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Week to kill - where should I go on Vacation?

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A little about me: I'm a 23 yr old guy, recent college grad working full time in the suburbs of Chicago... where I grew up. I've got a week off of work for vacation the beginning of December that I want to do something with besides sit around here.

My options that I've come up with:

*Europe: Round trip tickets from Chicago - Zurich - Istanbul - Frankfort - Chicago are $550. I would spend 22 hours in Zurich, 4 days in Istanbul and 20 hours in Frankfort. I don't have a real desire to go to Istanbul, but on the other hand, I went to Brussels in February (which wasn't also on the top of my list) and still had a blast.

+ Cheap euro-trip getting to see 3 countries

+Warmer weather

+ I can use miles earned from the trip to pay for half of my airfare for the Boston Marathon in the spring making the price really only 400

-I've read a lot about scams for solo travelers in Istanbul

-Foreign language barrier

-Not sure on pubic transportation from ZRH and FRA to the downtown centers and if 20 hours is enough to do much of anything after getting through customs and needing to go back through security

* Fly to Denver for $130 RT. I was born in CO and haven't been back since I was 6 months old. I'm not much of a skier or snowboarder, but it would be fun to hang out for a day or two in Denver, then take the bus to Boulder and go hiking and camping. Also could try XC skiing or something like that.

+Mountains sound pretty cool

+Colorado is on the list of placed I'd like to live

+I"m sure it's going to be pretty regardless

+Cheap to get there

-No hostels in Boulder -- will need to rely on Couch Surfing (which shouldn't be bad due to CU)

-I may need to check gear if I'm hiking as it probably would be allowed to fly with me on carry on

-Limited public transportation

-Possibly really cold?

*Take the bus to Chattanooga TN. Round trip bus tickets are around $60. I have a friend who lives in Nashville I can stay with for a night. After, I would take a bus to Chattanooga and hit the trails for 3 days of backpacking. Never been backpacking before but it would be a good experience along the smoky mountains. There is also an alumni I know that lives in Chattanooga that invited me to stay for a day or two.

+I can stay with friends

+Weather will probably be in the 50's in December

+I get to buy hiking gear!

+Nashville is also on my list of possible future places I want to move (along with Boulder, Seattle & Portland)

+Lots of public transportation to get from city to city

- Safe. I went to TN in June for a road trip, although we partied and didn't do any hiking or exploring

- No prior backpacking experience. Would need to learn on my own and fast

- 10+ hours on the bus.

- No backup plan if the weather turns sour.

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Istanbul is known as the

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I'd personally go to Istanbul. Denver and Chattanooga are dull in comparison.

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