There are few things more quintessentially American than the landscapes of the West and the emotions they evoke. Whether you come for the pink sunsets, the forlorn-looking cacti or the abandoned ghost towns, traveling in the western part of the U.S. will leaves its mark on you. No matter where in this picturesque region you travel, choose a hotel that matches the rusticness of the surrounding scenery.

Spanish Colonial Santa Fe

Santa Fe has a population of under 70,000, but it's so full of amazing attractions that there are almost as many reasons to visit as there are people from living there! Tour historical structures like Loretto Chapel or the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis, or marvel at something more modern as you walk in the footsteps of Georgia O'Keefe. Many Santa Fe hotels are as scenic and picturesque as the city itself, from the El Rey Inn to the Eldorado Hotel & Spa.

Laughlin's Colorado River Chill

Laughlin is no Las Vegas, but there's still plenty of excitement to be had in this Nevada town—and yes, a couple casinos as well! The Davis Dam, for example, is a smaller answer to the Hoover Dam farther down the Colorado River, while theGrapevine Canyon Petroglyphs document a time long before modern gambling. Hotels in Laughlin tend to be as simple as the desert scenery that envelopes them, but because of this they're cheap, with rooms at Edgewater Hotel & Casino, for example, costing as little as $18 per night.

Bend: Oregon Starts Here

The Oregon town of Bend hasn't achieved the ubiquity of Portland or even Eugene, but there are few better spots in the state to start your trip. Discover the nearby Deschutes National Forest, hike to the top of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, or immerse yourself in the history of the High Desert Museum. Sleep in a spot as stunning as your surroundings, like the Sonoma Lounge or Pronghorn Resort.

Skiing is Just the Beginning in Aspen

Aspen has gained infamy as a ski hub for the celebrities, but in reality, you don't need to be savvy on the slopes in order to enjoy this Colorado town—you don't even need to be into the outdoors! Aspen has its fair share of culture, for example, such as the Wheeler Opera House and the Aspen Art Museum. Season shouldn't be a deciding factor for you either, as year-round hiking spots like Independence Pass and Maroon Bells prove. Hotels in Aspen aren't cheap, but the views they offer are priceless.

Central California Starts in Fresno

In spite of great attractions like Forestiere Underground Gardens and Chaffee Zoo, the city of Fresno pales in comparison to many of the sights around it, namely Yosemite National Park. The city makes a great hub for exploring that region, however, whether you head inland toward the Sierra Nevada or outward toward the coastal Highway 1 Discovery Route. Fresno is also a low-cost destination, with prices on hotels like Days Inn Fresno as low as $50 per night.

Then again, the American West is as limitless in destinations as the horizon line you see driving through it. Can you think of any other can't-miss places to visit in the Western U.S.?

  Article posted on Leave Your Daily Hell by Robert on February 10th.

Published in United States

Amsterdam was once a place where college kids and marijuana aficionados flocked in order to enjoy herb out in the open, eliciting no more than a glance from passersby. But the times, they are a-changin'. Now that marijuana is legal in five U.S. states and the District of Columbia, American pot smokers need not cross the pond for the experience.

According to Hipmunk airfare search data, Amsterdam has fallen from the #7 most-searched international destination in 2014 to #10 in 2015. We speculated it has something to do with domestic cities like Denver and Portland (both of them) joining the small group of pro-ganja cities.

We took a look at Hipmunk data to see if there was an increase in flight searches shortly after Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. legalized marijuana back in November 2014. And there was.

Increase in Share of Searches on Hipmunk From November 2013 to November 2014

Alaska 37%
Washington DC 21%
Colorado 19%
Oregon 15%

 

With so many more options and the Amsterdam government imposing stricter regulations on herb, we thought it’s time to outline all of your pot tourism destination options along with estimated budgets for each.

Pot-Friendly Vacation Destinations by Price

Destinations Average Flight Price Average Nightly Hotel Price Estimated Cost of a Weekend Trip for Two
Colorado $300 $174 $948
Oregon $362 $150 $1,024
Washington $370 $182 $1,104
Amsterdam $1269 $182 $2,902

 

We dug even deeper to bring you estimated weekend getaway pricing for popular cities in each of our domestic pot-friendly states.

Pot-Friendly Domestic Vacation Cities by Price

Cities Average Flight Price Average Nightly Hotel Price Estimated Cost of a Weekend Trip for Two
Yakima, WA* $317 $110 $853
Denver, CO $275 $184 $918
Spokane, WA $395 $125 $1,039
Boulder, CO $275 $249 $1,048
Portland, OR $349 $178 $1,054
Colorado Springs, CO $424 $114 $1,076
Eugene, OR $419 $121 $1,080
Bend, OR $449 $130 $1,157
Seattle, WA $362 $241 $1,206
Aspen, CO $715 $310 $2,049
Vail, CO $715 $365 $2,160

 

Did we miss your favorite 420 destination? Or have you traveled to one of these locations to take a toke? Let us know in the comments below.

*It's illegal to operator a pot shop, sell, and purchase marijuana in Yakima, WA. However it's legal to possess and consume a certain amount within Yakima. The purchase of pot is legal in Union Gap, WA–only 3 miles outside of town.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on October 7th.

Published in United States

Colorado is one of the best states in the USA to visit. Not only is it beautiful and historic, but it is also full of some of the nicest people in America. Although I still call Asia home, If I ever move back to America it would be somewhere in Colorado. Never been? Colorado is amazing, you have to visit! Here are seven unique and offbeat travel destinations to help get your Colorado vacation started:

  Check out the entire Offbeat Travel Guide collection!

Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour

   Silverton
  $10-20/person depending kid/senior/adult
  Official Web Site

With history dating back to the 1870s, the Old Hundred Gold Mine hit pay dirt just after the turn of the century when they began supplying gold bars to the Denver Mint for use in coining. However the ever-increasing yields from the mine were the begin of the end and before long it was officially "mined out".

Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour
via wwworks

All-in-all the tour lasts almost an hour. After getting loaded up (and bundled up, it is a little chilly underground) you board the railcars and proceed underground. There we explored a couple of the original veins with a guide who gave us a firsthand history lesson of both the mine and mining processes. But the scenery does not stop there; even outside of the mine shafts the backdrop of the local mountains is breathtaking. One neat part of the tour includes a view of the original miners' cabin, which if I remember correctly dates back to 1904. The thing is perched way up on the mountain and just barely is hanging on. As a matter-of-fact, when they first built the cabin they had to secure it to the nearby rock face with metal cables to prevent it from falling down the mountain. Wild!

Gold panning at the Old Hundred Mine in Silverton, one of the top offbeat things to do in Colorado
via wwworks

And of course no tour of a gold mine would be complete without a stop at a real-life sluice box where you can take your turn at panning for gold, silver, and other semi-precious stones just like the gold-panners of the past did. And, yes, no worries: you get to keep whatever you.

Due to the local weather this tour only operates during the warm season, from May to October. And, as with any decent tour, there is also a gift shop selling all sorts of related souvenirs and trinkets as well as snacks and drinks. Check the official web site for more information on directions, rates, and operating hours.

Royal Gorge Bridge & Park

   Canon City
  $19-25/person depending kid/senior/adult
  Official Web Site

Wow, where to start. Think amusement park combined with natural wonder and you might be headed in the right direction. Covering 360 acres and featuring nearly two dozen rides, shows, and attractions to keep you amused, it is hard to get in and out of this place in less than a couple hours -- but then again, why would you want to rush it.

The Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado

The prime attraction and namesake of this park is the Royal Gorge and its sky high suspension bridge, one of the highest in the world. It was built in 1929 for only $350,000 but the cost today would exceed $15,000,000. You can walk or drive across it but I definitely recommend walking, as that allows you to better enjoy the scenery as well as take some fantastic pictures using the 360° view. There is also an aerial tram that is apparently the world's longest single-span tram.

After enjoying the view from above, you can also admire it from below by riding down the 45° incline railway. Seeing it from this angle really puts it all in perspective; the towering bridge you just walked across is nothing more than a thing string stretching across the canyon like the tight-wire of a circus performer.

But the sights don't stop there! You can explore the gorgeous countryside by taking a mule rule ride through the pines and evergreens or strolling the Wapiti Western Wildlife Park. There is one of those free-fall skycoasters and a plaza theatre, a Mountain Man Trading Post (not sure what that is actually, I skipped it), and even a mountaintop lodge for those wanting to stay overnight.

The Royal Gorge Bridge & Park in Silverton, Colorado

The park is open year-round but some of the attractions may be seasonal or weather-permitting. I'm sure the official web site provide you with up to date information.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary

Keenesburg
$10/person, $5/kids ≤12 yrs
Official Web Site

Located just 30 miles northeast of Denver and covering a grand total of 720 acres and sheltering around 300 lions, tigers, leopards, mountain lions, bears, wolves, and other large carnivores, the Wild Animal Sanctuary of Colorado is the first sanctuary of its kind to create large acreage species-specific habitats for its rescued animals. Since 1980 the Wild Animal Sanctuary has responded to nearly 1,000 requests from private citizens and government agencies to rescue animals from across the United States and even in Mexico.

Keenseburg Wild Animal Sanctuary is one of the best offbeat things to do in Colorado
via Mark

After breaking free of the Welcome Center & Gift Shop, with a guide book in hand, you'll be set free to wander. They have huge closed-off habitats surrounding the main complex but by far the best thing is the observation ramps and decks that stretch over the animals in the center of the park. Walking up ramps and along observation decks suspending above the animals you can get a birds-eye view of some of nature's most impressive and majestic mammals.

Each of the main observation decks was thoughtfully designed with picnic tables and chairs, as does the small garden area at the foot of the main ramp. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch, or if all else fails the gift shop does also sell a few drinks and snacks.

This is a great family expedition, absolutely perfect for the kiddos.

Beer? I like beer.

Colorado Breweries

   Fort Collins, Longmont, Boulder, Golden, & others
  Varies; Mid-range
  Colorado Brewers Guild

Craft beer is something that every real man should appreciate. It is something to be proud of, unlike that mass-produced swill that relies on a multi-million dollar advertising compaign to get you to buy their crap. It is said that pairing beer and cheese is akin to holding hands, whereas wine and cheese is like arm wrestling. If you are drinking a good craft beer then that is so very true. And if you are like me you'll be happy to learn that Colorado has a lot of microbrews, good microbrews. Colorado is one of the best states for craft beer lovers. As a matter-of-fact they have more breweries per capita than any other state in the USA. And for those that like the [ugh] mass-market beer, you probably already know that Colorado is where Coors proudly calls home. They even offer tours. I didn't go on one. Nothing fany about mass production. Craft breweries however are always cool and quirky!

The Phantom Canyon Brewing Company in Colorado Springs always has fresh, homebrewed craft beer on tap

Almost all of the larger cities have breweries. If in doubt just inquire in a local bar. I even found a restaurant in downtown Colorado Springs that has a glass-encased brewery right in its main dining room. The food was good and the beer was better. If you are in the area, definitely look up Phantom Canyon Brewing Company.

The Phantom Canyon Brewing Company in Colorado Springs always has fresh, homebrewed craft beer on tap

  Have you been to any of the breweries in Colorado or tried any of the local beers? Share your thoughts and/or recommendations at the end of the article!

    Other notable breweries include:
  • New Belgium Brewing Company (Fort Collins)
  • Boulder Beer Company (Boulder)
  • Twisted Pine Brewing Company (Boulder)
  • Crabtree Brewing Company (Greeley)
  • Left Hand Brewing Company (Longmont)
  • Golden City Brewery (Golden)

Casa Bonita

   Denver
  Entrees @ $15 - $20
Official Web Site

Forever immortalized by an episode of South Park, Casa Bonita offers an eating experience unlike any other and I just had to check it out for myself. True to the episode, this restaurant actually features shoot-em up gunfights, cliff divers, strolling mariachis, puppet shows, magicians, games, prizes, and more.

Casa Bonita is the Colorado restaurant famous for it's elaborate jungle interior and one of the quirky things to do in Denver. And yes, it's the same place from South Park.
via Rob Lee

The restaurant is huge, covering over 50,000 sq ft and seating well over 1,000. Hell it has a 30-foot indoor waterfall. You pay for the show though with the cost of the food. Casa Bonita specializes in Mexican cuisine, but their menu is very limited and stereotypical. Everything except the kids meals is over-priced and none of what we ordered stood out or overly impressed us. But the sights, now that was a different story!

United States Mint in Denver, Colorado

Kids will never want to leave this place, but even for adults it is worth at least one visit. Just one though.

United States Mint

   Denver
  Free!
  Official Web Site

How can you beat free? You can't! So why not visit the Denver location of the US Mint and learn a little bit about the coin and currency we Americans use every single day.

Tours are fairly short, only about thirty minutes, but the the guides are very knowledgeable in all aspects of the Mint from the gold rush days up to its present day production of coins. There wasn't too much crazy stuff to see as far as the machinery that actually produces the coins, but there are some interesting displays and videos. And of course the mandatory gift shop.

Take a tour of the Denver Mint, one of the best free things to do in Colorado
via Ken Lund

However, there are a few warnings: first off, you must make a reservation online first or you will not be allowed entry. Additionally, don't plan on taking any pictures for obvious security reasons. And as security is just as tight as at the airport, don't bring with you what you do not need. Finally, there is no public parking. Not a big deal but noteworthy nonetheless.

Pike's Peak

   Manitou Springs
  $10/adult & $4/kid or $35/vehicle
  Pike's Peak Guide by Derek Freal

Colorado has 54 "Fourteeners," otherwise known as mountains with peaks over 14,000 feet above sea level. One of the most well-known however is Pike's Peak. With a 19-mile paved road that winds and stretches all the way up to its 14,110 foot summit, it is no wonder this is the most visited mountain in North America.

Pike's Peak in Colorado

Pike's Peak National Park is open year round, weather permitting. You can see it in the picture above (the red rocks in the picture are the Garden Of The Gods). Be warned, in addition to extreme winds, the temperatures at the 14,110 summit can easily be 40°F less than at the base, which is only at around 8,000 feet elevation. The road to the summit, although just recently fully paved (apparently the last stretch used to be gravel), still features on a couple guardrails, sheer drops, breathtaking views, and scenic view spots you can pull over to park and take pictures.

Pike's Peak in Colorado

  More Offbeat Travel Guides     More photos from Pike's Peak     More American destinations

  Know of any other sights that make Colorado unique? Share them!

Published in United States

Think of skiing and a resort with traditional Alpine chalets may come to mind, or you might see more of the canyon scenery of Colorado. Does the USA have the top places to ski or is it Europe for you? They both offer superb skiing opportunities and surrounding areas to visit, plus they’re packed with top of the range facilities and have a fantastic atmosphere that makes visitors come back time and time again.

For me, it has to be Europe. My all-time favourite is Val d’Isère in France. It’s a huge resort as it also neighbours Tignes, so I’m never short of things to do on my skiing holiday. I can ski the 3000 metre terrain, which has a flurry of snow from the Mediterranean, but I can also join in the après ski fun at the many cafes, bars, and restaurants that line the route. In particular, Dick’s Tea Bar is a favourite. It’s a bar that has lovely drinks and nibbles and then turns into a late night venue with a DJ.

Val d’Isère is great for my friends and me, as we like to sample a little bit of everything, but with its ice skating rink, tobogganing area, water and leisure centre, and spa, it is suitable for people of all ages and circumstances. The town centre is a worth a visit too with a Monday market as well as designer shops.

The snowy mountains of Val D'isere in France are perfect for skiing

I’ve always used Ski Bonjour for finding a chalet in Val d’Isère. Bonjour-Bivouac has been my favourite so far. It’s only 40 metres away from the slopes so I can hop straight on when I’m up and ready in the morning! And for a little bit of luxury, it has a sauna and chef to make my holiday experience totally relaxing. I’ve also stayed at Bonjour-Palmyre. This was similar to Bonjour-Bivouac but also had its own cinema room and is really close to my aforementioned favourite, Dick’s Tea Bar.

But I have heard that the US can rival Val d’Isère. One of my good friends regularly goes to Sugarloaf in Maine. This has recently been improved with over $5 million of investments but she has always enjoyed skiing there, even before the improvements. Although Katie has her own favorite hotel that she is loyal to, Sugarloaf is full of motels, bed and breakfasts, and cottages available for rent. Passing the day away by skiing the 138 trails and exploring the ski town sounds like paradise to me. She also headed out West to Colorado Springs to get a completely different view. As well as experiencing the fantastic skiing in the mountains, she spent some of her time seeing the area, including visiting Old Colorado City.

The snowy mountains of Sugarloaf, Maine in the USA are perfect for skiing

I’d love to join her one day so that I can experience skiing in a completely new area. I’ve seen that new ski resorts are opening in places such as India, China and Japan too, which would be another different experience!

So where is your preferred skiing destination? Are you open to new places or do you have a firm favourite that your return to for every holiday? And most importantly, would you cross the pond from your best location?

  flickr   //   jeremy-couture   rudiriet

Published in France

One of the reasons I love visiting Colorado is that I am always stumbling upon new things to do and sights to see. Known as the Garden Of The Gods, this tranquil park got it's namesake in 1859 from two surveyors from nearby Colorado City who happened to stumble upon the rock formations while exploring the area. As is too often the case, namesake goes to the first white guy to brag about something he discovered, instead of the locals who all too often have known of the existence of that place/species for 1,000+ years. Anyway, I digress...

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

The beauty of this place -- well, besides the obvious natural beauty -- is the this park is 100% free to the public. The park itself consists of a few main roads looping around the red rocks with numerous scenic overlooks and photo spots, as well as trails for hiking, biking, and even horseback riding. There are even Segway tours run by the nearby visitor center located just a few hundred yards down the road from the entrance to the park. (Those, however, are not free.)

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

Once you have had your fix of the free views and explored all you can around the park, I recommend following it up with a brief visit by the Garden Of The Gods Visitor & Nature Center. Just like any other national park souvenir shop, this place has it all. From historical items, local gems, books, artwork, clothes, postcards, native species of flowers, and anything and everything else you would expect to find, this place has it.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

Not only that, but they offer also provide a wealth of information about Colorado, the Garden Of The Gods history, and of course the nearby Pike's Peak. Additional knowledge can be gained by watching (and that means paying) for the visitor center's information movies, which run on a loop every 15 minutes in the miniature movie theater.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

Been here before? Have a favorite FREE park? Share your comments!

Published in United States

The Most Visited Mountain In All Of North America

Driving into Colorado Springs and the surrounding area it is impossible to miss Pike's Peak, which staggers up into the clouds and makes dwarfs of most of the other summits in nearby range. It is also home to the highest railroad in the United States, the Pike's Peak Cog Railway, which offers tours up to the summit. As such, Pike's Peak (aka America's Mountain) is the most visited mountain in North America. On a clear day the view from a distance can be absolutely breathtaking!

Pike's Peak, Colorado

If you have seen the Garden Of The Gods then you will undoubtedly have noticed Pike's Peak in the background. (As a matter of fact, as they are located so close together I encourage you to visit both at the same time -- makes for the perfect way to kill an afternoon in Colorado Springs. And then when you come back down from the mountain, might as well go enjoy some tasty food and fresh home-brewed local beer at the Phantom Canyon Brewing Co in downtown Colorado Springs.)

  Pike's Peak gets its name from Zebulon Pike, an explorer who led a failed expedition up to the summit in 1806, but was not made a national historic landmark and park until 1961. It was home to a gold rush in the mid-1800s and was also the site that inspired Katherine Lee Bates to write the song "America The Beautiful."

At the park entrance, which is actually just a tollgate entrance, you have to pay the fee before you can proceed up the 19-mile road that winds all the way up to the summit. It costs $10/person with a limit of $35 per vehicle, although fees may vary slightly between seasons. But happily enough the road was just recently completely paved from start to summit, eliminating the old stretch of gravel towards the top.

There are a few notices and heads-up that you are given at the gate, mostly pertaining to your vehicle and personal safety. Keep in mind you are going to want to have a fairly decent amount of gas in the tank, as you have to ascend and descent the steep and windy 19-mile road. Bring extra cash too, as the park offers three gift shops / snack parlors: two located at 1/3 and 2/3 of the way up and a third at the summit.

Pike's Peak, Colorado

Additionally there are also many scenic view points and paved shoulders at various points, allowing you to pull over and take pictures, stretch the legs, or even give the car a break. (Yeah, that's another thing, definitely don't be showing up with any old and busted vehicles hoping to make the trek all the way to the top.) The most notable mile markers include: MM#3 Features you first view of Pike's Peak; MM#14 Scenic views of Garden Of The Gods, Colorado Springs, the Pike's Peak summit, and the Continental Divide; MM#16-16.5 Scenic views of the Switchbacks, Pike's Peak Reservoirs, the Continental Divide, Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range, and the Ghost Town Hollow Mine.

Pike's Peak, Colorado

Pike's Peak, Colorado

Pike's Peak, Colorado

If you don't stop to take a bunch of pictures, and don't get stuck behind that one obnoxiously slow vehicle, then it takes between 45-50 minutes to reach the summit. Up there you can be prepared for the temperatures to be up to 40° F colder than at the base 6,000 feet below. I went during September and despite the fact that is was about 75° in Colorado Springs, it was 30° and snowing at the summit of Pike's Peak! Additionally, due to the extreme elevation oxygen levels are only at 60% of what they are at sea level.

Pike's Peak, Colorado

Pike's Peak, Colorado

The summit is absolutely breathtaking. I have been up at extreme elevations before, seen volcanoes and mountains up close in Costa Rica and Hawaii and other places, but each one is unique in their own way. Pike's Peak not only has the history but also the Cog Railway that rolls all the way up to the station up top, a mere few feet from the gift shop and prime picture zone. While I have not experienced the railway myself first-hand -- you have to buy tickets at least a day, if not several, in advance -- I have heard that trip to the top is even more spectacular than by taking the tollway.

View from the summit of Pike's Peak, Colorado

View from the summit of Pike's Peak, Colorado

The summit of Pike's Peak, Colorado

The summit of Pike's Peak, Colorado

View from the summit of Pike's Peak, Colorado

Before beginning the less-exciting trek down the mountain, make sure to grab a few souvenirs from the gift shop. The offer all of the usual postcards, shot glasses, t-shirts and clothing, information books, magnets, random trinkets, and everything else you have come to expect from gift shops around the world, as well as food! Something about the high altitude always make me hungry ;)

Have you been to Pike's Peak or traveled up the Cog Railway? Maybe you've even been up an even taller mountain? Feel free to share your comments below!


View Pike's Peak, Colorado in a larger map
Published in United States

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