Rachael Ray's Spring Break Guide
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Rachael's Staycation1 of 11
By Amy Elisa Keith
Although gas prices are soaring and budgets tightening, family fun doesn't have to fall by the economic wayside. "Sometimes the best vacations are the ones where you make it a point to see your own town with new eyes," says celebrity TV host Rachael Ray. Here's her top ten list of activities you can enjoy—without ever leaving your zip code.
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1. See Public Art
"Some of the coolest art a city has to offer can be found on its sidewalks," say Ray. Finding your neighborhood gems is as easy as checking your iPhone. "Search for sculptures, graffiti, stenciling and installations in your city at StreetArtLocator.com."
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2. Enjoy Hotel Perks
"Just because you're not renting a room doesn't mean you can't enjoy the hotel's amenities," says Ray. Try out the latest hotel restaurant in your city to get the feeling of out-of-town travel. Plus, many hotels offer day passes to the pool or to the spa for non-overnight guests.
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3. Cruise the Highways
Whether you hop on a scenic route through vineyards or along the coast, Ray suggests a quick, local drive for a relaxing afternoon. "But view the open road before you cruise it," she warns. "AARoads.com has bird's-eye views of local highways so you can glimpse what's beyond the entrance ramp."
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4. Get Recommendations From Friends
Gather eclectic recommendations from friends and colleagues about new areas of town to visit. Ray says, "Your assistant might frequent a cool music venue; a single girlfriend might know the best lounges; your gym buddy might point you to a picturesque hiking trail."
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5. Take Advantage of Free Events
Check local newspapers and city websites for events that are free in your area. From concerts in the park to botanical tours, the best your city has to offer may not cost you a dime. An untapped resource? "The local library usually hosts free readings, especially for kids," says Ray.
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6. Go International
"Dedicate a night to a country you'd like to visit," says Ray. Ask your hubby to pick an exotic destination, like Argentina. "Tango at a dance studio, dine at an Argentinean steakhouse, and end the evening at home, sipping wine from Mendoza."
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7. Look Out
"Head to the highest point in town in time for sunset, and remember your camera," suggests Ray. Make it an all-day activity by starting with a hike followed by a picnic. Along the way, keep things interesting by pointing out interesting insects, plants and forest animals.
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8. Change of Scenery
Just because airfare is steep doesn't mean that you and your significant other can't enjoy a one-night getaway. "Check into an adorable, affordable B&B or local hotel with a pool," says Ray. "Ditch cooking, dishwashing and bed-making for 24 hours."
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9. Create a Meal With the Family
"Many times we skip the recipes that require long and slow cooking times or overnight marinades," says Ray. "Now that you have some time, create a delicious marinade from scratch and dump it and your favorite cut of steak into a Ziploc bag and allow those flavors to combine." Voilà! Gourmet dinner.
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10. Take a Cooking Class
"Research cooking schools and set up a private class for your family to learn some of the basics together," suggests the TV chef. As a fun DIY activity, each child can personalize their own apron with puffy paint and fabric markers and then bring it to the class. The key to a successful spring break staycation? "Get suggestions from the whole group so at least everyone gets to do something that felt like it was their idea," says Ray.