No. 9. Santa Monica Beach, Calif. This popular beach is a favorite among television and movie producers and has a great surrounding area with its world-famous Pacific Park seaside amusement park. Travelers can soak up the sun on the three mile coastline with mountain views and walking and biking paths. “It's a lovely beach: large and spacious with great views up and down the coast. The breeze from the Santa Ana Winds always feels good,” wrote a TripAdvisor reviewer. • Beachfront bargain hotel nearby: Ocean View Hotel, from $288 per night on TripAdvisor • Great airfare found on TripAdvisor: As low as $101 round-trip from DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) to LAX (Los Angeles) TripAdvisor
Why you’ll love it: Start your Music City visit with a stop at the Ryman Auditorium to explore the origins of country music and even step on the stage where The Grand Ole Opry started (then head to its new home for a fabulous all-ages show). A highlight of the Country Music Hall of Fame is the Taylor Swift Education Center where kids can learn to strum a ukulele or create a take-home art project. Be sure to indulge in some home cooking at a meat-and-three or Nashville Fried Chicken spots.
What to do: Though the real space shuttles have flown their final missions, you can feel what it's like to rocket into the stratosphere on the Shuttle Launch Experience flight simulator. Take mission control tours, have lunch with an astronaut and even train with one in a family Astronaut Training Experience (ATX) program, preparing for g-forces and a mock journey to the International Space Station.
Couchsurfing hosts sometimes take great pride in serving as tour guides and cultural ambassadors for their visitors. The website features quotes from visitors, such as Sam, who said, “Nong showed me the sights and helped me search out the best street eats (insects included!) during my week in Bangkok. She also helped me with more practical matters, like getting my Myanmar visa and planning the next leg of my Thailand trip.”
The vibe on the Florida Space Coast is, overall, beachy and relaxed, but a vacationer’s experience depends largely on the activity you choose. Of course, they don’t call it the “Space Coast” for nothing. The thrill of watching rockets launch from Cape Canaveral, whether up close or miles away, never gets old. In fact, launches still occur, with SpaceX rockets on the launch calendar for 2017. Kennedy Space Center reveals space-centric surprises, from the earliest days of space exploration to the exciting Shuttle Launch Experience and behind-the-gates tours.
Why you’ll love it: Bowling Green, located just an hour north of Nashville, is tucked in among the rolling green hills of South Central Kentucky’s Cave Country. It’s home to Mammoth Cave National Park, the world’s largest underground cave system, and the Lost River Cave, which offers Kentucky’s only underground boat tour, as well as Chaney’s Dairy Barn, a real working dairy farm that also happens to make the best ice cream in Kentucky. Don’t forget to check out the city’s National Corvette Museum where every single Corvette in the world is produced.
Just how cheap is it? Here $20 can last a day or even two if you’re feeling tapped. Your dream beach vacay awaits for lunch-money prices: In Goa, comfy waterfront bungalows go for around $30, but if you forgo housekeeping and some space, basic huts can be had for $15 (often, with breakfast). If you don’t mind skewing rustic, the beach town Gokarna, a two-hour train ride away, is even more budget-friendly. Rooms go for around $5 (a little run-down but clean), and you can shop flowy pants, dresses, and trinkets for $3 a pop, assuming your haggling is on-point.
Chosen By: Patricia Stone, founder of Global Adventuress. She's traveled to 157 countries and seeks out unique, off-the-beaten-path destinations for solo travelers, girlfriends, couples and families. Her site has been featured in the L.A. Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Toronto Star and was nominated by USA Today as a Top 20 Travel Destination site.
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