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    Branson,

    Missouri

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    Branson is a city in Taney and Stone counties in the U.S. state of Missouri. Most of the city is in Taney County, with a small portion in the west extending into Stone County. Branson is in the Ozark Mountains. The community was named after Reuben Branson, postmaster and operator of a general store in the area in the 1880s. The population was 10,520 at the 2010 census. Branson has long been a popular destination for vacationers from Missouri and around the country. The collection of entertainment theaters along 76 Country Boulevard (and to a lesser extent along Shepherd of the Hills Expressway), including Dolly Parton's Stampede, has increased Branson's popularity as a tourist destination.
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    Branson Articles

    Inspiration

    Cruise Along These Holiday Lights Drive-Throughs Across The U.S.

    As the current pandemic is changing how we celebrate the 2020 holiday season, the tradition of seeing public holiday lights displays at night can now be done from the safety of your car. From readapted walking tours to first-time happenings or continuing events, here are holiday lights drive-throughs around the U.S. to take a ride-along. Check their websites for tickets and health and safety protocols before attending. New England Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay has reimagined its annual Gardens Aglow as a drive-through event happening now through Jan. 2. The gardens will still dazzle with over 650,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights depicting trees, animals, flowers, and other delights. Plus, they’ve all been designed by the gardens’ staff. Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, R.I. is hosting its first Drive-Through Holiday Lights Spectacular now through Jan. 10. The inaugural spectacular features festive larger-than-life luminous displays and over 1.5 million illuminated lights. Now through Jan. 2, the Magic of Lights at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Conn. is presenting the latest LED technology and digital animations in this holiday experience. Now through Jan. 3, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Concord is holding the “Gift of Lights,” a 2.5-milelong drive-through show with 3.5 million lights, a new 150-foot RGB Tunnel of Lights, and characters from popular children’s books. There are also fan-favorite displays, including the 12 Days of Christmas scene. Hershey Sweet Lights, presented by T-Mobile. Mid-Atlantic “Wegmans Lights on the Lake” at Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool, N.Y. is happening now through Jan. 10, and is a two-mile route featuring towering holiday displays, a larger-than-life land of Oz, twinkling fantasy forest, Victorian villages and a variety of animated scenes. Located down the road from Pennsylvania’s Hersheypark Christmas Candylane, ”Hershey Sweet Lights presented by T-Mobile” is happening now through Jan. 3 and consists of two miles of fields and wooded trails decorated with nearly 600 illuminated, animated displays created from about two million LED lights. Through Jan. 3, “Bayport Credit Union Holiday Lights at the Beach” is Virginia Beach Boardwalk’s festive nautical holiday lights display featuring festive fish, musical crabs, and elves join a surfing Santa and a new 40-foot dancing Christmas tree. Southeast At Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., “Speedway Christmas” is happening now through Jan. 17 and has more than four million LED lights in displays along a 3.75-mile stretch. This event also has holiday movies shown on a large HDTV screen Thursdays through Sundays. For an additional fee, attendees can skate on a 5,400-square-foot ice rink; mask-wearing is required. In Columbia, S.C., the South Carolina State Fair is putting on “Carolina Lights” at Lexington Medical Center Fair Park at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds now through Dec. 27. More than 100 individual LED light displays along a mile-plus stretch including a nativity scene and a 25-foot-tall Frosty the Snowman. In Savannah, the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens’ “December Nights & Holiday Lights” has been turned into a drive-through event, on now through Christmas Eve. Now through Jan. 2, “Jax Illuminations” will feature two mega trees, a 300-foot tunnel of lights and custom Christmas scenes at the Morocco Shrine Center in Jacksonville, Fla. Through Jan. 2, the Pinnacle Speedway in Lights at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee spread across a four-mile route illuminated by more than 2 million lights among 250 displays. In Nashville, at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, the Jingle Beat is designed by the same artists and local creatives that behind some of the music industries biggest tours. This light show is helping to support the local music industry that has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Southern Lights Holiday Festival at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington is a three-mile driving tour full of a lot of twinkling lights, happening now through New Year’s Eve. “Santa Claus Land of Lights” at the Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort. Photo by Eric Scire. Mid-West Billed as Central Ohio’s largest drive-through Christmas light show, Wonderlight's Christmas at the National Trail Raceway in Hebron is now through Jan. 3. It has over one million LED lights synchronized to traditional and contemporary Christmas music played through your own car stereo. “Santa Claus Land of Lights” at the Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort in the (fittingly called) Santa Claus, Ind. happens now through Dec. 27. The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is depicted through lighted displays and storyboards. Now through Jan. 3, “Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum” in Lisle, Ill. has guests remaining in their cars and tuning to a synced musical soundtrack while driving nearly two miles among the Arboretum’s trees. The Wisconsin Christmas of Carnival Lights in Caledonia, 20 minutes south of Milwaukee at Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort, features over two million twinkling lights on an over 1.6-mile path. Now through New Year’s Eve, the show allows attendees to experience lights on all sides, with displays ranging from forest friends and reindeer to Santa and his elves. South-West “Lights of Joy” in Branson, Mo. is located off of the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway and contains more than 300 displays with over one million twinkling LED lights throughout this 1.2-mile drive. The Automobile Alley Art Light Display in Oklahoma City has colorful LED lights covering buildings on eight blocks of North Broadway and district side streets. Various shops and restaurants will also feature window displays. The event is part of Downtown in December and runs now through Jan. 31. “Gift of Lights” at Fort Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway now through Jan. 3 is made up of over one million twinkling lights that people can see from their own cars. Lights at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo by Gabe Ginsberg West “Christmas in Color” at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo. is having drivers cruising along more than 1.5 million lights perfectly synchronized to holiday music heard through your car radio. Drive by giant candy canes, snowmen and more now through January 3. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s “Glittering Lights” features more than five million LED lights intertwining throughout a 2.5-mile course through the speedway, through Jan. 10. The Phoenix Zoo’s Cruise ZooLights can be seen from your car now through Jan. 31, with millions of twinkling lights and dazzling animal sculptures from the comfort of your vehicle. Now through Jan. 2, “Holidays in Your Car” is taking place both at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego and Ventura County Fairgrounds, with more than 1 million LED lights and some fixtures standing at 40 feet tall.

    Adventure

    Would you pay $1000 to reserve a seat on a space flight?

    Virgin Galactic, the Richard Branson-owned company, has targeted summer 2020 to debut its space-tourism service, and as the launch fast approaches, public interest in scoring a seat on a spaceship has skyrocketed. Though the ticket window slammed shut in December 2018, inquiries have continued to roll in – nearly 8000 online reservation registrations in the fourteen months since Virgin Galactic’s first spaceflight (more than double the number reported in September 2019) and 600-plus firm reservations to date. Last week, in preparation for the re-opening of spaceflight sales, Virgin Galactic announced its latest initiative, and it’s pretty much priority boarding or Global Entry on steroids. Called One Small Step, the program allows interested travelers to pay a refundable deposit of US$1000 to hold their place in line, so when the new seats become available, they’ll get first shot at the reservations. The company has targeted summer 2020 for the launch of its space-tourism program © Virgin Galactic“We have been greatly encouraged by the ongoing and increasing demand seen from around the world for personal spaceflight,” Virgin Galactic commercial director Stephen Attenborough said in a press release. “One Small Step allows us to help qualify and build confidence in our direct sales pipeline, as well as to ensure that those who are most keen to make reservations, are able to do so at the earliest opportunity.” Ticket prices have yet to be announced, but they're expected to go for upwards of US$250,000 © Virgin GalacticWhile details like cost and on-sale dates have yet to be announced, tickets were last priced at US$250,000, and they’re expected to go for more once the window reopens. “What we believe is that we actually underpriced the ticket price a bit in early years,” company CEO George Whitesides said last fall, adding that at some point, the goal is to lower the cost so space travel is more accessible to more people. In the meantime, however, those who can afford to pay the One Small Step fee will get first dibs on the new seats, “allowing them to make the One Giant Leap to a confirmed spaceflight reservation,” the press release reads. For more information, visit virgingalactic.com/smallstep. _____This article first appeared on our sister site, Lonely Planet.

    Inspiration

    Lake Como, Italy: Discover Its Affordable & Authentic Side

    Lake Como, in Northern Italy, is probably best known as a vacation home for the rich and famous - Clooney, Versace, Madonna, Branson, and others. Consequently, Lake Como’s major towns tend to be crowded with throngs of celebrity seekers as well as upscale travelers. Discovering Lake Como’s Authentic Side But as with all our travels, we made an effort to explore Lake Como to find authentic places away from the crowds. Here are just a few of the many things we’ve discovered - picturesque, delicious, and utterly memorable. Sacro Monte di Ossuccio On the west side is the town of Lecco, above which is the 16th-century Sacro Monte di Ossuccio, a series of 14 chapels leading up the mountain overlooking the lake. (Italy’s alpine lakes are home to nearly a dozen such ancient sites - pilgrimage paths climbing “sacred mountains” leading along a series of Renaissance-era chapels.) Looking down from the peak of Ossuccio, you’ll see the town of Lenno and the extensive green space of Villa del Barbianello, a now-popular tourist attraction that was the filming site for many movies, including Casino Royale and Star Wars Episode II. Setting aside James Bond and clone attacks in favor of our interest in food, Lenno is also home to the Oleificio Osvaldo, the maker of a highly-regarded olive oil. Its shop sells the precious culinary commodity as well as soaps and skin creams crafted from it. Sala Comacina & Isla Comacina A bit to the south is the town of Sala Comacina, relatively ignored by tourist throngs due to its driving and parking challenges. It’s a quiet little haven, with ample bars and restaurants but sparse crowds. A small fee buys you passage from the town marina across to Isola Comacina. This little island is the site of ancient monastery ruins and was even the purported home of the Holy Grail for a short time. Its modern point of interest is the iconic Locanda dell'Isola Comacina, a quintessential foodie stop that has served a fantastic and unchanging meal of traditional dishes since 1948. There’s no menu; every table receives the same bountiful courses for a fixed price. The food is simple but perfect, steeped in local tradition and highest quality. The staff here are friendly and relaxed, but the service is impeccable. As you enjoy your leisurely lunch, you’ll observe little boats coming and going from the dock below, delivering some of the prime foodstuffs that the restaurant serves. Trattoria del Porto The city of Como is full of rich history and beautiful architecture, including several stunning and huge churches, but Como town is, for us, dauntingly large. So we skip it and head for the central part of the lake. Here the town of Careno is the location of another historic lake lunch spot. Down in the town - and we mean down - is local treasure Trattoria del Porto. Reservations here are mandatory, as it’s a small restaurant perched 100 feet or so above the water. Diners are treated to a traditional menu that they’ve been serving for decades. Every day. The same menu. For decades. The fish dishes, especially - and there are several of them - are steeped in the tradition of the lake’s old families. Salted & Dried Fish Speaking of food, visitors to Italy’s lakes - especially Como and Iseo - will occasionally see an array of fish splayed and hanging in the sun on racks. These are sarda or agoni - a type of shad. The fish are prepared with salt for two days and then dried for a month or more, before being flattened and preserved in oil and herbs, and packed for later eating. This method of preparation and preservation dates back to the middle ages, when the fish were preserved in a wooden container called a missolta - from which comes the name of this dish, missoltini. Mandello del Lario On the east side of the lake is the town of Mandello del Lario, a small town with a sizable urban sprawl around it, but with a charming historic centro. You can eat well and stay at Mamma Ciccia, in the heart of the old town. The owner, Silvia, runs an albergo diffuso and a cooking academy, so you can lodge at one of her distinctive properties in town and then take a class to learn how to make some traditional pastas and sauce (and tiramisu!). Better yet, her restaurant serves up delicious plates of standard fare, unfettered by the foibles of those who may not know their way around a pasta machine. Abbazia di Santa Maria di Piona Farther north on the east side is the Olgiasca peninsula, a little bit of land that juts out into the lake. At the end of this peninsula is Abbazia di Santa Maria di Piona, the old monastery at the very end of the peninsula. Here, as with the Sacro Monte site, we see the church’s propensity for snagging all the best real estate. This 12th-century monastic settlement is impossibly beautiful, with perfectly kept gardens and an ancient stone church, all in the shadow of the imposing, snow-capped Alps. Better still, every evening at around 6:30, the monks hold a Gregorian chant service, which completes a visitor’s transportation back in time. Nashville musicians and travelers Zeneba Bowers and Matt Walker run Little Roads Europe, a travel consulting service, helping clients build itineraries to steer clear of tourist cliches and explore the small towns in Italy and Ireland. Zen and Matt are authors of three award-winning guides to back-roads Italy and Ireland, and recently released a fourth book, a small-town foodie guide to Italy’s Alpine Lakes. Learn more at www.littleroadseurope.com.

    Budget Travel Lists

    20 Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Vacation Rental Destinations

    Here at Budget Travel, we appreciate a deal as much as the next frugal traveler, but for our purposes, budget doesn’t necessarily translate as cheap. To do the mental math on what, exactly, qualifies as a good-value proposition, we take into account tangible factors like location, weather, and experiences to have along the way. But we also think about the intangibles—less quantifiable, more subjective elements like uniqueness and Instagrammability. It’s a complicated equation, but home-share rental site Vrbo (vrbo.com) is attempting to simplify things a bit, courtesy of its first-ever Bang for Your Buck Index. The company recently released a list of domestic and international destinations that provide travelers with the best value, based on last year’s booking data. Factoring in considerations like proximity to the beach, diversity of dining options, and the array of activities on offer, here's where you'll get the most for your money—all for $250 per night or less. Top 10 Domestic Destinations for Rental Value With an abundance of beaches—not to mention its collection of theme parks—it’s no wonder Florida claims five of the 10 spots on Vrbo’s domestic list. Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, and Cape Canaveral offer prime opportunities to work on that tan, while Orlando is the gateway to Disney World and Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For a break from the ocean, book a trip to Lakeland, east of Tampa, to explore the city’s eponymous lakes, or venture out of state and head west instead: Tucson and Prescott, Arizona, both cracked the top 10, as did Moab, Utah, in the heart of canyon country. Looking for something a little less expected? Branson, Missouri, receives surprisingly high marks, while family favorite Myrtle Beach rounds out the list. Overseas Bargains If, in your mind, it doesn’t count as vacation unless you've stepped off a plane onto foreign soil, not to fear—there’s plenty of value to be had in Europe, Asia, Canada, and the Caribbean, as long as you know where to look. For a truly economical experience, forgo hotspots like London, Paris, and Rome in favor of the Iberian peninsula: Porto, Lisbon, Madrid, and Seville all provide warm weather, great food, and arts and culture galore, minus the sticker shock of their higher-profile European peers. (On the continent, Prague and Berlin are also good bets.) Chasing those sunny days? You can’t go wrong with Puerto Rico, and Carolina is Vrbo’s pick for the island’s best-value destination. Up north, Calgary and Halifax offer boundless natural splendor and cultural institutions in profusion, plus a favorable exchange rate to boot. And on the other side of the world, Tokyo is an unexpectedly budget-friendly gem.

    CruisesFamily

    Bargain Cruises: Where to Go in 2019 and 2020

    Just when you thought cruise lines couldn’t get any bolder, 2019 and 2020 bring more onboard innovations. Here are our top picks for affordable new cruises to the Caribberan, Mexico, the Mediterranean, and beyond, all starting at less than $200 a night. 1. Carnival Panorama (Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line) Launching in late 2019, this shiny new vessel combines California cool and Carnival’s signature amenities—on a fun and fiesta-filled itinerary along the Mexican Riviera. Sailing out of Long Beach, California, and exploring ports such as Cabo Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta, guests can enjoy the coastal scenery from both indoor and alfresco spaces. Aside from a new massive trampoline court with a recreation area (a climbing wall, a balance/jousting beam), some passenger favorites are making an encore: Guy’s Pig and Anchor barbecue joint (slow-smoked beef and molasses-baked beans, anyone?), the top-deck bike-in-the-sky ride, and a sports arena with dodgeball, basketball, and black-light glow parties. The most posh accommodations include the exclusive Havana staterooms, with tropical-inspired decor and a private pool area, and the key-carded Harbor staterooms designed specifically for families.Seven-day cruises from $539 per person; carnival.com. 2. Costa Smeralda (Courtesy Costa Cruises) Named after Sardinia’s Emerald Coast, this 6,518-passenger ship (launching in October 2019) is a tribute to all things Italian. Start with a Campari cocktail toast at the three-level, domed Colossea, before heading to one of two piazzas to soak in the panoramic views. Then choose from the 11 on-board restaurants, from a family-style pizzeria to the Laboratoria del Gusto (translation: Taste Lab), where guests can devour their own creations. The cabins are decorated with custom-designed furniture (made in Italy, of course) and photographic murals and graphics inspired by cities such as Milan, Florence, and Rome.Six-day Mediterranean sailings from $444 per person; costacruises.com. 3. MSC Bellissima and MSC Grandiosa (Courtesy MSC Cruises) For some sun and style, MSC Cruises is introducing a pair of ships where passengers can relax and enjoy, just as they do in the sun-soaked Mediterranean. Highlights on the 4,500-passenger MSC Bellissima, debuting in March, include a new voice-enabled artificial intelligence device that acts as a customer-service portal, a magic-themed children’s program, and the HOLA! Tapas bar, in partnership with Michelin-starred Spanish chef Ramon Freixa. Meanwhile, the Grandiosa, much larger at 6,300 passengers, makes her inaugural voyage in October, with a set of never-before-seen Cirque du Soleil shows, a two-deck promenade with a massive LED Skyscreen, and the French-inspired L’Atelier Bistrot lounge.MSC Bellissima’s seven-night cruises from $1,199 per person; seven-night sailings on MSC Grandiosa from $799 per person; msccruisesusa.com. 4. Norwegian Encore (Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line) The fourth and final ship of the Norwegian Breakaway-Plus class, Norwegian Encore (launching in autumn 2019) offers features similar to those of her sisters—except a notch above on the wow factors. For starters, the race track is larger, and part of it even loops over the side of the ship—not to mention there’s a viewing area for spectators who can shoot laser guns to turbo-boost their favorite drivers. The laser tag course, which spans a good portion of the sun deck, resembles a resurrection of the city of Atlantis, complete with sea creatures and hidden treasures. Meanwhile, the 10,000 square-foot augmented reality complex, Galaxy Pavilion, combines interactive gaming and cutting edge technology. Last but not least, the entertainment roster does nothing short of dazzle: Cyndi Lauper’s Tony Award-winning Kinky Boots takes a lively tour at sea, while UK-based group the Choir of Man performs a variety of genres, from pub tunes to classic rock to folk music, and the Happy Hour Prohibition recreates a New Orleans speakeasy with rip-roaring tales of bootleggers and retro cocktails with a modern bend.Seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise from Miami from $849; ncl.com. 5. Sky Princess (Courtesy Princess Cruises) The 3,660-passenger Sky Princess (on the sea starting October 2019) reinvents of some of the brands’ signature experiences, bringing fresh and modern spaces and elevating the line's popular venues such as Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria, the classic Crown Grill, and the Salty Dog Pub, known for its Ernesto Burger (a rib-eye and short-rib patty with pork belly, Gruyere, caramelized kimchi, and beer-battered jalapeño). Plus this ship will debut a French bistro with an exclusive menu from Chef Emmanuel Renaut, who runs the three-Michelin-star Flocons de Sel in the French Alps. Stay tuned for more details on a cool jazz lounge featuring music from New Orleans, and the breathtaking Sky Suites, whose 1,102 square-foot balconies are the most spacious at sea—and where you can watch movies on the big screen under the stars.Seven-night Caribbean cruises from $859 per person; Mediterranean cruises from $1,289 per person; princess.com. 6. Looking Ahead... (Courtesy Virgin Voyages) There’s already been a lot of buzz about Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady, even though the launch is more than a year way. That’s probably because Virgin mogul Richard Branson is behind the adults-only ground-breaking vessel—and he’s brought some big-name designers on board (Tom Dixon, Roman and Williams, Concrete Amsterdam, among others) to create thought-provoking, imaginative spaces: retro-futuristic Rockstar Suites, a Korean barbecue restaurant with drinking games, a vegan bar with bold black and white stripes, and terraces with handwoven hammocks. Cabins have mood-lighting and beds that convert to loungers—should you ever find the time to sleep.The Scarlet Lady will sail four- and five-night Havana After Dark itineraries featuring an overnight stay in Havana, Cuba; five-night Mayan Sol voyages to Costa Maya, Mexico; and five-night Dominican Daze voyages to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. No prices yet; virginvoyages.com.

    News

    Travel News: Don’t Drink In-Flight Coffee, New High-Speed Trains May Be Coming to the U.S., and REI Expands Its Rental Program

    From breaking health news about the quality of airline coffee (and drinking water in general) to a potential breakthrough in American train travel, plus great news for outdoors enthusiasts (and we count ourselves among them) about REI’s gear rentals, this week’s travel news is all about being the smartest traveler in 2019 and beyond. DON’T DRINK IN-FLIGHT COFFEE! The next time a flight attendant comes through the cabin offering coffee or tea, you might want to opt for tomato juice or beer instead. A study released in November by Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center warns “it’s probably best to avoid drinking water from the tap on a plane, which also means staying away from coffee and tea.” Right now, airlines operate under the 2009 Airline Drinking Water Rule, which is regulated by the EPA, FDA, and FAA and requires disinfection and flushing one to four times a year. But even with maintenance of the aircraft system, other factors can contribute to contamination, like trucks, carts, hoses and other equipment used to transfer water at airports.“You would think they’d be emptied and cleaned at least once a day,” Dr. Charles Platkin, executive director of the Food Policy Center, wrote in the study, referring to that transport equipment. “But this is not so. So water is just sitting for long periods of time in what appear to be not-so-clean tanks.” It’s logical to think that because coffee and tea are made with hot water, the heat would kill any contaminants. Not so fast. According to the New York State Department of Health, boiling typically causes pasteurization, not sterilization, which would kill all present organisms. Moreover, tea and coffee on flights isn’t typically made with water that reaches boiling point and even if it was, it wouldn’t boil for long enough to have the desired effect. Happily, there haven’t been any reports of illness, but in the meantime, prevention is the best cure, so grab a bottle of iced coffee once you’re close to your gate. Just make sure to you wash your hands before you board. Those security bins are a veritable petri dish of germs. NEW HIGH-SPEED TRAINS MAY BE COMING TO THE U.S. The East Coast has Amtrak’s Acela express service, and next year, if Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has his way, Florida and southern California will have something similar. In November, the brand announced a strategic partnership with a private railroad called Brightline, which has been operating high-speed trains between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach since May. In early 2019, Brightline will rebrand as Virgin Trains USA and look to ring in the new year with expanded service: Routes to Orlando and Tampa are in the works, and construction will begin on a new line connecting Los Angeles to Las Vegas, approvals permitting. If all goes according to plan, a trip from Miami to Orlando could take just a few stress-free hours, and the travelers who make some 50 million trips between Vegas and Southern California each year will have an alternative to a pricey flight or a traffic-filled drive. The takeaway? An escape from L.A. may soon be easier than ever, and leaving Las Vegas looks like it’s going to be a piece of cake, too. REI EXPANDS ITS RENTAL PROGRAM One of the most common new year’s resolutions is getting in shape and being more active. It appears that REI, the Seattle-based purveyor of activewear and outdoor gear, wants to make it easier for America to fulfill that commitment. Just in time for the new year, the company, recognized as the country’s largest consumer co-op, announced that they’re expanding their popular rental program, adding snowshoes to their inventory of rental gear at 70 of their 154 stores (rei.com/stores/rentals). Yes, you read that right. The popular store operates a large and growing rental program. (You don’t have to be a co-op member to rent equipment, but you do receive a discount if you are.) And the company, aware that price and storage space can get in the way of taking up outdoor activities, works to make it easier to get outside. So whether you’re looking to dabble in a new sport without committing to buying equipment or you’re a seasoned outdoorsperson nearly ready to make a purchase but want to take advantage of the try-before-you-buy opportunity, they’ve got you covered.cBut it gets even better: at the end of each season, gently used rental equipment is sold through REI's used gear program (rei.com/used).

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