1. Best public transport

Here are three options that prove your daily commute doesn'thave to be a drag.

Bainbridge Island Ferry.In Seattle the best cityscape view is from the rear deck of theferry at sunset, a half-mile out of its downtown port. $6. Departs from Pier 52, 801 Alaska Way; 206/464-6400.

Las Vegas Monorail. Whiskingpassengers from one end of the Strip to the other in under 15minutes, the slick, driverless monorail travels 30 to 70 feet abovethe hubbub. From $5. 866/466-6672.

Portland Aerial Tram. Inthis city known for ground-breaking public works, the 500-foot-hightram is one to watch. Opening this fall, it connects theup-and-coming South Waterfront to Marquam Hill. Project managerMatt Brown promises that the cars' futuristic aluminum skin willlook "like soap bubbles floating in the air." From $1.50. 503/823-4000.

2. Blockbuster rodeo

The "daddy of 'em all." That's what Cheyenne Frontier Days callsitself. And it's true: No rodeo anywhere is as big, loud, oradrenaline-boosting as this Wyoming summer extravaganza. Wildhorses, country singing stars, scary carnival rides, and theworld's largest turkey drumsticks too. Jul 21-30; from $11. www.cfdrodeo.com or800/227-6336.

3. Favorite $10 deals…

• Two passes to a San Diego Padres game, where you sit ina grassy area beyond the outfield wall known as "The Park at thePark." www.padres.com or619/795-5000.

• Admission for a family carload to the Thursday-nightdouble feature at the Amusement ParkDrive-in Theater near Billings, Montana. Opens in Apr;406/245-3212.

• About 11 hand-dipped chocolate truffles at 25 percentoff at Seattle's Dilettante Factory Outlet and Seconds. www.dilettante.com or206/328-1955.

• Entry for two adults to the 2-acre Pineapple GardenMaze―known as the largest maze in the world―at the Dole Plantation in Oahu.808/628-8408.

• A bottle of Vinum Cellars Chard No-WayCuvée (Chenin Blanc), an excellent food wine.707/254-8313.

• A standing-room ticket to the Santa Fe Opera's upcomingproduction of Carmen. Jun 30-Aug 26; 800/280-4654.

• Admission to the ceremonial tea service every thirdSunday at Hakone Japanese Gardens inSaratoga, California. 408/741-4994.

• Ten oysters during happy hour on Monday and Thursdaynights at Hog Island Oyster Co. inSan Francisco's Ferry Building. 5-7; 415/391-7117.

4. Best movable feast

We've never met a shrimp truck we didn't like. On the NorthShore of Oahu, these colorful, iconic roadside cafes on wheels areour preferred stop for food on the go. The best of the bunch isSharks Cove Grill, where surfer Willy Asprey serves up his mom'spesto shrimp skewers ($9) over local organic greens tossed withpapaya-seed dressing. Savor your meal in a plastic chair under theawning, looking out over the waves. $; breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. 59-712 Kamehameha Hwy.,across from Sharks Cove, about 5 mi. north of Hale'iwa;808/638-8300.

5. Motels with attitude

We scouted four favorite spots for drive-up lodgings withboutique style.

Boulder Outlook Hotel inBoulder, Colorado, caters to sporty types with colorful hues and abouldering wall (complete with waterfall) in the lobby. From $70. 800/542-0304.

Miracle Manor Retreat inDesert Hot Springs, California, pairs therapeutic natural hotmineral-water pools with luxe midcentury decor. From $150. 877/329-6641.

Farmer's DaughterHotel proves that only in L.A. could a farm theme be chic. From $99. 323/937-3930.

Hotel Valley Ho, the newlyreopened motel in Scottsdale, Arizona, swings once more withglass-walled rooms and a new spa. From $289. 480/248-2000.

6. Jazz club that swings

L.A.'s Vibrato Grill is forjazz purists who like to mix a dash of flash with their dollop ofbop. The legendary Herb Alpert, owner, may even take the stage in2006. $$$$; dinner and music Tue-Sun. 2930 Beverly Glen Circle, BelAir, CA; 310/474-9400.

7. Best shopping street

It's long been known for vintage furniture and a certain artsyaesthetic. But Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, California, hasrecently graduated from hippie to haute with a slew ofdesign-minded shops and restaurants. Heading southeast from MainStreet, the mile-long strip is now a one-stop shopping zone for allthings chic.

At Tortoise (12-6 Wed-Sun or by appointment; 1208 Abbot Kinney Blvd.;310/314-8448), look for bent-cedar bowls, porcelain tea sets,and walnut stools designed by owner Taku Shinomoto.

Nearby, Strange Invisible Perfumes (11-7 Tue-Sat, 12-6 Sun; 1138 Abbot Kinney; 310/314-1555)has the moody interiors of a nightclub but specializes in adifferent kind of brew: all-natural fragrances custom-blended tomatch your personality.

At Equator Books (1103 Abbot Kinney; 310/399-5544), L.A. architect RaniaAlomar creates a gallery-like atmosphere for first editions andcollectibles in categories that range from surfing and architectureto circus freaks and bullfighting.

Things are just as eclectic at Rose (11-6 Tue-Sun or by appointment; 1225 Abbot Kinney;310/399-0040), which showcases jewelry, art, sculpture, andlots of obscure curios, both new and antique. (Vintage abalone icebucket, anyone?)

At Happy at the Beach (11-5, Thu-Sun; 1644 Abbot Kinney; 310/396-8616), "one of akind" comes in the form of nautical-inspired vintage furniture,such as shell-motif barware from the '50s.

After a day of shopping, wind your way to Shima ($$$$; dinner Tue-Sat, lunch Sun; 1432 Abbot Kinney;310/314-0882), a split-level sushi restaurant whosecool-as-a-cucumber design speaks to the best of the new on AbbotKinney.

8. Next great destination: Astoria

Even when it rains these days, Astoria, Oregon, looks bright.New shops, restaurants, and hotels are springing up downtown andalong the nearby Columbia riverfront―from the West MooringBasin, where the over-the-water Cannery Pier Hotel opened lastsummer, to Pier 39, where the abandoned Bumble Bee Seafoods cannerybuildings are being converted into offices, lodging, a pub, acoffeehouse, and the sales office for the new condos going up downthe road.

"All along the waterfront there's an energy," says native sonand Pier 39 developer Floyd Holcom. "I don't think anybody wouldhave predicted it."

Astoria has always been a place for self-starters, from Lewisand Clark to John Jacob Astor himself. The decline of logging andfishing over the last half-century sent this historic Oregoncommunity―the oldest American city west of theMississippi―into a long economic slump, but there's nodenying the upswing. No longer can you pick up a century-oldVictorian for next to nothing, and new art galleries are snappingup empty storefronts on downtown's Commercial Street, where the1925 Liberty Theater―$6 million into its projected $8.5million revival―often sells out its 677-seat house.

But for the foreseeable future, Astoria is keeping it real. TheAstoria Riverfront Trolley (tickets $1; 503/325-6311), popular with tourists who pileoff the cruise ships that call on Astoria in spring and fall,clatters by the town's active fishing fleet. The colorfullyidiosyncratic works in Lunar Boy Gallery (opened by two formerDisney Imagineers) seem as comfortable on Commercial Street as theneighboring chocolate store and apothecary. And no one can stop therain, which at an average of 67 inches a year scares off somewould-be newcomers―and, in so doing, may prove to be thetown's saving grace.

In Astoria, new life is springing up all along the ColumbiaRiver. Opposite page, clockwise from top left: Jimmy Pickering(seated) and Troy Winterrowd, owners of Lunar Boy Gallery; theCannery Pier Hotel; the hotel's lobby provides warmth on therain-iest of days; chef Uriah Hulsey of the Columbian Café;the revamped Liberty; sea lions sunning on the pier.

Cannery Pier Hotel. Fromyour bed (or bath), watch oceangoing ships glide by seeminglyinches away. Built on pilings over the river, the new 46-roomhotel's multilevel design mimics the original 1897 cannery thatonce stood here. From $139. 10 Basin St.; 888/325-4996.

• Fishermen's Suites, Pier 39. Three new suitesoccupy an upstairs corner at Pier 39, each with a commanding viewof the river and forested hills beyond. From $150. 100 39th St.; 503/325-2502.

• Columbian Café. Long a local favorite, thisfunky hole-in-the-wall is a true destination eatery, thanks tochef-owner Uriah Hulsey's inspired vegetarian fare. $$; breakfast and lunch Mon-Sat, dinner Wed-Sat. 1114 MarineDr.; 503/325-2233.

• T. Paul's Urban Café. Eclectic and original, not tomention filling. Try the turkey sandwich (on focaccia withmarionberry mayo) or the chipotle pesto pasta with bay shrimp andspinach. $$; lunch and dinner Mon-Sat. 1119 Commercial St.;503/338-5133.

Liberty Theater. Thehand-painted murals have been refreshed, the chandelier restored,and the elegance returned to this former movie palace that nowhosts a variety of local and visiting performers. 1203 Commercial St.; 503/325-5922.

Lunar Boy Gallery.Original work by leading pop surrealist artists, with quirky moderngifts to match. Closed Tue. 1133 Commercial St.; 503/325-1566.

9. Best sunset

In Hawaii, beautiful spots to watch the sunset are as numerousas seashells. But among surfers, Oahu's North Shore is the ultimatehigh. To drop down the face of a monstrous roller at Waimea Bay, orshoot through the glassy "Pipe" near Sunset Beach and emerge fromthe froth intact, is exhilarating enough. But then comes the magichour at the end of the day when it's time to unleash, plop down inthe warm sand, and watch the sun slowly descend. A green flash, ifit happens, is like a wink from the sea. All is well at thismoment. A day's work never seemed so sweet.

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