Budget Travel was born from a simple idea: “Vacations for Real People.” Our audience (that’s you, by the way) is curious, discerning, intelligent, and down to earth. You want the best travel experience that money can buy, and you want to enjoy travel without the hassle. Our Coolest Small Towns in America series has been going strong for more years than we can count, and it reflects on a couple of our founding beliefs: you don’t need to break the bank to have a nice vacation, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We want to invite you to explore the possibility that your next transformative travel experience might be just around the corner. Maybe in your own state, or maybe a day’s ride from home. This year, we want to highlight the small towns that not a lot of people have heard about and have a strong and thriving community. Trends may come and go, destinations may fall in and out of fashion. But curiosity, discernment, and intelligence are always in style. Our 2022 Coolest Small Towns are spread across the country, so that you can Rediscover America. 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/
If you’re looking for a laid-back place to make your Gulf dreams come true, Cedar Key, about an hour from Gainesville, on Florida’s northwest coast, is the place to do it. With a population hovering around 700 and a location that puts a firm emphasis on salt water — including a national wildlife refuge, a state park, nature preserves, stretches of sandy beach, and a thriving fishing industry — Cedar Key basically challenges you not to relax. Set aside a few days to get to know this beautiful corner of the Sunshine State. The 13 islands of Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge offer unique opportunities for birdwatching (including migratory birds and majestic pelicans), dolphins in season, and colorful butterflies. Cedar Key Museum State Park combines the best of the region’s natural beauty with rich history, including the restored 1920s Whitman home and memorabilia from the town’s past. Speaking of history, when you’re not soaking up some sun at the beach, you’ll want to soak up some history via photographs and artifacts at Cedar Key Historical Museum. But who are we kidding? With all that Gulf water lapping the shores, seafood may be your number-one priority here — clam bars, seafood joints ranging from modest to posh, and chowder abound in Cedar Key, with enough options to satisfy every taste. More about Cedar Key Cedar Key, FL Cedar Key is a place where time stands still and allows you to enjoy the unique qualities of our coastal environment. Cedar Key is a quiet island community nestled among many tiny keys on the Gulf Coast of Florida. 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/
In the heart of Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg celebrates both its German roots and its pioneer heritage. In fact, the town’s Pioneer Museum is a good place to get your bearings, tracing the area’s settler history, which dates back to the 1840s. While you may associate fine wine more with the West Coast, Hill Country is home to a good number of major wineries, including several in the Fredericksburg area — explore the local tasting rooms and bring home a bottle (or a case). Even less on-the-nose here in Hill Country is the National Museum of the Pacific War, dedicated to the history of World War II in the Pacific, inspired by local Chester Nimitz, born and raised in Fredericksburg, who served as an admiral in the U.S. Navy during the war. But getting outdoors should be at the top of your Fredericksburg to-do list, with Enchanted Rock State Natural Area offering distinctive pink rocks, endless trails for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding, and ample opportunities for climbing. Fredericksburg is also home to more than 300 species of bird, and millions of bats that attract visitors (really!) More about Fredericksburg Fredericksburg, TX For a relatively small town, it’s easy for you and your family to get lost in Fredericksburg. In the serene beauty of the Texas Hill Country. In the rich German history. The countless unique and sophisticated shops. 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/
You will likely approach the town via inland Highway 101 before heading west, winding through coastal hills down toward the water. As you arrive in town, you’ll find you are a world away from the hustle-bustle of Cali’s big cities to the north and south. Here in Morro Bay, life moves at a pace well-suited to a “vacation for real people.” Tour the wharf, where kids of all ages will love watching fishing boats delivering their daily bounty. And you don’t have to just watch — local restaurants such as Bayside Cafe transform each day’s catch into fresh, imaginative meals such as contemporary riffs on fried clams and crabcakes. Stroll Morro Bay’s main drag, and drop into charming shops like Kites & Surreys, and Revolve Thrift. Explore exceptional parkland, including Morro Bay State Park, or the nearby beaches. Rest your head in a comfy, affordable room at The Landing motel, with views of the bay — and iconic Morro Rock — out your window. Morro Bay is one of those little towns that touches your heart in a big way, making a return visit just about mandatory. More about Morro Bay Morro Bay Morro Bay is unlike any other California seaside town. Just off its shore an ancient volcanic monolith known as Morro Rock rises 576 feet from the ocean, amplifying the magnificence of this stunning coastal backdrop. 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/
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/
We love the Berkshires, in Western Massachusetts, for the way they combine gorgeous outdoor vistas with fine art, music, and food — what’s not to love? North Adams is Exhibit A: Sure, it’s a small town, but, with a population around 12,000, it boasts of being the “smallest city” in Massachusetts. Browse along downtown’s artsy streets where cool pubs, cutting-edge cuisine, and cafes beckon. A truly vibrant place to live — or visit — North Adams offers indie music, endless opportunities for outdoor activities (especially popular in fall, when the forests burst into their signature oranges, reds, and golds), great food, small shops, and, of course antiques. Immerse yourself in the town’s Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) for groundbreaking work as well as masterworks of some of the giants of modern art housed in a restored 19th-century mill complex. The museum isn’t just for ogling art — MASS MoCA brings visual and performing artists to town for residencies and presentations of new work. We’re especially fond of The Porches Inn, which allows visitors to bed down in a pleasantly kitschy environment. And your art odyssey doesn’t have to end in North Adams: Nearby Williamstown is home to the Clark Museum, and Bennington, just across the Vermont border, boasts the world’s largest collection of Grandma Moses paintings. More about North Adams North Adams, MA North Adams is a vibrant community located in the Northwest corner of the beautiful Berkshires. Steeped in art, culture, and community..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/
If Red Lodge didn’t have you at “Gateway to Yellowstone,” consider that the drive from Red Lodge to Yellowstone National Park’s northeast entrance takes you over the Beartooth Highway, perhaps the most beautiful, dizzying, surreal, and thrilling drive in the world, reaching an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet above sea level at the top of the pass. But whether Red Lodge serves as your gateway to the wonders of Yellowstone or as your first stop back in the “real world” after exploring the park, the town is legit cool all on its own, with its own outdoor recreation offerings, family activities, authentic culinary traditions, and much more. Spend some time getting to know the town’s arts and culture — art galleries like the Clay Center, unique shops, Pride Park, and walking tours of historic downtown (once said to have a “saloon on every corner,” but nowadays decidedly more sophisticated) will keep you busy. And while catching a fleeting glimpse of wildlife in Yellowstone depends very much on luck, it’s an everyday occurrence at Red Lodge’s Yellowstone WIldlife Sanctuary, a few blocks from downtown and home to “non-releasable” mountain lions, wolves, bears, bison, eagles, hawks, and many other native Montana animals. More about Red Lodge Red Lodge, MT Red Lodge, Montana - Gateway to Yellowstone Park via the beautiful Beartooth Highway. Come and experience true western hospitality in this quaint, historic, mountain town. 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/
If you really want to get away from it all, Colorado is an excellent choice — the state’s jaw-dropping mountains, wildlife, and independent thinkers have been attracting escapees from the rat race for decades. Telluride (and its close neighbor, Mountain Village), in the San Juan Mountains in the southwestern corner of the state, is firmly in that tradition. Once a boomtown thanks to local mining, the town transformed itself into a skiing mecca in the mid-20th century and today ranks as one of the most dense concentrations of great food, art, nature, and much more. Want to hike? Bike? Ski? The trails that wind in and around town will keep you busy for days, weeks — did we mention that some folks just up and run away to Telluride for good? And, like many popular ski areas, Telluride transforms in the “off-season” (what summer destinations call the “high-season”) into a paradise for hikers, skate boarders, cyclists, and water enthusiasts. Music and arts festivals abound, and we're particularly fond of Telluride’s unique Nothing Festival, in which cyclists ride in the nude. Remember what we said about attracting free thinkers? More about Telluride Telluride, CO If you really want to get away from it all, Colorado is an excellent choice — the state’s jaw-dropping mountains, wildlife, and independent thinkers have been attracting escapees from the rat race for decades. 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/
Sure, not everybody remembers that Georgia — renowned for its inland forests and mountains and urban centers like Atlanta and Savannah — has drop-dead gorgeous beaches. St. Simons Island, on the state’s southern coast, is a good place to get acquainted with the watery side of the Peachtree State. (St. Simons is one of Georgia’s four “Golden Isles,” barrier islands that also include Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons island). Here, you’ll find a number of quaint villages that boast one-of-a-kind shops and museums. Explore historic sites such as St. Simons Island Lighthouse (dating back to 1872), Fort Frederick National Monument, and Christ Church. Then hit the waterways in a kayak, take a sunset bottlenose dolphin cruise, ride in unique open-air trolleys (which also offer an after-dinner Ghost Tour!), go on a cycling tour, or spend the day fishing with the help of an experienced local guide. Tuck into a plate of shrimp and grits at one of the island’s eateries,like Crabdaddy’s Seafood Grill, or stop by the Public House for exceptional pork chops. More about St. Simons Island St. Simons Island, GA St. Simons Island, GA is home to fabulous beaches, golfing, charter fishing, spas and salons, and a variety of restaurants, fun events and entertainment for everyone. 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/
On the shores of New York’s Hudson River, just 16 miles from the Bronx border, Tarrytown combines history, natural beauty, and a range of small businesses that make for a truly unique small-town experience. Margo Timmins, lead singer of the alt-country band Cowboy Junkies, recently announced from the stage of the Tarrytown Music Hall that the venue, on the town’s scenic Main Street, is one of her favorite places to perform because there is a great coffeehouse on one side and the yarn shop on the other. That would be Coffee Labs, purveyors of exquisite artisanal java (there will be a line, possibly out the door, but it’s worth the wait), and Flying Fingers, a favorite of Martha Stewart’s, boasting a giant sheep sculpture adorned with brightly colored yarn right outside the front door. You could spend your entire day combing Main Street for world cuisine — Lefteris’s Greek fare and Tarry Tavern’s upscale comfort food are just two wildly popular examples — or galleries, thrift shops, and musical instruments. But set aside some time to explore beautiful historic sites such as Sunnyside (once home to Washington Irving, the first man of American letters and the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle) and Lyndhurst (a 19th century mansion whose riverside grounds now play host to craft fairs, kennel shows, and jazz concerts). No visit to this region is complete without traversing RiverWalk, a scenic trail through the woods along the eastern shore of the Hudson, and the many winding trails in Rockefeller State Park and Preserve. More about Tarrytown Tarrytown, NY A trip to Tarrytown offers visitors the perfect complement of history, dining, shopping and nature -- not to mention entertainment and first class lodging. 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/
Most folks already know that Louisiana is at the crossroads of American history and culture — but you might say that Thibodaux, in Bayou country, near the Gulf of Mexico, is at the very center of those crossroads. Here, people from France, Spain, and West Africa met Native Americans and French Canadians, known then as Acadians and now known as Cajuns, and a rich cultural stew began to simmer. Visitors to Thibodaux can’t help but dive into local history: From the E.D. White Historic Site, dedicated to a Bayou Lafourche family that produced a governor and a U.S. Senator, to the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center (part of the multisite Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve), the region wears its multicultural heritage with pride. A visit to Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center delivers immersive presentations via film, exhibits, performances, and boat tours of the Bayou. Visitors can also take a guided tour of downtown led by a National Park Ranger. Whether guided or not, you should definitely stroll Thibodaux’s historic downtown for a taste of Cajun cuisine — dishes such as boudin sausages, gumbo, and jambalaya, that bear the influence of the Bayou’s varied settlers. More about Thibodaux Thibodaux, LA Thibodaux’s backstory is linked to French, Spanish and African peoples who arrived in the region in the early 18th century, and French-Canadian immigrants — known as Acadians (or Cajuns) — who settled here in the mid-1700s. 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/
Budget Travel was born from a simple idea: “Vacations for Real People.” Our audience (that’s you, by the way) is curious, discerning, intelligent, and down to earth. You want the best travel experience that money can buy, and you want to enjoy travel without the hassle. Our Coolest Small Towns in America series has been going strong for more years than we can count, and it reflects on a couple of our founding beliefs: you don’t need to break the bank to have a nice vacation, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We want to invite you to explore the possibility that your next transformative travel experience might be just around the corner. Maybe in your own state, or maybe a day’s ride from home. This year, we want to highlight the small towns that not a lot of people have heard about and have a strong and thriving community. Trends may come and go, destinations may fall in and out of fashion. But curiosity, discernment, and intelligence are always in style. Our 2022 Coolest Small Towns are spread across the country, so that you can Rediscover America. 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/Presented by Have Fun Do Good
1. SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO With more than 100 hotels welcoming guests, 4,000+ restaurants cooking away, and 107 tourist attractions open to visitors, San Juan’s post-Maria comeback is something to behold. Add to that the stunning beaches and the 16th-century colonial history, and you have the makings for a trip that mixes relaxing tropical vacation with cultural getaway. Hit the beaches in the blissfully uncrowded mornings (Ocean Park Beach and Isla Verde Beach are local favorites) and spend your afternoons strolling the cobblestone streets and admiring the candy-colored buildings of Old Town. History buffs won’t want to miss Fuerte San Felipe del Morro (“El Morro” to locals), a 16th-century fort perched at the edge of a triangle of land. READ MORE: The Best Day to Buy Airline Tickets EAT: Alcapurrias, bacalaitos, empanadillas – do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with the names of popular Puerto Rican street foods pre-trip so you’ll be ready to hit the food trucks the minute you land. Choose from the many vendors in Old San Juan, or if you’re up for exploring, drive about 30 minutes to Piñones, famous for its authentic street food. For an eclectic array of options, head to Lote 23, a collection of food trucks serving everything from poke bowls to croquettes to made-to-order donuts. STAY: Like San Juan itself, The Gallery Inn is a masterful mix of old-world charm and gorgeous tropical getaway. Originally built in the 17th century, the inn is a labyrinth of lush gardens (19 of them, inf fact), art studios, fountains, a music room (check the front desk for concert times), a pool with waterfalls, and 27 guest rooms. Don’t miss the wine deck, with its panoramic views of Old San Juan (rooms from $117). EASY ESCAPE FROM: Miami (three-and-a-half-hour flight), Orlando (four-hour flight), New York City (five-hour flight). 2. SANIBEL ISLAND, FLORIDA The sea is hands-down the main attraction in Sanibel, and while there are some top contenders when it comes to beaches – Lighthouse Beach, Bowman’s Beach, and Blind Pass Beach are all stellar options – whichever spot you choose you can rest assured you’ll be treated to fine white sand and calm turquoise waters. To get out on said waters, sign up for a kayak tour with Tarpon Bay Explorers, where a naturalist will explain every wading bird and mysterious underwater shadow you encounter as you paddle through the mangrove forest (tours from $35; includes use of the kayak for the rest of the day). Cool off with a trip to Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice Cream, a local institution famous for its island-inspired flavors (Key-Lime Hurricane, Dirty Sand Dollar) and signature animal cracker perched atop each scoop (scoops from $4). EAT: “Restaurant” doesn’t seem like quite the right word for The Island Cow. It’s more of an event, complete with an outdoor corn-hole set-up, photo opps, live music, and yes, food. The bustling spot serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a four-page menu that has everything from pancakes to conch fritters (breakfast from $8; dinner entrées from $10). For something a little more serene, Gramma Dot’s sits dockside at the Sanibel Marina and serves all manner of local seafood, from grouper and tilapia to soft-shell crab and shrimp (entrées from $26). STAY: In a state where beachside hotels are plentiful, Seahorse Cottages is a welcome departure. Tucked into a quiet residential neighborhood, the collection of cottages – ranging in size from studio to two-bedroom – feels welcoming and quaint, almost as though a relative has given you the keys to a guesthouse for the weekend. Hospitality prevails, with free cruiser bicycles for guests to explore nearby Old Town Sanibel, as well as beach chairs, umbrellas, and wagons to cart your beach gear back and forth (adults only, from $135). EASY ESCAPE FROM: Miami (2 hr 45 minute drive), Orlando (1-hour flight), New York City (three-hour flight). 3. KAILUA, OAHU, HAWAII Winter months mean towering waves at many of Oahu’s most popular beaches – which is great if you want to sit on the sand and admire the world-class surfers, but far too dangerous for mere mortals to go swimming. Kailua Beach, however, is nearly always calm and safe. The small, gentle waves make it an ideal beach for everything from swimming to kayaking to kiteboarding. On days when the water is extra calm, rent a kayak from Kailua Beach Adventures and paddle the mile or so out to the Mokulua Islands (rentals from $59). Conveniently, the town’s best shave ice is just a few storefronts down from the rental shop. Post-kayaking, drop off your boat and treat yourself to an icy, syrupy delight (shave ice from $3.50). EAT: Just across the road from the beach, Buzz’s Original Steakhouse has been serving up tropical drinks and steak and fish dinners for 55 years. The feel is part tiki-bar kitsch, part tropical elegance (no tank tops after 4:30 p.m.) (entrées from $23). STAY: Kailua and neighboring Lanikai are primarily residential, so hotels are few and far between. In-the-know visitors opt for house rentals instead – and fortunately, there are plenty to choose from. You’ll likely be spending most of your time here at the beach, so look for something that’s walking distance to the water. EASY ESCAPE FROM: Honolulu (20-minute drive), L.A. (six-hour flight), San Francisco (six-hour flight). 4. HANALEI, KAUA'I, HAWAII Kaua'i has managed to stay a little more under the radar than other Hawaiian islands, and that's what makes it so appealing. Hanalei, on the North Shore, is as close to magical as a town can get – lush green mountains, fields of taro, and rainbows on a daily basis. The horseshoe-shaped, secluded Hanalei Bay is the best beach for swimming and lounging on the golden sand, but if you want to get out on the water, sign up for one of the four-hour motor-powered raft trips with Na Pali Riders. You'll explore sea caves, go snorkeling, and almost definitely spot dolphins (tours from $149). Afterward, dry off with a hike along the Hanakapi'ai Trail, which follows the stunningly beautiful Na Pali Coast to Hanakapi'ai Beach and back, about four miles altogether. EAT: You can't go to Hawaii without trying a plate lunch: a local specialty that consists of two scoops of rice, macaroni salad, and your choice of protein (often teriyaki chicken or seared ahi). Locals rave about the version served up at the Hanalei Taro & Juice Co., a restaurant owned by a family that's been farming taro in the valley for generations (plate lunch from $10). For straight-from-the-ocean fish, have dinner at The Hanalei Dolphin Sushi Lounge (hanaleidolphin.com). STAY: The four studio apartments at casual Hanalei Inn, just a block from Hanalei Bay, have full kitchens and an outdoor lanai with a grill, so you can save money by cooking meals during your stay. Plus, the picnic table looking out at the mountains is the perfect place to have your morning coffee (from $159). EASY ESCAPE FROM: Honolulu (40-minute flight), L.A. (six-hour flight), San Francisco (six-hour flight). 5. LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA Done the right way, this SoCal beach town can be surprisingly down-to-earth. After all, some of its first citizens were not glamorous teenagers or housewives but early 20th-century struggling artists such as William Wendt and Lolita Perine. The arts still play a big role here, thanks to the Laguna Art Museum, galleries along the waterfront, and the Laguna Playhouse. Still, the seven miles of classic California coastline are the big draw. Beaches fill up during the summer, but in the winter months they're blissfully crowd-free – especially 1,000 Steps Beach, just off 9th Street (don't let the name scare you; there are actually only 230-something steps leading down to the beach). The waves are perfect for boogie boarding, and the views – golden cliffs and multimillion-dollar houses, some with elevators – are pure SoCal. Post-beach, drive a mile and a half along Laguna Canyon Road to Laguna Canyon Winery, where you can sample award-winning reds and whites in the cozy, low-lit barrel room (tastings from $2, waived with bottle purchase). EAT: As you watch the sun dip below the horizon from Sapphire Laguna’s patio, you’ll understand why they call their happy hour “Sunset Hour.” The menu – a pared-down version of their lunch and dinner offerings – includes a curated selection of wines, beers and specialty cocktails, plus a just-right sampling of snacks and entrées. Beware the house-made potato chips, made with rosemary, sage, and sea salt – they’re so deliciously addictive you could easily order them on a loop, staying long past the actual sunset. During the cooler months, stay warm at a table near the fire pit. (snacks from $4; entrées from $11). STAY: With its Spanish Colonial architecture, lush gardens, and towering palms, Casa Laguna Hotel & Spa is quintessential Southern California. Each of the 23 rooms is unique and lively, designed with Moroccan tiles and bright fabrics. Start the day with the complimentary breakfast, then choose between the heated pool, on-site spa, or the beach, just across the street (from $230). EASY ESCAPE FROM: L.A. (50 miles; about one hour by car), San Diego (73 miles; about 90 minutes by car), Chicago (four-and-a-half-hour flight). 6. GRAND ISLE, LOUISIANA In the winter, the population of this barrier island off Louisiana's Gulf Coast shrinks back down to its 1600 permanent residents from its summer high of 14,000. But temperatures remain warm enough to sunbathe, and you can do so without the crowds. Anglers adore this island thanks to the more than 280 species of fish in the surrounding waters, and many flock to Grand Isle State Park to fish in its calm waters. Those not obsessed with reeling in The Big One head to the beaches. Although the 2010 oil spill closed all beaches on the seven-mile-long island this summer, most stretches of golden sand reopened in August 2018, after an intensive cleanup effort. EAT: Most of the restaurants on Grand Isle specialize in – what else? – fresh fish, particularly catfish and trout. So make like a local and indulge in the fish sandwiches and po'boys at Starfish Restaurant (sandwiches from $5.25). STAY: The old-fashioned, no-frills Cajun Tide Beach Resort sits beachside and caters to anglers with a fish-cleaning room, a screened-in cooking room, and enough barbecue pits for guests to cook up feasts from the day's catch (from $50). EASY ESCAPE FROM: New Orleans (109 miles; about two hours by car), Baton Rouge (160 miles; about three hours by car), Chicago (three-hour flight to New Orleans), Detroit (four-and-a-half-hour flight to New Orleans). 7. SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA San Diego is a small town with big ambitions: the revitalized Gaslamp Quarter, with its shops and restaurants, feels urban, but the crashing waves of the Pacific nearby create a vibe that's classic American beach village. However, the best way to experience it all is to hit the boardwalk. At Pacific Beach, known for its wide stretches of sand and perfect surfing waves, rent a beach cruiser from Cheap Rentals and ride the three-and-a-half-mile stretch to South Mission Beach, passing all manner of local characters along the way: scantily clad in-line skaters, vacationing families, throwback '60s hippies, and even the random guy on a unicycle who always seems to make an appearance (rentals from $6 per hour). EAT: The massive breakfast burrito with eggs, sausage, and fresh avocado at beachside Kono's Surf Club is a San Diego rite of passage – as is the line that snakes out the door and around the corner (breakfast from $3.50). STAY: Beach shacks in the area sound charming...until you see the shag carpet, wood-paneled walls, and sagging mattresses. Tower23 is a welcome departure from the norm, with its modern, glass-box look, neutral-palette rooms filled with teak furniture, and a hip indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar with a view of the ocean (from $229). EASY ESCAPE FROM: LA (120 miles; about two hours by car), Phoenix (one-hour flight), Seattle (two-and-a-half-hour flight). 8. ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GEORGIA One of four islands that make up Georgia's Golden Isles (a collection of barrier islands just off the southeastern coast), St. Simons is known for its centuries-old moss-draped oak trees, historical landmarks, white-sand beaches, and 99 holes of golf. Cars are allowed on the island, but the leisurely pace of life here will make you want to stay away from anything with a motor. Instead, rent a beach-cruiser bike from Ocean Motion Surf Co. and pedal your way past King and Prince Beach, plantations, the lighthouse, and Christ Church, originally built in 1820. The ride covers about 14 miles, and there are plenty of stops to admire the scenery, so allow at least a half day (rentals from $15). EAT: Owned by the same family for 30 years, Crabdaddy’s Seafood Grill prides itself on its passed-down-from-generations recipes and its welcoming we’re-all-friends-here ambiance. With the exception of a few obligatory chicken and steak dishes, virtually everything on the menu is seafood-based. Whatever you choose, be sure to start with an order of shrimp and grits, the house specialty (entrées from $18). STAY: The oak trees on St. Simons are so treasured that the Village Inn & Pub was built around them – not one tree had to be cut down during construction. This place is as charming as it gets: the reception area is a restored 1930s cottage, the English pub is outfitted with a huge stone fireplace, and each of the 28 guest rooms is named for a historical figure with some significance to the island, such as Sid Lanier, a poet, novelist, and composer (from $135). EASY ESCAPE FROM: Savannah (84 miles; about two hours by car), Atlanta (282 miles; about five hours by car), Charleston, S.C. (193 miles; about four hours by car). 9. ORANGE BEACH, ALABAMA Most people don't automatically associate the phrase "beach retreat" with Alabama – but don't tell a local that. Alabamians are adamant that their Gulf Coast beaches are among the most beautiful in the country. The sand is 95 percent quartz, meaning it's snow-white and sparkles in the sun, and the waters are as blue as any you'll find in Florida. Nine-mile Orange Beach has everything you need – warm water, lots of room to spread out your beach blanket, and restaurants just off the sand. Dolphins love the waters around here so much that Dolphin Cruises Aboard the Cold Mil Fleet guarantees sightings (90-minute tours from $20). EAT: Gulf Shores Steamer is a rarity in these parts: a beachside seafood joint that doesn't fry everything in sight. In fact, the folks here don't fry anything. Instead, the fresh fish, shrimp, crabs, and oysters are steamed or grilled—and always delicious (gulfshoressteamer.com, entrées from $15). STAY: The beachfront 346-room Perdido Beach Resort is like a community unto itself, with four restaurants, an indoor/outdoor pool, hot tubs, and tennis courts (from $94). EASY ESCAPE FROM: Mobile, Ala. (54 miles; about 90 minutes by car), Pensacola, Fla. (29 miles; about one hour by car), St. Louis (four-hour flight to Mobile). 10. GALVESTON, TEXAS In this South Texas hotspot, savvy travelers skip crowded East Beach (which gets overrun in March with spring breakers) and head to the more secluded West Beach or Galveston Island State Park. Both have wide expanses of sand that are perfect for trolling for shells or soaking up some sun. Once you're out of the water, the historic Strand district, along Strand Street between 25th and 11th, is worth a stop. Buildings from the 1800s have been restored recently and now house restaurants, antiques stores, and many galleries full of fine art and photography. The town's other big attraction is the Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Indoor Waterpark, which attracts families with its water chutes, speed slides, wave pool, and, for the adults, enormous 30,000-person hot tub with a swim-up bar (from $26). EAT: A few blocks inland from the waterfront is Postoffice Street, where you can get authentic gumbo and a cold brew at Little Daddy’s Gumbo Bar (gumbo from $12), known as the best place to get gumbo on the island, or try the Ceviche Corinto at Latin-influenced Rudy & Paco's (ceviche $17). STAY: Overlooking the wharf, the 42-room Harbor House has an old-school nautical vibe and is less than a 10-minute walk from downtown (from $102). EASY ESCAPE FROM: Houston (53 miles; about one hour by car), Austin (212 miles; about four hours by car), Denver (two-hour flight to Houston), Chicago (three-hour flight to Houston).
There are bakeries across the American South that ship their creations of this oval-shaped and tri-hued dessert across most of the U.S. Often many of them maintain the traditional king cake recipe of a brioche base adorned with white icing and gold, green and purple colored sugaring. Others have experimented with more contemporary versions and fill them with cream cheese or fruit flavors and go all out with toppings. And most bakeries can process mail orders to send a king cake right to your doorstep. Louisiana Of course, Louisiana is synonymous with Mardi Gras and has many bakeries that ship king cakes. New Orleans In New Orleans, Gracious Bakery + Café’s King Cake Mix is available for purchase online. The artisan bakery has boxed up what’s needed for making a king cake in your kitchen; you just need to add in the wet ingredients. Randazzo’s Camellia City Bakery in Slidell sells out quickly on its king cake shipping orders. Upon seeing their webpage, you’ll know the reason why. Theirs range from traditional to ones filled with cream cheese or topped with pecans. Brennan's in New Orleans is famous for its bananas foster but for 2022 Mardi Gras the fine dining restaurant is shipping three special king cake varieties. They are traditional, a Chocolate “Black & Gold”, “Pink Parade” Strawberry Cream Cheese and Banana Foster. courtesy of Brennan’s Gambino’s Bakery, a NOLA longtimer, has king cake specialty packs with Mardi Gras attire to don while dining on this dessert, among other choices. Cannata’s Market in Houma has a RougaGooey King Cake adorned with Louisiana roasted pecans and cane sugar, white chocolate, and gooey butter along with Mardi Gras beads. Another reason to buy this cake: a donation from its sale goes to the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center. Among its king cakes, Cajun Pecan House in Cutoff has a popular cinnamon-pecan flavored king cake. Or splurge on king cake carnival packs, having the King Cake story, Mardi Gras beads, doubloons and a porcelain mask. NOLA’s Haydel’s Bakery broke the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest king cake in 2010, by creating two giant rings that wrapped around the Superdome. Haydel’s king cakes include traditional or filled with cream cheese, German chocolate and other choices. Also in NOLA, Adrian’s Bakery sends out king cake choices including Bavarian cream, lemon, pineapple and praline. Lake Charles Delicious Donuts & Bakery in Lake Charles takes mail orders by phone. Their king cakes choices involve their pecan and praline along with fruit or cream fillings with choices including cream cheese, apple, blueberry, cherry, and strawberry. Baton Rouge In Baton Rouge, The Ambrosia Bakery sells mini, small, and large versions of its traditional king cake along with a Zulu King Cake with a coconut, cream cheese and chocolate morsel filling. Lafayette Crystal Weddings in Lafayette has an alphabet of king cake flavor options, from almond amaretto to strawberry cream cheese. Also in Lafayette, Poupart Bakery ships both a traditional French king cake--a round puff pastry with almond filling--and the Mardi Gras king cake. Alabama courtesy of Lighthouse Bakery Mobile, Alabama also celebrates this pre-Lenten festival. The Lighthouse Bakery in Dauphin Island, Ala. ships their baby king cakes by mail but requires orders to be placed over the phone during business hours. Texas Galveston has both the largest Mardi Gras celebration in Texas and the third largest one in the nation behind New Orleans and Mobile. Both the Maceo Spice and Import Company and Gypsy Joynt take orders over the phone for shipping king cakes. In Houston, which also honors Mardi Gras, Rao’s Bakery ships king cakes with traditional cinnamon or strawberry, blueberry and raspberry fillings; mini king cakes are also available.
When I tell people that I'm editor in chief of Budget Travel, I always get the same response. Whether I'm chatting with a twentysomething on her first overseas adventure, a seatmate on a fixed income, or a well-heeled TV personality at a dreamy ski resort, they invariably reply. "Cool! I'm a Budget Traveler myself!" I love the notion that each and every person I speak with understands that being a Budget Traveler doesn't just mean saving money, but also traveling in the smartest, most stylish way possible. It inspired me to jot down a few—well, 25—of the things that we Budget Travelers know. Did I leave any of your personal travel tips out? Drop me a line! 1. A REASONABLE PRICED HOTEL ROOM Budget Travelers don't snap up the first appealing room at a decent price that they find. They research location—how close will they be to a city's major sights?—and make sure that a good price doesn't also come with a time-wasting long-distance schlep every morning. Budget Travelers call the hotel and ask for the best price, the most appropriate room options, and for a free upgrade. And in a pinch, they turn to HotelTonight for last-minute deals. We're also pretty proud of our own hotel research-and-booking tool. 2. THE "BEST" DAY FOR AIRLINE TICKETS This is the question we get asked most often at Budget Travel. Traditionally, the simple answer has been: Buy your airline tickets about two months before you fly, and you'll likely get the best price by booking early in the week, when airlines often adjust fares. The "real" answer is, of course, "it depends," and you must arm yourself with an array of information to make an informed choice. That said, we also recommend that you follow all the major airlines on social media, sign up for their rewards programs, and subscribe to their free e-newsletters to get the inside track on deals. 3. PICK UP YOUR RENTAL CAR EARLY Budget Travelers book the smallest possible rental car and a pickup time as early as possible because in this case the early bird gets the free upgrade. At, say, 8 a.m., most customers won't have returned their cars yet and it's likely that the lowest-priced compact cars will be out of stock. The rental agency is obligated to give you an available car at the same price. 4. BOOK YOUR CRUISE EARLY - OR LATE Nabbing a cruise six months to a year in advance usually means getting the best price. At that early point, supply is high and demand is relatively flat, so you'll find appealing prices. As rooms get snapped up, of course, demand rises and so do prices—with one exception. Once you get down to the final few weeks before a cruise, the line may scramble to fill empty rooms, and you can again swoop in and find a deal. 5. KNOW THE RESORT FEES Resort fees are quite a bit like the old joke about the weather: Everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it. The reality is, there's not much you can do if you've already spent your week at an all-inclusive resort and are staring at a bill that includes a hefty resort fee (which typically covers things you thought were free—those comfy poolside towels, the wi-fi in your room, the newspaper delivered to your door). The only thing you can do about it is to ask before booking so you understand the resort's fee policy. Don't care for it? Try another resort. (While you're at it, find out what beverages are included in an all-inclusive package and which you'll have to pay for out of pocket.) 6. CHECK OUT VACATION RENTALS When faced with the notion of shelling out $1,400 per week for a beach house, some travelers will blanch. That's $200 per night, right? Way more than a Budget Traveler wants to pay for a hotel room. But consider the size of your brood. A rental home that comfortably sleeps five and includes a full kitchen is going to be much more comfortable and likely save you money on food. 7. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IS YOUR FRIEND Those of you who don't live in major cities may regard life without a car as a bit like that nightmare where you arrive at work and realize you forgot to put on any clothes. Those of us who dwell in urban areas know better. When visiting New York, London, Paris, or just about any major city, learning the routes and pricing systems of the light rail, underground, and bus systems can save you tons of time and money compared with renting, gassing up, and parking a car. These days, even notoriously auto-loving Los Angeles is playing the public transportation game. Get in it. 8. PSST! MOST MUSEUMS ARE FREE! Sure, the world's most beautiful museums often have an admission price (or suggested donation) topping $20 per person. But they also typically offer free hours each week and a free day each month. Budget Travelers don't necessary schedule their vacations around a museum's free days, but they do weigh the option and decide if they can put that money to better use. They also take full advantage of everything a museum has to offer on a given day. There's no need to high-tail it from room to room trying to see everything—instead, find out when there's a guided tour, a hands-on class for the kids, or evening hours when the joint if often much quieter than during the day. 9. GO TO NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS When documentary filmmaker Ken Burns called national parks "America's best idea," he probably didn't have Budget Travelers in mind. But compared with any other vacation spot on earth, our national parks—and many state parks for that matter—deliver serious bang for the buck. Sure, there's an admission price (usually per car rather than per person), and you've got to line up lodgings (inside a major national park that can be around $200 per night), but once inside the park the wildlife, trails, ranger talks, evening presentations, junior ranger programs, and just about everything else is on the house. To paraphrase Verdi's famous quote about Italy: You may have the universe if I may have a fire-lit ranger talk at Glacier National Park on a crisp late-summer evening. 10. LOOK FOR PACKAGE DEALS Don't tell! Airlines and hotels are willing to practically give away their inventory rather than see it go empty. That's right. Airlines sell their seats at rock-bottom prices. Hotels do the same for their rooms. Why haven't you heard this before? Because they don't exactly go parading down the street announcing it to the world. Instead, they roll those empty airplane seats and hotel beds into package deals. When you book a package deal, you'll get a good rate on airfare and hotels, some meals, often guided tours, and some ground transportation. Don't believe us? Take a look at a package deal and then try to book the airfare and hotel separately—the package will almost always be significantly less. 11. PACK LIKE A PRO Budget Travelers know that a light suitcase is not just easier to travel with but can also save you money on baggage fees. Pack early so you're not in panic mode, and put some thought into packing matching tops and bottoms (rolled, not folded), as few shoes as you can handle emotionally, and wearing your heaviest layers on the plane. When in doubt, leave it at home. You never regret the things you don't pack. 12. WEAR YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE Honeymoon? Romantic island getaway with your sweetie? Engaged? Tell everybody! It may seem counterintuitive when you're trying to get some alone time with your Sig-Oth, but mentioning your romantic status to flight attendants, waiters, and hotel managers can yield complimentary wine, upgrades, private balconies, and other surprises. 13. GO TO SMALL TOWNS Budget Travelers know that some of the coolest places to visit in the United States are towns with populations under 20,000. Whether you want a warm welcome, a vibrant main street, a craft beer, cutting-edge gallery, or tasty bowl of chili, America's small towns make for some of the finest—and affordable—vacations on earth. 14. ASK AND YE SHALL RECEIVE Problem: You booked a hotel room with two king-size beds at a decent rate for your family of four, but now you have dreams of an unaffordable suite where the kids could have their own room. Solution: Ask for a free upgrade. Worst case scenario: The hotel manager says no. Was that so hard? You'd be surprised at how few people bother to ask for upgrades, late checkouts, complimentary breakfast, and other negotiable perks. You're a Budget Traveler. Go for it. 15. TRAVEL WITH A SMILE (AND CHOCOLATE!) The announcement just came over the loudspeaker: Your flight has been canceled due to bad weather. You jump on the airline's website to find out what your options are, and you get in line at customer service. When it's your turn to speak with the ultra-harried airline employee, you're going to do two things: Smile and offer him/her chocolate. Because Budget Travelers aren't just the smartest people at the airport. They are also the nicest. Make the difference in that beleaguered airline rep's day and he might make the difference in yours. 16. KNOW THE TRUTH ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE In general, Budget Travel has not always recommended travel insurance. Instead, before you travel, check all your existing insurance policies to make sure you'll be covered wherever you'll be traveling—including health, auto, and any possessions (which are sometimes covered by home insurance). That said, if you're booking a package tour or cruise make sure you understand the cancellation policy and consider paying a small premium if you think there's a chance you'll cancel. 17. KEEP THE LITTLE ONES BUSY Keeping traveling children "happy" may be impossible. But keeping them busy is a breeze. You just have to travel with plenty of activities, games, art supplies, and patience. Old standbys like license plate bingo and I Spy still get plenty of mileage—and the fun of playing together (instead of losing themselves in a tablet screen) is priceless. Some Budget Travelers hit the dollar store right before traveling with little ones. Stock up on affordable activities and hand them out whenever the kids get restless. 18. SENIORS HAVE MORE FUN Start with the fact that travelers 55 and up can usually get a cruise discount by mentioning their age, then consider the boatloads of seniors taking off for the Caribbean in a few weeks. Book a package tour of any European country and you'll see busses packed with empty nesters and retirees. Sure, Millennials and Gen-Xers are happily checking off their bucket list items, but these days it looks as if the Boomers are the ones having a blast out there. You know who you are, and we know you're proud Budget Travelers. 19. GET YOUR SHOTS In addition to T-dap, measles/mumps/rubella, and annual flu shots, Budget Travelers know to check the health risks of the region they are planning to visit. A travel clinic is a one-stop-shopping option for obtaining vaccines for serious risks such as typhoid and hepatitis before visiting a developing region. 20. GO ROAD TRIPPING Budget Travelers know that a plane or cruise ship is optional when going on vacation. Some of the best trips are to be had on America's highways. And to celebrate the Great American Drive, we regularly cover accessible getaways, including itineraries, directions, lodgings, attractions, and food along the way. 21. KNOW YOUR HOME'S "ONE-TANK ESCAPES" Looking for something between a staycation and a road trip? Budget Travelers love "one-tank escapes." You can start by exploring locales within a two-hour drive from your home. For most Americans, that includes gorgeous parkland, cool small towns, food you won't find at home, and often the kinds of surprises that most of us travel for. 22. LEARN CULTURAL ETIQUETTE Don't be "that guy." You know, the one hitting McDonald's in Rome. Or wearing an "I'm With Stupid" T-shirt to a museum of tolerance? Learning how to say hello, goodbye, please, and thank-you in a foreign language will yield more goodwill than you can imagine. Learning the ins and outs of a culture's body language, hand gestures, food customs, and tipping will help you fit in, avoid embarrassment, and possibly nab you a deal at a bazaar or shop where haggling is expected and even encouraged. 23. TRAVEL FRIENDLY WITH CREDIT CARDS No, Budget Travelers don't charge trips they can't afford. (One rule of thumb: If you wouldn't ask your parents or close friends for a travel loan, don't borrow the money from a credit card company!) But there are credit cards that partner with airlines to deliver rewards points, mileage, free upgrades, free baggage checks, and more. 24. FASTEST WAY THROUGH AIRPORT SECURITY Ok, this isn't exactly a secret—and we don't have a magic wand to get you through security any faster than this—but we're seeing more and more people using the TSA's Pre-Check program, which allows pre-approved individuals to bypass much of airport security for a more efficient arrival at their gate. 25. KNOW WHEN AND WHERE - OR NOT- TO DRINK THE WATER Water and food safety is an issue in most parts of the world. When traveling outside the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia, there are many countries where tap water should be avoided, including ice cubes and mixed drinks unless you're on the grounds of a resort. When in doubt, drink bottled water or other bottled beverages, and don't eat fruit or vegetables unless you peel them yourself. Avoid street food unless the food is hot out of the oven and the cart is free of flies.
New Smyrna Beach, FL Spending January in 70° F weather has its perks but that’s just part of what makes New Smyrna Beach especially inviting. The city also boasts 17 miles of white sandy beaches and wave action that’s great for surfing. Some “new-to-you” activities can include: Fresh-caught Dinner – Since New Smyrna Beach is located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and Indian River Lagoon, both saltwater and freshwater fishing are available. Book a charter with an experienced captain to catch an oh-so fresh seafood dinner. Many local restaurants offer a “catch and cook” option where the chef will prepare your fish almost any way you like it. A Trio of Water Views – A visit to Smyrna Dunes Park delivers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, Indian River, and Ponce de Leon Inlet. The park has two miles of wide, elevated, handicapped accessible boardwalk, along with access to the beach. Florida’s Tallest Lighthouse – Climb 175 feet for a spectacular, sweeping view of coastal Florida. The world-famous Ponce Inlet Lighthouse was constructed in 1887 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1998. The site includes all the original structures, including the homes of the principal keeper and first and second assistant keepers. On January 17, the lighthouse hosts its monthly “Climb to the Moon.” Get spectacular views of the sunset and full moon, along with a private tour with a lighthouse keeper. NASCAR’s Prestigious Track – The Daytona International Speedway, which is just is 15 miles from New Smyrna Beach, is an iconic track that hosts the internationally known Daytona 500. A track tour includes a: visit to the start/finish line; close-up view of the pit stalls; photos in Gatorade Victory Lane; stunning view of the trioval and infield; and access to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. For those who’d like to see racing in person at the track, the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association's Classic MotoFest will be held January 7-9, 2022. RVers can spend the night at New Smyrna Beach RV Park and Campground. New Orleans, LA peeterv / Istock This French, Creole, and Cajun city literally beckons travelers to try something new. NOLA Curiosities – The neighborhood of the French Quarter was the original city of New Orleans established by the French to control commerce on the Mississippi River. Today, it’s the epicenter for activities and eccentricities. Start with the curiosities of Jackson Square that include unusual street artists, fortune tellers, and brass bands. Visit the 200-year-old Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House which became famous in the 19th century for its absinthe frappe – a mixture of absinthe and sugar water – and the popular legend that pirate Jean Lafitte met with Andrew Jackson at the establishment. Finally, it’s not a sure thing but jazz funerals are still held. Catching one is just by luck since they’re typically conducted only after the death of a significant resident or musician. Ghost Tours – New Orleans is home to two well-known women of mystery. Marie Laveau was a powerful voodoo priestess from the 19th century and Anne Rice is the best-selling author who wrote the Vampire Chronicles series. Set fears aside and book a nighttime walking tour that shares the city’s “dark side” and takes visitors to above-ground cemeteries, haunted locations, and voodoo shrines. Boiled Crawfish – Whatever name you use – crayfish, crawfish, crawdads, or mudbugs – the crustaceans are synonymous with New Orleans. Crawfish are in season from January through July and can be served boiled, sauteed, baked, or fried. However, locals insist boiled is the best. Crawfish boils abound throughout New Orleans so get courageous and make a reservation. Swamp Tours – Explore the watery world of Louisiana’s swamps and bayous aboard an airboat, skiff, or kayak. Travel through channels edged by cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss and learn how the waterways still provide a living for locals. See alligators, nutria, wild hogs, and other wildlife. RVers can spend the night at the French Quarter RV Resort or Reunion Lake Luxury RV Campground, which is an hour from New Orleans. New Braunfels, TX Founded in 1845 and known for its German heritage, New Bruenfels is in Texas Hill Country between San Antonio and Austin and provides a gateway to exciting adventures. Fly Fishing – From December to February, Texas Parks & Wildlife stocks more than 20,000 rainbow trout in the Guadalupe River and Canyon Tailrace. Action Angler, a stream-side fly shop and guide service, provides seasoned pros, rods, flies, waders, and boots for fishing on the Guadalupe River. For those who aren’t quite ready for fly fishing, nature tour float trips are available. Spelunking – At 180 feet below ground, Natural Bridge Caverns is Texas’ largest show cave with dramatic stalagmites, stalactites, flowstones, chandeliers, and soda straws formed by minerals in water drops. For the bold, a Discovery Adventure Tour delivers an “off trail” experience in an undeveloped section of the cave. Gear is provided but be prepared to get muddy while crawling, wiggling, and climbing to explore deep sections of the cave. For those who’d like a more predictable visit, a walking path tour is available. Craft Breweries – Due to its German heritage, New Braunfels has a long history of brewing that includes the original New Braunfels Brewing Company built on the banks of the Comal River in 1847 by Julius Rennert. Three exceptional craft breweries include a reborn New Braunfels Brewing Company, Faust Hotel & Brewing Company, and Guadalupe Brewing Company – all of which are on the Craft Beer Trail that winds through Texas Hill Country. To be safe and responsible, book a spot on a trail shuttle bus. Country Music – Gruene Hall is the place to embrace country music. Lyle Lovett, Hal Ketchum, Lucinda Williams, and many other legends have played at this historic honky-tonk. Built in 1878, it’s the state’s oldest continually operating dance hall and hasn’t changed much since its early days. RVers can spend the night at Hill Country Cottage & RV Resort. New Harmony, UT jose1983 / istock Although New Harmony is home to just 200-some residents, it’s the ideal place for a New Year’s selfie. Who doesn’t want “new harmony” in 2022? Plus, its setting is picture perfect since it’s surrounded by the peaks of Pine Valley Mountain and close to some of the best recreational areas in the United States. Water Hiking – Kanarra Falls, which is approximately 10 miles from New Harmony, is a spectacular adventure trek that requires stamina, agility, and surefootedness and, in return, delivers rushing waterfalls in red rock slot canyons. The canyoneering hike includes walking through and along a stream bed, climbing a 15-foot-ladder, and scaling a large boulder. All the effort is worth it to see a natural water slide and pool and two sets of waterfalls in slot canyons. Advance tickets are required, winter hours are limited, and cold weather gear (including neoprene socks) are a must. Double Arch Alcove – Located in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park, the Taylor Creek Trail is a five-mile roundtrip hike up a “finger” canyon that leads to Double Arch Alcove. The cave-like formation features a palette of beautifully colored streaks thanks to water that seeps through the porous Navajo sandstone. The trail also includes two historic cabins from the 1903’s before the Kolob area became part of Zion. Kolob Canyons is smaller than Zion Canyon but that also means it’s not as busy. Rugged Horseback Riding – Experience the beauty of southern Utah on horseback. Book a ride that ranges from 1 ½ hours to six. The pace and scenery of the rides can vary from a demanding ride in the steep and rugged Zion Mountain country to a more leisurely trip through the valley to admire the peaks from below. RVers can spend the night at Zion River Resort - RV Park & Campground. Newport Beach, CA Those looking for marine adventures will adore Newport Beach. Take sailing or surfing lessons, rent a paddle board, or simply stroll the beach, it’s all possible at Newport Beach. Whale Watching – December through April is a prime time to see gray whales as they travel 12,000 miles round trip from the Arctic to the lagoons of Baja California to calve and breed. Humpback, Fin, and Minke whales can be seen year-round, along with dolphin megapods with more than 1,000 in each pod. Electric Boats & Gondolas – Known as the first and finest electric boat since 1970, Duffy Boats are available to leisurely cruise Newport Harbor and take in the beauty of the coast. For a romantic cruise for two, book a gondola. Options range from a casual pizza cruise to a dinner cruise with a three-course meal. 1919 Ferry – A mere $1.25 secures a one-way ticket for a quick ride on the Balboa Island Ferry. Ferry service was established in 1919 to span the 800 feet between the peninsula and Balboa Island. Island activities include a stroll on Marine Avenue that’s dotted with chic coastal shops and quaint island restaurants. Don’t miss the area’s iconic Frozen Banana treat that’s been a signature for 75 years. In fact, the banana stand in the sitcom Arrested Development was located on Balboa Island. Tidepools – Visit Crystal Cove State Park and its more than three miles of pristine uninterrupted coastline. During low tide, check out four tidepool viewing areas – Reef Point, Rocky Bight, Pelican Point, and Treasure Cove – to spot bat stars, chestnut cowries, purple sea urchins, and other amazing creatures. The tidepools are Marine Protected Areas so picking up or moving animals is prohibited. The area also includes Crystal Cove Historic District, an enclave of 46 vintage rustic coastal cottages originally built in the 1920s and 1930s nestled around the mouth of Los Trancos Creek. It is one of the last remaining examples of early 20th century Southern California coastal development. RVers can spend the night at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina. For more information on Holiday Rambler visit their site.
Everyone knows that New York City is famous for its New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, but for those looking for something a little more unique and symbolic to ring in 2022, these towns are hosting slightly weird yet totally “on-brand” drops on December 31. MoonPie Drop , Mobile, Alabama Photo by Joseph Brooke / Flickr Creative Commons Mobile’s mantra is “Born to Celebrate,” which makes New Year’s Eve a pretty exciting time around here. At midnight, you can witness a 600-pound electric MoonPie drop from the sky, complete with fireworks and a laser light show. Mobile’s big claim to fame is that it’s home to America’s original Mardi Gras. In the mid-1900s, locals started tossing sticky-sweet (but still-wrapped!) MoonPies from their Mardi Gras floats. Spectators went crazy for them and today an estimated half-million pies get tossed during an average Carnival season. Since Mobile loves a good party – and consumes more MoonPies per capita than anywhere else (including the pies’ hometown of Chattanooga) – its citizens decided to create the world’s largest electric MoonPie to help them usher in each new year. Mushroom Drop, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, which is part of the Brandywine Valley, is known as the “Mushroom Capital of the World” because more than 60% of all the mushrooms in the United States are grown here. Celebrate their nickname – and their favorite crop -- by dropping a 700-pound lighted mushroom on New Year’s Eve during the annual Midnight in the Square event. The mushroom will be raised right before 9 p.m. and the drop will be live-streamed across social media at midnight. Marlin Drop, Orange Beach, Alabama Gulf Shores Reelin' in the New Year at The Wharf The Wharf, a popular dining, shopping and entertainment district in the town of Orange Beach, is hosting Reelin’ in The New Year from 5 p.m. to midnight on December 31. The highlight of this event is the Marlin Drop, a fishy nod to one of the many outdoor activities that draw visitors here year round. It’s free admission for the drop, and the whole family can come and ring in the new year Gulf Coast-style. Apple Drop, Winchester, Virginia To celebrate the arrival of the new year, a 400-pound apple is dropped more than 100 feet during the First Night Winchester event. First Night Winchester has been a tradition in the Northern Shenandoah Valley since 1987. Winchester is known as the “Apple Capital” because it’s the largest apple-producing area in all of Virginia and home to countless apple orchards. Giant Acorn Drop, Raleigh, N.C. Courtesy firstnightraleigh.com Each December 31 a giant copper acorn, the official monument commemorating the bicentennial of “the City of Oaks,” is transported from Raleigh’s Moore Square to the roof of the Civic Center where it’s dropped to celebrate the New Year - First Night Raleigh. Clam Drop, Yarmouth, Maine On December 31, Yarmouth's First Universalist Church lowers a giant clam named Steamer 25 feet from the bell tower. The Clam Drop includes music, cookies and cocoa to stay warm. Giant Potato Drop, Boise, Idaho Courtesy mrfood.com This year will be the 9th annual Idaho Potato Drop in Boise, Idaho. From 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., ring in the new year with food trucks, a beer garden, fireworks, and of course, the potato drop in front of the Idaho State Capitol.