The 6 Best Affordable Golf Courses in the US

National Golf Month is in full swing, golf aficionados everywhere are heading to the closest links. Many travelers make golf their very reason for going, seeking out the best golf courses in the U.S. However, many of the most exclusive courses across the country carry expensive fees or memberships. If you want to celebrate National Golf Month without breaking the bank, there are a number of esteemed golf courses in the U.S. that don’t cost an arm, leg and possibly a putter to play. We’ve rounded up some of the best for you.

Mirimichi—Millington, Tennessee

Located just north of Memphis, Tennessee, Mirimichi boasts 7,400 yards of course at a very affordable price. Tennessee native Justin Timberlake originally bought the course and put $16 million into revamping it back in 2009. While the singer-songwriter sold the course in 2014, Mirimichi still maintains its status as one of the most eco-friendly courses in the nation. Mirimichi also boasts having the Audubon Sanctuary and the rare Golf Environmental Organization certified status. You can play 9 holes here for as little as $30.

Pacific Grove Golf Links—Pacific Grove, California

If you can’t afford to play at nearby Pebble Beach, the Pacific Grove Golf Links offers affordability and stellar Pacific Ocean views. Located in Northern California in the Monterey Peninsula, Pacific Grove Golf Links features an entire back nine with breathtaking views. Just adjacent to the famous 17 Mile Drive, Pacific Grove Golf Links originally opened in 1932. The 18-hole course sits on the Pacific Ocean, providing the feel of Pebble Beach without the price. For 18 holes, you’ll pay roughly $62.

Country Club of Miami—Hialeah, Florida

If you’re looking for a Miami hotel room, you have plenty of affordable options, which will leave some cash in your wallet so you can hit the courses. Country Club of Miami offers rounds of golf for as low as $25 to $40 per person. Located in Hialeah, Florida, Country Club of Miami features two beautifully manicured Florida golf courses for a total of 36 holes. Founded in 1961, many golf legends have played the Robert Trent Jones designed course. Perhaps the Country Club of Miami’s most famous member was Jackie Gleason.

Wild Horse Golf Club—Gothenburg, Nebraska

In the unsuspecting location of Gothenburg, Nebraska, you’ll find another affordable golf course. Wild Horse Golf Club has been rated as one of the best golf courses in the country, right in the heart of Nebraska. The Scottish style golf course sits close to esteemed Sandy Hills but doesn’t require a membership. Wild Horse Golf Club was even built by some of the same architects, lending a similar vibe and playing field as the private course has. Wild Horse Golf Club costs roughly $60 per player for 18 holes.

Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club—Sandia Park, New Mexico

Set up in Sandia Park, New Mexico, Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club is surrounded by picturesque mountainous terrain and vegetation of the New Mexican high desert. As New Mexico becomes an up and coming member of top golf course destinations, the 27 hole public golf course rests just 20 minutes from Albuquerque and about 45 minutes from Santa Fe, making it conveniently located. To play 9 holes at Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club, you can expect to spend $50 to $60 in the regular season. The 18-hole fee in the regular season runs at $92.

The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa—Grand Junction, Colorado

Travelers in Grand Junction, Colorado can take advantage the Golf Club at Redlands Mesa. Nestled in between looming rock formations and lush mountain ranges, the 18 hole golf course provides enough challenge but also eye candy with views of Grand Junction. Designed by award winning golf course architect Jim Engh, the course features a number of elevation changes for that added challenge. For 18 holes, you’ll spend roughly $50.

Playing some of the best courses in the U.S. doesn’t have to break the bank. These golf courses provide the perfect excuse to take a vacation golf trip without maxing out credit cards to do so. 

August 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Whale-watching in Alaska

Alaska is a wildlife lover’s dream, where bears, bald eagles, sea lions and of course, whales are spotted not just daily, but by the minute. Particularly in the summer months, the state comes alive with road warriors seeking to see massive and strangely delicate whales. August is one of the peak times for whale watching along the Alaskan coast. Thousands of whales have made their way up to Alaska by this point in the year, and visitors can watch them in action. If you and your family want to see just how spectacular these creatures are, there are a number of whale watching tours available. And you don’t have to embark on an extravagant 7 day cruise to see the whales, as all of these companies offer hourly, half day and full day whale watching opportunities. So find a good deal on a hotel in Alaska and hop on board one of these whale-watching tours.

Alaska Tours, Anchorage

Based in Anchorage, Alaska Tours offers perhaps some of the longest daily whale watching tours. Many of the company’s tours span from 6 to 9 hours. Within those hours, guests visit the waters of Resurrection Bay, the Chiswell Islands and Kenai Fjords National Park. All of these areas are known for hosting whales come summertime. Tours start and end near Juneau and Anchorage, making them easy to reach if you are staying in either city.

Major Marine Tours, Anchorage

Also out of Anchorage, Major Marine Tours has convenient three hour, half day and full day cruises focused on finding Alaska whale populations. The company’s whale watching tours provide the chance to see blue whales, gray whales, fin whales, humpbacks and orcas. Cruises travel across Prince William Sound and near Kenai Fjords National Park. The family-owned business makes tours special by having National Park Rangers on board. These rangers can provide additional information to further educate you about the whales making the trip to Alaska.

Juneau Whale Watch, Juneau

If you are staying in or near Juneau, Juneau Whale Watch offers several different types of whale watching tours. Some of these tours offer a bit more than whale watching with city and glacier highlights also included. However, true purists can join the company’s classic Whale Watching Tour. Departing from Juneau, the tours take roughly three hours. In addition to seeing humpback whales and orcas, tours also often see bald eagles, seals, sea lions and much more Alaskan wildlife. Once a whale is spotted on the tour, the captain slows down the boat so that riders can head out to the viewing deck. You’ll want to bring your camera on this tour as the whales almost always come close to the boat once the engine has been turned off for viewing the whales.

Rugged and raw, Alaska provides one of those few opportunities in today’s world to truly marvel at nature, undisturbed. As many vacationing families plan their summer around the whales, you will want to be sure you have the chance to get up close and personal with these remarkable mammals. Vacation tours can be hit or miss at times, but these whale watching excursions provide the chance to be in awe of massive whales with every turn of the boat.

 

August 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Best French Restaurants in NYC

With Bastille Day falling on the 14th, it’s no wonder July tends to leave many people craving the best French fare. When a French fry simply won’t do, appetites for French cuisine would certainly be satisfied with a trip to France. However, if you can’t make it all the way across the pond, New York City actually remains a great stand in for the real thing. New York City has become known for its French restaurants, largely thanks to French chefs who’ve moved to the Big Apple to showcase their cuisine. So if you’re in town this summer, try to get a table at one of these acclaimed French restaurants.

 La Grenouille on East 52nd Street

Led by the Masson family, La Grenouille has been serving New York fine French food since 1962, offering city dwellers classic French haute cuisine. A number of celebrities have graced its tables over the last several decades for traditional French fare with a decidedly modern twist. In addition to its dishes, many come to take advantage of the stellar wine cellar. And after a meal of overindulgence, and perhaps some fine French wine, you’ll be glad you decided to get a hotel in New York.

Buvette in the West Village

If you’re seeking more of a neighborhood spot in New York City, Buvette supplies, right in the West Village. Inspired by European traditions, Buvette opened its doors in early 2011 by Chef Jody Williams. Buvette has quickly joined the ranks for New York’s best French restaurants with a strikingly more casual vibe. The space is part restaurant, part bar and part café in one. It brings the elegance of an old world café and the comfort of a casual neighborhood eatery.

Brasserie on East 53rd Street

Those searching for the best French restaurant New York has to offer might just be able to end their search at Brasserie. Led by executive chef Luc Dimnet, Brasserie keeps things traditional in the kitchen. You can find classic dishes like onion soup gratinée and crème brûlée. Opened in 1959, Brasserie is one of New York’s long-standing French restaurants, sure to not disappoint even the most discerning French critique.  

Le Bernardin on West 51st Street

Le Bernardin lets its name speak for itself. Considered among the best French restaurants NYC offers, Le Bernardin has won Zagat’s Best Food award and earned an esteemed four stars from The New York Times just three months after opening. The French restaurant is appropriately the work of a French sibling duo, Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze. Along with its seven James Beard Awards since 1998, the proof is in the dishes at Le Bernardin, where you can enjoy French fish staples like caviar, oysters, tuna and snapper. But beware; if you don’t like seafood, it might not be for you, as Le Bernardin specializes in fish.

Daniel in the Upper East Side

Shortly after its initial opening in 1993, the Central Park restaurant Daniel found acclaim. Known for its impeccable French fare, the French restaurant in New York has become a fine dining institution. While Daniel received a redesign in 2008, the restaurant still upholds its fine dining reputation. Located in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Daniel boasts contemporary French cuisine inspired by the seasons. As to be expected, world-class wines are paired with meals. Need more convincing of Daniel’s French fare? The restaurant is one of the few in the area to have earned the rare and coveted two-star Michelin rating.

 

August 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

4 Must-see Boardwalks in the US

Boardwalks are a beloved and quintessential piece of the American summer. Featuring a wealth of attractions, activities and characters, there’s never a dull moment on these planked stretches along U.S. coastlines. Summer is an ideal time to explore boardwalks, especially these must-see boardwalks we’ve found across the country.

Venice Beach Boardwalk in California

If you are booked to stay at a boardwalk hotel in Venice Beach, you certainly won’t be bored. Venice Beach Boardwalk is one of the most unusual boardwalks in the country. World famous and located in the Los Angeles area of Southern California, the boardwalk provides some of the best people watching in the U.S. Stretching 1.5 miles, the boardwalk hovers above the gorgeous sands of the Pacific Ocean. Street vendors, performers, mimes and musicians line the stretch of Venice Beach, adding a certain color to the boardwalk unlike anywhere else.

Myrtle Beach Boardwalk in South Carolina

One of the best boardwalks in the country for families is easily the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. The 1.2 mile-long oceanfront perch stretches from the 14th Avenue Pier to 2nd Avenue Pier. During the summer months, the boardwalk transforms with plenty of concerts, fireworks and carnivals. In addition, families can find an arcade, zipline and plenty of scoops of ice cream. And if you’re a ride-lover, you won’t want to miss the Sky Wheel, the largest Ferris wheel on the East Coast. It whisks riders up 175 feet to a stunning view of the ocean.

Atlantic City Boardwalk in New Jersey

When it comes to the best boardwalks in the U.S., Atlantic City’s Boardwalk is always on the list. Considered the first boardwalk of its kind in the world, the Atlantic City Boardwalk was built in 1870. Local business owners were tired of all of the sand tracking into their hotels. A solution was presented by creating a long stretch of planks. Today, the Atlantic City Boardwalk covers 8 miles of the New Jersey beach. Visitors can stroll and enjoy ocean views from the planks or take advantage of high end and retail shopping. Acting as the backbone of the seaside resort city, the boardwalk also features a number of piers, like Garden Pier where you can visit the Atlantic City Art Center. In addition to shopping, ocean viewing and attractions, the Atlantic City boardwalk is also known for its many casinos where you can try your luck at going home a little richer. And you don’t have to worry too much about losing some cash, because it’s always comforting to know that when you book a suite at an Extended Stay America, kids stay free to soften any blow experienced at the slots.

Coney Island Boardwalk in New York

With nearly three miles of sandy beach, the Coney Island Boardwalk is truly an iconic American destination. One of the must-visit East Coast boardwalks, the Coney Island version boasts a wealth of recreational activities like volleyball, handball and basketball. If you aren’t the active type, the boardwalk area also features more than 50 rides, including the one that put the area on the map, The Cyclone. The Coney Island Boardwalk is also a prime location for visitors who want to head to the New York Aquarium or feast on a Nathan’s Famous hotdog. And since Coney Island is so close to the city, you can always stay in New York and visit the boardwalk on a day trip.

 

Cotton candy in hand and the crashing waves at your feet, there really is nothing quite like strolling a good old-fashioned boardwalk. If you’re out of ideas as to where to take the family for summer vacation, one of these boardwalks just might provide the backbone for the perfect family trip. 

August 11, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

3 Frozen Treats Around the US

With sweltering temperatures often rising into triple-digit territory in many places across the country, beating the summer heat isn’t always so simple. Especially if you’re on vacation, knowing where to go to dodge the sun can be a challenge. Luckily a number of cities across the U.S. are known for their frozen, sweet, cold wonders that somehow keep those summer temperatures at bay. Before you head out on your summer vacation, be sure to mark these frozen treat purveyors and best ice cream parlours on your map for pit stops along the way.

#1. Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis can be downright miserable in the summer months, but there’s one redeeming aspect to summers in Middle America - frozen sweet treats. Known for its tasty frozen delights, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard boasts two locations in the St. Louis area. Ted Drewes has been selling frozen custard for over 80 years, and to much acclaim. The popular spot is especially loved for its Concrete, a creation from 1959. The malt or shake is so thick, it’s served upside down and has become known as a must-have part of any visit to Ted Drewes.

#2. Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury Factory in Burlington, Vermont

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream needs no introduction. The fan favorite began with two guys, Ben and Jerry, in 1978, in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont. The pair became known as some of the best ice cream makers in the country, in part due to their colorful and humorous names like Cherry Garcia. Since those early days, Ben & Jerry’s has developed an empire. Today, you can make a pit stop at the Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury Factory and have a guided tour where you’ll learn all about the manufacturing process and then make a stop at the full service scoop shop where you’re invited to try all of your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavors.

#3. Hansen’s Sno-Bliz in New Orleans, Louisiana

Started by Ernest and Mary Hansen in 1939, Hansen’s Sno-Bliz is a New Orleans institution. Ernest invented the first ice-shaving machine while Mary created her own flavored syrups to drizzle over the ice. Today, Hansen’s Sno-Bliz still makes it own flavors from Mary’s secret recipes all while using the original machines. The fluffy ice and homemade syrups bring in crowds. Every summer, the masses flock to Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, which was named a 2014 American Classic by the James Beard Foundation. One of the best things about Hansen’s is that it’s still all in the family, now owned and operated by Ernest and Mary’s granddaughter. And while you’re in New Orleans sampling Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, you can always extend your trip and book a room at an Extended Stay America. Not only will you enjoy a tasty frozen bite, but Extended Stay America sweetens stays with a kids stay free policy.

So this summer when the temperatures swell close to and well above the nineties, finding the best ice cream shops is a priority. It’s a necessity, really, and if you’re on summer vacation, you can quiet a carload of kids with those two magic words, ice cream.  

August 7, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Best American Mini Golf Courses

Windmills, Astroturf, bubbling foundations and colorful golf balls scream miniature golf. For vacationing families, mini golf can be a great activity while traveling. Not only can you keep everyone entertained, but mini golf is fun for all ages and can provide a nice couple-hour break for road warriors to get out and stretch their weary legs. Families can join in and have a great time in the process. Your skill level doesn’t need to be as fine tuned as the real thing. You can conquer challenges with every tee off, all while having fun. Grab your clubs and sense of competition and try out these mini golf courses across the country. From volcanoes to black light courses, these spaces prove mini golf doesn’t have to be boring.

Molten Mountain Miniature Golf - North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has been known to attract a golfer or two. The area is rich in bucket list courses. And while your standard golf course is all fine and well, Myrtle Beach also takes pride in its mini golf courses. One course you won’t want to miss is Molten Mountain Miniature Golf. Proudly claiming the only active volcano in North Myrtle Beach, the course centers around a 50-foot active volcano, which erupts with fire every 30 minutes, much to the delight of mini golfers. You can take advantage of the 18 or 36-hole course. If the Southern heat is getting to you, Molten Mountain Miniature Golf also has an indoor 18-hole course. The company also boasts a few other mini golf courses in town like Cancun Lagoon and Mutiny Bay. Should you want to try them all, you can always find a nearby Extended Stay America to stay the night where kids stay free.

Urban Putt - San Francisco, California

A mini golf course usually finds a home in the suburbs, where there is ample space for windmills and fountains. However, in San Francisco, California, mini golf is decidedly more urban. At Urban Putt, you can play a high tech 14-hole mini golf course right in the heart of the city’s Mission district. Urban Putt proudly claims the title of the city’s first and only indoor miniature golf course. The course sets up in a historic Victorian building. Technically sophisticated, Urban Putt welcomes all ages to its rare indoor and urban course.

Glowing Greens - Portland, Oregon

When there is rain or bad weather on vacation, most dreams of playing mini golf head straight out the window with the gloomy clouds. Portland, Oregon knows its weather history. Acting accordingly, the city now proudly houses Glowing Greens, another indoor miniature golf course. What makes Glowing Greens unique is the lighting. The 10,000 square foot course is completely under the cover of black light, providing adventure mini golf. With a tropical island theme, all ages can enjoy the 18-hole course. You can even play with 3-D glasses for a truly eye popping experience.

 

Nothing quite says summer like a round of miniature golf. Whether you are 5 or 55, mini golf can be a fun activity for the whole family on your next summer vacation.

August 3, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

5 Awesome Florida Water Parks

Sometimes, in order to get through the heat of summer, you have to build your vacation around the water. And if you’re planning a family vacation with kiddos, a sure winner involves a water park or two. Since Florida is a state covered in water parks, it’s the perfect place to plan you next summer vacay, with thrilling spots where you can cool off your whole group and have fun in the process. But with so many water parks, it can be difficult to know which one is the right park for your family. Don’t worry - we’ve put together a list of the top water parks in Florida. 

LEGOLAND Florida Water Park in Winter Haven

About an hour south of Orlando, right next to LEGOLAND Park in Winter Haven, you can make a big splash at LEGOLAND Florida Water Park, especially if you’re looking for summer activities for kids. Designed specifically for families with kids under 12, the water park presents a fine space for everyone in your group to enjoy. Some favorite rides include the Joker Soaker, the DUPLO Splash Safari and the Build-a-Raft River. LEGOLAND Florida Water Park sits within a 150-acre interactive theme park with more than 50 rides, making it possible to head for drier lands if necessary.

Disney’s Blizzard Beach in Bay Lake

The ultimate oxymoron, Disney’s Blizzard Beach is not your average water park. While most water parks take on tropical themes, Blizzard Beach is exactly what you’d expect from its name. Designed to resemble a ski resort, the park looks impressively like a melted winter wonderland. Some of the park highlights include Mount Gushmore, one of the world’s tallest and fastest waterslides, as well as the chance to float down a tranquil river and sunbathe on a white sand beach.

Aquatica in Orlando

Located in Orlando, Aquatica is SeaWorld Orlando’s Waterpark. As a result, this water park places an impressive emphasis on sea life. Visitors can go on thrill rides, have animal encounters and find amusement rides for the whole family. One of the most popular rides is Dolphin Plunge, a ride featuring enclosed tubes that race you through a dolphin’s environment. Aquatica also receives acclaim for its Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, a free fall drop slide, and Roa’s Rapids, an action-filled river with high tides and geysers. If you want to spend more time at Aquatica or Orlando, you can also book a room at Extended Stay America while in town for all of your family needs, especially as kids stay free.

Adventure Island in Tampa

If you’re looking for one of the coolest Florida summer activities out there, look no further than Adventure Island, where you can cool off on even the hottest Florida days. The park features a lazy river called Rambling Bayou and a wave pool called Endless Surf. In addition, visitors can take advantage of tube rides, waterslides and the newest ride at the park, Colossal Curl. The ride allows you to experience the feeling of weightlessness complete with funnel and wave elements. And, this ride is great for families as it can hold up to 4 passengers.

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon in Orlando

Also located in Orlando, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon is part of Walt Disney World and all of its fun summer activities. It tends to draw the most crowds of all the water parks in the U.S. The crowds come for a reason, one of which is the surfing lagoon. The lagoon is one of the world’s largest measuring at a whopping 2.5 acres. It boasts the biggest waves of any Florida water park. The park also gives patrons the opportunity to swim with sharks along with fish, coral and plant life typically found in Caribbean waters.

 

Water slides and wave pools are all the rage come the summer months in Florida. Even if you want to travel to the Sunshine state when it is at its most balmy, your whole crew can cool off by making a splash at these water parks. 

 

July 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)