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    The Budget Travel Guide to Vermont

    During a drive in Vermont, it’s common to see simple, handwritten signs tempting with their advertisements of hyper-local goods. “Eggs for Sale,” “Maple Syrup Here” and “Fresh Produce” beckon drivers all along the state’s country roads. Unless you’re in a big hurry — and, if you’re driving through Vermont, where the pace is almost island-like, you shouldn’t be — you’ll want to factor in random, unplanned stops, a promising part of a visit to the quintessential New England state. All-season playground Nestled in between Massachusetts, New York and New Hampshire, Vermont is the second-least-populated U.S. state. It’s no stranger to visitors, however, who long ago began discovering the sweet state’s trove of treasures. Mt. Mansfield Vermont - Istock/bobmanley It starts with its rolling green mountains, duly cherished by skiers and snowboarders. Fans of the winter sport flock to Stowe for its European-like village and Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest mountain, and to Jay Peak, the beloved resort on the US-Canada border. Killington’s sheer vastness (1,509 skiable acres) explains its well-appointed nickname: The Beast. There’s a mountain for every level — and every interest too. While skiing has never been a budget-friendly sport, those who wish to get in a day on the slopes will find flexibility is key for the gentlest prices. A midweek day pass offers the best value for your buck; at $146/day, upscale Stratton is on the high end, and at $108/day, Mount Snow is on the lower end. But the best deal is for those athletes who don’t need a chairlift to get up the mountain. One can experience The Beast for $35 — and plenty of grit and endurance to ski up the mountain. Of course, Vermont’s mountains don’t disappear come summer, and for many, it’s a much more pleasant time to check out the trails. Plus, it’s free in the off-season! Cyclists, trekkers, and ambitious trail runners will be rewarded with mesmerizing views at the top. If the state’s heavily forested landscape is something to see along the road, it’s otherworldly from this vantage point. For those preferring water activities, Vermont’s warm-weather months offer a bevy of recreational activities. Lake Champlain comes alive in summer. Think paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing, swimming and sunning. Lake Champlain, Vermont - Istock/vermontalm A visit to Lake Champlain is highly recommended, but it’s not the only way to splash around. All across the state are swimming holes, waterfalls and treks of varying degrees of difficulty, many with water crossings. Some top spots include Clarendon Gorge, Warren Falls, and Bristol Falls, though it’s worth noting it is possible to find random waterfalls and swimming holes no matter where your adventures take you. Beer is good After you’ve worked up a sweat and cooled off in a river, it’s time for liquid sustenance. Vermont’s beer scene exploded years ago, but it’s still popping today, as evidenced by the astounding number of breweries across the state. That and the fact that you’re more likely to find a four-pack of craft brews than a six-pack of Budweiser at the local markets and gas stations has aided Vermont’s stellar reputation among beer drinkers. Beer Naked - Courtesy of beernakedbrewery.com It’s never a bad idea to visit a brewery, and it’s an especially good idea when there’s a killer view to pair with your pint. Beer Naked Brewery in Marlboro, VT sits on the top of Hogback Mountain; the deck tables are worth waiting for. The rotating selection of craft brews pairs wonderfully with inventive and familiar bites coming out of the kitchen — bone marrow spread to please the adventurous eaters, and the cheese plate as a matter of course. If you want to get a taste of several different breweries and a deeper understanding of why Vermont’s beer scene is superior, you might consider a Vermont Brewery Tour with 4 Points. For less than a hundred bucks, the tour includes pick-up and drop-off, multiple brewery stops and tastings, snacks and entertaining fodder from your guide. It’s a relative bargain, though not as inexpensive as creating your own beer trail with the help of this nifty website. Cheese, please You can find excellent local cheese in just about every Vermont grocery or general store. River Bend Market in Wilmington has a particularly unique selection of cheese from reputable cheese makers, including Vermont Creamery, Crawley, and Grafton, which has its own shop in Brattleboro. Grafton Village Cheese storefront - Courtesy of mktgrafton.com A visit to Grafton Village Cheese, which sells wine and cheese accoutrements, may just inspire an impromptu picnic. If you’d rather gallivant around the state collecting this most delicious of souvenirs, you’ll be delighted to learn there’s a Cheese Trail Map, which lists the cheese makers who welcome visitors. Non-dairy provisions While the state deserves its cheesy (sorry/not sorry!) reputation, when it comes to wallet-friendly bites, you need not look too hard to find other delicious items. Charming diners, cafes and bistros can be found throughout the state, but look a little closer and you’ll start to notice a smattering of food trucks. Vermont’s food truck scene isn’t as diverse as Portland Oregon’s or as big as Austin, Texas’s, but it’s nonetheless an exciting one. Nomad Food Kitchen Trailer in Wilmington has weekly specials in addition to a menu rounded out by ramen. About that ramen: The prices are a little steep, but the best thing on the menu is the $6 pork bun. Loaded with glistening meat, crispy around the edges, crunchy vegetables and sweet and salty sauce, it’s basically two (three if you’re a more delicate eater) of the best bites in Vermont. Two Neanderthals Smokin' BBQ located in Springfield is a food trailer featuring Brisket Ribs, Pulled pork, burgers, dogs, handcut fries, homemade sides and more! Most of the food trucks update their Instagram and Facebook pages regularly, so check there first to make sure you know how and where to find them. Dose of Culture Vermont boasts a number of family-friendly activities, many of which are inexpensive or free. A top pick is Bread & Puppet Theater, where puppets perform in a barn in the middle of the Northeast Kingdom. Art can be purchased here too — and for a nominal fee. Want to add a history lesson to your Vermont visit? The Vermont Historical Society offers an interesting look at the state’s history, including a collection depicting the early days of skiing. The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum - Courtesy of lcmm.org The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum also offers a history lesson with its model gallery showing the evolution of boat building in the region and The Roost, a cabin featuring stories of women on the water -- lighthouse keepers and lake explorers. Both children and adults will find joy in Vermont’s farms, whether picking blueberries in July or petting alpacas in the fall. Midnight Goat Farm sells cheese and offers goat meetings in typical times. Maple View Farm sells alpacas and offers information on alpaca breeding, but you need not be in the market for an alpaca — visiting and petting opportunities are available at this farm. Shelburne Farms is chock-full of animals and kid-friendly activities. Introduce the kids to donkeys, cows and sheep and pick up some pasture-farmed eggs if you haven’t already been lured off the road by an “eggs for sale” sign. For many visitors to Vermont, a must is visiting the flagship Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream factory. Located in Waterbury, this is also where you’ll find the infamous Flavor Graveyard, just up the hill from the main building. Here you can grieve the flavors that are no longer. Dog lovers traveling with Fido or missing Fido back at home won’t want to miss Dog Mountain, where dog-lover and artist Stephen Huneck, has created a haven for dog people. Roaming the grounds and visiting the chapel is free. Gone antiquing Just up the road from the sprawling Grafton Village Cheese complex is Jeff’s Basement, an antique store with an impressive as well price-friendly selection of mid-century and postmodern furniture, lamps, and art. For more fantastic vintage finds, Anjou & The Little Pear up in Burlington delights with cool glassware, snazzy art and old but gently used rugs. Vermont Antique Mall - Courtesy of vermontantiquemall.com For more eclectic finds and random finds, The Vermont Antique Mall has everything from the old-school bedside clock you didn’t know you needed to the mini cast iron pan. And, finally, for rock-bottom prices and seriously sweet finds, including rooms full of toys and children’s games, there’s Twice Blessed. Located in Dover, right next to the dog-friendly Snow Republic Brewery, the cash-only shop a fine place to while away an hour or two and make good use of that twenty-dollar bill hiding in your wallet.

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    Why you have to see Georgia's 'Little Grand Canyon'

    A steady flow of water runs through the bottom of Georgia’s Providence Canyon, but unlike other canyons, that’s not what carved it out of the earth. Formed by enslaving plantation owners who improperly managed the land about 200 years ago, it’s now a state park with hiking and camping options. Known as “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon,” it’s been a popular spot since Covid. If you’re in the southeast U.S., you don’t have to travel far to feel like you’re in the American West. Providence Canyon is a geological wonder of its own. Located about 150 miles southwest of Atlanta near the Alabama border, the canyon sits in one of Georgia’s least-populated counties. It’s named for the Providence Methodist Church, which was swallowed by the newly forming canyon gorges in the 1800s. A new church was constructed across the road after the chasms started to form. From observation decks near the parking lot, you can see the islands of remaining ground-level earth with a few pine trees that dramatically drop off into the canyons below. But to really experience Providence Canyon, you’ll want to take a hike along the canyon floor. Walking down into the gullies is like entering another world. After a short tree-lined descent, you’re on a flat plane looking up at the layered pink, yellow, and purple canyon walls. You’re now more than 100 feet below where you started. Istock/SeanPavonePhoto The ground has eroded away so much that it’s hit the water table, so rain or shine, there’s a stream of water pulling silty soil along the floor of the canyons. You’ll want to wear ankle-height hiking shoes and be prepared for that iconic Georgia clay dirt to get on your shoes, pants, and inexplicably other parts of your clothes or body where you didn’t expect to find it. From the main loop trail, you can fork out into individual paths to nine canyon walls. A backcountry trail through the shallow creek leads to the primitive campsites. The canyons were formed in the early 1800s, after the Muscogee (Creek) indigenous people were forced from their land and plantation farms growing cotton took over the area. The plantation model of agriculture, reliant on enslaved labor, didn’t take precautions to prevent erosion. They couldn't have been prepared for how quickly and dramatically the land would change. Year after year, the cotton and other crops washed away along with clay and topsoil every time it rained. Within 20 years, enough of the ground had sloughed away that gullies four feet deep had formed. This erosion continued over time, and the gullies are now as yawning as 150 feet deep and 350 feet wide. The canyons are still evolving today. Every year, rain and erosion wear away another two to five feet of land. Their sandy sides are fully exposed, so there’s not much the park staff can do to stop it from continuing to slough off. Most of the erosion these days is horizontal, widening the gullies: the canyon floor now has pine trees and other vegetation that keeps the soil from running off, and there’s not much deeper it could go. In the 1930s, the local paper in nearby Columbus, GA, started to make Providence Canyon a national park, hoping to bring tourists driving in to see “the natural wonder and beauty. . .instead of having it principally a discussion of erosion.” But despite the newspaper campaign emphasizing the “natural wonder,” its unnatural origins kept Providence Canyon off the national parks list. Georgia made it a state park in 1971, and it’s presented as the human-created formation that it is. Although Providence Canyon wasn’t naturally formed, it reveals parts of the natural world that are normally hidden. There are 43 different shades of sand that create sunset-like patterns along the canyon’s walls. The shades come from four base colors created by minerals in the soil. In addition to the classic red Georgia clay, which gets its pigmentation from iron, there’s white from kaolin, yellow from limonite, and purple from manganese. Istock/Jacqueline Nix Above the canyon walls, there are other unnatural features: walk up the loop trail and you’ll emerge to the ridgeline where a small collection of cars has been slowly reclaimed by nature. The cars date back to the ‘50s, and only the rusted-out bodies remain — no glass, no tires. Leaves cover the interior, and root structures grow in the tire wells. The park managers have determined that it would be more harmful to the wildlife to remove the cars than to leave them as they are, slowly becoming a part of their surroundings. The canyons are a reminder that everywhere on earth has been shaped by humans in one way or another. Whether by plantation farming practices or pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or moving plants from one continent to another, human life has completely altered the planet. Providence Canyon just makes that impact more visually obvious. It’s a state park for the Anthropocene, and a fantastic day trip.

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    Discover USA: North Dakota

    Join Budget Travel as we continue our series Discover USA. Discover USA explores states, counties, cities, and everything in between. Each week we will explore a new US destination to help you find things to do, itinerary ideas, and plan where to go next. This week, we invite you to Discover what North Dakota has to offer. North Dakota is known as a destination for avid outdoorsmen with stunning lakes and rivers, abundant wildlife, and excellent walleye fishing. The state is also home to numerous cultural centers and and museums, with a particular focus on its Native and early American history. Culinary Pitchfork Steak Fondue - courtesy of medorand.com North Dakota leaves no point on the culinary spectrum untouched. Foodies will find award-winning fine dining, breweries, wineries, cultural cuisine, locally owned restaurants serving comfort food classics, and aromatic coffee shops. Follow the culinary trail across North Dakota and sample authentic German and Norwegian dishes, funky and local fare, and refined farm-to-table entrees – just remember to leave room for dessert. Farm to Table: Chefs across North Dakota are creating dishes and experiences that reflect the freshest unique ingredients and cultural traditions in their local areas.Local Fare: From western steakhouses to family comfort food, the local favorite dining spots in each community offer a window into some of North Dakota’s hidden gem eateries.Culinary Trail: For a greatest hits list of North Dakota’s dining spots this culinary trail hits all the high notes, from fine dining and cultural cuisine, to breweries, wineries and distilleries.Good Eats North Dakota Style: From Pitchfork Steak Fondue (closed for the season opens spring 2023) in Medora to Rosewild in Fargo, the list of notable restaurants across the state is extensive. Arts & Culture North Dakota is home to several important Native American sites - Courtesy of ndtourism.com Native American History and Culture: From Sitting Bull to Sakakawea, North Dakota is rich in Native American history — and with approximately 30,000 enrolled tribal members sharing geography with North Dakota, there are many opportunities to explore and experience Native American culture. Visitors can attend a powwow, with most held from late June through early September. The celebrations are multi-day festivals centered around traditional song and dance performances, and traditional foods , as well as vendors selling arts and crafts. The Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site preserves and protects the Northern Plains Native American Heritage. A state-of-the-art museum dedicated to preserving the culture of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes is located at the visitor center. The Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site was the largest fur trading post on the upper Missouri River from 1828-1867. The site includes a reconstructed Bourgeois House with museum exhibits, and replica trade goods are available for purchase in the reconstructed Indian Trade House. The new MHA Interpretive Center near New Town uses living history programs to tell the story of the great MHA Nation and has a large display of museum quality and interactive kiosk of the culture. Archaeology and Paleontology: It's said North Dakota once was a tropical paradise complete with giant lakes and the giant fish that used to swim in them. There is proof that other giants used to roam North Dakota in prehistoric times and they are being uncovered all the time. Dinosaurs literally left their footprints all over this state and their skeletons now figure prominently in many museums. Discover North Dakota's prehistoric past with these fun fossil sites, and dinosaur attractions. Lewis and Clark Trail: Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery were some of the first non-Native visitors to North Dakota. Most people know the story of Lewis and Clark and Sakakawea — the explorers came through North Dakota, wintered here and met a young Native American girl who would become vital to the success of the Corps of Discovery. Today, you can see where and how they lived during their stay at Fort Mandan and Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center has artifacts and comprehensive details on the journey. North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum - Courtesy of ndtourism.com Art and History Museums: Artists have long found inspiration in North Dakota’s sweeping landscapes and rich cultural heritage. The North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum in Bismarck is a one-stop source for the arts, culture and history of North Dakota. In the heart of downtown Fargo, The Plains Art Museum occupies a renovated turn-of-the-century warehouse and is the largest and only accredited art museum in North Dakota. The permanent collection features modern, post-modern and contemporary pieces, as well as traditional Native American and African pieces. The North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks is a preeminent collection of contemporary regional, national and international art in all media, and includes a survey collection of contemporary Native American art. The museum is recognized nationally for its commissioning of landmark works of art depicting the landscape, history and culture of the Northern Plains. The cowboy is a prominent figure in North Dakota culture, and the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora seamlessly blends the history of ranching, rodeo and Native American photos, displays, and videos to bring the cowboy to life. Recent census data shows that 30 percent of North Dakotans trace their ancestry to Norway, and this culture is on display and celebrated at the Scandinavian Heritage Museum in Minot, which pays homage to the five Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.While not a traditional museum, North Dakota’s wide-open vistas are the perfect setting for some of the country’s most impressive roadside art. Gorgeous, colorful murals can be found in nearly every city and town across the state, many of them depicting scenes, symbols or graphics that are meaningful and connected to the local community. Along the Enchanted Highway, visitors can drive the famous 30-mile stretch that’s dotted with roadside sculptures including the world’s largest metal sculpture, Geese in Flight by Gary Greff. And you won’t want to miss the world’s largest buffalo Dakota Thunder, an impressive 60-ton concrete monument in Jamestown. A sculpture garden in Wahpeton has a rotating menagerie of dinosaurs, bears and more. Smaller scale sculptures punctuate manicured gardens at the Rainbow Garden and Sculpture Walk in Mayville, a perfect scale and speed for families with young children. Explore the Outdoors Bison at Theodore Roosevelt National Park - Courtesy of ndtourism.com Theodore Roosevelt National Park: North Dakota’s only national park is in the western part of the state and offers majestic Badlands scenery, abundant wildlife, and all kinds of outdoor adventures. The park has three units: the North and South Units (both distinctly different) and the Elkhorn Ranch. In the South Unit, the Badlands have been shaped by millions of years of wind, rain, erosion, fire and the meandering Little Missouri River. The main access to the South Unit is through the historic town of Medora. The North Unit, accessible just south of Watford City, has deeper gorges and is heavily forested in places. The beauty and allure of the North Unit draws visitors year-round for sweeping vistas of this designated wilderness. Visitors to both units can view a natural setting much like the one that greeted Theodore Roosevelt over a century ago. The 36-mile scenic loop drive in the South Unit and the 14-mile drive in the North Unit provide easy access to popular vistas and wildlife viewing. You will always see buffalo herds and prairie dog towns, and you may catch a glimpse of feral horses, mule deer, elk and maybe even a coyote. The International Peace Garden: This 2,339-acre botanical garden commemorating peace between the United States and Canada stretches along the world’s longest unfortified border. It blooms annually with more than 150,000 varieties of flowers and showcases the Peace Chapel. Explore the two pristine freshwater lakes, scenic hiking and driving trails, wildflowers, waterfalls, and a large variety of North American birds and animals. Fishing: North Dakota is a top destination for serious walleye anglers from far and wide. The state has more than 400 lakes and rivers—such as the Missouri River system, Lake Oahe, and Lake Sakakawea, and Devils Lake—offering exciting action for walleye, northern pike, perch and other game fish with seasons for most species open year-round. When rivers and lakes throughout North Dakota ice over, avid anglers drill a hole and keep on fishing. Ice fishing practices in North Dakota run the gamut, from a bucket on the ice to elaborate icehouse setups that include televised football games and tasty foods, while others may prefer testing their skills with darkhouse spearfishing. Mountain Biking: The state offers plenty of space, a variety of trails for all skill levels and no crowds. The crown jewel of North Dakota mountain biking is the Maah Daah Hey Trail, a 144-mile singletrack that slices through a million acres of national grassland in western North Dakota. Mountain Bike Magazine has featured the Maah Daah Hey on their list of best rides, and the Maah Daah Hey Trail received a 2022 Bicycling Travel Award as Best Hidden Gem in the U.S. The Trail is a true test of skills and endurance on a variety of terrains, through an area that is more remote than most people have ever experienced. But the trail is not exclusively for elite cyclists, some of the best highlights and scenic beauty of the trail can be taken in as segment or spur trail rides accessed through nearly a dozen trailheads that can be enjoyed by mountain bikers of all abilities. Golf: Great golf courses, each featuring their own signature landscapes and challenges, can be found throughout North Dakota. There is the Lewis and Clark Golf Trail, a series of 18- and nine-hole courses along the same route Lewis and Clark took through central North Dakota. The Triple Golf Challenge includes discounted rounds at three of the state's — and nation's — top-rated golf courses: The Links of North Dakota near Ray, Hawktree Golf Club in Bismarck, and Bully Pulpit Golf Course in Medora. All three are ranked 1, 2 or 3 in state rankings by Golf Digest, GOLF and Golfweek. Golfweek's top 100 U.S. best ranked public-access courses in 2022 includes the The Links of North Dakota at #42, and Hawktree Golf Club at #72 in the nation. In the Red River Valley, Fargo Country Club and Grand Forks' King's Walk are two highly-rated links, as is the Vardon Golf Club in Minot. Downhill Skiing, Tubing, and Snowboarding: North Dakota's four downhill ski areas are popular with snow lovers of all ages. Slalom through fresh powder, ride a rail at the terrain park or feel the exhilaration of tubing down the slope. Huff Hills near Mandan has a 450-foot vertical drop with 16 runs and four lifts. The runs overlook the Missouri River and the Missouri River Valley. Bottineau Winter Park in the Turtle Mountains has eight runs and six lifts and a tubing area with handle lift. Frost Fire Park near Walhalla is tucked neatly into the Pembina Gorge area near the U.S.-Canada border. The area has a tubing run in addition to enhanced ski and snowboard areas. Thrill Hills at Fort Ransom is open for skiing, snowboarding and excellent tubing in the Sheyenne River Valley. (Note: Frost Fire Park is closed for 2022/23 winter season.)

    National ParksDestinations

    10 Coolest Winter Places in America

    Snowstorms used to mean long days spent making snow angels and having snowball fights followed by big mugs of hot cocoa topped with marshmallows. Alas, we're not kids anymore. But that doesn't mean we can't still get outside and play. There are lots of grownup winter activities, like, say, leading a pack of sled dogs across the Maine wilderness or snowshoeing over pathways carved back in the Ice Age (when it was considerably chillier). One thing that hasn't changed? That cup of hot cocoa still hits the spot.Get the best view of the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska The northern lights - Courtesy of chenahotsprings.com Thanks to its proximity to the North Pole, and the lack of urban light pollution, this isolated area is one of the best places to take in the Aurora Borealis. The green ribbons of light are caused by charged particles from the sun interacting with the earth's atmosphere, and the crystalline skies here, about 360 miles north of Anchorage, come alive (the local university offers forecasts for viewing). If you're looking for some guidance, book an Aurora Viewing Tour. The trips depart from Chena Hot Springs Resort, about 60 miles from downtown Fairbanks, where guests take a military-style SUSV to the top of Charlie Dome. 907/451-8104, chenahotsprings.com/winter-activities, $75 per person. Compete in your own Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York Ice hockey in Lake Placid - Courtesy of roostadk.com Ever watch bobsledders zooming down the track during the Olympics and think, "I could do that?" Well, in Lake Placid, you can. The town has hosted the Winter Games twice (in 1932 and 1980), and now caters to visitors seeking glory. Any reasonably fit person can take a bobsled run (with both a professional driver and a brakeman keeping things safe) at the Olympic Sports Complex. At the nearby Olympic Center, you can pretend you are Apolo Anton Ohno and speed skate around the oval. The center has activities for people of all ages, including a torch run, snowboarding race, and hockey slap shot contests. 518/946-2223, whiteface.com, prices for activities vary. Relax with a glass of ice wine in Traverse City, Michigan There aren't many places in the U.S. with the appropriate conditions to make ice wine (most of it is produced in Germany and Canada). This town, a four-hour dive from Detroit, is graced with panoramic views of Lake Michigan, and the cold air coming off the lakes is perfect for chilling grapes. The wine makers at Chateau Grand Traverse use Riesling grapes that have been left on the vine after the harvest to freeze in the chilly northern Michigan air. The winery offers free tours and tastings of its other wines, and you can also sample wine made from cherries, the area's other bounty. 12239 Center Rd., 800/283-0247, cgtwines.com.Ski down untouched trails in Park City, Utah Skiiing on untracked powder in Park City, Utah - Courtesy of pccats.com Park City has three resorts and some of the country's best skiing, but the best way to get off the runs and really experience the countryside is on a snowcat. Small groups of skiers pile into trucks with tracked wheels that can handle the area's diverse terrain and travel to parts of the mountain with "virgin" runs untouched by other skiers. Park City Powder Cats will take you to Thousand Peaks Ranch in the Uinta Mountains for up to 12 runs through quiet bowls and glades. 435/649-6596, pccats.com, from $449 for a day trip. Take a sleigh ride in the wilderness in Jackson Hole, Wyoming Sleigh ride in National Elk Refuge - Courtesy of nersleighrides.com Jackson Hole may be a premier ski destination, but a much less publicized highlight of a visit to the town is a sleigh ride at the nearby 25,000-acre National Elk Refuge. From mid-December to early April, visitors can enjoy a horse-drawn ride through the park to see thousands of elk. Guides with Bar T5 will also point out the park's other wildlife, such as eagles and trumpeter swans. Free shuttle buses depart from the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, 800/772-5386, bart5.com, $18 for adults, $14 for children 5-12. Zoom through America's first national park on a snow coach in West Yellowstone, Montana Roads at the West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park are not plowed in winter. If you want access to this part of the park, populated by bison, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep, you'll need to rent a snowmobile or book a snow coach tour. Some vehicles come equipped with handlebar warmers and you can even rent cozy layers if you didn't pack enough for the frigid air. The park's abundant animal population doesn't seem to mind the chill. destinationyellowstone.com/play/snow-coach, from $105 for trips not including park fees. Snowshoe the Ice Age Trail in Chetek, Wisconsin Don't be intimidated: Snowshoeing on Wisconsin's nearly flat Ice Age National Scenic Trail is totally doable. The state's National Scenic Trail encompasses about 620 miles of marked pathways that feature landscapes left behind when glacial ice carved the earth more than 12,000 years ago. In winter, a section of this trail is open to snowshoers at Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area. Rent your snowshoes from the visitors' center (free, but donations are encouraged) and loop the 6.5-mile trail, studded with frozen mini-lakes and countless five-foot-tall boulders. 13394 County Hwy M, 888/936-7463, dnr.wisconsin.gov.Take the reigns on a dog sledding tour in Newry, Maine Dog sledding in Mahoosuc - Courtesy of mahoosuc.com Located in Newry, Maine, and with over three decades of full-time, year round guiding, Mahoosuc is one of the most respected and experienced recreational guide services in New England and Canada. Day trips on Umbagog Lake or gentle trails in the Mahoosuc Mountains are available Tuesday through Thursday and some weekends, mid-December through mid-March, and depending on snow conditions. A hearty warm homemade lunch cooked over a campfire is included on day trips, as well as the use of their insulated winter parkas, warm boots and other cold-weather gear. Mush! 207/731-8888, mahoosuc.com, starting from $450 per person for day trips. Sled around a high-country hamlet in Silverton, Colorado Forget cars. In winter, residents of Silverton prefer to get around on kicksleds (essentially chairs placed on six-foot-long steel runners). The townsfolk are so committed to winter fun that they refrain from plowing after the first bountiful snowfall so that the fresh powder will pack into a perma-crust for smoother sledding. Guests and non-guests can rent sleds (as well as skis, snowshoes, and other equipment) from the Wyman Hotel, and take advantage of the area's average annual snowfall of 150 inches. 1371 Greene St., 970/387-5372, thewyman.com.See freaky ice formations beneath the earth in Lava Beds National Monument, California Crystal Ice Cave - Courtesy of nps.gov Winter temps in this part of northern California average in the 40s during the day and the 20s at night. Not chilly enough? Go underground into some of the local caves, where the air hovers at the freezing point year-round. To safely journey into the caves at Lava Beds National Monument, rent a helmet and headlamp from the visitors' center. Then go 100 feet beneath the earth's crust into the Crystal Ice Cave, where freaky ice formations include a 20-foot-high crystal curtain. 530/667-8113, nps.gov/labe, $25 per vehicle for a seven-day entrance.

    Inspiration

    Budget Friendly Ski Slopes for 2023

    Where are the best ski resorts in North America? From Park City to Panorama, HomeToGo has researched the price of skiing across the continent, taking into account the latest prices and search trends for the upcoming 2022-23 season. Their Ski Report compares the price of skiing in Colorado, Utah, British Columbia, Vermont, New York, and more! They’ve included 50 of the ultimate ski havens from 15 states across the USA and Canada, so that you can carve out your winter travel plans without getting buried by debt. Scaling mountains of data and research, this year's report compares the affordability of lift tickets* and overnight accommodations, as well as the search trends of skiers planning their vacations. Ski resorts provided their latest pricing data for lift tickets during peak season periods and HomeToGo data was used to find the average price per person to stay in a 6-person vacation rental. See the top 3 most affordable resorts this winter.#3 Kicking Horse Mountain Resort Kicking Horse Mountain Resort 2021.22 Season - Courtesy of kickinghorseresort.com Located in Golden, British Columbia, Kicking Horse can be both a fun, family excursion or a challenging endeavor. With 120 trails across nearly 3,500 acres of terrain, there are opportunities to shred gnarly powder or glide along gentle slopes. In fact, it is known as the Champagne Powder Capital of Canada due to its ridges and bowls which are constantly stashed with deep snow. For thrill seekers, Kicking Horse is home to a 1,300-meter vertical drop, the sixth largest vertical drop of any North American ski resort. Meanwhile, beginners are welcome to explore the gentle glades for an incredible on-snow experience and lovely mountain views. Adult Lift Ticket Price: $105.82 Median Accommodation Price: $23.77/person Total: $129.59#2 Kimberley Alpine Resort Kimberly Ski Resort - Courtesy of skikimberley.com Kimberley, British Columbia prides itself on its small-town charm and real mountain experiences. The region receives an average of 13 feet of snowfall each season. It features 80 named runs, 1,800 acres of terrain and a variety of ski-in or ski-out accommodations. The Purcell Range of the Canadian Rockies offers stunning scenery and a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy the powdery snow, regardless of experience level. Skiing is not Kimberley’s only activity either, guests are welcome to try dog sledding, snowshoeing and snowboarding. Adult Lift Ticket Price: $84.00 Median Accommodation Price: $40.61/person Total: $124.61#1 Mission Ridge Ski Area Mission Ridge - Courtesy of missionridge.com Sitting 12 miles from Wenatchee, Washington, this ski area is built into a 2,000-acre basin on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains. With 300 days annually of sunshine, it sits higher and drier than other mountains in the area. It’s known for its light, dry powder, which provides a smooth ride for the whole family. Mission Ridge has more than 36 designated runs with trails, chutes, screamers, bowls and even a 2,250-foot vertical drop. Whether you shred the slopes or explore the backcountry, Mission Ridge provides family fun and amazing mountain views. Adult Lift Ticket Price: $97.00 Median Accommodation Price: $18.13/person Total: $115.13 To see the full report and methodology click here.

    InspirationFamilyTheme Parks

    Best Holiday Celebrations at US Theme Parks

    Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood Pigeon Forge, Tennessee - Nov. 5 - Jan 1, 2023 With several new lighting displays across its 160 acres, Dollywood theme park—the 14-time winner for Best Theme Park Christmas Event—now boasts more than 6 million shining, shimmering lights as part of the popular Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana. "I believe each season in the Smokies is a precious gift from above, but I also know there is no better time than Christmas to experience the magic of this special place,” Dolly Parton explained. “Christmas is a time for new memories to be created, cherished family traditions to be celebrated and the love of the holidays to warm us all.” Guests will find hundreds of lighted trees throughout the park this year, as well as more new décor elements and eight different light zones to provide each area of Dollywood its own unique look and feel. Glacier Ridge fills Dollywood’s Timber Canyon, Wildwood Grove, Wilderness Pass and Upper Craftsman’sValley with an expansive arctic experience sure to inspire and delight guests. Wilderness Pass serves as one of the highlights of Glacier Ridge thanks to the Wonderful Christmas! Plaza Tree Show, which features a 50-ft. tall animated tree sparkling to life to present a fully-synchronized, dazzling light show throughout the evening. Each show is capped by an immersive snow finale! Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas - Courtesy of dollywood.com Additionally, Dollywood features indoor and outdoor stages with special shows. The festival’s headliner, “Christmas in the Smokies,” has been a must-see for families every Christmas season since it began in 1990. Many other Dollywood Christmas classics return including “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” “O’ Holy Night,” “Christmas with the Kingdom Heirs,” “Heart of the Holidays,” “Candlelight Carolers,” “The Mistletones,” “Appalachian Christmas with the Smoky Mountain String Band,” “Holiday Wild Roots” and more. Returning this year on Friday and Saturday evenings is the “Merry & Bright!” fireworks display, which provides a sparkling ending to the day. And for those looking to celebrate the holidays with the perfect family meal, Dollywood’s team of chefs have a menu full of culinary surprises sure to delight. From herb-roasted turkey breast and citrus-glazed carved ham to chicken pot pie in a bread cone, there are a number of savory items to satisfy every appetite. A number of unique items abound including eggnog cupcakes, gingerbread-dusted funnel cake, holiday limeade and more. An Olde Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City Christmas lights in Silver Dollar City - Courtesy of silverdollarcity.com Branson, Missouri - Nov. 5 - Dec. 30 Bright lights line streets, buildings, pathways and trees during Silver Dollar City's An Old Time Christmas. This season marks the debut of a new production show Coming Home For Christmas, along with over 6.5 million lights, an elaborate 8-story animated Christmas tree, a light parade, holiday foods and more. Throughout the streets of The City carolers sing and stroll, while the centerpiece of Joy On Town Square, an 8-story Christmas tree, and surrounding lights glow spectacularly. Even brighter is Christmas in Midtown with its remarkable display of light tunnels, wreath portals, flying angels and special effects 9-stories tall. For thrill seekers, rides soar under the Ozark Mountain starlight with all the Christmas lights visible below. Plus, craftsman in the Christmas spirit demonstrate glass-blowing wood carving and pottery, creating one-of-a-kind heirlooms. The City's stages offer more than 30 shows each day and night including the longtime favorite production, A Dickens' Christmas Carol. The all new show, Coming Home for Christmas, features a live band and a cast of 14 singers and dancers presenting holiday music, stories and family traditions. Other productions include The Living Nativity and the Saloon Frontier Fa-La-La Follies. Rudolph's Holly Jolly™ Christmas Light Parade winds through The City each evening with lighted floats, characters, dancers and performers. To add to the festivities, menus offer a variety of seasonal treats such as a Holiday Dinner with smoked turkey, ham, prime rib and trimmings; specialty soups like potato leek; Silver Dollar City's Miner's Beef Stew; plus, a variety of sweets such as hot chocolate and wassail, s'mores or warm apple dumplings with homemade cinnamon ice cream. Tasting Passports let guests sample their way through The City. WinterFest at Kings Island WinterFest Wonderland Parade at Kings Island - Courtesy of visitkingsisland.com Mason, Ohio - Nov. 25 - Dec. 31 WinterFest is an unforgettable holiday experience where Kings Island transforms into 11 enchanting winter wonderlands. Voted in 2021 as one of the top Theme Park Holiday Events in the country by USA TODAY readers, the annual event features ice skating on the Royal Fountain, the Eiffel Tower turned into a magical Christmas tree, the WinterFest Wonderland Parade, more than five million lights and live entertainment throughout the park. Plus, experience up to 20 rides including Mystic Timbers and Kings Mills Antique Autos. Cincinnati’s premier holiday event is open select nights in November and December. Guests will be treated to a grandiose showcase of dazzling displays and extravagantly decorated floats with the WinterFest Wonderland Parade filled with classic holiday themes such as toy boxes, gingerbread houses, choo-choo trains, and more. This year, special live entertainment acts include the all-new Swingin’ Into Christmas, plus Tinker’s Toy Factory, Jingle Jazz, Cool Yule Christmas and so much more. Visitors can participate in holiday fun like skating on Snow Flake Lake, decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus and getting a family photo with the big man in red himself! Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Busch Gardens Williamsburg - Courtesy of buschgardens.com Williamsburg, Virginia - Nov. 11 - Jan 8, 2023 The World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park is once again transformed with over ten million twinkling lights, one of the largest holiday displays in North America. Enjoy heart-warming holiday shows and classics such as Santa’s Workshop, the Christmas Town Express and ‘Twas that Night ice skating show. Over 20 rides and coasters pair thrilling moments with holiday cheer. During "Santa’s Fireside Feast" presented by Coca-Cola, guests gather around the majestic castle as Santa recounts a classic Christmas story while elves prepare a scrumptious all-you-care-to-eat meal and Mrs. Claus dazzles the dining room with holiday cheer. Visitors can also find a number of seasonal characters in the park's different sections, which are themed after various countries. In England's Kidsington Palace, families can snap a photo with Father Christmas and enjoy a drink in front of the fireplace. In Festa Italia, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Clarice can be found in Rudolph's Winter Wonderland, while Frosty the Snowman & Gingy the Gingerbread Man can be found in France. Families are invited to participate in an all-new holiday scavenger hunt celebrating traditions around the world including Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Pick up a clue sheet in England to identify holiday symbols throughout the park and redeem a sweet treat at Emporium once all have been found. Throughout the park, festive treats, holiday shopping and special photo opportunities complete this holiday tradition for friends and families. Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Christmas on Ice - Courtesy of buschgardens.comTampa, Florida - Nov. 14 - Jan. 9, 2023 Just like its Virginia counterpart, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay puts on its own spectacular Christmas festival. Visitors can experience the joy of the season up close with animal encounters, thrilling rides, holiday inspired culinary delights and festive shows. The park's longest running classic holiday show, Christmas on Ice, returns this year to the Moroccan Palace Theater. This inspiring skating production transforms the stage with incredible feats of skating athleticism for a truly unmissable show set to holiday classic songs. At night, enjoy classic holiday tunes and watch festive bursts of Christmas colors as they cover the sky in a dazzling fireworks and fountain display (offered on the Festival Field every Saturday and select nights of the event). Visitors can ride the Holly Jolly Express and celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with favorite songs of the season and wild views of Busch Gardens' 65-acre veldt, home to giraffes, rhinos, zebras and more. In the Pantopia section, Rudolph's Winter Wonderland features the famous reindeer and all his friends. And, in Santa's North Pole Experience, jolly elves guide guests to see Santa in his workshop as he prepares for the holiday season. Great for Christmas photo opportunities, this fun and festive activity is perfect for making memories with your family and friends. Other memorable shows include Storytime with Mrs. Claus, Three Kings Journey, and Elmo's Christmas Wish. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom's Main Street at Walt Disney World - Courtesy of wdwnt.com Orlando, Florida - Nov. 8 - Dec. 22 Holiday cheer will fill the Magic Kingdom as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party returns this year on 24 select nights in November and December. A 65-foot-tall Christmas tree, adorned with dazzling lights and ornaments, welcomes guests to the park where they’ll discover favorite attractions featuring special holiday overlays, Disney characters dressed in the spirit of the season and seasonal entertainment, seasonal nighttime spectaculars, transformations of favorite attractions, special food and beverages and more. All the standard entertainment is back this year. First off, Mickey Mouse and his pals appear on the Cinderella Castle stage for the fifth year of the Christmas extravaganza “Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration.” The show features singers, dancers and surprises all choreographed to nostalgic and modern medleys of holiday music. And every night, Minnie Mouse orchestrates a sparkling nighttime spectacular with dazzling fireworks, castle projections and seasonal songs in “Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks.” Of course, don’t miss Santa Claus as he joins Mickey Mouse and friends in the classic “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.” As well, partygoers can indulge in complimentary cookies and hot cocoa at locations throughout Magic Kingdom. Select Magic Kingdom attractions will get a jolly holiday overlay with Jungle Cruise transforming into Jingle Cruise once again, and special holiday makeovers of Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Speedway, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, and Mad Tea Party returning for the first time since 2019! New sweet treats this year include Texas-sized Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallow Meringue and Candied Pecans found at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café to go along with returning favorites like the Mickey-shaped Cinnamon Roll with White Icing and Holiday Sprinkles at Main Street Bakery.

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