Give yourself $100 to spend any which way you like
Everyone needs to waste a little money sometimes, preferably in a self-indulgent manner. The trick is to control it.
The next pages are filled almost entirely with site-specific splurges--tours, train rides, decadent meals. But there are splurges you can do just about anywhere (even at home).
Hotel room Flowers can turn a motel into a hotel. Don't pay for an arrangement: Buy cut flowers and use the ice bucket as a vase.
Breakfast You have to order a room-service breakfast at least once during your stay--Eat it in bed, or if you're somewhere warm, have it delivered out by the pool. When you rent a room, you're also paying for the grounds--so make the most of the whole place.
Nightlife Even better, make the most of a better hotel. Find the hot hotel in town, and sip a glass of champagne in its lobby bar. Marvel at the people wasting $400 a night.
Car rental Go for the convertible! Reserve a regular model and when they try to upsell you at the counter, negotiate hard.
Luggage Ship your bags ahead. No lugging them through the airport, and no waiting at the carousel.
In-flight Airline blankets are scratchy, gross, and endangered. A pashmina is light and warm, and it can do fashion duty as a shawl.
Recovery The best cure for the economy-class kinks is a professional massage, even if it's only a half-hour long.
Here's a trend your dentist will hate
Is dark chocolate your favorite food group? Are Ben & Jerry your closest friends? Well, there's finally a type of restaurant that allows you to skip right to the best part of any meal. "My wife, Chika, and I made a hobby of eating and drinking around the world," says Don Tillman. "To have a dessert that's taken seriously, we had to dine at a fancy restaurant and spend at least $150. So we decided to open a restaurant dedicated to special desserts." The result is the 400-square-foot ChikaLicious in New York City. (Chika is the chef; Don runs the front of the house.) Other dessert-only restaurants are sprouting up everywhere. They're full-fledged sit-down affairs, many of which offer tasting menus, thoughtful wine pairings, and enough variety to satisfy any sugar fix.
Atlantic City At Brûlée: The Dessert Experience, the Banana-Nana is flambéed tableside ($18). Three-course dessert menus run $13 to $21. Quarter of the Tropicana, 3rd level, 609/344-4900.
Barcelona The three-course dessert menu ($35) at Espai Sucre might feature yogurt cheesecake with rhubarb and lime marmalade and rhubarb ice cream, accompanied by a glass of cava ($4). The five-dessert tasting menu is $42. Calle Princesa 53, 011-34/93-268-16-30, closed Sunday and Monday.
Boston The $18 prix fixe menu at Finale includes a small savory "prelude" and one dessert entrée--such as the baked-to-order molten chocolate cake with coffee ice cream and milk-chocolate-covered almonds. If you want dessert after that, you're truly depraved. 1 Columbus Ave., 617/423-3184.
Chicago Everything on the dessert menu at Hot Chocolate is around $10. The signature dish is a flight of four hot chocolates and/or milk shakes ($9). 1747 N. Damen Ave., 773/489-1747, closed Mondays. Meanwhile, at Sugar: A Dessert Bar desserts cost $4 to $16. What the high end looks like: Tarzan of the Crepes, crepes with caramelized banana, maple ice cream, and hot fudge ($15). 108 W. Kinzie St., 312/822-9999.
New York City The $12 three-course menu at ChikaLicious buys you an amuse bouche, main dessert, and petits fours; an additional dessert wine pairing is $7. One favorite is fresh cherries under a cinnamon macaroon with crème fraîche ice cream ($19). 203 E. 10th St., 212/995-9511, closed Monday and Tuesday. And one of New York's most lauded restaurants, Daniel, has opened Daniel's "Dessert Lounge." Look for the upside-down hot chocolate soufflé ($15). 60 E. 65th St., 212/288-0033, closed Sunday.
Urban white water
Most white-water rapids are created by Mother Nature. But in a growing number of cities, developers are engineering rapids from scratch by constricting water flow, dropping sculpted humps of concrete into riverbeds, and submerging boulders. In Minneapolis, the goal is to break ground on a new riverside park by the summer of 2007. No river? No problem. Dig a circular channel and pump water into it, as they're doing in Charlotte, N.C. The world's largest man-made white-water park will open there next spring, with guided trips for paddlers starting at $15. In the meantime, here are four white-water courses where you can get your feet wet right now.
From Cape Cod to the Great Lakes, from Southern California to the Gulf of Mexico, America’s beaches stay open long after the summer crowds have gone home. It’s the same sun and surf—oh, except that you've got some elbow room and hotel rates have come back down to earth!