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Mexico is known for its heavy-hitter tourist destinations—think Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos, Mexico City, etc. The list goes on, and for good reason: These destinations contain some of the world’s best beaches, cultural attractions and UNESCO heritage sites. But with great reputation inevitably comes great crowds. Fortunately for Mexico, it’s packed with scores of destinations still coming into their own. Think under-the-radar beaches, authentic colonial cities and ancient ruins buried deep in the jungle—all without hordes of tourists. But no secret lasts forever, so get to these five next-level Mexican destinations before everybody else does.

RELATED: 10 best cheap places to travel in 2019

mexico, guanajato city

Guanajato City

Guanajuato City

Mexico’s northern central state of Guanajuato isn’t new to the tourism scene, thanks to its cultural capital, San Miguel de Allende, which often finds itself awarded top accolades like “Best City in the World” by the likes of Travel + Leisure. But the state has another city that is coming into its own, a city that boasts just as much charm and history, with far fewer crowds. Guanajuato City has been growing over the last few years as a center for business and industry. Because of this, there has been increased air travel to the destination, especially on United Airlines, which has direct flights from San Antonio and Chicago. UNESCO has named it a World Heritage Site, thanks to its colonial architecture, pastel-colored buildings, cobblestone streets, wide tree-lined plazas, galleries, churches, and the iconic Templo La Valenciana, which overlooks the entire city from a hilltop. Guanajuato is also the birth city of Diego Rivera, Mexico’s most important muralist, and his childhood home has been converted into a museum where the ground floor is a recreation of the original house, with the upstairs used for original paintings, sketches and temporary exhibits.

Mexico

Todos Santos

Los Cabos may be the land of glitzy hotels and glamorous yachts, but just 45 minutes north, travelers will find the sleepy seaside town of Todos Santos. One of Mexico’s so-called Magical Towns (a designation given by Mexico’s tourism board to towns known for providing a “magical” experience, thanks to their natural beauty, cultural richness, traditions or other factors), it has long been a favorite among budget travelers and surfers seeking its convivial, laid-back lifestyle, massive swells, and its blend of authentic culture and seaside living. Art galleries, cafes and coffee shops abound, as are small boutiques, tapas bars and beach hangouts.

campeche, mexico

Campeche

Campeche

Mexico’s new president has proposed a very controversial $8 billion Mayan train route to run along the Yucatan peninsula. If completed, it will open up Cancun tourism to more far-flung destinations, like Campeche, Merida and Valladolid. Before these new, once hard-to-reach destinations become easily accessible by a tourist train, visit the colorful, vibrant, seaside town of Campeche, which explodes on the scene like a vision from a storybook. Colonial buildings painted bright yellows, pinks, reds and blues flank cobblestone streets. The walled Centro Historico is home to a gleaming white cathedral that stands at the center of the tree-lined plaza, and there are beautiful sunsets that dip behind the Gulf of Mexico, on which the city sits. It’s a beautiful city to visit to try local cuisine, like pan de cazon, layers of white fish between tortillas smothered in tomato sauce, or panuchos de pavo, which are small corn cakes topped with shredded turkey, sour cream, and cheese.

Guadalajara, Mexico

Guadalajara

Guadalajara

Known as Mexico’s second city (behind Mexico City), Guadalajara is drawing massive interest among artists and creative youth, thanks in part to a booming tech industry that is sweeping the city. As a result, the city is blossoming into a thriving juxtaposition of traditional and modern. For example, the city skyrocketed from 5,000 restaurants to 17,000 in only the last six years. These trendy eateries sit alongside traditional markets like Tlaquepaque, which is one of the largest crafts markets in all of Mexico. Six new hotels opened in 2018, including Hard Rock Hotel Guadalajara, 1970 Posada Guadalajara, Aloft Guadalajara, Hilton Midtown, City Express & Suites and FCH Providencia Urban Boutique. An additional 15 hotels are set to open between now and 2020, as well.

Costa Brava, Mexico

Mahahual

Mahahual

While Tulum might be the last stop for many travelers venturing south from Cancun, keep driving another couple of hours to be rewarded with breathtaking sugary beaches, laid-back beach bars, and an eco-friendly boutique hotel scene that mixes nature with luxury. Mahahual is a small seaside beach town that is the nucleus of the Costa Maya—the southern coast of Quintana Roo and home to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, as well as some of the best snorkeling north of Belize. Right now, the closest airport is Chetumal, the capital of Quintana Roo, but as there are limited flights from the U.S., most travelers fly into Cancun and then end their journeys in Tulum. It’s worth the extra drive to be rewarded with spectacular Caribbean water, a serene environment and jewels of hotels that have yet to be discovered by mass tourism.

Tagged: Beach, Destinations, Mexico

Megan Drillinger

Megan Drillinger

Megan Drillinger

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Hotel Deals for New York
MySuites
NY, USA
Feb 17 - Feb 17, 2019
per night from
$ 420
$ 168

If you’re making plans to head to the Big Apple, but you’re worried about spending too much in a notoriously expensive city, don’t stress! We’ve got some tips to help you stretch your dollar the farthest while still having a blast in the city that never sleeps.

Don’t take a cab from JFK to Manhattan.

Don't taxi from JFK to Manhattan - always opt for the subway instead!

Let’s start this trip out on the right foot. While cabs are the most convenient option, the flat rate from JFK to Manhattan is $52—that’s a lot of money just to get to your hotel! Instead of a cab, take the Airtrain directly from JFK to the subway—the Airtrain is $5, and the entrance to the subway system is $2.75. Oh look, you just saved $44. Nice!

Actually, take the subway everywhere.

m01229, http://bit.ly/2catHMh, Attribution CC BY 2.0

Forget taxis and ride-sharing apps like Uber. The subway is hard to beat in NYC—it’s one of the best public transportation systems in the country, and tourists and locals alike use it daily. Even if you’re only going tobe in New York for a few days, the $31, 7-day Metrocard is worth it. You get unlimited rides, which will be very handy for zipping all over the city to see the sights. Bonus: the Roosevelt Island Tramway, which is an aerial tram that connects Roosevelt Island to the Upper East Side, is a cheap (and fun!) skyline tour on the MTA that costs as much as one subway ride. Score!

Revel in ambiance.

Paul Hudson, http://bit.ly/2c6iXQF, Attribution CC BY 2.0

Photo: Central Park | Paul Hudson, Flickr CC

Some of the best things to see and do in New York Cityare 100% free. Take a long walk through Central Park (duh), gawk at the neon displays in Times Square, and take in high culture at the Museum of Modern Art on Friday nights (free entrance from 4-8 p.m.) You can take a free ferry to Governor’s Island, kayak for free at the Downtown Boathouse, and take the Staten Island Ferry for free, if you’re looking for some water views. Oh, and guess what else? All public parks are equipped with free wi-fi! Is NYC…a secret free paradise?

Street food is your friend.

Britt Reints, http://bit.ly/2cEaHFb, Attribution CC BY 2.0

Photo: New York City 214 | Britt Reints, Flickr CC

It may seem obvious, but this one of the best cheap NY tips: Those ubiquitous hot dog stands? There’s a reason those are everywhere—the hot dogs are delicious and cheap. The pizza places advertising $1 slices? They’re great—fold up a slice like the locals do and chomp as you walk. Macbar has outrageously tasty, generous portions of specialty mac n’ cheese for under $9 a plate, Vanessa’s Dumplings will give you eight basil-and-chicken dumplings for $4.99, and GaiaItalian Cafe has big $5 paninis with mozzarella and tomatoes dripping out the sides. In short: you’ve got cheap eating options.

Skip the Ritz.

006b3e3d_z

There’s no need to stay at a high-end hotel in Manhattan—there are actually plenty of hostels where you can stay for way under $50 a night! If hostel living isn’t quite your style, check out the options for under-$100 rooms on Cheaptickets—the Bowery Grand Hotel has rooms for $72 per night, and New World Hotel in the East Village is $79 per night. Step away from the $350-a-night hotels!

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Tagged: City, Food & drink, FREE!, New York City, Tips & advice

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People groan about layovers, and we can’t help but wonder why. The longer the layover, the more likely it is that we’ll be able to leave the airport and explore! With the inexpensive flights we love often come lengthy layovers—and here are a few of the best layover cities in Europe for making the most of it.

London, England

Pedro Szekely, http://bit.ly/2ckCCIc, Attribution CC BY 2.0

Photo: London | Pedro Szekely, Flickr

Aww, poor you! Do you have a long ol’ layover in London? Just kidding! You’re so lucky—not only is London’s Heathrow a paradise for shoppers (there’s an 11,000 sq ft Harrods inside), but you’re just a 15-minute train ride on the Heathrow Express to central London. What to do with your limited time? Take it from us: Just pick an area and start walking. London is so huge that it’s easy to get overwhelmed if you try to plan too much, but there’s so much to see and do that any direction you pick will yield some serious treasures. A good place to start is the famous St. Paul’s Cathedral; gaze in awe at its ornate golden ceilings before heading across the street to Tate Modern for a dose of contemporary art. Afterwards, you’ve earned a snack, and the place to get it is Borough Market, where the restaurants and shops are open all week and there’s a farmer’s market on the weekends. If you’ve still got some time left, grab a pint at one of the hundreds of neighborhood pubs and just watch the world go by.

Paris, France

shutterstock_375336109

Oui, you can take awhirlwind trip to Paris! Just a 45-minute train ride from Charles de Gaulle Airport will bring you to the massive Châtelet-Les Halles station, where you can store your luggage for a small fee and transfer to any neighborhood you like! Like London, Paris is too sprawling to try to conquer it in less than a day, so pick a single area to wander through and soak up the Parisian lifestyle. We recommend heading to Ile de la Citie, the hopelessly romantic island of Paris, which has the Notre Dame Cathedral at its tip. Drape yourself along the bridges and watch the boats slide by, then wander until you find a cafe (it won’t take long, we promise). Sit down, order a cafe creme, and weigh your options: Sunset boat tour along the Seine? Or postpone your flight indefinitely?

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Moyan Brenn, http://bit.ly/2czKvvi, Attribution CC BY 2.0

Photo: Amsterdam | Moyan Brenn, Flickr

Amsterdam is a fantastic city for long layovers—you’re a 20-minute train ride from Amsterdam Central Station, where you can store your luggage, and hello: This is a seriously fun city, with an active nightlife and interesting museums. If you arrive in the evening, the infamous Red Light District is a quick walk from the station; by day, don’t miss renting a bike and pedaling along the city’s beautiful canals like the locals. Make time to stop for cafes! But keep in mind: When in Amsterdam and inneed of coffee, ask for a cafe—asking for a coffee shop will get you directions to the nearest marijuana shop. And if you only have time to see one major sight, make it the Anne Frank House, the truly moving museum that chronicles one Jewish family’s experience during the Holocaust.

Istanbul, Turkey

shutterstock_283627637

There’s so much shopping and dining just outside your gate in Istanbul that you may never want to leave the airport. That said, even beyond those airstrips, Istanbul is heaven for layovers. Everyone who leaves the airport has to pay a $20 visa fee, but after that, it’s simple to hop on an express bus. Once out of the airport, check it out: You’re in an ancient city, a cross between East and West, and spindly minarets puncture the skyline everywhere you look. Don’t miss sightseeing at the famous Blue Mosque, and check out the Grand Bazaar—it’s as fascinating today as it was centuries ago. Stop to have a drink of raki, Turkey’s anise-flavored national drink, and if there’s time, book a boat tour on the gorgeous Bosphorus river.

Venice, Italy

Gondolas in the canals in Venice. Surely this is the prettiest of the best layover cities.

Photo: Venice | Moyan Brenn, Flickr

If you have a lengthy layover at the Marco Polo Airport (a popular stopping point for travelers going to Asia), by all means, take the opportunity to explore Venice. From the airport, follow the signs for the water bus to central Venice, and hop on! Enjoy the sight of Venice appearing on the waterline, then exit at San Marco square for a jaw-dropping scene: Here is a majestic city plaza (once the largest in Europe!) and an ancient cathedral gorgeous enough to make you cry. Grab a gelato, take a stroll around the square, and enjoy the ambiance—pigeons rise from the crowds in startled flocks, and it seems the whole world has congregated in what was once the most powerful city in Europe and Asia. If you’re feeling posh, treat yourself to a snack at Cafe Florian, reputedly the oldest cafe in Europe, and sit surrounded by Neo-Baroque gilt mirrors and waiters in traditional tuxedos. Afterwards, take a gondola ride to see Venice as it was meant to be seen: from the water.

Madrid, Spain

Игорь М, http://bit.ly/2ckCrMT, Attribution CC BY 2.0

Photo: Types of Madrid | Игорь М, Flickr

A long layover in Madrid is so good we’re jealous. You can store your luggage at Madrid Barajas Airport and hop on an airport transfer shuttle to Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s bustling main square.Visit The Prado Museum for a chance to see one of the world’s finest collections of European art, but really, Madrid is entertaining just to walk through. There are so many tempting places to eat and drink (the Market of San Miguel! stop for tapas and wine at multiple bars!), and so many sites of historic significance—the Royal Palace of Madrid and Plaza de Cibeles among them. Meaning all you need to do is point your feet in a direction and keep moving for an adventure.

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Tagged: City, Flights, International, Tips & advice

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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, http://bit.ly/2cdRhVV, 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, http://bit.ly/2cMn85f, 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, http://bit.ly/2bYP8we, 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 http://bit.ly/2cJXl9y, 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.

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

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Hello there. Do you like beer? Do you like sausage? If you’re nodding your head ‘yes,’ then it might not be a big jump to think you might enjoy an Oktoberfest celebration. But the original Oktoberfest, a festival dedicated to all things autumnal and German, is all the way in Munich! We can’t afford Munich right now!

Thank heavens we have Oktoberfest Zinzinnati. First held in 1976, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati (in Cincinnati, Ohio) is America’s largest Oktoberfest celebration—more than 500,000 people visit each year! Here’s why you should stop what you’re doing and head to Ohio for the party:

Repeat after us: dachshunds in hot dog costumes.

Every year, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati opens festivities with the Running of the Wieners, this year on Friday, September 16, 2016 at 11:30 a.m. What is the Running of the Wieners? It’s 100 dachshunds in hot dog costumes streaking down the street in race heats towards their owners while thousands of people cheer. Only one dachshund can be the King of the Wiener Dogs. You want to witness this, we promise.

Photo: Flickr | David K, Hot Dog

Photo: Flickr | David K, Hot Dog

Have a drink at the glockenspiel.

The Christian Moerlein Glockenspiel is—get this—a working clock with a bar on the ground level, as well as a stage. Every hour, when the clock strikes, performers in traditional lederhosen appear to sing, dance, and toast with the crowd. Prost!

Have a drink anywhere, actually.

There are five different beer gardens at Oktoberfest Zinzinnati. All of them have an enormous selection of beers on tap, and all of them have live music. Some band names this year include The Fest Meisters, Zinzinnati Bier Band, and Smittie’s Schnapps Band. Get your polka on!

Allen Burt, bit.ly/1dyVUEV, Attribution CC BY 2.0

Photo: Allen Burt, Oktoberfest in Zinzinnati

Raise a glass.

Try not to lower it! The Sam Adams Stein Hoisting Championship on Saturday, September 17, 2016 at 5 p.m. is a test of strength, mental endurance, and true love for beer. All you have to do is raise your stein of beer and keep it raised longer than anyone else in the crowd to be crowned this year’s Hoisting Champion.

Become one with the brat.

On Saturday, September 17, at 3 p.m., it’s time for the greatest sausage spectacle you may ever see: The World Brat Eating Championship. Will anyone be able to defeat reigning world champion brat-eater, Joey Chestnut? Who would dare to try? Is the newest contender…you?

ljv, http://bit.ly/2cl2wz4, Attribution CC BY-ND 2.0

Photo: Flicker | ljv, Sausage Party

Demonstrate your barrel-roll and beer-stein race aptitude.

On Friday, September 16, at 6 p.m, head over to Freedom Platz on Second Street for the German Games, where live music and German dance groups frolic around contestants trying to roll a wooden barrel around a timed course or race a short distance holding two filled-to-the-brim beer steins.

Participate in the World’s Largest Chicken Dance.

You heard us. Jump in and join the official World’s Largest Chicken Dance on Sunday, September 18 at 4:30 p.m. Thousands participate in the dance each year, and in 1994, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati chicken dancersset the world record, with 48,000 people flappin’ their arms and waddlin’ to the beat.

Jim, http://bit.ly/2bYVcuK, Attribution CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo: Flickr | Jim, Chicken Dance

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Tagged: City, Events, Festivals, Food & drink, Music, Seasonal

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Hotel Deals for Studio City
El Royale Gardens Near Universal Studios
CA, USA
Feb 17 - Feb 17, 2019
per night from
$ 390
$ 167.7

Take me out to the ballgame…all over the world! International baseball is a very real phenomenon, and one that’s more popular than you might think. Here are a few other cities whose passion for sunny summer days, stealing home, and curveballs would rival that of any U.S. city.

Toronto, Canada

Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays vs. Royals | John Tornow, Flickr CC

Yes folks, Toronto loves to play ball. Home to the only Major League Baseball team in Canada, the Toronto Blue Jays, this city obsesses over its team and has the screaming, blue-painted, beer-chugging fans to prove it. The Blue Jays play at the Rogers Centre in Toronto’s Entertainment District, right by the harbour, and no trip to this famously cultured city is complete without a day at the ballpark cheering for the Jays amid thousands of hollering Canadians. Stay at the Chelsea Hotel and walk to the ballpark.

Tokyo, Japan

A baseball game at Tokyo Dome, where international baseball fans flock to see someone steal home.

Tokyo Dome Panorama | Richie Johns, Flickr CC

This is pretty much the unofficial capital of international baseball. Boasting millions of passionate fans, baseball is so popular in Japan that, according to Japan’s National Tourism Organization, “many fans are surprised to hear that Americans also consider it their ‘national sport.’” As if! If you’re headed to Tokyo, make sure to catch a Yomiuri Giants game at Tokyo Dome, the largest Japanese baseball stadium. Set your bat and mitt down at Tokyo Dome Hotel, a 4-star hotel within walking distance of the big game.

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

The international baseball love stretches all the way to Santo Domingo. Here, the home team plays at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal.

Baseball game in the Capital -Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | Loella Medina, Flickr CC

Along with being the cultural, financial, and political heart of the Dominican Republic, this city of nearly a million people also has great nightlife, colonial architecture…and a champion baseball team. Fans go wild for players in this country, and seeing popular stars on the field at the city’s well-maintained stadium, Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal, will be a highlight of your trip. Drop your bags at Hotel Mercure for a great budget stay.

Seoul, South Korea

Jamsil Baseball Stadium Seoul

Jamsil Baseball Stadium inSeoul | Mink357, Flickr CC

South Korea’s ardor for baseball knows no bounds. The country is home to 10 professional teams, two of which—the Doosan Bears and LG Twins—play in Seoul at Jamsil Baseball Stadium. Get a ticket and sit among 26,000 screaming fans as they cheer on their favorite players, and afterwards, rest your head at centrally-located Boutique Hotel SB Seoul.

Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico Tigres

Recepción del equipo ‘Tigres de Quintana Roo’ | Presidencia de la República Mexicana, Flickr CC

While soccer reigns supreme in Mexico, baseball is still beloved, with ballparks dotting even small towns. The best place to see a game is at Mexico City’s stadium, Estadio Fray Nano, where the Diablos Rojos del Mexico (Mexico City Red Devils) play against their longtime rivals, the Tigres de Quintana Roo. Tickets are inexpensive, and so are Coronas and tacos at the game—what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head to Gran Hotel Ciudad De Mexico, a 4-star hotel in the heart of the city.

So there you have it: Next time you’re in Tokyo, head to a game, grab a beer and confuse all your Instagram followers with a selfie with some rabid Japanese baseball fans.

CTIXblog CTA _ cheap of the week

Tagged: City, Family, International, Mexico, Sports

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Hotel Deals for Paradise Island
Riu Palace Paradise Island All Inclusive - Adults Only
New Providence, BHS
Feb 17 - Feb 17, 2019
per night from
$ 933.33
$ 390.6

Sometimes the best and cheapest (re: free) way to enjoy a nice day in a new city is via its public spaces. Here are some of the best city parks around these great United States.

Central Park, New York City

An aerial view of Central Park, arguably the best of the best city parks in America

Central Park | Phyllis Buchanan, Flickr CC

Of course Central Park makes our list! Not only is Manhattan’s Central Park arguably the most famous city park in America, it was also the first (1856!) designated park for public use in the country. Central Park puts all of its 843 acres to good use—inside the grounds, you’ll find a wildlife sanctuary, a picturesque reservoir, running tracks, an ice-skating rink, and the Central Park Zoo. Add pools, gardens, the enormous, neoclassical Bethesda Fountain, and the fact that you are, at all times, smack dab in the center of Manhattan, and you’ve got yourself one of the best parks in the country. Nay, the world.

Grant Park, Chicago

Buckingham fountain at Grant Park, which is one of Chicago's best city parks

Buckingham Fountain — Grant Park Chicago (IL) September 2014 | Ron Cogswell, Flickr CC

When a city sets aside 319 acres of prime waterfront real estate just to provide an amazing public place for its residents to play, you know you’re dealing with a great city. Grant Park is a stunner of a park—it overlooks Lake Michigan, houses Millennium Park in its boundaries, and is home to the massive, Instagram-worthy Buckingham Fountain. There’s also the Museum Campus, meaning you don’t have to criss-cross Chicago to take in many of its main attractions. At Grant Park, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum are within walking distance of each other. Go Chicago!  

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

A garden and conservatory in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park

Conservatory of Flowers Golden Gate Park | arianravan, Flickr CC

So you like nice views? Try renting a bike and spending the day at Golden Gate Park, where gorgeous vistas are so commonplace youbegin to expect them. Situated next to the famous Haight-Ashbury district and ending at the Pacific Ocean, this 1,000+ acre park is designed to impress. Cruise past the ornate glass Conservatory of Flowers, and check out the pagoda in the Japanese Tea Garden. There’s a herd of grazing buffalo, a dreamy children’s carousel, an aquarium, and a photo-worthy waterfall at Strawberry Hill. Nearly all of it is free—that’s a decent deal in one of the most expensive cities on Earth!

Patterson Park, Baltimore

Patterson Park in Baltimore

Patterson Park | JoAnna Kopp, FlickrCC

You can’t miss Patterson Park, aka “Baltimore’s Backyard”—just look for the Observatory, a giant pagoda-style building on Hampstead Hill. This famous, 1890s-era observatory has a winding staircase open to visitors looking for a workout and a view of downtown Baltimore. But there’s more than a pagoda here. Patterson Park is 137 acres of jogging paths, public tennis courts, and playgrounds. There’s also a Boat Lake, a swimming pool and a dog park, so bring Fido with you on your Baltimore trip!

Forsyth Park, Savannah

The overhanging trees of Forsyth Park, one of the most beautiful city parks in the country

Forsyth Park | Alex Cheek, Flickr CC

While you’re strolling around one of America’s most graceful cities, don’t forget to walk through Forsyth Park. This elegant little 30-acre park boasts wide brick avenues shaded by Spanish moss-draped trees, and the north entrance leads to famous Forsyth Fountain, splashing merrily away in the heat. What else can you find? How about a cafe and an innovative fragrant garden for the blind? Of course there are playing fields and sports courts, but the real joy in Forsyth Park is packing a blanket and a picnic lunch and settling down on the grass to watch the world go by.

Gas Works Park, Seattle

The skyline view at Gas Works Park in Seattle

Seattle Gas Works Park | W & J, Flickr CC

Get your camera ready—Gas Works Park has one of the best views of Seattle, period. Built around one of the last remaining (and very rusty) gasification plants in the United States, this 20-acre park has amazingly steep hills overlooking Lake Union. Perch atop one with the rest of Seattle and you’ll get a panoramic view of boats going by, the city skyline, and people strolling and biking along its trails. Can you see the Space Needle? Of course you can!

Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park, Minneapolis

Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park often sees many sailboats during summer months

Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis, MN | Joe Bielawa, Flickr CC

According to the New York Times, “If you live in Minneapolis, there’s a 95 percent chance you live within a 10-minute walk to a park.” Let’s hope it’s the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park, which is a mouthful, but a good name for what is essentially many smaller parks, linked together by a chain of lakes that connect with each other. When the weather’s nice (go in summer!) you could walk forever on shady paths overlooking the water, stopping only for an ice cream cone or free concert at Lake Harriet. Lay out atowel on the beach at Lake Calhoun and watch the windsurfers; kayak through endless shady nooks and startle napping swans. There are gardens and trails, bird sanctuaries and dog parks…wait, should we move to Minneapolis?

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Tagged: City, Family, FREE!, New York City, Sports