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Travel News: 8 Beautiful Places to See Spring Flowers

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
January 12, 2022
Tulips- keukenhof gardens-lisse, holland
Courtesy randy09/myBudgetTravel
From Oregon to D.C. to Amsterdam and beyond, Spring 2019 will offer festivals and botanical gardens that surround you with the Technicolor gorgeousness of flowers in bloom.

Can you feel it in the air? Spring is on its way, and with it, the exquisite flowers that we've been waiting for all winter. It turns out some of our favorite travel destinations in the U.S. and Western Europe happen to be home to some of the most beautiful explosions of spring flowers on Earth. Here, eight places to see the gorgeous spectacle.

1. TULIP TIME IN AMSTERDAM

Step into a Technicolor wonderland. Keukenhof Gardens (keukenhof.nl/en) outside Amsterdam is one of the world's most spectacular flower gardens in April when the tulips are in bloom. Take a guided tour, or rent a bike to go exploring. Or if you really want to indulge, book an Avalon Waterways (avalonwaterways.com) Tulip Time river cruises. The Netherlands is tulip-crazy all spring long, and Budget Travel loves Amsterdam for museums filled with Van Goghs and Vermeers, its charming canals, and affordable hotels.

2 CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

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Washington, D.C., decked out in cherry trees could melt the heart of even a politician. The trees were given to Washington in 1912 by the city of Tokyo and they attract about a half-million visitors each spring to blossom hotspots like the Tidal Basin. The National Cherry Blossom Festival (nationalcherryblossomfestival.org) traditionally runs through mid-April, with a grand parade this year on Saturday April 13. Your best bet for viewing the trees crowd-free is to visit before the parade weekend and hit the Mall before dawn to catch the blossoms as they're caressed by the dawn's early light.

3. EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FLOWER & GARDEN FESTIVAL IN ORLANDO

Walt Disney World is not just for kids, and the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (disneyworld.disney.go.com) will delight grownups! March 6 through June 3, you'll find gorgeous blooming gardens, topiaries featuring plants in the shape of Disney characters, and outdoor kitchens cooking up seasonal treats, plus live entertainment.

4. ROSE FESTIVAL IN PORTLAND, OREGON

Portland, Oregon, the "Rose City" is heaven on earth for flower lovers in May and June. The Portland Rose Festival (rosefestival.org) includes parades and CityFair, with rides, concerts, and food along the waterfront. The festival also honors outstanding young women from local high schools with scholarships and mentoring from community leaders.

5. PARIS AND VERSAILLES

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If you visit Paris in springtime, don't stay cooped up inside, no matter how beautiful museums like the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay may be. After all, the Louvre's collection includes not only paintings, drawings, and sculptures, but also the Carrousel gardens and Tuileries, which offer explosions of spring color, fragrant paths, and inviting landscaping. And for a real dose of spring flowers, don't miss the Luxembourg Gardens and a day trip to Versailles!

6. GIVERNY, FRANCE

One of our favorite quotes about flowers comes from Claude Monet: "I work at my garden all the time and with love. What I need most are flowers, always. My heart is forever in Giverny." A trip to Giverny, about an hour outside Paris, will get you up close and personal with the ponds covered in water that inspired the artist, the tiny village where the important Impressionist lived and worked from 1883 to 1926.

7. DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN, PHOENIX, ARIZONA

Ready for something a little different? Get succulent! That's right, the Desert Botanical Garden (dbg.org) in Phoenix includes over 4,000 species of desert plants, including flowering cacti. Visitors to the Southwest during its flower season marvel at the beauty of these amazing prickly plants.The garden is one of the world's premier centers for the study of desert plants and aims to promote education, conservation, and protection of the plants of the Sonoran Desert as well as other desert plants around the world.

8. HAMPTON COURT, LONDON

We love the sometimes overlooked Hampton Court Palace (hrp.org.uk), reachable by boat from central London and arguably the most beautiful of the U.K.'s royal palaces. When visiting this site, substantially redesigned and rebuilt by Christopher Wren in the 17th century and heavily associated in earlier times with Henry VIII (of the six wives), you may very well lose your head over the palace's flower gardens and garden maze.

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Inspiration

4 Classic Cocktail Recipes from Fancy Hotels—and Pro Tips for Making Them

Old-school cocktails are in vogue now, thanks to the comeback of cocktail culture and the glorification of everything retro, TV's Mad Men being a particularly fine example. We can't think of a better place than a chic hotel bar to sip an old fashioned from a heavy-bottomed tumbler while deep in thought. The only problem is, those lobby drinks can be a splurge, depending on what part of the world you're in—and how many you order. So we're bringing the bar to you, with these clever yet timeless cocktail recipes from swanky Hilton lounges across the country. While you're stirring them up, heed these three cocktail rules, straight from a barkeep at LvL25 at Conrad Miami, a lounge renowned for the Biscayne Bay views from its 25-story vantage point. Rule #1: Hit the grocery store before you mix up a cocktail. "Our secret is to use fresh ingredients. We marinate the fruit with sugar for a bit so the juice from the fruit comes out in the flavors of the drink." Rule #2: Use a stainless-steel cocktail shaker and pronged cocktail strainer to make drinks—not one of those built-in perforated strainers. "The pronged strainer allows the cocktail to breathe like a good glass of wine. It also ensures the mixed or muddled ingredients are strained out to ensure the highest drink quality." Rule #3: When at a hotel bar, go off menu. "Instead of ordering a signature drink, guests should ask the bartender to create a drink based on their liquor preference and sweet or savory tastes. A good bartender usually anticipates a guest’s needs by asking about their drink preferences first."

Inspiration

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Tequila!

I recently brought a little bit of Mexico home, hosting a tequila tasting for my friends in the Washington, D.C., area. I wanted to share stories from my travels in Mexico, show off my newly learned tequila tasting skills, and use the cheesy shot glass I brought specifically for the occasion in Mexico. I returned from a place that I didn't know existed. A place called Tequila, where for hundreds of years tequila has been distilled and perfected for tastings. I hopped a train, the Jose Cuervo Express, from Guadalajara, the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco. Train travel is a great way to take in the countryside, and the train ride to Tequila is both scenic and festive. If you think you might enjoy having a margarita with your breakfast, you can do so on the train, where snacks and, of course, tequila are served. Passing fields of agave, the plant from which tequila is made, you know you're getting close to Tequila. This town is designated as a Pueblo Mágicoor Magical Town, due to its rich culture and history. The Agave Landscape also holds a special designation by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The two-hour train ride is both interesting and peaceful, as the scenery changes from urban to rural. You know you're getting close as you breeze past valleys of blue agave stretching to the horizon. Resting at the bottom of the Tequila volcano, the valley's mineral-rich soil and semi-arid climate make growing conditions perfect for harvesting agave azul, blue agave, the basis for tequila. Upon departing the train, we took a bus to the agave fields, where our education in tequila making would begin. Field to Distillery Like true champagne from the Champagne wine region in France, Tequila can't come from just anywhere. To be called tequila, the blue agave plant must be grown in the state of Jalisco and specific regions in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. It's a labor-intensive process involving ajimador, a skilled harvester of the plants who likely has learned the craft from his parents. With the backdrop of the Tequila volcano and, of course, a margarita, I watched as a dashing, mustached jimador dressed in a cowboy hat, white button-down shirt, and jeans used a coa, a hoe-like tool with a sharp blade, to slice off the spikey green-blue stalks and show us the core of the agave, called the piña. Aptly named, it resembles a pineapple. It's this bulbous core that is hauled to the distillery for processing, but only after it's been allowed to mature in the fields over a period of eight to 12 years. During this time, the plant is pruned and taken care of to ensure healthy ripening and growth. Tequila Distillery Tour Back in town, steps away from the main cobblestoned square, we started our tour of La Rojeña, Cuervo's oldest distillery, and said to be the oldest active tequila distillery in the Western Hemisphere. Our first stop was the ovens where the piña are split apart and then cooked for 36 to 40 hours. Split upon cooling, the cooked agave is ready to taste. It's often described as having a sweet potato or burnt honey texture and flavor. To me it tasted sweet, like tequila candy. These agave chunks are then pressed to extract the juices, which are then fermented and distilled to create various kinds of tequila. To be called tequila, the spirit must be made in one of the designated Tequila regions in Mexico and also contain at least 51 percent blue agave. The blends are called mixto and won't be labeled as 100 percent tequila, as they contain added water and sugar. Even deeper than that, there are more types of tequila, including reposado, which is aged a minimum of two months, but not more than a year, in oak barrels, blanco, which is not aged and is bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than 60 days and usually in stainless-steel tanks…and more. Before my tour, I figured tequila was just tequila, but I was beginning to understand that the world of tequila is as complex as the drink itself. Our final stop on our tour was the Reserva de la Familia Cellar. Once reserved only for members of the Cuervo family, guests may now sign up for a tour that includes a visit. In the dimly lit cellar, my group and I sat on benches at a long wooden table surrounded by barrels, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to taste tequila straight from a barrel—110-proof tequila that had been aged for seven years, to be exact. Before my tequila tasting and tour, I had thought of tequila as a not-too-pleasant drink that would likely cause a bad hangover and get you pretty drunk prior to that. Though 110-proof tequila is super strong, it was also extremely smooth. Another experience that's open to the public and one of the higher-priced tour options is a visit to the old hacienda. We entered the large wooden doors of the hacienda, which is just across the street from the distillery, and were greeted with explosions of confetti and colorfully clad dancers. I was surprised and impressed by the festivities, including cowboys on horseback, colorfully dressed dancers, and another chance to learn more about how to pair tequila with a variety of surprising foods, including cheese and chocolate. Tasting Tequila: What You Need to Know and How to Share For those of you reading this who are thinking, "This is great, but I'm not going to the town of Tequila anytime soon; how can I enjoy tasting tequila and perhaps share it with my friends?" here's what I did on my tasting in an attempt to re-create the enjoyable, educational, and hangover-free experience I had in Mexico. I used the three varieties below from Maestro Tequilero, produced by Cuervo in Mexico, and had happy and surprised guests, who, like me, had previously only tried not-so-great tequila. Substitute your favorite brand and sip away. At home, I used miniature, shot-sized wineglasses (a small brandy snifter or something that's tapered at the top is the best type of glass to use) and encouraged guests to swirl, smell, and sip, similarly to a wine tasting. Tequila Tasting Menu Suggestions Tequila blanco,also called white or silver tequila, is 100 percent blue agave (no sugar added) and clear in color. Pair your favorite brand with citrus, including ceviche or chips and salsa, or try it with lime and sugar. Tequila reposado is aged, or "rested," in white oak barrels for two months to a year, giving it a mellow oak flavor while still bringing out the taste of the blue agave. It pairs well with garlic shrimp, chile-spiced foods, and buttery cheeses and is especially good with Buttermilk Blue Roth Kase Cheese. Ask your grocer for something similar if you can't find it. Tequila añejo is aged in white oak barrels for over a year in small batches. The longer aging process gives the tequila a stronger oak and more complex flavor, sort of like scotch. It pairs well with beef and desserts. I paired it with semisweet Ghirardelli chocolate. Like any strong alcoholic beverage, drink in moderation and enjoy! You might be surprised at how much you like tequila. Oh, and if you do throw a tasting, let me know how it goes and what you did. There are lots of different tequila pairings. Who knows? With your recommendations, I may decide to throw another tasting bash of my own! How you can go: You can reach the town of Tequila by driving. It's about an hour from Guadalajara and four hours from Puerto Vallarta. There are regular tours and tastings at several area distilleries. The basic Jose Cuervo Experience tour and tasting starts at around $20 USD per adult ($300 MXN). The Jose Cuervo Express takes you right from Guadalajara into the town of Tequila. Packages that include the two-hour train ride, a tour of Jose Cuervo's La Rojeña distillery, and more start at around $92 USD ($1,350 MXN) and run Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (josecuervoexpress.com). Other popular distilleries in Tequila open for tours include Sauza and La Cofradia. Travelers can also explore the tequila region on the Tequila Express train, which also departs from Guadalajara, but does not visit the town of Tequila. It takes travelers on a guided tour of the Herradura distillery in Amatitán. About the author: Darley Newman is the host of Equitrekking on PBS and a contributing editor at Budget Travel. Watch videos from her series on budgettravel.com/videos.

Inspiration

Three-Day Weekend: Curacao

"Are you ready? 1.. 2.. 3.. NOW!" our diving instructor shouted as the eight of us took a deep breath and swam beneath the waves that roared and crashed above our heads onto the walls of the entrance to the underwater cave. I remember thinking as I swam: How much farther until we can come up for air? What happens if I come up too soon? What if there's a shark swimming around in there? Ten seconds later, those fleeting thoughts disappeared as I spotted my fellow swimmers shooting to the surface, laughing, and saying this was one of the craziest things they'd ever done. I couldn't agree more. The sight before us was almost psychedelic. We had entered an underwater cave named the Blue Room, appropriately dubbed for the different hues that surrounded us as the light reverberated around the chamber, bounced off the walls, and illuminated the water below. We took turns snapping silly underwater photos of each other on someone's GoPro camera as we explored the cave and swam around the coral reef that lay 20 feet below. One thing I'll say about Curaçao: You're in for a real treat if you're willing to push the boundaries of your comfort zone. Slightly off the beaten path and throroughly gorgeous, this Dutch Caribbean island paradise is located in the southern Caribbean safely beneath the hurricane belt, ensuring a warm, tropical climate all year long. The best part: It's super-affordable. Wander through colorful, dreamlike Willemstad The multi-hued Dutch buildings that line St. Anna Bay in Willemstad are so quaint and picturesque, they're like a 3-D postcard. Take your perfect, trip-defining photo with the giant CURAÇAO and DUSHI signs in Queen Wilhelmina Park, the Dutch Caribbean counterpart to the famous "I Amsterdam" signs in Europe. Visit the Queen Emma Bridge, a pontoon bridge that locals call the Swinging Old Lady because it swivels open and runs parallel to the land to allow boats to pass by. Watch for the flags and clear the bridge when the alarm sounds to avoid being trapped on the bridge until it closes again, or catch a free ferry nearby to get to the other side if you're suddenly stuck across the water. Eat island cuisine right alongside the locals You're bound to work up an appetite walking around downtown Willemstad. Stop by the Old Market, or Marsche Bieuw, for a taste of island cuisine with generous portions and affordable prices. Sit among the locals in this first-come-first-served cafeteria-like setting and sample local favorites like fried plantains, stobá (stew), funchi (polenta), and pumpkin pancakes, and wash it all down with a deliciously fruity batido smoothie ($7 for a plate with stobá, funchi, fried plantains, beans, and rice; three pumpkin pancakes for $1; batidos are $3 each). If you're into steak and seafood, check out The Grill King in downtown Willemstad, known for its grilled surf and turf dishes and overwater dining (entrées from $20), or for a bit of fine dining, try the St. Tropez Oceanclub in the trendy Pietermaai district, where you can feast on dishes like salmon sashimi tapas in a swanky club-like atmosphere while a lounge singer roams the crowd belting out everything from Whitney Houston to Katy Perry (tapas from $7, entrées from $29). Hang with new feathered friends When you think of the Caribbean, what comes to mind? Palm trees, sure, but how about the majestic ostrich? Curaçao is home to the largest ostrich farm outside Africa. The island's year-round warm, dry climate makes the ideal atmosphere for these birds to flourish. Spend some time touring the Curaçao Ostrich Farm on one of their hourly Safari Tours ($16 per person). You'll see other animals like emu, potbellied pigs, and Nile crocodiles, but the big birds are the main event: Hold a real ostrich egg, watch the young chicks running around in the wild, and try your hand at feeding the adults—a photo op so terrifically bizarre you'll want to make it your Facebook profile pic immediately. Swim in coral reefs and hidden underwater caves Most of the island's attractions are located in and around Willemstad, but it's worth taking a 40-minute car ride to explore the scenery along the north and west coasts. Check out awe-inspiring views from Shete Boka National Park, where you can hike to a large underground cavern and watch as the waves roll in from the top of the hill at Boka Tabla (admission is $5.50). Book a snorkeling trip with Go West Diving for a chance to visit the Black Sand Reef and Curaçao's famous Blue Room, a secret underwater cave you can only reach by holding your breath and swimming under the crashing waves at the entrance to the cavern. Don't worry; it's perfectly safe thanks to the help and direction of your trusty tour guide. Just make sure you dive down deep enough so you don't bump your head on the roof of the cave ($40 per person for a 2.5-hour tour). Go green with a visit to an herb garden and an aloe plantation Meeting Dinah Veeris, the island's legendary herbalist and healer, and touring her precious Den Paradera Herb Garden, was worth the trip in itself. Veeris, the friendly, soft-spoken owner, eagerly shows visitors around her garden, teaching the importance of preservation, explaining how to cure common ailments using plants, and occasionally bursting into songs and chants used during the healing process. She started this adorable one-acre botanical garden plant by plant in the 1990s after interviewing the island's elders about natural ways to cure ailments, and it continues to be a resource for local botanists with its 300-plus species of plants. You can purchase natural herbal teas and soaps made from the garden's ingredients in the gift shop: Try the "love tea," rumored to be the best love potion on the island ($4 for a bag of tea leaves). Beauty junkies will want to stop by the Aloe Vera Plantation in the St. Joris area to learn about the aloe plant's health and immune system benefits. For a local souvenir, the plantation's Curaloe natural beauty products—including body gel, aloe shampoo, and pure aloe vera juice—are top-sellers (from $16). Bask without guilt: Curaçao luxury is affordable luxury Stay near all the nightlife and historic sites in downtown Willemstad, like Fort Amsterdam and the Mikve Israel-Emanuel synagogue, the oldest continually used synagogue in the western hemisphere, at the Renaissance Curaçao Resort & Casino (from $145 per night). If it's seclusion you're seeking, opt for the Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, a lush property located on 27 acres of natural preserve on the eastern side of the island (from $229 per night, check website for more affordable packages). For the best of both worlds, the Floris Suite Hotel and Spa gives guests a taste of luxury closer to the action—the 72 sleek modern-meets-Caribbean-style suites at this adults-only, LGBT-friendly hotel come with private balconies, kitchenettes, and lots of room to spread out and relax, perfect for a girlfriend getaway or romantic escape with your S.O. (suites from $129 per night). If you're traveling from the New York City area, JetBlue's Curaçao vacation packages start at only $669 per person for a flight from JFK and three nights' accommodations at the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort and Emerald Casino.  Always, always use mosquito repellent At Budget Travel, we believe it's always better to be prepared. Throughout the Caribbean and other places around the world known for their warm, tropical climates, you might encounter chikungunya, a flu-like mosquito-borne illness characterized by joint pain, fever, and a rash. The virus isn't fatal, but it is painful and can be avoided if you take the proper precautions. Pack your favorite mosquito repellent products, apply them liberally before going out at night, and slather them on again after swimming.

Inspiration

11 Spectacular Labor Day Getaways

Labor Day weekend may be just around the corner, but it's not too late to plan the perfect three-day getaway. From coast to coast and around the world, there are plenty of free and budget-friendly activities to choose from. Whether you're in the mood for a Jazz Festival in Chicago, a quirky traditional event held every year in Park City, or an American music extravaganza in Virginia Beach, we've rounded up 11 exciting events and festivals around the country you won't want to miss. SEE THE DESTINATIONS! Daytona Beach: For family-friendly fun on a famous Florida beach While the words Daytona Beach may conjure up scenes from MTV's Spring Break, the area has come a long way since then, and is now much more of a family destination offering a wide variety of kid-friendly events, festivals, and beachfront entertainment fit for all ages. This Labor Day Weekend, catch a free concert at the Daytona Beach Bandshell on Saturday night starting at 7:15 p.m. featuring a performance by Rocket Man, an Elton John tribute band—stick around for a fireworks show starting at 9:45 p.m. Baseball lovers can watch the Daytona Tortugas play ball on Sept. 4th, 5th, and 6th at the Jackie Robinson Ballpark, where dogs are welcome and the kids will have a chance to run the bases—don't miss their fireworks show Saturday night. Also while you're in town, stop by the Daytona International Speedway for a behind-the-scenes look at all things NASCAR. Hotels in this part of Florida are super affordable over Labor Day Weekend, too, with rates at the Courtyard Daytona Beach Speedway/Airport starting at $109 a night and rates at the Residence Inn Daytona Beach Speedway/Airport starting at $159 a night. Lake Tahoe: For carnivals, boat races, and great discounts on ski gear On Saturday, Sept. 5th, you'll have the opportunity to board one of South Shore's two Mississippi paddlewheeler boats, California's Tahoe Queen or Nevada's M.S. Dixie II, for the 23rd annual Great Lake Tahoe Sternwheeler Race, a unique only-in-Tahoe experience that can be yours for from $25 per adult ($10 per child) including brunch and drink specials. If you'd rather be a spectator, cheer runners on from the sidelines as they compete in the fourth annual Heavenly Mountain Run, racing from the California Base Lodge at 6,565-feet all the way up to the Tamarack Lodge at 9,150-feet. You can also enjoy live music with an impressive fireworks display over the lake Sunday night starting at 8:30 p.m. Another notable weekend event is the 6th annual Sample the Sierra Festival on Sept. 6th from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Bijou Community Park, where you can sample fresh farm-to-table food and wine creations by local chefs and farmers. Don't miss the chance to stock up on ski gear for next season at the annual Heavenly Sports Labor Day Tent Sale, where you can save up to 70 percent on ski and snowboard equipment at Heavenly's California Main Lodge on Sept. 5th from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sept. 6th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sept 7th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Puerto Rico: For a no-passport-required Caribbean beach break Airfares to this sizzling U.S. island (no passport required!) are around $445 for Labor Day travel. Sound good? Picture yourself lounging on the beach listening to the waves crash in the distance, fruity drink in hand. Spend some time exploring Puerto Rico at your own pace with this travel package to San Juan that includes ocean view accommodations at La Concha Resort, a Renaissance Resort located in San Juan's trendy Condado neighborhood. You'll also get daily breakfast for two at the resort's Ocean Café Restaurant among other perks, from $186 a night. (Note: While Labor Day falls during the Atlantic/Caribbean hurricane season, the NOAA has predicted a quieter season than average for 2015, with only 1 to 4 hurricanes, and possibly only 1 ranked as a Category 3, serious, hurricane.) RELATED: 25 Incredible Road Trips BT Readers Love The Jersey Shore: For beachside water parks on the pier The beaches along the Jersey Shore have definitely bounced back from last year's storm damage with style—some of them even made our list of America's Most Awesome Boardwalks, and Ocean City, N.J. was featured as one of BT's favorite beach towns. This Labor Day weekend, pay a visit to one of New Jersey's many beachside waterparks, like Raging Waters and the Ocean Oasis Waterpark & Beach Club at Morey's Piers in Wildwood, now celebrating its 46th season, for a fun way to cool off in the hot summer sun, whether you prefer to relax in the lazy river or take on adrenaline-pumping attractions like the Cliff Dive slide and WipeOut. Waterpark passes start at $44 for adults and $36 for children under 48". Seniors over age 65 get in for $20 with a valid photo ID. Paris: The perfect place for a romantic three-day weekend getaway A three-day weekend in Paris? Yes, you can! In fact, Budget Travel Senior Editor Jamie Beckman just did it. Find a neighborhood that you like, book a comfortable hotel, and relax—don’t overschedule and you’ll enjoy exploring on foot, visiting green spaces, and soaking up the romance. Hotel 29 Lepic’s stellar location, near the Sacré-Coeur basilica and Moulin Rouge in Montmartre, is tough to beat for the price (from about $70 per night, 29lepic.fr). And though average airfares from the U.S. to Paris are around $1,063 right now, WOW airlines has round-trip flights to Paris out of Boston and Washington, D.C., starting at about $384 after taxes. Washington D.C.: For free concerts and kayaking on the Potomac Each year on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, the National Symphony Orchestra performs a free concert for the public on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol at 8 p.m. While no tickets are required, it is recommended that you get there early to get a good spot—gates open as early as 3 p.m. and you can watch them rehearse at 3:30 p.m. The 27th annual DC Blues Festival is slated for Saturday, Sept. 5th at the Carter Barron Amphitheater from noon to 7:30 p.m., with performances by Sharrie Williams, James Armstrong, and The Mojo Priests among others. You'll also have the opportunity to attend vocal, guitar, and harmonica workshops led by talented Blues artists at the John Cephas Workshop Stage. The DC Blues Festival is free and open to the public. Want to enjoy the great outdoors during your long weekend? Consider renting a kayak or canoe from the Thompson Boat Center for a totally different view of the city from the Potomac. Canoe rentals cost $16.50 per hour or $33 for the day and can hold up to three adults or two adults and two small children. Rent a single kayak for $16.50 per hour or $44 per day, or a double kayak for $22 an hour or $55 per day. RELATED: 20 Best-Kept Secrets of Washington D.C. Chicago: For free art fairs and a jazz festival The 37th annual Chicago Jazz Festival takes place this year from Sept. 3rd to Sept. 6th at the Chicago Cultural Center in Millennium Park. Admission is free and you'll have the chance to view performances by Muhal Richard Abrams, Jose James, and Dee Dee Bridgewater among others. From Friday to Monday, Washington Park is home to the 26th Annual African Festival of the Arts, an event featuring exhibitions by Chicago's best artists. General admission tickets cost $20 for adults at the gate, $15 in advance; family and weekend passes are available for $40. Click here for more fun things to do in Chicago year-round. Virginia Beach: For three days of bands on the beach—and a half-marathon Music lovers, rejoice! For three days over Labor Day weekend (Fri-Sun), more than 20 bands will take the stage for the 32nd annual American Music Festival playing all kinds of music—rock and roll, jazz, blues, country, and R&B—by local, regional, and national bands on a giant beachfront stage on 5th Street as well as several outdoor stages at the 17th Street Park, the 24th Street Park, and the 31st Street Park. Highlights include big-name artists like the Steve Miller Band on Friday night, Rebelution, The Wailers, and G. Love & Special Sauce on Saturday night, and a performance by Sheryl Crow on Sunday night. Tickets cost $20 in advance and $25 the day of the show. This year, you can purchase a Passport Pin for access to all three shows, from $40 when purchased in advance. Those seeking a more active vacation can sign up for the Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach Half-Marathon, a race through the streets of the city on Sunday, Sept. 6th, that raises money for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Registration prices may vary; check the website for more details. Miami: For parties, brunches, and bike rides on the beach Party people won't want to miss Reload, a pool party event from noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 6th, at the Shore Club featuring international DJs and the best house music in South Beach. Refuel at the Shore Club's Sunday brunch, where ladies pay $44 per person including unlimited mimosas and bellinis (men must pay $44 for the brunch plus an additional $20 for unlimited drinks)—access to the Bloody Mary bar is an extra $20. Tickets to the Reload pool party start at $40 per person for all day access or from $30 per person for pool party access between noon and 3 p.m. Early bird tickets start at $10 per person when ordered ahead of time online. Take a spin on Miami's public bike sharing program,Citi Bike Miami (operated by Deco Bike Miami), for a spin, and rent a bike anywhere from 30-minutes to a full day. 30-minute passes are available for $4; one-hour passes for $6; two-hour passes for $10, four-hour passes for $18; and one-day passes are available for $24. Looking for a calmer beach experience? Stake out the perfect spot on any of Miami Beach's seven miles of sand. The best part: it's free. DON'T MISS: 20 Most Awesome Boardwalks in America Park City: For historic parades and the Running of the Balls Labor Day is more commonly referred to as Park City Miner's Day in this part of Utah—a tradition dating all the way back to 1898. Each year there's a celebration in honor of the area's rich mining heritage, complete with a community pancake breakfast, live music, races and games for the kids, the Funky 5K Fun Run, and the annual Miner's Day Parade down Historic Main Street. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the celebration is the annual Running of the Balls, a charity fundraising event held on Monday at 10:45 a.m. where participants "adopt" a ball for $5 (or 5 balls for $20), and watch in awe as thousands of them are released down Main Street, racing to the bottom of the hill. The first ten to reach the bottom of the street are tracked, earning their owners a grand prize of airline tickets, season ski passes, or any number of other donated surprises. LEGOLAND: Kiddie paradise in Florida & Southern California If you’ve got little ones, LEGOLAND is like Paris for kids—always a good idea. With fun rides, hands-on activities, and a hotel that feels like it’s built out of those iconic colorful blocks, the theme park’s So. Cal and Florida locations are a fun way to say bye-bye to summer. Even better, if you purchase LEGOLAND dollars (now available on the TravelEx currency exchange) through Labor Day you’ll get free parking, free admission to the park’s water park, and a free order of the theme park’s famous Granny’s Apple Fries.