The third thing to worry about after paying for a flight ticket to Las Vegas and finding that discount hotel room on the Vegas strip, is "how do I get around the city?"
Getting around Las Vegas is easy and actually you don't need to hire a car unless you are planning an out of town day trip.
On your next trip to Las Vegas, take advantage of the various mass transit systems the city has to offer. There are lots of ways to get around. You can take a taxi, hop on a trolley, ride the monorail, take a bus (the Deuce), take a free shuttle or simply walk.
You'll find these in the small town of Kremmling, Colorado which you could drive through in about five seconds really if you felt that way inclined. But just off the main road is Hot Sulphur Springs, a spa complex based around natural springs of differing temperatures. Some are as tiny as a paddling pool, others are great rock pools and everyone is very friendly so if you can stand the heat you could stay there chatting for ages.
One warning - the smell, although you get used to it once you're there, it lingers for a spectacularly long time! Kind of worth it though as you do feel a million dollars when you leave.
Near Kremmling, about 70 miles from Denver, Colorado
Southeast 82nd Avenue can be a pain to navigate (many stop lights, insane traffic) but it is worth the trouble for the Asian restaurants, from Chinese to Vietnamese, that populate the strip. However, one of my favorite Asian spots is Xuyen Bakery, where you can grab a heavenly Vietnamese sandwich for two bucks and a scrumptious apple turnover for a buck.
This tiny establishment, which is easy to drive right past, is on Foster Road, between 52nd and 82nd Avenues.
ast Burnside is home to my favorite southern style restaurant, The Screen Door. I always get the NC style pulled pork with some greens and hushpuppies, but everything else is excellent. They also feature local organic salads.
For seafood, I recommend Jake's Famous Crawfish on SW Stark. Oyster lovers will enjoy the Kumamoto Oysters fresh from Netarts Bay. The crawfish boil features creatures caught in Lake Billy Chinook, south of Portland on the Warm Springs Reservation. Anything with Dungeness crab is going to be tasty and the fresh fish is mouthwatering. The prices are moderate here.
On SW Stark401 SW 12th Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97205
1-888-344-6861 toll free
I noticed that someone already mentioned Stumptown Coffee, on Belmont, but I will mention it once again! But any coffee shop you see that has a nice mix of hipsters, students, and career folk should be a decent pick. Many other coffee joints serve Stumptown coffee anyway!
Melrose Avenue is one of LA's longest and most celebrated shopping streets, home to designer boutiques, hip restaurants, street wear, thrift stores... you name it. It's also a great place to find bargains. Near to some of America's most affluent and fashion concious communities, the second hand vintage shops on Melrose are a cut above your average thrift store. It's not hard to spot designer jeans, couture dresses and other items, ranging from almost new to decades-old classics, and all at a fraction of the original price. Many of the independent boutiques in the area also sell brilliant, unique pieces for prices that are extremely reasonable for what you are getting. The Marc by Marc Jacobs boutique at Melrose & La Cienega is also surprisingly affordable.
Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles (the best section, retail wise, is in Hollywood and West Hollywood, between La Cienega & La Brea)
If your trip to the US and Canada is for several months, investigate the possibility of buying a used vehicle and then re-selling prior to returning home. The cost of insurance will be much lower, and if you buy at a reasonable price, the value of the vehicle at the end of the trip will hopefully not have dropped too much. I have done this with a motorhome, and saved a small fortune.
My boyfriend and myself travelled around the United States for six months last year and we found it much cheaper to buy a small RV and then sell it at the end. It is slightly more trouble but we managed to find a dealer online and they helped us with all the relevant registration required when we arrived. Obviously be careful but if you can spare a few days at the start and end of your trip to look for a vehicle you will end up saving a fortune. Even with the vehicle insurance we had to take out a full year policy but got six months refunded when we left (we paid about £300 for the whole year for two people driving a nine-tonne RV). For travel insurance we went with Endsleigh and they were very reasonable and flexible (you can extend your policy or add just a few days or sports cover).
Portland is called 'bohemian' by some or just plain 'weird' by others - neither is terribly accurate or honest. Portland is as much a corporately-run, high traffic, New York borough-wannabe as it is home to the truly strange and offbeat - like Voodoo Doughnut.
A literal 'hole in the wall' - located off of 3rd Avenue in what is typically considered a gregarious garage of grunge, VD is the home of the most freshly-made, oddly named, uniquely indescribable fast food ever.
Try the bacon-maple bar - a generously rectangular confection of maple and a slice or two of crispy American-style bacon; the Dirty Ol' Bastard - fat, round and smashed with Oreo cookies; the Dirty Snowball - a chocolate doughnut with a pink glaze and mystery creme inside; the Voodoo Doll Doughnut - chocolate with an oozy blood red center. VD specializes in the bizarre and untried (the Nyquil-filled doughnut is currently on hold) and the unnameable: 'specialty' doughnuts are made to order and may closely resemble the body part of your choice.
Thinking of tying the knot in Portland? VD is also known for the weddings - held in front of the "Holy Doughnut under the Cruller Chandelier of Life". Cockfights and contests are also known to be held there.
Expensive it is not - always entertaining - as they say, the 'magic is in the hole.'
22 SW 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR 97204
The Portland Rose Gardens is another local landmark site - with gorgeous views of Mt. Hood and the downtown city proper.
The 'test' gardens are literally that - experimental buds abound and many award-winners at that. Row after row after row of botanically-engineered beauty, and not just for enthusiasts.
Located in the winding playland that is Washington Park - The Rose Gardens sit within one of the best walking tours Portland has to offer - stroll up to the Japanese Gardens for an authentic cultural experience (it has been called the most perfect replica of a Japanese tea garden outside of Japan), or keep strolling up the park - playgrounds aplenty for the young ones and gorgeous picnic spots - if you make it to the top you can visit the Portland Zoo, Children's Museum, the Hoyt Arboretum or Forestry Center. Watch out for stray foxes.
Washington Park is Portland's largest and most exemplary - it is quite tourist friendly with plenty of buses, but the best way to experience it is on foot. The Washington Park Zoo train is also a refreshing option, taking you up on narrow tracks through the heavily wooded hills on an old-fashioned locomotive.
Family friendly - absolutely - but romantic enough for adventurous couples. With good trainers. A walking stick wouldn't hurt, either. Spread over 400 acres - long rests are encouraged.
Off of Hwy 26, from Burnside to Vista Avenue.
Powell's is a Portland landmark - though there are several outlets around Portland, the main attraction is the mother ship located at 10th and Burnside - it takes up an entire city block and five floors to house its beautifully eclectic and sometimes chaotic collection of literary beasts and local ephemera.
There is a genre to suit every taste, from Science Fiction (take a moment to gawk at the walls - you'll find some famous autographs scrawled there) to Gardening to Graphic Novels and even a Rare Books Room on the top floor that smells almost as antiquarian as it looks.
Powell's also boasts a small art gallery and cafe with the best local coffee. If you want a seat in the crowded cafe though, get there early.
A typical visit to Powells will set you back at least two hours. Wear your best walking shoes. Bring a backpack too - you'll need it to carry all the heavy second-hand tomes you find.
People watching is encouraged: if you want to know what real Portlanders are like, this is the place to go.
10th & Burnside
Toll Free: 800-878-7323
Portland's newest and most original art gallery - with blood red walls and a slightly improper sneer about it. Pop, lowbrow, surreal, graphic, comic book art - from Lichtenstein to Gris Grimly and back again. Exemplifies the "Keep Portland Weird" slogan - and always keeps it fresh and interesting. This is what art should be about.
936 SE 34th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214
Stumptown coffee bars are where the locals in the know drink the brown fuel.
There are a good few of them and Dandy Warhols manager Lee Cohen is the man who dragged me there. They don't tend to play jazz either.
One of the world's great independent book shops. Acres of new and second hand books. Great place to come when it's raining, which it probably is. Pick up a map and browse all day.
1005 W Burnside
Portland, OR 97209 USA
(at the corner of 10th Ave and W. Burnside)
This is a really great neighbourhood pizza place with the best dough and sauce in Portland. They only make a certain amount of dough every night and when it's gone they turn people away. These guys are serious about pizza - not only do they not deliver, they don't even allow you to call in and take out. Only warning, it can sometimes take up to an hour to get in... but, once you try this amazing pie, you forget all about the wait.
4741 SE Hawthorne. www.apizzascholls.com. 503-233-1286. 14-Hawthorne bus.
Experience New York City up close and personal with a native New Yorker who has a passion for this incredible city. Gotham Walking Tours conducts informative and entertaining public and private walking tours of multiple New York City neighbourhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn, highlighting the political, social, architectural and cultural history of the city's diverse communities. All tours are conducted by a licensed tour guide who holds advanced degrees in American history and in law from Harvard University and from NYU School of Law, and who has been researching and reading about New York City's multifaceted history for over twenty years.
Everyone seems to know that Portland, Oregon is one of the hottest US cities at the moment. Driven out of California by high costs, Portland is full of arty communities, progressive politics, and one of the best public transport systems in the US. However, the McMenamin's hotels and B&Bs are really a huge attraction. Edgefield is a former poorhouse from the 1920s, completely renovated and full of art, murals and photographs celebrating its history. Each room is unique, there is live music (free) each night, and they have a winery, brewery, distillery, movie theater, and now a full spa with soaking pool outdoors. Edgefield is right out of town in Troutdale, surrounded by orchards and 15 minutes from the Columbia River Gorge with access to miles of hikes, waterfalls and woods to explore. Not to mention Hood River as a lovely little town, still feeling like the "old west". This place is simply magical. Oh, and there are several little bars, including a tiny one called "The Little Red Shed" with a fire and about three tables. Go!
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