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6 Vegas Getaways You Need Right Now

By Julie Seabaugh
July 20, 2015
Vegas Hotels Illo
There's more to Las Vegas than the Strip! The city's Downtown is making a comeback, offering rock-bottom hotel prices in an authentic, old-school atmosphere.

We're all familiar with that famous Las Vegas Strip skyline, but long before the Strip came to embody the city as a whole, the first hotel-casinos began rising from the Nevada desert two and a half miles north. Today, Downtown thoroughfare Fremont Street bustles with brand-new bars, restaurants, shops, venues, and hotels offering budget-friendly, intimate, and down-to-earth accommodations that sometimes outdo their Strip counterparts.

Bonus: All six of the hip hot spots and historic mainstays below provide free parking, easy access to the North Premium Outlets mall, and a firsthand view of a side of the city that's making a comeback in a big way.

The D

How much: From $29 per night plus $20 resort fee, thed.com

What it's like: Completed in fall 2012, a remodel of the former Irish-themed Fitzgerald casino retained the ground-floor pool, added Michigan-based eateries American Coney Island hot dogs and the upscale Andiamo Italian Steakhouse, and redecorated 34 hotel floors in sleek black and retro red, an update shared with recently expanded sister property the Golden Gate (from $9 plus $20 resort fee). On the ground level, bask in a lively, uninhibited vibe that includes LED lighting, dancing card dealers, and flair bartenders.

What to do when you're not playing the slots: Check out the music, food, and arts programming at the outdoor Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, which opened in September.

Downtown Grand

How much: From $29 per night plus $11 resort fee, downtowngrand.com

What it's like: Across Stewart Avenue from the popular Mob Museum, the year-old Ascend Collection boutique (formerly the Lady Luck Hotel & Casino) offers a well-stocked fitness center, a roomy and welcoming rooftop pool deck overlooking Third Street, and an upscale reimagining of defunct Arts District dive the Art Bar.

What to do when you're not playing the slots: Dual room towers connect via skybridge, which also provides easy access to one full block of happy hour heaven: Richard Sandoval's The Commissary Latin Kitchen (select beers, margaritas, mojitos, and wines are $4 from 4 to 7 p.m. daily), Triple George Grill (3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, half-price appetizers including $8 bruschetta, $9 calamari, $11 crab cakes, and $13 seared ahi), and Pizza Rock ($3 drafts, well drinks, meatballs, and Italian fries, plus $5 calamari, garlic bread, and one-topping personal pizzas from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays and 10 p.m. to close nightly).

El Cortez

How much: From $17 per night plus $9 resort fee, elcortezhotelcasino.com

What it's like: Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, the longest continuously operating hotel-casino in Las Vegas maintains a free airport return shuttle and six categories of rooms. Since 2009 the 64-unit, free-standing Cabana Suites sport classy black, white, and green decor, and fresh fruit in a high-tech fitness center.

What to do when you're not playing the slots: It's all steps away from the brand-new Market grocery store and innovative Container Park, an open-air mall built from shipping containers and featuring a treehouse playground, live events, and a massive sculpture of a fire-shooting praying mantis.

Golden Nugget

How much: From $39 per night plus $20 resort fee, goldennugget.com

What it's like: A waterslide, shark tank, and third-story infinity pool are but a few of the outdoor amenities; inside, a whopping 2,419 rooms, 10 restaurants, a two-suite fitness center, and an adjacent spa provide options for every taste and appetite.

What to do when you're not playing the slots: Continuous upgrades since 2005 play on the gold (naturally) and rust theme and emphasize uncompromised sightlines, all the better for exploring the sprawling, always surprising Downtown landmark.

Oasis at Gold Spike

How much: From $39 per night plus $20 resort fee, oasisatgoldspike.com

What it's like: Owned by business incubator the Downtown Project (originally founded by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh), the retro blue and orange boutique opened in September with a tiny fitness center, year-round pool, and fire pits. Sleek lighting, accent pieces, and art vary throughout each of the 44 unique rooms, which don't waste outlet space with phones and alarm clocks.

What to do when you're not playing the slots: Instead of traditional Vegas gaming, an expansive patio and lawn area houses foursquare, hopscotch, cornhole, and oversized beer pong, plus the occasional DJ and live band. Rental bikes and vinyl library available at the front desk.

The Plaza

How much: From $29 per night plus $15 resort fee, plazahotelcasino.com

What it's like: The Western anchor of Fremont Street boasts a rooftop swimming pool, roomy fitness center, and coupon book offering deals on gaming, two-for-one drinks, and even free tickets to resident comedian Louie Anderson's family-friendly show.

What to do when you're not playing the slots: Dining highlights include Man v. Food favorite Hash House A Go Go, indoor/outdoor Beer Garden offering gourmet bratwursts plus side (fries, onion strings, or coleslaw) and a craft beer for under $8, $4 vegan and vegetarian options at Pop Up Pizza, and former three-term mayor Oscar Goodman's eponymous Oscar's, a gorgeous, glass-domed steakhouse where drinks and appetizers (normally $15 to $17) are half-off weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m.

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Inspiration

Going Beyond The Beach In Grenada

In the Caribbean, clear turquoise water and soft white sand are a dime a dozen. The sensory appeal of Grenada's magnificent beaches is undeniable, but savvy visitors venture beyond the sun, sand, and sea. This compact island pleases with a trifecta of adventure, activities, and nature. The best part: its manageable size makes it easy to cover a lot of ground in a short time frame. Nicknamed the Spice Island, locally grown nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon gently perfume the sea air. Island cooks utilize these aromatics in scrumptious ways, so prepare your palate for culinary magic. The tourist footprint is relatively light, so expect to be embraced by locals. Ripe for development, now is the time to explore Grenada's unspoiled flora and fauna. Here are 10 ways to go beyond the beach in Grenada. Explore Grand Etang National Park and Rainforest Preserve Nestled in the heart of Grenada's lush interior lies Grand Etang, an unblemished rainforest and wildlife sanctuary. A cobalt blue lake is its sparkling showpiece. Be on the lookout for exotic birds and playful Mona monkeys as you hike the winding trails. Try a guided tubing tour down the river Grenada Adventure Tours offers thrill-seekers tubing excursions down the Balthazar River. Spin, swirl, and slide as the current carries you along. The shady vegetation and cool water are just right on a steamy day, plus, you'll be outfitted with a life jacket, helmet, and professional guide the entire length of the trip. Check out the Belmont Estate Belmont Estate is a locavore's wonderland. Visitors to this 300-year-old plantation get a first-hand glimpse of how passionate Grenadians are about preserving their traditional agricultural practices. 400 acres of gardens and rolling hills produce a bounty of tropical fruits and organic vegetables. A herd of goats provide milk for the cheeses that are served in the open-air restaurant. Chocolate is produced on the estate, so you'll commune with Willy Wonka as you observe the bean-to-bar method. Go behind the scenes at a rum distillery River Antoine Rum Distillery is the oldest functioning water-propelled distillery in the entire Caribbean and the rum is made in much the same manner that it was 200 years ago. Watch the process and sample away. You may purchase the potent spirit in the shop, but note that much of it has such high alcohol content that it's considered too flammable to bring home on the plane. Visit a nutmeg factory It's not called the spice island for nothing. An assortment of fragrant spices flourish here, but none is more globally prized than nutmeg. At the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station, visitors join an informative tour, observing the various stages of the grading and classification process. Best of all, the tour only costs a buck. Don't forget fish Friday Each Friday night, the village of Gouyave is transformed into an open-air eatery that draws islanders and visitors alike to its famed Fish Friday where dozens of vendors cook just-caught seafood over open fires. Homegrown spices add gentle complexity to even ordinary dishes. Epicureans who crave the taste of the sea combined with authentic local color won't want to miss a single bite. Spend time exploring Market Square Everyone needs to eat to live, but Grenada appeals to those who live to eat. St. George is the bustling capital city and its market is a feast for the senses. They say that anything can grow in Grenada's rich volcanic soil and a stroll around the market confirms this. Papaya, mango, breadfruit, and leafy green callaloo are top produce picks. The assortment of spices is outstanding and the intoxicating smells may put your taste buds into overdrive. Go back in time at the island's historic Forts Grenada's complex history has seen its share of bloodshed and includes a U.S. military invasion in the 1980s. While it is extremely safe today, its strategic location means it is loaded with venerable military fortifications and visiting one of them is an essential element in understanding the island's past. Hilltop Fort Frederick commands a panoramic view while imposing Fort George is equally stately. Visit the world's first underwater sculpture park If the natural splendor of a coral reef isn't enough for you, grab your snorkel mask and head to Grenada's Underwater Sculpture Park. Sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor's artistic gem explores the relationship between art and the environment. This manmade wonder is located in fairly shallow waters, so even novices can sneak a peak. See wonderful waterfalls There are many spots to refresh under the cascade of cool water. Popular waterfalls include three-tiered Concord Falls and Annandale Falls, easy to reach via paved trail. Where to stay Sandals La Source is an all-inclusive resort located on stunning Pink Gin Beach. It's a two-minute ride from the airport, so you can be on the beach within minutes of clearing customs. Besides locally inspired cuisine and top-shelf alcohol, all non-motorized water sports are included in your rate—divers will appreciate this policy, as Grenada is every bit as breathtaking below the water as above it. Experts consider it one of the top wreck dive sites in the world with over 20 shipwrecks.  Best times to visit Grenadians know how to party, or "lime" in local speak so try and plan your visit to coincide with one of the island's numerous festivals. The premier event is Carnival aka Spicemas, held each August. In the spring, Chocolate Fest pays homage to this country's favorite confection. If you're lucky enough to visit in winter, get better acquainted with this country's seafaring traditions during the Grenada Sailing Festival. This article was written by Allison Tibaldi, a native New Yorker who has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Toronto, and Los Angeles. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish and laughably adequate in French. When she's not traveling, she's scouring NYC for delectable eats. As a freelance travel writer, she focuses on family, culinary, and car-free travel. She's also a senior travel writer at offMetro.com.

Inspiration

#BTReads: 'A Passion for Paris'

If I had to visit Paris with a traveling companion other than my wife, my choice might very well be author Da­vid Downie. Reading Downie's A Passion for Paris: Roman­ticism and Romance in the City of Light (St. Martin's Press, 2015) is like strolling the city's boulevards with a funny, well-read, and wildly enthusiastic devotee. While many of us simply accept the notion that Paris is the world's most romantic city (guilty), Downie decided to ask "why?" His answer is a hybrid travel narrative, mem­oir, and history lesson that brings such notable Parisians as Baudelaire, Hugo, Balzac, and Sand into the dialogue as if they, too, are accompanying you. Speaking of strolling the boulevards of Paris... When you put the book down and are ready to dive into the real Paris, you may want to book one of Downie's custom walking tours at Parisparistours.com. Your turn: Tell us what you're reading now by tagging #BTReads on social media! Or let us know below in the comments.

Inspiration

Group Tours Are a Beautiful Way to See the World

Whether you're planning a family reunion, girlfriend getaway, or just happen to have a bunch of friends and relations itching to hit the road, we love group travel. It's a way of reconnecting with the people close to you while you simultaneously connect with a new environment and culture, new tastes and sights. Sure, seeing St. Peter's basilica for the first time is a thrill whenever you manage to get there. But seeing it through grandpa's eyes? Or watching two of your best friends stagger up the dizzying steps to the dome's top? Those are connections you'll never forget. We especially love the tour packages for groups of eight or more offered by Globus Journeys. It's an amazing way to enjoy guided tours, great accommodations, and the insider access that Globus's expert-planned itineraries are known for. If you're ready to jump on the potential savings of the historically low euro, Globus's itineraries include group tours to Italy, Ireland, Spain, England, France, Portugal, and include multi-country packages in Europe. Globus also has group tours to China, Japan, Costa Rica, and Africa. Globus has a well-earned reputation for assembling itineraries planned by local experts, which means you're in good hands when it comes to what to see, when to see it, where to eat, and more. When you know you're getting a good deal (package tours typically deliver big savings over an a la carte booking approach) and all your logistics are worked out in advance, you can get down to the important business of connecting and reconnecting that group travel is all about.

Inspiration

Best Things To Do In Berlin, Maryland, One of America's Coolest Small Towns

Located just a 15-minute drive from Assateague Island and Ocean City on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Berlin, Maryland, had the honor of winning last year's coveted “America’s Coolest Small Town" title. I had such a great time visiting this summer and couldn't wait to share this video from my trip with all of you! If you're planning to visit and see it for yourself this summer, here are five ways to make the most of your trip to this artsy, quaint, and historic part of the east coast. Get to know the locals Learning about a place from the people who live there is the best way to truly get a sense of that destination. Whether you speak to someone in a store or restaurant for travel advice or chat up the locals on a bench, you’re sure to learn something new. Never skimp on desserts Berlin has a town dessert that you don’t want to miss: the peach dumpling. The are was once home to one of the largest peach orchards in the country, and this dessert certainly pays tribute to those roots. Stop by Baked Dessert Café to get a sugar rush from this sweet treat that consists of peach slices sautéed in butter, brown sugar, and spices encased in a buttery puff pastry. The best part: It’s topped with homemade caramel sauce. Yum! Embrace your artsy side From galleries to glass blowing, there are plenty of great ways to get artsy in Berlin. Make a plan to meet Jeffrey Auxer and learn the art of glass blowing at his studio and gallery just off Main Street. Whether you create an ornament or your own special home décor souvenir, you’ll have a keepsake with true meaning and the knowledge that you challenged yourself (or your kids) to learn something new. Head to the local watering hole Pay a visit to Burley Oak Brewery, a sustainable brewery that guests can tour. Sip on inventive brews like the Dirty Blonde—a Belgian inspired ale made with yeast from a Trappist Monastery—the Tart Attack, or Hand Made Root Beer in the lively taproom. Plus, the beer tastes better when you know that just by drinking it, you’re supporting local farmers and small businesses, so give yourself a pat on the back as you toast Berlin. Window shop on Main Street Did you know the 1999 movie “Runaway Bride” with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere was filmed along Berlin’s charming Main Street? Take a stroll down the main drag to look for antiques, unique gift items, or just window shop and soak in this small town’s ambience. Looking for more things to do around the Berlin area? Ocean City is just a 15-minute drive away. Also within a 15-minute drive of Berlin is scenic Assateague Island, a great place to spend the day or take the family on good old fashioned camping trip. Of course, no camping trip is complete with out s'mores. Here's how to make them perfectly.

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