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The changing of seasons can sometimes inspire change within ourselves, especially when moving from summer to autumn. Leaves change color, from their uniform shade of green to various vibrant varieties of reds, oranges and yellows. The air has a certain crisp feel to it, no longer humid and heavy like in the summer. Maybe these drastic changes are what inspire the urge to take brisk morning hikes. If you are looking for a change, of scenery or self, here are six fall hikes you need to try on the East Coast.

McAfee’s Knob in Roanoke, Virginia

The McAfee’s Knob overlook, in Roanoke, Virginia, is one of themost photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail. Just one look and it’s easy to see why. It offers a wide panoramic view of the Catawba Valley, North Mountain to the West, Tinker Cliffs to the North and the Roanoke Valley to the East.

The stunning view from McAfee Knob is part of why it's one of the most photographed spots along the Appalachian Trail. Photo credit: Bruce Henderson and Visit Virginia's Blue Ridge.

The stunning view from McAfee Knob is part of why it’s one of the most photographed spots along the Appalachian Trail. Photo credit: Bruce Henderson and Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

The hike to the knob, from the most popular starting place—the VA311 parking area—is a little more than four miles and is of an intermediate difficulty. Easy enough for the family but steep enough for a workout… It all depends on the pace of your group.

The trails winds through the densely wooded Virginia landscape and gives you a look into what this part of the country might have looked like before civilization. The colors of fall are unavoidable during this hike, and when you reach the top you’ll be greeted by a landscape so colorful you’ll swear it’s a painting.

Annapolis Rock near Boonsboro, Maryland

Another popular spot on the Appalachian Trail, Annapolis Rock offers a crazy-good view of the state of Maryland, which makes this hike one of the most popular in the state.

Annapolis Rock overlook. By Patorjk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Annapolis Rock overlook | Patorjk, via Wikimedia Commons

The hike to Annapolis Rock is around five miles long and is said to be of a moderate difficulty, yet kid friendly. The trail is accessible year-round, which means it is also a popular fall hike for all types of visitors.

If you are looking for an even more panoramic view with less traffic, you can hike one more mile to Black Rock Cliff. This rock is also a popular attraction for rock climbers.

If this extra mile is not for you and you’d like to stay by Annapolis Rock for the night, the campground nearby is a non-fee first come-first-serve campground.

The Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island

A different type of hike, the famous Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island, combines natural beauty with architectural history. The walk features Rhode Island’s coastline and beautiful Newport mansions. The walk was made an official National Recreation Trail in 1975 and is open year-round.

View from Cliff Walk, Newport. Photo credit: Ken Gallager at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: View from Cliff Walk, Newport | Ken Gallager, via Wikimedia Commons

Hiking can take many forms—some hikers like their trails to be rough and natural, while other prefer a well-kept and preserved trail. But if you are looking for an experience that has a little taste of both, the Cliff Walk is for you.

Much of the walk is paved and easy to take, however, parts of it are quite rugged. The 3.5-mile walk/hike begins at First Beach on Memorial Boulevard, and you can exit the trail at various locations.

Although Newport was once known as a ‘summer playground’ of America’s wealthiest families, as seen by their huge mansions while on the Cliff Walk, fall offers an entirely new background for the incredible architecture. Mansions like ‘The Breakers,’ ‘Rosecliff’ and ‘Rough Point’ are complimented by fall colors and the scent of brisk sea air.

The mansions are available to tour, and one-house tickets are $16 for adults and $7. And if you’d like to see more than one of them, packages of two-house tickets and five-house tickets are also available.

Maryland Heights in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

The Maryland Heights hike in the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, West Virginia is a very popular hike that attracts countless visitors during its peak season. So if you’re hoping to avoid the overcrowding, it’s a great autumn hike.

With a view of Harpers Ferry, tons of Civil War History and a moderately difficult trail, this hike is not short on entertainment value.

View of Harpers Ferry taken from the Maryland Heights trail overlook. Photo credit: Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.

View of Harpers Ferry taken from the Maryland Heights trail overlook. Photo credit: Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.

Maryland Heights Loop is almost five miles in total and features access to ruins of Union Civil War forts and infantry encampments, as well as views of the natural West Virginia landscape.

The first part of the hike is where you will see that overlook of Harpers Ferry, as well as the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Although the hike is said to be of moderate difficulty, it is quite steep and certainly calls for some patience and good pacing.You can always turn back once seeing the overlook, but the second leg of the hike is where you will find the Civil War history experience.

Bonus: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park also offers several other hikes and museums to further indulge your inner history buff.

Camel’s Hump State Park, Vermont

The Monroe Trail at Camel’s Hump State Park in Vermont is one of the longer, and more difficult hikes on this list. The nearly 7-mile, round-trip hike to the Camel’s Hump summit is not for the faint of heart, but the views are well worth the climb.

Of all the fall hikes on this list, this one's view is among the most gorgeous - pictured here are rolling green mountains as far as the eye can see.

Camel’s Hump. Photo credit: Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing.

The majority of the Monroe Trail is within a hardwood forest of birch and maple, which you will see from above once reaching the summit.

It’ll be hard to believe that there is still so much wilderness in the USA’s East Coast. And although the trail is popular, you are sure to experience the solitude of the Appalachian trail while on this hike.

The hike begins in a parking lot at the end of Camel’s Hump Road, in North Duxbury. Because of its difficulty level, this trail requires more gear than other trails on this list. Be sure to bring shoes with ankle support and lots of water. You’ll have to sign in at the trail register once you have begun your hike.

Gorham Mountain Trail in Acadia National Park, Maine

Going along with the theme of ‘most popular fall hikes’, Gorham Mountain trail in Maine, is one of Acadia National Park’s most popular hikes. Although it is not the tallest peak in the park, the Gorham Mountain trail is popular for its views of the surrounding mountains and Maine’s coast.

This fall hike yields stunning views of Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park.

Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park. Photo Credit: Maine Office of Tourism.

Only two miles round trip, starting at the Gorham Trail parking lot on Park Loop Road, this hike is highly accessible. The ascent to the top is gradual and only 500 feet. The trail offers incredible views of Maine’s natural landscape from spring to fall.

Not long after beginning your hike, you will come across the mountain’s ‘faux summit,’ where you can see Otter Cliff, Baker Island and the Cranberry Islands.

Further up ahead is the actual summit of the hike, where you will see Sand Beach, the Beehive and Otter Point. While there, take is the sights, sounds and smells of Acadia National Park. In the fall, this means bright warm colors, the wind blowing across the ocean, and the fresh ocean spray in the air.

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Tagged: Seasonal, Tips & advice

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The state of Virginia is indeed for lovers—specifically, lovers of beach towns. Just about as far east as you can travel within the state, the islands of Chincoteague and Assateague showcase their own traditional yet unique take on beach-town culture. Here are five reasons why Chincoteague Island and neighboring Assateague should be on your bucket list, in no particular order.

The Wildlife

The wild horses
On Chincoteague Island, you’ll find a charming beach town, filled with mom n’ pop motels and ocean-themed restaurants. Assateague Island, on the other hand, is an impeccably kept nature preserve and its most famous wild residents can be seen galloping through its natural marshes. It’s one of the few places left in America where you can still see herds of wild horses roaming in their natural habitat.

Year round, the herds can be seen grazing from the road that leads to Assateague’s beach, or while on boat or kayaking tours that take off from Chincoteague—and these boat tours offer the chance to see even more native wildlife, like dolphins and bald eagles. The island also features hiking trails and a beach. If you plan on driving to the island, parking passes are $8 per day.

Protip: If you decide to take a boat tour, ask a local about their favorite and go for a smaller boat. Smaller boats can get closer to the ponies in the marsh.

By Bonnie U. Gruenberg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Bonnie U. Gruenberg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Pony Penning Carnival
Now, if you are looking for an even closer look at the ponies, and for a way to be a part of local tradition, try attending the yearly Pony Penning carnival. This annual “holiday” takes place in July, as this is when the wild ponies are wrangled and swum from Assateague to Chincoteague. Then, they are then paraded down Main Street and into corrals where vets check each pony’s health. The youngest of the ponies are auctioned off to raise money for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, a fundraiser that began in 1925 and has been going strong ever since.

Protip: The historic carnival is free and open to the public, which means a crowd is inevitable. To avoid getting stuck at the back, where you can’t even see the ponies make their swim, arrive early in the morning and come prepared to wait.

Picture side of 1941-postmarked postcard depicting the Chincoteague ponies. Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Picture side of 1941-postmarked postcard depicting the Chincoteague ponies. Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Hiking and Camping

The camping
Chincoteague Island is covered in campgrounds, and Assateague Island is full of hiking trails that are perfect for those looking to explore the natural landscape more intimately. Campgrounds on Chincoteague each offer their own benefits and features. Be sure to check out Inlet View campground and Tom’s Cove campground for the best views of the water, as they both offer waterfront campsites.

Campsite rates at Inlet view range from $27 to $35 per day. Campsite rates at Tom’s Cove $35 to $51 per day.

A view of the marshes. Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

A view of the marshes. Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

The hiking
There is plenty of hiking to be done at Assateague Island, and, as mentioned before, if you plan on driving there you’ll need to pay for parking. Once on the island, you can find hiking trails of all lengths and difficulty levels.

One of the shortest trails leads you to the historic and iconic Assateague lighthouse. The hike is totally worthwhile, since not only can you see the candy-cane-painted lighthouse from the outside, but also from the inside. Once you do finally reach the top, you’ll catch a breathtaking view of both Assateague and Chincoteague. Admission to the lighthouse is free. However, donations are accepted.

Protip: Although the hike itself is not difficult, climbing the many steps up to the top can be. Pace yourself to avoid getting lightheaded at the lighthouse.

At the base of the Assateague lighthouse. Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

At the base of the Assateague lighthouse. Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

The Beach

Assateague’s beach can be considered a ‘typical’ beach, meaning it’s clean and fun for the whole family. And yet, it’s unique in its location. Once again, you’ll have to cross the bridge from Chincoteague to access the waterfront.

Protip: Since there is only one road leading to the beach, the traffic can get pretty gnarly during “beach rush hour.” Locals will tell you to start making your way back to Chincoteague before four o’clock.

Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

Locals and tourists intermingle on the beach. Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

Local Food

Chincoteague has been thriving in the oyster harvesting market for many years, and the delicacies can be found at countless eateries on the island… Are oysters not your thing? Well, you can also find ice cream, BBQ and homemade doughnuts without looking very far.

The Island Creamery is a local favorite and has been perfecting its small-batch ice cream, made with milk from local dairies, since 1975. They have a lot of different ice cream flavors but the most popular are of course named after the islands’ most well-remembered aspects, “Marsh Mud” and “Pony Tracks.”

Protip: The line is never too long… Even if the lineto be served at the creamery is out the door, locals swear that it’ll never take longer than 20 minutes to be served.

The Island Creamery, taking inspiration from the Assateague lighthouse. Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

The Island Creamery, taking inspiration from the Assateague lighthouse. Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

Right before hitting the bridge to Assateague you’ll notice an oasis of quirky, quick-service restaurants. This oasis comes complete with hammocks and yard games. It is there that you will find Woody’s Beach BBQ serving a large variety of smoked meats. The sandwich creations at Woody’s are sure to keep your hunger at bay throughout a full day of pony watching, beach going and lighthouse climbing. Prices for sandwiches are between $8 and $9.

Looking for breakfast? Or maybe a lil’ bit of a sweet treat? Then look for the Sandy Pony Donuts truck on Maddox Boulevard. These cleverly-named delights are small yet mighty, with monikers such as “Strawberry Stallion,” “Surfer Dude” and “Jingle Shells.” Made hot and fresh to order, they’re only $1.65 each, $8.80 for a half dozen and $14.80 for a full.

The Culture and History

Both Assateague and Chincoteague are steeped in history, tradition and a unique culture. People who live on Chincoteague, and who’s ancestors lived on Assateague, have a deep connection to both islands, taking pride in knowing the history of their beloved home. Vacationers, too, often feel themselves drawn back—it is not hard to find someone who has been coming since they were young, and who now bring their own family to the same spot, keeping that tradition alive.

Even if you’re visiting the islands for the first time, the community has a way of making you feel at home. It’s as if a connection is formed as soon as you set foot on the island. Just by interacting with locals, you are sure to learn much about Chincoteague and Assateague’s history. But if you’d like to learn even more about why this is such a closely-knit community, you can visit the Museum of Chincoteague Island, which is located mere steps from the bridge to Assateague. It’s a small museum, but it includes exhibits highlighting the oyster market, the hurricanes and the fires of Chincoteague, as well as the well-known equine celebrity, Misty of Chincoteague.

Her story goes something like this: In 1947, author Marguerite Henry met a pony on the island by the named Misty, and her owners the Beebes. Misty went on to inspire her popular children’s novel, and later a movie, which was filmed on the island. The story, although fictional, introduced Chincoteague and its pony culture to the world. This story is a great source of pride for the community of Chincoteague. In fact, Misty herself can be found at the museum… stuffing and all.

Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The famous Misty of Chincoteague (left) with one of her foals. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

According to those who know the island, the final thing that you must do before leaving is visit the grave of Captain Chandler, as this will ensure your return to the island. There is no address for the site, but ask any local and they will know how to get there. And if you want to know any more about this local legend, you’ll just have to visit Chincoteague Island.

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Tagged: Beach, Family, Seasonal

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Cheap Right Now gives a snapshot of a cheap weekend getaway each month.

July is the perfect month to channel your inner Jack Kerouac and head for Denver. The city is known for its 300 days of sunshine each year, which essentially means that it lacks any sort of humidity. Which, in turn, means good hair days. Plus, Denver is spilling over with culture, good food and great beer. And best of all, the Rocky Mountains are just a hop, skip and a jump away. Here’s what to do in Denver in July.

Denver International Airport

Denver International Airport. Photo: Timothy Vollmer – Flickr.

Plane, train or automobile

Unless you’re down for a cross-countryroad trip (which is almost always the best choice), flying into Denver International Airport is the most efficient way to get here — plus the airport has won awards for it’s design, so it’s worth seeing. From there, catch the SkyRide bus, or the University of Colorado A Line of the RTD (Regional Transportation District) downtown for just $9.

RTD light rail

An RTD light rail train rides through Denver. Photo: Nan Palmero – Flickr.

Cheap local transit

The RTD runs a light rail service around and through most of the city, and can take you out into the neighborhoods for some localized exploration. A one-day pass is $5.20, and that’ll get you on the buses too. Otherwise, the Denver B-cycle bike-share program has 88 stations throughout the city and is $7 for a half hour of use.

Denver Civic Center

Food trucks gather at Denver Civic Center three times a week. Photo: Rex Brown – Flickr.

Forage the food trucks

Denver seemed to jump on board the food truck train before the rest of the country, and its robust offering of delicacies just keeps getting better. Follow popular mainstays like Quiero Arepas, Manna from Heaven and Waffle Up on social media to track them down, or go to the gathering at Civic Center Park Tuesday throughThursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Denver Biscuit Co’s biscuits and gravy, while incredibly messy, are particularly notable —it’ll be hours before you’re hungry again, and they’re just $9.50 when served with a protein-filled egg. 

Flatirons

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

Hit the trails

Your first priority upon arrival should be finding a place to either eat or hike. And since we just covered the former, here’s what to do for the latter: You’ll have to drive a ways outside of Denver, but it’ll be well worth it. There are dozens of hikes you could choose, but all offer a heavy dose of that fresh, cool mountain air. Try the Flatirons around Boulder, about a 40-minute drive from Denver.

Denver farmers' market

The Cherry Creek Fresh Market. Photo: Paul Swansen – Flickr.

Frequent a farmers’ market

There are farmers’ markets all over the city, but try the one on Old South Pearl Street between Florida and Iowa avenues. There’s fresh produce, savory spices and plenty of delectable treats, and some food trucks usually show up as well. The South Pearl neighborhood is incredibly cute, so stop at one of the coffee shops, like Steam Espresso Bar, on your way to the market. Afterwards, if you saved room for dessert, wander over to Duffeyroll Cafe for some dreamy cinnamon rolls.

Wynkoop beer

A flight of beer at Wynkoop Brewing Company. Photo: Bill Selak – Flickr.

Wind down at Wynkoop

Wynkoop Brewing Company was Denver’s first brewpub, opened in 1988. Gov. John Hickenlooper, who many call the father of craft beer, was one of the guys who started it. Back then, the neighborhood wasn’t nearly as hip as it is now, but Wynkoop helped revitalize the LoDo neighborhood, which has since built up around it. So swing in, grab a bite to eat and try some delicious beer (and toast to old Hickenlooper while you’re at it).

ice cream

Bonnie Brae Ice Cream. Photo: stokes 91 – Flickr.

 

Scream for ice cream

Bonnie Brae Ice Cream near Washington Park is not to be missed. The delicious flavors are homemade right on site, and they change throughout the summer, but the menu usually includes such gems as pineapple cheesecake, malted milkball and lemon ginger. The line usually stretches out the door—it gets pretty hot in Denver in July, meaning plenty of people are eager to cool off with a sweet treat. But worry not, there are plenty of benches to sit on while enjoying your just rewards and fitting in somechoice people-watching.

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Tagged: Cheap of the Month, City, Food & drink, Off-season

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Do you ever suffer from OBVD (over booked vacation days)? If your daily itineraries are making you feel burnt out, a day with only one activity on the schedule may be just what you need. A long hike that will re-charge your vacation and your attitude, and show you another side of your destination. Here are some hiking tips to help leisure hikers to enjoy those hard to reach gems, just like the pros.

Always research the hike you want to take

Think of choosing your hike sort of like online dating—do your best to know what you’ve signed up for to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Most national and state park trails, in most countries, will have a webpage dedicated to explaining conditions of the trail and what to expect.

Before committing to a hike research the trail’s length, level of difficulty, and any possible “deal breakers” you might come across if you choose to take it. For example, if you are scared of heights, you might not want to take a trail that includes mandatory free climbing in order to reach the lookout point.

Research, Jotunheimen Bessegen Ridge, Norway

Jotunheimen Bessegen Ridge, Norway. Photo: Alexandra Olsen

Know the seasonal conditions of the trail

Simply knowing what season it is does not mean you will be familiar with your trail’s seasonal weather conditions. Also, depending on the elevation of your hike, you might run into some surprising road-bumps…like snow in the summer. Remember that if weather is looking less than favorable on the morning you planned to hike, you should definitely consider an alternative activity for the day. Rain can make even the most experienced hikers nervous about an unfamiliar trail. Besides, you won’t be able to see what you came there for: the views.

Seasonal, Norway

Photo: Alexandra Olsen

Train for your hike

Even if you live in the flattest place on earth, you can still prepare your body for a hike. Begin with some long distance walking. If the hike you are preparing for is very long, try walking half its distance once a day for a week or two before the day you have it planned for. You can also do some leg-strengthening exercises after your walks, but don’t go too hard the day before the hike. You do not want to have sore legs during your hike, which will not only make for an unpleasant day, but will compound the soreness you’ll feel after your trek.

 

Wear and bring the right gear

After you’ve done all of your research, make sure you have the right gear for your specific hike. Some hikes do not require much, but all hikes do at least require proper footwear, a sturdy water bottle and comfortable clothing. It’s also always a good idea to wear shoes with ankle support and to wear thick socks. Pro tip: Ankle socks are likely to give you blisters on long hikes. Keep them far away from your hiking attire.

If the weather is unpredictable, do not be afraid to wear layers. Remember that you can always take layers off, but if you don’t bring them, you can’t put them on later. Also remember that many hiking trails do not have bathrooms… so make sure you bring whatever you’ll need to make thatwork.

Gear, Norway

Photo: Alexandra Olsen

Bring a buddy

There is something about hiking alone that can cause you to have some of your most reflective and personal thoughts. But if you’re hiking an advanced trail alone as a beginner, all you’ll likely be thinking about is giving up and going back to a warm, cozy bed. Bringing a hiking buddy can help you finish what you started. 

But choose your buddy carefully. If you have a friend who is an avid, advanced and experienced hiker, do not bring them. Try instead to find a buddy who is at the same level that you are. You’ll need someone to encourage and inspire you… and someone who will not be annoyed if you need to complain a little bit, or fall behind, because they’ll be complaining too.

Buddy, Jotunheimen Bessegen Ridge, Norway

Photo: Alexandra Oslen

Don’t forget to put fuel in the tank

Humans need fuel too. Especially humans who plan to spend a day walking up the side of a mountain. Before leaving for your hike, eat a big healthy meal with plenty of natural sugars and carbs. This will help you get the energy needed to scale a mountain. Avoid fatty and fried foods at all costs, nothing weighs you down for a long hike like a doughnut. You are sure to feel that in your stomach, weighing you down, all day. And even though the adrenaline that comes along with a new and exciting hike can make you forget to eat, remember to take several small snack breaks while on the trail. This will keep your body working efficiently throughout your hike.

And perhaps most importantly, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink plenty of water the day before your hike and during your hike. Water is a hiker’s best friend.

Pace yourself

When planning your hike, plan to add around two extra hours to however long you think it will take. Remember that you are doing this hike for the experience and that, like any good experience, it should not be rushed. Also that you may get tired. Or want to stop for a while and soak in those views. And on that note, while hiking, take as many breaks as you need to keep your body temperature and your breathing at a steady and comfortable level. Enjoy the views and take the time to savor where you are.

One final thing to keep in mind here: What goes up must come down. However you arrived at your peak destination, you must also be prepared to descend. If you find yourself grumbling about it, remember that going back down is half the fun, half the work, and half the trip.

Pace, Norway

Photo: Alexandra Olsen

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Tagged: Family, Tips & advice

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Dads totally luck out—Father’s Day falls in June, when the weather is warm and the outdoor activities are plentiful. And not only does dear old Dad deserves nothing but the best for Father’s Day, but experiential gifts trump traditional presents any day. So treat your dad to the best gift you can give him, without bankrupting yourself in the process. We’ve got some cheap Father’s Day suggestions right here:

Red River Gorge

Red River Gorge at Natural Bridge. Photo: hspauldi – Flickr.

Hit the trails

Take dad for a hike. This is an easy one no matter where you live — if you’re in the city, it’s a great opportunity to get out into nature and blow off some steam, and if you’re in the country, well, that just makes it even easier. If you’re willing to travel for the privilege, Red River Gorge in Kentucky is one for the books. There are more than 500 miles of trails that vary in difficulty, and there’s no entrance fee to the park.

MillerCoors brewery tour - a cheap Father's Day delight

A sign at the MillerCoors brewery in Milwaukee. Photo: Adam Sonnett – Flickr.

Imbibe in a brew

Head to Milwaukee for a beer with dad. The industrial city is known for its plethora of breweries, but before hitting the craft beer scene, head to the MillerCoors factory for a tour of a Midwestern mainstay. German immigrant Frederick Miller founded the brewery in the 1850s, and besides a brief pause during Prohibition, it’s been quenching the country’s thirst ever since. Tours are free, last about an hour and end with three free samples in the beer garden. How’s that for a cheap Father’s Day excursion?

Wright-Pat

The National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. Photo: Jennifer Morrow – Flickr.

Visit Wright-Pat

There’s no better fatherly activity than diving into the fascinating history of aviation. The National Museum of the United States Air Force—located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio—has one of the Wright Brothers’ planes, modern models and everything in between. The museum just opened its fourth building on June 8, which has more than 70 aircraft in its Presidential, Research and Development, Space and Global Reach galleries. Visitors can board space shuttles and walk through Air Force One. The free museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney performs on his Out There Tour at Centenario Stadium in Montevideo, Uruguay in April 2014. Photo: Jimmy Baikovicius – Flickr.

See an outdoor concert

Moms may sing us lullabies as children, but dads play their favorite rock songs for us, making surewe’re way cooler than our age. Sting and Peter Gabriel are touring together this summer in what’ll surely be an epic, dad-approved blowout. If your pops wasn’t into either of them, try Paul McCartney, Guns N’ Roses or Black Sabbath, all of whom are also on the road. There’s a concert for every taste this summer, so find an outdoor venue near you, take your dad, and—this last part’s really important—buy him a beer. After all, he changed your diapers and fed you for years and whatnot. But at least you can tease him about getting too old for the lawn seats.

Car show

The 47th Annual Twin Cities Collectors Car Show & Swap Meet in Blaine, Minnesota.
August 2014. Photo: Greg Gjerdingen – Flickr.

Stroll through a car show

Most dads love a good car show. But which kind you take him to are up to you: You’ve got your new, unattainable cars for wishful thinking, and your classic hot rods for reminiscing. The Tahoe City Solstice Festival has a car show the evening of June 17, or try Thunder on the River Car Show June 18 near Scranton, Pennsylvania. If cross-country road trippin’ is more your dad’s thing, try a boat and RV show, which usually costs about $10–$15 at the door.

Hit the back nine

A game of golf is always cause for father/kid bonding. Florida is known for its golfcourses, and it’s a smart escape from the beaches, which get crowded this time of year with summer breakers. Try Bay Hill Club in Orlando or Hammock Dunes Club Link Course in Palm Coast. A word to the wise: Pick a tee time on any weekend except Father’s Day, as the greens will likely get about as crowded as the beaches.

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Tagged: Cheap Tips, Family, Florida, Food & drink, FREE!, Holidays, Seasonal, Tips & advice

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Rewards programs and memberships can seem like a scam, and plenty of them are. But some are actually pretty legit, and could prove beneficial, especially during trip planning, and it can pay to not let your eyes glaze over at the checkout line. Booking trips is a lot more fun when it’s not putting such a huge dent in your wallet. So next time the clerk is making a pitch for you to join her company’s rewards program, pay attention. It could save you some serious cash. Here’s a look at five rewards programs or memberships that could make your upcoming trip slightly less expensive.

 

Courtesy of Veggiefrog.

Courtesy of Veggiefrog.

REI membership — $20

Heading out for some adventure? Becoming an REI member will likely be beneficial for all your outdoorsy needs. It costs $20 to join, and it’s worth it, as members are held in high regard at this company. Each March, members get 10 percent back on almost all the purchases they made at REI that year. So if you plan on forking out $200 for equipment, the membership has paid for itself. Members also enjoy discounts on trips and excursions booked through REI, and in-store discounts, including bike and ski shop services. Some ski resorts also offer discounted lift tickets to REI members. REI has a great return policy in general, but being a member makes taking equipment back even easier. So if your hiking boots wore out a little too quickly or the hiking pants you bought didn’t fit like you thought they would, REI will take care of you.

 

Courtsy of Wetwebwork.

Courtsy of Wetwebwork.

Spotify Premium — $9.99

What’s a trip without some quality tunes? Spotify is available for free, but for your travels you’ll likely want to invest in Premium. It allows you to stream music without an internet connection, which is key when traveling to far-flung places. It’s $9.99 a month, and those intervals will make it easy to cancel if you want to just sign up for the service during your trip only. You can try it for free for 30 days, and students get a 50 percent discount.

 

Courtesy of Josué Goge.

Courtesy of Josué Goge.

Barnes & Noble membership — $25

If you’re beach bound and need a some good reads to take with you, a Barnes & Noble membership may be the way to go, especially if you aren’t the type of person that likes to wait for new best sellers to come out in paperback. It costs $25 a year to be a B&N member,and perks include 40 percent of hardcover best sellers, 10 percent off almost everything else (including treats at the cafe), and free shipping in under three days. Be careful though — the membership automatically renews each year, so remember to cancel if you only want in for 12 months.

 

Courtesy of Xlibber.

Courtesy of Xlibber.

Cheap Tickets rewards program (CheapCa$h) — Free

One of the best things about flight reward programs is that it costs you nothing more than you were already going to spend. Cheap Tickets’ reward program CheapCash gives you what they call CheapCash every time you book a flight. You can then turn around and use that CheapCash on hotel bookings. You have to use the CheapCash within 30 days, but there’s literally no downside to this one. Make sure to keep checking their website for special deals and promotions, which run often. PROMO CODE HERE?

 

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Tagged: Cheap Tips, City, Flights, FREE!, Last minute travel, Tips & advice

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Cheap of the Month gives a snapshot of a cheap weekend getaway each month.

Albuquerque International Balloon Festival. Courtesy of a4gpa.

Albuquerque International Balloon Festival. Courtesy of a4gpa.

Born from Pueblo Indian culture and shaped by a mixture of Spanish influence, oldwest culture, Route 66 travelers and Bugs Bunny references, Albuquerque is a great deviation from the hum-drum, sick-of-winter lives we’re all living elsewhere.

Courtesy of ABQ Museum Photoarchives.

Courtesy of ABQ Museum Photoarchives.

Plane, train or automobileAlbuquerque has two airports and is a major Amtrak stop between Los Angeles and Chicago, so getting there shouldn’t be a problem. Check Cheaptickets.com for some hotel and flight packages under $500. Bring a friend and split the hotel costs.

Bus leaving ABQ station. Courtesy of Brett VA.

Bus leaving ABQ station. Courtesy of Brett VA.

Cheap local transit – Once you’re there, grab a pass for the ABQ bus system to get you around town. Adults ride for $1, or opt for the unlimited three-day pass for $6 to cover you for the whole weekend.

Sandia Mountain sunset. Courtesy of John Fowler.

Sandia Mountain sunset. Courtesy of John Fowler.

Sunset in the Sandia Mountains – “Sandia” means watermelon in Spanish, and historians believe the mountain range that lies to the east of the city was named for the pink hues it takes on at sunset. Hike the Sandias in the day for a free activity, but make sure you’re back in time to catch the sunset.

Old Town shopping. Courtesy of Michael D Martin.

Old Town shopping. Courtesy of Michael D Martin.

Old Town Albuquerque – This section of town today hosts about 10 blocks of shopping and other tourist destinations, but this is where the city began in 1706. The historic adobe buildings are situated around a plaza in true Spanish nature, and many old homes have been converted to shops and restaurants. Check out San Felipe de Neri Church, built in 1793. 

Breakfast burrito with green chiles at Java Joe's. Courtesy of ammanteufel.

Breakfast burrito with green chiles at Java Joe’s. Courtesy of ammanteufel.

Green chiles galore – Albuquerque’s culinary scene is dominated by green chiles and new Mexican food. Head toward the University of New Mexico for some authentic and reasonably-priced grub.

Rio Grande Valley State Park in the fall. Courtesy of littlemoresunshine.

Rio Grande Valley State Park in the fall. Courtesy of littlemoresunshine.

Picnic along the Rio Grande – The famous river that cuts through the city offers some greenery in an otherwise arid climate. Rio Grande Valley State Park is free to enter and offers access to trailheads and the river. Rent a kayak and take float.

Pillow fight. Courtesy of Jan Papas.

Pillow fight. Courtesy of Jan Papas.

Pillow fight anyone? Word on the street has it that some Albuquerqueans are looking to take part in International Pillow Fight Day on April 5. I’m sure your hotel won’t mind if you borrow a pillow.

UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico. Courtesy of Frank Pierson.

UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico. Courtesy of Frank Pierson.

Take to the road – If you’re staying for more than a weekend and feel like a little day trip, drive an hour north to experience the culture of Santa Fe, or three hours southeast to check out Area 51 and the aliens at Roswell.

 

Tagged: Cheap of the Month, Cheap Tips, Destinations, Food & drink

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Hanakapiai Beach on the Na Pali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii. Courtesy of Jeff Kubina.

Hanakapiai Beach on the Na Pali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii. Courtesy of Jeff Kubina.

Visitors from around the world flock to Hawaii for its sandy beaches, tropical climate, volcanoes and waterfalls. The state is part of the Hawaiian Archipelago, which actually spans 1,500 miles in the Pacific. The mountainous and volcanic islands, which nearly straddle the equator, are tropical and warm, with temperatures rarely deviating from the 80 degree mark down at sea level. Up on the mountains, however, snow and lower temperatures are not unheard of. Because of these variations, the Hawaiian islands are home to more than 150 ecosystems — many of which are becoming more and more fragile — and at least 10 of the dozen sub-climate zones found in the world.

Hawaii has gained a bit of a reputation for being expensive for tourists. The price of food imported nearly 2,000 from the mainland, combined with expensive flights and hotels can add up fast. But once you have arrived, activities on the islands don’t have to put a hole in your pocketbook. Let’s take a look at eight affordable activities in Hawaii — each one in a different sub-climate zone.

Tundra — Hike Mauna Kea ($0)

Sunset from Mauna Kea. Courtesy of Paul Bica.

Sunset from Mauna Kea. Courtesy of Paul Bica.

Mauna Kea is Hawaii’s tallest mountain. The peak of the dormant volcano reaches higher than 13,000 feet, although much of the hiking is actually done below sea level. Visitors to Hawaii can experience the tundra climate zone at the top of the mountain, where daytime temperatures typically hang below freezing. Hiking up Mauna Kea is free, although certain hiking equipment is recommended and precautions are necessary. At altitudes that high, the temperature drops fast and high-altitude storms can sweep in unexpectedly, bringing blizzard-like conditions, driving rain or whiteouts. The round-trip hike to the summit of the mountain, which is located in the northeastern portion of the big island, takes experienced hikers about 10 hours to complete. The National Park Service warns hikers to be finished before nightfall, when temperatures experience an even sharper drop. In ancient Hawaiian lore, Mauna Kea was home to the snow goddess Poli’ahu. She wasone of the most beautiful gods, the lores say, but she was also known to freeze people to death. Something to keep in mind during your hike. The views, however, are utterly spectacular.

Desert — Visit Ka’u Desert ($0)

Crack in the Ka’u Desert. Courtesy of Matt Midboe.

Crack in the Ka’u Desert. Courtesy of Matt Midboe.

Ka’u Desert is a little untraditional as far as deserts go. It’s not technically a desert, because rainfall exceeds 39 inches a year, but it does lack vegetation,mostly due to acid rain. The desert covers an area near the Kilauea Volcano along the Southwest Rift zone, where rain mixes with the sulfur released by the volcanic vents. The landscape is comprised mostly of volcanic ash, volcanic rock, sand and gravel. It’s a popular spot for tours and hikes when the volcanoes are inactive. To get there, follow Highway 11 south east from Kona and enter the trailhead at Crater Rim Drive. Although the desert is inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the trailhead is actually a 15 minute drive west of the park’s entrance, meaning you can avoid the national park fee. But beware, when there is high volcanic activity, the area will be off limits to visitors, as potentially poisonous gases may fill the air.

Monsoon — See the cliffs on the Hamakua coast ($0)

Cliffs on the Hamakua coast. Courtesy of rjones0856.

Cliffs on the Hamakua coast. Courtesy of rjones0856.

One of the reasons Hawaii has such a vast array of sub-climates is the trade winds that often blow in from the east. Due to these winds, only one part of the Big Island experiences the monsoon climate zone — a small section along the Hamakua coast on the north side of the island. Monsoon climates are created from seasonal winds that blow for months and usher in the rainy season. The harsh winds and relentless monsoon rains have created rugged cliffs along the cost that vary from the tropical, sandy beaches that typically come to mind when one pictures Hawaii. Infused with rock turned dark from the island’s volcanoes, the cliffs are certainly something to behold. Just deviate off your drive along Highway 19 somewhere between Honokaa and Paauilo and head for the coast.

Continuously Wet Tropical — Check out Akaka Falls ($5)

Akaka Falls. Courtesy of Jean Synodinos.

Akaka Falls. Courtesy of Jean Synodinos.

Along the southern side of the Hamakua coast and not too far from Highway 19 (a highway that goes around nearly all of the Big Island) is Akaka Falls State Park. It’s located on the windward side of the island and receives rainfall year round, giving it a tropical climate. Akaka Falls State Park displays those tropics in all their glory. There’s an entrance fee since it is a state park, but it’s only $1 per person (if you’re on foot) or $5 per car. Caveat: Vehicles with more passengers can get a little pricier. The 0.4-mile path back to the falls is paved and self-guided, and the 442-foot falls spilling into a stream-eroded gorge is surely worth more than any amount of exertion you could spend getting to it. Take your time and notice the flowers — tropical climates like that are few and far between.

Steppe — Watch a hula performance ($0)

Hawaiian hula dancers. Courtesy of Travis Jacobs.

Hawaiian hula dancers. Courtesy of Travis Jacobs.

Also known as a dry/semi-arid climate, the steppe sub-climate zone is a dry grassland where temperatures can reach 104 F in the summer and dip to -40 F in the winter. It doesn’t get that cold in any of Hawaii’s stretches of steppe, which reach around the northwestern coast of the big island and encompass the port of Kailua Kona and the Kona International Airport. Clearly, Kona is a big tourist area, and they have plenty of activities for visitors to partake in, including free hula shows. The local dancers dawn their leis and take to the stage at the shops at Mauna Lani for a free 30-minute show at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. every Monday. Schedules may vary depending on the season.

Dry Summer Tropical — Drive the Kohala Mountain Road ($0)

Kohala Mountain Road. Courtesy of Andrew K. Smith.

Kohala Mountain Road. Courtesy of Andrew K. Smith.

This is a sub-climate of humid tropical, marked by (as the name indicates) a dry summer. The northernmost and southernmost tips of the Big Island experience a dry summer tropical climate. The only other places on earth with this type of climate are parts of southern India and Sri Lanka. Driving the Kohala Mountain Road from Hawi in the northern tip of the island to Waimea, a town further inland, will give a good taste of the climate. Route 250 travels along nearly undeveloped land and its elevation varies thousands of feet. Passersby often spot wild turkeys and pigs, among other fauna. The best part? Driving the road and seeing all those sights is free, assuming you’ve already forked out the dough to rent a car.

Continuously Wet Temperate — Tour a coffee plantation ($0)

Greenwell farms. Courtesy of wfabry.

Greenwell farms. Courtesy of wfabry.

This climate zone covers most of the island inland from the beaches and below the mountain tops. The nearly year-round rainfall is conducive to coffee growth in these areas, and some of Hawaii’s coffee plantations can be found in the mountains just above Kona. Greenwell Farms, about 10 miles south of Kailua-Kona on Highway 11, offers free tours of its operation from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day. Guests can take a walking tour of the coffee fields and processing facilities, taste free samples of the coffee, and learn about almost every process in the production of Kona Coffee.

Winter Dry Humid — See the black sands at Milolii Beach Park ($0)

A black sand beach in Hawaii

A black sand beach in Hawaii

This limited sub-climate zone stretches down the southwestern beaches of the island. The climates change with the altitude, so those that experienced a dry winter at Captain Cook or Kealakekua could be disappointed at the constant rain in the towns that lie higher up the mountain. The climate zone only lies along the beaches, down near sea level, making it easy to experience. Milolii Beach State Park, just off Highway 11, is free to visitors and quite the beauty. It’s black rocks and sand that line the beach are evidence of the volcanic nature of the island, and stand out starkly against the blue Pacific waters.

Story by Ally Marotti

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Tagged: Beach, Cheap Tips, FREE!, Hawaii, Off-season