Why brave Alaska's chilly autumn?
One tempting reason is that you'll have a good chance of witnessing the Aurora Borealis, or northern lights, filling the late-night and early-morning sky with brilliant streaks of purples, greens, blues, and yellows. The area outside Fairbanks, about 110 miles south of the Arctic Circle, is one of the best spots for viewing the natural phenomenon (which can seem like something out of a sci-fi thriller!).
The Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, tracks day-by-day visibility levels throughout the state on its website, gedds.alaska.edu. One affordable place to stay is the Northern Sky Lodge, a seven-room log B&B; offering dog sledding tours.
Autumn is foliage season in Alaska, too, and leaf peepers can get their fill at Denali National Park, home to Mt. McKinley and located about a two-and-a-half-hour drive south from Fairbanks. The park's lodges have created a new series of six guided three-hour hikes, in addition to their tours of the taiga forest and rolling tundra and heart-pounding whitewater rafting excursions.
And as the temperatures drop, so do Denali's room rates. From August 28 to September 18, the fall foliage special allows guests to stay at any of the lodges--McKinley Chalet Resort, McKinley Village Lodge, Denali Bluffs Hotel, or Denali Grande Lodge--for half the price with a 50 percent discount on any Denali excursions. A two-night stay with two tickets to any excursion starts at $329 per room, based on double occupancy. For more details and bookings, contact Denali Park Resorts, 800/276-7234, denaliparkresorts.com.
Will You Travel to Indiana?
You probably have friends or family in Indiana, right? And if you're a basketball fan, you're likely looking forward to next weekend's NCAA men's Final Four in Indianapolis, right? Or maybe you've been considering spending some time exploring Indiana's beautiful state parks, vibrant cities, and exceptional museums? But... On March 26, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a "religious objections" bill into law. The law will take effect in July and has raised concerns from the Indianapolis-based NCAA, the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, and other groups that Indiana has legalized discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens and visitors. In response, SalesForce.com's CEO immediately posted on Twitter that the company would cancel all programs that might involve his company's customers or employees traveling to Indiana "to face discrimination." Major gay-rights advocacy groups are voicing the same concerns, and other businesses are expected to follow SalesForce.com's lead. So... Do you have plans to visit Indiana in 2015? Will the new "religious objections" law affect your travel plans? Please post a comment below or talk to us on Twitter or Facebook. (Popular social media hashtags for the topic include #Final4Fairness and #BoycottIndiana.)
Eat Like a Local in Orlando
Orlando is a pretty sweet place to be any time of year, but this spring is especially exciting. The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is in full bloom (as reported in 8 Incredibly Beautiful Places to See Spring Flowers), and the brand-new I-Drive 360, an entertainment center opening in early May that will be home to the 400-foot Orlando Eye observation wheel and the SeaLife Orlando aquarium. But even some of Orlando's biggest fans (and we count ourselves among them) are a little behind the curve when it comes to the city's food scene. Sure, the fish & chips at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are magical, and Walt Disney World has a tradition of fine dining choices at its parks, but if your idea of chowing down in the theme park capital mostly consists of chicken strips, French fries, and variations on the fried dough theme, we've got exciting news: Orlando offers an entire world (literally) of choices when you eat the way locals do. I-Drive offers an array of international food choices (after all, the "I" stands for "International"), including the acclaimed Ethiopian restaurant Nile 07, Indian fare at Aashirwad (winner of a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence), Italian at Ciao Italia (another TripAdvisor honoree that's been compared to Manhattan's finest Italian restaurants in reviews), and Japanese cuisine at RA Sushi (which complements its fine menu with one of the area's most popular happy hours). For families looking for healthy comfort food, we're not shy about recommending high-quality chain restaurants: Sweet Tomatoes offers an awesome buffet with something to please even the pickiest little eaters, and parents will appreciate the restaurant's heavy focus on fresh vegetables. And for those craving an upscale take on diner fare, the new I-Drive 360 will include a Shake Shack (the wildly popular burgers-dogs-fries chain that began with a hot dog cart in NYC's Madison Square Park). TR Fire Grill launched earlier this month, spotlighting locally sourced ingredients, hand-crafted cocktails, and an American bistro atmosphere. And keep on truckin' with Orlando's amazing mix of food trucks: The Arepas El Cacao truck is a permanent fixture on I-Drive you shouldn't miss. If you want to get a little bit off the beaten path, explore another great food neighborhood like Park Avenue in Winter Park, home to Tex-Mex standout Cocina 214, serving the favorites the restaurant's owners grew up cooking in Dallas. Orlando has no shortage of beautiful hotels, of course. Right now, we're psyched that the Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive has rooms starting at $109, plus spring break deals through early April.
Travelers Say "NO" to Indiana
Budget Travel recently asked its audience if their travel plans would be affected by Indiana's new "religious objections" law (officially known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act). The law has raised concerns about discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens and visitors. In the days since we posed the question, several states and major corporations have imposed bans on non-essential travel to Indiana, and Indiana's governor and legislature have come under pressure to enact civil rights legislation to ensure that the law is not used to legitimize discrimination. We asked "Will you travel to Indiana?" on BudgetTravel.com and on our Twitter and Facebook platforms, and found that more than 90 percent of the 100+ respondents agreed with the #BoycottIndiana movement. Comments included: "Nope. Some states don't deserve my money." "Absolutely not. In fact, my cousin's husband's family just agreed to relocate their family reunion from Indianapolis (est. 200 people)." "I live in Indy. It is a great city and in spite of this dumb law, and by the way I know of no one who supports it, we welcome everyone!" "Sadly, no. It's a great state with great people." "Looks like the state could lose some serious money over this signing. with conventions pulling out and saying they won't return and the NCAA saying they have concerns about this as well. Thanks, Mike [Pence]. What happened to love thy neighbor and do unto others?" "Hell yes, it's a great state that doesn't take crap from progressive liberals who just need to mouth off about everything!" "I vote with my wallet and do not support bigotry." "Stick to travel." Overall, considering the emotions involved with this issue, we were pleased with the civil tone of the responses. The only comment I feel compelled to address is "Stick to travel." Budget Travel's mission is to make travel accessible to everyone. Whether you support Indiana's new law or not, we believe that travel (or "voting with your wallet," as several readers put it) is clearly one of the issues involved.
How to Take the Ultimate Game of Thrones Vacation
This article was written by Sid Lipsey and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel. When we last saw Game of Thrones two of its most interesting characters were traveling, and not for pleasure: The too-smart-for-his-own-good Tyrion had to go on the run after murdering his vengeful ex and complete jerk of a father, and teenage badass Arya hit the road because... well, because she really had nothing else to do. Fortunately, we Game of Thrones fans can travel just like our favorite characters from the show—and, unlike them, have fun doing it. Fans have begun taking pilgrimages to the international locations where the show is shot. And places where the Game of Thrones cast and crew spent last year filming Season 5 (which debuts on HBO on April 12) are expected to see massive increases in tourism. Related: You Can Take a Cruise Based on 'Game of Thrones'? Various touring companies are offering special Game of Thrones-themed vacations to Season 5 filming locations (luxury travel referral service Zicasso is offering GoT tours of Season 5 filming locations in Spain and Croatia). Here are the spots you'll want to see after you've watched the new season. Just don't be too disappointed if you don't see any dragons. The Alcázar of Seville: Seville, Spain What it is in real life: A former Moorish fort that's now the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe. What it is on Game of Thrones: Reports indicate the Alcázar courtyards will serve as the Water Gardens Palace in Dorne, home of Prince Doran Martell. He's the older brother of the late Prince Oberyn, whom we last saw getting his eyeballs squished out during an especially gory trial by combat. You'll be happy you still have your eyeballs when you gaze upon this beautiful place. Osuna, Spain What it is in real life: Home of the nearly 500-year-old Osuna University building. What it is on Game of Thrones: Various reports suggest a pivotal Season 5 battle scene was filmed at Osuna's century-old bullfighting ring. GoT fan site Watchers on the Wall snapped a photo of an actor who appeared to be a stand-in for Peter Dinklage (aka Tyrion Lannister) on the set. The Alhambra Palace: Granada, Spain What it is in real life: A stunning fortress complex that dates to 889. It is currently a UNESCO World Heritage site. What it is on Game of Thrones: Crews reportedly visited this complex while scouting for shooting locations. Did they actually shoot anything here? We'll have to watch to find out. Related: 12 Things We Learned About Travel From Watching 'Game of Thrones' Klis Fortress: Klis, Croatia What it is in real life: A nearly 2,000-year-old fortress that overlooks the city of Split. It is famous for its legendary defense against the 16th-century Ottoman invasion. What it is on Game of Thrones: Where Daenerys Targaryen begins her drive to free the slaves of Meereen, culminating in her brutal crucifixion of the slave owners. Diocletian's Palace: Split, Croatia What it is in real life: One of the most popular attractions in Croatia's second-largest city, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What it is on Game of Thrones: The city of Meereen, where Daenerys Targaryen ruled over her newly freed slave population last season. Watchers on the Wall reported that the Game of Thrones crew returned here to shoot scenes for Season 5. Dubrovnik, Croatia What it is in real life: A former war-torn city that has become the jewel of the Adriatic. What it is on Game of Thrones: Kings Landing! This is the site of countless backstabbings, one gut-wrenching beheading, an icky incestuous affair, Tyrion's sweet victory in the Battle of Blackwater, and karma's even sweeter victory at King Joffrey's wedding. Related: The Ultimate 'Game of Thrones' Escape in an Iron Age Hut Krka National Park, Croatia What it is in real life: The seventh-largest national park in Croatia. What it is on Game of Thrones: A frequent go-to location for outdoor scenes. The Cathedral of St. James: Sibenik, Croatia What it is in real life: Consecrated in 1555, this cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What it is on Game of Thrones: All signs point to this city standing in as Braavos, where young Arya Stark was traveling to at the end of Season 4. Belfast, Northern Ireland What it is in real life: The capital of Northern Ireland. What it is on Game of Thrones: One of the main filming locations and a mecca for fans. Queen Elizabeth II even dropped by to visit the cast as they were filming Season 5. Many interiors were shot at Titanic studios, while outdoor settings like Winterfell and Robb Stark's camp were shot nearby. A number of operators offer tours of the various locations. The cable company Xfinity is even offering its customers a Game of Thrones Belfast vacation.