Budget Travel readers' 2020 bucket list

By Laura Brown
January 8, 2020
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We asked Budget Travel readers on Facebook to tell us what places are on their 2020 bucket list. Here are some of the top responses.

Big Bend National Park, TX
©Witold Skrypczak/Alamy Stock Photo

Big Bend National Park in Texas provides some of the best stargazing sites in North America.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

©John Woodworth/Getty Images

Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming is beautiful, and Yellowstone is a short drive away!

Las Vegas, Nevada


Las Vegas is a perennial favorite (albeit difficult to do on a budget).

New York, New York©Yukinori Hasumi/Getty Images

New York, New York, the city of lights.

Alaska©mtnmichelle/Getty Images

Lots of Budget Travel readers are planning trips to Alaska in 2020!

Hawaii©Valentin Prokopets/500px/Getty Images

Who among us wouldn't want a trip to Hawaii?


Cruises to the Bahamas can be found for cheap rates!

Charleston, South Carolina©f11photo/Shutterstock

Charleston, South Carolina, is a great place for a long weekend.

Niagara Falls, Canada©CPQ/Shutterstock

Witness the thunderous natural power of Niagara Falls.

New Orleans, Louisiana©Micha Weber/Shutterstock

New Orleans, Louisiana (or NOLA), known for throwing a great party.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

©Martin Wheeler/EyeEm/Getty Images

San Juan in Puerto Rico is an explosion of color!

Seattle, Washington©cdrin/Shutterstock

Seattle, Washington, has great weather and mountain views!

Sedona, Arizona

©Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

Sedona, Arizona, might be a center of mysterious spiritual vortexes.

Catskills, New York©lightphoto/Getty Images

The Catskills in New York are a great road trip!

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Budget Travel Lists

Manhattan’s top 7 dive bars for cheap drinks

Across Manhattan, bars prevail. The Mayor’s Office counts at least 13,000 nightlife establishments in the borough, with still more new liquor licenses issued every week. But among the island’s posh lounges and trendy speakeasies charging $25 per cocktail, there remain a cherished handful of classic New York City dive bars. These are the haunts that have survived the decades with their own kind of style: mismatched furniture, extended happy hours, charmingly surly bartenders, and wooden bars worn down from a billion wipedowns. You won’t find leather-bound mixology menus on this extreme shortlist. Just cheap drinks in dives from downtown to Midtown, each one serving up its own unique character. 1. Jeremy’s Ale House Few bars outside the French Quarter can claim such sentimentality about Styrofoam cups, but those 32-ounce draft beers never tasted so good – or so cheap (just $6.50 to $10.50 for a nice selection). Since 1973, Jeremy’s has watered down locals and workers around the South Street Seaport, who pack around its many ale-house tables for drinks and bar grub, starting as early as 8 am on weekdays. Nobody really knows why there are bras hanging from the ceiling, but it shouldn’t deter you. Because really, Jeremy’s draws an uncommon mix of Wall Streeters, construction workers, and true-blue New Yorkers – all of whom share the common interest of drinking cheaply in the familiar ambience of a simple, fun neighborhood joint. 2. 169 Bar Slinging drinks since 1916, this Lower East Side barroom is a bonanza of old-Manhattan originality. The colorful sign over the door shows a multicolored martini tipping over, perhaps a harbinger of what’s ahead at 169, home of the pickle martini. Inside, it feels like anything can happen, from pool on a leopard-print table to soul and funk grooves under the disco ball, to tasting an array of oysters and seafood. But you’re in the right place if you just want to drink on a budget, with happy hour prices from 11:30 am to 7:30 pm daily. Bonus: At 169 Bar, you can text in your drink order for speedy service. 3. Milano’s In the middle of Nolita’s high-priced cocktail scene is this affordable oasis. Milano’s has served up boozy standards since 1880, and now stands alone on a stretch of E. Houston Street as a staple dive for shot-and-beer specials (usually $5) and 5-8 pm daily happy hours. The long, narrow bar is perfect for both drowning sorrows or laughing with pals, either activity accentuated by the jukebox and crazy décor. 4. Doc Holliday’s If you like your dive with attitude, Doc Holliday’s honkytonk is your joint. Occupying a prime spot on Avenue A at E. 9th Street, Doc’s often sports a sign out front discouraging moneyed/entitled types from whisking in for its cheap, potent pours. Expect friendly bartenders and a boozy crowd, many of whom arrive early for the 5-8 pm weekday happy hours, then stay for the pool table and rollicking jukebox. 5. Trailer Park Lounge This dive is a little different, because its kitsch, like its drinks, are so strong. But for New Yorkers who want a little trailer-park flair in their firewater fun, hitch up to this Chelsea bar. Happy hours of $3 beers (including rarely-seen-in-NYC Shaefer cans) and $5 margaritas beckon daily from 4 to 6 pm. You can balance the booze with tater tots, sloppy joes, moon pies, and other down-home delights. It all suits this setting of Naugahyde furnishings and dazzling memorabilia that seem left behind from too many trailer-park yard sales. 6. Jimmy’s Corner The dive-bar desert of Times Square still has a glorious winner in Jimmy’s Corner. Parked in the middle of W. 44th Street (just east of Broadway), this boxing-shrine bar was opened by former prizefighter Jimmy Glenn in 1971. It’s going strong today, thanks to devotees who pack into the slim front bar and back tables for strong pours by no-nonsense bartenders. There’s no happy hour, but on the bright side, drinks are wildly inexpensive (e.g. $3.50 for a vodka-tonic), and the bar is open from 10 am to 4 am daily. 7. Rudy’s Bar & Grill There’s something lovable about a dive that’s survived condo culture despite its duct-taped seating. That’s Rudy’s, the self-proclaimed “historic dive bar in NYC” marked by a giant pink pig statue. This Hell’s Kitchen tavern opened in 1933 at the sunset of Prohibition. Today, most locals who love Rudy’s rely on its free hot dogs, if not for genuine sustenance, then to help them curb the drunkenness delivered from $12 pitchers. But this bar is lovable any way you want to drink it, from affordable top-shelf tipples to $4 shots (no happy hour need).

Budget Travel Lists

10 wild and tasty North American food trails

Eating locally is a delicious way to enjoy your travels. But some corners of the United States and Canada offer more direct routes to falling for regional fare: food trails. Sure, there are food trails that are familiar for their states. (We’re looking at you, Wisconsin Cheese Tour and New York’s Buffalo Wing Trail!) This list, on the other hand, will direct you to 10 food-loving paths where eccentric and scrumptious tastes converge. 1. Cajun Boudin Trail, Louisiana Southern Louisiana serves up several culinary-trail choices, which take travelers along the I-10 and LA-90 corridors for specialties like gumbo, jambalaya, alligator, and crawfish. But even more homegrown is the Cajun Boudin Trail, centered around Lafayette. Pronounced “boo-dan,” boudin is a sausage filled with meat, rice, and herbs that’s served across bayou country. The boudin trail will lead you to markets and restaurants to taste the best locally made links – plus other savories like fried boudin balls, cracklin (fried pork skin), smoked meats, and more. Bonus: Visit in October and fill up at Lafayette’s annual Boudin Cookoff. 2. Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, New Mexico You may wonder what’s so special about a burger topped with cheese and chiles that it’s earned its own food trail. One bite of this juicy New Mexican specialty, however, should answer your question. When it comes to the magical flavor formula of salt, fat, acid, and heat, the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail has it all (including plenty of other chile-licious dishes). Navigate with the state-wide interactive map to tickle your taste buds with green-chile burgers from Taos down to Las Cruces. 3. Country Ham Trail, Kentucky You wouldn’t be wrong to think of Kentucky for its Bourbon Trail or even its Fried-Chicken Trail. But the simply delicious Country Ham Trail is the state’s showcase for producers who have been curing ham for more than a century (sometimes inside bourbon rickhouses, for even more local flavor). Better still, visit the trail in September as it leads to Marion County’s annual Country Ham Days food and music festival. 4. Nova Scotia Chowder Trail, Canada Atlantic Canada is easily one of the continent’s best seafood regions. And while the Lobster Trail is sure to impress travelers, Nova Scotia’s Chowder Trail leads to nearly 60 unforgettable chowder houses across the province. Let the interactive map guide you to the best bowls from Halifax to Cape Breton and beyond, and don’t forget your “chowder passport” to earn stamps along the way. 5. Tehama Trail, California Northern California is famous for wine. But drive north towards Redding and Shasta Cascade to discover the riches of the Northern Sacramento Valley along the Tehama Trail – where olives and olive oil are beautifully cultivated. Starting from the town of Corning, the trail leads to some of America’s best olive farms, many of them with tasting rooms to sample artisanal oils, vinegars, and all manner of olives. Don’t miss the region’s honeys, pies, fresh produce, and, of course, spectacular wines. 6. Lowcountry Oyster Trail, South Carolina Come for the scenery, stay for the sea-to-fork riches. The famous bivalves of South Carolina’s coastal Lowcountry region anchor this oyster trail, where travelers can sample every type of preparation – from fried to Oysters Rockefeller to raw on the half-shell. Find a handy map with suggested itineraries on the Lowcountry Oyster Trail site, covering oyster farms, shucking facilities, and oh-so-many great seafood restaurants, some serving oyster-loving craft-beer and wine pairings. 7. Richmond Dumpling Trail, British Columbia, Canada Neighboring Vancouver is the city of Richmond, where Asian cuisine is abundant, and so delicious it may be the best on this side of the Pacific. Dumplings stand out in particular, making the official Richmond Dumpling Trail one of British Columbia’s gastronomic highlights. With the help of the trail website, you’ll learn about types of dumplings, best times of day to enjoy dim sum, and which restaurant-crawl itinerary is going to lead to the most satisfying dumplings for your eager chopsticks. 8. Fruit Loop, Oregon For 35 miles, travelers to Hood River County can get loopy tasting the natural bounty of 17 farm stands, 10 wineries, three cideries, six berry farms, and two lavender farms. They’re all on the Fruit Loop, which marks its 27th anniversary in 2020. Download a map for easy touring by car or bike, then plan to take in the seasonal produce and year-round bites and beverages found only in central Oregon. Pick up a brochure at any site, get stamped at 14 farm stands, and get a Fruit Loop bag to help tote your edible souvenirs. 9. Tenderloin Trail, Indiana Save your calories for this Hamilton County food trail, showcasing a mighty indulgent staple of the Hoosier State. Behold the tenderloin sandwich, composed of an oversized slice of pork that’s been pounded, breaded, and deep fried, and usually served on a comically small bun with burger fixings. (You can try grilled too, but why would you?) With the help of the trail’s online map, you can try more than 50 restaurants serving up this Indianan classic, and print your own Tenderloin Trail passport for July’s annual Tenderloin Tuesday specials. 10. A to Z Foodie Trail, Iowa Pella, Iowa, may be a small town, but its bursting with tasty delights. So many that the region offers an A-to-Z Foodie Trail to showcase 26 different dishes and drinks unique to Marion and Mahaska Counties (southeast of Des Moines). The trail is a top tourist activity, guiding hungry travelers to sample a bevy of local foods, from apple pie at Pella Nursery and gouda cheese curds at Frisian Farms; to pigs in the blanket at Vander Pleog Bakery and Yoga Poser Pale Ale at Nocoast Beer Co.

Budget Travel Lists

7 affordable alternatives to popular destinations around the world

Second-city travel refers to cities in a country that don’t come to mind when first planning a vacation. For example, when going to Thailand, tourists typically book a trip in Bangkok, instead of Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand. This trend has Americans dodging major cities for their smaller, alluring counterparts that offer lower price tags, fewer crowds (so long, traffic!) and a truly authentic experience. Second cities are not necessarily the second most-populated city in a country – when speaking about the trend in the travel sense, it means any city that might not be the first choice for tourists. So what could be better than a more authentic experience at a more affordable price? Here are seven second-city destinations to consider. 1. Lille instead of Paris, France Paris is a romantic city that foreigners swoon over and for good reason; however, France has countless cities that are more affordable and just as lovely. So skip the hustle and bustle of Paris and travel an hour north to the town of Lille, a cultural hub that sits on the crossroads of Paris, London and Brussels. Don’t worry, the croissants are just as good! Lille has been named a World Design Capital for the year 2020 and is a mecca for not only design, but also a robust food scene, museums and art fairs galore and beautiful modern architecture. With more affordable prices, your hotel stay can get an upgrade to chic Parisian style at MAMA Shelter Lille – a new boutique hotel with a welcoming vibe and a quirky design made for comfort. Plus, just a few steps from the hotel are two major train stations, making it a convenient option for exploring too! 2. Lafayette instead of New Orleans, Louisiana Less than three hours from New Orleans, Lafayette has been dubbed the “Austin” of Louisiana and the true heart of Cajun culture. Food is the heart of Louisiana and music is the soul – and there's an abundance of both in this charming Cajun town. With fresh seafood, jambalaya, crawfish and gumbos, no wonder this town has been dubbed the "Happiest City in America." Anthony Bourdain even visited once, enough said. If you’re coming to party Cajun style, Lafayette has that too. Home to Grammy-winning Cajun musicians, an epic Mardi Gras celebration and famed music halls – you really can’t go wrong with this second city. Plus, lodging is inexpensive with hotels under $100. Now you’ll have more cash for all the mouth-watering restaurants. Bring on the po’boys! 3. Catskills instead of New York City, New York New York City is one metropolis that everyone must visit at least once in a lifetime to experience the glorious city that never sleeps. But what about the rest of The Empire State? The Catskills are a three-hour drive from the Big Apple and offer a peek into the great countryside of New York. Tucked away upstate lays the town of Windham, now a popular ski destination and all-year escape. This area offers a small-town vibe with inviting locals, every outdoor sport you can imagine, local cuisine and quaint hotels worthy of your next Instagram post. Check out the Eastwind Hotel – this cozy, chic hideaway has Lushna cabins (A-frame wooden structures) as well as a wood-barrel sauna and fire pit for après-ski delights. 4. Eilat instead of Tel Aviv, Israel If the crowds in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are not appealing to you, consider the less-traveled city of Eilat as an exciting Israeli adventurer’s paradise. Located on the southern tip of the country, Eilat offers a sunny oasis on the Red Sea with stunning beaches and jaw-dropping coral reefs. Whether you want to hike the desert mountains, relax beachside or snorkel in its remarkable Coral Reef Nature Reserve, this resort town has it all. Hikers can trek the Eilat Mountains Nature Reserve, which offers some of the most breathtaking views and spectacular desert routes in all of Israel. And now it’s easy to get to, in January 2019, Israel opened the Ramon International Airport, which is a 20-minute drive from the city. 5. Milwaukee instead of Chicago, Illinois Situated two hours north of Chicago and located on the western shore of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee, is a lively urban Midwest city filled with approachable and affordable arts, culture and culinary experiences. And if you’re into beer, this city is for you. Wisconsin is the third-largest producer of beer in the US and Milwaukee is home to Miller Brewing, now MillerCoors, which offers a number of brewery tours and tasting experiences for travelers. Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward is a must-visit neighborhood that is considered the arts and fashion district – comparable to New York’s Brooklyn neighborhood, but without the crowds. Here you can find the Milwaukee Public Market, which features Wisconsin-made and must-try products like homemade chocolates and artisan cheeses. The Third Ward is also home to some of the best shopping and unique boutiques. 6. Ponce instead of San Juan, Puerto Rico San Juan is most commonly known as the hub for Puerto Rico’s vibrant culture, but, guess what? This extends beyond the metro area and throughout the entire island. Puerto Rico’s second-largest city is Ponce, known as “La Perla del Sur” (Pearl of the South) due to its location in the southern region of the island. With towns that maintain remnants of colonial life under Spanish rule, beautiful historic buildings and cultural attractions, Ponce is overflowing with rich history and culture. Immerse yourself in Ponce’s art scene at the Ponce Museum of Art – boasting over 4,500 European works of art. Or if you’re an explorer, take a ferry boat ride to Isla Caja de Muertos off the coast of Ponce, where you go hiking or simply relax in the turquoise water. 7. Spokane instead of Seattle, Washington Skip Seattle and head straight to Spokane. Located in eastern Washington, Spokane has everything Seattle has (except the Space Needle, of course), but on a smaller scale. Unlike its counterpart, Spokane is affordable and sunny. Plus, the city has a symphony, shopping, great theater, an exciting culinary scene – with 21 wineries and 40 craft breweries – that can rival Seattle and all the urban entertainment you could ask for. In addition to city culture and urban delights, Spokane is an outdoor recreation dream with five ski resorts and two state parks located right in Spokane. With 17 direct flights and over a hundred daily flights, it’s actually easy to get to Spokane. So what are you waiting for?

Budget Travel Lists

New York City’s 7 best old-school steakhouses

Before most US cities could even build a steakhouse, the island of Manhattan was serving up some of the country’s most prime cuts. Their steaks were so good and service so sublime, several of those classic eateries remain in full swing today, serving up dry-aged perfection to discerning diners. Then with the 20th century came a wave of steakhouses that mastered their own strips and styles, too. And while new beefy restaurants are always cropping up, there’s still a special, refined handful that have thrived over the decades, serving steaks that are simply a cut above the rest. 1. Delmonico’s Deep in the Financial District is one of America’s great all-time restaurants. Delmonico’s opened its corner-lot doors in 1837, when Andrew Jackson was president and California was 14 years away from statehood. But for polished New Yorkers, the restaurant was an instant staple, becoming the first to use white tablecloths and printed menus. Today, diners can find themselves in the same timeless dining room where chandeliers and original artworks hang, and career servers cater to every wish. Likewise, Delmonico’s menu remains classic, showcasing its divine Delmonico signature boneless rib-eye steak, prime New York strips, and on-the-bone beef dry aged up to 60 days. The menu reads like a culinary time capsule with dishes like brandied mushrooms and creamy Delmonico potatoes, with tempting modern specialties too. The restaurant also invented a few famous dishes – including baked Alaska, so be sure to leave room for dessert. 2. Smith & Wollensky In terms of vintage restaurants, it may be one of the newer steakhouses. But Smith & Wollensky established its elite reputation as soon as it served the first prime rib back in 1977. Its iconic green-and-white building is parked on the corner of Third Avenue and East 49th Street in Midtown, where inside its wood-lined walls, diners choose from a succinct classic menu and seasonal specials. The seafood is outstanding, but it’s the beef that built this cosmopolitan house. The classic, 26-ounce prime rib is the juicy go-to; though it’s rivaled by the Colorado rib steak and boneless or bone-in filet mignon, both seared to perfection. Sirloin, veal, lamb, and other steaks do indeed dazzle, just be sure to round out your meal with indulgent steakhouse sides like hash browns and creamed spinach. 3. Old Homestead Steakhouse Since 1868, Chelsea has been able to enjoy flavors of cattle country at the Old Homestead, where a cow sculpture hangs over the entrance as if marking an Old West eatery. The family-run restaurant has been turning out USDA prime for more than a century and a half, claiming to be “the King of Beef” in a city populated by steak lovers. Within its clubby dining room, you’ll find a robust menu of seafood, burgers, and tempting sides ­– and more importantly, a selection of expertly prepared chops and dry-aged steaks that span Japanese Wagyu, filet mignon, porterhouse, New York sirloin, and the mouth-watering, 24-ounce Gotham rib steak on the bone. 4. Sparks Steak House A stone’s throw from Grand Central Terminal is this legendary house of steak, where the old-school menu of chops, strips, and filets has endured since 1966. Spacious Sparks still draws a steady crowd, who pack in for memorable dining and suave service, plus a dose of NYC-mafia mystique. (A Gambino family mobster was shot outside the restaurant in 1985.) Above all, though, Sparks prepares an unrivaled, signature prime sirloin that’s considered one of the city’s best cuts. 5. Keens Steakhouse For a mashup of timeless décor, service, and food, reserve your spot at Keens Steakhouse. Open since 1885, the Herald-Square restaurant is a throwback to the days of checking your pipe at the door – in this case, hand-carved, long-stemmed pipes that now line the ceiling. Though the mutton chop is the signature here, you’ll find a mighty assortment of seafood, serious prime steaks, plus the rarely seen, super-tender Chateaubriand-style steak for two. 6. Gallaghers Steakhouse It began as a speakeasy, but today, Gallaghers is one of Manhattan’s top steakhouses, with its always-stocked meat fridge visible from the sidewalk on West 52nd Street. The restaurant has sated Times Square’s theatergoers since 1927, and these days has a modern look and 21st-century menu, thanks to a mid-2010s renovation. Still, the legend lives on with Gallaghers’s unique hickory coal–grilled steaks, including a 12-hour slow-roasted prime rib, which you can call in advance to order. 7. Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse Don’t be fooled by the understated entrance of Frankie & Johnnie’s. Just up a flight of stairs is an elegant dining room that’s one of the Theater District’s oldest and best. When the joint opened back in 1926, it was a speakeasy that hosted luminaries and mafioso outlaws, from Frank Sinatra to Bugsy Siegal. These days, it’s a go-to wonderland of seafood, pasta, old-school dishes like chicken livers and scampi – and flawless steaks. Bring a friend to share the tomahawk rib eye for two, or porterhouse for two or for three. If you’re catching a show, the three-course theatre menu is a daily bargain (except Sundays).