Whale Watching Tours, Mardi Gras, and Other Affordable Travel Destinations

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The restored guest houses or "mini-hotels" in Savannah, GA's historic landmark district is one affordable travel destination to consider if you're visiting the southern U.S.

Readers offered the following affordable travel ideas.


A Whale Watching Excursion

Another southern city–this one on the West Coast–has a unique attraction
in January. The San Diego Natural History Museum has scheduled two-hour
whale watching tours in off-shore waters … to observe the long, thin
line of California gray whales on the way to their breeding grounds in
Baja’s warm lagoons. (Dr. Raymond Gilmore, Museum Associate–and renowned
authority on gray whales, will lead all of the trips and explain the
behemoths’ behavior patterns.)

The
excursion whale boats leave the docks at 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on
Saturdays and Sundays from January 3 to January 25. The cost is $6.00
for adults and $4.00 for children 12 and under. Advance reservations are
strongly recommended. 

A New Orleans Native’s Know-How

If
you’re considering heading down to join the Mardi Gras in New Orleans
(the celebration falls on March 3 this year), here are some good
budget-watching tips from MOTHER EARTH NEWS-reader Daniel Wesolowski:

“You
can avoid the $25 taxi fare from the airport,” Daniel writes, “by
taking the Airport/Tulane Avenue bus to the city (it leaves every half
hour from in front of the main terminal) for 80¢. Then, to sidestep
exorbitant hotel bills, stay in the ‘up-town’ area. (It’s quiet, safe,
and only a 15-minute, 40¢ trolley car hop from the famous French
Quarter.) There, at either Loyola or Tulane University, you might even
meet a neighborly student who’ll lend you some floor space for a night
or two … or–if you want more private quarters–you can take a room at
the tree-shaded Parkview Guest House, a renovated Victorian mansion with
rooms starting at $75 a week, (including continental breakfasts).

“For
inexpensive meals, try the $4.00, all-you-can-chow-down suppers at
either of the two universities’ cafeterias, or get some
homecooked-quality food at the nearby Camelia Grill (great burgers!) or
Ye Olde College Inn (dinners start at $3.50 … try the broiled fish).

“Public
transit and transfers will take you just about anywhere in town … or
you can even bring your bicycle (Delta Airlines will tote it for $14)
and enjoy the city’s easy-riding, level terrain. (In fact, the French
Quarter’s narrow, colorful, and historic streets are best seen from a
two-wheeling tourer.) And you can also pedal out to Lake Pontchartrain,
where a shrub-lined bike path runs the length of the body of water’s
southern shore … which is a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch or
watch the sunset.”

But don’t be
disappointed if you miss the Mardi Gras this year … because, as Daniel
points out, “The best times to visit New Orleans are from September to
November and from late March to mid-June, when you’ll encounter low
humidity and 65° to 80° temperatures, and will be all but guaranteed a
good number of sunny days.”

Savannah’s Historic “Mini-Hotels”

Savannah is a historic town that offers the kind of ambiance that’s just not found in most of our swollen cities, and it’s well worth making a slight detour if you happen to be taking a winter trip to Florida. The Georgia town also offers a pleasant alternative to the usual look-alike motels. Currently, the city boasts nine guest houses, most of which occupy the ground floors of three- and four-story townhouse restorations in the heart of Savannah’s nationally acclaimed historic landmark district. (These are usually private-entrance apartments, rather than simply bed-and-breakfast rooms.)

Although such restorations have been going on since the mid-1960’s, the opening up of the old houses to guests is a fairly recent occurrence. The Colonial architecture is often characterized by a high front-entrance stairway to an elevated first-floor level (for the purpose of keeping street dust, in the days before paved roads, out of one’s living room). After the living-quarters were restored, some homeowners turned the vacant ground-floor spaces (and even former carriage houses) into mini-hotels.

The large, charming quarters (many of which can comfortably sleep four adults) vary in price from $35 to $90 a day. For complete listings, contact the Savannah Convention and Visitors Bureau. (Ask for a Visitor’s Guide Map, which will enable you to take a walking tour of the quaint old town.)