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

Vintage diner photo

The best diners in the west

Bertie Lou’s Cafe — Portland, Oregon

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

Steuben’s — Denver, Colorado

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

Golden Coffee Shop – San Francisco, California

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

Eggs and hash are a staple at the best diners.

True Midwestern diners

Diner Grill – Chicago, Illinois

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

Fleetwood Diner – Ann Arbor, Michigan

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

Vintage diner photos

Diners with Southern flair

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

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

Uncle Lou’s – Memphis, Tennessee

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

The best diners always serve piping-hot coffee.

Seriously good Eastern diners

Square Diner – New YorkCity, New York

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

Mul’s Diner – Boston, Massachusetts

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

Vintage diner sign

The Non-Continental

Rainbow Drive-In – Oahu, Hawaii

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


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

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Spring has sprung, meaning your surroundings may finally start looking less like a desolate wasteland and more like that beautiful Earth we hear so much about. And frankly we all deserve to celebrate a victory of making it through the doldrums. Here are some ridiculously colorful destinations to jumpstart your spring travels.

sedona arizonaSedona, Arizona: It won’t take long to figure out why this part of the Grand Canyon State is known as Red Rock Country. Rust-colored sandstone formations set the backdrop for a warm Western escape, whether you’re into hiking, touring the mountains an off-road vehicle or just admiring them from the window of a spa retreat.

south beach miami

Miami Beach, Florida: With its pastel-colored Art Deco buildings, colorful cocktails and glitzy nightclub lights, South Beach’s Ocean Drive will dazzle your days and nights. For even more color, head to the Wynwood Art District on mainland Miami, where seemingly every exterior wall has been transformed into a mesmerizing mural.

san juan puerto rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico: Whether you’re vacationing in the island’s capital or just disembarking from a cruise ship for a few hours, a jaunt through this 16th-century city will brighten your spirits. Pastel-colored architecture lines the narrow streets, and the seemingly endless monuments and souvenir craft are a feast for the eyes.

st john's new foundling and labrador canada

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada: It’s easy to have Eastertime on the brain in this historic fishing town, where the streets are filled with candy-colored houses known as Jelly Bean Rows. Visit the cafes, boutiques and galleries by day, and after dark hit George Street, where you’re sure to stay warm as you dance the night away under the nightclub lights.

harbor island bahamas

Harbor Island, Bahamas: White sand beaches are so overdone. But Pink Sands Beach on Harbour Island breaks the mold. Lounge on the coral-hued sand, or go for a dip in the calm, turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

grand prismatic spring wyoming

Grand Prismatic Spring, Wyoming: #NoFilter needed here. The largest hot spring in Yellowstone National Park looks amazing on its own. The natural wonder, also known as Rainbow Hot Spring, gets its coloration because from the various bacteria that lives in its rings of heat. Hey, the science may not be sexy, but it sure looks cool.

fairbanks alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska: With average high temperatures struggling to reach the freezing mark, Fairbanks may seem like an odd choice for a winter getaway. But if it’s color you’re after, then winter’s clear skies make now the perfect time to witness Aurora Borealis, a.k.a. the northern lights.

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Spring break means wet T-shirt contests, Jell-O shots and beaches so overrun you can’t take a selfie without being photobombed. But it doesn’t have to.

This year, skip the usual spring break cliches by heading for one of these less-crowded American spring break beaches.


Caladesi Island State Park. Credit Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater.

Caladesi Island State Park, Florida: In 2008, famed coastal researcher Stephen “Dr. Beach” Leatherman christened this Dunedin, Florida, beach America’s best. But what keeps it less crowded than nearby Clearwater Beach is that you have to take a ferry from Dunedin to get there. It’s worth it, though, for a Gulf of Mexico getaway where soft, white sand and wildlife meet modern amenities including a snack bar and gift shop.


St. Simons Island, Georgia. Credit Ralph Daily/Flickr.

St. Simons Island, GeorgiaAvoid the Florida beach scene altogether by heading one state to the north. Take a sailing lesson, try dirt track racing at Golden Isles Speedway or climb the 129 steps to the top of the historic St. Simons Island Lighthouse. Even if you don’t fish, take time to appreciate the view from the St. Simons Island Pier while you’re downtown shopping or grabbing a bite to eat.

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Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu, California. Credit Joseph Voves/Flickr.

Leo Carrillo State Park, California: This Malibu beach makes a nice retreat from the hubbub of nearby Santa Monica. Named for an actor an preservationist, the beach is home to tidepools and sea caves that set the scene for a laid-back getaway. Pitch a tent, light a campfire and forget all about finals week.

Padre Island, Texas

Padre Island, Texas

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas: If boozy South Padre Island leaves you with a hangover, then the cure is just plain Padre Island Corpus Christi. Settle in for 70 miles of undeveloped coastline, where you’re likely to see more pelicans and turtles than rowdy coeds. Windsurfing, kayaking and camping on the beach make for a spring break you’ll actually remember.

CheapTickets-Delaware-Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth Beach,Delaware. Credit Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue/Flickr.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware: Located about 120 miles east of Baltimore, this resort town makes for a nice alternative to the usual spring break sites. Browse the downtown boutiques or take a shuttle to Tanger Outlets for some serious retail therapy. The area also has plenty of food options to fit a college student’s budget, from Grotto Pizza to Dolle’s Popcorn, Candy and Saltwater Taffy. For cheap entertainment, check the concert schedule at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand.

CheapTickets-NY-Long Beach

Long Beach, New York. Credit Shinya Suzuki/Flickr.

Long Beach, New York: You don’t need Hamptons money to enjoy a beach vacation off the shores of the Long Island. Long Beach is less than an hour’s ride on the Long Island Rail Road, making it easily accessible from Manhattan. Stroll, jog or bike along the boardwalk before grabbing a meal from a pushcart vendor. By day, try surfing or beach volleyball, then change into your going-out clothes and hit up the area’s many bars.

Folly Beach, South Carolin

Folly Beach, South Carolina | Flickr CC: H. Michael Miley

Folly BeachSouth CarolinaNo mistake about it. This surf town just 15 minutes outside of Charleston oozes with Southern charm. Expect the usual water sports, fishing and nightlife you’d find in any beach town, but also saveroom for a bowl of shrimp and grits of she-crab soup.

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Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. Credit James Willamor/Flickr.

Atlantic BeachNorth CarolinaThe state’s so-called Crystal Coastmakes for a gem of a getaway. Try paddleboarding, cruise around the island on a rented bicycle or ride Island Ferry Adventures Ferry Service around to the Rachel Carson Reserve, where you might just see ponies frolicking on the shore. Now that’s what we call a wild spring break.

Pier at Grand Isle, Louisiana

Grand Isle, LouisianaWhile the majority of spring break revelers stick to New Orleans, head about 100 miles south to this haven from the Crescent City. Lounge on the seven-mile stretch of white sand beaches or get your blood pumping at Wake Side Wake Board Park, where a system of cables pulls you as you wakeboard, tube or waterski.


Hanauma Bay in Oahu, Hawaii. Credit Wikipedia.

Oahu, HawaiiA Hawaiian island may sound out of reach for a college student’s budget, but if you can score a cheap plane ticket, then there’s plenty of bargain fun to be had. Catch a free performance by the Royal Hawaiian Band on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace; take a complimentary hula, ukulele or lei-making lesson at Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center or remind yourself that pineapples aren’t just for cocktails when you wander through the Dole Plantation’s enormous maze. And we haven’t even mentioned the beach yet. We hear Hawaii has some pretty nice ones.


Tagged: Beach, California, Florida, Hawaii, New York City

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Florida is the perfect place to escape in February, when the cold is unrelenting and the spring is still too far off. This time of year, though, just dipping south of the border won’t be enough. You’ve got to go deep into Florida to get the warmth, and there’s no better place for that than Fort Myers Beach in February.

Southwest Florida International Airport

A view of the Southwest Florida International Airport. Photo: Eric Salard – Flickr

Plane, train or automobile — Fort Myers is so far south that driving isn’t a great option, unless you are down for a road trip. The closest airport to Fort Myers Beach is Southwest Florida International Airport. It’s a 30-40 minute drive from the airport to the beach, and taxis will run upwards of $50, so renting a car for your time at the beach may be the best bet — it’ll give you freedom to get around quickly so you don’t waste any valuable beach time.


Bike by a beach

Renting bikes is an option in Fort Myers. Photo: FaceMePLS – Flickr

Cheap local transit — If you don’t end up renting a car, there’s a trolley that goes up and down Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach that costs 50 cents a ride. There are also a slew of bike rental shops along the beach as well. Otherwise, just walk along the beach to get where you need to go.

Stay on Estero — The hotels and resorts lining Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach are seemingly endless, leaving for plenty of room to play with your budget. February isn’t full-fledged Spring Break season yet, either, so there are still deals to be had when it comes to accommodations. The best thing to do is take some buddies and chip in for a room with a kitchenette. That way, you can buy some groceries at the local Publix and save money by eating breakfast and lunch at home while dashing back and forth from the beach.

Fort Myers Beach, Florida

A sunset on Fort Myers Beach. Photo: Ally Marotti

Watch the sunset — When visiting the Gulf side of Florida, this really needs to be made into an event. Since you’re facing west out to sea, you can watch the sun go down over the water. Itis also a good time to spot dolphins in the surf. It’s a beautiful sight and the sun on the water creates some unforgettable lighting, so make sure to snap a few photos. Be careful though, the sun dips below that horizon quick. Don’t miss it.

 Bum at a beach bar — If you get a little thirsty while basking in the sun, take a stroll down toward the pier. Whichever side you’re coming from, you are bound to find at least a couple of options for places that don’t care if you aren’t wearing a shirt or shoes. Just make sure to remember an ID.

Mini golf

A lion statue at Jungle Golf in Fort Myers. Photo: Ally Marotti

Make it mini-golf — Spike your night with a little competition at mini-golf. You’ll have to go back over the bridge to the mainland, then there are plenty of putt-putting options. Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf is pirate themed, and one of the holes is on a mini pirate ship with baby alligators in the water surrounding it. If that one’s too crowded, try Jungle Golf right next door, which is peppered with statues of jungle animals.

Ice cream

Superman ice cream from Kilwin’s. Photo: Carl Lender – Flickr

Eat ice cream on the pier — Kilwin’s Chocolates has the richest, most delicious ice cream around. Grab a couple scoops and walk out to the end of the pier to indulge. Maybe catch the sunset out there, or watch some of the fishermen haul in their catch. If Kilwin’s doesn’t suit your fancy, there’s a Dairy Queen nearby, along with a couple other ice cream and fudge shops.

Doc Ford's

A view of the harbor from the deck at Doc Ford’s seafood restaurant in Fort Myers, Florida. Photo: Ally Marotti

Dine on the dock — Doc Ford’s seafood restaurant overlooks Matanza’s Harbor, and we recommend sitting outside. You can catch glimpses of dolphins frolicking in the harbor during dinner. While you’re waiting for your food, check out some of Doc Ford’s books in the gift shop: the restaurateur is also a prolific writer, with scores of books written about life in south Florida.

Tagged: Florida, Off-season

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As the NBA season heats up this winter, some basketball fans are ready for a fast break. In the case of these b-ball getaways, traveling is actually a good thing. Here are 5 dream destinations for basketball fans.


Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, is home where King James holds court.

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MassachusettsLocated in the supposed birthplace of basketball, the Hoop Hall belongs on every fan’s bucket list (pun intended). Visitors can honor the more than 300 inductees and bone up on basketball history through interactive displays and memorabilia.

Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio: LeBron James, arguably the best basketball player today, leads the Cavs from this arena known to locals as “The Q.” Witness King James ruling in his home court, then make the pilgrimage 40 miles south to Akron for a photo op in front of LeBron’s old stomping grounds, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada: This hotel’s Hardwood Suite doesn’t come cheap, but for serious ballers, there’s no better splurge than this two-story, 10,000-square-foot hoops haven. The suite’s larger-than-life amenities include a basketball court, professional locker room, extra-large beds and—why not?—a lounge with a dance floor.

Madison Square Garden in New York, New York: The Knicks may not have the best record in the NBA, but for people-watching there’s no better arena than the Garden. A-listers from director Spike Lee to actor Tom Hanks to supermodel Kate Upton have been spotted court side in Celebrity Row.

NBA Experience in Orlando, Florida: NBA City at Universal Orlando CityWalk closed in August 2015, but fans need not cry foul. Just down the road, Walt Disney World is preparing to open the NBA Experience at Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). The attraction will feature hands-on activities, interactive exhibits, a restaurant, retail store and more.

Tagged: Florida, Las Vegas, Sports, Uncategorized

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Miami’s Third Street Beach Yoga offers pay-what-you-can classes twice a day, 365 days a year. Credit: Dalia Colon.

Miami the land of hot sun and hot bodies—and that’s no coincidence. Ocean views and year-round sunshine make outdoor sweat sessions a breeze, and with the city’s abundance of free and cheap exercise classes, you don’t have to choose between physical and fiscal fitness. If your new year’s resolution involves shedding some pounds, then a winter getaway to South Florida may be just the ticket.

Make a run for it. Jogging on sand is harder than it looks, so you’ll burn some serious calories when you go for a run on South Beach. Make your own route—it’s about 2 miles from First Street to 23rd Street on the sand—or link up with a group like South Beach Run Club, which gets together for weekly runs.

Nama-stay in shape. Sun salutations in the sun? Tree pose under an actual tree? Striking a yoga pose on the beach beats a sweaty yoga studio any day. You can find free or pay-what-you-can yoga classes in Miami every day of the week. Because

Give laziness the boot. Nothin’ like a military veteran to whip you into shape. Thanks to a grant from Cola-Cola Troops for Fitness, local vets teach free beach boot camps at six Miami-area parks.

Get in the zone. Skip the pricey gym membership and let Miami-Dade County parks give you a workout. Several of the parks feature Fitness Zones with a series of exercise equipment for a challenging al fresco training session.

Just dance. From salsa on South Beach to Zumba classes all over town, your workout will feel more like a party than a grind.

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Tagged: Beach, Florida, FREE!, Sports

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If your dream of a white Christmas includes white sand beaches, then you can still get into the holiday spirit. Opt for one of these tropical destinations that offer all of the cheer with none of the cold.


‘Twas the “Bight Before Christmas” in Key West, Florida. Photo courtesy of Florida Keys News Bureau.

Key West, Florida: The nation’s southernmost city always marches to the beat of its own drummer boy, and the holidays are no exception. Cruise around the island on a bicycle for a close-up view of the light-strewn palm trees and decked-out historic cottages, or hop on the Holly Jolly Holiday Trolley Tour. The highlight of the season is the Schooner Wharf Bar & Galley Lighted Boat Parade, a festive flotilla of decked-out boats and live music. Then stick around for New Year’s Eve to watch the giant conch shell drop at midnight, ushering in 2016 with thousands of other sun-kissed revelers.

Christmas in the Magic Kingdom

Christmas in the Magic Kingdom | Flickr CC: Sam Howzit

Orlando, Florida: Combine the wonder of the holiday season with the magic of Disney, and we dare you not to smile. From Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in Magic Kingdom to the daily Macy’s Holiday Parade at Universal Studios Florida to the Christmas Bricktacular at LEGOLAND Florida, each theme park ticket comes with an extra dose of magic for the holidays. If you don’t want to shell out money for theme park admission, then seek out free fun like photo ops at the decked-out Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) or the annual Florida Citrus Bowl Parade. Then head to about 65 miles east to Cocoa Beach to catch the Surfing Santas.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii | Flickr CC: Daniel Ramirez

Honolulu, Hawaii: If you’re on the West Coast, then investing in airfare to Hawaii can be a good move. There are plenty of free and cheap holiday amusements, including the Honolulu City Lights, a monthlong festival that includes decorations, live entertainment and family-friendly activities. Also be sure to greet Santa as he paddles onto the island by canoe at Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. Arrive on the beach early to stake out a good spot, then stick around for photos with the big guyin the hotel’s lobby.

Cheap Tickets-Tropical Christmas-San Juan Puerto Rico-shutterstock

San Juan, Puerto Rico: Swap your eggnog for coquito, a coconut-and-rum concoction that’s a staple on Puerto Rican tables during the holidays. The best ways to celebrate are free, like walking the cobblestone streets to check out the glittering displays against the backdrop of Old San Juan’s colonial architecture that would put your neighbors’ Christmas lights to shame. Hang around long enough and you’ll encounter another free tradition: the parranda. This moveable fiesta is like a caroling party that grows with each passerby.

Catedral de San Miguel de Allende

Catedral de San Miguel de Allende | Flickr CC: Agustin Polanco

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: The festivities get going in mid-December with the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, highlighted by a children’s parade featuring a young girl dressed as the holy icon. The season rolls on with Las Posadas, a series of roving reenactments of Mary and Joseph’s journey through Bethlehem. But the most important night for Mexican Catholics is Christmas Eve, a.k.a. Noche Buena, when a manger is set up in the center of El Jardin, the town’s main square, complete with live animals.

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BarbadosSpice up the season with a visit to this laid-back Caribbean island, whose capital city of Bridgetown is decked out in red and green lights. Enjoy a feast of traditional dishes like pigeon pea-based jug jug and great cake, the island’s answer to fruit cake. Also take a day trip to the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, where you can observe tortoises, monkeys and colorful birds that you definitely won’t find up North this time of year.

Cheap Tickets-Tropical Christmas-Cayman Islands-Camana Bay

Cayman Islands

Instead of cozying up to watch your favorite holiday movie under a blanket, every Tuesday in December you can watch a Christmas under the stars in Camana Bay, which is decorated for the season. Explore all the decorations on the Christmas Bus Tour of Lights, which includes a visit to a Mission House and a traditional island holiday feast. Save room for cassava cake, then be sure to wait two hours before you dive into that turquoise water.

Tagged: Beach, Family, Florida, FREE!, Holidays, Mexico, Off-season, Seasonal

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All is calm, all is bright. In some cases, really bright.

Here are seven of some of America’s most over-the-top holiday light displays.


St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights. Photo courtesy of St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau.

St. Augustine, Florida: During Nights of Lights, the 450-year-old city illuminates its landmarks with white lights in a display that’s been called one of the world’s 10 best. The festivities include a bunch of special events, such as carriage and boat tours, outdoor concerts and more.

Blossoms of Light in Denver, Colorado

Blossoms of Light in Denver, Colorado | Flickr Creative Commons: Amy Aletheia Cahill

Denver, Colorado: Denver Botanic Gardens sets the scene for a classy holiday with Blossoms of Light. The flora becomes even more inviting when it’s illuminated with thousands of lights, including a spot named the Romantic Gardensfull of aromatic plants and plum trees. (Can you say marriage proposal spot?) There’s also live entertainment on select nights, and visitors can purchase 3-D HoloSpex glasses to enhance their view of the lights.

Tacky Lights Tour in Richmond, Virginia

Tacky Lights Tour in Richmond, Virginia | Flickr Creative Commons: Taber Andrew Bain

Richmond, Virginia: On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Richmond Times-Dispatch‘s annual list lovingly named the Tacky Lights Tour. Houses must have at least 40,000 lights to make the list; some are tasteful, some downright tacky. The newspaper alerts homeowners that they’ll be included, so when you embark on a self-guided tour of the eyesores, you’ll be laughing with them—not at them.

Glittering Lights | Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Glittering Lights | Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Las Vegas, Nevada: There are drive-through light shows… and then there’s Glittering Lights at Sin City’s Motor Speedway. Roll down your windows, turn up your windows and cruise around the 2.5-mile track that proves the Vegas Strip isn’t the only part of town that glistens.

Christmas in Los Angeles

Christmas in Los Angeles, California | Flickr Creative Commons: Loren Javier

Los Angeles, California: Come to see the stars, but stay to see the lights. Downtown L.A. Walking Tours offers a nightly Holiday Lights Tour showcasing how the City of Angeles celebrates the season. Stops include the Broad Museum, Grant Park with its illuminated fountain, Nutcracker Village at California Plaza and more.

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The lights of Ohio’s Clifton Mill combine old-school technology with new-school glitz. Photo by Tina Lawson/Flickr Creative Commons.

Clifton Mill, Ohio: Millions of lights brighten up this 19th-century the mill, gorge, riverbanks, trees and bridges. The decor includes a Santa Claus Museum, light show synchronized to music on the old covered bridge, 100-foot “waterfall” of twinkling lights and more. Legendary Lights is located about 40 miles southwest of Columbus.


Everything’s bigger in Texas, even the holiday lights. Photo of Austin’s Trail of Lights by Mark Scott/Flickr Creative Commons.

Austin, Texas: The city’s Trail of Lights gets more elaborate every year. Zilker Park’s display now includes a 155-foot-tall artificial Christmas tree, ferris wheel and carousel. It’s one of the largest holiday events in Austin, with live performances, a lighted tunnel and more.

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Tagged: City, Family, Festivals, Florida, Holidays, L.A., Las Vegas, Seasonal

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Orlando is great and all, but visiting Florida and never leaving O-Town would be like dining in a five-star restaurant and stopping after the first course. After you’ve had your fill of theme parks, expand your vacation with one of these trips within a two-hour drive of Orlando.

St. PetersburgIf you visit on a weekend, start by browsing the Saturday Morning Market — one of the Southeast’s most thriving outdoor marketplaces featuring local foods, handmade items, live music and more. Then spend a few hours at the Dali Museum — as in, Salvador — or browsing the art galleries along Central Avenue. As the sun sets, settle in for an alfresco dinner at one of the many eateries along Beach Drive (we like the rooftop Birch and Vine restaurant).

Drive time from Orlando: about 1 hour, 40 minutes.

Take in some culture at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. Photo credit: Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater.

Take in some culture at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. Photo credit: Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater.

TampaBefore it gets too hot, start off at Lowry Park Zoo, once named the country’s most family-friendly zoo by Parents magazine. At noontime, make your way to trendy South Tampa for lunch (we’re partial to Datz gastropub), followed by a lazy drive down Bayshore Boulevard to gawk at the waterfront mansions. At night, head to the Ybor City historic district for some of the best people-watching in town.

Drive time from Orlando: about 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Tampa is just a short drive from Orlando. Photo credit: Visit Tampa Bay.

Tampa is just a short drive from Orlando. Photo credit: Visit Tampa Bay.

Central Florida: Explore Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, an estate that features lush plant life (bring your good camera), a “singing” carillon bell tower and historic architecture. If you prefer fauna over flora, then venture onto a vehicle or camel tour of Safari Wilderness Ranch in nearby Lakeland. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Legoland Florida in Winter Haven; it offers rides and amusements without the insane wait times of Orlando’s theme parks.

Drive time from Orlando: about 1 hour, 5 minutes.

Cinderella wishes she could live at Bok Tower Gardens. Photo credit: Visit Central Florida.

Cinderella wishes she could live at Bok Tower Gardens. Photo credit: Visit Central Florida.

Clearwater Beach: Cocoa Beach is the closest shoreline to Orlando, but the Gulf of Mexico coast has the softest sand you’ll find in Florida. It’s worth the drive — not only for Clearwater Beach’s powdery-soft “sugar sand,” but also for a visit to Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the setting of the Dolphin Tale movies; your kids will worship you. Afterward you’ve rubbed elbows with Winter the Dolphin herself, head back to the beach for the nightly Sunsets at Pier 60 celebration, a family-friendly festival that includes street performers, vendors and more.

Drive time from Orlando: about 1 hour, 50 minutes.

The Gulf of Mexico Beaches, including Clearwater Beach, boast the softest sand you'll find in Florida. Photo credit: Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater.

The Gulf of Mexico Beaches, including Clearwater Beach, boast the softest sand you’ll find in Florida. Photo credit: Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater.

Kennedy Space Center: Roller coasters are one thing. Then there’s, you know, NASA. Take a selfie with space shuttle Atlantis,get an idea of how it feels to go into space during the simulated Shuttle Launch Experience and learn the wacky, wonderful history of America’s space program. It’s also worth splurging for Lunch with an Astronaut — a buffet meal that includes an audience Q&A with a veteran astronaut. This is your chance to get to the bottom of life’s important questions, like “How do they use the bathroom in space?”

Drive time from Orlando: about 1 hour.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is out-of-this-world fun. Photo credit: Visit Orlando.

Kennedy SpaceCenter Visitor Complex is out-of-this-world fun. Photo credit: Visit Orlando.

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Vacation is a journey that starts as soon as you leave home. Here are five scenic roads in the Continental United States that’ll have you Instagramming long before you reach your final destination.

Overseas Highway, Florida Keys

The drive from Miami to Key West is paradise found. Turquoise waters, lush green foliage and an ever-changing cotton candy sky set the backdrop for what’s been nicknamed a “magic carpet” ride over 42 bridges, including the famous Seven Mile Bridge. Even if you brought music for this 110-mile journey, there’s no better soundtrack than dolphins laughing, pelicans crashing through the surface of the water and the call of the great blue heron.


The Overseas Highway has been nicknamed the “magic carpet,” and the journey will leave you enchanted.

Big Sur, California

If you’re driving a convertible, now’s the time to put the top down. This thinly populated region of California‘s central coast is a tourist destination unto itself, precisely because the drive is so stunning. Travel along Highway 1 for about 90 miles of scenic bliss — seascapes, cliffs and isolated beaches that have inspired the likes of writers Jack Kerouac (Big Sur) and Henry Miller (Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch).


The iconic Bixby Creek Bridge in Monterey, Calif., is one of Big Sur’s best-known landmarks.

Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL

“Scenic” doesn’t have to mean “rural.” This 15-mile thoroughfare offers stunning vistas of the urban variety. Instead of mountains, there are skyscrapers. And rather than bird-watching, there’s people-watching: joggers along the Lakefront Trail, kids frolicking on the lawn of the Museum of Science and Industry and, in warmer months, sun worshippers splashing in the beaches of Lake Michigan.

Gazing upon the Windy City from Lake Shore Drive is sure to give you chills -- the good kind.

Gazing upon the Windy City from Lake Shore Drive is sure to give you chills — thegood kind.

Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, Oregon

This slice of heaven spans the length of Oregon’s Pacific coastline via Highway 101. Take in sweeping views of jagged coastline, craggy beaches and tree-covered cliffs that look like something out of a Bob Ross painting — all the while keeping your eyes peeled for gifts like breaching gray whales and sea lions gathering on the rocks.


Mount Washington Auto Road, New Hampshire

This mountain has bragging rights as the highest peak in the Northeastern United States, and it shows its range — no pun intended — with the shifting of the seasons. In spring and summer, drive yourself up the steep, narrow road to earn a This Car Climbed Mt. Washington bumper sticker. During the snowy season, or if you’re just not comfortable driving on a road without guardrails, sign up for a tour in an all-terrain vehicle so you can enjoy the scenic views and hop out for a photo op at the top.

Mount Washington Auto Road is mostly paved. Mostly.

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