Aside from the draw of its hundred or so casinos, Las Vegas is a penny-pincher's delight, with low hotel rates, bargain meals, discount coupons and cheap transportation. Also, new eateries, bars and galleries are opening in off-the-Strip neighborhoods.
Get off the beaten path and head for the Midwest. Beer tourism is all the rage in Michigan’s second-largest city, home to more than 25 craft breweries. News is also getting out about the city’s robust art scene centered on the Frederik Meijer Gardens, the Grand Rapids Art Museum and ArtPrize, one of the world’s largest art competitions. And just 30 miles from town lie miles of beaches along with wineries, orchards and berry farms and some of Ernest Hemingway’s old haunts.
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Kansas City, Missouri
The largest city in the Show Me State has something for everyone. Visitors this year will want to mark the centennial of the start of World War I at the National World War I Museum and the Liberty Memorial, which has gotten a facelift for the celebrations. K.C. also offers more than 200 fountains (think Rome), more than 100 barbecue joints, plenty of jazz and blues, and welcoming neighborhoods well worth exploring.
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California’s Central Coast
Make the trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles the way everybody should — by car. Take your time with the iconic Pacific coast scenery along Highway 1, and stop off at Hearst Castle. You’ll want to check out the Paso Robles wine country — it’s gaining respect. Put Big Sur on your itinerary too, and don’t forget the Monterey Bay Aquarium, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
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Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville VA
It may be Mr. Jefferson’s Town, as the locals call it, but it’s also much more. You’ll find plenty of wineries to tour, along with Monticello and Ash Lawn–Highland, James Monroe’s home. Add to these a youthful population that supports hip coffee shops and eateries. Then take the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park.
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Street music is omnipresent in this town; you can also sit down for free performances and concert films at the WPA-built Levitt Shell. Like barbecue? You'll have dozens of choices for variations on that theme. Then catch a ride on a Mississippi paddle wheeler.
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Salt Lake City, Utah
This city is clean and family-friendly. Buy a Connect Pass for museums, attractions and meals. Salt Lake is also a good jumping-off point for nearby ski resorts and several popular national parks including Arches, Yellowstone and Grand Teton.
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Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
With 20 lakes and more than 200 miles of biking and walking trails (plowed in winter), there’s plenty of outdoor fun. Locals enjoy offbeat entertainments such as Cheap Date Night at Bryant-Lake Bowl (dinner for two, a bottle of wine and bowling for $28).
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San Antonio, Texas
Check out all five of the city’s historic missions (including the Alamo) or spend a day on the Riverwalk, a public park lining both banks of the San Antonio River. Visit in spring for an excursion into nearby Hill Country.
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The Baltimore Museum of Art, home to the world’s largest holding of works by Henri Matisse, is free for everyone, every day. Tourists flock to the Inner Harbor, but the city’s distinct neighborhoods also are worth exploring. Go anywhere to eat crabs, or enjoy a wide variety of ethnic cuisines.