okay to admit it: you haven't planned your summer vacation yet,
Not to worry. I've got five great American summer vacations in mind
for you. They range from the rustic charm of New England to the
omnipresent glitz of Las Vegas, and, better yet, you'll still get
a reservation at these places a fair price.
No need to say thanks. Just send a nice souvenir.
HAWAII America's tropical Pacific paradise
is also America's bargain basement special this summer. Stung by
a local recession and reeling from the absence of Asian vacationers,
Hawaiian hotels and resorts are desperate the woo mainland U.S.
visitors back to the Aloha State.
You'll find empty suites at the super-swanky beachfront resorts
on the Big Island, a cornucopia of high-rise condominiums seeking
customers on Maui, and vacancies galore on the lush, green grounds
of Kauai's hotels and guest houses. There's even a binful of bargains
on Waikiki Beach, the bustling tourist town in the shadows of Diamondhead.
One example: Forget the $170 published rate at the Waikiki Beachcomber
(800-622-4646), which faces the busiest stretch of Waikiki sand.
All summer, the Beachcomber's $140 "Room & Vroom"
package offers a room and a rental car with unlimited mileage. And
just to make your Hawaiian holiday complete, the indestructible
Don Ho performs every night in the Beachcomber's showroom. (Get
more details from www.hshawaii.com, which is the web edition of
the state's official visitor's guide).
LAS VEGAS It's not that Vegas won't
be packing in the high rollers, low rollers and holy rollers all
summer, it's just that hope--and new hotel rooms--spring eternal
in the land of showgirls and snake eyes.
Even before the splashy, $1 billion Mandalay Bay resort opened with
3,700 rooms in March, Las Vegas boasted 109,000 places to sleep.
The 60-acre Mandalay Bay is so big that it houses a ¾-mile-long
river, a swim-up shark tank, 15 restaurants, and a 424-room Four
Seasons hotel. Need still more glitz and excess? May brought the
3,000-suite Venetian Casino Resort and September brings the 2,900-room
Paris Casino Resort. In case you couldn't guess, the Venetian has
a Venetian theme and the Paris Casino boasts a 50-story Eiffel Tower,
a faux Champs Elysee, and an Arc de Triomphe, all perfectly fitting
for a town that already has a pyramid, a sphinx and its own miniature
New York streetscape. This summer, USAirways Vacations (800-455-0123)
is selling two-night, midweek packages as low as $235 a person,
including roundtrip airfare and accommodations. (Want more information?
Surf over to www.lasvegas.com or www.vegas.com, websites maintained
by Las Vegas' competing daily newspapers.)
RAPID CITY If playing the slots and
visiting replicas of famous places isn't your idea of paradise,
then head for Rapid City, South Dakota. Not only is the hotel-motel-Holiday
Inn, strip-mall mentality of Rapid City as real as it gets, Rapid
City is also base camp for visitors heading to five unduplicated
Twenty five miles southwest is Mt. Rushmore, where the gigantic
granite busts of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt
remind you that we once revered presidents, not forgave them. Fifty-one
miles east is Badlands National Park, an eerie wilderness that will
remind you what this country once was. Also within a two-hour drive:
Jewel Cave National Monument, an underground labyrinth of crystals;
Wind Cave National Park, with 44 miles of underground tunnels and
caverns; and Devils Tower National Park, an awe-inspiring rock formation
that rises 265 meters above the Wyoming Plains. Call the Rapid City
Convention & Visitors Bureau (800-487-3223) or surf to its website
(www.rapidcitycvb.com) to plan your excursion.
LAKE LANIER Should you be seeking shelter from
the metaphorical storms, head for Lake Lanier. Getting away from
it all is rarely this easy.
Nestled amid a 1,200-acre pine forest in the foothills of the Blue
Ridge Mountains, Lake Lanier is only about 45 minutes from downtown
Atlanta. The lake itself, stocked with bass and crappie, is a fisherman's
paradise. And there's a 18-hole golf course and plenty of tennis
courts on Lake Lanier Islands. A homey website (www.lakelanier.com)
offers good maps, activities planners, a virtual bulletin board
for summer rentals, a guide to hotels, motels, and inns, and even
a link to a weekly fishing report. If you desire all the sybaritic
amenities with your serenity, try the Renaissance PineIsle (800-HOTELS-1),
a 250-room lakefront resort.
CONNECTICUT RIVER Want a great place
to get lost? Try The Connecticut River. It runs all through New
England--it starts at the Long Island Sound, dissects Connecticut
and Massachusetts, forms the border of Vermont and New Hampshire,
and ends beyond the Canadian border--and the valley on both sides
of the river bank is dotted with Americana.
You'll pass college towns (including Amherst and Hanover, home of
Dartmouth), big cities (Hartford) and sleepy hamlets; several mountains
named Sugarloaf; a slew of too-cute New England Inns; dozens of
places to navigate the river or ride a short-line railroad; thousands
of antique shops and hundreds of factory outlets, and a covered
bridge or two. You can even sleep at a classic American Summer palace
like The Mount Washington Resort (800-258-0330) in Bretton Woods,
New Hampshire. There is no single website covering the region, but
type "Connecticut River Valley" into any search engine,
and you'll find hundreds of pages dedicated to various portions
of the river
One last thought: If your only goal is to go somewhere cheap this
summer, poke around the Internet. The web has emerged as the travel
bazaar of last resort for airlines, hotels, and car-rental firms
looking to unload the remnants of their inventory. All major U.S.
airlines and hotel chains post last minute and weekend specials;
many will also send you a weekly E-mail with specials valid for
weekend jaunts to anywhere from Anchorage to Zurich. The fastest
way to research weekend Internet offers is to surf over to Webflyer
(www.webflyer.com), then click on the "Deal Watch" link.
The interactive procedure allows you to search all available air,
hotel and car offers by your city of departure and your chosen destination.
And don't miss Worldwide Brochures (www.wwb.com); it has an inventory
of 15,000 travel maps, guides, and brochures from vacation spots
around the world. All are free for the asking.