THIS ITEM ORIGINALLY APPEARED JAN. 11 on POSTMEDIA AND SUN MEDIA SITES IN CANADA.
The loonie remains in the doldrums. But winter’s getting you down and you’re dying to hit your favourite U.S. getaway spot. Lucky for us, there are still some great American destinations that aren’t too expensive. There also are ways to save on visits to cities and places you might think of as outside your budget. Here are some suggestions.
This is a favourite area for Blue Jays fans, as the Jays play their spring training games in nearby Dunedin. Dunedin is a great spot with a walkable, compact town and plenty of free parking. Prices are reasonable at places like the Holiday Inn or the Best Western Yacht Harbor Inn. St. Petersburg has a booming downtown with great food and cultural spots such as the Dali Museum. Try The Hollander for an affordable, fun hotel. Take one of the cute pontoon boats from Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin over to Caladesi Island, voted one of the best beaches in the world.
Tucson doesn’t get a lot of press but I just visited and found great food and fantastic craft beer. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, just outside Tucson, is a great place to take the kids, and you reach it by a gorgeous, winding mountain road called Gate’s Pass. Scottsdale is better known for its resorts than budget-friendly hotels, but there are chain properties that offer good value in town. Scottsdale today (Jan. 12) sent me a note to say they’ve got a number of great deals on offer as part of their “Get Some Loonie Love in Scottsdale” program. Deals include free brunches, hotel discounts, resort credits at top places to stay and more. I just did a fantastic, easy hike in north Scottsdale around the Spur Cross Recreation Area, with fine mountain and river valley views. No charge for that!
Mama Shelter is a French-run boutique property in the heart of Hollywood, a block off Hollywood Boulevard and the same distance from fabled Sunset Boulevard. Small but manageable rooms can be had for as little as $159 USD (about $210 Cdn). Nearby Pie Hole is a great, affordable breakfast or lunch spot (try the bacon hash or savoury chicken pies). Koreatown and Chinatown have excellent value spots for dinner, including Pok Pok L.A. on North Broadway. Save money and traffic hassles by taking L.A.’s rapidly growing Metro Rail trains.
January is a great time to save money in The Big Apple. Broadway Week features two-for-one shows and runs from Jan. 17 to Feb. 5. The city also recently launched its first-ever Attractions Week, which provides discounts at a number of great attractions, including Gray Line City Sightseeing Bus Tours, the Museum of Modern Art and the One World Observatory. Don’t forget, many New York museums offer free hours or days. New York’s Restaurant Week runs Jan. 23 to Feb. 10 and features $29 USD lunches and $42 dinners at top restaurants run by celebrity chefs.
Prices here for food and lodging are usually a lot less than the big Florida tourist spots. There are tons of fun and tasty food options and a great boardwalk in the town of Murrells Inlet, a few minutes south of Myrtle Beach proper. The golf courses also can be extremely reasonable. Or try kayaking on the Black River. I saw several nice hotels listed recently for less than $100 CDN a night. Myrtle Beach also has its annual “Can-Am Days” program running, with great deals for Canadians. So check that out. It’s been hovering around 17 to 19 Celsius in Myrtle Beach of late, and that’s darn near summer weather for a Canadian.
Seal Rock Inn is a fun, casual place to stay that’s steps from the Pacific Ocean and an easy drive to Golden Gate Park and downtown. Rates start around $200 CDN per night. Hiking along the nearby cliffs is a great way to get some exercise and snap some great shots for your Instagram feed. One spot I recommend is Tommy’s Joynt, a legendary, old-time and kitschy sandwich spot on Van Ness Avenue. Great value and a lot of fun. You also can save by dining across the bay in increasingly trendy Oakland.
The Big Bus Tours are one of those hop-on, hop-off groups that allow you to get a sense of the city and get off to explore without spending a fortune. Tours start at $30. Visiting the beach is free, and there also are plenty of county parks around where you can do kayak rides or other activities for nominal fees. Just off Lincoln Road in South Beach is a fun, lively spot for lunch called Yardbird. The News Café in South Beach is a legendary spot to dine and people watch.
DEAL OF THE WEEK
Cathay Pacific is offering 19% off on economy fares and 22% off premium economy fares from Canada to select spots in Asia, Australia, New Zealand and other great spots. Book by Jan. 22 for flights from Feb. 6 to June 12 and Aug. 15 to Nov. 30, 2017.