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

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

RELATED: 10 destinations that are huge bargains this summer

Lollapalooza: Chicago

Concert Crowd At The Music Festival

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

Book your Chicago hotel soon. 

Austin Asian American Film Festival: Austin

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

Book your Austin hotel right here.

Smorgasburg: New York City

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

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

Find a great NYC hotel here.

Cinespia: Los Angeles

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

Find a fantastic Los Angeles hotel here.

Pride in the Park: Chicago

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

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

Browse great Chicago hotels here. 

Breakaway Music Festival: Grand Rapids, MI

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

Book the perfect Grand Rapids hotel here.

Van Gogh Immersive Experience: Various cities

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

Find fantastic hotel deals right here.

National Mall and Smithsonian Museums: Washington, DC

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

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

Get a good DC hotel deal here.

Food Truck Wednesdays: Miami

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

Snag a Miami hotel deal here.

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

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

Zach Cunning

Zach Cunning

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

As the U.S. slowly emerges from COVID-19 restrictions, restaurants have proven to be a bridge back to the world we all lived in before. However, given the necessity for social distancing and the importance of avoiding enclosed spaces, eateries have had to walk a difficult tightrope to meet CDC guidelines while giving guests a safe dining experience. Enter “eat streets,” or “streateries,” where in some cases, entire city streets have been closed down to create European-style pedestrian thoroughfares that allow for more sidewalk seating. The move reflects out-of-the-box (out-of-the-building?) thinking that’s helping America exit lockdown safely and in good taste.

RELATED: 12 great American roadside attractions

Broad Street in Philadelphia, PA

As stay-at-home orders lift in the city of Brotherly Love, one food destination opening to diners is the Broad Street thoroughfare. Sidewalk dining at Gabi feels particularly appropriate, allowing you to enjoy the French fare the bistro serves up in an atmosphere befitting of Paris. The menu at Scannicchio’s, meanwhile, represents a different part of the Old World (namely Italy—try the famous stuffed artichoke), but the romantic ambiance of food and drink in open air is very much the same.

Where to stay: The three-star Cambria Hotel sits right along the Broad Street Line of the Philadelphia subway, and just steps from iconic Philadelphia City Hall.

Broadway Street in Chicago, IL

Perhaps the most extensive of all the streateries emerging across America, Chicago’s Broadway will see a whopping 32 restaurants re-open when it closes to traffic as part of the city’s “Make Way for Diners” program. In the beautiful Lakeview neighborhood not far from the shores of Lake Michigan, Broadway offers an eclectic variety of dining options. Chow down on modern Mexican cuisine at Chilam Balam, which prides itself on sustainability, or on vegan bites at Kitchen 17.

Where to stay: Rest your head at the historic Willows Hotel, which is convenient not only to the Broadway streatery, but to famous Wrigley Field.

Central West End in St. Louis, MO

There’s no experience in St. Louis quite like outdoor dining near the corner of Maryland Plaza and Euclid Avenue, especially not in the first weeks of summer. The sun is sure to feel even sweeter these days, whether you prefer the sumptuous American-style diner fare on offer at Kingside, or prefer to eat your way around the world with international cuisine from El Burro Loco (Mexican) and Medina (Lebanese).

Where to stay: Chase Park Plaza is perhaps St. Louis’ most classic hotel, in the Central West End or anywhere else in the city.

Hyde Park Village in Tampa, FL

The Hyde Park Village retail complex in South Tampa has always been a wonderful spot to enjoy shopping, dining and drinking in a breezy, outdoor setting. These days, as you wash down Mexican street snacks with margaritas at Bartaco, or enjoy pasta and wood-fired pizzas at Forbici Modern Italian, the fresh air you once took for granted will make your next meal all the more unforgettable.

Where to stay: Feel like a South Tampa local with a stay at the Epicurean Hotel, part of Marriott’s exclusive Autograph collection.

Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, CO

You’re never far from nature in the eco-friendly mecca of Boulder, including when you dine post-COVID at the Pearl Street Mall. Have a meal befitting of the mountains at Spruce Farm & Fish, where trendy New American cuisine contrasts with the timeless ambiance of the historic Boulderado Hotel. Bohemian Biergarten, meanwhile, might have you feeling like you’re at Oktoberfest, even if you end up dining here in June or July.

Where to stay: Stay at the aforementioned Boulderado, or consider booking a room at the stately St Julien Hotel & Spa.

South Congress Avenue in Austin, TX

Let’s be honest: Having a beer or burger on one of the famous patio of Austin’s South Congress Avenue was never a bad idea, even in the days of the “old normal.” Now, however, you’ll truly appreciate the views of the Austin skyline as you look down the hill toward it, whether you enjoy the famous chips and queso on offer at Guero’s Taco Bar, or try out burger-and-milkshake combos at Hopdoddy, an Austin institution that’s celebrating its 10th birthday this year.

Where to stay: In addition to being a fixture of Austin for more than a decade, Hotel San José puts you within walking distance of the entire South Congress entertainment district.

State Street in Santa Barbara, CA

The only thing better than a visit to Santa Barbara, that charming city by the sea, where it always feels like spring? Dining outdoors amid perpetual warmth and sunshine, of course! The city has decided to stop cars from driving on State Street between Haley and Sola, which has allowed several restaurants that were previously closed to re-open. Visit Benchmark for New American fare and craft cocktails, or Sama Sama for a journey through Malaysian and Indonesian cuisine.

Where to stay: Housed in a classic Spanish-colonial style building, Kimpton Canary Hotel pairs an unforgettable location with an ambiance that is unmistakably Santa Barbara.

The road back to normal is going to be a long one, but cities across the country are doing their part of make the journey more tolerable. Whether along the Pacific in Southern California, or in the hippest neighborhoods of Austin and Chicago, eateries are expanding their dining rooms outdoors, literally into the streets in some instances. On the other hand, while not all the neighborhoods on this list are “streateries” by definition, they ensure a delicious meal that’s also safe. After all, is there anything in better taste these days than supporting your local economy while also making sure our healthcare heroes don’t get overloaded?

Tagged: Cheap Tips, Food & drink

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

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It may seem like craft beer festivals are a dime a dozen these days, but that doesn’t mean they’re all created equal. Certain craft celebrations still separate themselves from a crowded field in ways that make them not just a fun diversion if you happen to be in the area, but bucket list-worthy attractions any beer lover should consider planning a whole trip around. When you’re putting your 2020 calendar together,* keep these 9 exceptional beer gatherings in mind.

*Dates and prices are approximated based on 2019 data, so keep tabs on the relevant websites for updates.

RELATED: America’s 7 hottest neighbeerhoods (that’s beer neighborhoods)

Extreme Beer Festival: Boston, MA

(Late January, early February: $75–$100)

Beer Advocate has been hosting this celebration of boundary-pushing brews (each brewery is tasked with creating an “extreme beer”) since 2003, and given how many boundaries have been pushed since that time, it’s no wonder this Boston fest continues to be one of the most interesting annual looks into where the industry is going.

Bonus: Yes, it’s touristy to have a drink at Boston’s Bull & Finch, the bar that inspired Cheers, but if you like beer and you’re in Boston, don’t you also kind of have to pay homage to Norm?

WakeFest Invitational: Miami, FL

(Mid February: $60-$350)

Standout Miami brewer J. Wakefield has evolved its anniversary celebration into quite the event, drawing 120 breweries from around the nation who reliably put their best foams forward at this popular shindig. Expect to taste plenty of rare, sought-after suds, fill up at a sea of food trucks, dance like no one’s watching (if that’s how you roll) and have a generally fantastic time.

Bonus: For most of the country, Miami weather in February doesn’t require much of a sales pitch.

Savor: Washington, DC

(May: $135–$175)

The food quality at beer festivals can vary (which is why you often see attendees subsisting on a pretzel necklace), but there’s nothing to worry about with Savor, which feels more like something out of a Top Chef episode than a typical beer fest. The 90-plus breweries in attendance work up specific food pairings for their beers on offer: think barrel-aged stouts with coconut-chocolate macaroons and fruited sours with curry squash samosas. You won’t leave hungry.

Bonus: DC has plenty of tourism opportunities that other cities simply do not: The Smithsonian, the Lincoln Memorial, the chance to yell at your congressman … The possibilities are endless!

beer

Firestone Walker Invitational: Paso Robles, CA

(June: $90–$200)

2020 will be the ninth iteration of this Paso Robles event from industry heavy hitters Firestone Walker, which draws in some of the biggest worldwide names in brewing among the event’s 50 entrants, not to mention an always impressive lineup of brews from the hosts themselves. If the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the biggest names in brewing with a little live music providing the soundtrack sounds appealing, this is for you.

Bonus: If your beverage interests aren’t limited to beer, you’re smack in the heart of wine country.

Green City: Brooklyn, NY

(June: $100-$300)

Arguably no brewery in the country has distinguished itself in the recent East Coast IPA boom the way Other Half has, so it’s no surprise the festival they throw in Brooklyn in celebration of all things hoppy has emerged as a must-do. More than 70 breweries participate, and if you have people in your party who aren’t necessarily hopheads, fear not, as they also have other styles on offer. There’s also professional wrestling. And a pig roast. Truly something for everyone!

Bonus: The outer boroughs are home to NYC’s best beer gardens. Read all about them here.

Modern Times Festival of Dankness: San Diego, CA

(August: $50)

While the East Coast has attracted much of the IPA notoriety in recent years, beer drinkers shouldn’t forget their roots, and the industry-sweeping influence the West Coast IPA wrought on contemporary beer palates. So get yourself to San Diego for this celebration of the preeminent beer style in one of America’s preeminent beer cities, with a festival lineup that can hang with absolutely anyone.

Bonus: Need some grub to wash down those suds? The fest location in Waterfront Park is just a stone’s throw from the buzzy Little Italy Food Hall, featuring six food stations and an outdoor patio.

The Great Taste of the Midwest: Madison, WI

(August: $60)

Along with GABF, Great Taste is one of the country’s OG beer festivals (having debuted just one year later in 1983) and it’s aged like a fine wine. Or barrel-aged stout, to be more on-topic. The lakeside location in Madison is gorgeous in late-summer and the 190-plus Midwest breweries in attendance represent some of the industry’s best—no wonder tickets sells out in a hurry. If you struck out, it’s worth noting that local bars run all kinds of exciting tap takeovers and other events the night before on “Great Taste Eve,” so you can still have yourself a fine time.

Bonus: Few American states understand beer drinking with the depth that Wisconsin does. If you don’t make reckless bratwurst and cheese curd consumption a part of your visit, you’re doing it wrong.

Great American Beer FestivalDenver, CO

(Sept 24–26: $85 per session; $70 for Brewers Association members)

The granddaddy of all beer festivals is truly an experience every beer lover should have at least once, and having started in 1982, it predates many of its attendees and competitors at this point. The sheer scope of the Denver event remains unparalleled (nearly 10,000 different beers entered in 2019), and the level of interaction and access you can have with the brewers is also second to none. Make a weekend of it and make use of the GABF app—with so many beers to try it’s likely that your memory of what you tasted will be a little hazy by that third day.

Bonus: Tack a hike onto the end of your trip to mitigate some of the health aftereffects from your weekend of revelry.

Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers: Chicago

(November: $85)

Barrel-aged beer has become one of the singular objects of beer geek obsession in recent years, and FOBAB (as it’s typically abbreviated) has become the preeminent celebration of them since debuting in 2003. The Chicago event has grown to feature hundreds of breweries tapping rare and unique beers that’ve spent time developing additional character in bourbon barrels, wine barrels, rum barrels—you name it, they’re trying it. It’s a coveted ticket, so be sure to keep an eye on the website for the 2020 release date.

Bonus: If things break right you might catch a Bears, Bulls, or Blackhawks game while you’re in town. If they don’t, you might catch a flight cancelled in a fall snowstorm. Live on the edge!

Tagged: Food & drink

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

Matt Lynch

Matt Lynch

Matt Lynch

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When it comes to live music, atmosphere is key. There’s nothing like seeing your favorite band while surrounded by fans. These concert venues however, take the experience to a whole new level. Here are our six top suggestions for totally unique (and weird) places to catch a concert.

RELATED: America’s best vintage drive-in movie theaters

A natural rock formation

Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado is a gigantic outdoor concert venue built seamlessly into natural rock formations about 30 minutes outside of Denver. From above, Red Rocks looks almost like a giant crater, but the circular rock arrangement creates natural acoustics and serves as a stunning backdrop for performers. The space has been used as a gathering place throughout history, starting as early as 1906 with the Ute tribe, who called it “The Garden of the Angels.” The venue’s unique history and beautiful landscape have made it a favorite location for music videos and concert recordings, including some by John Denver, U2 and, famously, Jethro Tull. Interesting fact: The latter event incited the “Riot at Red Rocks in 1971,” when thousands of ticket-less fans showed up and then attempted to charge their way into the venue.

An abandoned steel mill

SteelStacks in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania looks like the backdrop to a post-apocalyptic steampunk movie. It also has a pretty cool origin story. The Bethlehem Steel Mill once employed more than 10,000 workers, supplying steel that built bridges and skyscrapers across America. When the mill closed in 1955, rather than abandon their main source of industry, the town came together to turn the plant into an arts center. SteelStacks’ arts campus now hosts more than 1,000 shows and 8 festivals annually. The town’s sense of community, combined with SteelStacks’ stunning backdrop, create an atmosphere that shouldn’t be missed.

ALSO: Book your trip and your concert tickets all in one place—CheapTickets even has tickets to sold out shows!

A decommissioned cargo ship

That’s right. The Thekla in the Mud Dock area of Bristol, United Kingdom is an actual former cargo ship now serving as a floating nightclub and moored concert venue. Thekla was built in Germany in 1958, and served as a commercial shipping vessel before running aground in Gatesend, Norfolk. For seven years Thekla sat vacant and rusted, before being renovated and sent back into service, this time as an entertainment vessel. Renamed The Old Profanity Showboat, she featured jazz, theater, comedy and cabaret shows. Today, she’s the Thekla once again and hosts performers like Franz Ferdinand, Pete Doherty and X Ambassadors.

A Wild West movie set

In 1946, a group of film producers built a Wild West movie set called Pioneertown in California. Production designers outfitted Pioneertown‘s “Main Street” with a replica bank, saloon, chapel and cantina. The location got a lot of work, appearing in more than 50 films, including Warner Baxter’s The Cisco Kid. In 1972, Pioneertown became home to Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, a self-described “honky tonk tavern” and music venue. Notable performers have included Paul McCartney, Queens Of The Stone Age and The Arctic Monkeys. Robert Plant once famously stopped by for a surprise show. Pappy & Harriet’s has also been credited with being a main source of tourism in the area. A SXSW-produced documentary claimed Pappy & Harriet’s Hollywood history and unique atmosphere “sings life into an otherwise deserted California ghost town” although Pioneertown is currently experiencing a tourism renaissance.     

A cave

Flickr CC: Harrison Walter

Measuring 32 miles long, Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tennessee is the second largest cave in Tennessee and also one of the ten largest in America. Located 333 feet under McMinnville, Tennessee, the caverns are home to Bluegrass Underground, a monthly concert series produced by PBS.  Stunning acoustics and an other-worldly environment make Cumberland Caverns a one-of-a-kind experience. Staff even encourage concert goers to explore the massive cavern before the show. If you get lost, don’t panic—just follow the sound of screaming fans.  

Tagged: California, City, Destinations, Family, Festivals, Flights, International, Music, Seasonal, Tips & advice

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

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.
Jesse Betend

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

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

RELATED: These are the 9 coolest motels in America

66 drive in theatre

Flickr CC: vhines200

66 Drive-In: Carthage, MO

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

Hi Way Drive In

HI-Way Drive In Theater

Hi-Way Drive-In: Santa Maria, CA

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

The Mahoning Drive-in Theater: Lehighton, PA

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

The Outdoor Theatre drive-in in McHenry, IL

The Outdoor Theater drive-in in McHenry, IL

The McHenry Outdoor Theater: McHenry, IL

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

Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre: Henderson, NC

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

August 1960 #5 - Dale_Skyway Drive In

The Skyway Drive-In in August of 1960

Skyway Drive-In Theatre: Fish Creek, WI

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

Bluelite, Austin

Blue Starlite, Austin

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

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

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

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

Donald Liebenson

Donald Liebenson

Donald Liebenson

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Speakeasy bars during the Prohibition era were everywhere. And nowhere. Boozers were required to remain hush-hush, lest their favorite backdoor moonshine distillery be discovered by the police and promptly shut down. Today, we are free to enjoy a cocktail or seven wherever we please. But in choosing the perfect barstool, a sense of danger adds appeal to throwback speakeasy bars. Think secret entrances behind bookshelves and phone booths, and well-guarded passwords. Of course, it’s hard to keep secrets in the epoch of Instagram and “location services enabled,” but these seven bars have raised, well, the bar on maintaining mystery.

RELATED: 11 secret restaurants you don’t know but should

Photo courtesy of Adults Only

Adults Only (Los Angeles, CA)

Adult video stores are fairly irrelevant, thanks to the advent of the Internet. Yet this one in Los Angeles thrives off Sunset Boulevard in the ritziest, most enticing of locations: behind a Burger King. Gather your mettle (aka a Whopper), head into a storefront with “XXX” proudly displayed, and through the back sits an immaculately designed throwback to the 1920s. Woodwork and dark wallpaper conjure images of hiding from the police, and extravagantly designed, lush couches provide comfort—even if the cocktail names are unsettling: The “Money Shot,” “Rusty Trombone,” and “Dirty Sanchez” are demonstrated both in the bookstore and at the bar. And given the “Dirty Sanchez” is a sweet and spicy concoction of mezcal, sweet cucumber, and zesty serrano chili, we’ll opt for that one. For now…

Photo courtesy of @kai_____c

Angel’s Share (New York, )

So undercover it doesn’t have a website, Angel’s Share stands out amid the infinite speakeasy bar scene of New York (there are…a lot). To find it, head into a bustling Japanese restaurant in the East Village, get out of the way of servers with plates full of sushi, enter an unmarked door, and you’re in a Narnia of candlelit tranquility. Angel’s Share takes no reservations, asks patrons to keep their voices down, and the wait for even a spot to lean against the bar is typically an hour or more. Stick around. And shut up. Sipping a “Summertime,” made with jasmine-infused rum, over hushed whispers, is the epitome of calm.

Photo courtesy of @melissawv5

The Owl Bar (Baltimore, MD)

This one in Baltimore doesn’t take major sleuthing to find (or minor sleuthing, for that matter), but earns points for its history of ingenuity. A statue of the eponymous owl took up residence in the lobby of the 1902-built Hotel Belvedere (now condos) to give thirsty lawbreakers the signal. When its eyes were lit up, the hidden bar, nestled way in the back, was open for business. The Owl Bar now serves legal drinks, of course, but its classic look remains. The patterned bricks in the high walls have been preserved, as has the immaculate molding of windows and archways. The statue, too, remains.

ALSO: It’s no secret, Orbitz Rewards is the best way to earn free hotels faster!

Chapter Room (Atlanta, GA)

Congratulations! You have been accepted to Brewniversity! No SAT scores required! Atlanta‘s Taco Mac (Southern-style taco and chicken wing joint) already boasts a nice selection of craft beers, but to gain access downstairs in the Chapter Room, you must download Brewniversity’s mobile app and enroll, tuition-free. Admittance allows you access to the vaunted beer-bastion Chapter Room, located downstairs. The beer list is far more robust and international, plus the bar’s hiding an impressive list of whiskeys. Ironically, you can use technology to track how much you drink, using the app, and earn points toward nothing in particular—except to redo college drinking doppelbocks instead of Miller High Life.

Photo courtesy of @mashdpotaylor

The Drifter (Chicago, IL)

The Drifter in Chicago serves up a freshly caught red herring: It’s located in the basement of what has now become another bar called Green Door Tavern. You thought you were done drinking? Think again. Head downstairs to the bathrooms, stumble through an unassuming wooden door between the men’s and women’s rooms, and you’ll find an actual former speakeasy. The Drifter space is small but cozy; rubbing elbows with other drinkers transports you a century back in time, when liquor was at a premium and everyone wanted in. The drinks that will be served that night are pulled from a tarot card deck. So if you loved a particular cocktail, don’t expect the same next time. But always expect elaborate woodwork and—occasionally—burlesque dancers to complete the time travel back nearly a century.

Photo courtesy of @drinksanford

Hanson’s Shoe Repair (Orlando, FL)

Two decades from now, we seriously doubt anyone will remember voicemail. It’s tedious to not only leave one, but to listen. And who wants to hear voices?! Suck it up, though, and call Hanson’s Shoe Repair—a hidden Orlando bar and occasional music venue worth the inconvenience. Potential visitors call and are asked to leave a message with the time they’d like their “shoes repaired” (no promises on preventing falls while wasted) and how many pairs they’re bringing in. If all seems well, Hanson’s will provide the password for entry that night. The code changes each night, so hold onto it preciously to enjoy craft cocktails in what looks like, well, an old-timey shoe repair shop. The best part: Passwords arrive via text. The future is now.

Photo courtesy of @jeremy.pistachio

Bourbon and Branch (San Francisco, CA)

“Please speak-easy” is the first rule of Bourbon and Branch (the second rule isn’t, “You do not talk about Fight Club). This raspberry-tinted San Francisco bar—with working-man decor ranging from books to barrels—is rigid about its policies, but it’s all in the interest of providing the 20 or so patrons a relaxing, reflective experience. See, within this particular speakeasy is yet another secret room in the back, behind a bookshelf. There’s a password to enter,  “books,” and inside is an impressive library for your party to enlighten themselves and sip delicious cocktails . Just don’t order a cosmo. House rules.

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Tagged: Food & drink

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Steve Heisler

Steve Heisler

Steve Heisler

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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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Labor Day weekend may mark the unofficial end of summer, but it should be by no means depressing! That extra day off gives us a chance to squeeze in one more summer vacay, filled with barbecues, fireworks and plenty of All-American goodness. It’s a time to get outside, to explore, to cook out, to see a new city — and some cities know how to celebrate the end of summer much, much better than others. Here are the towns that top our list of best places to make the most of your Labor Day getaways.

 

Cincinnati

Fireworks over the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo: Chris Miller – Flickr

Catch some serious fireworks in Cincinnati, Ohio

The Queen City knows how to celebrate Labor Day: Riverfest, a big fireworks show that draws people from the whole tristate area to the surprisingly scenic Ohio riverfront. The show starts at 9:05 p.m. Sunday, but stake out your place and find somewhere to park early, because both the Kentucky and Ohio sides of the river are always packed full by showtime. Some restaurants along the river, like Moerlein Lager House, the Beer Sellar and Bar Louie host viewing parties, but get your tickets in advance. And check out a Reds game while you’re in town — they’re home all weekend. For food, try Eli’s BBQ along the river, Strong’s Brick Oven Pizzeria in Newport, or one of the many eateries in Over-the-Rhine.

 

The lit-up, nighttime skyline of Chicago, which is one of the best Labor Day getaways of 2016.

The Riverwalk in downtown Chicago, Illinois. Photo: MK Feeney – Flickr.

Live your best life (and Labor Day getaway) in Chicago, Illinois

Winters in Chicago come on hard and fast, and everyone there knows it, so the locals squeeze every last drop out of summer. On your Labor Day getaway, the beaches will still be popping, the outdoor patios at all the best restaurants will still be buzzing, and you can enjoy America’s pastime one more time since the White Sox are in town. You can grab a drink on a rooftop patio or stroll along the Riverwalk while the nights are still warm enough to do so. The Chicago Jazz Festival is also takingplace over Labor Day weekend in Millennium Park, and it’s free.

 

Get your nature and city fixes in Denver, Colorado

One could argue that any time of year is a good time to visit Denver, and you’d be right, but Labor Day is one of the best. The dry heat of summer is starting to break, and some of the aspens in the mountains are beginning to turn some gorgeous shades of yellow. September in the Rockies means less chances for natural disasters — wildfire risk has dropped, monsoon season has died down — which makes for some great hiking. And in the city, cooler September weather means more enjoyable craft brews on patios, and uninhibited views ofthe mountains. Downtown’s Civic Center Park is also hosting A Taste of Denver, so make sure you show up hungry.

Philly

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Lee Cannon – Flickr.

Show off your dance moves in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philly throws a giant two-day Made in America Music Festival during your perfect Labor Day getaway. And what better time to not only be in a patriotic place, but dance your butt off at a patriotically-named fest? It’s the fourth year for the festival, which is held on multiple stages throughout the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Jay-Z curates the lineup, meaning it’s a must-see. Coldplay and Rihanna are headlining this year, with performances from Chance the Rapper, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and more. Make sure to get your tickets now.

 

Milwaukee

Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo: Steve – Flickr.

Get back to basics in Midwestern Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Time for your Labor Day cookout. The weekend wouldn’t be complete without a barbecue, so why not center your trip around some smoked meat? Milwaukee is throwing the Big Gig BBQ on Sept. 4, and it’s bigger and better than any backyard barbecue you’ve ever been to. There will be brisket, ribs and BBQ from 10 of the best local and national grillers. And in a city that’s home to storied beerslike Pabst Blue Ribbon, Schlitz and MillerCoors, it’s safe to say you’ll have some quality hydration with your grub.

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Tagged: Family, Festivals, FREE!, Holidays, Music

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It’s that time again. The music, the scene, the nonstop partying: The music festival.

The great and glorious Lollapalooza kicks off tomorrow at 4 p.m., one day earlier than ever before. Which means only one thing for Chicago: One extra day of massive blow-out parties, must-see after shows, concerts, food, new friends, art and anything-goes after parties. And this year promises to one-up last year’s lineup, with names like Flosstradamus, The Last Shadow Puppets, Radiohead, Disclosure and LCD Soundsystem.

If you haven’t gotten tickets yet, there’s still time to catch the event of the season. But if you can’t drop everything and fly to sunny Chicago right now, here are 8 more seriously good summer music festivals you can still make before it starts to get cold again.

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City Folk Festival

When and where: September 15–18 in Ottawa, Ontario

The New Pornographers, Dropkick Murphys, Marlon Williams and Charlotte Cardin will all be at City Folk Festival, so naturally you should too. They’ll all be hitting the stage with the beautiful Lansdowne Park as their backdrop. And because indie rock goes best with a cold craft beer, local hangout Beau’s Brewery will be onsite providing plenty of the good stuff. Plus, there’ll be food, and plenty of it. Notably, the festival is vegan-friendly so everyone can chow down in harmony. Don’t forget to stop by the affiliated Marvest for some seriously local music, food and drink. Everything is sourced from within 100 miles.

Backwoods Camping and Music Festival

When and where: September 1–5 in Stroud, Oklahoma

This is what road trips are made for: Stroud, Oklahoma is a small town just off the fabled Route 66. In this small, unassuming destination you’ll find adorable diners, throwback hotels and the Backwoods Camping and Music Festival, along with the treehouse parties, ferris wheel, waterslide, public art and music that go with it. This crossover festival hosts rock, indie and EDM alike, so plan to stage-hop to catch A Silent Film, Hippie Sabotage, Audien and The Young Vines.

Ohana Music Festival

When and where: August 27–28 in Dana Point, California

The two-day Ohana Music Festival benefits local nonprofit the San Onofre Parks Foundation, which works with the state’s parks to preserve California’s stunning coastline. So it’s only fitting that the entire thing is basically one big beach party. And the lineup boasts some serious heavy hitters, among them Eddie Vedder, Lana del Ray, Elvis Costello, Cat Power and Band of Horses. Grab some craft cocktails and artisan eats between sets, or wander through the Doheny State Park (where the festival is held) to explore grassy plains, dig your toes in the sand or swim in the beautiful Pacific. Preferably not after you’ve been drinking. This one’s not a camping festival, so get those hotel reservations now.

Imagine Music Festival

When and where: August 26–28 in Hampton, Georgia

You can get your EDM, circus, costume-party, camping and dance-party fixes all in one place this year: Atlanta’s Imagine Music Festival, an uninhibited two-day romp through the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Or, more specifically, the ‘Imaginarium’, a fictional (obviously), ancient lost city. This fable makes room for a whole host of spiritual and oddball activities like drum circles, acro yoga, Qi Gong, art installations, live painting, a pool party, aerial cirque performers and a central fire. Local food vendors will keep everyone fed and watered. Oh, and there’s music, too: Come for The Disco Biscuits, Zeds Dead, Adventure Club and Dillon Francis. Stay for Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs.

Billboard Hot 100 Music Festival

When and where: August 20–21, 2016 in Wantagh, New York

Think back on it, and maybe you’ve heard of artists like Ariana Grande, Calvin Harris, Rachel Platton and Fetty Wap. The name of this festival—taking place at the iconic Nikon Jones Beach Theater—pretty much says it all: This is the festival to go to if you want to dance to tracks that dominate the airwaves. It is called the Billboard Hot 100, after all. And you’ll be treated to one seriously pretty backdrop—the Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, New York. It offers more than 6 miles of Atlantic beach and miles of hiking trails.

Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival

When and where: August 5–7, 2016 in San Francisco, California

Folks, the fabled Outside Lands is a Golden Gate Park mainstay—which means you’ll get to drink, dance and party amid a Japanese tea garden, museums and botanical gardens. Joining you, and providing the tunes, will be some of the most famous musical acts in the world: Radiohead, Ryan Adams, Lana del Ray and LCD Soundsystem. In case that wasn’t enough, there’ll also be plenty of laughs—Natasha Leggero and John Mulaney headline the comedy stage, which is likely somewhere between all the public art installations, musical stages, the future-minded Eco Lands, and more food, beer, cocktail and wine vendors than you could reasonably visit during the three-day affair.

Wrecking Ball

When and where: August 13–14 in Atlanta, Georgia

This one’s an indie kid’s dream. Atlanta festival Wrecking Ball may only be in its second year, but that hasn’t stopped it from drawing the likes of Dinosaur Jr, Thursday, Motion City Soundtrack and Anti-Flag. If that’s any indicator, genres run the gamut from post-hardcore and punk to emo and indie rock. Plus, there will be tons of beer, and the city’s food trucks will swarm upon the festival to satisfy hungry festival-goers. Best of all, it takes place in the much beloved Masquerade, a tri-level music venue where infamous acts like Radiohead, Foo Fighters, Motorhead and Nirvana have all graced the stage. And if you’ve ever wanted to see this venue in all its glory, take note: Wrecking Ball is Masquerade’s very last blowout before the venue moves from its original location, so get those tickets now.

Wefest

When and where: August 4–6 in Detroit Lakes, MN

Country music lovers, take note: Eric Church, Kid Rock and Tim McGraw are headlining this year’s WeFest. And they’re joined by some lesser-known hard hitters, including Montgomery Gentry, Maiden Dixie and an obscure up-and-comer named Steven Tyler (maybe you’ve heard of him?) who will be performing with the Loving Mary Band. Camping is the name of the game at this Detroit Lakes, MN fest (though there are some hotels nearby, if camping’s not your thing). And they’ve got 10 different campgrounds for different strokes— among them, there’s an Accessible one, a few for families, and several for the rowdy young kids. But fear not: There’s still modern plumbing and restrooms for all. And the concerts themselves? They’re held at the outdoor amphitheater at the gorgeous Soo Pass Ranch.

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Tagged: California, Events, Festivals, Music

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Charlie Bucket was the luckiest kid in the world, to win entrance into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. And his grandpa knew it, too, when he encouraged Charlie to spend that extra dollar for one more candy bar. Candy is magic to most kids, and a select few proprietors around the world remember that feeling of disbelief and excitement that sweeps over a kid in a candy shop, and have translated it into real life. Here are seven of the coolest candy shops in the world, sure to put you in Charlie Bucket’s sweet, sweet shoes.

Dulcería de Celaya — Mexico City

Dulcería means candy shop (or sweet shop) in Spanish. It comes from the word ‘dulce’, which means ‘sweet’, and this shop is just about as sweet as they come. It’s been in business since 1874, and has been honing its sweet selection ever since. The antiquity of the shop’s front and sign will draw you in, and you’ll walk away with a satisfied sweet tooth.

Dylan's Candy Bar

Dylan’s Candy bar on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Ally Marotti.

Dylan’s Candy Bar — Chicago

A vibrant lollipop tree sprouts from the ground of Dylan’s Chicago shop and arches up and over both of its floors full of candy. Dylan Lauren, daughter of fashion designer Ralph Lauren, has clearly found her calling. Patrons can feast their eyes and stomachs on hundreds of candies, from old-fashioned Bazooka bubblegum to freshly crafted gummy bears. There’s ice cream and a cafe, and if the adults get a little sensory overload from all the sounds and colors, there’s a bar to help dull the senses.

Papabubble

Papabubble candy shop in Barrio Gotico in Barcelona. Photo: Masashige Motoe – Flickr.

Papabubble — Barcelona

Papabubble was opened in 2004 and has since expanded to dozens of cities around the world, but it’s best to visit these shops in their home, beautiful Barcelona. There are two shops in the city: Barrio Gotico and Barrio Sarria. You can watch the candy makers at work, using as little sugar as possible to make their confections. The shop started with the goal of resurrecting the authenticity of artisan caramel making, and thousands of visitors from around the world would say they succeeded.

 

Gummy bear

Candy Freaks in Amsterdam has candy for every type of dietary restrictions. Photo: David O’Hare – Flickr.

Candy Freaks — Amsterdam

The display window on this candy store might confuse passersby: There are heads in the window. But they’re not mannequins, they’re candy heads. This store is known for having candy for all dietary restrictions — there are the organic candies, the gluten-free candies, the dairy-friendly candies and the vegan candies — but what really makes it famous are the heads it crafts from the sugary stuff. They’re more art than dessert, and definitely worth checking out.

 

Candylicious

Lollipopshang from the ceiling at Candylicious in Dubai. Photo: Thomas Galvez – Flickr.

Candylicious — Dubai

Imagine a world where canopies of lollipop trees cover the ceiling, and columns are covered in candies. Candylicious opened its shop in a Dubai shopping mall in 2009 and joined the ranks of the world’s largest candy stores at 10,000 square feet. There are 5,000 different types of candies from all over the world.

 

SugarSin — London

Delicious and adorable sweet shops abound in London, but this one takes the cake, no pun intended. In London’s Covent Garden neighborhood, SugarSin has been named one of the most beautiful candy shops in the world by Architectural Digest, so it’s worth seeing, if nothing else. But why not see with your mouth? The place is overflowing with delicious jellies, candy jars and fudge flavors, so don’t miss out.

À l’Étoile d’Or chocolates

Bernachon Chocolates from À l’Étoile d’Or in Paris. Photo: Ricardo – Flickr.

À l’Étoile d’Or — Paris

There’s a chocolatier in Lyon called Bernachon who makes his chocolates starting with the cacao bean. He’s one of the only chocolatiers in the world to so, and his delicacies can only be found in two places: His shop in Lyon, and À l’Étoile d’Or. The quaint little shop, located less than a block from Moulin Rouge, brings together some of France’s best chocolates and sweets for the picking. Chocolate lovers around the world are told to beware of this place — it’s treats are far too tempting to resist.

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Tagged: Family, Food & drink

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