers a variety of restaurants and cafés, plus art galleries, museums, and clubs. In addition to its lively college scene the University of Wisconsin hosts the world-class botanical research center, The University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum.

STAY The Best Western Premier Park Hotel in downtown Madison is right near the Capitol.

Berkeley, CA

U.C. Berkeley campus, Campanile

U.C. Berkeley campus, Campanile

Synonymous with one of the best schools in the country, Berkeley offers a large range of activities for visitors and students. And while it’s super close to all the adjacent cities of San Francisco and Oakland have to offer, Berkeley’s thriving arts scene, restaurants, bars, outdoor spaces and quirky sights give this city enough to stand on its own. Soak up the outdoors at Tilden Regional Park, Berkeley Marina, or the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley. See a band at The Greek Theater or a play at Berkeley Repertory Theater, or visit the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Afterward, knock back some local beers and grub at the Gilman Brewing Company or Cesar before watching the sun set over the bay at Grizzly Peak.

STAY The hip Graduate Berkeley is just a stone’s throw from campus.

Cambridge, MA

This one is almost too easy… Boston metro hosts more famed universities than any other place in the country. As you rub elbows with snooty law students you may even be inclined to ask, “Do you like apples?” (If you know, you know). But in all seriousness, the balance between a bustling college town and city nightlife will leave many with more options than they know what to do with. Hit up the bars, cafes and eateries around Harvard Square and Inman Square in Cambridge before strolling across the Charles River to tour sights like the Boston Common, Faneuil Hall, and world-famous Fenway Park. Boston offers a wide range of neighborhoods to partake in food and nightlife, from Italian eats in the North End to bustling bars and clubs in the posh Back Bay.

STAY HI Boston offers a clean, affordable, and well-rated hostel right near Boston Commons.

Chapel Hill, NC

"The Old Well at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC."

“The Old Well at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC.”

The options for hip college towns in the South are plentiful, but Chapel Hill, home to the University of North Carolina, takes the lead. The UNC campus alone is worth visiting, thanks to its mix of greenery and historical buildings complimented by new architecture. The campus is accompanied by a sports scene centered around the Dean E. Smith Center, Boshamer Stadium, and Kehan Memorial Stadium. The town hosts additional architectural gems such as the University Baptist Church, The Chapel of the Cross Gimghoul Castle, and the Forrest Theater. Animal lovers can intermingle with pigs, goats and horses at 1870 Farm or lounge with felines at Cat Tales Cat Cafe. Finish up your day at either Top of the Hills Distillery, Hawthorn Wood or Brenz Pizza Company.

STAY After soaking up southern hospitality, head to the historic Carolina Inn which is right near campus.

Santa Barbara, CA

Santa Barbara

Who doesn’t like sunshine and palm trees? Santa Barbara offers both and much more. In addition to being the home of the University of California Santa Barbara (in nearby Isla Vista), the town offers many sights and activities, including the historic Old Mission Santa Barbara, El Presidio de Santa Barbara, and whale-watching tours where you might encounter several species of whales and dolphins along the beautiful California coast. For further ocean views, visitors should head to East Beach, Arroyo Burro Beach State Park, or make a beeline to Stearns Wharf for seafood and cocktails. While taking in the ocean views chow down on East Beach Tacos or complement the warm Californian evening with Mediterranean seafood and cocktails at Toma Restaurant and Bar. Nightlife rules in the trendy Funk Zone and along rambling State Street.

STAY La Quinta Inn and Suites by Wyndham Santa Barbara puts you close to downtown action without breaking your bank.

Amherst, MA

Amherst, MA

Move over Cambridge and Boston! Nestled in Western Mass and shrouded in New England woods, sits Amherst. With U Mass Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Westfield and others all in close proximity, Amherst brings a traditional college town feel to the table. This New England town offers a combination of a thriving college scene intermixed with history, outdoors, and a range of options for a night out. Outdoor enthusiasts, take your pick from a range of trails such as The Notch or Metacomet-Monadnock Trail then unwind at Amherst Farm Winery. Museums such as the Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst History Museum and Mead Art Museum offer a taste of Amherst history and the local arts scene.  Finish up your day at The Moan and Dove, High Horse, or The Harp Irish Pub.

STAY Make Howard Johnson by Wyndham Amherst Hadley your affordable home base.

Tagged: Destinations, Seasonal

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

Share with your friends


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

Small towns. They’re out there. Little road trip gems offering slower-paced escapes. We’re talking about those artsy and hip, good vibes, tasty bites, and intriguing things to do type small towns—the ones far enough from city life to make you feel off-grid and relaxed, but with enough to do to ensure a memorable trip. Ready to soak it all in? Check out this list of the 6 hippest small towns to get off-grid.

RELATED: The best one-tank road trips from 5 top metro areas

Tubac, AZ

Dozens of brightly painted Mexican flower pots lie on their sides on display in Tubac, Arizona.

They say this community, just 45 miles south of Tucson, is where history and art meet. As a result, the culture, colors, and tastes of Southern Arizona permeate this one-time Spanish Presidio turned artists’ colony. Grab a coffee and Danish from Tubac Deli & Coffee Co., then stroll the village’s abundant locally-owned galleries and shops for colorful clayware, hand-made Native American jewelry, copper art, and clothing. Presidio State Historic Park holds the Griffin Museum, home to artifact exhibits of the town’s early history. Tubac Market’s tasty sandwiches will help fuel an exploration of nearby Tumacácori National Historical Park, especially if you hike the Anza Trail. Finally, enjoy exquisite Mexican and Southwestern dishes at upscale but affordable Elvira’s before settling in for the night at Tubac Country Inn.

Viroqua, WI

strawberries, blackberries, blueberries on retail display in farmer's market in california

For a few hundred years, Viroqua grew around farming. And like many rural Midwestern towns, its history also includes a dramatic decline. Yet today, this Driftless Region small town is once again thriving, and a must-visit foodie destination thanks to Amish, hippies, farmers and farmer-hippies, and their local, organic, small-batch food focus. Wonderstate Coffee on Main Street is a 1940s Mobil gas station-turned-coffee shop pouring hometown brew. Driftless Café, a James Beard Finalist, offers an affordable, ever-changing farm-to-table menu. Everything from cheese, honey, produce, and amazing Amish baked goods are found at the farmers market. Don’t just eat your way through town, though. Other highlights include live music and comedy at Temple Theatre, Vernon Vineyards, and Blue Dog Cycles for bike rentals, so you can hit the trails. Chill at this condo with friends in the heart of downtown.

Madrid, NM

A close-up shot of Native American turquoise rings on a man's hand.

This historic coal mining town has transformed itself into a must-visit, off-grid quirky stop along the Turquoise Trail between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. And in just a few blocks, visitors can find a little bit of everything on the eclectic side of creativity and shopping. 10 pm Studio features unique handmade steampunk creations. Rare Cerrillos Turquoise, Santo Domingo Pueblo jewelry, and even Zuni fetish carvings are for sale at Trading Bird Gallery and Gypsy Gem. Moonbow Herbs and Gifts offers holistic health remedies. When hunger hits, belly up to the longest stand-up bar in New Mexico for a green chile cheeseburger and live music at The Mine Shaft Tavern. If you want to hit some MTB trails, head to nearby Cerrillos Hills State Park.

Baker, NV

Image of cave formations inside Lehman Caves, Great BAsin National Park, Nevada.

If you’re driving west to east along Highway 50, the Loneliest Road in America, Baker is the funky little reward about 10 minutes from Great Basin National Park. It’s where land as far as your eyes can see meet dark sky wonderment, close enough to grab a soak in Spencer Hot Springs or adventure into the subterranean world of Lehman Caves, and near enough the legendary Monster Burger at the old school roadhouse, Middlegate Station, to almost taste it. In town, relish in superb food and craft cocktails at Kerouac’s, a Jack Kerouac-inspired bar and legit foodie destination. The attached Stargazer Inn has 10 comfortable and cozy rooms and a communal outdoor patio where you can keep an eye on those stars.

Crestone, CO

Decorated pottery pieces made of raku ceramic soon after they are removed from the oven.

Raku Ceramics

This funky town of New-Agers, artists, and outdoor enthusiasts is one of Colorado’s most authentic off-grid, hippie places to visit. It’s been called the Shambala of the Rockies due to accommodating a Zen center, a Hindu temple, a few Tibetan Buddhist centers, a myriad of New Age events, and a co-ed Carmelite monastery. The town is also big on sustainability and currently working on 35 growing domes. Crestone Artisans Gallery features everything from raku pottery to locally sourced wood lamps and vases. Our Food is Art offers fresh gluten-free baked goods, organic wine, and a vegan Indian-style coconut tomato soup. Nearby, 14,000-foot Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle are two of the most beautiful and challenging of the state’s iconic “fourteeners.” Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is an hour to the south, and a stay in Alamosa gets you close to the quirky UFO Watchtower.

New Cuyama, CA

Carrizo Plain National Monument - Painting With Wildflower Color

Carrizo Plain National Monument

Located in California’s Central Valley, a 60-mile drive from the coast, is New Cuyama, a small town mixed with valley locals and curious hipsters. Hiking in Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge with condors circling overhead is a spectacular experience. Rainy years bring super blooms to nearby Carrizo Plain National Monument where visitors can “hear the silence” while alone with nature.  Wine enthusiasts will love the experience at Sagebrush Annie’s 18 miles to the south on Highway 166 and 33. Tours and programs with Blue Sky will teach you about their grassroots projects in arts, design, housing, and food systems. You can also enjoy a night in one of their glamping huts. However, for a rustic, and chic night stay complete with an onsite restaurant, coffee shop, and cool roadhouse, look no further than Cuyama Buckhorn, a true hipster roadside resort in the middle of nowhere.

Tagged: Arizona, California, Cheap City, USA, Cheap Tips, Destinations, Types of Travel

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

Share with your friends


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

Most hot springs are believed to have therapeutic and healing properties. Combine that with amazing scenic settings, and it’s easy to see why so many people seek out these natural waters. If you feel like you need a relaxing soak, here are five of the most beautiful natural hot springs you can enjoy right now.

RELATED: 8 great state park alternatives to popular National Parks

Travertine Hot Springs: Bridgeport, CA

Whether you’ve just hiked an Eastern Sierra peak and need to soothe some sore legs, or you’re looking for a geothermal soak with million-dollar views, Travertine Hot Springs is your spot. These rustic, natural mud floor “tubs” are located a few miles off Route 395 just south of Bridgeport, making them easily accessible to all visitors. If the first pools are taken, fear not: Your private outdoor oasis awaits you in a grassy meadow just a short walk to the east. Check in at the Walker River Lodge in Bridgeport, then visit these springs for a relaxing sunset soak while Sawtooth Ridge erupts in an Insta-worthy alpenglow.

Trail Creek Hot Springs: Cascade, ID

Picture this: Pillow-soft flakes silently fall around you, painting the surrounding rocks and towering pines in a fresh snowy blanket as you bask in a soothing hot spring. Sound like something from a dream? Well, it’s not because this dreamy destination is real, and it’s only 20 miles from Cascade, Idaho. Simply park your car in the lot along Warm Lake Road, then traverse the short trail to Trail Creek Hot Springs, and you’re there. Once you arrive, immerse yourself in the 116° waters in either of the two rock-walled pools. Pick the right time and you may just find yourself alone, making the decision to go out of your way for this soak deep within the Idaho wilderness worth the effort. At night, sip hot chocolate in front of your room’s fireplace at the Ashley Inn back in Cascade.

Valley View Hot Springs: Salida, CO

With eight different pools ranging from 93° to 107° to choose from, Valley View Hot Springs is the perfect spot for a relaxing soak, not to mention some pretty spectacular views of Colorado’s San Luis Valley. The top ponds are the most remote, taking about 20 minutes to reach via a steep trail, and offer great night sky views if you’re out after dark. If you spent the morning sandboarding at Sand Dunes National Park, a water massage underneath the falls at Waterfall Pond is the way to go. Stay the night in a private cabin here, or drive north to Salida for a tasty dinner and a good night’s rest at Browns Canyon Inn.

Deep Creek Hot Springs: Hesperia, CA

Hiking the difficult and steep two-mile trail from Bowen Ranch to Deep Creek Hot Springs is best done in the winter when the Mojave Desert is much cooler. But for those who brave the journey (and paid $10 per person for a day pass), your reward of ruggedly beautiful desert scenery, sweeping views and three natural soaking pools that range in temps from 96° to 102° await. Test your balance while slacklining, mix it up with a dip into the frigid river, or simply soak the day away in the rejuvenating waters of this desert retreat. The 900-foot trudge back up to the car is strenuous, but the comfortable beds at Springhill Suites in Hesperia will help you get a good night’s sleep.

Spence Hot Springs: Jemez Springs, NM

Chances are that if you’ve spent time in New Mexico, you can list off some of the most scenic locations in the American West. Add to that list as you soak up the views from the 100° waters of Spence Hot Springs overlooking Jemez Canyon. A short half-mile hike off Highway 4 north of Jemez Springs is where you’ll find this gem, and once you’re there, the small yet beautiful pools surrounded by trees and lush mountains might make this your new favorite spot in the state. If you’re spending the night in Santa Fe, check out Pueblo Bonito Bed and Breakfast Inn. This cozy spot is just four minutes from the historic Santa Fe Plaza.

Tagged: California, Cheap Tips, Destinations, Seasonal, Top 10 list, Types of Travel

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

Share with your friends


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.

Share with your friends


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)

Share with your friends


In creating its Grammy-award winning, smash album Joshua Tree in 1987, Irish rock band U2 was partly inspired by great American landscapes like the nearly 800,000 acre National Park for which the album was eventually named. As thousands of fans snatch up tickets for the 30th anniversary tour kicking off May 12 in Vancouver and wrapping July 1 in Cleveland (seats are selling like hotcakes, but you can still snatch them up right here on CheapTickets), we decided to take a second look at the California desert that so inspired this classic rock album.

The high desert surrounding Joshua Tree National Park is a dusty, sun-scorched wonderland filled with innumerable treasures scattered across some half dozen ragtag towns and communities populated with drifters, dreamers and off-the-grid types. Whereas Palm Springs (about an hour away) used to be the natural starting point for high desert explorations, these days savvy travelers are skipping that sun-drenched mecca in favor of lodgings closer to the action. Here is your ultimate guide to Joshua Tree National Park and the High Desert.

RELATED: 10 best lunches in downtown Los Angeles for under $10

La Copine

Photo courtesy of @liselrenee

Wondering where Hollywood types go for a meal en route to Joshua Tree? The answer is La Copine, an absurdly good brunch cafe that opened in 2014 and has become the talk of the town—as in Los Angeles—thanks to the couple who ditched the city in favor of expansive vistas and starry nights. La Copine (French for girlfriend) looks like an eatery cut out of the West Village and rewoven into the desert landscape. Everything is completely amazing, but definitely order the beignets and the B-E-C breakfast sandwich.



Flickr CC: Christopher Michel 

A quick survey of Landers, California reveals little more than dirt roads and ranch-style homes (near to Landers is Giant Rock, believed to be the largest free-standing boulder in the world). But a closer inspection of the land reveals a giant white bubble known as the Integratron, an all wooden, acoustically perfect mushroom structure resembling a UFO. It was constructed in the ’50s by ufologist George Van Tassel (and partly financed by Howard Hughes). These days visitors can book meditative “sound baths.” Book in advance; closed in January.


pioneertown motel.jpg

Photo courtesy of the Pioneertown Motel

What looks like an old mining town that was gutted, rehabbed and turned into a tourist attraction probably wishes it had a history that interesting. Pioneertown was actually built by Hollywood legends, including Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, in 1946 as a movie stand in for a Wild West town. These days it’s back in fashion in a big way thanks to the Pioneertown Motel, a desert crashpad and hangout whose buzz of late has been deafening. Artists have turned several of the old storefronts into galleries and definitely don’t miss Pappy & Harriet’s, a honkytonk-like tavern and local fixture with booze served in mason jars alongside decent food. Paul McCartney once played a concert here.

Desert Hot Springs

Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel.jpg

Photo courtesy of the Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel

Tucked between Palm Springs, Joshua Tree and the Morongo Native American Reservation is this mineral spa town which boomed midcentury and whose many spa resorts still attract visitors to this day. There are some fancy digs in town to be sure, but our favorite is the kitschy cool Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel. Howard Johnson’s-like in appearance, we are nevertheless gaga for its multiple pools heated to varying temps and for the fact that you can swing through for a few hours using a visitor’s day pass.

Joshua Tree National Park

joshua tree national park copy.jpg

Where to begin? Joshua Tree National Park is a sparse desert wonderland that’s larger than the state of Rhode Island and whose natural bounty is without limits. We’ve climbed its giant boulders, trotted alongside wild coyotes and marveled at its spiky namesake trees and still we’re never bored here. Some attractions, like the Lost Horse Mine, require a four-mile hike, but lower hanging fruit like the breathtaking Cholla Cactus Garden is a must see as are drive-by attractions like creepy Skull Rock and the Hall of Horrors.

ALSO: Don’t be left high and dry. Sign up for CheapTickets rewards and start earning Cheap Cash! 

Noah Purifoy Foundation

Noah Purifoy Foundation.jpg

Flickr CC: Rosa Menkman

A strong believer in the found object as work of art and also of art as a pathway to social change, Alabama-bred and Los Angeles-based artist Noah Purifoy ditched the city late in life in favor of a ten-acre desert canvas upon which he constructed many large scale works of art made of household objects. Purifoy passed away in 2004, but his desert homestead is open to the public and a fascinating place to spend an hour wandering around. The welcome sign is among our favorites, but so is the massive toilet sculpture (you’ll know it when you see it).

Hi-Desert Nature Museum

Hi-Desert Nature Museum.jpg

Flickr CC: Caitlyn Willows

We consider Joshua Tree National Park to be the ultimate nature museum, but if it’s further explorations you seek, this is a fine place to start. This kid-friendly museum includes natural history dioramas, a gem and mineral collection, a miniature zoo, Native American artifacts, and a fossil collection. It also examines the impact of Western settlers in the area including a collection of mining tools, Howard Pierce pottery, a Victoria-era collection of miniature paintings on ivory and so much more.

Desert Christ Park

desert christ park.jpg

Flickr CC: Manda

Why the desert is a mecca for art oddities we’ll never know, but this sprawling park space on the fringes of Yucca Valley showcases an array of steel reinforced concrete sculptures depicting various scenes in the life of Jesus, including blessing children, the Sermon on the Mount, the Last Supper, the tomb of Christ and his ascension. Note: The park is free and open to the public but also butts up against nearby Evangelical Free Church so be respectful of policies regarding access and viewing.


Tagged: California, Food & drink

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

Share with your friends


Think Saturday, October 15, 2016 is just another ordinary Saturday? Think again! October 15th is Sweetest Day, a lesser-known, less-pressure-y version of Valentine’s Day. It’s a great (and more unexpected) day to surprise your sweetheart with a little gift, a card, or a kind gesture. But why not up the ante and whisk your beloved off for a romantic weekend getaway? We think the best Sweetest Day ideas include a suitcase for two! Here are a few of our favorite destinations for canoodling the weekend away:

Savannah, GA

The gorgeous fountains of Savannah, Georgia. This ultra romantic destination tops our list of the best Sweetest Day ideas.

Photo: Savannah | Jeff Gunn, Flickr

Here’s one of our favorite Sweetest Day ideas: Picture yourself and your love holding hands as you stroll past Forsyth Fountain, Spanish moss draped in the trees overhead like a trailing green canopy. Can you see it? It really doesn’t get more romantic than Savannah. Plus, it has all the ingredients for a terrific weekend away: historic architecture, horse-and-buggy rides clip-clopping through cobblestone streets, truly hair-raising ghost tours (hold each other close!), and the kind of restaurant scene you’lldream about later. Get gussied up and order jumbo scallops at The Olde Pink House, a pink-painted 18th-century Colonial mansion, and then walk through the Riverfront Plaza on River Street, nine blocks of shops set inside renovated historic warehouses.

Sedona, AZ

Stacy Egan,, Attribution CC BY 2.0

Photo: Sedona Rainbow | Stacy Egan, Flickr

Sedona is famous for one thing: being gorgeous. This posh desert destination rises up from the dusty road like a mirage, its majestic red rock formations glowing in the sun. You’ll love wandering Main Street, which is packed full of restaurants, bars, and New Age crystal and energy healing stores. Take your love to get your auras photographed, and book a massage or reiki cleansing session. Or grab seats on a Pink Jeep tour, which will take you right up to the bases of Sedona’s (reputedly magical) red rocks.

Sebastopol, CA

CIMG0364.jpg,, Attribution CC BY 2.0

Photo: Sebastapol | David Orban, Flickr

Never heard of it? You’ll wish you had once you get there! Sebastopol, a small town of about 8,000 people in Sonoma County, is a gem of a weekend getaway—it’s quaint without being self-consciously cute, and has an old-fashioned main street brimming with antique stores. Head to Ace Cider Pub for a juicy twist on a brewery experience, and don’t miss taking your sweetie for ice cream at the award-winning, world-famous Screamin’ Mimi’s, where the hot fudge, caramel, and waffle cones are all made onsite. The cherry on top? You’re just 90 minutes from San Francisco, if you want to keep the road-trip vibes going.

Niagara Falls, NY

bobistraveling,, Attribution CC BY 2.0

Photo: Niagara Falls, NY | bobistraveling, Flickr

Nicknamed “The Honeymoon Capital of the World”, Niagara Falls is a study in contrasts: On one hand, you’ve got the mighty natural wonder of the Falls themselves, with millions of gallons of water cascading endlessly to a picturesque end. On the other, you’ve got the town of Niagara Falls, which is like a mini-Vegas—kitsch city! Spend a night overlooking the special rainbow lights behind the Falls, and then head out the next day to see them up close on the Maid of the Mist boat tour, where you and your honey will be given matching ponchos for coordinated selfies. Afterwards, hit the town to explore the casinos, wax works museums, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not exhibitions—tourist traps, sure, but lots of fun for the day!

Stillwater, MN

Smitty 54017's Photos, Stillwater, MN, Attribution CC BY 2.0

Photo: St. Croix Boom Site, Stillwater, NM | Smitty 54017, Flickr

Get ready to be charmed. Voted one of the “Top 10 Prettiest Towns in America” by Forbes magazine, Stillwater is a small town on a seriously beautiful river, the St. Croix. Miles of hiking and biking trails, stunning cliff views, antique shops galore, and a downtown that seems to have been designed for sweethearts to stroll through all make Stillwater a dream weekend destination, and one of our favorite Sweetest Day ideas. Add in cute autumnal activities, such as picking your own Honeycrisp apples at Aamodt’s Apple Farm—and visiting a farmer’s market that runs through October across the street from the historic Court House—and you’ve got a Sweetest Day getaway you’ll remember forever.


Tagged: California, City, Destinations, Holidays, Romance & honeymoon

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

Share with your friends


San Diego is picturesque and nearly perfect, with its blue skies, warm weather and inviting sea breeze. And there’s so much to do—the seals and sea lions at La Jolla Cove, the famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and more. There’s unforgettable food to indulge in, blending the fruits of the sea and the flavors from the nearby border. But traveling to the storied spot is a little challenging on a budget. But don’t settle. There are a bevy of cheap hotels in San Diego that are so charming you’ll never want to leave.

*Note: All hotel rates are based on a random one-night, weekday stay in September.


West Park Inn — $47 per night

This 48-room hotel is right next to Balboa Park, home of the famed San Diego Zoo. The rooms here may be lacking a little in the decor department, but they’re clean and have all the necessities. The courtyard, however, is where it’s at. Giant plants surround the warm patio and palms climb around the area. Take your morning coffee out here, and spend a relaxing morning listening to the trickle of the fountain and smelling the sea breeze. 


Lodge at 32nd — $79 per night

Each of this hotel’s 25 rooms have flat screen TVs and looks more like an apartment than a hotel. The decor is very contemporary, with wood panels surrounding the check-in window and wood floors covering part of each room. The white paneled ceilings make it feel clean and beachy. It’s sleek, and you can tell that from the moment you pull into your free parking spot. It’s also mercifully close to Balboa Park — it’s on the side with a golf course.


ITH Adventure Hostel — $33 per night

This hostel sits on the edge of Little Italy just north of downtown, and it’s colorful in more ways than one. Travelers from all over the world mingle in the hostel’s garden and on its patio. Guitars hang from the walls, and bricks are painted with things to do and suggestions for adventure. There are 10 air conditioned guest rooms, Wifi is free and the owners host a complimentary reception gathering every day. But here’s the thing: That’s not all. Besides the free internet, the daily English breakfast and onsite dinner are also gloriously free. 


California Suites Hotel — $86 per night

This 162-room hotel is north of downtown San Diego near Clairemont, making it the perfect location for those visiting the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and the University of California – San Diego. It’s also pretty close to the picturesque La Jolla Cove. The hotel itself is beautiful—the grounds are bursting with flowers and shaded by palm trees. There’s a pool and a spa tub, and breakfast is complimentary. Some of the rooms have a little bit of a ‘90s vibe (cough, cough, the comforters), but who doesn’t like a little throwback every now and then?


HI San Diego Downtown — $107 per night

San Diego is on point with its hostel game. The eco-friendly and eclectic HI San Diego Downtown is right in the heart of downtown, offering comfy and colorful couches, built-in bookshelves and loads of art just steps from some of the city’s best sights. Breakfast is complimentary, and the communal kitchen is gorgeous with its high ceilings and pots hanging overhead. Choose shared or private bathrooms.


Hotel Iris — $89 per night

The decor truly defines this 79-room hotel. The art is striking: In one room, a larger-than-life portrait of a girl stares down at the guest with fierce eyes, and in another, a running zebra explodes into a trail of purple. Most of the rooms are arranged so the beds face the window, flooding the space with natural, California light. The hotel also has a pool and hot tub, although breakfast is, sadly, not complimentary here.


Tagged: Beach, California, Cheap Tips, City

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

Share with your friends


Let’s face it: We’d all be exponentially happier if we quit our jobs and moved to a beach town somewhere along the western coast, where the sea breeze eases tensions and the weather begs to be enjoyed. Yet most of us will have to be satisfied with a visit. So for that coastal vacay, here are a slew of wonderful California beach towns worth the trip, each with their own sense of charm and intrigue. To avoid showing favoritism (how could you even pick a favorite?!), they’re in alphabetical order.

Avalon, California

The boats in Avalon Bay. Photo: Raymond Shobe – Flickr.


Avalon is the only incorporated city on Santa Catalina Island, and it deserves the distinction (it’s also the only island town on our list). Houses climb up the hillside and overlook the boats floating on picturesque Avalon Bay. Much of the rest of the island is preserved and waiting to be explored by foot, bicycle, kayak or whatever else you can dream up. With one exception: Full-sized vehicles are not allowed on the island, so you’ll have to traverse great distances via golf cart. Hit Crescent Avenue for shopping and dining, and check out the bison—directors of a 1920s Western film introduced them to the island as extras, and they’re still hanging around.


Bodega Bay, California

The bluffs at Bodega Head near Bodega Bay, California. Photo: Mitchel Jones – Flickr.

Bodega Bay

This fishing village off the Pacific Coast Highway is about a 90-minute drive north of San Francisco. The sleepy town remains the quaint string of shops and restaurants that it was when it set the scene for Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Which is a big part of what makes it so charming (minus the terrifying bird swarms, of course). But back to the point: Bodega Bay is pure relaxation. The salmon and crab fished straight from the bay are known far and wide, so make sure you try some, and the rocky bluffs and hiking trails at nearby Bodega Head are not to be missed.



The colorful cottages in Capitola, California. Photo: Susana Fernandez – Flickr.


Capitola channels its inner Amalfi Coast with the rows of brightly painted cottages lining its beach. Surfers pass by the Mediterranean-style bungalows that inhabit the place, and seaside coffee shops draw those that linger to read, relax and watch the waves. The town often draws day-trippers from Silicon Valley, and many folks from all over who want to hit the surf. Capitola’s waves may very well be the reason wetsuit manufacturer O’Neill built its headquarters nearby, making this perhaps the beachiest of our California beach towns.


Carpinteria, California.

Carpinteria, California. Photo: Tom Ipri – Flickr.


Eclectic and mild Carpinteria takes its name from the Spanish word for carpenter’s shop. They say Spanish explorers dubbed the town with the name because Chumash Indians used to split Redwoods to make canoes there. Today, the community is comprised of seriously welcoming small business owners, who will happily greet you from their indie shops, small cafes and antiques stores.The seemingly endless sunshine likely plays a role in all of their sunny dispositions, and we bet this helps too: Not far from the main street are some stunning beaches, and on the other side of it are green foothills and mountains hatched with ranches and avocado orchards. How’s that for California dreamin’?

The tide pools of Cayucos make it one of the prettiest California beach towns.

Tide pools at Estero Bluffs near Cayucos, California. Photo: Fred Moore – Flickr.


For those worried that tourism and other factors are destroying California’s picturesque and quaint beach towns, Cayucos will assuage your fears. Warm breezes blow through the old buildings that give the town some of its historical charm, and residents actually make time to drink in the warmth and contemplate the beauty. This is the kind of place to take leisurely strolls and coast through warm afternoons eating and drinking with the locals. There’s a gorgeous enclave overlooking Estero Bay, a long pier jutting out from the beach’s white sand, and plenty of delicious seafood spots.


Encinitas, California

A view from Encinitas, California. Photo: Sayjack – Flickr.


Of all the California beach towns on this list, this one’s got the greatest claim to fame: It’s home to Swamis Beach, the surf spot Beach Boys sang about in “Surfin’ USA.” And although Encinitas has been getting a little pricier, it’s still totally worth the splurge to visit. If surfing isn’t your style and you’d prefer a view from above, check out the beach from the gorgeousmeditation garden that sits on the bluff above. From there you can see the cacti framing the sea, an unmistakable reminder of the beauties of Southern California. After exploring the botanical gardens, ecological reserve and beach parks, head to downtown Encinitas. Here, you’ll find wineries and farmers markets, specialty shops, bars and more.

In love with a little Cali beach town that didn’t make the list? Let us know!

Tagged: Beach, California, Tips & advice

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

Share with your friends


If we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s the long weekend getaways that make life worth living. And lucky for us, there’s a small town around nearly every corner, welcoming us with its quaint bed and breakfasts and friendly local joints. Here’s a list of some of the best small towns to pass a long weekend in, ranked from cool to coolest. Enjoy the ride.


Nogales, Arizona

— Population: 20,456

Nogales straddles the Mexican border in a very literal way—there’s a Nogales on both sides, and both edge up so close to the wall that you could likely shout a conversation from either side. So bring that passport with you in case you’d care to stroll across the border for some authentic, barely-south-of-the-border cuisine. Not that there isn’t enough to do on the Arizona side. Here, you can explore an 18th-century Franciscan mission and museum, sample the wares of nearby wineries, visit ghost towns and stargaze in the surrounding national parks. Nogales is located in one of the country’s few Dark Skies areas. It’s also been an unexpected hotbed of Hollywood activity for decades—dozens of films have been shot here, including 3:10 to YumaThe Hangover III and Oklahoma! the musical. Stay at Frida’s Inn, a bed and breakfast, for a little extra local flavor.

Newport, KY

The leaves start to change on trees over Overton Street in Newport, Kentucky. Photo: Ally Marotti

Newport, Kentucky

— Population: 15,382

Although this Northern Kentucky town sits in the shadow of Cincinnati, it has a certain charm its bigger neighbor lacks. Row houses with quaint yards line some historic streets, while oversized Victorian homes populate others. There are family-owned bars and restaurants are nearly every corner — try Katerina’s for authentic German food, Strong’s for the best wood-fired pizza this side of the Mississippi, and Pompilio’s for an old-timey bar/Italian restaurant. And certainly don’t miss the more commercial attractions at Newport on the Levie, like Newport Aquarium, or cross the very short bridge into Cincinnati for more sightseeing. 


The Sky Lift in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Photo: Faungg’s photos – Flickr.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

— Population: 4,097

Gatlinburg might not seem like such a small town with all the visitors it draws, but it’s not hard to find hikes that make you feel far from civilization. Known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg gives way to miles of hiking trails and seemingly endless breaths of fresh air. Get outside and climb a mountain, or head into town for some activities like touring the Sugarlands Distilling Company, shopping at the Village Shops and go under the sea at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. And if you don’t want to work for the panoramic views available all around Gatlinburg, take the Sky Lift, a 2.1-mile aerial car for a ride, or ride 407 feet up into the Space Needle observation tower. Spend the night riverside at the beautiful Eight Gables Inn.

Tybee Island, Georgia

A Tybee Island sunset. Photo: Ryan McKee – Flickr.

Tybee Island, Georgia

— Population: 3,044

Once a haven for Native Americans, later a hideout for pirates and recently a quiet getaway for Savannah residents, Tybee Island has become a popular getaway destination for folks throughout Georgia and the surrounding area. Make beachfront DeSoto Beach Hotel your home base for visiting the lighthouse (built in 1736), watching the sunrise over the Atlantic or grabbing some local fare at the popular Crab Shack. There are more than 25 restaurants on the island, as well as deep-sea charters and a pier for fishing. If none of those options suit your tastes—or if they suit you just fine and you have a few extra days—drive the 18 miles into Savannah.


Manitou Springs

Dream catchers at a shop in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Photo: Ally Marotti.

Manitou Springs, Colorado

— Population: 5,242

Nestled between larger Colorado Springs and the Rocky Mountains, Manitou Springs offers a ton of things to do within itsrather small, historic town center. First off, there are plenty of places to drink that craft beer Colorado is so famous for. Then there’s the food: dig into some burgers at the Manitou Brewing Co, sample Mediterranean at Sahara Cafe or fill up on a slice or seven at Savelli’s Pizza. Don’t worry, you can work it all off just a little ways outside of town by exploring nearby cliff dwellings, river rafting, hiking in the mountains and horseback riding. Or bring your camera along as you ride the cog rail up Pikes Peak.

Lake Placid

The hike to Mt. Marcy, the highest peak near Lake Placid, New York. Photo: Ally Marotti.

Lake Placid, New York

— Population: 2,471

Lake Placid is a great place to getaway at literally any time of the year. It played host to the 1980 Winter Olympics, and during their eponymous season, you can visit the park or ski the slopes throughout the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks. If you visit in the summer or fall, the hiking is pretty darn great, both in orange and green hues. Mt. Marcy is the area’s tallest peak, and you’ll need more than a day to summit if you so choose. Otherwise, you can rent mountain bikes or kayaks in Lake Placid and go on a slightly less strenuous adventure. Refuel at any of the excellent dining establishments in the little ski town. For instance, after a good night’s sleep at Hotel North Woods, start the day at The Breakfast Club with a basil prosciutto sandwich with provolone and over-easy eggs, or dig into some noteworthy BBQ at Wyatt’s.


Mendocino, California

The Pacific Coast near Mendocino, California. Photo: Lee Coursey – Flickr.

Mendocino, California

— Population: 894

The unincorporated community of Mendocino is small but mighty, giving way to a gorgeous stretch of rocky, cliff-laden coastline that more closely resembles New England than what you’d normally think of as coastal California. And there’s plenty to do between its famous glass beach, the towering Redwoods and the eastern edge of town—little shops and restaurants line streets that were once the setting for Murder She Wrote‘s fabled Cabot Cove. Best of all, there isn’t a chain in sight in this artist’s community, meaning that you’ll have to forego your Starbucks habit for a few days, but the tradeoff is a hefty dose of local flavor. Set up shop for the long weekend at the quaint Blackberry Inn or the stately Mendocino Hotel and Garden Suites.


Traverse City, Michigan

Hiking the Sleeping Bear Dunes near Traverse City, Michigan. Photo: Ally Marotti.

Traverse City, Michigan

— Population: 15,018

There’s nothing more refreshing than a long weekend getaway in Traverse City. Climb the nearby SleepingBear Dunes or bike through the forests of Northern Michigan. Kayak on the Grand Traverse Bay or go on a hike. Or, if you’d like to keep the weekend a little more civilized, go wine tasting at one of the area’s many top-notch vineyards, hang out in the quaint downtown area or sit by the harbor and watch the boats bobbing. There are plenty of campgrounds around if you really want to keep it cheap. For hotels, try the Country Inn & Suites, or one of the motels along StateRoute 31.

CTIXblog CTA _ cheapcash 

Tagged: Beach, California, Cheap Tips, Last minute travel, Tips & advice

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