10 Best Bargain Trips for Spring
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get out there and savor everything a spring vacation has to offer. We've rounded up some of the best beaches, parkland, and cities where your dollar will go further this time of year—that means lodging well under $200/night, and an accessible array of food and activities that won't break the bank. From the South Pacific to the Caribbean, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Rocky Mountains, the only problem you may have with this top 10 list is choosing just one trip.
1. Dominican Republic
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (Binu777/Dreamstime)
If your idea of spring break involves affordable all-inclusive resorts and perfect beaches, the Dominican Republic offers just about everything you might want. We love Punta Cana—just a two-hour flight from Miami—for reliable resorts like the Majestic Colonial Beach Resort and Bavaro Beach with gorgeous white sand, clear Caribbean waters, and an offshore coral reef. Or head to the charming off-the-beaten path fishing village of Las Terrenas, in the Samaná province, for “secret” gorgeous beaches and good deals. Exploring the DR’s natural wonders is a must as well: Los Haitises National Park is the place for kayaking the lagoons and mangrove canals and viewing wildlife such as pelicans and iconic leatherback turtles; the Cordillera Septentrional Mountains are a magnet for hikers.
2. Oahu, Hawaii
Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii (Izabela 23/Dreamstime)
With Southwest (winner of the 2018 Budget Travel Award for Value Airline) now flying to Honolulu, there’s no better time to hop over the Pacific to get to know the Hawaiian Islands, starting with Oahu, the most populous and accessible of the islands. The weather is almost always perfect on Waikiki Beach, and you are an easy drive from nearby mountains (including iconic Diamond Head) and an array of other, wilder beaches where, depending on the time of year and the weather, you may witness “monster” waves and the professional surfers who challenge them. As much as we love Honolulu’s accessible beachfront and affordable lodgings such as Hotel Renew, we also urge you to make the 15-minute drive to the mountain side of Diamond Head to get to know Kaimuki, a residential area we named one of the best budget destinations in America, where you’ll find amazing seafood, Japanese fare, and tasty regional dried fruits, among a wide array of other delights.
3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (Jaahnlieb/Dreamstime)
At 147 years old, Yellowstone (nps.gov/yell) is the world’s oldest national park, but it still has a trick or two up its sleeve. A 3,472-square-foot swathe of land straddling Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, it’s busiest during the peak summer months, especially between July and August, when 55% of the park’s annual visitors descend to take in the geysers, wildlife, history and more. But the park’s roads begin to open in mid-April, and nature lovers would do well to consider a springtime visit. From May to June, in particular, young elk, bison, and pronghorn calves are finding their legs, wolves are on the prowl, and momma bears and their cubs are on the hunt. To catch the animals on parade, your best bet is to wake up before the sun—wolves and bears get moving early—though, with mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and birds out and about later in the day, there’s action to be had even if you’re not a morning person. June is prime wildflower season, and the park’s waterfalls are seriously impressive then too, thanks to snowmelt runoff that sends 63,500 gallons of water per second over the Yellowstone River’s Lower Falls. Plus, with substantially fewer visitors during the spring months, deals on accommodations abound, and you won’t have to jostle for position around Old Faithful.
4. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
Orange Beach, Alabama (Courtesy Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism)
The mention of Alabama probably sparks thoughts of the civil rights movement, football, fried green tomatoes, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, who made it sound like everybody’s sweet home. But for spring travelers, Alabama should also mean the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, 32 miles of silken sand along the Gulf of Mexico. With April temps reaching mid-70s, it’s not quiet beach-lounging time yet, but the area provides a bounty of things for spring breakers to check out, an assortment of 200 local restaurants not least among them. Families can prepare for summer with classes at Sand Castle University (sandcastleu.com) for a crash course in building the impressive palaces out of sand. To explore the area’s natural treasures, the 28-mile Backcountry Trail (backcountrytrail.com) in Gulf State Park covers a tapestry of nine ecosystems that are best explored on bike or a guided Segway tour. And to fully immerse yourself in the rich landscape, made a reservation at the Lodge at Gulf State Park, which opened at the end of last year and features 350 Gulf-front rooms.
5. Williamsburg, Virginia
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia (Aviahuismanphotography/Dreamstime)
Colonial Williamsburg is right up there with Disney World and the Washington Monument when it comes to iconic American sites that every family should have on its bucket list. But when it comes to grownup escapes, the greater Williamsburg region has no shortage of offerings, whether you’re reuniting with friends from high school or taking a second honeymoon. First, there are the restaurants. Farm-to-table is the norm here, and so is sea-to-table, what with Williamsburg’s location between the James and York rivers. Fresh oysters are the draw at Waypoint Seafood and Grill and Fat Canary is known for its creative dishes using ham and lamb from local farms. Where good food goes, drinks follow. Wine lovers can visit Williamsburg Winery (williamsburgwinery.com), Virginia’s largest, beer drinkers have their choice of breweries with taprooms, Copper Fox Distillery (copperfoxdistillery.com) is a small whiskey-making operation that pioneered the craft scene back in 2005, and in keeping with the area’s historic viewpoint, there’s even a meadery that produces the ancient style honey wine. Toss in posh spas, shopping, and a long-running comedy club and there you have it: a spring break for the history books.
6. Skagway, Alaska
Skagway, Alaska (Izabela 23/Dreamstime)
Skagway is a small town in southeast Alaska, along the Inside Passage, with a population of about 800, but in June, July, and August, that number swells to about 3,000. But before the many cruise ships dock here throughout the summer months, April and May are ideal times to explore the quaint, historic township. It’s one of the few towns in Alaska with a road directly into the continental U.S., albeit a long one. It’s about day-and-a-half drive from Seattle through British Columbia, but if you’re looking for a road trip, this is certainly a pretty one. Should you arrive by boat, you’ll sail through dramatic fjords that are merely a hint of the scenery you’re in for. Skagway is famous for its Klondike Gold Rush legacy, and that history plays out in the well-preserved buildings from that era, which are part of Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park (nps.gov/klgo/index.htm). There are also water adventures, like Ocean-Raft Alaska (oceanraftalaska.com), a high-speed group ride in a motorized boat, the Chilkoot Trail for hikers who aren’t afraid of serious incline, and brewpubs.
7. Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia (David M. Sacerdote/Dreamstime)
With stunning Gothic Revival architecture, ancient live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and a picturesque location on the banks of the Savannah River, this Southern charmer offers a sophisticated yet accessible urban escape for all ages. A free walking tour will give a good overview of Savannah’s history, from its antebellum past to modern days. (Don’t forget to tip!) Stop for a photo op in front of Forsyth Park’s highly Instagrammable fountain, and sneak a peek at Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace and the Scouts’ first headquarters. Hungry? You’ll probably have to queue for brunch at the Collins Quarter, but between the short-rib hash and the brioche French toast, it’s worth the wait. Bernie’s Oyster House on River Street serves cold beer and fresh oysters by the bucket, while Bayou Cafe slings stiff drinks and Cajun fare with a side of live blues. For an upscale affair, check out the Grey, where James Beard Award finalist Mashama Bailey is turning out refined Southern plates in a beautifully restored art deco Greyhound station. (Stop by at happy hour for discounted wine, beer, and oysters before your reservation.) Savannah College of Art and Design is where aspiring Picassos from around the world come to hone their craft; it’s affiliated with a world-class art museum. In the Historic District, the Telfair Museum is the South’s oldest public-art museum, and the Jepson Center has a stellar modern collection; the model ships at the Ships of the Sea Museum are a must-see for nautical enthusiasts. There’s retail therapy on Broughton Street (we like the Paris Market for fanciful home decor and 24e Design Co. for upcycled vintage finds), and when you need a break from the city, the sandy shores of Tybee Island are just a few miles away.
8. Sunny Isles Beach, Florida
Sunny Isles Beach, Florida (Pressfoto/Dreamstime)
Maybe you haven’t visited Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, yet? Maybe this is the first time you’ve even heard of this inviting family-friendly community between Fort Lauderdale and Miami? If so, that's what Budget Travel is here for—introducing you to beautiful places you didn't know you were missing. And you are in for an affordable world-class vacation in Sunny Isles. This decidedly lovely community on a barrier island in Miami-Dade County offers a 2.5-mile stretch of uncrowded white sand, fishing off Newport Fishing pier, exploring nearby mangrove preserves, and enjoying your proximity to Miami’s exceptional neighborhoods, parks, aquariums, and vibrant culinary scene. An array of local lodgings are offering spring deals, including Marenas Beach Resort, JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa, and Solé Miami, A Noble House Resort.
9. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado (Cheri Alguire/Dreamstime)
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 for an impressive concentration of ancestral Pueblo Indian dwellings dating from the 6th to the 12th centuries, southwest Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park (nps.gov/meve) makes for a unexpected—and stealthily educational—spring destination. With more than 4,700 archaeological sites to explore, from cliff dwellings to mesa-top villages with pit houses and pueblos, the kids will barely notice they’re learning things on their time off. The self-guided Mesa Top Loop Road auto tour, open year-round, is a six-mile drive with 12 sites and scenic overlooks easily accessible via short, paved walking trails; ranger-guided tours of the cliff dwellings begin in mid-April (though they’re visible from various overlooks any time) and backcountry hikes and special tours begin in mid-May. The park’s only lodge opens in mid-April and campsites are available in early May, but the nearby town of Cortez makes for a good base of operations if you’d prefer to sleep off the premises. Granted, a springtime visit may require leaning into winter a little longer, as the Mesa Verde plateau’s altitude of more than 8,500 feet above sea level means that warm weather arrives a bit later here (snow storms in April have been known to interfere with the park’s operations), so be sure to check the weather forecast before you go, and stop at the visitor’s center when you arrive for the latest road and trail conditions.
10. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (Sean Pavone/Dreamstime)
South Carolina’s most popular beach town ranks third among most-searched travel destinations in the world and draws about 19 million visitors annually. That’s liable to change soon because over the past year, in addition to sleek new condo buildings and hotels, exciting new projects are underway or already open for business, likely bringing even bigger crowds. But before the beach bums set up camp for the summer, use spring break as a sneak peek at Myrtle Beach 2.0. October saw the opening of THEBlvd (theblvdmyrtle.com), a sprawling complex on the boardwalk with a concert venue, stores, and dining. The local arts scene is more active than ever, as evidence by the debut of the Grand Street Arts Trail (theartsgrandstrand.org), comprised of 18 galleries and three restaurants. The famously family-friendly destination got even friendlier in February with the opening of EdVenture (edventure.org/myrtle-beach), a new incarnation of the South Carolina Children’s Museum. Aviation and astronomy take the spotlight in the exhibits here, so kids can get an education on vacation. If you’ve got a getaway with your significant other or a group of friends on the calendar, Myrtle Beach has plenty of fun dining and drinking options. The sustainability-obsessed chef Heidi Vukov, long known for her cheery café Croissants, is expanding her footprint Hook & Barrel, which focuses on sustainable seafood. You can get local wine in Myrtle Beach, too. La Belle Amie Winery (labelleamie.com) is a farm-set destination known for owner and operator Vicki Weigle’s Twisted Sisters brand of wines.
We have plenty of love for the National Park System’s heavy hitters, but with 418 sites spanning more than 84 million acres across the country and its territories, there are a ton of lesser-known gems just begging to be explored. Here are 10 extraordinary protected lands that deserve a place on your bucket list. 1. Chaco Culture National Historical Park: New Mexico (Golasza/Dreamstime) From the mid-800s until the mid-1200s, the Chaco Canyon’s high-desert environs was a social and economic hub for the ancestral Pueblo culture that called it home. Chacoan architecture was particularly impressive, featuring huge, multi-floor, multi-room dwellings called great houses, built over the course of decades and incorporating canny design elements in the process. More than 3,000 of the massive stone structures have been preserved, and most of the cultural landmarks are open for self-guided exploration year-round. Take in the five major sites along the 9-mile Canyon Loop Drive, sign up for a ranger-led tour of the great houses, or hike the backcountry trails for ancient petroglyphs and stunning vistas. For a special treat, visit at night, when the Milky Way puts on an unbeatable show. Designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2013, Chaco’s Night Sky program roster includes weekend lectures and telescope viewings at the observatory. Stargazers, mark your calendars: Biannual star parties are usually held in May and October, and an astronomy festival happens each September.7-day pass, $25 per car; nps.gov/chcu. 2. Glen Echo Park: Maryland With a children’s discovery museum, a dance hall, and a fully functional carousel dating to 1921, it’s safe to say Glen Echo Park, located about eight miles from Washington, D.C., is not your average federally protected land. Originally established in 1891 as a Chautauqua, a non-denominational Christian summer camp–like phenomenon, it became a proper Coney Island-style amusement park in 1911. During the next three decades, Echo Park added bumper cars, a pool with a capacity of 3,000 swimmers, the Spanish Ballroom, which hosted pop stars like Bill Haley and His Comets, and more. It closed in 1968, the National Park Service took over in 1971, and the historic district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Today, Glen Echo counts half a million annual guests for classes and performances, though few of its original attractions remain: Its entrance is still visible, but the pool itself is in ruins; the bumper-car pavilion remains intact, albeit without its steel floor; the carousel, fully restored, operates from May through September, and the ballroom can be rented out for special events. Pack a picnic lunch, go a few rounds on the carousel, and bask in the nostalgia.Park entry, free; carousel rides, $1.25; nps.gov/glec. 3. Effigy Mounds National Monument: Iowa Throughout the Upper Mississippi River Valley, in parts of what’s now Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois, Native American earthen mounds of varying shapes and sizes dating to pre-Columbian times proliferate. You’ll find 206 of them in northeastern Iowa, from linear ceremonial mounds to more animal-shaped effigy mounds than anywhere else in the world. Just don’t expect to leave with a full understanding of these ancient structures: Archeologists speculate that they could be territorial markings, while tribal descendants say they’re sacred sites. Stop at the visitor’s center for a map of the park’s 31 bird and bear shapes, then wander its 14 miles of trails, including short accessible stretches and steeper hikes, to see how many you can spot.Free; nps.gov/efmo. 4. Manhattan Project National Historical Park: New Mexico, Washington, and Tennessee The world’s first atomic weapons were developed through a top-secret government project involving hundreds of thousands of scientists, mathematicians, and members of the military, spread across three massive sites: uranium-enrichment and plutonium plants in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; nuclear reactors and chemical separation plants in Hanford, Washington; and the remote complex at Los Alamos, in northern New Mexico, where Robert Oppenheimer notoriously led the team that designed and built the bombs. All three sites are open to visitors, though some areas of each remain under the Department of Energy’s purview and may not be accessible to the public. Still, there’s plenty to see: Walk through historic downtown Los Alamos on a self-guided tour, sign up for a free guided tour of the B Reactor in Hanford, or, for a small fee, book a bus tour through the Oak Ridge site with the Department of Energy.Park entry, free; nps.gov/mapr. 5. New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park: Louisiana (Wangkun Jia/Dreamstime) From L.A. to New York, America boasts a dizzying array of jazz venues, but where better to get a feel for the form than the place it was born? At the New Orleans Jazz Museum in the city’s National Historic Park, near-daily concerts range from solo acts to traditional quartets to a band made up of park rangers and civilians alike. There are also ranger-led demonstrations and lectures on the history of jazz that often have a live-music component as well. But there’s more to the park than these performances. Drop in for a free yoga class and practice your downward dog as a park ranger provides the improvisational-piano soundtrack, take a self-guided audio tour of 11 historically significant sites around the city, or visit the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University to watch hundreds of oral histories from local musicians.For a schedule of park events, including concerts, talks, and ranger-led demonstrations, visit nps.gov/jazz. 6. Wind Cave National Park: South Dakota In the Black Hills of South Dakota, below a square acre of prairie and pine forest, there’s an extremely complex cave—one of the oldest and longest in the world. Wind Cave is so spacious it has its own internal air-pressure system, taking its name from the gusts emanating from its natural entrance: The Lakota referred to the cave as the “hole that breathes cool air,” and the brothers credited with its discovery in the 1880s were drawn to it by the sound of the wind across its mouth. Subterranean expeditions during the next 130-plus years revealed a staggering geological display, from cave formations like the commonly seen popcorn and frostwork to the much rarer boxwork—and there’s more of that here than in any other caves in the world combined. It’s free to explore the 33,851 acres of parkland above ground, but you’ll need to sign up for a guided tour to see the cave itself. Options range from easy (the Garden of Eden tour, which enters and exits via elevator) to extremely strenuous (the Wild Cave tour, which comes with a warning that crawling is involved). Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis; they go quickly during the peak summer season, and reservations are only available for specialty tours, so visit early to avoid a wait. Cave tours from $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and kids ages 6-16, and free for kids 5 and under; nps.gov/wica. 7. Manzanar National Historic Site: California (James Mattil/Dreamstime) Eastern California’s Owens Valley has seen its share of tragedy. In the early 1860s, 1,000 members of Paiute tribal groups were forcibly removed by the military after miners and homesteaders arrived on the scene. And almost 80 years later, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government rounded up 120,000 West Coast residents of Japanese ancestry—including natural-born citizens—and herded them into internment camps for the duration of the war. Manzanar was one of 10 relocation centers built in seven states, and it’s said to be the best preserved of the bunch. A National Historic Site established in part “to serve as a reminder to this and future generations of the fragility of American civil liberties,” it offers visitors a glimpse of what life was like for the 11,070 Japanese Americans interned here from September 1942 until November 1945. The grounds feature exhibits, reconstructed barracks, and excavated gardens, ponds, and building foundations, which you can explore on foot or via a 3.2-mile self-guided drive.Free; nps.gov/manz. 8. Saguaro National Park: Arizona (Irina Kozhemyakina/Dreamstime) Flanking Tucson to the east and west, the two districts of Saguaro National Park are best known for their namesake plant: The saguaro is the largest cactus in the country, and it's been heavily protected here since 1933, when Herbert Hoover designated the area a national monument. Congress bumped it up to national-park status in 1994, and it’s been welcoming the cactus-curious ever since. There are more than 25 types of succulents on display, but the giant tree-sized saguaro is the star. Native to the Sonoran desert, it's an anchor for the area's diverse southwestern ecosystem, providing nesting space for birds and serving as food for bats, mammals, and reptiles too. Both park branches combined have more than 165 miles of hiking trails, from accessible walks to seriously strenuous treks; there’s also backcountry camping, cactus gardens in each district, and a petroglyph site boasting more than 200 of the prehistoric rock carvings. Visit from late April to early June to see the saguaro in bloom, and be sure to stay in the park to catch a sunset—between the vibrant sky and the stark desert landscape, it’s a spectacular show. 1-day pass, $20 per car; nps.gov/sagu. 9. Blue Ridge Parkway: North Carolina and Virginia Running 469 miles through the Appalachian countryside, the Blue Ridge Parkway links Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The outcome of a Depression-era public works project that began in 1933, it’s the longest American road conceived as a single stretch. As a "museum of the managed American countryside," the meandering road juxtaposes mountain-top views with lush stretches of forests and streams, passing by rustic log cabins and millionaires’ vacation homes. Construction took decades—the majority wasn’t completed until 1966, and the last 7.7 miles finally opened in 1987. By design, it’s the ideal setting for a leisurely road trip: Speed limits top out at 45 miles per hour, and the route combines stunning natural beauty (alongside opportunities for hiking, kayaking, biking, and more) with history (a center devoted to the region’s traditional old-time music, a working early-1900s mill, a textile magnate’s grand estate) and whimsy (Dinosaur Land!). Check for road closures before you go, and bon voyage.Free; nps.gov/blri. 10. Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve: Colorado Colorado is home to the tallest dunes on the continent, and people have been answering their siren song since nomadic Stone Age hunters and gatherers first made their way into the San Luis Valley 11,000 years ago. Modern Native American tribes like the Ute and the Navajo, Spanish and American explorers, Gold Rush hopefuls, homesteaders, and Buffalo soldiers followed in succession, before fears of destruction via mining and industry prompted President Hoover to declare it a national monument in 1932. In 2004, it was expanded into a national park and preserve, and the diverse activities on offer today are a big draw. There are two accessible areas at the edge of the dunes, and the visitors’ center has two sand wheelchairs available to loan. Most of the park and preserve is open for exploration on horseback, and you can sign up for a guided ride or bring your own animals. Rent sandsleds or sandboards from an area outfitter and take to the dunes or hit the road for a fat-bike ride; other options include, but are not limited to, swimming, fishing, hunting (in season), and four-wheel driving. Regardless of how you spend your day, stargazing is a required nighttime activity.7-day pass, $25 per car; nps.gov/grsa.
8 Quirky Hotel Libraries You’ll Want to Book a Flight Just to Visit
Today (book)marks the kickoff celebration of National Library Week, the perfect time to have books on the brain. In the spirit of lifelong reading, we’re spotlighting eight of the world’s coolest, quirkiest hotel libraries — because nothing goes better with travel than a good book, especially when it’s free of charge. Many of the hotels below have partnerships with local public libraries and literacy programs. However, if you’d like to support the cause without hopping a plane, consider donating to the American Library Association, a nonprofit that promotes literacy and library services in the U.S. and the world at large. 1. The Book Room at The Jefferson: Washington, DC Antique, leather-bound books on Thomas Jefferson’s favorite subjects (think: ornithology, astronomy, horticulture, and arithmetic) are just begging to be opened fireside while you’re curled up on the cozy velvet sofa or wingback chair in The Jefferson’s Book Room. Kids can choose their own tomes from the First Library shelf, curated by the DC Public Library and stocked with picks like the illustrated Pom Pom Panda series and Danica McKellar’s math-themed reads. If your heart hasn’t gone mushy already, for each room reserved, The Jefferson sponsors the purchase of a book for the public library’s Books from Birth program, which gives enrolled children a free book every month until they turn five years old. 2. Biblioteka at Conrad Cartagena: Cartagena, Colombia The Biblioteka at Conrad Cartagena is technically a restaurant, but the hotel takes its literature seriously. Colorful books that showcase local subject matter — like the work of Colombian artist Ana Mercedes Hoyos — line Biblioteka’s walls, and the hotel recently launched a series of literary programs centered on Cartagena’s history. Sit for a spell in Colombian Corner and read about the area while sipping complimentary Colombian coffee; listen to scheduled poetry readings beside the outdoor fire pit; imbibe at the weekly Libros y Licor book club; or embark on a historian-led literary immersion walking tour through Nobel Prize–winning author Gabriel García Márquez’s world. Sights on the journey include the university where Márquez began to write, and the colonial-era homes that provided the setting for his beloved novel Love in the Time of Cholera. 3. Library Hotel: New York City We promise we are not making this up: New York’s Library Hotel organizes its rooms and floors by the Dewey Decimal system. Each floor represents one of Melvil Dewey’s 10 classifications, and each room is a topic — décor and all. With 50 to 150 hardcover, theme-specific books to a room, your stay could turn you into an expert on a surprising subject. Find your inner Don Draper in room 600.001 (category: Technology, topic: Advertising). Request room 800.005 (category: Literature, topic: Fairy Tales) for a romantic rendezvous with your Prince or Princess Charming. There are plenty of places to read, including the lush, plant-filled rooftop terrace, with views of the New York Public Library. Book lovers won’t leave empty-handed, either: At check-in, every guest can select a free advance reader’s edition from Simon & Schuster. Prefer your e-reader? Download best-selling e-books gratis using Simon & Schuster’s Foli app. 4. The Library at Hotel Emma: San Antonio, Texas (Courtesy Hotel Emma)You’ll feel as though you’re starring in The Favourite — minus the book-throwing — when you luxuriate in the burgundy club chairs underneath the stately iron-and-wood-plank staircase inside Hotel Emma’s two-story library. Each of the towering space’s 3,700 volumes were handpicked by local novelist and anthropologist Sherry Kafka Wagner, co-creator of the San Antonio River Walk, from her personal library. The result of her mission is an eclectic, cerebral collection with a Southern twang, from William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying to recipe books to an oral history of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The diversity, she once said, “allows people to find themselves.” Once you’ve located your perfect-bound soul mate, visit the concierge to borrow it on the honor system. 5. The Library at Baker’s Cay Resort: Key Largo, Florida (Courtesy Hotel Emma) The sleek midcentury-modern library inside brand-new Baker’s Cay Resort is nice, sure. But the real draw for book lovers is the sandy outdoor path that connects to shaded spots, beach areas, and hammocks, a feature that pairs perfectly with the resort’s collection of classic paperbacks, many with nautical themes, including Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The combination is ideal for fulfilling that idyllic Florida Keys fantasy of dozing on and off while swaying in the breeze, a good book in hand. Hemingway would approve. 6. Heathman Library at The Heathman Hotel: Portland, Oregon Fans of erotic novels might know The Heathman Hotel for its prominent role in E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, but its library spans multiple genres. Fresh off a recent renovation and topped with a crystal chandelier, the two-story wood-paneled Heathman Library holds 3,000-plus books signed by their authors, including Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winners, U.S. Poet Laureates, and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. Intended to serve as a modern-day European salon, the space hosts a reservation-only Russian Tea Experience on Saturdays, as well as author readings. And, yes, several E.L. James–signed copies of Fifty Shades are on the shelves. 7. The Library at E.B. Morgan House: Aurora, New York This opulent Finger Lakes retreat — an 1833 stone mansion once home to a co-founder of the New York Times — combines history and nostalgia within the walls of its coral-hued library, replete with original marble fireplace. True to E.B. Morgan House’s history as a dormitory for students studying French at nearby Wells College, the collection features French language and art books as a tribute. Many of the mansion’s other reads are from the personal library of Pleasant Rowland, founder of the American Girl books and dolls, who owns the property. Look for hidden inscriptions: A number of the books were gifted to Rowland by their authors. 8. Marina Village at Oil Nut Bay: Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands Opening this spring in the BVIs’ North Sound, the Marina Village at Oil Nut Bay eco-resort has a market, boutique shopping, and a coffee shop, but, more importantly, a Caribbean-themed library curated by Ultimate Library, a company staffed by book experts who create bespoke libraries for design-forward hotels around the world. Reaching beyond the resort’s boundaries, Oil Nut Bay and Ultimate Library donated an entire library to local Robinson O’Neal Memorial Primary School, which was devastated after Hurricane Irma.
Travel News: 10 Cheap Flights for Summer, Best Hotel Chains for Free Wi-Fi, and the Airline Passenger Who Tried to Fly Nude (Really)
This week’s travel news is mostly about know-how, sharing insider tips for low airfares and free hotel Wi-Fi. But we couldn’t resist reporting one really excellent example of how not to board an airplane. 10 Cheap Flights for Summer We’re approaching the sweet spot for booking summer airfares, and our friends at Skyscanner.com, the global travel search engine, have crunched data from more than 60 million monthly users to identify the top trending domestic summer destinations and to deliver incredible airfare deals to each one (airfares are, of course, always subject to change): Chicago to Las Vegas: $122 New York to Orlando: $162 Boston to Fort Lauderdale: $243 Chicago to Dallas: $115 Miami to New Orleans: $174 Los Angeles to San Diego: $231 Los Angeles to Honolulu: $408 Chicago to Phoenix: $221 New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico: $374 Los Angeles to Austin: $97 Best Hotel Chains for Free Wi-Fi You don’t want to pay for hotel Wi-Fi, do you? But you would also prefer that your free Wi-Fi is high-speed, right? A new report from HighSpeedInternet.com ranks the top 20 U.S. hotel chains (based on number of locations) for the fastest free Wi-Fi plans. Rodeway Inn tops the list with a free Wi-Fi speed of 7.66 Mbps. Runners-up are Americas Best Value Inn (5.91 Mbps), Quality Inn & Suites (5.91 Mbps), Super 8 (4.87 Mbps), and Days Inn (4.79 Mbps). But remember to observe appropriate security procedures when you are logging in to hotel Wi-Fi. The Airline Passenger Who Tried to Fly Nude (Really) The Moscow Times reports that a man attempted to board a Ural Airlines flight to Crimea while stark naked. He reportedly passed through security at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport clothed, but stripped before approaching the boarding gate, telling at least one witness that he was more “aerodynamic” in the buff. The man was detained by airport personnel and brought to a hospital for evaluation.
7 Things to Do in Staten Island, New York
(Ymgerman/Dreamstime) Staten Island is commonly referred to as New York's "overlooked" borough, often drawing visitors who are primarily interested in the scenic free ferry ride, which departs every 30 minutes from the ferry terminal in lower Manhattan and provides superior photo opportunities of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. We, however, see it more as a local gem, a bastion of incredible Sri Lankan food, which is hard to come by in the other boroughs, small cultural centers and museums, and more green space than anywhere else in New York City. We rounded up a few things to do when you spend a day on this urban island. 1. A Warm Welcome (Manon Ringuette/Dreamstime) Like so many other places in New York City, St. George, the neighborhood that starts at the ferry terminal, is in the throes of a massive building boom. The core of the project is Empire Outlets, a sweeping mall with many familiar designer stores. With its direct sightline to the Financial District, the terminal area is also the site of Postcards (pictured above), a poignant 9/11 memorial that was completed in 2004. The names of 263 Staten Islanders who were killed in the 9/11 attack and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing are marked on individual profile silhouettes built into the flat white freestanding cement walls that stretch into the sky, designed to look like postcards blowing in the wind, carrying messages to loved ones. An adjacent memorial pays tribute to the 73 local first responders who died in the aftermath. The ferry terminal is an easy walk to the waterfront Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of the Staten Island Yankees, the New York Yankees’ minor league team. Tickets to games where you just might spot tomorrow’s MVP start around $12, view of the Manhattan skyline included. 2. Sri Lankan Nation Marked by a mural of majestic elephants along the side of the building, Lakruwana, a Sri Lankan restaurant (lakruwana.com) about a mile from the ferry terminal (a lovely waterside walk) feels like it was transplanted from the Sri Lankan countryside. And in a way, it is. Owner and expat Lakruwana Wijesinghe went to his homeland to buy nearly everything to design the restaurant, from the bamboo-and-stone-wall panels to the ornate wood door and Buddha statues, not to mention the clay pots and water cups. Lakruwana met his wife, Jayantha, on the Staten Island ferry and they run the business together: He oversees the front of the house and she helms the kitchen, turning out dishes defined by curry paste, mustard seed, ginger, coriander, and cumin. Weekend brunch is a buffet that presents a spectrum of flavors and heat. Regardless of what day you visit, though, order the signature lampreis from the menu. This banana-leaf-wrapped mixture of curried rice, eggplant, bananas, and soft cashews is so aromatic that the smell will linger in your mind for days. Lakruwana is one of several Sri Lankan restaurants on Staten Island, which is home to about 5,000 Sri Lankans, the largest population outside the South Asian country. There are more eateries nearby, sitting alongside markets that sell coconut vinegar, banana blossoms and other imported goods. There's also the Sri Lankan Arts & Cultural Museum (srilankanmuseny.org), a compact space down the street from Lakruwana showcasing masks, furniture, statues, and more, founded and run by the Wijesinghes' daughter. The community as a whole is so distinctive that Anthony Bourdain delved into it on his show No Reservations. 3. See a Show in a Historic Theater (or Just Take a Tour) In 1929, as Herbert Hoover moved into the White House, Popeye made his comic strip debut, Ernest Hemingway published A Farewell to Arms, and Picasso and Dali were painting their masterpieces. Despite the devastating stock-market crash, it was a big year for the arts, and New York was no exception. Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art opened to the public, and further south across the water, the St. George Theatre (stgeorgetheatre.com) became a glamorous destination with an ornate interior and domed ceiling, designed by Nestor Castro, who was responsible for the interiors of many Times Square theaters. Films and live vaudeville shows drew crowds until Vaudeville fell out of fashion, but it remained a movie house through the 1970s, when it ultimately fell into disrepair. After a local initiative, however, it was restored to its over-the-top baroque glory, complete with velvet seats, a stained-glass chandelier, tiled fountains, and much more. It reopened in 2004, and today it hosts first-run movies, art films, and national touring acts. Everyone from Diana Ross to Lee Ann Womack to the Jonas Brothers have graced the stage. Tours of this architectural tour de force are available by appointment. 4. Staten Island Beer Takes the Spotlight These days it seems like it’s hard to go more than a few miles in any given urban landscape without coming across a brewery, and Staten Island is no exception. Flagship Brewing Company (flagshipbrewery.nyc), for one, offers $5 brewery tours on Saturdays,tasting flight included, and the taproom is open Tuesdays through Sundays. With barrels holding up the bar, communal tables, and a taxidermied deer watching the scene like a sentinel, its warm vibe is hard to resist. In 2017, a group of homebrewers opened Kills Boro Brewing Co. (killsboro.com) in the back of Craft House, a barbecue restaurant that was already known for its extensive craft-beer menu. Since its launch, Kills Boro has made a name for itself with creative beers, like Midnight Snack, an oatmeal porter conditioned on toasted coconut, and the Gimme Gimme Kiwi Strawberry, a sour ale with kiwi, strawberry, and vanilla beans. A broad window affords guests a view of the grand copper kettles and the brewing process in action. 5. Explore the Parks of the "Greenest Borough" (Tanyabird777/Dreamstime) Staten Island has more green space than any other borough in New York, with 9,300 acres of federal, state, and city parkland. Running and biking trails, tranquil ponds, playgrounds, promenades, meadows, beaches, and even a historic fort can be found throughout. The roster is too extensive to list, but if you only have a day, your best bet is to hit Snug Harbor Cultural Center (snug-harbor.org), which was founded in 1831 when a Manhattan hospital for aged Marines relocated here. Today, the 83-acre park is home to five landmark Greek Revival buildings that house galleries featuring modern and historical art exhibits, as well as the Staten Island Children’s Museum and the lush Staten Island Botanical Garden. As further proof of why Staten Island is referred to as the greenest borough, consider Snug Harbor’s 2.5-acre heirloom heritage farm, which supplies high-end Manhattan restaurants like Per Se and sells its bounty to locals at a weekly seasonal farm stand. 6. To the Lighthouse Before digital navigation tools were the norm, the Lighthouse Depot Administrative Building was the center of operations for American lighthouses and headquarters for equipment and supplies. The circa-1869 building, located by the St. George Ferry Terminal, is now home to the National Lighthouse Museum (lighthousemuseum.org), where displays detail the history of these architectural marvels and the key players in along the way, including George Washington, who signed an act that put lighthouses under federal control. Don’t miss the tremendous glass-egg-like light-reflective lens that lighthouse keepers needed to clean constantly. While light bulbs and LED lights play a big role in guiding boats in modern times, these feats of physics are still in use today. 7. Visit a Treasure Trove of Himalayan Art From the front, the modest house that sits at the top of Lighthouse Hill overlooking Staten Island’s north shore doesn’t look like much. There’s a stone wall that extends around the property. Its simple appearance belies the rich story of its beginnings. Jacques Marchais, an Ohio native who came to New York in the 1920s in the hopes of becoming an actress, was part-socialite, part-eccentric, and part-art-collector. She was, as the story goes, a fiery independent spirit and her home was being built in the 1930s, she would pick up the architect in her big, fancy car and drive through the island to gather stones, which were used to construct the wall. Her home which is designed like a Tibetan monastery, is the first example of Himalayan style architecture in the United States. But it only hints at her all-consuming obsession with Himalayan and Tibetan art, and while she never traveled to the far east, she accumulated one of the earliest collection of art from the region. It’s all on display at the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art (tibetanmuseum.org), which she opened as a gallery in 1938 to showcase her extensive assortment of artwork, carved wood furniture, statues, and sculptures. Today, the two-building museum is the largest collection of Himalayan art in the United States. It’s a tranquil spot and a gorgeous refuge, especially in the warmer months when you can sit outside on the monastery-style patio that Jacques designed. It overlooks a pond and a landscape dense with blossoming trees.