Top Winter Villages

Do you become active and engaged during winter months, or do you prefer to hibernate? Do you like to shop, be outdoors, or cuddle by a fire? The small-town lifestyle of American villages offer a way to relax and do whatever you like at a slower pace. After all, what is better than a getaway that leaves all the hustle and bustle behind? We’ve handpicked a few winter wonderlands that have something for everyone, so lean back as we take you through them.

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Vail offers world-class skiing in a town that encompasses all the charm of a European alpine village. This city lives up to its reputation as a top entertainment and shopping destination. The slopes at Vail offer a wide range of terrain from kid-friendly to expert. Skiers with children love Vail because kids can attend a thorough ski school as they indulge on the resort’s diverse terrain. At day’s end, sip hot cocoa while walking the village’s cobblestone streets, perusing its wide selection of restaurants.

Berkshires, Massachusetts

The Berkshires’ winter is what inspired the picturesque romantic white Christmas scenes we see around the holidays. New England is full of dreamy small towns with classic red barns, open roads, great food, and friendly people. Look anywhere for scenery that appears right out of a painting. Make sure to stop by the Blantyre Hotel to see the 110-foot decorated Christmas tree. You can rent rooms with a traditional fireplace and four-poster beds. Step outside into the sparkling snow and enjoy a sleigh ride.

Cannon Beach is located on the beautiful coast of northern Oregon. It’s a city that remains calm and quaint in spite of its relatively close proximity to its neighboring city of Portland. You can find arguably the best coffee in the United States around any corner. Cooler weather during winter months make prices favorable to visitors. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway with a view, Cannon Beach should be at the top of your list. A stay at the Blue Gull Inn will have you situated right near the famous Haystack Rock.

This desert oasis takes on a new feel in the winter. There’s something magical about seeing Arizona’s fiery-red mountain tops dusted in sparkly snow. Winter is the best season to save on hotels and avoid crowds. Driving through the canyons, catching a hot-air balloon ride, or gazing at the unobstructed night sky are just a few of the many relaxing things to do here. Are you looking to get away for some peace and quiet? Sedona, Arizona is waiting for you.

Located at the foot of California’s Sierra Mountains, this popular ski village hosts visitors from around the world for some of the best winter sports west of the Rockies. Mammoth Mountain overlooks Lake Tahoe with a view of the surrounding Sierra peaks. Last year Mammoth Mountain had the longest ski season in California’s history, 270 days, getting 51 feet of snowfall at the basecamp. The skiing is great for all skill levels. There are three amazing lodges we recommend: Main Lodge, Canyon Lodge, and Eagle Lodge. Each are luxurious and cater to your every desire. Be sure to grab an après-ski beer at one of the village’s handful of micro-breweries.

Visit Bonwi.com to start planning your winter retreat. You’ll be packing your mittens and sharing hot chocolate by the fireside soon enough!

A San Francisco Getaway: How Do the Points Compare?

The most important number besides the cost of the room are the Bonwi points rewards!

I’m getting ready to head out to the west coast in April, and so, the first place I visited was Bonwi.com to compare how many points that might get me versus other booking sites like Hotels.com.

The thing about Bonwi is that the hotel search is pretty much the same as you’d find on any booking site, but that little number is the key–the rewards.

The most important number besides the cost of the room are the Bonwi points rewards!
The most important number beside the cost of the room is the Bonwi points rewards!

After I stopped being amazed at the first hotel, where my four-night jaunt would set me back a cool $436,932 for a stay at the swanky Francisco Bay Inn, I got down to business. You can see that even if I chose a modest hotel, like the Marriott San Francisco Fishermen’s Wharf, at $316 a night, I’d be bringing home a bonanza of Bonwi points–32866, which I can use for a rental car or for a hotel during a future stay. Bonwi points don’t expire so they will be usable whenever I need them later.

If I bumped the price up to $351 a night, I’d be getting a whopping 42,110 points!! That’s a lot of hotels and car rentals, for sure.

How many points would I get if I booked on Hotels.com?  Well, for the Hotel Bijou, which at $219 is the exact same price as on Bonwi, I’d be happy that I would be able to add the four nights to the site’s pledge of a free night for every ten paid nights.   So I’d earn $219, the value of the free hotel night.

But getting the 15,590 points in my Bonwi account gives me much more.  So not only did I get the best rate, YES, I got points to use in the future. It’s all win-win~

Bonwi Points Now Include Amazon Gift Cards for Hotel Stays

Amazon Gift Cards!?    Bloomingdale’s Gift Cards?!  Now THAT’s getting rewarded, Bonwi style. No other booking site can match the points and the ease of use you’ll find when you find and book a hotel anywhere around the world using Bonwi.

A room price that’s competitive with all of the other big booking sites.  Check.

The ability to earn far more points that you’ll ever even think of earning on Hotels.com (Buy ten nights, get one free–that takes a long time!)  Check

Look at the large number of points you get from a simple three-night stay in Fort Lauderdale from Bonwi!
Look at the large number of points you get from a simple three-night stay in Fort Lauderdale from Bonwi!

You can book the hotel and take the 13,000 points and turn it into a $130 gift card to go shopping during your trip to Fort Lauderdale! When you want to search Bonwi by points, you click a box and you get a new listing. Just a few stays in a hotel in one city could pay for your next hotel in another city!

Whether you want to use your points for hotel rooms, convert your points to useful things like Amazon or Bloomingdale gift cards, the choice is yours.

If you compare the point value of using Bonwi, it will quickly become clear that no other booking site has even tried to come close to this value.

So the next time YOU are booking travel….but business or pleasure. Get what you deserve, flexible points that never expire that will give you a whole lot more for your money.

Reward Points Battle: IHG Rewards Club vs. Bonwi

IHG Hotel Willard Intercontinental in DC

IHG Hotel Willard Intercontinental in DC

We say that Bonwi gives you a better loyalty points payback than any hotel booking site out there, but what about individual hotel chains? Could you earn a free night faster by booking direct?

From our research, we haven’t found any program that allows you to get to a free stay faster. Let’s look at one of them in detail: the IHG Rewards program that includes 12 brands across 5,000 hotels and resorts.

How the IHG Rewards Program Works

In some ways the IHG Rewards Club is the best of the direct booking ones. They have the most properties to choose from in a whole lot of markets, the point earning levels are transparent, and most of the redemption levels are in the range of 10,000 to 35,000 points. (With Marriott, Hyatt, or Hilton you can easily be looking at twice that much.) Their brands range from good-value suite hotels to Holiday Inn Express to Intercontinental. When they finally consolidate their program with the Kimpton chain they bought, that will be another option for redemption.

To earn points, you stay at any of their properties. You earn 10 points per dollar at most of them for your stay, but 5 points per dollar at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites. If you have their credit card you earn many more by paying with that and IHG frequently runs promotions that give you bonus miles. (It takes a while to hit elite status normally, but the credit card ups you to Platinum automatically.)

With 10 or 5 points per stay, that means you would earn 1,500 points for spending $150 for most of their properties, but 750 points at Staybridge or Candlewood. The lowest possible redemption is 5,000 in their “Points Breaks” promotions, but those are usually hotels that nobody is booking, in obscure locations. Think Gadsden, AL; Anderson, SC; or Silao in Mexico. The more common minimum is 10,000, for a Holiday Inn Express. So it would normally require at least $1,000 in spending at their properties before earning an award, or $2,000 if staying at the bottom category ones. At $100 a night that’s 10 or 20 nights. At $150 a night it’s 7 or 14 nights.

How the Bonwi Rewards Program Works

With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple on the earnings side, but that’s because the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 1,500 points for a $150 room charge. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of the price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points.

Comparison of Earnings in Two Markets

Let’s say you’ve got two business trips coming up in California. One is in San Francisco and one is in San Diego. How would your earnings differ between IHG and Bonwi?

Bonwi points back San Francisco

If you booked your San Francisco stay at the Holiday Inn Civic Center for two nights, you would pay $449 with tax either way. If you booked direct through the IHG site, that would translate to 4,490 points. If you booked it at Bonwi, you would earn 12,220 points.

A month later you need to spend two nights in San Diego. You pull up the IHG site and see the Crowne Plaza Hanalei is a pretty good deal at $166 per night before taxes. The total tab for two nights is $366. If you go ahead and book it through the IHG site, you will earn $366 X 10, or 3,666 points. If you book it through Bonwi instead, you will earn 10,289 points. Another big difference.

Bonwi vs. IHG points in San DIego

Cashing in Your Loyalty Points

Now that you’ve earned some points, what can you get if you take your kid to Orlando for a weekend getaway in March?

If you wanted to redeem what you’ve earned from these two stays, you wouldn’t have enough points with IHG Rewards. From those four nights, you only earned 8,156 points. Only a Points Break promotion would be available. Let’s assume you already had a couple thousand in the account though or you got past 10K with credit card spending.

From Bonwi you have a total of 22,509 points.

For weekends in March, with 10K IHG points from IHG, you’re going to come up empty. There is nothing available on a Friday or Saturday night in March for under 20,000 points, the amount that three of the four hotels below would require. The Holiday Inn Orlando Suites Waterpark hotel would require 35,000. So you would have to use their “points and cash” option and pay at least $70 on top of the 10,000 points.

IHG Rewards points in Orlando

For the same weekends in March with the 22,509 Bonwi points earned from four nights paid, you have lots of choices for a free night’s stay at IHG properties. These are just a few of them, including taxes:
– Holiday Inn Resort Orlando – Lake Buena Vista – 17,663
– Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites Waterpark – 20,273
– Holiday Inn Orlando SW – Celebration Area – 15,139
– Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orlando at Seaworld -20,412

If you want to use your points for something else, you’re much better off with Bonwi. With us you can use your points for any flight of $225 or less with those 22,509 points, or you can get two $100 gift cards from major retailers and still have some left over. The points are valued at a penny a mile. If you want to cash in for a reward card with IHG, you usually pay 20,000 points for just a $50 gift card. That’s one-fourth the value, on points that required more spending to start with.

So which program offers you a faster payoff? This one is a no-brainer.

Reward Points Battle: Hotels.com vs. Bonwi

Las Vegas hotel rewards

hotels.com rewards compared to Bonwi

If you use Bonwi to book your hotel stays, you’re probably going to earn a big reward payback much faster than with other services. How much faster? Let’s compare how long it would take to get a free hotel room night from Hotels.com compared to Bonwi.com.

We picked three cities in the USA and assumed you had a budget of less than $150 per night. Then we looked at how many nights you would have to book to get a free hotel stay in return.

How the Programs Work

With Hotels.com, the rules are easy to understand: stay 10 nights and get one free. “The value of your free night is the average price of the 10 nights you collect.” Once you have completed 10 hotel stays, you can book whatever hotel you want at any time with the credit based on the average stay amount.

With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple but that’s because the points you earn are variable. The upside is much greater. Instead of having to stay 10 nights to earn an award, you could earn a free stay after just two or three nights. See some real examples in this video.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points.

What Would You Get From 10 Nights of Stays?

Let’s say you actually do stay 10 nights in hotels over the course of several months. To check out what would happen in a real case scenario, we looked at real booking options for December and January in three well-traveled cities: Las Vegas, Orlando, and New Orleans.

Las Vegas hotel rewards

If you booked three nights at the SLS Las Vegas, you would pay the same at either site: $391 for three nights with taxes, but really $488 once you factor in the rip-off $32 “resort fee” that really should be included in the rate. With Hotels.com you would earn 3 credits of your 10, or 30% of what you need for a free stay. With Bonwi you earn 9,641 points. That’s enough to actually book another hotel already in Las Vegas the following week: one night at Golden Nugget, Planet Hollywood, MGM Grand, or many others.

In other words, 30% of the way to a free night vs. 100% of the way there.

If we then book four nights in Orlando at Holiday Inn Express Sea World we’ll pay $304 total with taxes/fees and earn 9,321 Bonwi points. The Ramada Plaza Resort would be $341 for four nights and earn just a shade less.

At Hotels.com you would be four credits closer to your free night, but the average comes down because these hotels are cheaper than the one in Vegas: $74 or $101 per night. At Bonwi, once again you’ve earned enough to cash in for a free night in most cities, or you can combine the points with what you earned in Vegas  and be at close to 19K–enough for two nights somewhere or one night in a luxury hotel instead.

Then let’s say we have to go to New Orleans in January for a trade show. The official hotel is out of our $150 budget range, but either of the choices pictured below will do the trick. For each of them we earn more than 7,200 Bonwi points for our stay. At Hotels.com we pay the same amount and would have finally gotten to our 10 nights.

New Orleans hotel rewards

Yippee—we get a free night’s stay! But hold on: that free night is based on the average of what we have spent per night, which comes out to $102 if we picked  the Hotel Modern for this last stay and the Holiday Inn Express for Orlando. Their formula would be $341+$304+$378 divided by 10. You can now book a hotel with them that is listed for $102 or less.

With Bonwi, in contrast, we are up to 26,525 points earned from those same 10 nights. What can you get for that? Here are some ideas:

  • 3 nights at most Las Vegas off-strip hotels or at MGM Grand
  • One glorious night at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans (dollar value of $349)
  • Any plane ticket valued at $265 or less
  • A $250 gift certificate to Target, Best Buy, Amazon, or the Apple Store.

Your rebate value from Bonwi ranges from 25% to 35% depending on how you use the points. Your rebate value from Hotels.com is always 10% and you can only use it for hotels. With Bonwi you can use your points at any time. With Hotels.com they are useless until you have spent 10 nights in hotel rooms booked with them.

The winner in this rewards program battle between Hotels.com and Bonwi.com? Well, that depends on whether you prefer to earn a little or a lot.

In Honolulu, Hawaii, Don’t Miss a Trip to Hanauma Bay State Park

Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay State Park in Honolulu, Hawaii is located inside a volcanic cone, and is a must-see for visitors to Oahu.
Hanauma Bay State Park in Honolulu, Hawaii is located inside a volcanic cone, and is a must-see for visitors to Oahu.

If you find yourself traveling to Honolulu Hawaii, there are usually a couple reasons why. Including, (but of course not limited to) the sun, pristine beaches, and pure relaxation the tropical Island has to offer. But if you ask any local, they’ll say that a trip to Honolulu is incomplete without a visit to Hanauma Bay State Park, a marine life conservation area, and underwater park.

Formed inside a volcanic cone, the bay is home to a thriving marine ecosystem. All visitors are required to watch an introduction video about the bay’s marine life, conservation, preservation, and safety rules before entering the park. This is primarily because of the years of abuse and neglect the bay has faced due to millions of people unknowingly destroying the plants and animals that prosper there.

 With over 3,000 visitors a day, there is no doubt that the bay is a premier destination because of its warm water snorkeling and the way it encaptures the island with its picturesque views. To enter the park, there is a general admission fee of $7.50, however, this doesn’t include the parking fee, locker fee, and several other add ons.

Snorkeling the crystal clear waters of Hanauma Bay State Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Snorkeling the crystal clear waters of Hanauma Bay State Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The state park does offer a few tours that visitors can choose from, the most basic one being the “Extended Tour”, which costs $25. Not a bad price! The tour includes round-trip transportation from Waikiki Hotels to Hanauma Bay, a narrated mini tour on the ride to the bay, masks, fins, and a snorkel, and 4.5 hours on the beach. This basic tour is perfect for visitors looking for a cheap day trip to the bay, equipped with snorkeling and easy transportation.
However, if you are looking for a more advanced tour that visits several different locations, then it’s best to opt for the “North Shore & Hanauma Bay Tour”, which includes two tours in one day. The tour not only stops at several different beaches including Pipeline Beach and Waimea Bay, but it also allows you free access to kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.
 Don’t miss the chance to jump off enormous “Jump Rocks” which are large hunks of lava that act as perfect places to either jump off of or catch a glorious view of the aqua landscape. A quick stop at Turtle Town for lunch is also included in the package, and the shrimp plate is highly recommended by previous visitors.
End the day with a visit to the famous Dole Pineapple Plantation where you’ll get the chance to try the delightful “Dole Whip” pineapple ice cream and walk around the beautiful pineapple gardens. The “North Shore & Hanauma Bay Tour” premium package costs $149 for adults and $135 for children. It’s pricey, but the jam-packed day full of adventure is totally worth every penny.
Hanauma Bay State Park is just one opportunity out of hundreds that Honolulu offers. But just keep in the back of your mind, Hanauma Bay Beach was voted the best beach in the entire United States in 2016, so it might just be worth a visit!
If a stay in a Honolulu Hotel is in your future, find the best deal on all of Oahu’s hotels at Bonwi.com, and use your points to save for a future trip as well!

Nashville’s Culinary Secrets Revealed

A chef/guide from Walk Eat Nashville shares some of the city's culinary secrets with visitors.
A chef/guide from Walk Eat Nashville shares some of the city’s culinary secrets with visitors.

If the sweet smell of chicken and waffles isn’t enough to make you pack up your things and head down south, then surely a visit to the music capital of the USA is. If you’re visiting Nashville and aren’t planning on eating your way through the city, then you are doing yourself a major injustice.

Nashville is not only known for its popular tunes and the Parthenon, but also for its comfort food. It’s the perfect destination for any foodie. 

The best way to truly experience the culinary excellence of the city is through Walk Eat Nashville. Several different walking food tours offer a rich taste of the city, people, and food that makes Nashville so remarkable. The ticket price includes all food tastings, behind the scenes interactions with chefs and experts, and a personal tour guide.

The first tour, called East Nashville Food Tour, takes you on a scenic tour two miles across the river from downtown. The 1.5-mile walk includes tastings at 5-6 different chef owned restaurants and eateries.

With the destinations always rotating, you don’t have to feel guilty if you take the tour again… and maybe again. The 3-hour tour will also allow you to stroll past Victorian homes and bungalows, and you’ll even learn about the music studio where Johnny Cash and Neil Young made records.

Just a few of the comfort foods you can learn to cook and enjoy in Nashville.
Just a few of the comfort foods you can learn to cook and enjoy in Nashville.

The second tour is called the Midtown/Vanderbilt Food Tour. The hustle bustle area of Midtown is situated between downtown and Vanderbilt University. Once a business district, this constantly changing neighborhood has both a small-town and big-town feel.

Get a taste of old fashioned favorites, while also getting the chance to discover the newest flavors of the city. Enjoy a gourmet cupcake from Gigi’s Cupcakes or a steak from Union Common. Every stop or so, you’ll get to take in Nashville’s “Rock Block” and discover the history of Vanderbilt University.

The last delicious tour is the SoBro/Downtown Nashville Food Tour. Take a stroll along one of the city’s most happening areas. Culinary hotspots are typical throughout the area and live music can be heard from every street corner. In between bites, you’ll get the chance to walk on Nashville’s Music Mile and learn about the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Each individual tour is three hours long and costs $58 plus tax. To learn more about Nashville’s food tours, visit http://www.walkeatnashville.com.
Heading to Nashville for business, pleasure or just some comfort food?
Find the best deals on hotels in Nashville on Bonwi and use your points for another trip after that!

The 5 Best Florida Beaches Easily Reached From Orlando

Florida beach from Orlando

Florida beach from Orlando

People fly from all over the world to go to Orlando, home of Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios amusement parks, and much more. This is a land-locked city though, so if you want a Florida beach vacation you need to drive east to meet the Atlantic Ocean or west to reach beaches on the Gulf of Mexico.

Both coasts are easy to reach in a rental car, however. Most of the way you will be on large highways and the roads are well-marked. The closest beach to Orlando is only one hour away from the gates of Walt Disney World, while the farthest one on this list is just two hours away.

Cocoa Beach, Florida – 1 hour

beach near Orlando
(photo courtesy Visit Space Coast Tourism)

Near the Cape Canaveral area where the United States launched most of its manned rockets into space, this is the closest beach to Orlando. Like all but one here, it’s on a narrow barrier island jutting out into the sea. Expect soft golden sand but big waves sometimes: this is one of the best surfing spots in Florida.

There are four public beach access areas with parking (for a fee), so it’s easy to come here on a day trip and return to your hotel in Orlando that night. For the kids there is also a public skate park and several playgrounds. The Kennedy Space Center has a visitors center open to the public.

Daytona Beach – 1 hour 15 minutes

Daytona Beach Florida

Best known as home of the Daytona 500 Speedway where NASCAR auto races take place, this is a beach where cars rule. You can drive right onto the hard-packed sand and park your car on the very wide beach. This makes any stretch of the beach easily accessible in your vehicle, in an area that stretches more than 15 miles from New Smyrna Beach through Ormond Beach.

Prices are reasonable at Daytona Beach for lodging, meals, drinks, and activities, so this is a good spot for a couple or family on a budget. The area has a surprisingly robust art scene, plus the region is frequently cited as one of the best beach values in the USA.

Clearwater Beach – 1 hour 45 minutes

Clearwater Beach Florida

Often voted as the prettiest beach in Florida, this is a compact white-sand beach area that is only 2.5 miles long. Much of it is connected by paved walkways and bike lanes and there are plenty of restaurants and beach bars with a view of the green and blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The water stays much warmer here than on the Atlantic coast, with temperatures only dipping down below F20° for one month in February. The water is very calm here, making it a good choice for young children. Search on Bonwi for the best Clearwater Beach resort deals.

St. Petersburg Beach – 1 hour 45 minutes

St. Pete Beach Florida

The Tampa Bay area’s other main beach is St. Petersburg, a long stretch of sand dotted with a variety of hotels and condo complexes. There several similar barrier island beaches immediately to the north such as Treasure Island and Madeira. As with Clearwater the sea temperatures are pleasant most of the year and there are seldom waves large enough to knock down even the smallest child.

This is a beach area where you pick a spot and park or you explore by car-there’s no boardwalk or path along the sea. It’s worth heading to downtown St. Pete for restaurants and nightlife, catching a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game, or exploring the Sunken Gardens area filled with tropical plants. The Salvador Dali Museum faces the Bay. Several well-regarded breweries are located here too, including Green Bench and 3 Daughters.

Anna Maria Island – 2 hours

Anna Maria Island Florida

For a taste of Florida the way it used to be before the state got so developed, head to Anna Maria Island where no building can be more than three stories high. There are no huge sprawling resorts here and the main things to do are eat seafood and lounge on the beach.

Just seven miles long and a few blocks wide, this is an easy island to navigate and there’s a free trolley to get around on once you’ve found your parking spot. There is a playground on the most popular public beach access spot and there are shaded picnic tables.

Wherever you go in Florida, you’ll earn the most points back to use for a future vacation by booking your hotel and rental car with Bonwi.com.

All photos by Tim Leffel except Coco Beach.

5 Florida beaches that are 2 hours or less from Orlando

Daytona Beach Racing: Getting Behind the Wheel

The huge NASCAR track in Daytona Florida. You can ride in one of these cars!
The huge NASCAR track in Daytona Florida. You can ride in one of these cars!
The huge NASCAR track in Daytona Florida. You can ride in one of these cars!
There is only one place you can go to truly experience the thrill of American racing, and that place is Daytona International Speedway. Without a doubt, there is more to The Great American Race than just the fast cars…the history, the celebrities, and the pageantry are all factored into what makes Daytona 500 a fan favorite.
For an avid racing fan, the best time to visit the speedway is in 2018, when the Daytona 500 celebrates its 60th anniversary. For six decades, Daytona has been entertaining the public with historic performances and heroic figures, and of course, sharing the love of the race with the young and old.
Don’t miss the opportunity to pay a visit the track when the Monster Energy Nascar Cup season starts. Drivers will battle and showcase their speed and determination as they race down the 2.5-mile tri-oval and its 31-degree banking.
It’s one thing to watch the race, but to actually experience what it’s like to ride in a race car is a whole other adrenaline rush. The NASCAR Racing Experience allows you to ride shotgun in a real NASCAR race car. Hold on tight as a professional racing driver takes you around one of the nation’s top ranking speedways. You’ll be in good hands during the three-lap ride, and it will be over faster than you know it!
The Nascar Ride Along experience can be purchased online at the Daytona International Speedway Ticket Office. The price for juniors 6-14 is $79.99 and adults is $135. Make sure to check out the dates available, they fill up fast!
If sitting shotgun is not good enough for you, and you actually want to DRIVE the NASCAR, then sign up for the Practice Experience, you’ll get the real taste of racing. After completing a training and instruction session with the Crew Chief, you have 5 minutes to race your heart out, carefully that is.
There is no lead car to follow, but luckily there is a 2-way in car radio with a personal instructor on the other end. Don’t worry, you will receive bragging rights with your very own Graduation Certificate. The Practice Experience is priced at $299.99 and tickets can be purchased online.
There is no thrill like riding inside a NASCAR racing car at Daytona!
There is no thrill like riding inside a NASCAR racing car at Daytona!
But wait, there’s MORE, believe it or not. The Rookie and The King’s experience allows you to race for eight and 16 minutes around the track. It’s double and triple the price…but totally worth it if you’re a diehard racing fan.
By far the best racing experience you can purchase at the speedway is the World Champion experience, priced at $2,500. It’s 3 hours worth of the NASCAR experience and you get to drive in six different racing session. Recommended for racing enthusiasts and those with a need for speed.
If you’re like me, then the idea of visiting Daytona will be lingering in your head after reading this. The Daytona International Speedway online website has an easily accessible calendar that shows when the track is open and what tours are available on certain days.
Whether you’re interested in sitting back and watching or buckling up and driving, Daytona International Speedway delivers unforgettable moments for all.
Find affordable hotels in Daytona Beach on Bonwi and use Bonwi points to get free nights around the world!

 

5 of the Best Excursions from Anchorage, Alaska

Glacier viewing boat trip Alaska

Spencer Glacier icebergs Alaska

Few cities anywhere in the world have such spectacular scenery within a few hours’ drive or train ride as Anchorage, Alaska. Some visitors make the journey here a road trip to start it all, driving up the Alaska Highway—open all year—from the USA or western Canada. There are plenty of flights here though and the state hosts Alaska Airlines, so it’s easy to just rent a car upon arrival.

There’s seldom a lot of traffic in Anchorage and roads leaving the city are well-marked. All of the excursions here are off of two routes. One heads south down the Kenai Peninsula, the other heads north toward Denali National Park.

See the Glaciers from the Water

Glacier viewing boat trip Alaska

Receding glaciers from the last Ice Age carved up the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska with gorges and fjords. The best way to see the awesome force of the ice is to go on a day cruise that explores the waterways and passes glaciers that are sometimes still dropping into the sea. The calmest option is to go on a Prince William Sound Glacier Cruise from the port of Whittier.

The scenery is more dramatic on a Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise that weaves in and out of various fjords from the port of Seward, but you do have to cross some open water that can get rough at times. In both cases you’re likely to see some wildlife, such as bald eagles, sea lions, otters, and even whales. The cute white beluga whales like to play in the waters you’ll pass on the Seward Highway—a national scenic byway—on the way to either port in a car.

Get Close to Alaska’s Animals

Moose in Alaska conservation park

Close to Whittier and accessible by car in an hour from the city is the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This non-profit center cares for rescued animals that cannot return to the wild, plus a herd of bison that are raised here first than released. You will see huge grizzly bears and brown bears, perhaps a rescued black bear cub. There’s a resident porcupine that lost a leg, a herd of moose, wolves, and some elk with giant antlers. Naturalists give guided tours and some of the animals you can touch.

You can connect this with a trip to Spencer Lake (seen in the very top photo) for hiking near a glacier, paddling around icebergs, and rafting down the Placer river with Chugach Adventures.

Heading North From Anchorage to Denali

Denali National Park Alaska

Denali Mountain—also known as Mt. McKinley—is the highest peak in North America at 6,190 meters. You’ll have to get an early start to visit it on a day trip as it’s approximately a five-hour drive from Anchorage to Denali National Park. It would be better to spend the night in the area to be able to explore the wilderness on hiking trails or by biking on the road going through the park. (The park has more than 2.4 million hectares of protected land.) You can also get there via Alaska Railroad and It’s also possible to purchase seats on a sightseeing plane to view the snowy peaks from the air.

Sled Dogs and Fishing in Wasilla

Alaska’s main sporting event is the annual Iditarod Dogsled Race, which takes place each March. The course covers 1,000 miles (1609 kms) from Anchorage. You can visit the headquarters visitor center in Wasila any time of year though and learn more about this unique event. Some sled dogs stay at the headquarters and in the summer they lead visitors on dog cart rides instead of through the snow.

fishing trip in Alaska

Less than two hours by car from Anchorage, Wasilla is also a favorite fishing area for visitors. There are several spots where you can go on guided fishing trips to hook your own king salmon or go fly fishing for trout.

Ski Alaska in Girdwood

ski Alaska close to Anchorage

If arriving outside of the peak summer season, it’s quick 42 miles (68 kms) to Alaska’s premier ski area, Alyeska Resort. This self-contained area is anchored by a fine hotel that connects to the aerial tram traveling to the top of the mountain and there are 76 total ski runs. You can use the area as a heli-skiing base to explore fresh powder in the backcountry, or for the less adventurous the town of Girdwood also has ice skating and snow shoeing areas.

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Article by Tim Leffel, who also wrote Gawking at Glaciers in Wild Alaska as editor of Perceptive Travel. All photos by Leffel except fishing photo courtesy of Valley River Charters and Denali photo via Wikipedia Creative Commons. Trail map from Alyeska Resort.