BUDGET HOTELS DO EXIST IN SAN FRANCISCO
For the 17th year, readers of Conde Nast Traveler have voted San Francisco as the best U.S. city to visit. (Charleston, S.C., and Santa Fe, N.M., also made the top three.)
Now's the time to visit San Francisco, too, since the shaky economy has uncovered some hotels for less than $100 a night.
• The Good Hotel. Favored by hipsters, it has iMacs in the lobby for guests to use free, and there's a photo booth in the lobby next to the elevator, which is plastered with photos of guests. $89 on weekends. 112 Seventh St.; (415) 621-7001, www.jdvhotels.com.
• Hotel Vertigo. The Vertigo rooms have plush beds, exceedingly fluffy robes, room safes, free wireless, TV and refrigerators. Rooms (all have bathrooms) start at $93 at www.hotelvertigosf.com. 940 Sutter St.; (415) 885-6800.
• Hotel Diva. This hotel has both a great location a couple of blocks from Union Square and rooms that start at $99. All rooms have bathrooms, along with free wireless, TV, iPod docks, safe, robes, fridge and coffeemaker. 440 Geary St.; (415) 885-0200, www.hoteldiva.com.
• Hotel Beresford. Victorian-themed rooms have bathrooms, TV and fridges. Internet access is only in the lobby, but there's an elevator, and the location, three blocks from Union Square, is great for the rates, which start at $89. 635 Sutter St.; (415) 673-9900, www.beresford.com.
• Hotel Des Arts. Near the gates to Chinatown, the Des Arts offers rooms with TVs and free wireless. Some have fridges. The rates start at $59 for shared bath, $79 for a room with its own bath and $89 if you want a closet. 447 Bush St.; toll-free 1-800-956-4322, www.sfhoteldesarts.com.
Life before the Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall tumbled down 20 years ago Nov. 9, but vestiges of Eastern Europe under communism remain. Places to experience the past today:
• Checkpoint Charlie is the former border crossing where U.S. and Soviet tanks dramatically faced off after East Germany sealed its border by building the Berlin Wall in 1961.
• The DDR Museum, opposite the Berlin Cathedral, focuses on everyday life before the wall fell. The entertaining, interactive exhibits include a typical kitchen in an East German apartment and TVs where you can choose between East and West German programs; ddr-museum.de/en/.
• Zur Firma is a bar themed on life in East Germany under communism; its name translates as "at the firm," an allusion to German slang for the Stasi secret police. It's at Normannenstrasse 5 A, in the Lichtenberg section of Berlin. Or you can stay at the budget Ostel hotel, Wriezener Karree 5, with communist-era East German furnishings; ostel.eu/en/index.html.
Frommer's guide to Honduras
Nicholas Gill, author of the first edition of Frommer's Honduras ($22), says the Central American country has "a little bit of everything: beaches, active adventures, historical sites, indigenous cultures, wildlife and laidback getaways." His recommendations for best travel experiences include:
• Diving the barrier reef in the Bay Islands, which the author says is not only spectacular but inexpensive when compared with diving rates in other parts of the world.
• Bird-watching in places like Lancetilla, Lago de Yojoa, Pico Bonito, Cerro Azul and Celaque. Some parts of Honduras have recorded as many as 400 species of birds.
• Visiting La Mosquitia, known for wildlife and for ethnic groups that you can learn about through community-based indigenous tourism programs.
What will 25 cents get you?
To celebrate the minting of the U.S. Virgin Islands quarter, the islands' Department of Tourism is promoting 25-cent room rates at participating hotels.
The hotel stays are limited to three nights, while availability lasts, and also include a $25 dining credit and a $25 per person activities credit. Trips must be booked before Nov. 2 and travel must take place before Nov. 15.
Reservations must be made through BookIt.com for air-hotel packages at these hotels: Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, Carambola Beach Resort & Spa, Hibiscus Beach Resort, Hotel Caravelle, Marriott Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Beach Resort, Secret Harbour Beach Resort, the Palms at Pelican Cove, Windward Passage, and Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa.
Calling all 'snow virgins'
The Colorado Tourism Office has launched a contest to give three "snow virgins" all-expenses-paid trips to Colorado, January through March. Contest winners will sample winter activities including snowmobiling, skiing, dog sledding, maybe even ice climbing — and then they'll describe their experiences on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Applicants are asked to submit videos to snowatfirstsight.com explaining why they should win. People can visit the Web site to vote, and 10 finalists will get trips to Colorado to audition.
Compiled from Times wires