Great Getaways: Savannah
If you're looking for a fun, affordable southern getaway, visit Savannah, where you'll find the perfect mix of southern hospitality, nightlife, and enough action to satisfy every food lover and history buff.
Savor the tastes of Savannah
Although things may have gotten a little controversial recently, Paula Deen's restaurant, The Lady & Sons, is still one of Savannah's major attractions for foodies and fans alike—folks have been known to make reservations online up to a year in advance or else risk waiting in a line that wraps around its home at 102 West Congress Street. For a more traditional southern dining experience, try Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room at 107 West Jones Street, where you'll share a giant table and make new friends as you chow down on fried chicken and cornbread dressing, sweet potato soufflé, okra gumbo, corn muffins, and black-eyed peas. If you're still not full after all that, head to Leopold's Ice Cream, a Savannah legend that's been serving the sweet treat since 1919 (212 E. Broughton St).
Check out the old forts
Make history interesting for your family by showing them around the places where it all happened. Fort Pulaski National Monument, located about 20 minutes from downtown Savannah, was pummeled by cannon fire during the Civil War and once served as a Union prison—spend some time exploring the tiny tunnels built into the hillside that let you pop up at different vantage points around the fort. Just 10 minutes from downtown Savannah, Old Fort Jackson sits along the Savannah River and is one of oldest standing brick structures on the east coast. If you have time to take a drive, Fort McAllister Historic Park is home to 4.3 miles of hiking and biking trails, Fort tours, and historical Civil War demonstrations 45-minutes south of Savannah on the shores of the Ogeechee River.
Stroll around Savannah's great outdoors
Savannah is a great city to take a walk—you'll be met with scenic squares and picturesque scenery at almost every turn, so don't forget your camera! Movie buffs will want to visit Chippewa Square, where Forrest Gump told the story of his fascinating life while waiting for the bus. If you're a Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fan, make a pilgrimage out to historic Bonaventure Cemetery 15 minutes from Savannah's downtown and pay a visit to poet Conrad Aiken, singer-songwriter Johnny Mercer, and several of Savannah's most famous residents. You can also visit the grave of Danny Lewis Hansford, whose death was popularized by the book, next door in Greenwich Cemetery—his gravestone is often covered in roses, cigarettes, cigars, coins, and sealed bottles of bourbon. Back in town, take a stroll or have a picnic in beautiful Forsyth Park, a gorgeous green space within the Historic District and easily accessible by Savannah's free DOT Express Shuttle. If you've brought your precious pup with you to Savannah, check out Oliver Bentleys Historic Dog Walk Tour, a tour led by the popular dog product company's mascot, Ollie B (and owner of course), that lets you and your furry friend "sniff out Savannah" and explore another, four-legged, side of the city ($20 for adults, $10 for children ages 9-17, children under 8 are free, limited to two leashed dogs per human).
Take a ghost tour—if you're brave enough!
Pick a ghost tour, any ghost tour. Savannah is rumored to be the most haunted city in the U.S. so naturally, there are plenty of options to go with—choose from the trolley-tour fun of Ghosts & Gravestones, gain some liquid courage during the Ghost City Pub Crawl by Ghost City Tours, or brave the streets at night while being led around town by your guide with Cobblestone Tours. Either way, you'll learn about the city's hauntings, tragic tales of unfortunate circumstances, and maybe even see a ghost or two. Anything can happen—you'd be surprised how much of the city was actually built on the remains of its former residents!
Spend a day at the beach in Tybee Island
Craving some sun and sand? Tybee Island is only about a 20-minute drive from Savannah and is home to the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, a 270-year-old site where you can visit historic buildings and see what it was really like to live on the property in 1732. The view from the top* is worth the $9 entrance price ($7 for children ages 6-17, seniors, and military members—free for Coast Guard members with a valid ID). If all else fails, find your perfect spot of sand and spend a day in the warm waves of Tybee Island Beach. Mark your calendars—Tybee Island Restaurant Week is happening Jan. 17-26, 2014, so don't miss this opportunity to sample some great seafood—The Crab Shack is offering great prix fixe options from $25.
Stay in the heart of the city for less
Book your stay at the Best Western PLUS Savannah Historic District, located right along River Street, a five-minute walk from some of the city's best nightlife along the Riverfront, and across the street from Savannah Smiles Dueling Pianos, a legend of the Savannah late-night entertainment scene. Rooms are priced from $79 and include complimentary continental breakfast. Park your car at the hotel for $12 and take advantage of the city's vibrant nightlife options—you can even get around for free via the DOT Express Shuttle, River Street Streetcar, or hop a free ride on the Savannah Belles Ferry to access the Riverfront area.
*Please note the Tybee Island Lighthouse will be closed for painting thru Jan. 31, 2014, but the rest of the museum site is still open to the public at a discounted entry price.
Is Las Vegas America's REAL Christmas City?
Yup, cheap airfares and hotel rates make Las Vegas a perennially attainable indulgence. Once on the ground, the city rolls out entertainment, food, and drink 24/7 any day of the year. But in December, the desert oasis may shine brighter than ever, with a merry mix of grown-up, kid-friendly, and downright quirky holiday traditions. Here, some of our favorites. Las Vegas Great Santa Run. Vegas's answer to Pamplona's Running of the Bulls? The Great Santa Run, December 7, is a 5k that starts at the Third Street stage of Fremont Street Experience and features thousands of red-suited Santa wannabes. The ninth annual Great Santa Run will be marshaled by Shania Twain and will be competing with similar Santa runs in the U.K., Tasmania, and Japan for title of world's biggest "Santa challenge." Fremont Street Experience. On December 11, downtown will play host to the lighting of a 50-foot Christmas tree, adding to the glow of the city's Viva Vision canopy. A live musical revue, Country Christmas, will follow the lighting. Sunset Wonderland Holiday Festival. Sunset Park, southeast of the Strip, is home to a holiday festival through December 22, with ice skating, carriage rides around the lake, a Ferris wheel, and of course opportunities for kids to have their picture taken with Santa Claus. Sam's Town Hotel & Gambling Hall. This annual spectacle features more than a half-million Christmas lights, a laser show, and a snow shower in the desert! The Bellagio. This glitzy icon throws a holiday party like no other, with its famous fountains dancing to Christmas carols all month and its botanical gardens boasting an immense Christmas tree topped with a star that's eight feet tall.
This Dude Visited Every Country on Earth—Without Flying!
Sure, you're well traveled. You've got pages of brag-worthy passport stamps and amazing true stories from the road. But Graham David Hughes, of Liverpool, U.K., has been to every country on the planet. And he did it without ever once boarding an airplane. Vicky Baker, writing recently in The Guardian, profiled Hughes and what he calls "the first surface journey to every nation on earth." Starting in Uruguay in January 2009 and finishing in Russia earlier this year, Hughes set the bar high: Not only did he not allow himself to fly, but he also ruled out driving, insisted on crossing only at official border points, and using public transportation whenever possible. His feat—covering 201 countries in 1,426 days—will likely be a Guinness World Record, though the Guinness judges faulted him for entering Russia illegally. (Hughes returned to Russia to get a new visa in hopes of having his world record approved.) Hughes documented his trip at theodysseyexpedition.com, and raised money for WaterAid. When Baker asked him for the highlight of his round-the-world jaunt, Hughes replied "Iran," praising that country for its friendly population and predicting that it would be a top tourist destination in the future.
Do you use Pinterest for Vacation Ideas?
Believe it or not, Pinterest just got more addicting. Not only can you find photos, boards, and graphics for everything from knitting projects and classic recipes to travel quotes and holiday decorations, but now you can actually map out your dream trips and travel bucket list adventures. Social media sites like Pinterest are making it easier to plan your dream vacation, providing a wealth of ideas and images to help you get the ball rolling. According to this recent article by Skift, Pinterest is also planning to bridge the gap between fantasizing about and planning your vacations to being able to book them, but that's still to come. Budget Travel first came onto the Pinterest scene a little over a year ago with three modest boards highlighting our feature articles (see our Budget Travel Collections board, now serving as our Pinterest story archive), Readers' Best Photos, and Travel Deals to Get Now, and have since grown to more than 30 boards. We couldn't resist testing out Pinterest's Place Pins, a new feature that lets you tag the name of the place in your photo so it appears on a fancy map powered by Foursquare, showing the exact location. Check out our Best Budget Hotels, Wonders of the World, Brag-Worthy Passport Stamps, and A World of Christmas Trees boards to see the new trend for yourself. We want to know: do you use visually-oriented social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram for vacation ideas or to help plan your trips? Tell us about it below!
Santa Teresa: Machu Picchu's Jungle Gateway
This article was written by Maureen Santucci. Originally from the U.S., Maureen now calls the ancient Peruvian capital of Cusco home, where she has lived for almost five years, working as a travel consultant and writing for Fodors Travel Guide. She wrote this article on behalf of Peru for Less, a travel company specializing in tours all over Peru. If you don't have time to get to the beaches of Northern Peru or to the jungle, you might want to take a short side trip to Santa Teresa while you are visiting Machu Picchu. Located a short train ride from Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo), this town give you the opportunity to get away from it all without having to go too far off your designated path. Not many options exist yet in terms of lodging, but that is sure to change in the future. For now, your best bet is the EcoQuechua Lodge. It feels like a true jungle lodge, with rooms that open out onto the surrounding high jungle. There isn't a lot of wildlife here, as you would find in the Amazon, but there are plenty of birds and it is a real treat to wake up to the sounds of them singing all around you. Just staying at the lodge can be enough of a break, but there are other activities nearby that you can take advantage of. The nearby Colcamayo hot springs are one of the best around—a much better option than the hot springs in Aguas Calientes, the name of the town (Hot Waters) notwithstanding—with pools of varying temperature so you can enjoy searing hot Jacuzzi-like waters or just swim in those that are warm rather than hot. Bear in mind that they are closed a couple of times a week (currently two mornings) for cleaning so be sure to find out the current schedule ahead of time before taking a taxi to the springs. Adrenaline junkies should try the nearby a zipline, while coffee lovers can take a tour of the coffee plantation. The organic beans from this high jungle region are considered to be among the best in the entire world. It's not just interesting to learn about the process, bags of the ground coffee or beans make great presents to take home. If hiking is your thing, a visit to a coffee plantation can be followed by continuing up an old Inca trail to the archaeological site of Llactapata. This site has a direct line of sight to Machu Picchu, and was important in Inca times during solstice celebrations honoring the sun. If your time or physical fitness isn't up to a multi-day trek, this is a great way to get that same vibe and still have a hot shower and a comfortable bed at the end of your day. Please note that there are only a few trains that go between Aguas Calientes and the hydroelectric station each day, and you can only purchase the tickets at the respective stations. Because of the limited train schedules, you should booking your travel with an agency as they will be able to coordinate your Machu Picchu visit along with Santa Teresa so that you make the most of your available vacation time.