10 Best Budget Destinations for 2014
With amazing food, glorious public spaces, and unparalleled museums, theme parks, and beaches, the only thing “budget” about these world-class vacation spots is the price tag!
Beyond the Liberty Bell, an art- and food-lover's capital beckons
Why in 2014: Philadelphia's arts scene has never been bigger or shinier than it is now. The legendary Barnes Foundation art collection has moved from the 'burbs to a new downtown home, and a building boom has given rise to new state-of-the-art buildings for a slew of institutions including the National Constitution Center, the Please Touch Museum, and the Philadelphia Theatre Company. That's handy if you're looking to embrace the city of Brotherly Love in 2014, because Philly has long been an affordable travel destination. Seeing the Avenue of the Arts (a.k.a. Broad Street) is a must: Museums such as the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts line the avenue, but so do restaurants and watering holes like Jet Wine Bar, which serves up small bites alongside international vinos (starting at $6) from its "Global Vineyard." That's not to mention all the usual Philly suspects, like finding your inner Rocky on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, visiting Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence was signed in July 1776), and viewing the Liberty Bell, which you can visit for free. Judge for yourself who has the best cheesesteak in town: Pat's King of Steaks or Geno's Steaks, longtime competitors who are across the street from each other and, more importantly, both open 24/7.
Where to Stay: The Alexander Inn is a small but well-appointed boutique hotel in Center City within walking distance of both Independence Hall and the Avenue of the Arts. (alexanderinn.com, from $119)
The tastiest, most vibrant European history lesson you've ever had
Why in 2014: Calling all history buffs: Deep discounts abound in Warsaw in 2014. Hotel stays cost a full 20 percent less this year. Visiting the capital of Poland is like taking the best European history lesson you've ever had. The verdant Lazienki Park, a.k.a. Royal Baths Park, is home to both architecture and gardens. Perhaps its most famous resident, the Palace on the Island, was built in the 1600s for a Polish noble, but eventually became the home of Poland's last king in the 18th century. If you visit Warsaw in the summer, take in the free piano concert held next to the park's statue of Chopin every Saturday and Sunday, a tradition that has lasted 50 years. The oldest and most historic part of the city, Old Town, was almost completely demolished during WWII, but restoration efforts have earned it UNESCO World Heritage status. Today, Old Town is teeming with cafés, galleries, and restaurants including Pierogarnia na Bednarskiej, a local joint that dishes out dirt-cheap traditional pierogies (less than $4.50 for seven).
Where to Stay: Ibis Budget Warszawa Reduta's rooms are teensy but outfitted with bright, contemporary furnishings—and you can't beat the price. (accorhotels.com, from $49)
From K Pop to palaces, the South Korean capital delights with whiplash-inducing cultural diversity
Why in 2014: Travel Gangnam style by visiting Korea in 2014. It's a fashionable time to experience au courant "K Pop" music in the place that invented it, and conveniently, hotel rates are down 9 percent this year. Obviously, there's more history here than the trajectory of pop star Psy. Fourteenth-century Geongbok Palace, in northern Seoul, has been destroyed and rebuilt twice. Efforts to restore the Joseon Dynasty buildings are ongoing, but some features are finished and available for viewing, including the Imperial Throne Hall, where coronation ceremonies were held, and the palace gate. Head to the gate between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to see a colorful changing of the guard reenactment held every day. While you're at the palace, you can learn more about the dynasty at the National Folk Museum of Korea and the National Palace Museum, both of which are right on the grounds. Traditional Joseon Dynasty houses called hanoks, built from soil, timber, and rock, are still alive and well in Bukchon Hanok Village, where citizens of Seoul still live. Respect the Seoulites by keeping your voice down as you walk the streets, and duck into the relatively new Han Sangsu Embroidery museum, built into a remodeled hanok. Try your hand at the craft at one of the museum's two-hour classes for visitors—but brush up on your foreign-language skills beforehand: They're taught in Korean. For a bit of exercise in an awe-inspiring environment, hike the Bugaksan Mountain trails, which take you along the Fortress Wall of Seoul. Your reward at the top is a clear view of the city. (Bring your passport, though—everyone has to register in order to climb the granite peak.)