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9 California Food & Beverage Makers to Visit in 2019

By The Budget Travel Editors
updated September 29, 2021
Goats along path with people
Courtesy Mike Larson/StepladdderCreamery.com
Throughout the Golden State, small-batch food and drinks make for big experiences.

We live in an era practically defined by entrepreneurship, and as we see it, some of the most exciting businesses are popping up in the food-and-beverage sector. While we love going to see where and how some of America's most iconic food brands are produced, we appreciate the personal touches that make independent creators so special, and California in particular is an embarrassment of riches. Here are some of our favorite destination-worthy small-batch producers in the state.

1. Lucero Olive Oil: Corning

Lucerno-Olive-Oil-Tastin-Maya-Stanton.JPG?mtime=20181206211951#asset:103974(Maya Stanton)

In northern California, a straight shot south of Redding on I-5, you’ll find Corning, a small rural community where olives are the name of the game. The largest table-olive producer and the largest ripe-olive processor in the country, Bell-Carter Foods, is based here, but so is Lucero, a small, highly decorated operation turning out some of the best extra-virgin olive oil this side of the Mediterranean. Stop in for a look at the factory floor, and stay for a tasting and sample the wares (they import and flavor balsamic vinegars from Modena as well, traditional and fruit-flavored). You can choose from a basic introductory tour ($5), held twice daily; an hour-long Explorer Tour ($20; book in advance) that digs deeper into the olive-oil-making process and includes food pairings; and the two-hour Connoisseur Experience ($50; book in advance), which offers a peek at the olive mill as well as extensive pairing options. But no matter which you choose, hit the shop afterwards. With a wall of dispensers providing even more tastes of the merchandise, a selection of olive-wood tableware and accessories, and a plethora of carry-on-size bottles for purchase, you won’t be leaving empty-handed.

2120 Loleta Avenue, Corning; 877-330-2190; lucerooliveoil.com.

2. Journeyman Meat Co.: Healdsburg

Journeyman-pizza.jpg?mtime=20181207115754#asset:103982(Courtesy Richard Knapp)

When Sonoma County winemaker Pete Seghesio gave up his vineyard and turned his attention to artisanal salumi, he wasn’t going in with his eyes closed. The grandson of 19th-century Italian immigrants, the meat business was in his blood: A great-grandfather was a butcher, and his father taught him to make fresh sausage and cured meats from the family’s farm-raised hogs at a young age. He got serious about the craft in 2012, spending time in Tuscany training under renowned butcher Dario Cecchini before opening Journeyman Meat Co. five years later. Today, you can buy Seghesio’s masterful finocchiona, soppressata, and chorizo online, but if you’re in the area, the butchery, salumeria, and wine tasting shop in Healdsburg is worth a visit. Set inside a retrofitted post office just north of the town’s main square, it features a rotating menu of wood-fired pizzas, house-made sausages and hot dogs, and, of course, an array of salumi boards, all paired with local Sonoma County wines.

404 Center Street, Healdsburg; 707-395-6328; journeymanmeat.com.

3. La Zamorana Candy Co.: Los Angeles

Since 1957, the La Zamorana Candy Company has been turning out traditional Mexican candy using generations-old recipes in a small kitchen in East L.A. The family-owned-and-run business is known for its tarugos (sugar-coated tamarind-pulp candies), cocadas horneadas (baked macaroon-like coconut candies), milk fudge, and more. The candy is sold in Latin markets throughout the area, but to get a glimpse at traditional Mexican candy-making methods, visit the factory, which doubles as a shrine to old-time confectionery and clever modern-day resourcefulness. (A hand-operated slicer, for instance, was built with steel guitar strings that serve as blades.) Stop by and watch the magic happen.

7100 Wilson Ave, Los Angeles; 323-261-1817; zamoranacandy.com

4. Saltroot Café: San Francisco

Saltroot-Bakery-pao.jpg?mtime=20181207113402#asset:103980(Courtesy Saltroot Café)

When John Goyert and Juliana Okada moved from Brazil to San Francisco a few years ago, they brought something delicious with them: a recipe for pão de queijo, that cheesy, chewy popover that could unofficially be considered the country’s national snack. The husband-and-wife team set up shop in the Outer Sunset neighborhood and opened their tiny cafe in 2017. In addition to stand-out pão de queijo in varieties both traditional (Parmesan) and non (guava), they serve a stellar selection of empanadas, green juices, coffee, and tea. Order a drink and watch them work while you wait; the production table and bread warmer are visible from the register, and the owners welcome the chance to talk about their craft. You’ll get a complimentary pão de queijo with your coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, but they’re also available to purchase individually or by the bag, frozen, to take away and bake yourself.

2960 Clement Street, San Francisco; 415-663-6226; saltroot.com.

5. The Heart & Trotter: San Diego

What began as two carnivorous friends’ Kickstarter campaign in 2013 has become a San Diego go-to for meats and a variety of gourmet provisions, primarily locally made food like jerky, mustard, and pickles and dairy items like cheese and butter. Since it opened in 2015, The Heart & Trotter has specialized in antibiotic- and hormone-free local meats and eggs. It’s a whole-animal butchery, so expect to find house-made sausages, paté, and rillettes alongside unconventional cuts (to wit, bavette, which is close to a hanger steak in terms of where it sits on the animal’s body, but less pricey). For lessons in how to put nose-to-tail practices into play, they offer demos and classes. Or just stop by for a generously stacked sandwich or charcuterie plate. Pro tip: the meat arrives from local farms in the morning, so if you get there early enough, you can catch the butchering in action.

2855 El Cajon Boulevard #1, San Diego; 619-564-8976; theheartandtrotter.com

6. California Cheese Trail: Compton to Crescent City

cheese-tour-Mike-Larson-stepladder.jpg?mtime=20181207054316#asset:103977(Courtesy Mike Larson/StepladdderCreamery.com)

There are so many cheesemakers in California that it’d be impossible to pick just one—and luckily, you don’t have to. Discover the state’s dairy delights with the California Cheese Trail (cheesetrail.org), a self-guided tour created by Petaluma resident Vivien Straus, a cheese enthusiast who co-owns and manages a family dairy in Marshall. Choose from a suggested itinerary, or create your own, selecting a region and hitting the locations that are open for tours and tastings. In Marin County, Straus recommends Ramini Mozzarella (raminimozzarella.com), one of the only water-buffalo dairies in the country. The mozz is the draw, but animal-loving visitors can also get hands-on with the livestock: Water buffaloes, as it turns out, love to be groomed. “They literally curl their tails when brushed, then collapse in ecstasy,” Straus says. “It’s such a bizarre thing to see. Quite unique.” Further south, in Cambria on the Central Coast, Stepladder Creamery (stepladdercreamery.com) keeps a herd of LaMancha goats for its small-scale cheeses, alongside heritage pigs, black Angus cattle, and rows of Hass avocado trees on a third-generation family ranch. The creamery is open for tours by appointment, and not only are the cheeses available for purchase, you can also take home the farm’s honey, beef, pork, and avocados. “Delicious cheese!” says Straus.

7. Le Marcel Dog Bakery: San Francisco

Holidog-Pupcake-Dog.jpg?mtime=20181207054007#asset:103976(Courtesy lemarceldogbakery.com)

Canine travel companions deserve special treats, too! Established in 1998, dog bakery Le Marcel makes everything on its shelves from scratch—think pastries like “pupcakes” and “terrier-misu” and cookies shaped like cats and fetching sticks. If they've been especially good puppers, order ahead for a peanut butter special-occasion cake, and pick up a bag or two of packaged treats ("muttaroons," anyone?) for the road while you’re at it. Go ahead, throw that dog a bone.

2066 Union Street, San Francisco; 877-349-9199; lemarceldogbakery.com.

8. Chocovivo: Los Angeles

Choco-Vivo-restaurant.jpg?mtime=20181207114636#asset:103981(Courtesy Chocovivo)

“Farm to table” and “grape to glass” have become part of the lingua franca for restaurants, food producers, and curious diners. Now “bean to bar” is becoming a more recognized term when it comes to chocolate-making. Choco Vivo, an airy, rustic-chic café with communal tables, features a chocolate-making facility specializing in bean-to-bar items, offering only dark-chocolate bars (no milk powder, soy lecithin, or any other additives or preservatives) and other simply made treats. Owner and chocolatier Patricia Tsai sources her beans directly from a particular grower in Mexico and roasts and stone-grinds them on an ancient Aztec stone grinder. At the shop, she sells chocolate sauce and hot-chocolate mix alongside her popular single-origin and blended chocolate bars. In 2014, she added hair and skin products to the lineup. There’s a calendar of events like chocolate tastings and tutorials in pairing chocolate with spirits or wine, so if you're in search of an education, options here are a sweet choice.

12469 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles; 310-845-6259; chocovivo.com.

9. Henry's House of Coffee: San Francisco

Before Peet’s Coffee and Starbucks, and long before “third wave coffee” was a thing, there was Henry’s House of Coffee, a San Francisco institution. Since the 1960s, Henry Kalebjian, son of an Armenian immigrant who now runs the business with his son Hrag, has been micro-roasting mindfully sourced beans in what can now be considered a vintage twelve-kilogram San Franciscan brand roaster as patrons look on. As legend has it, sight and touch are his main means of measuring, which is little surprise considering he's been in the biz since childhood. Henry, the story goes, learned the craft from his father on old-world equipment that required tending a fire and hand-cranking a drum. Today, regulars are legion, visiting the shop as much to say hi to the Kalebjians as they do for the coffee—though, needless to say, tourists always get a warm welcome too. The space, which includes something of a gallery of artisanal provisions and coffee-making gizmos and cups, blends modern elements (blond wood accents, a sleek seating area, cold brew) with old world accents (that majestic roasting equipment, Henry himself.) Order a strong cup of their Armenian-style coffee, and you'll feel like a regular in no time.

1618 Noriega St, San Francisco; 415-681-9363; henryshouseofcoffee.com.

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Budget Travel Lists

8 Great Hanukkah Celebrations Across America

From Atlanta to Los Angeles, from raucous to quirky, the U.S. is home to some truly exceptional Hanukkah bashes, including family favorites like dreidel spinning and menorah lighting and commemorations of the ancient Jewish rebellion led by Judah Maccabee around 200 BCE. Here, a look at some of the biggest festival of lights parties you can find in major American cities. 1. Atlanta: Grand Menorah Lightings and Hanukkah Celebrations December 2-9; free; locations throughout the city; (404) 898-0434; atlantajewishconnector.com With daily Hanukkah celebrations throughout the city, the simcha (party) never ends! Decatur Square hosts the first night, when the grand menorah is lit. Come hungry - there’s hot latkes, fresh donuts, plus music, dancing, dreidels, raffles, and prizes. Spread some Hanukkah cheer at the Menorah Car Parade on December 6, when cars decked out with menorahs go on a drive from the Beltline throughout Atlanta. 2. Boston: Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights December 5, 4:30 PM – 10:00 PM; free events with food at extra cost; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; (617) 267- 9300; mfa.org Art, music, and Jewish heritage come together at this celebration, held at one of the best museums in New England. Come for the community menorah lighting and stay for the family song and story time, scavenger hunt throughout the galleries, dreidel making, and face painting. Then nosh on latkes, rugelach, and Star of David cookies. Don’t forget to save room for the top-your-own donut bar. Be sure to check out “The Maccabees and the Hanukkah Story,” a special installation featuring three centuries of Jewish decorative arts and ritual objects from Hanukkah lamps to embroidered silk. 3. Chicago: “Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins” December 1 – January 5, 2019; $25 adults, $20 children; Strawdog Theatre Company; (773) 644-1380; strawdog.org Don’t miss this amazing stage production of the classic children’s book by Eric Kimmel about a weary traveler who stumbles upon a village taken over by a band of goblins who have ruined the town’s Hanukkah festivities. Live music tells the story as Herschel tries to defeat the wily fiends during the holiday’s eight nights. 4. Dallas: Hanukkah Hoopla December 2; 1:00 PM - 5:30 PM; free; Aaaron Family JCC of Dallas; (214) 739-2737; jccdallas.org Get your shop on at this holiday celebration and marketplace where more than 35 local vendors sell handmade art, glass and pottery, jewelry and Judaica, and yummy homemade treats perfect for gift-giving. Music and dancing plus storytelling, face painting, and a balloon artist entertain the kids while adults hit up the Latke Piano Lounge. L’chaim! (Cheers!) Menorah lighting begins around 5:30 at the Chabad of Dallas (6710 Levelland Rd). 5. Los Angeles: Hanukkah on the Canals Parade December 9, 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM; free; Venice Canals, Venice Beach; (310) 821-1414; opentemple.org Rock the boat, Hanukkah-style as decorated canoes, kayaks, barges, paddle boats, and yachts take to the canals of Venice to celebrate the holiday. Bring the kids - there’s also menorah making and live music, plus the menorah lighting at sundown. Favorite local chef the Latke Lady serves up… you guessed it… her famous homemade potato pancakes just like your bubbe (grandma) used to make. 6. New Orleans: Latkes with a Twist December 6, 7:00 PM; $35; Press Street Station; (504) 828-6334; jcrs.org If you’re hoping this “twist” includes a lime, you’re in luck! This holiday event serves up a mean vodka latke punch, a bourbon Hanukkah highball, plus lots of other spirits from an open bar. Self-ordained Latke Master and local chef Adam Biderman slings his signature potato pancakes at the latke bar while the Joe Gelini Trio keeps the crowd dancing. Proceeds from the event help support local Jewish children with scholarships. 7. New York City: 10th Annual Latke Festival December 3; 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM, $75; Brooklyn Museum; latkefestival.com The classic Hanukkah dish gets a fun makeover by more than two dozen local chefs at this incredible tasting event. Forget your typical potato pancakes with apple sauce; past year’s dishes have included rueben latkes stuffed with corned beef and sauerkraut, duck confit latkes, and even bay scallop ceviche latkes. The creativity alone makes the entry fee well worth it, with proceeds benefitting the Sylvia Center, a local nonprofit dedicated to teaching healthy eating habits to children and their families. 8. San Francisco: Night at the Jewseum Shimmer December 6, 6:00 PM-9:00 PM; $8; the Contemporary Jewish Museum; (415) 655-7800; thecjm.org Light up the night at this meshuga (crazy) adults-only, museum-wide holiday celebration where a cosmic glow-in-the-dark fashion show is center stage as a DJ pumps up the jam with club music. Other off-beat activities include a scavenger hunt held in a gallery featuring the works of a Jewish tattoo artist, and a candid clergy Q and A session called “Ask a Rabbi.” Three-piece klezmer band the Yiddiots offers up holiday tunes as guests hit up the latke and brisket bar and sip special Hanukkah bourbon and gin cocktails.

Budget Travel Lists

8 Best TV & Movie Tours

Sure, Los Angeles and New York City get most of the credit and the glory. But many movies and TV shows are actually shot in incredible locations around the country. Lights! Camera! Action! Here are our eight favorite location tours. 1. BOSTON Boston Movie Mile Walking Tour; 1.5 hours; adults, $27, kids $19, private tours available; 866-982-2114; onlocationtours.com/tour/boston-movie-mile Bahstan is a filmmaker’s town. It’s home to Ben and Matt, after all, and also to more than 400 movies and TV shows. Find out why it’s so popular on this walking tour. Drinks at the Bull and Finch Pub, for Cheers, are an absolute must. Then sit on the park benches where Robin Williams and Matt Damon chatted in Good Will Hunting, check out the historic homes in The Thomas Crown Affair and get “made” at one of Jack Nicholson’s mob hangouts from The Departed. (Sorry, make that the Depahted.) Wicked cool: getting to read scripts exactly where they were shot. 2. ATLANTA Big Zombie Tour Part 1; 3 hours; $69 adults, $55 kids; 855-255-3456; atlantamovietours.com/tours/big-zombie-tour The. Walking. Dead. Need we say more? Watch clips from the show on a comfy bus as you visit exact locations. The hospital where Rick first woke up from his coma. The Goat Farm Arts Center abandoned building from “the Vatos.” The Jackson Street Bridge (selfies encouraged!). Every tour is led by a zombie extra who offers insider-only deets and runs a killer trivia game session. (Did you know that HBO passed on the series because it felt it was too violent?) Huge fans should sign up for Parts 2 and 3, plus there’s a walking tour! 3. NEW ORLEANS Original New Orleans Movie and TV Tours; 2 hours; adults $43, children $29; 225-240-8648; nolamovies.com If you’re lucky, you’ll hear the director yell “cut!” during this NOLA excursion, which offers a fun mix of live filmmaking (as of press time, NCIS: New Orleans was shooting), celebrity homes (Sandra Bullock! Brad Pitt!) and location tours including NOLA standbys Interview with the Vampire, Vampire Diaries, True Blood, American Horror Story, and Twilight. Don’t worry, the classics are represented too, including A Streetcar Named Desire and Easy Rider. All neighborhoods are covered, including the French Quarter, the Warehouse District and the Garden District. 4. WILMINGTON, NC Hollywood Location Walk; 1.5 hours; $13 adults, kids free; 910-794-1866; hauntedwilmington.com/hollywood-location-walk.html Wilmington, NC, otherwise known as “Wilmywood” or “Hollywood East,” has been a moviemaking mecca since director Mark L. Lester shot Firestarter here in 1983. Customize your tour and see the locations for teen faves Dawson’s Creek (the famous dock where Dawson pined away for Joey) and One Tree Hill (Blue Post Billiards, where Lucas and Sophia went on their first “tattoo” date), Cape Fear (the Memorial Bridge), Dream a Little Dream (the Coreys’ high school) and Weekend at Bernies (the lighthouse where Parker gets temporarily blinded). Or check out movie props, set pieces, and interiors, hear about your favorite actors, or find out how a winter wonderland is created in the heat of summer. 5. OAHU Hollywood Movie Site Tour, Kualoa Ranch; 90 minutes; adults $49.50, children $39.95; 808-237-7321; kualoa.com/toursactivities A vintage bus takes you 45 minutes from Honolulu to Kualoa Ranch, a 4,000 acre nature reserve billed as “the backlot of Hawaii” thanks to its role in dozens of movies and TV shows since the 1950s, including Jurassic Park, Lost, Magnum P.I., The Hunger Games, Jumanji, Hawaii Five- O, and Pearl Harbor. Examine Godzilla’s footprints, stand at the Jurassic Park gate, and check out the bunkers on Lost. An amazing World War II army bunker houses lots of props, movie posters, and memorabilia. 6. CHICAGO Chicago Film Tour; 2 hours; call for rates; 312-593-4455; chicagofilmtour.com Chi-town neighborhoods absolutely make this tour - Wrigleyville Uptown, the Gold Coast, Old Town – all home to more than 80 films over the past 100 years. Check out locations from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (where surely you’ll want to “Twist and Shout” through Federal Plaza), The Dark Knight (the Chicago Post Office), Transformers 3 (The Uptown Theatre), My Best Friend’s Wedding (the White Sox ballpark), and The Untouchables (South La Salle St.). A tour guide offers up fun film facts and trivia. (Did you know: “Twist and Shout” is the only original version of a Beatles song to appear twice in the top 40, thanks to FBDO and Matthew Broderick’s famous parade scene.) 7. PHILADELPHIA Philadelphia Movie Stars Tour, 2.5 hours, private tours from $33 per person; 215-625-7980; moviesitestour.com Lace up your running shoes to take on the 68 steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rocky-style. This tour takes you there, plus past City Hall, the Italian Market and Ninth Street where Rocky did his training runs. Check out scenes from Tom Hanks’ Philadelphia including the law firm building where Andrew Beckett worked (The Mellon Bank Building) and the library where he studied case law (The University of Pennsylvania Fine Arts Library). The Sixth Sense (St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church), Trading Places (Rittenhouse Square), and Twelve Monkeys (the Met Theatre) are also big stars on this tour. 8. WASHINGTON, DC Washington DC TV and Movie Sites Tour; 2.5 hours; from $40; taketours.com/washington-dc Where else you gonna shoot movies like Air Force One, Independence Day, A Few Good Men, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? Our nation’s capital is a Hollywood dream with some of the most recognizable buildings and monuments in the world (the Lincoln Memorial is host to drunken nights in Wedding Crashers; Constitutional Hall serves as the White House in the West Wing; the reflecting pool is seen in Forrest Gump, The Firm, and Deep Impact, to name just a few). This tour explores them all, starting in Union Station seen in Hannibal, Minority Report, and the Sentinel, takes you to the steps of the house in The Exorcist, past the bar in St. Elmo’s Fire and to the mall in True Lies. Bonus: Tours are led by local actors.

Budget Travel Lists

7 Things to Do in Anchorage, Alaska

When you think Alaska, does your mind’s eye may immediately conjure the image of a moose? Or an icy blue glacier? Rugged granite peaks topped with snow? Immense brown bears? What you may not realize is that the city of Anchorage and its surrounding area is one place where you can truly “have it all” - and more! Here, an easy and affordable guide to this extraordinary community. Visit the Chugach Range (Matt Anderson/Dreamstime) One thing you’re certain to notice upon arriving in Anchorage is that the Chugach Mountains seem close enough to touch. Well, almost. Many of the gorgeous range’s trails and access points are a short drive, about 20 minutes, from just about anywhere in the city, meaning you can balance a comfy hotel stay and first-rate restaurant options with a truly wild experience amid the 9,000 square miles of Chugach State Park and Chugach National Forest. Take your pick of hiking, rafting, or simply contemplating the serenity of this virtually untouched natural area. Paddling, cycling, climbing, and even ogling glaciers are all on the Chugach’s menu of options. Spend a few hours, a few days, or an entire week exploring its bounty. (If the Chugach whets your appetite for glaciers, consider a day cruise from nearby Seward or Whittier to see even more.) Explore Alaska Native and Pioneer History and Culture The Anchorage area has been at the crossroads of Alaska Native and pioneer history for centuries. Set aside a day or more to explore the Alaska Native Heritage Center with its introduction to the stories, dances, traditions, and customs of Alaska’s 11 major native cultures. For a taste of Alaska’s history, hop aboard the railroad that helped tame the wilderness. In summer, visitors to Anchorage may choose to continue their Alaska Adventure by embarking on a train trip to Seward, Prince William Sound, Denali, Talkeetna or Fairbanks. But you don’t have to go too far to savor the joy of train travel - the Glacier Discovery train is a beautiful day trip to nearby Spencer. Dogsledding is another uniquely Alaska transportation activity available in Anchorage. Surprisingly, sledding can be available year-round, with summer trips via helicopter to the tops of glaciers. Visit “mushers” any time of year to meet the sled dogs and get a feel for the state sport. Explore Alaska’s Mining History Hands-On Kids of all ages will love playing prospector at a hands-on mining destination such as Indian Valley or Crow Creek. These spots combine a museum experience, complete with authentic mining tools, with entertaining history lessons about the great gold rush that once attracted people from all over the world with dreams of striking it rich. Best of all, visitors learn the basics of panning for gold and take home more than just memories. Go Cycling on the Coastal Trail Anchorage is one of the most bike-friendly cities in America, with 135 miles of cycling paths. The one you especially won’t want to miss is the paved 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, where you can rent a bike and explore Anchorage’s Cook Inlet all the way from downtown to Kincaid Park, including marshes, hills, and patches of forest. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, moose, and other local denizens. Visit One of America’s Best Museums Sure, you come to Anchorage for the natural beauty, but we bet you didn’t know that the city is also home to an incredible museum devoted to the entire Alaska experience. The Anchorage Museum is the biggest museum in the state and it immerses visitors in human history and the arts, natural history, and much more. A walk through the museum is a bit like experiencing a guidebook sprung into three-dimensions, a unique way of appreciating this unique state from its earliest days to its vibrant present. Look for Wildlife Anchorage is home to more than 1,000 moose. (We’re guessing your hometown isn’t.) The majestically awkward-looking giants can be spotted in almost any green space in Anchorage if you spend enough time outdoors, and you can always count on seeing one at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. It takes a little more effort to spot whales here, but they are also abundant. Belugas, the friendly looking white whales that can be as long as a minivan, can be seen on a trip down Turnagain Arm. Alaska is also the only place in America where black bears, brown bears, and polar bears abound. Head out of Anchorage for the rivers and streams of Katmai National Park to see bears feasting on salmon. Take an Aerial Tour by Plane (Chon Kit Leong/Dreamstime) In addition to all the sightseeing opportunities we’ve already mentioned, consider “flightseeing.” In a land as big as Alaska, small planes are often the most efficient way of getting from one place to another, and aerial tours are an unforgettable way to experience the Anchorage area’s mountains, forests, and waterways.

Budget Travel Lists

10 Totally Adorable Trailer Hotels

For lovers of the open road and Americana culture, few accommodations are dreamier than a vintage Airstream. And as temperatures drop, trailers also provide a good alternative to camping outside. With retro options running the gamut from eco-friendly to stylishly bohemian to high-end glamping, trailer park life has never looked so good—and all while reducing the environmental footprint, too. 1. El Cosmico: Marfa, Texas (Nick Simonite) Situated on 21 acres of high plains desert by Texas hotelier Liz Lambert, El Cosmico (elcosmico.com) is more of a way of life than a campground. Choose to wake up in a yurt, a Sioux-style teepee, or a safari tent, if not in one of the property’s 13 refurbished 1950s-era trailers, painted in colors like robin’s-egg blue and daffodil yellow. Each trailer comes equipped with creature comforts like cozy serape robes, Geneva bluetooth speakers, Chemex coffeemakers, and minibars stocked with essentials like Topo Chico and rolling papers. Outdoor showers and a communal outdoor kitchen continually invite you to connect to your surroundings, while hammock groves and wood-fired Dutch hot tubs—not to mention a purposeful lack of WiFi—encourage you to truly unplug and enjoy the peaceful pace of desert life. Pro tip: Check El Cosmico’s calendar and plan a visit around its diverse programming, from the annual Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love to film screenings, yoga classes, and outdoor cooking intensives. 2. Kate’s Lazy Desert: Landers, California (Kate's Lazy Desert) Kate Pierson, a founding member of the B-52s, and her wife, Monica Coleman, opened Kate’s Lazy Meadow (lazymeadow.com) to create a truly campy (wink!) travel experience. It all started in Woodstock, New York, where they added Airstream trailers to a cabin-studded campground, but when flooding from severe rainstorms damaged the newly renovated vehicles, they moved them somewhere safe and dry, and Kate’s Lazy Desert was born. Just 20 minutes outside of Joshua Tree National Park in California's Mojave Desert, the six trailers, which have names like Hot Lava and Tinkerbell, are colorful and kitschy, thanks to artist team Maberry Walker. After exploring the surrounding region’s near-intergalactic landscape by day, take in the star-glittered sky at night, or head to the iconic Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneer Town Palace for live music and burgers. 3. Hotel Luna Mystica: Taos, New Mexico (Amanda Powell) Hotel Luna Mystica (hotellunamystica.com) is located eight miles from the heart of Taos, just across the street from Taos Mesa Brewery. Described on its website as “12-plus acres of mesa, 10 vintage trailers, 60 campsites, one planet, one moon, a gazillion stars,” the property features a collection of refurbished trailers from the 1950s through the 1970s, including Spartans, Airstreams, and Aristocrats. Each has a private bathroom, a kitchen, and a patio, plus amenities like high-quality linens, locally made soap, and French-press coffee makers. All the trailers maintain vintage vibes while incorporating eclectic design elements like potted succulents, Turkish lanterns, and colorful pillows. Some also have WiFi access, but living off the grid is really the best choice here. How better to enjoy the breathtaking mountain views before gathering around the fire pit to share stories with fellow travelers at night?  4. The Shady Dell: Bisbee, Arizona Unlike most renovated trailers that rely on modern amenities, the dwellings at The Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court (theshadydell.com) include period-specific books, magazines, décor, and even appliances like percolators, phonographs, and black-and-white televisions. These 10 trailers range in style, from a 1947 Airporter converted into a tropical tiki oasis to a 1955 Airstream exuding Southwestern chic. Cooking is not permitted inside the trailers, but there are outdoor grills available at this adults-only, seasonal park (it closed every summer and winter). Located 30 minutes south of Tombstone, once the center of the Wild West, and just a few minutes south of quirky Bisbee, it’s a perfect home base for exploring the historic mining town. 5. Caravan Outpost: Ojai, California Located just a stone's throw from downtown Ojai, Caravan Outpost (caravanoutpostojai.com) features 11 refurbished Airstreams shaded by lush tropical foliage. Each trailer comes with a stocked kitchen and peaceful outdoor shower and sleeps between one and five people. Most are pet-friendly. Record players add to the vintage feel, and vinyl can be swapped out at the on-site General Store. The hotel also offers tailor-made experiences like wine tastings and vineyard tours, visits to hot springs, meditation packages, and outdoor adventures from surfing to rock climbing to mountain biking. And even when they’re not hosting farm-to-table dinners or speaker series, there’s plenty of opportunity to connect with fellow travelers, particularly over s’mores and conversation around the nightly bonfire. 6. The Vintage Trailer Resort: Willamette Valley, Oregon  Perfect for those who want to sample trailer living before committing to owning one, The Vintages Trailer Resort (the-vintages.com) is one section of the 14-acre Willamette Wine Country RV Park between Dundee and McMinnville, Oregon. With 33 vintage trailers of varying sizes and styles, each stocked with upscale amenities like L’Occitane bath products, plush bedding, pour-over coffee, and luxurious robes, the Vintages really does live up to its “trailer resort” designation. All accommodations are equipped with private bathrooms, and some also have private showers or even plunge tubs. There are also propane grills, so you can cook up a flame-kissed steak to enjoy alongside a glass of the Willamette Valley's famed pinot noir. The park also features a pool, outdoor yard games, and a dog park. A free cruiser bike rental for two is also included with each reservation, making day trips into Oregon’s wine country a breeze. 7. Hicksville Trailer Palace: Joshua Tree, California Many travelers go to Joshua Tree National Park to disconnect in the desert and get away from it all. But Hicksville Trailer Palace (hicksville.com/joshuatree/motel.html), located in the heart of the small bohemian town, offers so much to do, you may never make it off the grounds. Choose from mini golf, darts, ping-pong, bocce, cornhole, archery, and a BB-gun shooting range, or just soak in the sunset from the roof-deck hot tub. Each of the 10 refurbished vintage trailers is uniquely decorated, from the alien-focused Integratrailor, which comes equipped with a star machine, to the big top–striped Sideshow. From March through November, enjoy a solar-heated saltwater swimming pool; in fact, this entire hippie kingdom runs off the power of the sun. And though the 420-friendly complex certainly encourages fun, note there is a list of rules (i.e., no geotagging on the property) that all guests are required to read and abide by.  8. Shooting Star RV Restort: Escalante, Utah The last thing one would expect to find in the middle of Utah is a collection of Airstream trailers designed to look like old Hollywood stars’ dressing trailers, but that’s just the kind magic created by Shooting Star RV Resort (shootingstar-rvresort.com). Choose from Marilyn Monroe’s Some Like It Hot hideaway, Elvis’s Blue Hawaiian paradise, Ann-Margret’s Viva Las Vegas cabana, and more. Each of the nine trailers captures the feel of the film’s era and the actor’s character, but with comfortable amenities like queen-sized beds, flatscreen HDTVs, and fully outfitted kitchens. During the day, go explore the stunning state and national parks nearby, and be sure to reserve one of the hotel’s vintage Cadillacs, where you can enjoy a movie at the on-site drive-in theater once the sun sets. 9. AutoCamp: Guerneville, California AutoCamp (autocamp.com/guides/location/russian-river/) opened its first trailer park in downtown Santa Barbara in 2013, and another will launch in Yosemite this winter. But the Russian River location in Guerneville is the only one surrounded by breathtaking redwoods. Each of its vintage Airstreams features sleek midcentury-modern interiors and the amenities of an upscale hotel—think luxurious bedding, memory-foam mattresses, plush towels, and walk-in spa showers. And it's in the heart of Sonoma, an hour-and-a-half north of San Francisco and minutes from the California coastline, so there are endless opportunities for exploration. Hike through the redwoods, canoe the Russian River, cycle to wineries, and recount it all with new friends later at night around the fire pit. 10. Flamingo Springs Trailer Resort: Arkansas Tucked away in the woods of Arkansas, this Palm Springs-inspired resort features eight renovated trailers from the '50s to the '70s. The website’s descriptions of each are as quirky as the themed spaces themselves: The Pour Some Shasta On Me allows you to “experience all the glitz and glamour of a '90s hair band without the drug problem and the narcissism,” and Candy Cane Lane is decorated in vintage Christmas decor, including “a nice selection of terrible Christmas albums.” In addition to 50 acres of woods to roam, Flamingo Springs also offers a variety of yard games (horseshoes, bocce, ladder ball, and baggo), plus a circular pool, a BB-gun range, ping-pong, vintage video games, and a jukebox that plays 45s.