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Denver

iStock/Lake Tahoe in AutumnReady to drive? America in fall is marvel: cooler weather and colorful foliage spread across the northeast; comfortably sunny days are the norm from Vegas to Miami; and there’s perfect hiking weather in the west. Over the past few months, we’ve highlighted dozens of destinations that are perfect for a road trip, whether you’re looking to discover a new beach in Florida, visit a winery in upstate New York, sail on Lake Tahoe, or delve into an American classic — the Grand Canyon. Here are some ideas that we hope will inspire you — and persuade you to fill up the tank and go.

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Downtown Denver Sign

If you think of Denver as a convenient gateway to an amazing mountain or nature trip, you’re right. For skiers and hikers, it’s the closest major city to such perennial favorites as Telluride, Aspen, and Breckernridge. But with breweries galore, a charming restaurant district, affordable hotels, and a mile-wide cultural streak, the Mile-High City is developing into a travel destination unto itself. Here’s how to eat and drink your way through this affordable, good-natured city. In fact, you may never even make it to the mountains.

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Small-batch, artisanal spirits have made a big splash on the cocktail scene. Most of the micro-distilleries that produce these flavorful pours offer onsite tastings, but quite a few now give tours. Here are 10 stellar micro-distilleries around the nation that not only offer tasty products but serve up offer fun tours with great stories behind each bottle.

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Panera

We’re a fan of pay-as-you wish restaurants, both as a way to avoid marked-up prices and as a chance to give back to the destinations on our travels. Here’s how it works: nonprofit restaurants encourage customers to pay for their meal based on what they’re able to afford, and/or give free meals in exchange for volunteer work at the restaurant. For travelers who do have a meal budget, it’s nice to know that our dollars are going toward establishments that provide resources and job training for the local community, and you can always take it a step further by volunteering as well has making monetary donations if you have the time and desire (free meals are meant for those who really can’t afford to pay). A number of establishments in the U.S. have successfully adopted this model. Here are four across the country to check out the next time you hit the road.

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stgeorgeopenairSummer means open-air movies in many of the world’s cities, but not all open-air cinemas are created equal. Here’s a roundup of eight of the very best al fresco movie theaters where the surroundings rival the drama on-screen. Read more

Courtesy of Cinco de Mayo Denver

Not to be confused with Mexico’s Independence Day on September 16, Cinco de Mayo traditionally commemorates Mexico’s freedom from France. Today, May 5 remains one of the most notable occasions for recognizing the country’s rich history – and people use the day as a good excuse to celebrate Mexican heritage in all its finest forms, from mariachi to margaritas. Here, five cities across the U.S. with festive (and mostly free) celebrations.

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BaseballGoing to the ballpark isn’t what it used to be: ticket, concession, and parking costs all combine to put a major strain on your wallet, hindering the enjoyment of the game itself. Going with a family of four? You’re looking at a $200 night, at least, just to watch two teams hit a ball around. Savvy travelers can still find ways to do it on a budget, though. Here are a few tips to help you beat the system:

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Denver BeerIt’s no secret that Denver brews good beer, and lots of it. From Great Divide, to Oskar Blues, to New Belgium, the front range of the Rockies is calling itself the “Napa Valley of beer” these days. And given that it hosts one of the world’s largest beer events every year in October, we’d have a hard time disagreeing. Hitting a few pubs should be on the list of every traveler to the Mile High City, and these lesser-known city breweries taste something you can’t get elsewhere. Plus, you’ll earn bonus points with the locals. Read more

riverpark-nyc-restaurant-week-2014-winter-620At first glance, Restaurant Week might seem like a great way for travelers to try their destinations’ most beloved restaurants for less. The annual or biannual discount dining program typically offers three-course, prix fixe dinner in the $20-$40 range – and sometimes lunch for even less – at establishments that could typically set you back by more than $100 a meal. Alas, some restaurants will cut corners during this time, and the specials aren’t always all that special. Here are some Restaurant Week pitfalls to watch for, and how to avoid them: Read more

Moonrise

Like it or not, a big part of being a tourist involves waiting in line: at the hotel check-in desk, at the museum entrance, waiting for their tour guide to show up. But when it comes to seeing jaw-dropping views, here’s a more efficient use of your time: instead of one-stop observation decks, why not head to a high-up restaurant for lunch or dinner? You might not consider these traditional tourist attractions, but for the quality of the views (not to mention the meal itself!), these places will have you whipping out your camera in no time: Read more

Boulder Mountain Biking TrailsAs it gets colder, travelers are beginning to think about ski destinations. And while Denver, Colorado might be on many people’s lists, they should also consider it for shoulder season cycling. There are plenty of trail options for bicyclists and you don’t have to go too far outside the city to find them. Scattered in the Front Range (where you’ll find Denver and Boulder) and in nearby Breckenridge (about an hour and a half west of Denver) are prime trails where bikers can get their thrills.

Shannon Galpin, 2013 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and an avid cyclist. In 2009, she became the first woman to mountain bike in Afghanistan, a country where the culture doesn’t allow women to ride bikes. Galpin lives in Breckenridge and we’ve asked her to share her five favorite trail rides in Breckenridge and the Front Range. All can be reached by bike from the nearest town and are equally accessible to hikers. Read more

Icelandair Winter Flight DealsYour winter travel plans may not be on your mind yet, but here’s some incentive to start thinking about (and booking) them now: amazing flight deals. From Reykjavik to Oslo, Copenhagen, and more, you can fly round-trip this winter from multiple U.S. cities (New York, Denver, D.C., and others) on Icelandair from $546. As unappealing as cold weather might sound right now, these hot (well…so to speak) European destinations should give you something to look forward to this winter. Check out some of our favorite destinations and deals below. Read more

Denver International AirportWhen was the last time you flew somewhere just to check out the airport? If the answer is ‘never,’ then a new trend sweeping the U.S. might make you reconsider. From Denver to Long Beach to San Antonio, more and more airports are trading out old, generic food courts for diverse, high-quality offerings that reflect the local flavor. Creating partnerships with major concession operators, these ‘hyper-local’ vendors are combating the anonymous airport experience by providing a unique sense of place – not to mention an excellent meal – before and after passengers board the plane.

When Denver International Airport realized last year that many of the leases for its food and beverage outlets were set to expire, officials seized a unique opportunity to overhaul 75% of its concessions. Explains DIA’s Chief Commercial Officer John Ackerman: “We’re bringing in a new blend of local Denver brands and concepts that will completely transform the character of the airport.”

Indeed, in the past six months, a dozen or so new restaurants have opened, including an outpost of the Denver-based Elway’s Steakhouse. With several locations in Denver and another one in Vail, the popular airport eatery (which is owned by former NFL star John Elway) gets so busy on weekends, there is often a wait list to get inside. On top of that, there’s the upcoming Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs, which began life as a hot dog stand in downtown Denver, and Udi’s Cafe and Bar, whose line of gluten-free treats was recently acquired by Smart Balance.

A similar thing is happening at San Diego International Airport, where 71 new restaurants and shops are expected to open between now and early 2014 – including the city’s first in-terminal spa. In June, SDIA debuted Craft Brews on 30th Street, a restaurant and bar inspired by San Diego’s lively 30th Street Corridor, and which features a range of seasonal and year-round beer selections from local breweries like Ballast Point, Coronado Brewing Co., Green Flash and Left Coast.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, the trend is manifesting itself in sleek new concourses, ice cream shops, and Mexican street food eateries. Read more

NYC Blog TravelArriving to a new city can be disorienting. With most of our energy exerted on deciphering the public transportation system and finding a decent place to eat, we end up forfeiting the other, more rewarding aspects of urban travel: exploring lesser-known neighborhoods, learning local history, and zeroing in on key cultural happenings.

Local blogs can be of immense help when it comes to quickly finding out what’s happening in a new city – and what’s worth your time. Unlike travel guides, which limit themselves to hotel and restaurant reviews, maps, and at-a-glance neighborhood descriptions, blogs offer curated, useful information on a particular aspect of the city, updated on a regular basis by locals in the know.

Here are a few top-notch online sources that will turn you into an expert the next-time you find yourself in… Read more

Best Summer BeersSummer is the perfect time to pop the top on an ice cold beer. But, not just any beer will do. Warm weather lends itself to lighter, crisper brews, and these nine offerings fit the bill as some of the best summer beers. Enjoy at home, or better yet, include a brewery tour on your summer vacation itinerary. Read more

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