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National wildlife refuges — protected lands managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service — offer many of the same recreational opportunities as national parks at a fraction of the cost. Some are even free, unless you plan to hunt, fish, or camp. We love these (mostly) gratis activities for experiencing the wilderness in a whole new way:

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Kimpton Hotels & Restaurant’s annual Karma Rewards Sale is back! This means the boutique hotel group is offering its lowest rates of the year — starting as low as $99 at some properties — along with double stay credit. To take advantage of the special rates, you’ll have to become a Karma Rewards member, but joining is free.

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CruiseOne of the great things about river cruise ships and other small vessels is the opportunity to locally source food, beer, and wine. Unlike large cruise ships, which haul aboard tons of frozen foods at the start of each voyage, smaller ships can pick and choose from local and regional farms, breweries, and wineries along their itineraries, buying what they need for a smaller number of guests.

One of the leaders in this concept is the American Queen Steamboat Company, which has just launched its newest river paddlewheeler, the 223-passenger American Empress. Read more


Last month we told you about the enticing open-air fitness offerings available for visitors to the Charm City. But what to do post-fitness session with a fully worked up appetite? We thought we’d point you to restaurants where you can mingle with locals, eat in good conscience, and, if you want, venture beyond the typical crab meals. Keep reading for where to eat for each meal in Baltimore:

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BaltimoreInnerHarborWith a tendency toward unhealthy habits, and a tough reputation earned through a certain television drama, Baltimore is perhaps not a city you would expect to be very favorable to such wholesome pursuits as outdoor exercise. A quick glance around the landmark Inner Harbor on any given morning, however, rebuts those preconceived ideas. Judging from the many joggers pounding the pathways, Baltimore is in fine shape.

Thanks to a handful of initiatives over the past couple of years, visitors can join in with the local fitness movement while taking in the sights. By signing up for one of the following programs, you can get out of your hotel and into an activity more challenging than the usual sightseeing stroll. And, all the better, you’ll feel like you’ve earned that inevitable beer and crab dinner.

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Things to do in BaltimoreCharm City is perhaps most charming just as summer is making its way in. Cool breezes off the harbor help offset the humidity, and all of the locals seem to have a bit of a lighter walk. If you’re fortunate enough to be headed to Baltimore soon, we’re offering up two restaurants, two attractions, and one bar to add to your itinerary. Read more

New National MonumentsLast week, President Obama designated five new national monuments. The White House noted that the monuments “help tell the story of significant people and extraordinary events in American history, as well as protect unique natural resources for the benefit of all Americans.” Read on to find out where they are and what they commemorate. Read more

Best Restaurants in BaltimoreIn a city more known for its picturesque harbor, baseball park, and greatest television series known to mankind (yes, I’m still mourning The Wire), Baltimore also deserves a nod for its culinary hot spots that go far beyond the crabs. Here’s the deal: Most visitors’ stay in the Inner Harbor area – which is lovely – but riddled with chains. My advice? Lace up your sneakers or spring for a taxi on a few great meals outside the area. Here are three must-stops for some great bites in Baltimore. Read more

Baltimore Inner HarborThe city of Baltimore is buzzing with excitement as the Ravens prepare to square off against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII this Sunday. It’s the birds’ second Super Bowl appearance – they won the franchise’s lone title in 2001. But Super Bowl mania isn’t the only reason to visit B’more. February is Black History Month, and the history of African-Americans is as rich and storied as the city itself. With a plethora of events taking place, you can be sure to find entertainment, and knowledge, during your trip.

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Minnewaska Snowshoe OverlookSome people would have you believe that hiking is a 3-season activity. Assuming a concerned tone, they’ll warn you about frigid temperatures, park closures, and impassable trails. And, to a certain extent, they might be right. In the United States, winter is a season for skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating. Or gathering around a fireplace with a few friends and a mug of hot cocoa or mulled wine.

Hikers should know however, that they don’t have to put off their kind of fun until the spring thaw, even if the snowdrifts outside continue to grow. They simply need to pick up a new piece of gear: snowshoes. A basic pair will only cost a little more than the waterproof, Gore-Tex boots you probably already own. Once you’ve chosen your snowshoes, all you need to do next is dress in layers, pack plenty of snacks and water (and maybe a few hand warmer packets just in case), and select a trail. To get you started, here’s a short list of state parks in the Northeast with winter trails and on-site rental facilities. Read more


vineyard casksEven without snow and ice in the forecast, December and January temperatures have a way of keeping otherwise outgoing people indoors. So if skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing aren’t exactly your cup of hot cocoa, you might be scratching your head wondering what to do with a few spare vacation days or a long weekend this winter. One idea is to hit the road with a wine tote, journal, and a designated driver. In the United States, star-studded California tends to be the biggest magnet for oenophiles, but the East Coast has dozens of its own wine trails too, many of which are a short drive from New York, Philadelphia, or Baltimore. Plus, by visiting some of these small wineries in the off-season, you’ll avoid the crowds that can choke parking lots on warmer spring and summer weekends. Read more

Hotel Palomar Washington DCExpress your patriotism in luxury this Independence Day with Kimpton Hotels’ “Red, White, and BOOM!” sale, featuring discounts of up to 20 percent on the group’s establishments in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland for stays from June 21 to July 8. The sale begins at 12am on June 21 and ends just before midnight on June 24.

With rates starting as low as $109 per night, guests are spoilt for choice among Kimpton’s twelve hotels in the D.C. area. In our nation’s capital, choose from the regal Hotel Monaco, which offers vaulted 20-foot ceilings, luxury bath products and terrycloth bathrobes, and a pet goldfish that is yours for the duration of your stay, or the contemporary Hotel Palomar, with its flat flat-screen televisions, 24-hour room service from Urbana Restaurant, and in-room spa services like a hot stone massage.

Both hotels offer easy access to attractions like the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the National Mall, and the White House. If this still doesn’t suit your needs, Kimpton’s deal also extends to other locations, like the boutique Donovan House in D.C., the Lorien Hotel and Spa in Virginia, and the Hotel Monaco in Baltimore, Maryland.

Regardless of where you stay, all guests have access to Kimpton’s complimentary perks, like morning coffee service, hosted wine hour receptions every evening, and free Wi-Fi. And for the summer, children under 12 are entitled to a free breakfast for the duration of their stay, with no additional charges for the family pet either.

To book, visit and enter the code “BOOM” in the rate code box. The site only goes live when the sale starts on June 21, so get your trigger fingers ready.

For more trip-planning information, visit our Washington, D.C. and Maryland destination guides, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, vacation packages, and more travel deals.

What's Great About I-95Making sure the kids (and adults) are entertained while on a summer road trip can really make or break your vacation. The new book What’s Great About . . . I-95 by road trip expert Barbara Barnes offers a fun and educational way to pass the time while cruising down one of the U.S.’s most-traveled stretches of highway.

“It really does make [the ride] go faster,” says Barnes of the book. “It keeps the driver alert, and it makes the drive more fun.”

With sections broken down by state and points of interest designated by mile marker, Barnes maps out all 1,925 miles of I-95 from Houlton, Maine to Miami. The book highlights sights to look out for from the highway (like the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania and the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia) while providing little-known facts about notable people and places (The first woman to run for president? Victoria Woodhull, in 1872).

Now that you’ve got the car ride entertainment covered, we asked Barnes for her advice on planning the rest of your vacation. Here are five tips for the perfect I-95 road trip:

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iStock InternationalDiscover where the leaders of the free world get away from it all with these presidential vacations

No matter what your mother told you, chances are you’re never going to be President of the United States – after all, only 43 men to date can make the claim. So where on earth does the leader of the free world go for a little R & R? Anywhere he wants. It may come as a surprise, however, that the favorite places of the first families are often decidedly low-key destinations – places ordinary civilians vacation every day. So even if your job isn’t quite as stressful as the commander in chief’s, take a trip to one of the destinations on our top 10 presidential vacations list, and you can get away like it is.

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Tilghman SizedIf you live on the East Coast, take the opportunity to escape to the romantic Tilghman Island Inn in Maryland for just $83 a night. Stay two nights between February 1 and April 30 and receive a third night for free with this offer. Tilghman Island is within comfortable driving distance from many East Coast cities and makes a perfect weekend getaway. It is under a two hour drive from Baltimore, two hours from Washington, D.C., under three hours from Philadelphia, and four hours from New York City.

Surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay and the Choptank River, the island offers a full range of water sport rentals, unique sail and motor boat excursions, and mapped water trails. There are also plenty of land-based activities, from sipping cocktails and playing board games by the fire in the lounge, sampling local delicacies at the inn’s award-winning restaurant, Isabel’s, or simply enjoying the entrancing beauty of the bay, river, and marshes.

THE VALUE: You will save 33% with this third night free offer.

THE CATCH: You need to stay two nights to get a third one for free.

THE DETAILS: Visit the Tilghman Island Inn Website or call 800-866-2141 and mention 3 for 2 offer.

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