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ShakespeareThis year marks William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. If you can’t make it to England to honor the Bard with a pilgrimage to his hometown of Straford Upon Avon, or to the Globe Theatre in London, you can catch a free summer performance in these cities across the U.S.:

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OmniBostonLooking for a last-minute getaway? Omni Hotels & Resorts invites you to “Spring into Action” with its 72-hour flash sale. From April 1-4, rooms at the brand’s Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Boston properties will be available for less than $200 per night. Read more

Endangered Places You Didn't Know AboutThis week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation released its annual list of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places. According to the organization, the 11 spots on the list have made a unique contribution to American history but are threatened by a variety of factors, including environmental causes, neglect, and encroaching development.

This year’s list included some surprises, to say the least: Houston’s Astrodome and the unused Worldport Terminal, also known as the Pan Am terminal, at New York’s JFK Airport. With that in mind, we did some digging and found some other spots around the world whose endangered status may also come as a surprise to visitors. Read more

With frostbite creeping up on us all over the continental U.S., cities sitting well south of the Mason-Dixon are looking increasingly inviting. As the winter convention season heats up, you may find yourself traveling down to southern Texas, with Houston next up in our continuing series of business travel destinations ripe for some personal time. In an effort to get you outside of the boardroom and into the wilds of Space City, we’re offering up two restaurants, two attractions, and one bar that you can hit with just a few extra hours between meetings.

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donkey elephant republican democratsThe Republican National Convention is under way in Tampa, Florida (with a watchful eye on Hurricane Isaac). Next week, Democrats will descend on Charlotte, North Carolina for their quadrennial festivities. When it’s all over, the two host cities will join a fairly short list of places that have welcomed the two major political parties. We decided to take a look at that list and see which cities have hosted the most national conventions, what presidential history has been left behind, and what kinds of attractions continue to make those destinations such fantastic vacation spots.

There are some surprises in our Top 10 National Conventional Host Cities. Denver hosted its only two conventions 100 years apart. Cincinnati had its number called to host the parties three different times (granted, all between 1856 and 1880). The Democrats didn’t hold a convention in the South after the Civil War until 1928’s affair in Houston.

Which city has hosted the most conventions? Which president was the “second-most hated man in Miami” (according to those in Little Havana)? And what can you do now in all of those cities to enjoy a great vacation? All of the answers are waiting for you here.

The 2012 Democratic and Republican National Conventions will be held in Charlotte and Tampa, respectively. Both cities are first-time hosts of the major political parties’ biggest quadrennial affairs. The conventions have a long history, dating back to the 19th century, and have convened their delegates in nearly every region of the United States (sorry, Pacific Northwest). Many cities have hosted multiple national conventions and witnessed history made and political careers launched. Some of these delegate destinations have not seen a convention since before the Great Depression, while others welcomed the political machines during the current economic downturn. Our top 10 national convention host cities have seen their fair share of political drama, backstabbing, and glad-handing. Their places in history vary, but they all have plenty to offer visitors who are looking to learn about the past, or simply enjoy a vacation in the present. As thousands of people descend on Charlotte and Tampa, we turn the spotlight on some of the other cities that have hosted the presidents.

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By: Mike Barish and Liz Webber

TicketLister.com

You probably have your July 4th plans locked down already – the barbecue, the fireworks, maybe a community parade. But what about the rest of the summer? That’s where we come in. There are plenty of free festivals and events taking place across the country this July and August (and even into Labor Day weekend and beyond) that are well worth a spot on your busy social calendar. While we can’t include every event out there (here’s to you, Grainger County Tomato Festival), we’ve picked a mix of the coolest and most unique fests in popular summer destinations. From the country’s oldest free Shakespeare festival to a Jerry Garcia tribute day, from rock concerts on the beach to movies under the stars, mark your calendars for the best free summer entertainment the U.S. has to offer.

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Megabus Double DeckerPlanning a trip in the South? Skip the frisky screeners at TSA and take a bus instead, as Megabus expands its operations into Texas and other Southern states with fares as low as $1.

Beginning June 19, customers who book early can secure dollar seats from Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio to locations like Austin and other states like Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana. While prices go up as the traveling date gets closer, Megabus is giving away 10,000 free seats and capping the price of its tickets at $1 during the first week of sales to promote its new service. Read more

iStock

In life, being in the right place at the right time is often due to serendipity, but in travel, it almost always results from good planning. To avoid crowds and inflated prices, venture out between high and low seasons when the weather is fine, destinations are still welcoming travelers, and you can explore a locale at your own pace. We call this magical intersection of time and space the Sweet Spot and make it a point to round up the best of them for you each season. We’ve covered the 20 best places to travel for value this summer and grouped them by region – follow the links to the right to discover this season’s Sweet Spots.

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By: Alexander Basek

BreakUpWithSugar.com

America is a melting pot, and barbecue, the most American of foods, is just as diverse. You might be tempted to spend the summer grilling in your backyard, but when there are so many different kinds of smoked meats to try from sea to shining sea, why not explore all the true BBQ that America has to offer? From dry rub in Memphis, to Vinegar-based sauces in North Carolina, to brisket with a ring of smoke in Texas, you’ll get a little bit of everything as you crisscross the map. Here are ten of our favorite cities for indulging in BBQ.

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La TorrettaThough it’s winter, there’s no reason to miss out on outdoor activities with the Winter Solstice Package from the 4-star La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa in Montgomery, Texas, just 50 minutes north of Houston on the shores of Lake Conroe. Choose from a luxury suite or villa accommodation, both featuring private balconies, with prices starting from $179 per night. Included in the package is breakfast for two at the Prime Restaurant, a chef welcome amenity, a discount pass for 25% off at the 18-hole Club at La Torretta golf course as well as 25% off a one hour massage at SpaTerre, and waived resort fees! Plus, guests have access to the aqua park, featuring multiple pools (open year round), as well as the Lake Conroe’s kayaking and fishing. Travel now through January 31, 2012.

THE VALUE: This package offers well over $100 in amenities and savings, including the breakfast valued at $48!

THE CATCH: There is no book by date but the package is subject to availability.

THE DETAILS: To book your stay, visit www.latorrettalakeresort.com.

WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find low rates on flights to Houston.

Ecocafe Pledge BoardRealistically, Earth Day can be celebrated any day when dining out. It’s easy to find eco-friendly eateries around the country that serve sustainable food and embrace environmental business practices – online directories like the Green Restaurant Association (www.dinegreen.com) even provide state-by-state listings.

But many of these restaurants and cafés step it up a notch on Earth Day itself by offering special menu items and discounts, and producing special events and entertainment. On April 22, dine out and do good at these eight locations nationwide.

Red Stag Supper Club: Start the day with breakfast at Minneapolis’ Red Stag Supperclub (www.redstagsupperclub.com), where all money raised from 8am to 12pm benefits the Land Stewardship Project (www.landstewardshipproject.org). Minnesota’s first LEED-certified restaurant will serve up locally-produced and organic ingredients, while the LSP will give brief presentations.

Eco-Cafe: Write your pledge to go green on the chalkboard in front of New Orleans’ Eco-Café (www.ecocafeno.com) and you’ll get a free cup of organic coffee. That Friday, featured menu items – like the soup and salad combo – will be made exclusively with ingredients from Holly Grove Farm, just three miles away.

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Reliant Stadium HoustonIt’s tournament time in Texas! Want to be in Houston for the NCAA finals on April 2 and 4? Or just want a southern spring break, but spent all your money on a losing bracket? Continental has you covered: Travel now through June and get low round-trip fares starting from just $148 on routes from select cities nationwide (including New Orleans, Indianapolis, Newark, Hartford and more) to Houston. Whether you’re coming for basketball or just for great dining in the nation’s fourth-largest city, these cheap fares (not including taxes) are super rates for this time of year.

Sample Fares (R/T)

* New Orleans – Houston: $183+
* Orange County – Houston: $238+
* Indianapolis – Houston: $248+
* Hartford – Houston: $308+
* Newark – $398+

THE VALUE: This sale can save you more than 40% on regularly priced round-trip flights to Houston

THE CATCH: There’s no book-by date, so grab these deals while they last. Also, taxes and fees are not included.

THE DETAILS: Click here to book your flight with Continental.

WE’VE GOT MORE: Visit our Southern Hotel Deals pages to find a hot Houston hotel.

Sign up to receive more editor-vetted deals with our Top 25 Newsletter.

Torretta EditThis holiday season everyone is family at La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa. Between now and December 30, 2010, the resort is extending their Friends and Family Discount to everyone, lowering suite and villa accommodations to as little as $119/Night (Reg. $250)! Located an hour north of Houston on beautiful Lake Conroe, La Torretta offers a unique mix of relaxation and adventure. Visit the SpaTerre for a day of total rejuvenation or take off to the lake for some of the best fishing in East Texas, where guests can make use of the resort’s own 300-slip marina by renting a boat.

THE VALUE: This deal saves guests 48% a night!

THE CATCH: There’s less than two weeks left to receive this discount.

THE DETAILS: To book, visit www.latorrettalakeresort.com.

WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to book a flight Texas.

Check out our Houston Travel Guide for more great ideas in the area.

Houston for KidsWhile the JW Marriott just barely misses the number one spot in ShermansTravel.com’s current Houston hotel rankings, the property is easily the top pick for families this fall with a package running through the end of the year with rates starting at $189 a night. Two grownups will not only dine at the breakfast buffet free for each day of their stay (kids under 12 eat as well as stay free, too) but will also get free adult admissions to the Children’s Museum of Houston (www.cmhouston.org), one of the better hands-on kids museums anywhere. Being as you’re in a state that makes lots of buildings and energy, two popular exhibits here focus on construction and hydropower. Not as expected are two new interactive areas that’ll give the kids glimpses of what life is like in Hangzhou, China and Oaxaca, Mexico. Read more

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