Saving Places: Top 5 Value Destinations

By Aefa Mulholland

Originally published on Advocate.com August 19 2008 11:00 PM ET

There’s no
need to cancel the vacation because the dollar is dipping
and diving. We found a treasure trove of appealingly
priced properties around the country, perfect for
value vacations, from off-season opportunities with
views of the Vegas strip or Phoenix’s dusty red
buttes to hipster havens in funky Portland, Oregon,
and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and trashy chic rooms across
from Graceland. Read on for details and for fun
activities that will fit any budget.

1. Greater Phoenix
Saving places

In vibrant Tempe,
The
Buttes
, (2000 Westcourt Way, Tempe; 602-225-9000; $120+)
with its poolside waterfalls and hot tubs carved right
out of the mountainside, offers enticing off-season
prices. In Phoenix, the gay-owned and operated Clarendon (401 W. Clarendon Ave,
Phoenix; 602-252-7363; $99+) is a contemporary haven of
retro cool within walking distance of downtown and girl
bars.

Money
can’t buy it

Join the locals
hiking and biking among giant saguaro cactus in Papago
Park, trekking 16,000-acre South Mountain Park, and
clambering the distinctive spine of Camelback
Mountain. Other free activities include art walks in Phoenix (first
Fridays) and Old Town Scottsdale
(Thursdays).

2. Portland
Saving places

The Rose City
presents some tough choices when it comes to picking hip
economical digs. It’s home to homo-adored retro motel
The Jupiter (800 E. Burnside
St; 503/230-9200; $59+), home to many a queer night, and the
Ace (1022 S.W. Stark St;
503-228-2277; $95+). Within swinging distance of Stark
Street’s gay bars and clubs and a short sashay
from the delights of downtown, guestrooms have
features such as turntables, clawfoot tubs, and vintage
furnishings.

Money
can’t buy it

Check out
Portland’s myriad happy hours on Barfly and get the most food and
drink for your money. Grab $3 beer and pizza at a
second-run movie at the ornate Moorish-style Bagdad
Theatre
(3702 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd; 503-236-9234)
on the lesbian-loved Hawthorne Boulevard. Use the
quarters you saved at “retrocade” Ground Kontrol (511 N.W. Couch
St; 503-796-9364), a Pearl District haven of retro video
games.

3. Las Vegas
Saving places

You might not
think of Vegas as a great place for a budget vacation, but
it can be. The same hotel room can tumble from $500 to $50 a
night, depending on what’s on in town. Most
hotels offer rate comparison calendars online. Try
gorgeous Paris Las Vegas (3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S.;
877-796-2096; $90+), or the faded '50s glam of the Sahara
(2535 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-737-2654 or
866-382-8884; $43+), a great budget option with rooms
and suites in a Moroccan motif.

Money
can’t buy it

Many hotels will
give you coupon books when you check in. Take a glance
for two-for-one show and dinner tickets, free drinks tokens,
and other budget-friendly enticements. Another way to
save funds for another round (of drinks or cards) is
to graze at Vegas’ legendary buffets. The cheaper
they are, the trashier quality they are, but the buffets
will keep you going as you trot between sights and
lights. Walk the Strip to catch free shows such as the
Bellagio fountains and the Mirage volcano. Downtown
Vegas’s Fremont Street offers a light show on the
hour.

4. Milwaukee
Saving places

Book a room at
the historic, renovated Ambassador Hotel (2308 W. Wisconsin
Ave; 414-345-5000; $119+), an Art Deco gem downtown
with Aveda products, complimentary parking, and free
wireless and high speed Internet.

Money
can’t buy it

Milwaukee CVB
lists free activities in the city,
including events and festivals. Tours of the famed
Miller Brewery [linkt to: www.millerbrewing.com] make
a good rain day option. If the sun’s out,
tackle the Lakefront Trail on foot or by bike.

5. Memphis
Saving places

You’ll
find Elvis
Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel
and its
heart-shaped pool (3677 Elvis Presley Blvd,
901-332-1000; $110+) at the end of Lonely Street and across
the boulevard from Graceland.

Money
can’t buy it

Stroll the
birthplace of the blues, Beale Street, shop for fun, tacky
souvenirs in Schwab’s General Store (163 Beale St),
pop into the W.C. Handy Museum (352 Beale St;
901-522-1556; admission $2), and trot round to the
famed Peabody Hotel for the 11 a.m. or 5
p.m. March of the Ducks through the grand lobby (149
Union St; 901-529-4000).