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20 Fabulously Free Things to Do in D.C.

By The Budget Travel Editors
April 9, 2014
Washington-DC_Jefferson-Memorial_exterior_13951137
Songquan Deng/Dreamstime
Let freedom ring! Did you know that amid the trappings of office, pomp and ceremony, and glitz and glamor of Washington, D.C., you’ll find more high-quality freebies than anywhere else on earth? Who’s ready to binge on cherry blossoms, food, art, dinosaurs, astronauts—and a 45-carat diamond? Here’s how!

1. CHERRY BLOSSOMS!

After a long winter, these beautiful blooms make April the coolest month

Where: National Mall

The gorgeous tableau of Washington decked out in its spring finery—thanks to its countless cherry trees in bloom—could melt the heart of the coldest-hearted politician. The trees were given to Washington in 1912 by the city of Tokyo and attract about a half-million visitors each spring to blossom hotspots like the Tidal Basin. The National Cherry Blossom Festival traditionally runs through mid-April, with a grand parade this year on Saturday April 12 from 10 a.m. to noon. But your best bet for viewing the trees crowd-free is to hit the Mall before dawn to catch the blossoms as they're caressed by the dawn's early light.

nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

2. LINCOLN MEMORIAL

Not just a history lesson in marble, but an emotionally charged work of art

Where: 2 Lincoln Memorial Circle

Prepare to be surprised by the Lincoln Memorial. Most visitors find it unexpectedly moving, and the sculpture of Lincoln himself, by American master Daniel Chester French, is much more than a monumental work of public art. The 19-foot marble statue of the 16th president draws viewers deep into the thoughts and feelings of the president who led our nation through the conflict that nearly destroyed it and still manages to define it. This is not just a check on your must-see list. Reserve at least a half-hour to read Lincoln's immortal words, see the sculpture from different angles, and reflect on what has and has not changed in the 150 years since his presidency.

nps.gov/linc

3. NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART

America's only Da Vinci painting is just the beginning of this immense trove

Where: 6th Street and Constitution Avenue

The National Gallery of Art opened in 1937 and continues to hold its own even with such famous neighbors as the Capitol and the Washington Monument. Its extensive collection of Italian Renaissance masterpieces and works by Impressionists and early 20th-century painters is worth a stop. Don't miss Leonardo da Vinci's Ginevra de'Benci (the only da Vinci painting in the U.S.), Johannes Vermeer's A Lady Writing a Letter, and Paul Gaugin's Self Portrait.

nga.gov

4. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN

Think you know the history of Native America? Think again

Where: 4th Street and Independence Avenue

Art, culture, history, and even food come alive at this exceptional museum, part of the Smithsonian Institution. With hands-on programs for families and a mix of permanent and temporary exhibitions, this is the definitive place to learn the true story of America's native peoples, from the earliest times to the present day. The museum's distinctive Mitsitam Native Foods Café is unlike any other D.C. restaurant, serving fry bread, buffalo, and other Native American classics.

nmai.si.edu

5. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY

From serious history to classic TV props, America's attic has something for everyone

Where: 14th Street and Constitution Avenue

Here, you'll find countless artifacts from the nation's history, ranging in gravitas from battle-scarred flags to the inaugural gowns of First Ladies to Archie Bunker's living room chair. Especially noteworthy at the moment are the excellent exhibits "The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden" and "Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863, and the March on Washington, 1963.

americanhistory.si.edu

6. UNITED STATES CAPITOL

More than just the place where the Senate and Congress convene, this building is a living history museum

Where: Visitor center at 1st Street and East Capitol Street

From the Senate and House chambers to the pageantry of the building's dome and art collection, this majestic building deserves at least an hour of your time. If you'd like to see a congressional session in action, your best bet is to contact your senator or congressperson well in advance of your trip to see what options there might be. Hour-long Capitol tours are offered Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, and it's best to reserve a spot on one of these popular tours in advance.

visitthecapitol.gov

7. WALKING TOUR OF THE NATIONAL MALL

Get an expert's-eye-view of the monuments and memorials

Where: Tours meet at southwest corner of 15th Street and Constitution Avenue and end at the Lincoln Memorial

Okay, this isn't exactly free. DC by Foot operates a two-hour walking tour of the National Mall that invites you to "pay what you like" when the tour is over. In money-mad Washington, that's close enough to a freebie for us! Our one suggestion is: Don't be a jerk.

dcbyfoot.com

8. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEMORIAL

This memorial to the civil rights movement's leader in this once-segregated city is a must

Where: 1964 Independence Avenue

This four-acre memorial site between the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial is the first on the central axis of the Mall that doesn't commemorate a war or a president. It features a 28-foot-high granite sculpture by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin, along with a crescent wall engraved with King quotations chosen by historians and writers.

nps.gov/mlkm

9. VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL

This memorial transforms a painful era in U.S. history into a beautiful touchstone

Where: 5 Henry Bacon Drive

This deceptively simple wall, designed by American sculptor Maya Lin, lists the names of more than 58,000 American men and women who died in the Vietnam War. The enormity of the loss and the presence of visitors searching for a loved one among the names, which are listed chronologically, make this understated memorial unique and unforgettable.

nps.gov/vive

10. JEFFERSON MEMORIAL

The author of the Declaration of Independence stands watch over the capital's ups and downs

Where: 900 Ohio Drive

Whether you think of Thomas Jefferson as the third president, the author of the Declaration of Independence, the hypocrite who opposed slavery but was himself a slaveholder, or the guy who implores Lisa to tell the truth in a memorial episode of The Simpsons, there's no denying that his memorial is beautifully designed and enjoys a particularly pleasant piece of real estate.

nps.gov/thje

11. NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM

From the Wright Brothers to the moon landing and beyond, this is a favorite with kids from 1 to 100

Where: Independence Avenue at 6th Street

Home to vintage flying machines like Charles Lindburgh's 1927 Spirit of St. Louis plane and the 1969 Apollo 11 command module, the National Air and Space Museum is one of the most kid-friendly branches of the Smithsonian. Its lineup features a 20-minute planetarium show starring Sesame Street characters, and air-travel-themed story times, where little ones can keep their hands busy building model planes and rocket ships. And don't forget to stock up on the astronaut ice cream at the gift shop!

airandspace.si.edu

12. NATIONAL ZOO

While most zoos come with a beastly price tag, this one's free—and open to visitors in the early morning!

Where: 3001 Connecticut Avenue

There's more to the always-free National Zoo than giant pandas (though, c'mon, what's not to love about wild animals that look like stuffed toys?). Looking for an early-morning destination to hit when the museums are shuttered? The 163-acre grounds of the zoo generally open by 6 a.m.-ish—four hours before its exhibits officially come to life. Stick around and you'll be rewarded with the sight of six resident orangutans making their way—hand over hand—across an almost 500-foot-long stretch of cables connecting two areas.

nationalzoo.si.edu

13. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Long before our ancestors walked this land, there were dinosaurs—and their fossils are just one of the attractions here

Where: 10th Street and Constitution Avenue

The nation's natural history museum will get its first-ever T-rex on Tuesday April 15! It will be in august company, joining other fossils, animal exhibits, geologic formations, and much more. And while the phrase "natural history" may not immediately bring to mind French royalty, you can ogle the 45-carat Hope Diamond, which once belonged to Louis XIV, here.

mnh.si.edu

14. THE WHITE HOUSE

You might call it the world's most coveted address—here's how to nab a free tour!

Where:1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

It's not impossible to do a tour of the White House, but it does take some planning. And a lot of patience. Once you know when you are going to be in D.C., contact the office of your Member of Congress to request tickets. Requests can't be made more than six months in advance, but no less than 21 days before your trip. It can take five months to book one of the self-guided tours, though. Worth it to get access to the country's most important residence.

whitehouse.gov

15. NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

See pics of every American president—who apparently have never been publicity shy

Where: 8th Street and F Street

The stately Old Patent Office Building is a lovely showcase for portraits of every president, plus celebrated athletes, artists, and many more notable Americans.

npg.si.edu

16. WASHINGTON MONUMENT

We cannot tell a lie: The view from up here is unbeatable, but the monument is closed until May 14

Where: The National Mall

This immense obelisk was damaged by the earthquake of 2011 and is slated to reopen to visitors on May 14. If normal hours and admission procedures are resumed, you can obtain free tickets on a first-come first-served basis starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Washington Monument Lodge at 15th Street adjacent to the monument. (Advance tickets are available for a nominal service charge.)

nps.gov/wamo

17. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Shh! There's more than just books in this spectacular collection!

Where: 101 Independence Avenue

Just a taste of what the Library of Congress has to offer includes: a first edition of L. Frank baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, an early Wonder Woman comic book, the 85,000+ pages of comedian Bob Hope's joke file, and, oh yeah, a Gutenberg Bible of 1455 printed on vellum and one of the world's only perfect remaining copies. Rotating exhibits on literature, history, and the arts are ongoing.

loc.gov

18. FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY

Whoa. Betcha thought the world's greatest collection of Shakespeare manuscripts was across the pond...

Where: 201 East Capitol Street

Words, words, words, as Hamlet cryptically muttered, are the stuff of this place, which is home to a copy of a 1623 First Folio (the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays), an Elizabethan-style theater that regularly stages the Bard's work (not to mention music and the work of, y'know, lesser-known playwrights), and the world's finest collection of Shakespeare-related materials and other Renaissance-era books and manuscripts.

folger.edu

19. NATIONAL ARCHIVES

You, the people, should see "We the People" in person!

Where: 700 Pennsylvania Avenue

Sure, the name may sound ho-hum, but you may have heard of some of the manuscripts on display in the rotunda of the National Archives: The U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence

archives.gov/nae

20. ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

A stirring reminder of the heroic sacrifices that have been made—and continue to be made—to defend our freedom

Where: Arlington, VA.

Unfortunately, most visitors make a rather disrespectful dash across the Potomac for quick photo ops on this hallowed ground, where more than 300,000 American heroes are buried. Instead, set aside part of a day for a 2.5-hour name-your-own-price walking tour that includes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the grave of John F. Kennedy, and the Robert E. Lee Memorial (dcbyfoot.com).

arlingtoncemetery.mil

WHERE TO STAY

While so many D.C. attractions come without a price tag, hotel rooms aren't one of them. On the contrary, lodgings in this town can be expensive. But these reasonable residences in the hip, lively Dupont Circle neighborhood will serve you well on your stay:

The Normandy offers European style and comfort near the great food and nightlife scene around Dupont Circle (2118 Wyoming Avenue, thenormandydc.com)

Tabard Inn, named for the inn in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, has welcomed visitors for nearly a century and offers a Cherry Blossom Festival Special (1739 N Street, tabardinn.com)

Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast is comfortable and reliable in the heart of a vibrant neighborhood a short walk from the Mall (1708 16th Street, dcakwaaba.com).

Keep reading
Budget Travel Lists

America's Coolest Small Towns 2014

#1 Berlin, MD (Population: 4,563) If you found yourself admiring the scenery in the films Tuck Everlasting and The Runaway Bride and thought to yourself, why can't I live somewhere as beautiful as that, you might consider visiting Berlin, MD, where both movies were shot. Not far from Maryland's teeming Ocean City and gorgeous Assateague Island, Berlin's downtown is a National Register Historic District and plays host to fun events all year long, from the regular farmers market to one-of-a-kind bashes like the Berlin Fiddlers Convention, New Year's fireworks, Victorian Christmas (complete with horse-drawn carriages), and, yes, even bathtub races. The town draws beach lovers, hikers, kayakers, and bird watchers-and history aficionados will want to stop by Merry Sherwood Plantation, Taylor House Museum, and the historic downtown.    #2 Cazenovia, NY (Population: 2,756) If Central New York isn't already on your travel radar, get ready for a big, and very pleasant, surprise! Cazenovia, on the shores of Cazenovia Lake, may make you feel like you've discovered the perfect small town you thought didn't really exist. Start with a stroll down Albany Street to get a sense of the community's long history, with architectural styles dating back to New York's colonial days. The Scottish-themed Brae Loch Inn only increases your sense of having escaped the "real world" (or at least its cares), and the inn serves an exceptional Sunday brunch.   #3 Buckhannon, WV (Population: 5,645) Whether you're rafting down the Buckhannon River, delving into local Civil War History at the Latham House, or tucking into a "hot belly" BBQ pork sandwich at CJ Maggies American Grill, Buckhannon is a charming host. Smack dab in the heart of West Virginia, Buckhannon received the most nominations of any town in this year's Coolest Small Towns preliminary round. With an artsy Main Street (with specialty shops, antiques, and galleries), historic downtown, and a paradise for nature and wildlife lovers just outside of town, Buckhannon just may be "the little town that could."   #4 Travelers Rest, SC (Population: 4,750) Travelers Rest gets its travel-mag-ready moniker from the pioneer days, when travelers followed a trail dotted with the occasional tavern or inn. But the town offers not only restful, comfy lodgings but also world-class outdoor activities. Nearby state parks and bike trails (including the legendary 13.5-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail) basically invite you stay outdoors all day long. TR's vibrant downtown is the place to browse for antiques, sip from artisanal coffee, and indulge in Southern faves like BBQ, fried chicken, and waffles. We congratulate Travelers Rest on its succeeding in making the Coolest Small Towns list of 15 finalists for the second year running! #5 Mathews, VA (Population: 8,884) Mathews is not just a town but also Virginia's second smallest county, with just 84 square miles and no traffic lights. But we know "small" and "cool" go together like beaches and cottages. Speaking of which, Mathews includes miles of Chesapeake Bay shoreline that make it a prime summer destination for beachgoers, bird watchers, cyclists, fishermen, and kayakers. The General Store of your small-town dreams has been converted into a visitor center that's also devoted to the work of local artists. Don't miss Point Comfort Lighthouse, and the overflowing seafood (including fresh fish, blue crab, clams, oysters, and mussels). #6 Nevada City, CA (Population: 3,046) Nevada City may be a little off the beaten path (60 miles northeast of Sacramento, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains), but residents value the Gold Country town for its music and art scene, food, and proximity to some of California's amazing rivers, lakes, and the Sierras. For live music, locals swear by the Miners Foundry. For a Sundance feel without the hordes, savor the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. And if you're hankering for a pro cycling race and don't plan on dropping in on the Tour de France anytime soon, hightail it to the Nevada City Classic.   #7 Rockport, TX (Population: 9.133) Never heard of Rockport? Well, we hadn't either, which just means it's now not only a candidate for Coolest Small Town but also for one of our best-kept secrets. Here, artists, saltwater fishermen, and birdwatchers have been lured to Texas's warm Gulf coast. That combination of activities and interests makes Rockport that kind of town where people return summer after summer for vacation; and many of them eventually decide to relocate permanently to this friendly place. Rockport is also home to the Texas Maritime Museum, the Rockport Center for the Arts (with changing monthly exhibits by local artists), and of course beautiful Rockport Beach.   #8 Estes Park, CO (Population: 6,017) When your town is the headquarters for Rocky Mountain National Park, you've got a pretty good head start on other cool burghs. Skiing and snowshoeing the surrounding mountains is a must in winter, and rafting, fishing, and wildlife viewing are on tap in warmer months (if you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of the iconic bighorn sheep with its curved horns). Speaking of "on tap," the area abounds with craft breweries and excellent wineries, plus world-class dishes prepared by imaginative chefs that belie the small-town environment. The best news of all may be the, in the wake of last fall's devastating flooding, 90 percent of the area's lodging, restaurants, and attractions are open for business. (Estes Park invites you to "Stay Strong," with proceeds from your stay helping to fund recovery efforts.)    #9 Galena, IL (Population: 3,400) Nestled among rolling hills along Illinois's Galena River, this bustling town has a thriving downtown with unique boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Visit one of the area's three local wineries, hike the easy, beautiful hills just outside town, kayak the gentle rivers, and golf at one of the state's most prized courses. Even non-locals find Galena's history fascinating, with must-sees like the Ulysses Grant Home and Museum, where the Civil War general and 18th president once lived (the museum's exhibits are dedicated to Grant's life and major battles he was involved in, such as the siege of Vicksburg).   #10 Elkin, NC (Population: 4,024) In the lovely Yadkin Valley Wine Region of North Carolina, Elkin is about one hour north of Charlotte in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here, you'll find just about every outdoor activity you might like, including hiking, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, bird watching, and cycling. But when you're ready to relax after a day in the wild, the town's galleries, historic sites, shops, theaters, wine trails, and restaurants that offer a wide range of tastes for everyone, from fine dining and gourmet sweets to an old-fashioned soda shoppe with "world famous hotdogs." Fun happenings include the Yadkin Valley Wine Festival, the Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival, Elkin Fiddlers music, and fantastic Cruise events.  

Budget Travel Lists

Our Coolest Contest Ever Ends at Midnight Monday Night!

Wow. Just wow. Budget Travel's Coolest Small Town in America 2014 contest ends Monday night at midnight, and the towns that currently hold the number one and two spots in our voting are sure making things interesting. Berlin, MD, the current frontrunner, has created a music video to promote its campaign, featuring a bluegrass-style song, "Cool Berlin," by Steve Frene (I dare you not to sing along to this catchy ditty). The folks in Berlin also set up a website dedicated to the town's coolness, with a link to our voting page. Meanwhile, in what I like to call "The Tweet Heard 'Round the World," New York State's governor, Andrew Cuomo, endorsed Cazenovia in a Twitter post, urging New Yorkers to rally around the current second-place upstate town. With bragging rights and potential tourism dollars on the line, the mayors of the two towns—two pretty cool fellows themselves—aren't just sitting idly by. Cazenovia's mayor, Kurt Wheeler, and Berlin's mayor, William "Gee" Williams III, have each put a growler of tasty local craft beer on the line. If Berlin wins, Wheeler will deliver a frothy decanter from Cazenovia's Empire Farmstead Brewery. If Cazenovia wins, Williams will serve up suds from Berlin's Burley Oak Brewing Co. You don't have to live in one of our 15 finalists to get in on the action. You have till midnight Monday night to cast your vote for the Coolest Small Town in America. As of Sunday evening, the standings were: 1. Berlin, MD 2. Cazenovia, NY 3. Buckhannon, WV 4. Travelers Rest, SC 5. Mathews, VA 6. Nevada City, CA 7. Rockport, TX 8. Estes Park, CO 9. Galena, IL 10. Elkin, NC 11. Kelleys Island, OH 12. Deadwood, SD 13. Pahoa, HI 14. Huntington Woods, MI 15. Everlades City, FL

Budget Travel Lists

6 of the World's Best Biking Destinations

With spring just around the corner, it's hard not to fantasize about the days when the sun starts to dry the road, offering optimal conditions for hours of cycling. If you're serious about riding, no doubt you have a few go-to spots within an hour or two from home, if not right outside your doorstep. Of course, there are also times when you itch to travel farther afield for a little more adventure. Here, six fantastic travel destinations for cyclists, whether you're ready to pack up your bike and take it across the country—or perhaps across an ocean. Superb Scenery: Villefranche-sur-Mer, FranceThis commune in the south of France is the perfect starting point for exploring the French Riviera by bike. There are several routes you can choose between Nice, which adjoins Villefranche, and Monaco roughly 20km away. As one might expect, the coastal routes are fairly heavy with traffic, but if you take the inland routes, you can ride all day without seeing a single car. And of course, there are the amazingly quaint French villages, which are great for family activities or a post-ride stroll. A must-visit on this trip is Èze, a small village on the cliffs above Monaco, where there are amazing walking paths, lovely cafes, and of course, great wine. Unexpected Solitude: Malibu, CaliforniaYou probably wouldn't think of Los Angeles as a cycling-friendly getaway, but you'd be surprised. Once you get into the mountains above Malibu, you can really disappear. And there's virtually no traffic up there—definitely not what one expects in L.A. It's a great place to train, because there's lots of climbing and the weather is great year-round. There are also many camping options in the area, and the kids will love the beaches. Plus, it's not too far from the hustle and bustle, in case you want to go out for incredible Mexican or super-fresh sushi after a long day of riding. Country Roads: Greenville, South CarolinaI may be a little biased, because I live in Greenville, but it really does offer some of the best riding on the east coast. Plus, the area has plenty to offer for other outdoor sports as well, including some beautiful hiking trails. You can ride straight from downtown and be at Paris Mountain in 20 minutes and there are countless miles of country roads to choose from. On a single visit, you could easily go without riding the same road twice. Downtown is also home to tons of of bars and restaurants downtown—two of my favorites are the Sip rooftop wine bar and Soby's. And of course, you'll find plenty of nice places to rest your head, including Hotel Domestique. A True Escape: ColombiaColombia is still way off-the-beaten path for a lot of travelers, but it's truly a unique destination worth exploring—especially by bike. The people here are some of the nicest I've ever met, and if you know the right places and the right people, you can really have some great support along the roads. Cycling is the second largest sport in the country (behind football—as in soccer—of course), and the scenery is as varied as it is spectacular. Also, two words: The Andes. If you're after challenging climbs, this is the perfect spot. Post-ride Relaxing: Blackberry Farm, TennesseeBlackberry Farm resort reallly is in the middle of nowhere, so you can imagine the kind of traffic you'll find on the surrounding roads (read: little to none). The roads themselves are great: it's a fairly hilly area, and you can ride a nice climb from the resort up into the nearby state parks. Of all the cycling trips I've taken, Blackberry Farm offers the best place to unwind, thanks largely to their amazing spa. Who wouldn't want a massage after a long day of riding? Cycling on the Side: Gargas, FranceProvence is one of best places to ride if you're not really looking for a lot of climbing. The area features plenty of easy riding for all levels. In addition to being bike-friendly, Gargas offers plenty of indulgent activities for the whole family. Stroll around vineyards, eat world-class food, or have lunch by the pool at La Coqillad's bar. George Hincapie is one of the most recognized professional cyclists in the world with numerous national championships and professional victories to his credit. He has traveled around the world devoting time to his passion for riding and has created a line of custom professional sportswear for cyclists, available at Hincapie.com. More recently, along with his brother Rich, the Hincapies opened Hotel Domestique in the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills, drawing inspiration from George's world travels.

Budget Travel Lists

6 Ways To Save On A Ski Vacation

Winter is calling your name and the athletes of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, have left you inspired. You're ready for a halfpipe or some fast downhill tracks of your own, but unlike sponsored professional athletes, you're going to have to pay your own way to get there. Whether you're young and on a budget, looking to bring the whole family and not break the bank, or just staying smart with your money, there are several ways to make the almighty dollar stretch further when traveling to a ski resort. Lift Ticket DealsBecause of the season's slow start, lodging and ticket deals are more plentiful than usual. Follow your favorite ski resorts on social media as those are often the channels resorts use to post last minute lift ticket deals—these may come in the form of single-day specials, multi-day passes, or buy-one-lift-ticket-get-one-free deals. Some resorts also offer discounted lift tickets when you show your season pass from another resort, an enticing way to get you to ski with them, rather than with the resort that issued the original pass. Of course, if you're not interested in social media, there are traditional ways to find a deal, such as searching the resort's website or calling and asking, especially regarding multi-day passes. Also keep in mind, the more you ski or ride, the more you save. Family-FriendlyIf you're taking the kids, look for resorts that allow children to ski for free or at a discounted price. Often the discount comes with an age limit, for instance, June Mountain allows kids 12 and under to ski for free. Find out which resorts offer this incentive if youngsters are coming along. It's a great way to save money, especially if they grow tired before the end of the day. You won't be bummed that you purchased a full-price lift ticket that only saw half-day use. Do, however, read the fine print. Often these deals come with blackout dates or the need to purchase a certain number of adult tickets to receive free ones for the kids. Getting and Staying There: Look for Package DealsAir packages and/or discounted room rates for staying more than one night are available at many resorts. If you plan to fly to the ski resort of your choice, look for air package deals, or deals that allow you to purchase a pack of flights. Grab an air pack of six flights, use four with the family and have two left over for a second trip down the road—maybe for a romantic trip with the spouse or a weekend adventure with friends. As for lodging, planning to stay for more than one or two nights and will often land you a discount. Many resorts also offer lift and lodging packages based on how many nights you stay, so make sure to ask when you're booking your reservations. Mobile AppsWhen choosing a ski resort to visit, find out if they have a mobile deals app to download to your smartphone (for instance, search for Mammoth Lakes Resort Deals and Coupons in the App Store or on Google Play). Not only will it help you find discounts for local restaurants, shopping, and activities, but it will help you navigate your way through a town you may be unfamiliar with or find new ideas for places to check out even if you've been there before. Deals can range from a discount on your bill to a free glass of wine with a meal purchase, and everywhere in between. Visit MidweekWhen at all possible, visit ski resorts midweek. Not only will there be fewer crowds, but resort towns are often trying to fill beds Monday through Thursday. Trust me, you will find discounted prices and deals to reward you for choosing to visit in the "off" times. Depending on storm cycles, visiting midweek may also help you find fresh tracks. Less people on the hill means also more pockets of fresh powder waiting just for you. This is especially important if you are traveling with the family and may not be able to make "first chair." When you visit resorts midweek, you'll most likely only be competing for fresh tracks with the locals rather than all of the other visitors who are just as eager as you. Buy Gear NowThink you're going to need some new skis or outerwear soon? Now is the time to buy. Visit a resort for spring skiing and peruse local shops. The closer you get to the end of the season, the bigger the deals you are likely to find. Retailers need to get rid of their inventory to make room for next year's newer and cooler items, so you could really score; even more so if the family is with you—update everyone for half the price. This article was written by John Urdi, the Executive Director of Mammoth Lakes Tourism in Mammoth Lakes, California, home of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. He has spent 28 years in the ski industry at resorts across the country.

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