Travel on a Budget
By Bill Malcolm
Do you like paying just $89 for a luxury hotel? Then Phoenix is perfect for a summer trip.
Try the Sheraton Grande at 340 N. 3rd in downtown Phoenix, complete with rooftop pool and bar. The Arizona Center outdoor shopping mall (complete with restaurants) is across the street. Other nearby downtown Phoenix hotels includes the Hyatt and a Kimpton offering.
Yes, it’s hot during the day but if you get up early or go out late, it is manageable. Plus it is a dry heat.
Like baseball? The Arizona Diamondbacks play at nearby Chase Field.
Take the new light rail from PHX (aka Sky Harbor, the Phoenix airport) for $2 to the downtown hotels ($4 for an all-day pass). You can also ride it to the museums as well as Charlie’s (a country western bar). Details at www.valleymetro.org.
Both Southwest and American Airlines have several non-stops a day to the Valley of the Sun.
For food: Grab a Green Restaurant has great salads and fresh juices. Matt’s Big Breakfast is a must for a great southwestern breakfast.
D.C. August deals
Washington D.C. is a bargain in August. Many Federal agencies don’t meet and the frequently pricey hotels can be a bargain. This is especially true later in August when the kids are back in school.
Air fares can be cheap, too – Southwest recently was offering non-stops for an incredible $49 one way to DC’s Reagan National.
You can’t beat the historic Hotel Tabard Inn (1739 N Street NW near Dupont Circle Metro), my new fave. No TVs though, but a historic hotel near the ‘hood. It also sells Route 11 potato chips, made by the owner’s daughter in Virginia. Did I mention the free breakfast with Virginia smoke bacon to die for? Other hotel bargains are The Beacon House, Washington Plaza, and Comfort Inn.
The National Portrait Gallery is a must. Have nitrogen-infused coffee at the new Compass Coffee nearby. And did you know? All Smithsonian museums are free.
JRs, the Number Nine, and Trade are great if you are thirsty. All have happy hour specials, and the Green Lantern is another option. Grab a bite at the food bar at Whole Foods (1440 P Street NW). The Diner in trendy Adams Morgan/Columbia Heights is also excellent. 14th Street is where you will find the urban hipsters and a lot of great restaurants.
In other travel ideas:
’The D’ and environs
Detroit makes for a nice weekend. Delta has many nonstop flights, and the Barons Bus offers premium bus service.
I like Royal Oak, which is a suburb not unlike Broad Ripple. The new Hotel Royal Oak is within walking distance to the Royal Oak restaurants and shops. (The suburb is just outside of Detroit.) Don’t miss the Farmers Market on Saturdays. (The ‘hood in the D is in Ferndale and Royal Oak.)
Hungry? Grab a bite or a drink at Ponto’s on Washington Avenue. You can also pick up a copy of Between the Lines (www.facebook.com/BetweenTheLinesNewspaper or www.pridesource.com) or Metra Magazine (www.metramagazine.com) there as well as Detroit’s weekly, Metro Times (www.metrotimes.com) for more ideas.
You can even take Amtrak to Royal Oak.
Bruce Peninsula – a hidden gem
Bruce Peninsula National Park in Tobermory, Ontario (between Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay), features sandy beaches (on the Lake Huron side) and rare flowers
Just five hours or so northeast of Detroit sits the wild and wonderful Bruce Peninsula. With Lake Huron on one side and Georgian Bay on the other, the place is a nature lover’s paradise. The Niagara Escarpment – a cliff that runs from Buffalo, N.Y., to Wisconsin – jets out here.
A Blue Heron boat cruise out to Flowerpot Island (and to see the sunken boats in the crystal clear water) is a must, as is the ferry to Manitoulin Island.
Fifty-eight rare flowers dot the area, including the Big Showy orchid, the pitcher plant (which eats insects), and a rare orange lily.
A swim in the Grotto, a beach day at Singing Sands Beach, and a hike out to Dyers Bay and the Halfway Log Dump are also musts.
Make your first stop the National Park Visitor Center. Bring hiking boots, though, as the trail is rugged and sometimes rocky.
For lodging, try the Big Tub Harbour Resort in Tobermory.
Montreal – 30 percent off
Canada is on sale. Your U.S. dollar is worth $1.30 against their loonie (the Canadian dollar). And August is Pride month in Montreal.
I like the Hotel Le St. Andre – croissants delivered to your door with coffee every morning. The Hotel des Gouveneurs is also handy and fancier.
Visit St. Catherine’s Street in The Village, a pedestrian mall in the summer. Hike up to Mt. Royal. Visit the many great museums.
Air Canada offers the best service and real jets on real Air Canada (after you take the regional jet to Toronto). Service is bilingual. And you can change flights for free between Toronto and Montreal. (Coming from Chicago? Try Porter Airlines from Midway. A cute little airline which operates out of Toronto Island airport instead of Toronto Pearson).
Parlez vous francais? You can practice in Montreal. If you forget a French word, no worries. The natives are bilingual.
Pick up a copy of Fugues (or read online at www.fugues.com) for more ideas.
Bill Malcolm also writes the Round the Ripple column in The Broad Ripple Gazette as well as for All Aboard Indiana, the official newsletter of the Indiana Passenger Rail Association. He also does media and government relations for the latter group. Find them on www.indianahighspeedrail.com or Hoosiers for Passenger Rail on Facebook.