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

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

Photo courtesy of Adults Only

Adults Only (Los Angeles, CA)

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

Photo courtesy of @kai_____c

Angel’s Share (New York, )

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

Photo courtesy of @melissawv5

The Owl Bar (Baltimore, MD)

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

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

Chapter Room (Atlanta, GA)

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

Photo courtesy of @mashdpotaylor

The Drifter (Chicago, IL)

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

Photo courtesy of @drinksanford

Hanson’s Shoe Repair (Orlando, FL)

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

Photo courtesy of @jeremy.pistachio

Bourbon and Branch (San Francisco, CA)

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

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Tagged: Food & drink

Steve Heisler

Steve Heisler

Steve Heisler

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Hotel Deals for كيسمي
Aquamarine Hideaway
FL, USA
Feb 17 - Feb 17, 2019
per night from
$ 806.01
$ 201.5

Just the mention of Orlando may have you seeing dollar signs. But you don’t need a magic wand to find a reasonably priced hotel in O-town. Try these affordable but cool Orlando hotels for a getaway that won’t feel at all like a budget trip.

*Note: All prices are taken from random weekday, one-night stays in September.

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B Resort and Spa; $149 a night

The newest hotel in Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) puts you near the district’s shopping, acclaimed restaurants and entertainment at a surprisingly affordable price. Chic furnishings and private balconies make rooms a comfy place to crash after a sweaty day in the parks (take the free shuttle), while bunk beds and kitchenettes available in some suites make for a family-friendly bargain.

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Aloft Orlando Downtown; $161 a night

Aloft hotels are the cool kid on the block wherever they’re built—and with pool tables, live music and wine tastings in the lounge, this one’s no exception. Smallish rooms still feel inviting, with updated furniture and floor-to-ceiling windows. There are even pet-friendly perks like dog beds and treats for your favorite roll dog. Bonus: The Aloft is just down the block from the ritzy Grand Bohemian Hotel, so you can browse the latter’s stellar art gallery without shelling out the big bucks to stay there. 

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Park Plaza Hotel; $159 a night

Details like exposed brickwork, bathroom skylights and hardwood floors may feel like a new trend, but this 1922 landmark is the O.G. of cool hotel features. With just 28 rooms, the boutique hotel will make you feel like an insider in Orlando’s trendy Winter Park neighborhood. Plus, the free wi-fi and continental breakfast leave you with more cash for exploring Winter Park’s museums, boutiques and artsy Rollins College.

This waterfall pool sets Hyatt Regency apart among the cool Orlando hotels.

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress; $179 a night

This hotel is like a theme park unto itself, with outdoor rock climbing, tennis courts and paddle boats. If you have any energy left, take the free shuttle to Disney World, Universal Orlando or SeaWorld. Then return to the hotel to crash in your room overlooking the pool or Lake Buena Vista.

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Orlando World Center Marriott; $235 a night

This mega-resort offers something for everyone, from waterslides and a free Disney shuttle for the kiddos, to a spa, golf and sports bar for the more mature set. With 1,889 comfy guest rooms and 120 suites, the only problem will be deciding whether you’d like a view of the regular pool or the laser pool. Yes, really.

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Castle Hotel, Autograph Collection; $174 a night

If Liberace and my (very stylish) 4-year-old daughter collabbed on a hotel design, it would look something like this place: Opulent chandeliers, velvety fabrics and touches of purple throughout. Appropriately, the hotel is located on International Drive, home to over-the top attractions like Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and the giant Orlando Eye Ferris wheel. Use the I-Ride Trolley to get around on the cheap.

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Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center; $149 a night

Orlando has no shortage of hotels that feel like a city with in a city, and the Gaylord takes the cake. The massive property is less a than 10 minutes’ drive from Disney World, but with an on-site water park, arcade and even alligator feedings in the atrium, why leave? During the holidays, the resort is the place to be with stage shows, visits from Santa and millions of white lights illuminating the scene.

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Tagged: City, Family, Florida

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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.

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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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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.

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‘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.

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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.

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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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Orlando World Center Marriott

Orlando World Center Marriott is less than a 10-minute drive from Disney World, but you’ll feel far from the theme park hubbub. Photo courtesy of Diamond Public Relations.

With the price of ticketsto Walt Disney Worldsoaring into the triple digits earlier this year, parkgoers need to be savvier than ever about where they stay. Consider hotels just outside Disney World, but not technically on the park’s property. Here’s a rundown of some of our favorite resorts within a 10-minute drive of the park, all bookable on CheapTickets. All offer free shuttle service to Disney and are so chockfull of amenities that they just might be the second happiest place on earth.

Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek:

This lakeside hotel gets high marks for its helpful staff, surrounding woodlands and swimming pools for every age and interest. At mealtime, enjoy the casual Italian fare of the resort’s Tesoro Cove, or send the kids to the game room while you enjoy a grown-up meal in the upscale Deep Blu Seafood Grille—just two of many options. Then after dark, chill at the fire pit before heading back to your room with its Mediterranean-inspired decor. When booking, consider the Orlando Family Getaway Package, which includes kid-friendly add-ons like breakfast for the family, an in-room movie, pizza and snacks.

Nickelodeon Family Suites Resort

Nickelodeon Family Suites Resort | Flickr CC: Britt Reints

Nickelodeon Family Suites Resort: This popular hotel is a destination unto itself and a favorite staycation spot for Florida families. Choose a one-, two- or three-bedroom suite with family-friendly perks like a full kitchen, sleeper sofa and even a Nick-themed kids’ room with bunk beds. The hotel’s public areas are loaded with kid-friendly perks like character dining in the restaurant, a 4-D theater, a Ninja Turtles-themed laser maze and a kids’ spa. And yes, there’s always the potential for green slime. By the end of theirstay, your kids will be asking, “Mickey who?”

Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek

Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek

Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek: For something more low-key and less, well, green-slimy, this contemporary hotel is a great option. It’s nestled in the Bonnet Creek Nature Preserve, with plenty of grownup relaxation including a lazy river, poolside cabana rentals and access to golf course and spa at the adjacent Waldorf Astoria Orlando. Amenities like a water slide and free kids’ meals make it a family-friendly option.

Rock climbing at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress.

Rock climbing at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress.

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress: If walking around Disney doesn’t tire you out, this resort that’s big on recreation has plenty of ways to channel your energy. In addition to the usual pool and tennis courts, activities like rock climbing, bike rentals and water sports in the hotel’s private lake are included in the resort fee. Private balconies and a kids’ camp for an additional charge are nice perks, too.

View from Room 22466, Marriott World Center, Orlando, Florida

Orlando World Center Marriott | Flickr CC: minnemom

Orlando World Center MarriottWith 1,889 guest rooms and 120 suites, this massive resort is so full of things to do that you won’t need to leave to be amused. The hotels’s Falls Pool Oasis water park will leave the kids exhausted before they even reach the Disney gates, while grown-up features like an 18-hole golf course, spa and sports bar keep parents happy. The resort is also big on special events, from poolside movies in summer to Santa reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas inside a two-ton gingerbread house in the lobby at holiday time. Ask about the Family Connecting Room Package, which allows room for everyone to spread out.

Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center

Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center | Flickr CC: zannaland

Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention CenterWinter is the best time to visit this sprawling resort, when more than 2 million lights deck out the 63-acre property and a tubing hill covered with real snow beckons adventure seekers. Also enjoy breakfast with Mrs. Claus, appearances by Santa and more. Ask about the Disney Tickets Vacation Package, which includes accommodations and tickets for the family. Amenities like an on-site water park, adults-on pool and the atrium full of lush greenery make for a pleasant summertime stay.

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Tagged: Family, Florida, Tips & advice

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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.

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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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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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Tagged: Beach, Family, Florida

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An Orlando vacation can have parents seeing dollar signs, what with theme park ticket prices creeping into the triple digits. But vacationing in a big city also means big opportunities for cheap fun, and O-town is no exception. Here are some kid-friendly activities in Orlando, all of which cost less than $15 per person.

Lake Eola's swan boats combine sightseeing with exercise. Credit Joe Shlabotnik.

Lake Eola’s swan boats combine sightseeing with exercise. Credit Joe Shlabotnik.

Watering hole: Spend a picturesque afternoon at Lake Eola Park in the heart of downtown. Rent a swan-shaped paddle boat for $15 per half hour; each boat holds up to five people. Then feed the real swans, grab dinner at Relax Grill on the lake andstay for the nightly choreographed water show at the fountain in the center of the lake. Also pencil in the Sunday farmers market, free Sunday morning yoga and occasional concerts in the park’s amphitheater.

Chip off the old block: Tickets to LEGOLAND Florida in nearby Davenport will set you back upwards of $65 a pop. But in Downtown Disney, your kids can get creative LEGO Imagination Center for free. Guarded by a life-size Lego dinosaur and filled with hands-on fun, this 4,400-square-foot store should occupy them for a good while.

Just for laughs: Here’s a comedy club where you can bring the kids — no joke. SAK Comedy Lab is an all-ages improv venue where folks like entertainer Wayne Brady and SNL writer Paula Pell honed their craft. Shows are Tuesday through Saturday; your best bet is a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, when the professional ensemble takes the stage. General admission is $15. On Thursdays, students pay just $8.

All in the same boat: Take a load off with a Scenic Boat Tour of historic Winter Park. As you cruise through the lakes and canals, a narrator points out the wildlife and mansions that make Winter Park one of Orlando’s most charming suburbs. Cost is $6 for kids 2 to 11 and $12 for adults.

shutterstock_181126988

Later, gator: What’s Florida without gators? Give your little ones a thrill at Black Hammock Adventures’ free wildlife exhibit, home to alligators, exotic birds, snakes and more. For $3.50 you can buy a “gator dog” to feed to a small alligator.

Child at art: The Orlando Museum of Art is more kid-friendly than your average gallery, with two “discovery centers” for interactive learning. On the first Saturday of the month, join the Family Highlights Tour that’s free with paid admission. Also check the calendar for story time, hands-on workshops and other free amusements. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for ages 4 to 17.

It's easy being green -- and saving green -- at Harry P. Leu Gardens. Credit Harry P. Leu Gardens.

It’s easy being green — and saving green — at Harry P. Leu Gardens. Credit Harry P. Leu Gardens.

By the book: Even with all their tablets and video games, kids still enjoy being read to. Make reading even more special when you take them to story time at the lush Harry P. Leu Gardens. On the first Monday of the month, the Orange County Library System brings stories and songs for a free indoor event. The gardens offerfree admission on the first Monday of the month, so bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the grounds afterward.

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Tagged: Family, Florida, FREE!