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6 Things to Do in Boise, ID

By Liza Weisstuch
March 9, 2018
Eating outside downtime Boise Idaho
Courtesy Visit Idaho
Creativity, a laid-back vibe, and good old-fashion American soul make this capital city a national treasure.

It's easy to imagine that Boise is the kind of city that Kris Kristofferson would sing about it. It's got a hearty, wholesome Americana spirit at its core, that much is true, but it's also rebellious enough in a sassy way to warrant a tribute from Pat Benatar and full of the kind of characters that only Tom Waits could do justice to. Situated toward the western end of Idaho surrounded by farms and 190 miles of trails, the nearest metropolis is Salt Lake City, a five-hour drive away, and that's a very good thing. Boise's isolation is a bear hug, an invitation, a warm welcome. After spending a week in this compact, walkable city, I was hardly restless. In fact, it didn't even feel like I saw or did or ate half the things I had hoped to. And it became quickly apparent why Boise regularly ends up on all sorts of lists. In addition to often being called out as the being among the best American cities to raise a family and to retire to, the downtown has been recognized as among the country's best and the people are among the healthiest. Bike Magazine deemed it the country's best mountain biking town. Not bad for a city of less than 225,000.

Outdoorsy types are at home amid the 190-mile preserved trail system that goes from the Boise River Greenbelt to the Boise Foothills that surround the city. The Payette River, 30 minutes north, has intense Class V rapids, ideal for all sorts of sports. Culture vultures can choose from a range of museums, from history to art to birds. Oenophiles appreciate that nearly half of the state's 50-plus wineries are within a 30 minute drive. And pretty nearly everyone offers a ready smile and easy conversation. Here are just a few things to put on your itinerary when you book a trip to this delightful capital city.  

1. GO NUTS AT CITY PEANUT SHOP

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This local institution makes a variety of unique custom-seasoned nuts. (Courtesy City Peanut Shop)

On first glance, the City Peanut Shop is just a good old fashioned American nut store, the kind that evoke the penny candy shops of yore, what with cases of nuts to choose from and the smell of fresh peanut butter being made in the back. That’s what Dan Balluff, who once worked for Hewlett Packard, had in mind as a model when he opened the store in 2009, but it’s grown into something far beyond. It’s a showcase of the city’s various craft producers. Sort of. Dan has made it his signature to collaborate with other businesses. So in addition to the hand-pulled brittle (“I burn my fingers making it every time,” he says matter-of-factly) and all sorts of uniquely seasoned fresh-roasted nuts, from apple pie almonds to vegan maple bacon cashews to Virginia redskin peanuts made with Carolina reapers, which clock in at 2.2 million Scoville units, he custom designs nut seasonings to pair with local breweries’ beers. Add to that the jars of honey from a local beekeeper, and chocolate bars with craft beer and locally made chocolate, and you have some serious local pride.  

2. RETAIL THERAPY 

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Local artists, many of whom make comic-book- and sci-fi-themed objects and accessories, take center stage at Re-POP Gifts. (Liza Weisstuch)

Well-known chain stores are few and far between in Boise’s lively downtown. Yes, you can get home goods at West Elm and comfy threads at The North Face, but other than that, if you’re a shopper like myself, plan to spend extra time browsing in unfamiliar stores. And that’s a very good thing. I came home with quite a bit of loot: a laser-cut wood cassette pennant from the Record Exchange, which bills itself as Idaho’s largest independent music store and features expansive rooms full of vinyl and CDs and novelty gifts and books. There’s the cocktail shaker and 1960s-era sunglasses I bought at Atomic Treasures, an eccentric vintage store and “No Bar Too Far,” a bar-hoppers guide to Idaho (so many bars, so little time!) from Rediscovered Books, a gem of an independent book store. And there’s the cayenne pepper olive oil and 18-year-old barrel-aged balsamic vinegar from Olivin Olive Oil and Vinegar Taproom. I promised myself to get a grip after that, but then I stumbled upon Re-POP Gifts, a terrifically groovy shop about two miles from downtown where owner Millie Hilgert stocks many items locally made by retro-minded artists, like bow ties, notebooks and jewelry made of LEGOs, cheeky greeting cards and coasters, and skirts made of comic book print she calls “fan skirts.” I was particularly struck by the Nerf Super-Soakers appropriated to look like comic book weapons, but I thought taking it on the plane wasn’t the brightest idea. The store is worth the trip, as it’s done up with all sorts of fun props, like a Dr. Who phone booth and a furniture arranged to replicate the retro living room  in “Stranger Things.” 

3. THE ART OF THE MATTER

Boise is one of just a few cities in the US with a city-run department devoted to promoting arts and history. In 2001, in fact, the Boise City Council passed an ordinance committing 1.4% of all capital project funds be used to integrate public art into city facilities. So by the city’s WaterShed you’ll find a life-size tree made of metal scraps; the City Hall and the airport are just a few of the venues where images by local photographers are on display. But the thing I found the most enchanting is the Traffic Box project. Local artists were commissioned to the decorate drab, industrial-looking mailbox-size structures that house the city’s streetlight wiring throughout downtown. I found a fun treasure hunt aspect to it, stumbling upon a box with a fresh design around every corner. From cartoonish illustrations to whimsical scenes to landscapes to tattoo-like paintings to vibrant pop-art inspired imagery, it’s all there. It’s estimated that the public art is valued at $4 million.

4. EAT YOUR HEART OUT

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The restaurant at the Modern Hotel and Bar showcases the region's seasonal bounty on its ever-changing menu. Apple Bread Pudding with caramel, vanilla ice cream, and  cinnamon walnut tuile is a taste of winter. (Courtesy The Modern Hotel and Bar)

When I told my friends I was traveling to Boise, every one of them made some wisecrack about all the potatoes I’d eat. I am happy to report that I did not eat a single potato. Creative chefs and bartenders are giving celebrated restaurants in bigger cities a run for their money, to be sure. I credit that to the chefs and restraurateurs being able to take risks in smaller cities that they can’t take in super-ultra-competitive markets with sky-high rent prices, like New York, LA and San Francisco. Also, this is where locavore, which big city chefs wear as a badge of honor, is a necessity. The Modern Bar, part of the Modern Hotel and Bar, a hip refurbished Travelodge, is a perfect example. Manager Remi Courcenet, a French expat who oversees the restaurant and the top rate cocktail program, told me that even the caviar is local. I still find this astounding. On the menu here, French and other European influences as well as a smattering of North African flavors meld to form something uniquely American. For more local indulgence there’s Fork. Located in a refurbished old bank with the original gorgeously carved stone archway over the entrance, the eatery is best described as a high-end tavern, but not too high-end! The vibe is casual and the food is sublime. Asparagus fries (read: asparagus tempura) and tomato basil fondue and grilled cheese are signatures. The local bounty is also showcased at Juniper on 8th, a laid-back eatery with exposed brick walls that give it a warehouse-chic vibe. They offer elevated renditions of pub grub, like pear-fig grilled cheese, spicy duck ramen and even roast beef dip. (Just in case you don’t feel like cutting up a steak that day, I guess.)

5. DRINK UP

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The lively taproom at Payette Brewing Co. is just one of the many spots to kick back with excellent local beers. (Liza Weisstuch)

Any city with a creative class these days will have a plenty of breweries and taprooms to choose from and probably a distillery or two, too. When it comes to the latter, Boise has a major claim to fame: the first distillery restaurant in the United States. Since Bardenay opened in 1999, they’ve been making their own spirits in a compact still room set behind glass in the back. And, of course, the cocktail list features many cocktails made with the house vodka, gin, rum and liqueurs. The kitchen turns out elevated pub grub (cider-brined pork chop, black bean and quinoa sandwiches, vegan selections). For beer lovers, Boise is an embarrassment of riches. Payette Brewing, which takes its name from the river named for a thrill-seeking fur-trapper, turns out creative beers in a brewery retrofitted into a spacious old gymnasium. (Yes, that loop up towards the ceiling, that’s the track that encircles the basketball court where the brewing equipment now sits.) The taproom feels like your neighbor’s house party. There’s a comfy bar area, tables where you’re likely to see people stationed for hours with their computer, and lots of room for dogs and children to meander on any given day. (And for the record, there are more dogs than kids on most of the time.)

But if Payette is your neighbor’s living room, Woodland is the community center. This husband-and-wife-owned brewery on the edge of downtown produces seasonal one-offs and creative collaborative beers in addition to their ones that made them a local favorite in the first place. You can hang out in the industrial-chic tasting room, but note that the brewery sometimes hosts other events, like yoga classes.

6. SHOP THE MARKETPLACE

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The Capital City Public Market features made-in-Idaho food and crafts every Saturday from April through December. (Courtesy Visit Idaho)

Downtown Boise's wide streets and scenic pavilion make it an perfect site for the Capital City Public Market, which takes place Saturdays from April through December. I visited two weekends before Christmas and observed Idahoans' true frontiersmen mettle in action. How else to explain the fact that everyone was out showing off their wares while the temperature hovered around 17-degrees? I browsed handmade soaps and playful Southwestern-style pottery, whimsical silver jewelry and and rugged leather accessories. I drank hot cider and chatted with a high-school student working at a stand selling spiced meat pies his mother makes. He told me of coming to Boise as a refugee from Somalia. He liked growing up in the city, but is applying to colleges in bigger cities, he told me. I made off with a chunky knit scarf made by a woman from Guatemala and a small bottle of intriguingly smokey jalapeno-laced wine from Potter Wines. In the spirit of giving, I supported the Boise Local 149 firefighters with a $25 donation which scored me a wall calendar so that every day of the year a beautiful Boise boy can remind me of my days in this excellent American city. 

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Budget Travel Lists

5 Unforgettable Experiences in Seward, Alaska

"Alaska Starts Here" is the motto of the small town of Seward, Alaska, located on the Kenai Peninsula. With a population of a little over 3,000 it seems like a bold claim, but this coastal community truly delivers, giving visitors the chance to experience all the nature, sports and excitement that Alaska has to offer, with lodging under $200/night. Here, five ways to enjoy Alaskan pursuits in Seward. 1. GO FISHING Alaska is home to some of the world's best fishing spots, and in Seward the waters are teeming with Pacific salmon, lingcod, halibut, and rockfish. Beginners, experts, and all kinds of fishing enthusiasts in between can join a guided fishing tour to some of Seward's top fishing spots. Spend a calming day fly fishing for salmon at the Ptarmagin creek as they migrate to and from Kenai Lake or catching fish for Sockeye on a drift boat in the Kenai River. From guided saltwater or freshwater charters to share fishing you can do it all here. Tour companies provide necessary supplies along with professional guidance, and then lead you to some of the region's most plentifully lakes and rivers. 2. TRY DOG SLEDDING Get into the Iditarod spirit by partaking in one of Alaska's greatest traditions; the sport of dog sledding. In Seward, you will learn that there's more to dog sledding than just a team of fast dogs. There's strategy, training, and endurance required to become a winning dog sled team. Feel the excitement as your sled team steadily trots through the Alaskan terrain while learning the commands "Gee" and "Haw" to signal turns to the team of dogs. At the Turning Heads Kennel in Seward, the home of Iditarod musher Travis Beals, not only can you meet the athletes (both dog and human) but you can also reserve a dog sled ride for as low as $69. 3. TAKE A CRUISE OR BOAT TOUR Since Seward is surrounded by the Kenai Fjords National Park, there are plenty of chances to observe Alaska's natural wonders. For a great overview of the Kenai Fjords, hop aboard a day cruise and spend a thrilling day at sea, searching for marine wildlife, gazing upon glaciers, and learning about the history of the fjord and the Alaskan Bay. With Major Marine Tours you can choose from a variety of boat tours including whale watching, national park tours, and wildlife cruises, with prices ranging from $94 to $239. All cruises offer snacks on board with some of the longer full day cruises including a deli lunch. 4. GO HIKING Alaska's picturesque landscapes and wild nature attracts outdoor buffs and adventure seekers from around the world. Whether exploring the forests, climbing mountains, or navigating around rivers and lakes, hikers enjoy the unique outdoor challenges, some of which can only be discovered in Seward. One of the most stunning hikes is to Exit Glacier with trails leading to multiple vantage points around the glacier, including a trail accessible to those with disabilities. Trails lead to right beside the glacier where visitors can experience the massive blue wall of ice, listening to its thunderous cracks as Exit Glacier slowly inches down to the Resurrection River from the Harding Ice Field. You can hike there on your own or join one of Seward Windsong Lodge's guided walking tours for $48 to learn more about this glacial environment from a naturalist guide. 5. ENJOY FINE ALASKAN CUISINE There's never a shortage of fresh seafood in Alaska, especially in Seward when the Kenai River and Copper River, two main sources of Alaskan salmon, are close by. At the Seward Windsong Lodge's Resurrection Roadhouse, chef KC Loosemore uses minimal ingredients to create exquisite dishes. Utilizing the region's abundance of fish, chef Loosemore creates delicious dishes such as Seared Alaskan Halibut on a bed of toasted Alaskan-grown barley couscous dressed with arugula, lemon, golden beets, and goat cheese, an Alaskan-caught salmon filet with seasonal vegetables, fennel-arugula salad, and warm herbed quinoa, as well as a variety of favorites including fish and chips and burgers.For more information visit the Seward Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.

Budget Travel Lists

10 Best Budget Vacations for Spring

Planning a spring escape, whether it's a week or more or just a weekend getaway, is easy once you know the go-to destinations where the weather is inviting, the crowds are not overwhelming, and the price is right. Here, 10 of our very favorite North American spring vacations. 1. MYRTLE BEACH South Carolina Why wait till summer for a warm beach getaway? If you want a dreamy beach vacation, it's already warming up down in Myrtle Beach! Its miles of sand, charter fishing expeditions, and Ripley's Aquarium (where you can get nose-to-nose with sharks) will keep you busy while the sun shines, and its world-class eateries roll out an irresistible southern-style welcome with local micro-brews, seafood buffets, and oceanfront tables. The Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Boardwalk and Promenade, which opened just five years ago, feels as if it's been here forever. Welcoming crowds by the million with its charm and hospitality, the boardwalk features the Family Kingdom amusement park that includes the massive Skywheel and Slingshot, and the just-opened Twist 'n Shout steel roller coaster (visitmyrtlebeach.com). Westgate Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Resort provides beach access and ocean views, a heated outdoor pool, heated "lazy river," kids' water play area, and a "kids eat free" policy. 2. GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK Tennessee Tour an American paradise before the summer crowds pour in. America's most popular national park, a major theme park, and miles of trails and streams for under $150 per night? Yup. Head to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for fishing, hiking, and scenic drives like the six-mile Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and don't forget to spend at least one day at 150-acre Dollywood for authentic Tennessee music, food, and, of course, thrill rides such as the Wild Eagle and Mystery Mine. Local motels offer restaurants, indoor pools, and mountain views. 3. POINT PLEASANT New Jersey Psst! The boardwalk of your dreams opens in spring, but don't tell or everyone will want to go. Point Pleasant is, well, pleasant enough in summer if you enjoy being part of a major scene, rubbing elbows with in-the-know New Yorkers, Philadelphians, and Jersey girls and boys who love Jenkinson's Boardwalk and the lovely stretch of beach here. (Point Pleasant is about 70 miles south of New York City and about 75 miles northeast of Philadelphia.) But the place starts hopping on weekends in April, the rides are open, the cotton candy is just as sweet, but rates for hotel rooms just a block from the beach can be literally a third of the summer price. Grab dinner on the boardwalk, or hit Woodchucks BBQ. The White Sands is a reliable, friendly hotel right on the beach. 4. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC Affordable all-inclusive resorts put this island paradise within reach. The DR offers everything you might want on a Caribbean break, without the sticker shock you might expect. One of the reasons is incredible all-inclusive resorts like the Majestic Colonial Beach Resort in Punta Cana. Las Terrenas, a lesser-known but no less appealing former fishing village in the Samaná province, has amazing beaches and wallet-friendly prices. Explore Los Haitises National Park, a protected forest, in a kayak with a guide who will take you through lagoons and mangrove canals amid pelicans and leatherback turtles. Another affordable lodging option is Eva Luna, in Las Terrenas, which has five Mexican-style villas, each with a kitchen.  5. NEW ORLEANS Louisiana The Big Easy is easier than ever now that Mardi Gras crowds have headed home, and 2018 is the city's 300th birthday! Cobblestone streets! Hot jazz! Unforgettable cuisine! New Orleans's French Quarter is just the beginning of a great getaway that combines warm spring weather with elbow room now that Mardi Gras has turned into Lent. Trendy nightclubs, ivy-covered townhouses, and Creole cottages make for a backdrop like no other. Don't miss the annual French Quarter Festival in April, load up on beignets at Café Du Monde, and explore the city's unique music scene with a free self-guided audio tour courtesy of the New Orleans Jazz Historical Park. You'll find plenty of stylish and affordable lodging, such as the Westin New Orleans Canal Place. 6. WASHINGTON, DC Celebrate your freedom in our nation's capital—where it seems just about every attraction is free. From tours of the Capitol building to the endless galleries and exhibits of the Smithsonian Institution, from the National Archives (you may have heard of some of its contents—the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution?) to the Library of Congress, this town offers more in the way of freebies than anywhere else. When you're ready to step outside and enjoy the spring air and cherry blossoms, pay a visit to the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. It may be surprising to you, but it's not to locals and other insiders, that one of the best restaurants in town is the Mitsitam Native Foods Café at the National Museum of the American Indian—you can try buffalo and fry bread, among other delights. Book a room at the affordable and homey Adam's Inn, and tell them Budget Travel sent you. 7. LAS VEGAS Nevada It's always open, it's always jumping, and it's surprisingly affordable even for "low-rollers." If you haven't found yourself on the Strip yet—it's one of the most popular destinations for girl getaways, bachelor parties, and of course impromptu weddings—you should put it on your list. In addition to the grand décor (including faux European landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Venetian canals) and the obvious strike-it-rich lure of slots, cards, and dice, Las Vegas offers a $2 billion airport, the Mob Museum, and kitschy retro finds like Champagnes Café, which does its best to bring '50s chic back to life. While hotel rates are not quite the rock-bottom the city was once known for, reasonable lodging can be found, especially off the Strip, in stylish downtown. 8. MONTREAL Quebec, Canada An old-world city in the heart of North America. Just strolling the streets of this friendly, moderately priced Canadian city feels like you've crossed the Atlantic and entered a whole new world. Once the thrill of hearing French—and tasting continental treats like fresh croissants—has worn off a bit, hit the Montreal Biodôme, which re-creates four ecosystems, including more than 200 species of animals. Don't miss the landmark Notre-Dame Basilica, the Vieux-Port de Montreal park, and the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montreal. Stay at Le Square Phillips Hotel & Suites, and consider a day trip to the countryside in mid-to-late March to witness maple syrup in the making. 9. CAPE ANN Massachusetts A New England beach getaway for a song. For authentic New England without the throngs, Gloucester, MA, a tight-knit fishing community on Cape Ann, just 45 minutes north of Boston, is a good place to start. Expansive beaches, frothy seas, wonderfully old-fashioned Main Streets, historic lighthouses, and some of the freshest locally sourced meals around make this "other cape" a reason to bypass the better known-and infinitely pricier-beach destinations along the Massachusetts coast. Hit Gloucester's Good Harbor Beach, a wide stretch of fine, white sand edged by dunes and a gurgling creek leading into a refreshingly chilly pocket of the Atlantic, and Rocky Neck artists' colony, where you can soak up some of the sumptuous light that has drawn artists including Milton Avery, Edward Hopper, and Winslow Homer. Blue Shutters Beachside Inn has comfortable rooms with beach views and a welcoming living room with a fireplace that's surprisingly welcome even on summer evenings. 10. SANIBEL ISLAND Florida Your own private island? Well, it's about as close as you'll find... Sure, there's a long list of things you can do on Sanibel Island. But maybe the most appealing of all is... nothing! If your idea of a spring vacation involves warm sand, subtropical breezes, and the luxury of staring, snoring, or reading, this island has your name on it! Check into the Tropical Winds Beachfront Motel and Cottages and you'll enjoy a private beach and outdoor pool. Feeling a bit adventurous? Sanibel is a mecca for outdoors enthusiasts and you can take your pick of cycling the island's miles of trails; kayaking or canoeing its waterways; water-skiing; and fishing. Or hit the golf course or tennis courts. Grab a bowl of fish stew at Sweet Melissa's Cafe.

Budget Travel Lists

7 Things to Do in Oakland, CA

Ask my kids what they liked best about their visit to California last July and they’ll both answer without hesitation: “Oakland!” My daughters spent a week attending an exceptional summer camp at Studio One Art Center, in Oakland, and some of their finest creations from that week now grace the walls of our suburban New York apartment, a reminder of all that our family discovered about Oakland on our trip. It’s also a great reflection of Oakland’s justly deserved rep as an epicenter of artistic creativity on the West Coast. From cool arts and cultural programs to great food and beautiful natural spaces, here are seven of the many ways you can - and should - get to know the city that’s just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco. 1. GET ARTSY Studio One Art Center (studiooneartcenter.net), offering art classes for adults and kids and the great summer day camp my kids attended last year, is just one example of how Oakland embraces art and community. If you want a firsthand one-stop experience of Oakland’s art scene, attend First Fridays, the immersive art and community event that takes place each month on Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street, with the city’s galleries, artist collectives, street artists, artisans, performers, and more participating. We also visited the Oakland Museum of California (museumca.org), an unusual hybrid that brings together superb collections devoted to art, history, and natural science with the goal of telling the multitude of stories that make up California from prehistoric times to the present. I loved the ways in which the museum brings various disciplines together, and my wife and I spent an entire day exploring the history timeline exhibits and photographing replicas of the state’s native communities, Gold Rush opulence, Steinbeck-era memorabilia associated with the Great Depression, and much more. The art collection ranged from Edward Curtis’s extraordinary photographs of Native Americans to brand-new conceptual installations that challenge viewers to redefine the very concept of art. 2. HEAR GREAT MUSIC One word: Yoshi’s (yoshis.com). While the legendary jazz club is by no means the only music venue in town, it exemplifies, perhaps better than any other, the Oakland community’s deep understanding and commitment to jazz music not only as satisfying entertainment but also as a gorgeous, swinging, ever-evolving manifestation of America’s diverse cultures, especially the creative African-American communities that helped give birth to the “West Coast Jazz” movement in the 1950s. Upcoming shows by Resonance Classical Jazz Ensemble on January 10 and Grammy-winning Latin percussionist Pancho Sanchez on January 26 and 27. Other great places to catch fresh music in Oakland include The New Parish, the Fox theater and the Paramount. 3. OGLE THE ARCHITECTURE Oakland is a wonderful city for walking, and visitors get a mosaic of architectural styles just strolling downtown and beyond. Take your pick from Art Deco to Victorian, Arts & Crafts (many of Julia Morgan’s iconic designs are here), and Millennial Modern, and don’t miss the lakeside Cathedral of Christ the Light. 4. GET OUTDOORS Sure, many of us associate Oakland with big-city style and urban music, but the city boasts some surprising delights for outdoor adventurers as well. With 19 miles of coastline and downtown’s beautiful Lake Merritt, Oakland offers opportunities to kayak, stand-up-paddleboard, and even sail on the bay. More than 100,000 acres of parkland and trails up in the hills are a weekend and vacation paradise for hikers, cyclists, horseback riders, and off-road Segways (yes, that’s a thing that exists here). 5. EAT (THEN EAT SOME MORE) We loved the way Oakland’s eats range from Michelin-starred restaurants to food trucks, making the city one of the West Coast’s hottest new culinary destinations. Of course you expect great Mexican fare in Northern California, and Oakland delivers with Nido, Tamarindo Antoneria, and Dona Tomas. With the fourth largest Chinatown in the U.S., Oakland also delivers perfect dumplings at Restaurant Peony and Shan Dong. You’ll also find classic Southern dishes at Pican, comfort food (think mac & cheese made with a local artisanal twist) at Homeroom, and great BBQ at B-Side BBQ. Cuisines of Ethiopia and Eritrea are gaining popularity at Addis, Cafe Colucci, and YaYu. We opted to explore the city’s Vietnamese cuisines, and Le Cheval is a standout with its classic Vietnamese blend of French, Chinese, and Southeast Asian traditions. 6. FIND FAMILY FUN While my kids happened to love their art camp experience, Oakland offers many other family-friendly experiences, the storybook-themed park, Children’s Fairyland, said to have inspired Walt Disney to explore the theme park concept. The Oakland Zoo is a favorite with little ones, and the Chabot Space & Science observatory keeps kids and grownups looking up. One of the top family experiences that deserves its closeup in 2018 is the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, allowing visitors to step back in time to immerse themselves in California’s early history. 7. TAKE THE ALE TRAIL If you’ve worked up a thirst diving into the six previous Oakland musts, it’s time to grab a beer. The Oakland Ale Trail, is a celebration of Oakland’s craft beer scene, one of the tastiest in America. Get a “passport” at one of Oakland’s brewery taprooms, and if you visit all of them, you’ll earn a free growler. (If beer isn’t your thing, you can hit the Oakland Urban Wine Trail to explore local wineries.) AND, YES, YOU CAN AFFORD AN OAKLAND HOTEL Oakland lodging starts at well under $200 (with some airport hotels under $100), and I thoroughly appreciated our stay at the Best Western Plus Bayside Hotel.

Budget Travel Lists

10 Best Cars for Budget Travelers

Love a good road trip? So do we! But we also love to trim our travel costs, which is why we’ve worked with Autotrader.com to find the best cars for Budget Travelers. These 10 vehicles not only earned top marks for fuel efficiency but also boast cool tech features that will enhance your driving experience. Also, each car costs less than $25,000, so you won’t have to break the bank on your new set of wheels.  2017 Ford Fiesta Titanium At just under $20,000, the Fiesta’s Titanium model features keyless entry/start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rearview camera with rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, Sony 8-speaker audio system with HD radio,and specially designed 16-inch alloy wheels. Also, Ford’s Sync 3 smart entertainment system, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, is standard on the Titanium Fiesta. “As subcompact cars go, the Fiesta is a good one,”says Brian Moody, executive editor at Autotrader. “It’s fun to drive, has a reasonably nice interior, and sips fuel.” 2017 Honda HR-V EX The base LX model ($20,000) of this new subcompact SUV from Honda features a rearview camera, tilt-telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio controls, 160-watt 4-speaker stereo system with USB input, auto-off headlights, and front and rear 12-volt power outlets. The EX bumps the price up to $23,000 but includes a 7-inch touchscreen audio display, Honda’s LaneWatch technology, 180-watt 6-speaker stereo, Pandora radio compatibility, heated front seats, power moonroof, Smart Entry with push-button start, auto on/off headlights, rearview camera, second USB jack, SMS text messaging, and automatic climate control. Plus, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available on every Honda model. 2018 Chevrolet Cruze LS At only $17,850, the base-level, stick-shift-only Cruze L has a backup camera, 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, Bluetooth, power accessories, Teen Driver technology, 4-speaker stereo with Bluetooth, OnStar with a Wi-Fi hotspot, and 7-inch center touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Cruze LS ($19,400), however, allows drivers to order automatic transmission for $1,000 extra. “Add it all up and the result is a car that’s roughly $21,000 and features desirable tech,” Moody says. 2017 Jeep Compass Sport The Sport ($21,000) is the Compass’ base model but it has some compelling features, Moody says. Push-button start, cruise control, USB port, auxiliary audio input, 6-speaker audio system, 5-inch touchscreen, hill-start assist, rearview camera and trailer sway control are all part of the package. “We also like the Compass because it looks like a junior version of the larger, pricier Grand Cherokee,” says Moody. Moreover, the car’s Uconnect system integrates a 5-inch touchscreen display, hands-free calling, voice text reply, voice commands for radio functions, and Bluetooth audio streaming. 2017 VW Jetta SE “The Jetta is a great-looking car with a sporty attitude,”Moody says. It’s also a techie’s dream: in addition to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Jetta SE ($22,000) has blind-spot monitoring, push-button start, satellite radio, Bluetooth, USB port, LED daytime running lights, and 6.3-inch touch screen. 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Standard goodies on >span class="s5"> Elantra GT ($22,000) include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, full power accessories, tilt-telescopic steering wheel with redundant audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity, rearview camera, and remote keyless entry. For an extra $1,000, you can upgrade to theGT Sport, which has lane keep assistance, LED headlights and taillights, and heated leather front seats. 2018 Kia Niro FE You’ll have to stick with the FE base model of Kia’s newest crossover, car-based SUV to keep the price of the Niro under $25,000, Moody says, but this hybrid boasts a whopping 50 miles per gallon on average—making it one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the road. And, if you’re willing to shell out an extra few hundred dollars, you can add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio, and 7-inch touchscreen.  2017 Nissan Altima S The spacious Altima S model ($24,000) is loaded with cool tech features, including forward collision warning with emergency braking, Bluetooth, Siri eyes free, push-button start, and Nissan’s easy-fill tire system, which honks the horn when the car reaches the right level for tire pressure.  2017 Subaru Impreza Sport Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on the Impreza Sport ($23,000), which has an 8-inch touch screen that includes app integration for services like iHeartRadio and Pandora. The entertainment system is also more user-friendly than many other in-car interface systems, Moody says. However, “the real reason to pick this car is that, for the price, it’s one of the most fun-to-drive small sedans around,” Moody says.  2018 Toyota Camry L While the all-new Camry doesn’t have Apple CarPlay, you still get a lot for your money with the base L trim model, Moody says. Indeed, the car's tech features include automatic LED headlights, highway-speed adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning, Bluetooth, one USB port, 7-inch touchscreen interface, Scout GPS navigation smartphone app, and 6-speaker sound system with a media player interface. “That's a lot of stuff for a car that comes in at just under $25,000,” Moody says. “We also like the Camry’s new look and driving dynamics, which are far better than any Camry before it.”

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