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Coolest Small Towns: The Race Is On!

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
October 15, 2013
1209_CST_Hammondsport_Town_Square
Arion Doerr

Well, that didn't take very long, did it? Budget Travel launched its Coolest Small Towns 2014 Nominations last week and we've already got more than 70 towns elbowing each other for the top spot. At the moment, Weston, West Virginia, is in the lead with nearly 400 votes!

We're super-psyched to see the list of nominations grow as folks across the U.S. show their hometown pride—or put in a good word for a cool vacation spot they love returning to year after year. Got a town you think is the coolest? Nominate it right here.

And please remember, we're looking for American towns with fewer than 10,000 people (sorry, if your nomination exceeds that population we'll have to bump you from the list) and a certain something that no place else has—a world-class food scene, jaw-dropping locale, great music, innovative art, and the kind of community spirit that motivates supporters to take to Facebook, Twitter (use the hashtag #AmericasCoolestTowns to help spread the word from Budget Travel's Twitter feed!), Pinterest, and Instagram to propel their cool town to the top of the list.

Visit early, visit often, and, as always, keep it cool!

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Budget Travel Lists

10 Essential Vacations for Every Bucket List

Article by Jennifer Gilligan. LAS VEGAS The Run Down: Dubbed the city of sin, Las Vegas is an adult's playground. Between the drinking and the gambling, though, you may find yourself with a few hours to burn. During your downtime, check out the Bodies exhibit, Madame Tussauds, the Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil, and CSI: The Experience. You should check out the Miracle Mile shops as well. There's plenty of fun to be had in Las Vegas without drinking or gambling. The Culture: While Sin City is known for its gambling antics and adult entertainment, Las Vegas is also filled to the brim with museums and art shows. The people are extravagant and eccentric, and often times have a knack for being stared at by visitors to their fair city. However, you will not find a shortage of politeness here, nor will you find a shortage of the vulgar. It's a cultural mix that has a bit for everyone to taste and enjoy. PARIS The Run Down: Visit France and head to the city of love: Paris! While you're there, check out the numerous attractions, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, a monument honoring all who fought and died for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. The names of all of the French victories and generals are inscribed on the inner and outer surfaces. You should also check out Le Fumoir, the Musée de l'Orangerie, and the Centre Pompidou. The Culture: For those of us in the States who know nothing but the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Paris has a lot to offer. The people know how to relax and take it easy. While Americans seem to have everything at our fingertips ready to go at a moment's notice, Parisians take everything in the opposite direction and force you to sit down and enjoy the beauty of everyday life. If you were to grab a cup of coffee at your local Starbucks, you'd be in and out within a matter of minutes. However, Paris will remind you to enjoy the small things in life as the people aren't big on handing out "to-go" cups. Have a seat on the veranda and relax, you've earned it. CHICAGO The Run Down: For the hardcore sports fan, it's a necessity to visit Chicago. Check out a Chicago Blackhawks game, enjoy a Chicago Cubs game, and cheer as the Chicago Bears score a touchdown. Pose with the Cloud Gate sculpture for a new trendy new Facebook photo. There are several museums and theater companies in Chicago, so catch a show and discover something new that you'll enjoy. The Culture: Chicago has thrown itself to the forefront by introducing a new cultural program back in 2012. The city is trying to highlight the arts by giving all of those within the city who have talent and experience to the stage in order to offer various forms of social entertainment. VENICE The Run Down: Nestled on an island in Northeast Italy and only accessible by the Via Libertà, Venice should be on everyone's bucket list. After you've had your fill of the amazing architecture, you've got to experience drifting down the waterways on a traditional Venetian gondola. Enjoy some wine along with your genuine Italian meal and be sure to check out the Guggenheim collection before you go. The Culture: Venice lends itself to a very musical culture. The city has several elite music halls, museums, and other forms of socially entertaining attractions. Venetians pride themselves on living in the moment and living in the music. MAUI The Run Down: Another destination that should be on everyone's list, Maui is one of the most popular islands in Hawaii. There are plenty of surfable beaches, trails to hike, and beautiful places to explore. After you've had your fill of those activities, enjoy a stress-free nap in a hammock next to the ocean. The Culture: The Hawaiian Islands are filled with folks who are a little more than enthusiastic about their heritage. The locals are so heavily entrenched in their history, they are willing to go ahead and show their rituals and cultural gems to those around who may not have had the privilege of knowing exactly what it means to be a part of Maui. The people here are very polite and incredibly hospitable. If your journey takes you to Maui, then you'll love the inviting warmth and hospitality the islanders have to offer everyone they meet. ORLANDO The Run Down: Thanks to Walt Disney World and other area theme parks, Orlando is the family entertainment capital of the world. After you find deals on flights and book several days to party with Mickey Mouse, you may need a slight change in venue. Fret not, there are plenty of other theme parks to choose from: Visit Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure (home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter), SeaWorld, or Discovery Cove.  The Culture: Orlando is very tourist friendly. While some parts still harbor the big city mentality and overbooked transit system, a good majority of the city is brimming with smiling faces. Tourism is one of the major cash cows for Orlando, but that doesn't mean the city is without its museums and theater arts. Visit the Orlando Museum of Art, where you can wine and dine while looking at the different pieces of work hanging from the ceilings. WASHINGTON D.C. The Run Down: No traveler's list would be complete without a trip to our nation's capital. You'll get a true feel for this country's history at the National Mall when you visit the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and Korean War Veterans Memorial. You'll also be able to check out many popular museums, like the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, and the National Museum of African Art. The best part: everything I've just listed is completely free. The Culture: While Washington D.C. may be the headquarters for a lot of the United States' government operations, it is also filled to the brim with cultural attractions. The inhabitants are well versed in the essence of Jazz, the pain and rebirth spawned by the Civil Rights Movement, and the arts. LOS ANGELES The Run Down: Welcome to the nation's entertainment capital. For the true movie buff, there's nothing like driving around Los Angeles and recognizing places from their favorite movies and television shows. Pay your respects to your favorite entertainers who are no longer with us by visiting Forest Lawn Memorial Park in nearby Glendale. Stop and see a movie at the world-famous TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly, Grauman's Chinese Theatre). Swing by one of the last remaining large record stores, Amoeba Music, and see a live performance. End your trip by taking a quick drive to Santa Monica, one of Budget Travel's favorite boardwalks. The Culture: A lot of people sum up L.A. in one word: weird. Like their east coast counterparts, the folks of Los Angeles are willing to say and do just about anything they want. The city hosts a lot of opportunity for aspiring actors, actresses, performers, or the generally ambitious. There are several artistic venues to choose from when exploring—musical performances, theater arts, and even Hollywood film sets. If you've got the right amount of drive and ambition and feel like spending more than just a few days in the City of Angels, feel free to jump on the bandwagon. Just make sure you're wearing your running shoes because this city is never at a standstill. PRAGUE The Run Down: Fly out of the country and head to Prague. You can walk over the Charles Bridge, which spans 16 arches and is lined with 30 Baroque statues. This bridge was commissioned by King Charles in 1357, so you're walking over a huge piece of history. Check out the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, which houses photos, videos, and propaganda from the Communist era. Finish your visit by checking out Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle in the world. The Culture: While there was a time when the word Prague was synonymous with despair, it is now a center for dance and lively music, and the people there take every opportunity to bask in the music and luxury of the arts. Why not join in and enjoy the finer things in life? DUBLIN The Run Down: There are many things to check out in Ireland besides the beautiful scenery—visit the Abbey Theatre, The Little Museum of Dublin, and the National Museum of Ireland. You'll be able to fully relax in St. Stephen's Green, a beautiful, lively urban park. The Culture: Dublin is filled to the brim with relaxing Celtic landscapes, friendly locals, music, and a culture of endless hospitality extended to visitors and residents alike. We want know: what kinds of places and things are on your travel bucket list? Sound off below!

Budget Travel Lists

Is YOUR Town the Coolest in America?

What does cool mean to you? Miles Davis? Scarlett Johansson? Lititz, Pennsylvania? I'm serious. For hundreds of thousands of Budget Travel readers, Lititz—the winner of our 2013 Coolest Small Towns contest—is that perfect blend of edge and heart that we consider cool. The town's journey to Coolest began last fall when thousands of supporters—residents, fans, and folks from all over the world who'd visited the Lancaster County gem and loved it—nominated the town right here. Well, it's that time of year again! Nominations are now open for our 2014 Coolest Small Towns contest. Visit early, visit often, and nominate your pick for coolest town ever. We're looking for American towns with fewer than 10,000 people and a certain something that no place else has—a world-class food scene, jaw-dropping locale, great music, innovative art, and the kind of community spirit that motivates supporters to take to Facebook, Twitter (use the hashtag #AmericasCoolestTowns to help spread the word from Budget Travel's Twitter feed!), Pinterest, and Instagram to propel their cool town to the top of the list. And please, keep it cool. Sure, everybody's got a "favorite" town or an opinion about which town is "best"—those phrases are hopelessly vague when it comes to actually planning your vacation. But tell us why your town is coolest? We're on our way!

Budget Travel Lists

Great News for Budget Travelers!

Where are you going next? That's a question I ask myself all the time—both as executive editor at Budget Travel and as, well, someone who loves the word next almost as much as the world going. So I'm really psyched to announce that Budget Travel is making it easier than ever to book an amazing travel deal. We've vastly expanded the number and variety of our Real Deals to help get you where you want to go for the right price. That means in addition to the sweet package deals our editors serve up every day, we are now offering affordable getaways courtesy of Travelzoo (recent deals include vacations in the Caribbean, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and other must-see locales around the globe). You'll find new deals here every day, you can search by destination or by the area you'll be leaving from, and you can arrange deals by price or trip length. With more deals, more variety, and unbeatable prices—not to mention our award-winning feature stories, photography, and up-to-the-minute blog posts—Budget Travel is more committed than ever to giving you everything you need to choose your next dream trip. Me? I've got my eye on Ireland. How about you? Where are you going next?

Budget Travel Lists

7 Most Haunted U.K. Landmarks

Sophie Gackowski writes for HomeAway UK It's almost Halloween, and while we don't celebrate the 31st of October with quite as much gusto as the USA, we've more than our fair share of ghosts and ghouls. Indeed, many historical sites in the U.K. claim to be some of the most haunted in the world; whether they're hotels, public houses or harbours, they attract hundreds of tourists looking for hair-raising holidays. If you're planning a break in the U.K. anytime soon, you'll find dozens of phantasmal sites; but before you start considering where to stay and what to do, why not spook yourself senseless with seven of our most nerve-tingling sites? Princes in the Tower of London. Situated in the English capital, the Tower of London is—undisputedly—one of the U.K.'s most haunted historical sites; anywhere that's been home to hundreds of prisoners awaiting the death sentence has got to be pretty ghastly! Two of the most famed of the tower's prisoners are undoubtedly the little princes: Edward V and Richard, Duke of York. Imprisoned when they were just twelve and nine-years-old respectively, they were supposedly smothered on the orders of their uncle Richard III. While not proven, two small skeletons were unearthed here in 1674, and later buried at Westminster Abbey. Spectral Children at Llancaiach Fawr Manor. Located in Caerphilly, Wales, Llancaiach Fawr Manor is set in a spectacular, but spooky, spot. Numerous members of staff have detailed uncanny events (smelling roast beef is one of the stranger experiences!), and visitors continue to experience odd happenings. One of the most haunted sites in Britain, the manor is said to be home to several spectres: the most tragic is a little boy who fell to his death from the upper floor, and today tugs on sleeves to get attention. Headless Horses at Pluckley. Pluckley is a pretty village situated in the heart of picturesque Kent; and a famously haunted hotspot, said to house some 12 separate ghosts (according to the Guinness Book of World Records!). From an old woman selling watercress to a schoolmaster once found hanging, there's a seemingly different ghost for every street. The best known apparition is probably the spectral coach, said to be led by galloping, headless horses. Halloween here marks a spooky celebration like no other. Lord Soulis at Hermitage Castle. If you're taking a trip to bonny Scotland on your vacation, consider visiting Hermitage Castle in Roxburghshire. It's not only said to be the most perfect example of a Borders medieval castle, but also home to several spectres, too. Once in the possession of William de Soulis—a warlock thought to have abducted children for black magic rites—the ancient castle's halls are said to be stalked by his unfortunate victims, with unexplained sounds just one of the reported oddities. Florrie at the Red Lion. Fancy something a little more fun in way of ghouls? Then head to Avebury, England, where you'll encounter the Red Lion's feisty resident Florrie. Thought to have lived during the inn's 17th century heyday as a farmhouse, Florrie's tale is more tragic than her movements: said to have been murdered by her husband in a fit of rage, today she makes chandeliers spin and favours bearded men. Afterwards, why not take in Wiltshire's spectacular Stonehenge, nearby? Pendle Witches at Newchurch-in-Pendle. Nestled in the lovely landscapes of Lancashire, you'll find the hamlet of Newchurch-in-Pendle. Peer behind its pretty facade, however, and you'll find that in 1612, this was home to the largest legal witch hunt in England's history. Claims from a nobleman that he was attacked by witches on Pendle Hill resulted in the trials, convictions and deaths of ten people, now said to haunt the hillside. Today, Halloween sees dozens of people climb its slopes in the dead of night. Wounded Jacobites at Culloden Moor. Culloden Moor is famed as the setting of the last battle to have ever taken place on British soil; but the bloody events of 1746 left more than just words in the history books. Today, the boggy ground around Invernesshire, Scotland, is said to be home to the remnants of Bonnie Prince Charlie's army; namely, the ghosts of wounded Jacobites who fought for the Stuart family's right to the throne, but were slaughtered in their thousands that day. Even birds are said to avoid the area! Follow Sophie Gackowski on Google+

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