10 TO WATCH
Top Budget Travel Destinations for 2010
Each year, we pore over industry news and trends and dive through mounds of statistics to determine the world's new best-value destinations. Find out why our picks are more affordable than ever—and how to have fun once you get there.
Why in 2010: Long loved by Pacific Northwesterners, Portland's signature cool, quirky style has been exported nationwide via hometown companies like Stumptown Coffee Roasters and ecofriendly clothier Nau. The city's locavore-friendly food scene is starting to rival Seattle's and San Francisco's; notable newcomers include butcher-shop-cum-hip-steakhouse Laurelhurst Market (laurelhurstmarket.com) and the tavern Ned Ludd, praised for using Luddite (or low-tech) means of preparing classic comfort foods (nedluddpdx.com). Despite the hype, Portland, which drew nearly 9 million visitors in 2009 (up 25 percent from 2006), remains surprisingly affordable to visit. Low-cost carriers JetBlue and Southwest serve Portland, and with more than 900 downtown hotel rooms added in the last three years, increased competition means that small, stylish stays are available at budget prices.
With the city's profile on the rise and the mini hotel boom leveling off (just one new property is expected in 2010), the next few years are likely to see significant increases in flight and hotel costs. If you've been thinking about Portland for some time, go now before prices are out of control.
Main events: The renowned Portland Classical Chinese Garden marks its 10th anniversary with 10 days of free admission (portlandchinesegarden.org, Jan. 2–11). More than 120,000 music fans attend the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival every year (waterfrontbluesfest.com, July 2–5); the suggested donation of $10 and two cans of food per day will benefit the Oregon Food Bank. Nearly every weekend brings an offbeat event like the Portland Pirate Festival, which last year set a world record for most "pirates" gathered in one spot (portlandpiratefestival.com, Sept. 18–19, from $12).
Memorable moment: Line up at one of roughly 400 food carts citywide and sample everything from quinoa-hempseed pancakes at the Ruby Dragon (therubydragonpdx.blogspot.com, $3.50) to BBQ brisket pie at Whiffies Fried Pies (whiffies.com, $4). Wash your food down with a pint at the Widmer Brothers brewery, which ignited Portland's craft-beer obsession when it opened in 1984 (widmer.com, free tours and tastings Fridays and Saturdays). Rent a bike and live like a local, tooling around on the city's many trails and paths (Portland Bicycle Tours, portlandbicycletours.com, from $20 a day).
Price check: A recent Kayak search found round-trip flights in May as low as $199 from Long Beach (JetBlue), $220 from New York City (Delta), and $300 from Miami (Delta). Arty accommodations include the music-and-local-history-themed Crystal Hotel, slated to open this summer (mcmenamins.com, under $100); the year-and-a-half-old Hotel Modera (hotelmodera.com, from $99); and the hip Ace, where perks include free bikes (acehotel.com, from $110). Consider skipping the rental car: The MAX light rail connects the airport to downtown for only $2.30, and you can travel by rail throughout the downtown for free.
Why in 2010: The city of Las Vegas is hoping that what happened in Vegas in 2009 stays in 2009. The city relies on business conventions to fuel its economy, and last year's 26 percent falloff in convention attendance was a major factor in the average nightly hotel rate's drop of 24 percent, to $91. No one expects the convention business to pick up significantly in 2010, so all signs indicate another year of amazing prices for lodgings—especially because there are about 14,000 more rooms to fill than a year ago. Nearly 1,000 of those are tucked into new towers at the Hard Rock Hotel and the Golden Nugget, and that's small potatoes compared to the $8.5 billion, 67-acre CityCenter, which was completed in 2009 and is more like a whole new neighborhood than a mere resort.
Main events: Entertainment goddess Bette Midler is ending her immensely popular run of performances at Caesars Palace on January 31 (caesarspalace.com, from $50). Watching college basketball's March Madness tournament on dozens of flat screens at a sports book is way more exciting than following them via your office pool (Mar. 16–Apr. 5). The real Vegas sport, though, stretches from May to July, when the Rio Hotel & Casino hosts the World Series of Poker (wsop.com, free to watch, buy-ins from $500).