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There’s nothing wrong with tradition, but everyone’s got one. This holiday season, feel free to sample the very best food traditions the holidays have to offer by checking out some of our favorite winter food festivals.

RELATED: These are America’s most underrated food cities

Downtown Holiday Market | Flickr CC: Elvert Barnes

Downtown Holiday Market | Flickr CC: Elvert Barnes

9. Downtown Holiday Market – Washington, DC

November 25–December 23, daily

Feast on hand-made Peruvian empanadas, warm churros dusted in powdered sugar and fresh-made doughnuts while walking the sidewalks of this street-style holiday market. Then shop for unique gifts from over 150 vendors while working up an appetite for traditional German holiday fare.

8. Winter Feast Holiday Bazaar –Seattle, WA

Sunday, December 11

This one-day food fair features 20 food trucks and over 100 local businesses coming together for a cavalcade of holiday street food. Munch on gourmet doughnuts and German-style pretzels, as well as Middle Eastern, Indian and Mexican favorites, all served up from the city’s best mobile restaurants.

7. Grand Holiday Bazaar – New York, NY

December 11–18

Sample some of New York’s best sugary treats at this annual indoor and outdoor holiday market. Savor chocolaty creations from the state’s finest confectioners, or lose yourself in brownies, waffles and hand-made macaroons. With over 100 artisan vendors and craftsmen, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to walk it off.

Latke Festival | Photo courtesy of Great Performances

Latke Festival | Photo courtesy of Great Performances

6.  8th Annual Latke Festival – Brooklyn, NY

December 19

Each year this one-day competition crowns New York’s best latke–but its really a chance to drown happily in a sea of the state’s finest potato pancakes. You can even help crown this year’s champion!

ALSO: Check out these flight deals for under $199

Palm Beach Wine and Food Festival | Photo courtesy of @licksnlove

Palm Beach Wine and Food Festival | Photo courtesy of @licksnlove

5. Palm Beach Food And Wine FestivalPalm Beach, FL

December 8–11

If you want to get away from the cold this holiday season, consider making this Florida food festival your destination. This year, 46 of the state’s best chefs and restaurateurs will be presenting unique food and wine pairings.

Indulge LA | Photo courtesy of @indulgelosangeles

Indulge LA | Photo courtesy of @indulgelosangeles

4. Indulge LALos Angeles, CA

January 8

In case you’re still craving the holiday spirit–and more sweets–after the New Year begins, be sure to check out this annual chocolate and pastry festival. Featuring mouth-watering desserts from celebrity pastry chefs and confectioners like Francois Payard, Kriss Harvey and Stephanie Treand.

Flickr CC: HarshLight

Flickr CC: HarshLight

3. Great Dickens Christmas FairDaly City , CA

November 19–December 18, on weekends

This Victorian-themed Christmas festival takes tradition to the next level. Groups of carolers in period dress will serenade you while you feast on British favorites like bangers, meat pies and of course fish ‘n’ chips–as well as fine European fare.

2. Christmas Luminaria Tour at the Enchanted ForestRed River, NM

A New Mexico Christmas tradition! Trek through famous Enchanted Forest ski country along a trail lined with hand-made paper lanterns. Then chow down on green chile stew, posole and seasonal desserts.

Chriskindlmarket | Flickr CC: Ben Miller

Chriskindlmarket | Flickr CC: Ben Miller

1. ChristkindlmarketChicago, IL

November 18–December 24, daily

Designed like authentic European Christmas market with vendors housed in small wooden huts, this German-style street fair is not only picturesque, but also the ultimate experience for foodies. Traditional German vendors offer sausages heaped with sauerkraut, fresh-baked Bavarian pretzels, over-flowing steins of beer, hot spicedd wine and mountains of piping hot strudel.

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Tagged: California, City, Florida, Food & drink, Holidays, L.A.

Jesse Betend

Jesse Betend

Jesse is a writer and radio producer in Chicago. He is the Executive Producer for the embarrassing storytelling podcast "We Still Like You" and writes for the Chicago Sun-Times.
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Sometimes you get what you pay for. And sometimes you get more. Much more. To help travelers save a ho-ho-whole lot of money on holiday travel, CheapTickets.com® encourages anyone with travel plans to look beyond the stars and not rule out two- or three-star accommodations as they make lodging plans for the most wonderful time of the year.

CheapTickets.com found that while the majority of Americans tend to gravitate towards four- and five-star hotels, choosing a three-star property at this holiday season’s top destinations can save you up to 33% compared to a destination’s average daily hotel price.

“While two- and three-star properties may not have extensive onsite services or dining options, many offer a really great experience, some with charming settings and overall excellent service,” said Justine McDonald, a CheapTickets.com travel expert. “The key to finding these exceptional two- and three-star options is looking for hidden gems that are vetted and highly recommended by fellow travelers, ensuring high value and alleviating fear of the unknown.”

Finding these surprisingly beautiful, cheap and comfortable hidden gems is easier than ever on CheapTickets.com as customers can filter search results by properties’ star ratings and then sort by guest rating, resulting in a list of options that both fit their budget and come highly rated. In addition to reviews and comments, CheapTickets.com also lists a “recommended by” percentage, where travelers can see whether or not customers would recommend the property to a friend.

CHEAPTICKETS.COM POPULAR HOLIDAY DESTINATIONS AND AVERAGE HOTEL PRICES

Great two and three star hotels

CHEAPTICKETS.COM TOP PICKS FOR HIDDEN GEM TWO- AND THREE-STAR HOTELS

To make planning travel even easier (and cheaper!), here are CheapTickets.com editors’ top picks for awesome two- and three-star hotels in some of the holiday season’s top destinations.

Las Vegas: Excalibur
Sample average daily hotel price: $53
Percentage of customers who would recommend: 77%
This castle-like resort on the Las Vegas Strip has something for every member of the family to enjoy, including a casino, an arcade room, a full-service spa, an outdoor pool and poolside bar, seven restaurants, three bars/lounges and two cafes. Don’t miss the medieval joust dinner show!

Photo courtesy of The Redondo Beach Hotel

Photo courtesy of The Redondo Beach Hotel

Los Angeles: The Redondo Beach Hotel
Sample average daily hotel price: $182
Percentage of customers who would recommend: 95%
From complimentary Wi-Fi to free continental breakfast daily, The Redondo Beach Hotel is all about the little extras. Monday through Thursday evenings, visitors can even mingle at a hosted wine reception. The hotel boasts many rooms with marina views, and even has a bike rental station on-site for those who want to explore the nearby beaches like a true Southern Californian.

Photo courtesy of the Bay Club Hotel and Marina

Photo courtesy of the Bay Club Hotel and Marina

San Diego: Bay Club Hotel and Marina
Sample average daily hotel price: $117
Percentage of customers who would recommend: 90%
Located on Shelter Island, The Bay Club Hotel & Marina is a waterfront property just 4 miles from Old Town and 7 miles from the Gaslamp Quarter. This property offers stunning views of the San Diego Bay, downtown skyline, Point Loma, and of course, its private marina.

Photo courtesyof the Vagabond Hotel

Photo courtesy of the Vagabond Hotel

Miami: The Vagabond Hotel
Sample average daily hotel price: $176
Percentage of customers who would recommend: 95%
The chicly retro Vagabond Hotel is within the vicinity of Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Port of Miami and the Bal Harbour Shops. Hearkening back to a bygone era, the Art Deco-style property offers an outdoor pool (plus a poolside bar) and a top notch fitness center.

Photo courtesy of the Acme Hotel

Photo courtesy of the Acme Hotel

Chicago: Acme Hotel Company Chicago
Sample average daily hotel price: $88
Percentage of customers who would recommend: 100%
This hip boutique hotel close to the Magnificent Mile offers a gym, free morning coffee, funky modern rooms (think giant zipper murals on the walls and lip decals on the bathroom mirrors) and an on-site lounge serving craft cocktails.

Photo courtesy of the Point Orlando

Photo courtesy of the Point Orlando

Orlando: The Point Orlando
Sample average daily hotel price: $184
Percentage of customers who would recommend: 94%
Not only is The Point Orlando close to Universal Studios Florida, Wet ‘n Wild, and iFLY Orlando, it also has plenty of recreational opportunities on-site, including a spa tub, a tropical outdoor pool and bar, and a well-equipped fitness center. Relax over cocktails and freshly prepared pizzas and paninis at the chic new Evo Lounge & Tapas Bar on the property.

Photo courtesy of Cambria Hotel and Suites

Photo courtesy of Cambria Hotel and Suites

New York City: Cambria Hotel and Suites
Sample average daily hotel price: $229
Percentage of customers who would recommend: 99%
Cambria Hotel and Suites is a brand new, upscale boutique-style hotel located in the trendy Chelsea neighborhood within walking distance of the Empire State Building, Times Square, Madison Square Garden, and Madison Square Park. Guests can take in the view from the rooftop terrace, enjoy a satisfying meal at its socialCircle Restaurant, and enjoy a signature cocktail at one of the two hotel bars before hitting the town.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Abri

Photo courtesy of Hotel Abri

San Francisco: Hotel Abri – Union Square
Sample average daily hotel price: $141
Percentage of customers who would recommend: 100%
This romantic and sleek hotel is centrally-located and is modern, yet charming. Its lobby lounge offers cozy seating around a gas fireplace, while an adjacent Italian restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Amenities include a 24-hour business center and a “tech menu” that allows guests to borrow or buy electronic accessories.

Photo courtesy of La Casa Hotel

Photo courtesy of La Casa Hotel

Fort Lauderdale, FL: La Casa Hotel
Sample average daily hotel price: $154
Percentage of customers who would recommend: 91%
A part of North Beach Village, this tranquil and serene space offers guests easy access to Fort Lauderdale Beach and the Galleria at Fort Lauderdale Mall. Guest rooms featurefour poster beds and classic design, and the beautiful pool and spa are surrounded with tropical greenery and Italian-style fountains, creating the ultimate oasis for guests looking to just get away.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Lombardy

Photo courtesy of Hotel Lombardy

Washington, DC: Hotel Lombardy
Sample average daily hotel price: $112
Percentage of customers who would recommend: 84%
Walking distance from the White House and the Foggy Bottom metro station, the HotelLombardy is a 1920s building with refined, classic rooms. Featured amenities include fitness facilities, free newspapers in the lobby, and in-room spa services available for a fee. Another fun fact: This property is a member of the Historic Hotels of America.

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Tagged: Beach, California, City, Las Vegas, New York City

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Do you have what it takes to last the night at these spooky spots? Check yourself in to one of these haunted hotels to score a sleepless night of scary Halloween entertainment.

RELATED: The country’s 4 best Halloween celebrations

Pfister Hotel

Lobby at the Pfister Hotel | Photo courtesy of the Pfister Hotel

5. The Pfister Hotel – Milwaukee, WI

Baseball is a game of statistics, and teams throughout history have gone to great lengths to get an edge over their competition. The Milwaukee Brewers however, take it a step farther, pulling possibly the most nefarious trick in Major League Baseball. In order to make sure opposing players hit the field less-than-rested, the Brewers arrange for opposing clubs to stay at the Pfister Hotel – which just so happens to be one of the most haunted places in the state of Wisconsin. Many players have stories of the unsettling phenomena that occur at the Milwaukee‘s Pfister. Brandon Phillips, second baseman for The Cincinnati Reds, told Sports Illustrated strange things began happening the moment he checked in. While sitting on his bed, the radio suddenly turned on. He turned it off and got in the shower. When Phillips was finished, he left the bathroom to find the radio had been turned on again. Another baseball player, Carlos Gomez, currently an outfielder for the Texas Rangers, was so scared during his stay at the Pfister, that he took his bat to bed with him. Gomez only got about 2 hours of sleep over his three-day stay. Hats off to the Brewers for being the only team in baseball to try to haunt their opponents, but it turns out all that ingenuity may be for nothing. In 47 years of being a club, the Brewers have only made it to the World Series once, in 1982, where they lost to the Cardinals. And they say the Cubs are cursed.  

Casino at Bally's

The casino at Bally’s | Photo courtesy of Bally’s

4. Bally’s Las Vegas – Las Vegas, NV

Located on the Vegas Strip, Bally’s Las Vegas was formerly the MGM Grand before the hotel had a huge fire in 1980. It turns out it takes more than a name change to separate Bally’s from it’s tragic past. Hauntings are more common on the upper floors where guests frequently complain of the smell of smoke, even 36 years after the fire. Firemen’s ladders in 1980 were only tall enough to reach the 9th floor, leaving 14 stories of trapped residents to fend for themselves. The sounds of a little boy screaming have been reported from the 17th floor, only to fade into coughing and eventual silence. The ghostly figure of an old lady enveloped in a cloud of smoke has also been said to frequent the attached casino. She can be seen sitting and smoking while playing two slot machines. As witnesses get closer, they see that the smoke surrounding her is not from her cigarette, but billowing from the flaming hem of her dress.     

Stanley Hotel

The infamous Stanley Hotel | Photo courtesy of the Stanley Hotel

3. The Stanley Hotel – Estes Park, CO

The Stanley Hotel in Colorado is often mentioned when the topic of haunted hotels comes up, and for good reason. The hotel is famous for spooking author Stephen King so badly that it inspired “The Shining,” and management at The Stanley have fully embraced their haunted history. “The Shining” plays on loop on the TV in the guest lobby and the hotel recently renovated to add a replica of the hedge maze from the film. The most common specter that guests come across is Mrs. Wilson. A former employee of the hotel, Mrs. Wilson is known to tidy up rooms and fold guest’s laundry. Seemingly a kind spirit, she is also a bit modest, and has on occasion gotten into bed with couples to force them apart.

the Emily Morgan

A room at the Emily Morgan | Photo courtesy of the Emily Morgan

2. The Emily Morgan San Antonio – San Antonio, TX

If one of your ancestors happened to fight in The Alamo, great news – you may get to meet them! The Emily Morgan in San Antonio, overlooks the sight of the historic battle and eventual graveof over 600 soldiers. Through their windows, guests report seeing what appears to be the figures of soldiers stalking the land where their bodies were once piled and burned by General Santana’s men. Inside, the hotel has it’s own dark past, as well. The building was originally designed as a medical center, housing it’s own morgue and psychiatric wing. Today, the sound of gurneys being wheeled echoes down empty hallways, toilet seats are banged up and down by no one, and some have experienced the sensation of being touched by invisible hands. The hotel elevators are known to take you to the basement – the sight of what used to be the morgue – without the button being pressed. The problem continues despite multiple inspections. Even if this is one of the more intense paranormal experiences on the list, not all of the ghosts that haunt the Emily Morgan are malicious. A guest on the third floor described being woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of a little girl singing to herself. Sure enough, on the edge of the bed was a small child who looked directly at the guest and asked if they would like to sing along.

the Congress Hotel

Lobby at the Congress Hotel | Photo courtesy of the Congress Hotel

1. The Congress Plaza Hotel – Chicago, IL

The Congress Plaza Hotel is one of only two hotels in Chicago with high enough security clearance for a Presidential visit. Given its reputation for hosting world leaders you might feel safe booking a stay, but keep in mind, the Congress Hotel is also considered one of the most haunted places in America. H. H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer, was known to stalk the lobby of The Congress to scope out potential victims for his own murder-hotel. Al Capone, who once called a room on the 8th floor home, is also said to roam the halls of the North Tower. Another common phenomena visitors report is a mysterious ghostly hand which passes through the back wall of the coat closet. It is believed to belong to a construction worker who got stuck behind the wall while it was being renovated and was “plastered alive.” Still, nothing gets more panicked calls to the front desk than room 441. Some that stay the night describe a female form that creeps to the edge of their beds and kicks the frameto startle them awake when they begin to fall asleep.

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Tagged: City, Holidays

Jesse Betend

Jesse Betend

Jesse is a writer and radio producer in Chicago. He is the Executive Producer for the embarrassing storytelling podcast "We Still Like You" and writes for the Chicago Sun-Times.
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There’s a reason we suffered through all those April showers. Flowers are blooming all over the place, wild and curated, on trees and from the ground. And what better place to learn about and see some of those gorgeous little bursts of color than a botanical garden? If you live in the city, it’s a wonderful escape, and most flowers are seemingly coming to life again with the arrival of warmth. Another perk: some botanical gardens are free, and most others charge a minimal fee that’s totally worth it to wander through the daffodils. Here’s a look at some of the best botanical gardens in North America.

 

Longwood Gardens

Flowers in bloom at Longwood Gardens. Photo: Fred Schroeder – Flickr

Longwood Gardens — Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

The trees and flowers are bursting into bloom right now throughout Longwood Gardens’ nearly 1,100 acres. Magnolias, azaleas, dogwood and more join the more than 240,000 tulips sprinkled throughout the grounds. Summer welcomes events, classes and even night flower-viewing sessions. Visitors must buy tickets ($20 for adults) based on time of entry.

El Charco del Ingenio

A sanctuary in El Charco del Ingenio in Oaxaca, México. Photo: Grauliflower – Flickr.

El Charco del Ingenio — Oaxaca, México

This 220-acre botanical garden is unlike most curated gardens, and instead has been grown around a hilly and rugged landscape above the cliffs of a canyon overlooking San Miguel. It’s founders saw the effects humans were having on the landscape with littering, overgrazing and the like. So they stepped in, restoring the landscape to its natural beauty, and then some. Oaxaca is one of the most florally diverse states in Mexico, and you’ll see much of that native flora — including a ton of cacti and succulents — throughout the reserve.

 

Chicago Botanic Garden

A pond at the Chicago Botanic Garden near the suburb of Glencoe, Illinois. Photo: H. Michael Miley – Flickr.

Chicago Botanic Garden — Chicago, Illinois

One of the biggest pleasures about visiting Chicago’s botanical garden is the break from the concrete of the city. Sure, the city does a great job of swapping out the flowers in the planters downtown, but those don’t have quite the alluring effect the magnolias, hyacinths and phlox will have this month. Visitors can bike, hike or stroll through Chicago Botanic Garden’s 385 acres, which are situated around nine islands. Admission is free.

 

Desert Botanical Garden

Cacti in the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Josh Schoenwald – Flickr.

Desert Botanical Garden — Phoenix, Arizona

May is a pretty interesting time to visit this botanical garden, dedicated to the flowers and plants of the desert. Many of the spring wildflowers and flowering cacti have begun to lose their petals and color with the slow arrival of summer’s heat. However, the iconic Saguaro cacti are entering their period of bloom. Flowers open in the evening and remain open the next day, and it’s quite a sight. More than 50,000 plants, many of them cacti, dominate the Desert Botanical Garden’s 145 acres. Admission is $22 for adults, $12 for students.

 

 Portland Japanese Gardens.

A Japanese maple tree inside the Portland Japanese Gardens. Photo: psanders3001 – Flickr.

Japanese Garden — Portland, Oregon

This is a hidden gem of a garden, and one that many don’t actually seek out in Portland. Its 5.5 acres are nestled inside Washington Park, but it’s well worth the foray. The park has been around since the 1960s and has five major sub-gardens, including one with rocks built into the path in the shape of the Big Dipper. Another devoted to a tea ceremony, and yet another offers ponds, waterfalls, streams and natural mosses. The garden is meant to bring visitors a sense of peace and harmony through nature. The low entrance fee of $9.50 for adults helps with that peace and harmony, too.

 

Franklin Park Conservatory

A view of the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio. Photo: VasenkaPhotography – Flickr.

Franklin Park Conservatory — Columbus, Ohio 

Originally built in 1895, the Franklin Park Conservatory is on the National Register for Historic Places. It’s beautiful year round, with indoor roomsimitating varying climates and a vast garden outside. Scores of couples of have been married at the conservatory, and the landscape, inside and out, is peppered with Chihuly glass sculptures. There are seasonal exhibits, and right now it’s Blooms and Butterflies. Conservatory admission is $13 for adults.

 

Butchart Gardens

The Sunken Garden at Butchart Gardens near Victoria, British Columbia.

Butchart Gardens — Victoria, British Columbia

On particularly vibrant days, Butchart Gardens may give one the feeling that they’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. There are flowers of all shapes and sizes, and bushes trimmed into intriguing shapes, as well as bronze statues of wild boar, donkeys and sturgeons. There are performances in the summer and an ice skating rink is erected in the winter. Established in the early 1900s, it used to be a limestone quarry. Now, it draws more than a million visitors a year. This is one of the pricier admissions on our list, with adult tickets costing nearly $30, but it’s absolutely worth it.

 

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Flowers in bloom at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden in Texas. Photo: Daniel M. Hendricks – Flickr.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden — Dallas, Texas

Dallas Arboretum does it up right with the flowers, offering 66 acres of displays, ponds, streams and more. The cherry on top, though, is the shining array of events, discounts and deals it offers visitors. There’s a concert series on Thursday nights, and on Wednesdays the garden extends its hours until 8 p.m., welcoming visitors to experience nature as the sun sets. And it has a rainy day guarantee, offering a refund if rain interrupts your visit. Tickets are $15, but consider going on Wednesday for buy-one-get-one-free ticket deals.

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Tagged: FREE!, Mexico, Seasonal

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Sure, St. Patrick’s Day is meant to honor Ireland’s patron saint but in reality, the holiday also delivers tons of parades, green beer and unbridled revelry of every stripe in cities across the country. Scroll down and you’ll find this year’s top St. Patrick’s Day celebration destinations, including ways to save if you decide to make the trip.

But first, take this quiz that finally answers the age-old question, What’s your pub name?

Best cities for St Patrick's Day celebrations

CHEAPTICKETS.COM EDITORS’ TOP PICKS FOR ST. PATRICK’S DAY CELEBRATIONS

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 3.06.30 PM

Chicago, Ill.
Spectators from around the world gather in Chicago on March 12 to watch the Chicago River dyed green, followed by the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade (featuring bagpipers, dancers and marchers galore) that steps off at Grant Park – rain or shine. Parties citywide are not to be missed.

San Francisco, Calif.
One of the largest celebrations of its kind on the West Coast, the 165th San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 12 features over 100 floats, Irish dance troupes and marching bands as well as an all-day festival in Civic Center Plaza.

Atlanta, Ga.
Proudly claiming the spot as Atlanta’s longest running event, the 134th Atlanta St. Patrick’s Parade on March 12 will consist of nearly 750 musicians and dancers – only one part of the expected 2,300 total participants – and a special appearance by the world-famousBudweiser Clydesdales.

Top St Patrick's Day destinations

Las Vegas, Nev.
While Las Vegas is “Party Central” 24/7, 365 days a year, St. Patrick’s Day-themed events and parties abound up and down the strip. While most take place on March 17 itself, several events continue through the weekend.

New York, N.Y.
The first New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in 1762, 14 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed! This year, the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the United States will be broadcast live to Ireland and the U.K. for the first time ever on March 17. Over two million spectators are expected.

Boston, Mass.
Touted as the “most Irish” city in the United States, Boston is home to some of the best Irish pubs in the world outside of Ireland. Aside from parties and celebrations across the city, the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place on March 20.

HOW TO SAVE
According to CheapTickets.com data, about one-third of Americans have traveled for St. Patrick’s Day or would consider making the trek for a celebration worthy of shaking their shamrocks. Nearly 60% of consumers would consider booking a last-minute room after a night of partying and drinking, so this year, CheapTickets.com is offering revelers the chance to save some green with 20% off last-minute hotel mobile bookings using promo code CLOVER20.
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Tagged: California, Cheap Tips, City, Holidays, Las Vegas, Last minute travel, New York City, Seasonal