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While Las Vegas is still a great destination for budget travelers, you can no longer count on free hotel parking on the Strip and you can expect “resort fees” to increasingly bump up your lodging costs. However, those inconveniences aside, many hotels do offer a complimentary enticement or two, and there are lots of other free goodies to be found around town. Here are 20 of the best freebies to check out on your next Sin City visit.

RELATED: 11 best casinos where the locals hang out

The Strip

Aria Fine Art Collection
A free brochure from the concierge desk provides a description of the impressive collection displayed throughout Aria, including works by Maya Lin, Claes Oldenburg and Frank Stella, among others.

Bellagio Fountains
In addition to the free Conservatory & Botanical Garden with its seasonal floral displays and the casual art show that is the lobby ceiling made of Chihuly glass flowers, the crown jewel of the Bellagio is surely its collection of more than 1,000 fountains that spray water up to 460 feet high while dancing to music and light.

Fall of Atlantis
The story about the famous lost undersea city features an epic battle with fire and smoke in which Roman statues come to life. It all happens at the Forum Shops at Casears Palace.

Circus acts
The exciting circus acts performed at the “World’s Largest Permanent Circus” on the Carnival Midway stage at Strip legend Circus Circus include trapeze artists, acrobats and clowns.

Court Jester’s Stage in Medieval Village
Step back in time as magicians, jugglers and clowns entertain at (where else) Excalibur.

Photo courtesy of the Flamingo

Wildlife Habitat
Exotic birds are exhibited on islands just next to the pool area at the legendary Flamingo, including a flock of Chilean flamingos, swans and ducks, but also koi fish and turtles.

Akhobat the Louis Vuitton Las Vegas CityCenter
Brilliant light fields blend into one another at this fully immersive art installation by James Turrell that’s hidden away on the luxury shop’s secret fourth floor and includes a tour of the store’s other noteworthy pieces. Advance booking required.

The Mirage Volcano
Located in a landscaped lagoon and surrounded by waterfalls and palm trees, this 54-foot-high volcano has been erupting in a satisfying fiery display since Mirage first opened in 1989.

Photo courtesy of the Venetian

Streetmosphere
In the style of a Venice carnival, strolling performers, stilt walkers and living statues in costume entertain shoppers in St. Mark’s Square located between the Venetian and the Palazzo.

Trams
A complimentary tram runs between the Bellagio, CityCenter and the Monte Carlo. Another runs between the Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay Bay, and yet another shuttle runs between Treasure Island and the Mirage.

ALSO: Get lucky by signing up for CheapCash and instantly earning hotel rewards!

Fremont Street and Downtown Las Vegas

Sigma Derby
Watching the vintage Sigma Derby horse-race gaming machine in action is free at D Las Vegas Casino Hotel, but participating will cost you a quarter.

Flickr CC: Ken Lund

Downtown Container Park
Built with re-purposed shipping containers plus locally manufactured modular metal cubes, this open-air shopping center has a children’s play area in the center with a giant treehouse and over-sized foam building blocks.

Citrus Grand Pool Deck
The heated rooftop infinity pool at the Downtown Grand features a fire pit, table tennis and a grassy seating area complete with umbrellas and outdoor day beds, and it is always free (lounge chairs are first come, first served) for both hotel guests and visitors.

Fremont Street Experience
The five blocks between Main and 4th Streets are closed to cars and covered by an immense mesh canopy lit nightly with more than 2 million lights. A free light-and-laser show and live music shows provide entertainment while shops, cafes, casinos and street performers line the way.

Main Street Station Casino antique and art collection
Pick up a brochure for the self-guided tour of antiques and art displayed throughout this hotel, casino and brewery, including bronze doors from the Royal Bank of Kuwait, a portion of the Berlin wall and a collection of vintage slot machines.

Off-Strip

18b, The Las Vegas Arts District
Located north of the Strip and south of Downtown, this dynamic arts district features street art and a regular First Friday event, as well as plenty of antiques shops.

Ethel M Chocolates
A working chocolate factory in nearby Henderson, you can view the chocolate-making through glass windows here, and stroll the 4-acre botanical cactus garden—the largest in the southwest—and home to 300 plant species.

Zappos Headquarters Tour
This 90-minute tour of the nation’s largest online retailer (Zappos is owned by Amazon) visits the ball pit, interactive history wall and virtual reality customer service experience.

Tagged: Cheap City, USA, Cheap Tips, City, Destinations, FREE!, Las Vegas, Top 10 list, Types of Travel

Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Carole is a Berkeley-based travel writer who most especially enjoys cultural and culinary travel. She contributes to an assortment of publications and is the author of 18 books. Carole oversees two websites, berkeleyandbeyond.com and webcamtraveler.com, and she blogs at travelswithcarole.blogspot.com.
Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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Hotel Deals for Las Vegas
Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino
NV, USA
Oct 17 - Oct 17, 2018
per night from
$ 96.64
$ 17.95

Las Vegas is many things to different people. To some, it’s the clickity-clack stampede of drunken bachelorettes donning impossibly precarious stilleto heels; for others it’s crouching over the craps table for hours with a set of fingers perpetually crossed. And we probably don’t need to explain that it’s a great city for loosening one’s belt and binge eating, right? But for theater and concert goers it’s the legit entertainment capital of the world, boasting hundreds of shows within a few square miles, including everything from current chart toppers to hole-in-the-wall cabaret.

As it happens, CheapTIckets has tickets to just about all of ’em and at a range of prices to fit every budget. Next time you’re in town, check out these shows that are sure to be as hot in 2017 as the desert sun.

RELATED: Best concerts to look forward to in 2017

Pitbull | Flickr CC: Eva Rinaldi

1. Pitbull at the AXIS Planet Hollywood
(Jul 21, 22, 26–28, 29; Aug 2, 4–5)
Musical superstar and business entrepreneur and fashion icon and actor Pitbull gave Sin City’s most ardent gamblers a reason to ditch the poker table in 2015 and 2016 when he created “Time of Our Lives” exclusively for Las Vegas. He’s back this summer for an eight-night engagement that will find the rapper reprising the songs that have made him famous.

Ricky Martin | Flickr CC: Eva Rinaldi

2. Ricky Martin at the Park Theater at Monte Carlo
(Beginning April 5)
Take a break from your hectic vida loca to hear megawatt star and multi-Grammy winner Martin sing about his. The Puerto Rican heartthrob and Menudo graduate who dropped into our lives in the mid-90s to make us all swoon will do so once again with this new Vegas residency that will include classics like “Livin’ la Vida Loca” and “She Bangs.”

Cher | Flickr CC: Jonnessa

3. Cher at Park Theater at Monte Carlo
(Feb 14, 18-19, 22, 24-25; May 3, 5-6, 10, 12-13, 17, 19-20)
They should call this the Farewell, Farewell, Farewell Tour. But if the goddess of pop, whose career has spanned seven decades, wants to slip into a skimpy outfit one more time and belts out classics like “Gypsy Tramps and Thieves,” “Believe” and “If I could Turn Back Time,” we’ll gladly grab a pair of tickets. (We may be so overcome we’ll have to visit our Cher-apist afterward.)

Backstreet Boys | Flickr CC: Karina3094

4. Backstreet Boys at the AXIS Planet Hollywood
(Beginning Mar 1)
Backstreet’s back, alright! The boys in the band are back in town and they’re looking and sounding mighty fine as each one crosses the 40-year mark (can you believe its been almost 25 years?!). Nevertheless, they’re storming the AXIS with Backstreet Boys: Larger than Life so prepare to have your teenage heart set aflutter all over again.

George Strait–Las Vegas 2013 | Flickr CC: Shelly Flanagan

5. George Strait at T-Mobile Arena
(Apr 7-8; Jul 28-29; Sept 1-2; Dec 8-9)
Strait, who is the world’s biggest Billboard chart topper (he and Madonna continue to go neck and neck), has announced an extension of his show Strait to Vegas which has the country hit maker performing every single one of his 60 chart toppers, including “All My Ex Wives Live in Texas” and “Give it Away” among many others. All we can say is, holy cow!

Mariah Carey | Flickr CC: Scott Kinmartin

6. Mariah Carey at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace
(Apr 26­–May 13)
The bestselling female artist of all time (200 million records and counting) has some atoning to do (her New Year’s Eve mic flub was an #epicfail), but dang this girl has got some pipes and if you weren’t able to catch her belt out classics like “Vision of Love,” “Touch My Body” and “We Belong Together” in Vegas in 2016, you’ve got a three-week window this spring.

Ongoing favorites

7. Absinthe at Caesars Palace
In a nutshell, take the death-defying, high-wire spectacle of a Cirque show, but shrink the arena down to an intimate, circle-in-the-round cabaret and throw in a potty-mouthed emcee and that’s Absinthe. A filthy, funny, jaw dropper happening inside the tiny Spiegeltent at Caesars, Absinthe is a fearless and raunchy spellbinder where the action unfolds just feet from your face.

Celine Dion | Flickr CC: “Yeti Urbain

8. Celine Dion at Ceasars Palace
In the future, the image of a fat Elvis will no longer be a Vegas mainstay, but rather it will be whatever Celine Dion has become in 30 years. That’s because her long-running show is now the stuff of Vegas legend and it’s going nowhere. Dion deserves credit for making it cool for artists in their prime to play Sin City and after taking a year off, Dion returned in 2015 with new showstoppers that bring her fans to tears. Yes, actual tears.

9. O at the Bellagio
In discussing Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian-based modern circus and entertainment company that has practically become synonymous with Las Vegas, it’s almost impossible to discuss just one of their productions. Devotees still love Mystère, the first ever Vegas Cirque show while music aficionados clamor for The Beatles Love or Michael Jackson ONE, but if the water-infused theatrics of O don’t stick in your memory forever, perhaps no Cirque show will.

10. David Copperfield at MGM Grand
Whether you love magic tricks or think they’re corny, there is no doubt that master illusionist Copperfield will have you scratching your head and scraping your jaw off the floor. How he makes a UFO appear out of thin air or opens up a sealed box containing the random responses of various audience members we’ll never know (and don’t want to know). The show is family-friendly, while also containing enough sly jokes and one-liners to keep adults engaged throughout.

app

Tagged: Events, Las Vegas, Music

Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

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Booking a hotel room in Las Vegas can feel like a game of roulette. But you don’t need to be a high roller to find someplace cool, comfortable and within your budget. Here are some seriously cool but cheap Vegas hotels for a Sin City trip that won’t break the bank.

*The fine print: These prices were taken from a single-night stay on a random weekday in August.

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Downtown Grand

This updated hotel will have you wanting to stay off-Strip every time you visit Sin City. Chillax in your spacious designer room or on the pool deck, which features an infinity pool, fire pit and grassy lounge area. Then, stroll over to the Mob Museum, tons of shopping, restaurants and even a farmer’s market. All are within walking distance. Oh, and you won’t have to leave the hotel to eat or gamble—there’s an onsite casino and four restaurants. (Starting at $33 a night; resort fee not included.)

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Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall

This place is like a city within a city. The 645 guest rooms and suites are part of a complex that also includes five restaurants, four bars, live entertainment, a movie theater, a pool and even a bowling alley. The hotel is located about 6 miles from the Vegas Strip, so take advantage of the lower room rates and free shuttle to the Strip and to downtown. (Starting at $35 a night; resort fee not included.)

The sprawling, palm-lined Desert Rose Resort looks far too serene to be on our list of cheap Vegas hotels. But it is cheap, and it sure is serene!

Desert Rose Resort

Casino resorts are everywhere in Vegas. But if you’re not about that life, consider this alternative that has all the bells and whistles, minus the on-site gambling. The 284 one- and two-bedroom suites come with full kitchens and private balconies, so you’ll have as good a time staying in as you will going out to the Vegas Strip, which is just 1 1/2 blocks away. (Starting at $153 a night.)

Did you expect your cheap Vegas hotel to have an indoor amusement park? Well, you're welcome.

Circus Circus Hotel and Casino

This town don’t exactly scream “kid friendly.” But with water parks, museums and cheap food, Vegas actually makes for a fun family getaway. A perfect base camp for frugal families is Circus Circus, which includes a theme park (!), free circus performances on the midway, nine restaurants, six bars and the only RV park on the Vegas Strip. (Starting at $22 anight; resort fee not included.)

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South Point Hotel and Casino

Seemingly everything’s bigger when you stay off-Strip. Exhibit A: This surprisingly cheap Vegas hotel, with spacious guest suites and bathrooms, a huge bingo hall and even an arena for horse shows. And because this is Vegas, there’s a pool bar and more than 10 restaurants onsite. (Starting at $59 a night; resort fee not included.)

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The Orleans Hotel and Casino

No need to ante up the big bucks when you opt for this Big Easy-themed resort about three miles from the Strip. The suites are spacious, and amenities range from a bowling alley to a movie theater to affordable childcare. And a spa. And 14 restaurants. If by some miracle you get bored, take the free shuttle to the Vegas Strip or one of the hotel’s six sister casinos. (Starting at $48 a night; resort fee not included.)

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Tagged: Las Vegas

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Primary season is in full swing, and the batch of remaining presidential hopefuls is hitting the campaign trail hard. If your political blood is boiling and you’ve caught the campaign fever, why not turn your trip to all those heated debates and rallies into an enjoyable getaway. Gerrymander through some of the best destinations along the campaign trail, caucusing with locals about the best place to grab a post-rally brew or nominating your favorite continental breakfast to fuel your discussion-filled day. Here are our elections for some of the best destinations on the road to the White House, in chronological order:

Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: ADTeasdale – Flickr.

Las Vegas, Nevada: Although the majority of folks you are likely to run into on the Vegas strip probably aren’t even registered to vote in Nevada, the city is drawing attention leading up to the Democratic and Republican caucuses on Feb. 20 and 23, respectively. The Nevada State Democrats are hosting a town hall event in Las Vegas on Feb. 18 to discuss issues affecting the Latino community. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both said they will attend the event, which will be hosted by MSNBC and Telemundo. A prime opportunity to mingle your daily dose of politics with a little Vegas fun.

 

Donald Trump

Presidential hopeful Donald Trump is scheduled to appear at Myrtle Beach later this month. Photo: , Gage Skidmore – Flickr

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: Donald Trump is set to make an appearance at the Myrtle Beach Sports Center at noon on Feb. 19, the day before the Republican Primary. In this cold, desolate month, why not route yourself to a beach destination during your political travels? Republican nominees are blitzing the state the week before, as well, if you arrive early. And if you aren’t quite ready to leave the South, stick around — the Democratic Primary isn’t until Feb. 27.

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton has been hitting the campaign trail in Tennessee on behalf of his wife, Hillary. Photo: Susan Ruggles – Flickr

 Nashville, Tennessee: SUPER TUESDAY. Continue your tour south of the Mason-Dixon Line and head on over to Tennessee. Early voting in the state began Feb. 10 and runs through Feb. 23, ahead of the March 1 primary, so Republicans and Democrats alike are focusing hard on the state. Bill Clinton campaigned ahead of his wife in Memphis earlier this month. Hillary is set to open campaign offices in Nashville and Memphis, two of the state’s largest Democratic hotbeds. Planting yourself in a Democratic area inside a state that usually votes red would provide a certain lively nature to your trip. Both parties vote on Super Tuesday, which falls on March 1 this year.

 

Detroit, Michigan

Presidential candidates have their eyes on Michigan. Photo: Bryan Debus – Flickr.

Detroit, Michigan: Before the dust cleared from the Iowa Caucus, campaign staff members were heading for Michigan. Pick a major city in the state,and you’ll likely find a campaign office has popped up there. The whole Clinton family has already peppered the state, the Republicans have all hired firms to help them plan different events, Sanders offices are springing up in Flint, Lansing, Detroit, Ann Arbor and Traverse City, and CNN is holding a Democratic debate in Flint on March 6. The Democratic and Republican primaries take place on March 8.

 

Columbus, OHio

Columbus, Ohio. Photo: ChevySXSWCbus – Flickr

Columbus, Ohio: Ohio is a swing state and draws the eyes of the world during election season, and this year, its Gov. John Kasich is making a showing in the Republican race. Plus, with a university in Columbus boasting more than 50,000 students, most of whom are eligible voters, Ohio State University often gets blasted with impromptu campaign events. Plenty of appearances are already planned ahead of the March 15 primary: Sanders and Clinton are both scheduled to speak at the Ohio Democratic Party Legacy Dinner at the Greater Columbus Convention Center on March 13 (bleacher seats will run you $50).

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Tagged: Las Vegas, Tips & advice

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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.

CheapTickets-St-Augustine-Florida-Christmas-lights

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.

CheapTickets-Clifton Mill-Ohio-Christmas-lights

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.

CheapTickets-Austin-Christmas-lights

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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Whether you object to the treatment of animals or you’re just bored with the usual dog and pony show, check out one of these animal-free alternatives to the traditional three-ring circus. For more amusements, visit cheaptickets.com/events. Use promo code TICKETS10 to get 10 percent off event tickets.

La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil is big on artistry. Credit Walt Disney World and Cirque du Soleil.

La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil is big on artistry. Credit Walt Disney World and Cirque du Soleil.

Cirque du SoleilThe Quebec-based company started in 1984 and now showcases its stunts in 17 countries. Stateside, there are Cirque shows from California to Rhode Island. O at the Bellagio in Las Vegas adds water to the mix for a show that’s anything but washed up. Sin City is also how to Cirque shows celebrating the music of both Michael Jackson and the Beatles. On the kid-friendly end, La Noube in Orlando’s Downtown Disney lets families experience top-notch artistry without the top-tier theme park ticket price.

Circus Smirkus:
In this Vermont-based performance troupe, kids don’t just watch the circus; they are the circus. The cast features children ages 10 to 18 who spend summers touring New England in their one-ring, big-top circus tent. If young audience members are inspired by what they see, they can enroll in Circus Smirkus Camp to learn acrobatics, juggling and other circus skills.

Circus Center: This San Francisco training center offers adult and child classes in everything from flying trapeze to aerial (remember Pink at the 2014 Grammys?) to clowning around. If you’d rather just watch, then check out the venue’s monthly cabaret series. These professional, 21-and-up shows offer an intimate, speakeasy-style setting; a drink ticket is included with each entry for a circus experience that’s truly intoxicating.

Acrobats of China: This show is a lotcloser than it sounds. The New Shanghai Circus in Branson, Missouri displays feats of strength, flexibility and balance, including diving through hoops, juggling people and an entire family riding a single bicycle. Arrive early to see the “show before the show,” a traditional Chinese tea ceremony.

Circus Arts Conservatory: You could say Sarasota, Florida, is the circus capital of the world, being home to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art to daredevil high wire walker Nik Wallenda. The conservatory brings performances yearround, from the kids’ Sailor Circus to Cirque des Voix, which combines circus acts with choir and full orchestra.

For more things to do, check out cheaptickets.com/events. Use promo code TICKETS10 to get 10 percent off event tickets.

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Tagged: California, City, Events, Family, Florida, Las Vegas, Tips & advice

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We all know the four seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. But in the travel industry, there are only three seasons that matter: peak, shoulder and off. Here’s why you should care.

woman-looking-at-map-cheaptickets

What’s the diff?

Peak season, or high season, is when a destination is the most popular. Peak season varies by destination, often depending on the weather. For instance, Eastertime is peak season for Florida because theme park-loving kids are on spring break and the weather is just hot enough, but not yet too miserable, for a frolic on the beach. On the flip side, the December holidays are prime time for Colorado; plenty of snow on the ski slopes, time off from work and school and the prospect of spending a cozy holiday around the fireplace make this Western state a popular choice in the winter months.

So that’s peak season. Off season, or low season, is just the opposite: the time of year when a destination sees the fewest tourists. And shoulder season is the transitional time between peak and off seasons.

Why is off season great for cheap traveling?

Three words: supply and demand. When demand drops, so do prices on everything from airfare to hotel rooms to attractions. Even food prices can decrease, with many cities holding restaurant weeks during the off-season.

Bonus: off season means fewer crowds, shorter lines, easier restaurant reservations and less stressed service people.

Why might traveling during off season not be a great idea?

For starters, the weather can get dicey. There’s a reason why folks don’t flock to the Caribbean during hurricane season. If you can’t resist a bargain but are concerned about Mother Nature wreaking havoc your trip, then consider buying traveler’s insurance. Also have a backup plan—say, a museum—for when it’s too yucky to go outside.

In addition, be prepared to miss out on some things. During off season, shops and restaurants may have limited hours, tours may operate on a modified schedule, and some businesses or events might shut down all together. If your must-do becomes a can’t-do, then ask a local for some off-the-beaten-path ideas for fun. And don’t be afraid to request a discount. 

So when’s the off season for some popular U.S. destinations? Here’s the scoop.

Atlanta: April and May. If you’ve got Georgia on your mind this time of year, then try to nab tickets for prestigious Masters Golf Tournament in April or one of the many music festivals happening in May.

Chicago: November to February. The Windy City lives up to its name during the colder months, but there’s plenty of indoor fun to be had. Take in the view from the top of the Willis Tower, explore the Art Institute of Chicago or catch a show at Lookingglass Theatre Company.

Dallas: February to April. Now’s the time for Dallas Blooms, a three-month extravaganza of color and scent at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. History buffs can also take advantage of smaller crowds at the Sixth Floor Museum inside the infamous Texas School Book Depository, site of the JFK assassination.

Denver: January to April. There should still be plenty of snow for the ski slopes. Or enjoy outside-the-box activities like the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in January or the giant March pow wow featuring Native American drummers, arts and crafts and more from across the country.

Las Vegas: June and July. Roll the dice on a hot Vegas vacation, with summertime events like the Brews and Blues Festival and World Series of Poker. If the steamy weather gets to be too much, you can always catch a show indoors.

Los Angeles: September and October. The weather’s always ripe for being out and about, so enjoy smaller crowds at popular attractions like the Getty Center and Universal Studios Hollywood, not to mention a bumper crop of arts festivals.

Miami: June to August. When the weather heats up, so do the deals in this sultry South Florida city. August and September are Miami Spice, two glorious months of restaurant deals and foodie-related events. Summer is also a great time to take advantage of beach hotel packages.

New York: January and February. You’ll always find plenty of tourists in the City that Never Sleeps, but after the ball drops in Times Square, things slow down a bit. Check out events that are somewhat under the radar to tourists, like the Three Kings Day Parade in early January or the New York Jewish Film Festival in February.

Orlando: July to September. As summer vacation winds down, the deals heat up in this theme park capital. Take advantage of restaurant deals during Magical Dining Month or drive to nearby Cocoa Beach while the crowds are away.

San Francsico: October to March. Not all California cities are created equal, weatherwise. With averages temperatures in the 50s and low 60s, it’s perfect football-watching weather for a 49ers game, cozy up on a blanket during the monthlong San Francisco Shakespeare Festival in September or join in the merriment of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in March.

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Tagged: Beach, Caribbean, Cheap Tips, Florida, New York City, Off-season, Seasonal, Tips & advice

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All-you-can-eat buffets are American as apple pie (even better if they include actual pie). Whether you live in the United States or are just visiting, these over-the-top eateries will have you patting your belly saying, “God bless America.”

Studio B Buffet

In Las Vegas, everything’s a production—including mealtime at this “show kitchen buffet.” Graze on more than 200 appetizers, entrees and desserts, and watch the ubiquitous screens to see in-house chefs whipping up more before your very eyes. Wash it all down with a selection of free beer, wine, cappuccino, cordials and other beverages included in the cost of your meal (adult weekday lunch $16.99, dinner $23.99; more on weekends).

Lights... camera... eat! at Studio B. Credit  Anna Irene/Flickr.

Lights… camera… eat! at Studio B. Credit Anna Irene/Flickr.

Cedars Mediterranean Mezza and Grill

There’s no shortage of barbecue joints in the Lone Star State. But when health-conscious Dallas residents develop an appetite as big as—well, you know—they head for this fresh fare. The Vegetarian Feast ($10.85 lunch, $11.85 dinner and weekends) is an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of hummus, tabouli, pitas, imported cheeses and other meatless must-haves. The a-la-carte menu also includes plenty of beef kabobs, lamb gyros and other items to keep carnivores happy.

The Nordic

If you’re looking to splurge, this Charlestown, Rhode Island, seafood buffet is the place to do it. For $91 per person (less for kids), indulge in endless lobster, bacon-wrapped scallops, prime rib, jumbo shrimp and other delicacies. Also save room for the desserts, which are just as decadent: Haagen Dazs ice cream bar, chocolate-covered strawberries, and all the cheesecakes, pies and cannolis you can imagine.

Boma: Flavors of Africa

It’s easy to gripe about the prices at Walt Disney World, but this eatery in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort Area, is one of the better deals. Breakfast ($20 adults, $12 kids) includes traditional American fare like omelets and pancakes jutaxposed with African-inspired offerings like turkey bobotie (a South African-style lasagna), African pastries and of course, Kenyan coffee. The dinner buffet ($38 adults, $18 kids) is equally international, with items like Tunisian couscous salad and Durban-style roasted chicken. (Picky eaters can always fall back on the mac and cheese.) The menu, combined with the colorful, marketplace-style decor, might just make you forget you’re in Orlando.

You don't need a passport to indulge at Boma: Flavors of Africa. Credit rickpilot_2000/Flickr.

You don’t need a passport to indulge at Boma: Flavors of Africa. Credit rickpilot_2000/Flickr.

Farmerbrown

This popular brunch spot brings a taste of the South to San Francisco. The weekend buffet ($25.95) offers comfort foods like chicken and waffles, biscuits with sausage gravy, cheesy grits, and pecan brownies. Diners watching their waistline can fill up on the buffet’s lighter fare, including house salad, fruit salad and succotash veggies.

Dig into some comfort food at Farmerbrown. Credit star5112/Flickr.

Dig into some comfort food at Farmerbrown. Credit star5112/Flickr.

Becco

Celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich makes her Italian fare affordable to the masses at this institution on Manhattan’s Restaurant Row. The signature Sinfonia di Paste ($18.95 lunch or $23.95 dinner) includes unlimited table service of three daily pastas—think toasted beet and goat cheese ravioli with fresh mint, semolina gnocchi alla Romana or whatever else Executive Chef William Gallagher—plus your choice of Caesar salad or antipasto.

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room

Here’s another option for “don’t get up, we’ll bring the food to you” dining. This Savannah, Georgia, eatery serves everything family-style. Strangers bond over never-ending platters of meat loaf, cornbread dressing, okra gumbo and other stick-to-your-ribs comfort food. As my friend who used to live in Savannah said, “Think Sunday dinner at grandma’s where she has more in the kitchen but it’s not all on the table.” The restaurant is open only for lunch ($20 for adults; half-price for kids), but the endless platters of food should keep you full well into the evening.

Tagged: Florida, Food & drink, Las Vegas, New York City

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If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then some landmarks should be downright charmed. If you don’t have the time or money to see the real thing, then opt for one of these faux versions of tourists attractions that are often imitated and nearly duplicated.

 Related: 5 stunning U.S. scenic drives 

Leaning Tower of Pisa replica in Niles, IL

Italy isn’t the only place where you can eat great pizza and take a selfie in front of an off-kilter landmark. At 94 feet tall, this suburban Chicago knockoff stands at about half the size of the actual Italian treasure. Built as a utility tower in 1934, in the late ’90s the tower added a fountain, reflection pool and other upgrades just in time for a visit from its sister city, which is—you guessed it—Pisa, Italy.

Leaning Tower is Pisa replica in Niles, Illinois. Credit Jimmy Thomas/Flickr.

Leaning Tower is Pisa replica in Niles, Illinois. Credit Jimmy Thomas/Flickr.

Trevi Fountain replica in Las Vegas, NV

What happens in Vegas… originally happened in Rome, Italy. Sin City is home to several clones of the Baroque masterpiece. The best-known sits outside Caesars Palace, where you can dine at—wait for it—Trevi Italian Restaurant. There’s also a lesser-known version of the ornate fountain inside the Fendi boutique at Crystals at CityCenter, where the handbags are legit but the fountain is most definitely a knockoff.

Trevi Fountain replica at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Credit Bert Kaufmann/Flickr.

Trevi Fountain replica at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Credit Bert Kaufmann/Flickr.

Statue of Liberty replica in Birmingham, AL

About 2 million tourists flock to Ellis Island each year. Skip the lines and ferry ride by heading south to this bronze duplicate that’s one-fifth the size of the real statue. Like the New York statue, Birmingham’s version of Lady Liberty was made in France and has a continuously burning flame. In 1958, businessman Frank Park Samford commissioned the clone to sit atop the building of his company, Liberty National Life Insurance. Today, the statue stands in Liberty Park.

Statue of Liberty replica in Birmingham, Alabama. Credit Wikipedia.

Statue of Liberty replica in Birmingham, Alabama. Credit Wikipedia.

White House replica in McClean, VA

You can’t buy an election, but you can buy the White House—or at least a private home just outside Washington, DC, that’s modeled after the real thing. The 15,000-square-foot replica has six bedrooms and seven bathrooms, compared to the actual White House’s 55,000 square feet, 16 bedrooms and 35 bathrooms. In 2012, the foreclosured property sold for just $865,000.

Eiffel Tower replica in Paris, TX

Not everything’s bigger in Texas. This iron structure stands at 65 feet tall, compared to the French icon, which boasts a staggering 986 feet. But the Texas version is topped with a giant red cowboy hat, which makes for a kitschy photo op as you stretch your legs along U.S. Highway 82. The Boiler Makers Local #902 in built it there in 1995, more than a century after the French landmark was erected.

Eiffel Tower replica in Paris, Texas. Credit Kevin/Flickr.

Eiffel Tower replica in Paris, Texas. Credit Kevin/Flickr.

Parthenon replica in Nashville, TN

This Southern gem was built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition—which sounds old, until you realize that construction on the actual Parthenon in Greece began in 447 BC. But Nashville’s full-scale replica is more than just a pretty facade; it also houses the city’s art museum.

Parthenon replica in Nashville. Credit Will Powell/Flickr.

Parthenon replica in Nashville. Credit Will Powell/Flickr.

Stonehedge replica in Maryhill, WA

While the purpose behind England’s Stonehenge remain a mystery—altar? astronomical observatory? burial site?—the origins of this knockoff are more certain. In 1918, land developer Sam Hill erected his version of Stonehenge as a memorial to the fallen soldiers of World War 1. The Druids used actual stones, but 5,000 years later, Hill opted for the convenience of reinforced concrete slabs.

Stonehenge replica. Credit Wikipedia.

Stonehenge replica. Credit Wikipedia.

Tagged: International, Las Vegas

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Sin City is one of the hottest destinations in the world to ring in the new year. There are more than a dozen official parties planned throughout Las Vegas’ casinos and venues, and 300,000 people are expected to roll into town. You can see shows and concerts from performers like Britney Spears or comedians like Joel McHale. The Strip shuts down and the entire town turns into a giant block party, with a coordinated fireworks show as the clock strikes midnight.

Celebrities and normals come together to rage for one night in a Bacchanalia of glitter that no one will fully recall the next day.

Courtesy of Justin Brown ©

Courtesy of Justin Brown ©

The debauchery and celebrations will seem endless, the hotels are already booking up fast, and most of the shows, parties and clubs require a ticket to be purchased in advance. It sounds daunting, but with a little advanced planning, you’ll be able to handle the night of festivities. But will your wallet?

For those who want the Vegas New Year’s Eve experience but can’t afford to fork out hundreds of dollars for a few hours of entertainment, here’s a list of five free (or reasonably-priced) activities available on NYE in Las Vegas:

1. The fireworks

Courtesy of InSapphoWeTrust ©

Courtesy of InSapphoWeTrust ©

Casinos up and down the strip coordinate to set off a fireworks show so dazzling that some people shell out thousands for a good seat to watch them from. (For example, you can pay a minimum of $2,500 for a seat in the High Roller. The more you pay, the higher your cabin will be, and the more booze, champagne and cupcakes it’ll be stocked with.) But it’s free to watch down on the Strip, among the people. For a more awe-inspiring view, try to get to a higher elevation, like the top of a parking garage or other building that will allow you to go to the top for free.

If you’re willing to pay a little extra for a better view, $30 will guarantee you admission and skate rental at the New Year’s Eve Celebration at the Ice Rink at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Some early bird tickets are available for $20, and cabana and fire pit reservations, which offer the best view of the display at the rink.

2. New York-New York Hotel and Casino

Courtesy of Prayitno ©

Courtesy of Prayitno ©

They might not have a world-renowned DJ dropping the beat, but entry is free to the public (over age 21) from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and you can partake in all the revelry famous to Vegas. There will be a live DJ, dancing, drinking and fireworks. If you do feel like treating yourself, there is an all-you-can-drink champagne bar for $40 starting at 6 p.m. and available through 4 a.m. The service will be available at the Center Bar, The Lobby Bar, The Chocolate Bar and Pour24.

3. New Year’s Eve Party at Center Bar

Courtesy of Frank Gruber ©

Courtesy of Frank Gruber ©

This party at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino isn’t just free to get into, they also offer free stuff. Party favors will be offered at the main entrance. There will be a countdown until midnight and a balloon drop when the clock strikes 12. A live DJ will perform at Center Bar, and patrons can receive free liquor samples and glasses of champagne at other designated areas throughout the bar.

4. Paint the Town Gold Party

Courtesy of petecheslock ©

Courtesy of petecheslock ©

The alchemists will transform Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino into a golden palace for the second year of this masquerade-style party. The free event is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., when gold-themed models will take their place among the golden decor, food, specialty cocktails and party favors. Golden balloons will drop from the ceiling at midnight, and select bars and lounges throughout the resort will have golden giveaways and special gold-themed menus. But remember, all that glitters isn’t gold.

5. New Year’s Eve at XS with ZEDD

ZEDD performs at UIC Pavilion in Chicago in 2012. Courtesy of swimfinfan ©

ZEDD performs at UIC Pavilion in Chicago in 2012. Courtesy of swimfinfan ©

With tickets starting at $20, this is one of the cheapest shows with a big name you’ll find in Vegas this New Year’s Eve. ZEDD will be the headliner of this show at XS Nightclub at Encore. If you plan on staying at Encore or Wynn Las Vegas, you have the chance to book tickets with preferred entry.

Tagged: City, FREE!, Last minute travel