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    Central Montana,

    Montana

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    Montana is a state in the Mountain West subregion of the Western United States. It is bordered by Idaho to the west; North Dakota and South Dakota to the east; Wyoming to the south; and by the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan to the north. It is the fourth-largest state by area, the seventh-least populous state, and the third-least densely populated state. The western half of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges, while the eastern half is characterized by western prairie terrain and badlands, with smaller mountain ranges found throughout the state. In all, 77 named ranges are part of the Rocky Mountains.

    Montana has no official nickname but several unofficial ones, most notably "Big Sky Country", "The Treasure State", "Land of the Shining Mountains", and "The Last Best Place". The economy is primarily based on agriculture, including ranching and cereal grain farming. Other significant economic resources include oil, gas, coal, mining, and lumber. The health care, service, and government sectors also are significant to the state's economy. Montana's fastest-growing sector is tourism; nearly 13 million annual tourists visit Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Beartooth Highway, Flathead Lake, Big Sky Resort, and other attractions.

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    Seven iconic hikes near Phoenix

    If you’re in the mood for a challenging but rewarding hike, Phoenix is ready to deliver. The city boasts a variety of mountain trails that’ll have you scrambling over boulders, marveling at saguaros, and earning incredible views. Phoenix features over 200 miles of hiking trails, but these seven are among the most iconic mountain hikes in the city. Before you set out, make sure that you’re taking the necessary safety precautions. Phoenix is a dry, desert climate, so bring plenty of water(!!) and a fully charged cellphone, and wear sunscreen and protective gear. And, of course, read up on these Phoenix peaks to decide which is suitable for you before hitting the trail — consider distances and elevation gains carefully, and only attempt hikes that you're confident you are physically capable of completing safely. Piestewa Peak Located smack dab in Central Phoenix, Piestewa Peak is the third highest peak in the city, at 2,610 feet. “The Stairmaster” is an apt nickname for the out-and-back Summit Trail, which climbs 1,200 feet in 1.2 miles. Be prepared for a trail that rises dramatically almost from the get-go and only levels off occasionally. The hike gets more intense closer to the summit, with metal handrails to guide you up the trail. At the very top, hikers scramble up a few rocks to reach the apex. Your reward for all the effort? Epic views of all of metropolitan Phoenix. Camelback Mountain Named after the shape it takes on the skyline, Camelback Mountain is the highest point in Phoenix at 2,704 feet. There are two popular trails on this mountain: Echo Canyon, and Cholla, although Cholla Trail is currently closed for renovation. Some consider Cholla the easier of the two but make no mistake, both trails are a challenge. Expect to get dusty and sweaty as you scramble to reach the top, ascending a staggering and heart-pumping 1,280 feet in 1.2 miles. The steep slope begins not far from the trailhead, with railroad ties used as steps that help hikers navigate the rocky terrain. After the seemingly endless climbing, the work pays off with stunning city views and a deep sense of satisfaction. Mind your footing on the way back down for a 2.5-mile hike. The top of Camelback Mountain. Photo by Reuben Schulz, iStock Tom’s Thumb Located in the McDowell Mountains of Scottsdale, Tom’s Thumb was named after the first person to climb it, Arizona Mountaineering Club member Tom Kreuser. When you reach the end of the trail, you can’t miss the granite formation at the summit of this trail that looks like… yep, you guessed it: a thumb pointing toward the sky. Hikers will get an intense cardio workout as the trail ascends more than 1,300 feet in 2.5 miles. The stellar hike features switchbacks, scenic vistas, dramatic granite outcroppings, and desert flora and fauna. As you’re working up a sweat from start to finish, be sure to pause and take in the sweeping and stunning views of North Scottsdale and the surrounding area. The view from Tom’s thumb is particularly unforgettable. After enjoying the sights and a well-earned breather, simply hike out the way you came for a round-trip that’s about 5 miles. Siphon Draw to Flatiron Trail About 40 miles south of Phoenix, the Flatiron Trail is a hike that is simultaneously iconic, challenging, and totally epic. Part of the Superstition Mountains (“the Supes,” to locals), Flatiron towers high at 4,861 feet. Hikers can anticipate a 2,750-foot elevation gain if they hike this out and back 6-mile journey. Begin your hike at the Siphon Draw trailhead in Lost Dutchman State Park. The hike from Siphon Draw will take you into a canyon of the same name. This trail is 4 miles round trip and offers plenty of scenic Sonoran desert vistas untouched by development. Many hikers will turn around at the end of the Siphon Draw Trail. If you’re up for a steep climb and have the experience and stamina, scramble up Flatiron, sticking to the left to stay on course. Before you reach the top, you’ll have to scale a (gulp) 12-foot wall to reach the summit. Once you’re there, relax, revel in your accomplishment, and take in breathtaking views of the Apache Junction area. Sunset in the Sonoran Desert near Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Brent_1, iStock Images Shaw Butte Trail Back in Central Phoenix, the Shaw Butte Trail in North Mountain Park is well-maintained and one of the easier mountain peak hikes in town. Parts of the trail are even paved, and it all kicks off at a well-developed visitors center. It’s relatively flat for the first mile, after which the course begins its reasonably steep climb. The trail dips and rises a few times before topping out at Shaw Butte, which stands high at 2,149 feet. At the summit, you can’t miss the radio towers and sweeping views of the Central Valley of the Sun. On your way back down, be sure to check out the concrete remnants of Cloud 9 Restaurant—a swanky spot that burned down in 1964—for a hike that’s around four miles total. Holbert Trail At more than 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park and Preserve is one the largest municipal parks in the entire country. Its Holbert Trail is one of the most popular hikes for one key and beautiful reason: Dobbins Overlook. Dobbins is the highest point in the park that is open to the public (at 2,330 feet), and it offers sweeping views of the entire Valley. By following this steep 2.5-mile hike that covers 1,100 vertical feet, hikers can reach this iconic viewpoint. Sure, you can drive to the top… but hiking the Holbert Trail and following the detour that leads to the Overlook is admittedly more rewarding. Once you’ve soaked up all the views, turn back the way you came – by the time you’ve returned to the trailhead, you’ll have hiked about 3.6 total miles. Lookout Mountain Summit Trail Lookout Mountain is a short peak hike that’s tucked away in a North Phoenix neighborhood, making it ideal for hikers who are short on time. Anticipate an elevation gain of about 400 feet in less than a mile. Near the summit, be prepared to do some scrambling on this mostly moderate trail. At the top, take in panoramic views of metro Phoenix before you head back down. __________ SPONSORED BY GEICO This content was produced in partnership with GEICO, Lonely Planet, and Budget Travel.

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    Budget Travel Lists

    Nisswa, Minnesota - Coolest Small Towns 2022:

    Nisswa, in central Minnesota, offers a true small town experience — the pace is leisurely, the people are friendly, and visitors can “choose their own adventure,” at whatever pace they like. In summer, turtle races are all the rage here. For real. If you prefer something more active, the Paul Bunyan Bike Trail beckons, and the region is defined by its many lakes, offering an array of watersports, boating, fishing, and more. On the other end of the seasonal spectrum, winter in Nisswa means skiing (downhill and cross-country), ice fishing, snowmobiling, and even dog sledding. Downtown is characterized by cozy shops and eateries serving up comfort food and artisanal candies, and it’s also a good place to purchase hearty winter outerwear. Up here, folks know how to dress for the cold! More about Nisswa Nisswa, MN Nisswa, Minnesota, nestled in the heart of the lakes area. Has been a destination for visitors for more than a century. Generation after generation comes to the area that many call their second home. Keep Reading... Meet Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Towns for 2022: Content presented by Have Fun Do Good Have Fun Do Good (HFDG) is on a mission to provide adventure seekers with a unique experience that allows them to travel while giving back to the community through volunteering. Learn more at https://havefundogood.co/

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    Inspiration

    Burlington, Vermont

    After Birkenstock sandals, the most common accessory in Burlington is the coffee cup. Every third store on Church Street, the four-block pedestrian area up the hill from Lake Champlain, seems to be a coffee shop. If people aren't sitting and sipping, they're walking, riding extra-long skateboards, or even pedaling bicycles with java in hand. The thing about Burlington is, all that caffeine apparently never kicks in. No one ever seems in a hurry. Droopy-eyed shopkeepers, artists, and college kids always have the time to chat, play Hacky Sack, pet somebody's dog--or grab another coffee. The most popular coffee comes from Speeder & Earl's. The tiny Church Street branch offers around 10 brews that change daily, often with three or four from Central America alone. The roasting takes place at a bigger location a few blocks away. As with Bartles & Jaymes, there's no real Speeder or Earl; the name derives from a 1950s song by the Cadillacs. But the company's logo is a sort of metaphor for Burlington's split personality. On every cup is a cartoon of two men: a thin dude with slick black hair and a leather jacket, and a David Crosby type with a mustache and long hair. The mountain-man beard is alive and well in Burlington, but the town also has its edgier side--perhaps the result of the five area colleges, which attract tons of out-of-state students. You'll spot a fair share of tattoos and black clothing. Good music and good food are priorities, and big reasons why so many students stick around for years after graduation. On any given night, a handful of bands will take stages within a few blocks of Church Street, playing anything from Allman Brothers covers to hip-hop originals that are more hippie than gangsta. Red Square, a labyrinth of a place with multiple interconnected rooms, and Nectar's, stomping grounds for the jam band Phish, score points for reliably talented musicians who experiment to keep things interesting. For lunch, the Red Onion (moved to Charlotte, VT) Cafe's signature sandwich--hot turkey, thin apple slices, tomato mayo, smoked Gruyère, and red onion on your choice of homemade bread--is legendary. Vermont Pub & Brewery serves excellent bar food and the best pints in town. There's even homemade root beer. It seems like a waste to visit Vermont and not take in fresh air, green mountains, and lakes. Knock out all three by renting a bike at non-profit Local Motion, and go for a ride on the converted rail path that borders the lake. To really escape into the country, bring your bicycle on the scenic hour-long ferry and explore the winding mountain roads across the lake in Port Kent, N.Y. The country vibe continues back on the Vermont side at Willard Street Inn, despite the fact that the converted mansion is just four blocks from Church Street. Guests wake to breakfast in a handsome room with a piano and checkered marble floors, overlooking evergreens and a huge garden dotted with Adirondack chairs. For more information visit Vermont Vacation site.

    Inspiration

    There’s never been a better time to visit Alaska

    With COVID-19 vaccines readily available across the US, there’s never been a better time to cross off your Alaska bucket list trip than now! Alaska is HUGE and that can be intimidating for visitors planning a trip. We’ve put together a handy guide to help you plan your Alaska vacation, using the beautiful Anchorage, Alaska as the best place to organize your adventure. credit: JodyO.Photos, Visit Anchorage Getting there Flying: Anchorage boasts the biggest airport in Alaska, supporting around 240 flights each day from all around the world. Direct flights to Anchorage are available from most major airports across the US. A floatplane soars over Anchorage. Credit: JodyO.Photos | Visit Anchorage When to go Summer and winter offer very different experiences! Anchorage is so far north that in summer, the sun doesn’t set until midnight! Summer in Alaska leaves plenty of daylight hours to pack in as much outdoor adventuring as possible. Winter provides some great opportunities to see the northern lights, go dog-sledding, and experience the snow. We recommend at least a 7-day stay to fully appreciate the variety of things to do. Where to stay Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, and is our favorite jumping-off place for a ton of Alaska adventures. The city promises to offer plenty of things to do for city-dwellers, nature lovers and families. Anchorage combines the wild beauty of Alaska with all the convenience of urban comfort. Budget travelers can find affordable accommodations in several local hostels, and motels. There are also quite a few hotels and resorts for those who want to splurge or book with points. Hikers enjoy the view of Portage Glacier from Portage Pass Trail outside Anchorage. Credit: JodyO.Photos, Visit Anchorage. Getting Around Anchorage is the central point for air travel in Alaska. Air travel is such a common way to get around this huge state, that there are more pilots per capita than anywhere else in the USA! Taking a sightseeing plane from Anchorage is the best way to visit Alaska’s national parks. The Alaska Railroad is also a great way to see the expanse of Alaska! The railroad operates year-round (though service varies seasonally), and connects almost 500 miles of track from Seward in the south to Fairbanks in the north. Seasonally themed routes will show visitors the aurora borialis, or tour the glaciers that formed so much of the landscape. Watching a late summer sunset on the Coastal Trail. In summer, Anchorage gets up to 22 hours of sunlight per day. Credit: Roy Neese, Visit Anchorage What to do Alaska offers so many varied activities that it’s impossible to list them all! Using Anchorage as a jumping off point to explore the best that Alaska has to offer. Anchorage features 60 glaciers within 50 miles of its downtown core, six mountain ranges, and 300 miles of wilderness trails for outdoor adventurers to explore. Visitors can see bears, whales, and other native wildlife. In the summer, there is an urban salmon stream for some of the best fishing opportunities. In winter, go dog-sledding and see the aurora. Take a scenic drive into the mountains or down the coast to see some of the best views Alaska has to offer. The Chugach Mountains are Alaska’s most accessible natural area. Several of its top trailheads are located within a 20 minute drive from downtown. This huge mountain range is one of the largest state parks in America, and offers 9000 square miles of outdoor adventures. You can go hiking, rafting, biking, kayaking and fishing. Denali National Park contains the highest peaks in the USA. Credit: Ashley Heimbigner, Visit Anchorage National Parks Did you know that Alaska has more than half of all of America’s national park land? With over 33 national parks and wildlife refuges, it’s nearly impossible to see them all! Anchorage offers a way to see 4 of the 5 major National Parks in Alaska. Take a sightseeing trip to Denali National Park, the home of North America’s highest peak. See the glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park. Visit the fat bears of Katmai National Park (but don’t get too close!). Take a seaplane to the remote wilderness of Lake Clark National Park. Last but not least, explore the massive Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, which is bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island! In summer or winter, there's never been a better time to visit Alaska! This content was produced in partnership with Visit Anchorage.

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    Travel Deal Mexico - Sail the Mexican Riviera for 7 Nights

    Unpack once and visit three iconic Mexico beach destinations with this deal for less than $450 per person (the lowest we've seen). This Princess Cruises deal is less than $65 per person per day and discounts a variety of 2021-2022 dates, including prime holiday travel. You can also add on a perks package for only +$40 per person per day. What's included: Sail for 7 nights, roundtrip from Los Angeles, aboard Majestic Princess Visit Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan $50 onboard credit per cabin Two onboard coupon books ($350 in discounts) Fully refundable deposits of $100 per person Per-person pricing: $449 ... Jan. 22, 29; Feb. 5 $499 … Nov. 6, 13, 27; +$30 Dec. 11; Jan. 8, 15; Feb. 12, 19 $599 … Nov. 20 (Thanksgiving) $799 … Dec. 22 (Christmas) $899 ... Dec. 29, sail for 10 nights (New Year's Eve) These are prices for an inside cabin. Balcony cabins are also on sale, starting at $675 per person. Want a quick getaway? 5-night Cabo San Lucas cruises are also on sale. Depart for $349 per person on Oct. 4, 9, 18, 27 or Dec. 15 (2021). Onboard perks package: Add on a perks package to any of these cruises for only +$40 per person per day, which includes unlimited drinks, Wi-Fi and prepaid tips. Ship details: Princess Cruises has no shortage of food-and-drink options, with various restaurants and bars on board to suit all tastes and ages. Sip craft cocktails in private cabanas at the adults-only Sanctuary or pull up a chair and grab a bag of popcorn for Princess' signature Movies Under the Stars. Book by Aug. 27th BOOK HERE

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    How the largest hotel chains are giving back amid a pandemic

    All around the world, hotels and travel companies have been doing what they can to help communities affected by the pandemic and show appreciation for essential workers and healthcare staff working to make a difference in the fight against Covid-19. From familiar hotel brands and B&Bs to wineries and corporate travel companies, here’s a look at some of the ways they’ve helped support small businesses and keep hope alive this year. Hyatt Hyatt has been pretty busy this year, with roughly 60 properties worldwide helping small businesses stay afloat with a new initiative called Hyatt Loves Local. Here in the U.S., Hyatt Regency Atlanta offered complimentary use of its kitchen and lobby spaces to support Anna Bell’s Mac & Cheese, while Andaz West Hollywood let local business Barcode Barbershop take over its rooftop for two months of outdoor haircuts and styling treatments. Other Hyatt hotels, like Motif Seattle and Grand Hyatt Vail, helped community businesses open onsite pop-ups—a mobile coffee cart for Monorail Espresso in Seattle and a pop-up shop for women’s clothing boutique Wild Heart in Vail—while Gild Hall in New York City arranged for BACH Fitness to host socially distant yoga and pilates classes so the company could stay open. Hyatt is also offering a special Friends & Family rate as a way to show appreciation for healthcare workers when they book with promo code THANKYOU on stays now through September 12, 2021. World of Hyatt loyalty program members can also donate Hyatt points toward free stays for healthcare staff and other frontline workers. Hilton Hilton’s approach has been a little different, with many individual properties offering ways to give back in addition to larger-scale corporate efforts made earlier this year, like donating one million rooms to medical professionals, partnering with World Central Kitchen and other worldwide endeavors. Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino is donating $25 per night to one of two local charities when you book a Give Back Aruba package, while a portion of Forest Therapy spa treatments at Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead will go to Trees Atlanta, which supports the conservation and creation of green spaces around the city. In Colorado, The Curtis is donating $5 from every Don’t Eat Yellow Snow package to the Ronald McDonald House of Denver. Just in time for Christmas, three hotels—Conrad New York Downtown, Conrad Washington, D.C. and Conrad Dublin—are partnering with local children’s hospitals to host a “Hotline to the North Pole,” on December 23 and 24, a video conference link letting little ones chat with Santa Claus. Members of Hilton’s loyalty program can aso redeem Hilton Honors points for donations to several charities and nonprofit organizations by linking their account with partner site, PointWorthy. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG Hotels & Resorts) Besides allowing IHG Rewards Club members to donate their IHG points to charitable causes like the American Red Cross, Goodwill and The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, IHG has been doing its part to recognize the efforts of essential workers around the world, awarding complimentary stays to those who deserve it most. One essential worker in the U.K., for instance, was given a surprise trip to the Hotel Indigo Stratford-Upon-Avon after missing her 26th wedding anniversary because the healthcare facility where she worked made her stay there for 12 weeks. Marriott As a way to show appreciation for the brave men and women working on the front lines in the fight against Covid-19, Marriott is offering special rates for Community Caregivers—healthcare workers, first responders and their families—at participating properties within the U.S., Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. To get the discount, qualified essential workers can book stays by March 31, 2021, and must show valid identification from your medical, government, military or relief organization when they check in. The Copper Door B&B and Rosie’s Pop-Up in Miami While Jamila Ross and Akino West, owners of The Copper Door B&B in Miami’s historic Overtown neighborhood, have been forced to make some adjustments this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic—the B&B’s legendary communal breakfast has since evolved into Rosie’s, a pop-up restaurant where guests can save 20%—they’re still paying it forward. The two hospitality entrepreneurs made headlines earlier this year when they cooked and delivered weekly meals to volunteers at the local World Central Kitchen outpost, Red Rooster, and it’s something they’ve continued to do ever since. Today, The Copper Door B&B is operating at 50% capacity with Covid-safe measures in place while Rosie’s remains open for brunch, serving up Soul Food classics like shrimp & grits and chicken & waffles as well as Italian-inspired dishes like Southern-style polenta and lemon ricotta pancakes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. TripActions Corporate travel and expense management company TripActions found yet another meaningful way to give back to its local community this year. When students in San Francisco neighborhoods hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic suddenly found themselves having to attend school from home, many of them without the proper equipment or Wi-Fi access, TripActions’ Head of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Shaka Senghor led the company’s efforts to donate more than 100 laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots and other technology through its partnerships with Hack the Hood, Climb Hire and Burton High School. The donations helped ensure students enrolled in tech training programs would have what they needed to continue their studies, including mentorship opportunities, while students at Burton High School were given the option to have monthly care packages with snacks sent to their homes. Kendall-Jackson Wines Earlier this fall, Sonoma County based winery Kendall-Jackson partnered with United Way Worldwide to create the Grocery Worker’s Relief Fund in an effort to provide up to $250 in cash cards and other pandemic-related emergency assistance via United Way’s 211 crisis services to essential workers currently employed by supermarkets and retail stores with grocery departments. So far, Kendall-Jackson has pledged $200,000 for the first year, committing to $2 million in support through August 2030.

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    DESTINATION IN Montana

    Great Falls

    Great Falls is the third-largest city in the U.S. state of Montana and the county seat of Cascade County. The population was 58,505 according to the 2010 census, and was estimated at 58,434 on July 1, 2019. The city covers an area of 22.9 square miles (59 km2) and is the principal city of the Great Falls, Montana, Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Cascade County. The county’s population stood at 81,327 in the 2010 census. A cultural, commercial and financial center in the central part of the state, Great Falls is located just east of the Rocky Mountains and is bisected by the Missouri River. It is 180 miles (290 km) from the east entrance to Glacier National Park in northern Montana, and 264 miles (425 km) from Yellowstone National Park in southern Montana and northern Wyoming. A north–south federal highway, Interstate 15, serves the city.Great Falls is named for a series of five waterfalls located on the Missouri River north and east of the city. The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1805–1806 was forced to portage around a 10-mile (16 km) stretch of the river in order to bypass the falls; the company spent 31 days in the area, performing arduous labor to make the portage. Three of the waterfalls, known as Black Eagle, Rainbow and the Great Falls (or the Big Falls), are among the sites of five hydroelectric dams in the area, giving the city its moniker, “The Electric City”. Other nicknames for Great Falls include “The River City” and “Western Art Capital of the World”. The city is also home to two military installations: Malmstrom Air Force Base east of the city, which is the community’s largest employer; and the Montana Air National Guard to the west, adjacent to Great Falls International Airport.Great Falls is a popular tourist destination in Montana, with one million overnight visitors annually, who spend an estimated $185 million while visiting, according to the Great Falls Montana Tourism group. Among Montana cities, Great Falls boasts the greatest number of museums, with 10, including the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center near Giant Springs and the C. M. Russell Museum and Original Log Cabin Studio on the city’s north side. Great Falls was the largest city in Montana from 1950 to 1970, when it was eclipsed by Billings in the 1970 census; Missoula assumed second place in 2000, and Great Falls is ranked third as of 2021.