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Weekend Away at the Hub Airport of Your Choice
March 15, 1996 -- Maybe you have better things to do with your weekends than spending them at an airline hub. So do I.
But every once in a while, you may get stuck at a hub. Here's what to do at three of them: St. Louis, where TWA still dominates; Los Angeles, where several carriers claim hub status; and Denver, where United is fending off a challenge from the revived Frontier Airlines.
SPRING IN ST. LOUIS
Spring is the time to visit St. Louis--or to get stuck there over the weekend. Spring is especially glorious at the Missouri Botanical Gardens (314-577-5100). Notable attractions include the world's first geodesic dome and the largest traditional Japanese Garden in North America. Admission is $3.
All Aboard for Shopping St. Louis Union Station (314-421-6655) is a national historic landmark and an irresistible magnet for visitors. Once the world's largest and busiest train station, the gigantic structure now houses more than 100 specialty shops and restaurants.
Beer Here The Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour (314-577-2626) reminds you that St. Louis is the hometown of the world's largest brewer. The free tour covers everything you want to know about beer and you even get to visit the stables of those ubiquitous Budweiser Clydesdales.
Sleeping in Style Until May 19, Two for Breakfast weekend rates at the stylish Marriott St. Louis West (800-872-9563) are $79 a night. In the swanky suburb of Clayton, the tony Ritz-Carlton St. Louis (800-241-3333) offers a weekend rate of $135 a room.
ENDLESS SUMMER IN LA
So what if we're a bit too old--and much too smart--for a surfin' safari. The rest of the carefree Los Angeles lifestyle harmonized into mythology by the Beach Boys lives on. The best way to catch a wave these days? Bike the flat, paved path that snakes along the frenetic beaches of Santa Monica and Venice. Get your wheels right on the boardwalk from Sea Mist Rentals (310-395-7076). Coaster-braked beach cruisers or multi-speed mountain bikes rent for as little as $5 a hour.
Instant Karma Angelinos are obsessed with newer, fancier food halls, but first-time visitors will adore the Inn of Seventh Ray (310-455-1311). It teeters on the edge of ancient Topanga Canyon and the outdoor tables overlook a tranquil creek and thick tangles of foliage. It's all so impossibly beautiful that the not-quite-vegetarian menu is almost an afterthought. Sunday brunch for two runs about $35.
On the Waterfront The swanky Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey (800-241-3333) is strategically located--a blessedly quick drive from LAX--and perfectly situated on the waterfront overlooking a charming marina. It's also a weekend bargain: $169 per night instead of the weekday rate of at least $230.
DENVER'S BEAUTIFUL BOONDOGGLE
If you're stuck in the Mile High City, start your sightseeing right at Denver International Airport. The nation's newest aerodrome boasts a 34-peak fabric roof that mimics the snow-capped Rockies. There are grand public spaces illuminated by natural light and stunning mountain views from every window. But the $5 billion facility is a boondoggle: the underground trains are chronically overcrowded, the runways are defective and the automated baggage system was abandoned after chewing up one too many bags.
Beer Here Beer isn't just a drink in Denver, it's a spectator sport. Giants like Anheuser Busch (970-490-4691) and Coors (303-277-2337), and pygmies like the Rockies Brewing Company (303-444-8448), America's oldest microbrewery, offer free tours of their suburban breweries. Meanwhile, downtown Denver is awash in trendy brewpubs. Try Wynkoop (303-297-2700), where the custom beers are dark and creamy and the brewery shares a building with the pub, a comedy club and a swanky pool hall.
Baseball and Bedrooms The Colorado Rockies sell out almost every game at festive Coors Field, but you can beat the scalpers by booking the Rockies Mountain High package at the stylish Loews Giorgio Hotel (303-782-9300). For $139 a night, you get a pair of tickets to the game, a room and continental breakfast.
This column originally appeared in Travel Holiday magazine.
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