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Seven 'deadly' sins, seven great trips

  • Story Highlights
  • Envy celebrities by taking a helicopter tour of California's richest areas
  • Albert C. Barnes was one of America's most famous hoarders of art
  • Indulge in a movie-lovers' marathon package at The Roxbury in New York
  • Thou shalt not kill, but in Thai boxing thou can cometh pretty darn close
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By Jean Tang
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Budget Travel

(Budget Travel) -- Envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth and wrath -- here are vacation ideas with all the decadence and none of the guilt.

At Big Texan Steak Ranch they'll reward you for stuffing your face full of food.

At Big Texan Steak Ranch they'll reward you for stuffing your face full of food.

Envy

Hop a four-seat helicopter tour of the Los Angeles, California, area's Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Bel-Air, Malibu, Laurel Canyon and Hollywood Hills. During the 35-minute flight, Celebrity Helicopters provides bird's-eye views of wretched excess, such as the 77,000-square-foot mansion belonging to Eddie Murphy and the 21-car garage built by the late Aaron Spelling.

Chief pilot Robin Petgrave has done stunt work for action movies such as "Broken Arrow." He'll tell you what really goes down on movie sets. Best of all, proceeds from your trip help fund a nonprofit program to train young pilots. Departs from the (non-glamorous) Compton, California, airport, 877/999-2099, celebheli.com, rides from $189 a person.

Budget Travel slide show: Seven 'deadly' sins on vacation

Gluttony

You can stuff your face full of food anywhere, but these two restaurants will reward you for doing it. At Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, you sit on a stage and attempt to wolf down a 72-ounce top sirloin, a shrimp cocktail, a salad, a dinner roll and a baked potato -- all within an hour. The prize? Your meal is free. It's harder than it looks, though. In nearly a half century, more than 42,000 people have failed and had to pay for their meals -- currently $72 each. (Nearly 8,000 challengers have won.) Big Texan Steak Ranch, 800/657-7177, bigtexan.com

Don't Miss

The incentives are even greater at Bubi's Awesome Eats in Windsor, Ontario, where the Bunda's Big V8 burger weighs roughly 18 pounds and is about the size of a milk crate. For devouring the sandwich in 90 minutes, a winner could get $1,000. But to date, hundreds of contestants have paid the approximately $65 price and taken home nothing but a T-shirt. As for customer reactions to the spectacle, owner Buddy Miloyevich says, "It's like an accident: There are those who want to see the blood and guts, and others who turn their heads away." Bubi's Awesome Eats, 519/252-2001, bubis.org.

Greed

Albert C. Barnes was one of America's most famous hoarders of art. He amassed 181 Renoirs (a world record), 69 Cézannes (another world record), 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos and hundreds of other masterworks. He displayed most of them on the burlap-lined walls of his mansion. Barnes rarely lent works from his gallery collection, and he didn't let people tour his home. (He did make many exceptions, including for workers in his pharmaceutical factory.)

Barnes' supporters say that greed had nothing to do with his behavior. They explain that the great entrepreneur had put tremendous thought into how he presented his collection, and he didn't want to disturb the effect by lending out pieces. After Barnes' death, his mansion was opened to the wider public. Tickets to visit The Barnes Foundation in the Philadelphia suburb of Merion, Pennsylvania, are by reservation only. In 2011, the gallery collection will move to a new home in Center City Philadelphia. 610/667-0290, barnesfoundation.org, $12.

Lust

At the two aptly named Hedonism Resorts in Jamaica, everything is included in the price -- except free love. Among the many activities are nude volleyball, body painting, pole dancing, porn star-themed parties, and, yes, weddings. Depending on the day and your mood, you can snorkel and sun on the Prude side, or strut like a peacock through the truly Nude side. Each area contains multiple pools and a Nude- or Prude-only beach and pool. All the guest rooms have mirrored ceilings.

The 280-room Hedo II, in Negril, has the larger spa, oceanfront suites with whirlpool baths, and is favored by couples. The newer 225-room Hedo III, in Runaway Bay, draws more singles. (There is no Hedo I. Perhaps it was destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah.) Packing light is clearly a virtue. 877/467-8737, hedonismresorts.com, packages from $145 per person, including meals and activity fees.

Pride

If you feel like you have a little too much body to strut, soothe your pride at a wellness destination spa that's both affordable and well regarded. The Heartland Spa is a homey, 16-room converted dairy farm on 32 acres in Gilman, Illinois, which is about 90 miles south of Chicago. Choose from Pilates, Bosu, pressurized weight machines and laps in the 48-foot-long, 82-degree-Fahrenheit indoor pool. Afterward, return to the main manor via a heated underground tunnel.

The resort, which has been well rated by Shape, Town & Country and Spas of America, keeps rates low with spare accommodations and a simplified menu of amenities. A two-night stay costs about half as much as a single night at an oceanfront competitor. So a visit here will also nurture your pride in your financial savvy for having found such a deal. 800/545-4853, heartlandspa.com, doubles from $748 for a two-night stay, including meals, unlimited classes, a 40-minute massage and workout clothing.

Sloth

A lazy person's idea of a lazy vacation is staying on a tropical beach. But even in paradise, you have to conjure up enough energy to get from room to white sand to swim-up bar to candlelit dinner. So why not go instead to the mountains near Catskill, New York, where you can indulge in a movie-lovers' marathon package at The Roxbury. Choose DVDs from this boutique motel's 400-disk library, and then sit back and have your own film festival on a high-definition plasma TV.

Munch on your choice of a cheeseboard or a lunch platter, plus Milk Duds, popcorn and a bottle of wine. Extra pillows and a box of tissues are included. Rooms are decorated fancifully to help you feel like a Hollywood star. Indolence has never felt so glamorous. 607/ 326-7200, theroxburymotel.com, doubles from $125 a night plus $75 for the Sensational Celluloid Movie Lovers' Marathon package; hourlong, in-room massage treatment is only available for certain rooms and costs an additional $110 per person.

Wrath

Thou shalt not kill. But in Thai boxing -- called muay Thai -- thou can cometh pretty darn close, considering the sport's 30-plus types of elbow throws and various knee jabs, high kicks and fist clenches. Fairtex Muay Thai Fitness in San Francisco's SoMa district is nearly as popular as its original outpost in Thailand. The trainers are tough, and even if you're not vying for a world championship, you'll still learn control and discipline -- and get into pretty mean shape.

The 15,000-square-foot facility is replete with 16- to 25-foot ceilings and regulation-size boxing rings. Says CEO and president of the operation Anthony Lin, "muay Thai was designed in the battlefield to destroy opponents, without using weapons." Some of its techniques are illegal in other martial arts. 415/777-0702, fairtex.com, $10 for your first drop-in class.

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Copyright © 2009 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc., all rights reserved.

Note: This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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