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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Deluxe Travel Experiences at Bargain Prices

This story, written by moi, was initially published by Kiplinger's Content Studio.
When it comes to planning for the year ahead, travel to well-known, iconic destinations often tops the agenda. Sometimes, however, lesser-known places can deliver more affordable and more authentic (the current travel marketing buzzword) experiences. In fact, according to LearnVest, 73 percent of Americans say they’d prefer a longer vacation in an inexpensive location than a shorter vacation in an expensive place.
If your travel budget is limited, consider sidestepping some of the more popular destinations. By embracing a few “second” cities, you’ll stretch your travel budget without sacrificing enjoyment.

Arts and Culture

Broadway bound? Instead of the Great White Way, consider the Great White North. Toronto claims North America’s second-largest theater scene. Most of the top Broadway shows make their way here, and ticket prices are often lower for touring performances in other cities than in New York. Americans also automatically get a 25 percent discount, thanks to the favorable exchange rate in this Canadian city. That means hotel rooms, restaurants, and transportation will cost less, too.

Like New York, Toronto hosts world-class cultural offerings. The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, for example, is home to the National Ballet of Canada and the Canadian Opera Company. The Toronto International Film Festival draws stars and movie buffs from around the world. Other attractions include The Royal Ontario Museum, The Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Aga Khan Museum.

Toronto’s distinct neighborhoods are just as interesting as New York’s for shopping, dining, and exploring. For a Brooklyn vibe, head to The Junction. For those in search of Boho Chic as experienced in Greenwich Village, opt for West Queen West. And if Fifth or Madison Avenues are your style, visit Bloor-Yorkville instead.

Wine and Waves

Dreaming of California wine country? Head to San Luis Obispo County.

Downtown  San Luis Obispo
Located along Highway 101 between Los Angeles and San Francisco, SLO (as SLOcals call it) is home to more than 200 wineries. While sampling wine often costs $20 and up in pricier viticulture areas, in SLO the average charge for a tasting flight is less than $10. And about two dozen wineries offer free tastings, a perk unheard of in other top California wine regions.

In addition to a welcoming wine culture, SLO has a range of beach towns offering reasonably-priced, independent hotels from two to four stars (the average daily rate is for less than Napa). San Luis Obispo itself, a town of about 40,000, hosts a weekly farmer’s market, and many small boutiques and restaurants serve up the California dream for less.

Mother Nature and Mountains

Denver may be known as the Mile-High City, but at 2,730 feet, the title of Half-Mile-High City belongs to Boise, Idaho.

Besides being an easier altitude adjustment, Boise shares a similar Mountain West vibe and serves as a gateway to many outdoor adventure experiences and ski resorts. A major difference: while hotel prices have risen along with Denver’s urban development, four-star accommodations are still available at moderate rates in Boise.

Within the “City of Trees” lies the 25-mile Boise River Greenbelt – a tree-lined scenic pathway with access to wildlife habitats and popular parks. The state-of-the-art Boise Whitewater Park caters to rafters and kayakers of all levels. And Bogus Basin, 45 minutes from downtown, is Boise’s local skiing playground. Within a three-hour drive is Sun Valley, the Aspen of Idaho, which provides the same level of first-rate skiing, shopping, and dining options as its Colorado cousin.

History and Walkability

Craving an American history experience on a budget? Try Providence, Rhode Island.

Given its 17th-century roots, the city is rich in history. Revolutionary-era churches and museums overlook the city's historic waterfront. Benefit Street is a “museum mile” of original Colonial homes. There’s no Freedom Trail, but there are many self-guided walking tours.

Providence boasts hotel prices that are far lower than Boston’s. And the city can be explored on foot, so there’s no need for a rental car. Contributing to the city’s much-lauded food scene is Johnson & Wales, an internationally-recognized culinary academy.

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