Why these are Road Warriors' favorite cities for business trips

Life on the road is tough for many frequent business travelers, but some destinations make the constant travel so much easier to take.

They're downright appealing places that business travelers look forward to visiting because of a special restaurant or hotel, nightlife, geography or the friendliness of locals.

USA TODAY asked very frequent business travelers who are volunteer members of the newspaper's Road Warrior panel for their favorite destinations.

About 175 responded, including Steven Metcalf of Live Oak, Fla., who says he's enjoyed most of his 165 nights this year away from home.

"I won't leave work just to eat dinner and sit in a hotel room," says the manager in the logistics industry. "I get out and about town. I'll go to a local fair or flea market, walk the mall, or take a drive into the country surrounding the city."

Metcalf enjoys driving to the Rocky Mountains outside Denver for dinner at a diner or drives up beautiful Clear Creek Canyon to the little gambling town of Black Hawk.

He also loves Seattle, its surrounding countryside and the nearby horse track, where it's "great to watch the horses run while the mountains overlook the track."

Richard Leck of Bedford, N.H., likes New York for its many dining and entertainment options, Chicago for its pizza — particularly Giordano's, Lou Malnati's or Gino's East — and Hawaii for dinners near the beach in shorts and a T-shirt.

"It is always nice to go someplace with physical beauty that you don't see every day at home," says the president of a management consulting firm who was away from home about 135 nights this year. "It is typically little things that make the difference, because a day on the road is so routine, and rarely do you see anything but traffic and an office."

Faith Varwig of Olivette, Mo., says out-of-town travel is "what you make it," and food "tells the story of the city and the people who live there."

She says she loves Minneapolis in the summer because of cool temperatures and "great" downtown bars and restaurants. She recommends a former speakeasy, the 5-8 Club, for lunch and two restaurants just outside the city — Axel's River Grille and Jensen's Supper Club — for dinner.

Axel's River Grille has excellent martinis and will stuff olives "with anything you want," says Varwig, an airport engineering consultant. She says, "I like to challenge them."

Jensen's Supper Club also has a bowling alley and bar next door.

For many travelers, the friendliness of local residents or local lifestyle makes or breaks a destination.

Dan Crowbridge of Colorado Springs says his favorite destination is "anywhere in Alaska" because of the beautiful geography and the people. "Life seems so relaxed there," says the manager for a hydraulic rescue equipment manufacturer.

Warren Kurtzman of Raleigh, N.C., says he was nervous about traveling to Bogota, Colombia, for the first time but enjoyed the visit because the food was great and the locals were "warm and hospitable."

Kurtzman says he always tries to find "redeeming qualities" about anywhere he goes and is usually successful.

"Heck, I even had a great time in Buffalo over a weekend in January that featured single-digit temperatures," says the president of a media research and consulting firm. "I spent time with one of my favorite clients, and we took in a (Carolina) Hurricanes-Sabres hockey game."

But every destination is not peaches and cream for Road Warriors. Extreme hot or cold weather influences many travelers' perceptions of a destination. Some dislike East Coast or Midwestern cities because of cold winters; others dislike the South's summer heat.

John Gamell of Amherst, N.Y., says his least favorite places are Atlanta — "because of the heat" — and Washington, Philadelphia and New York because of traffic.

"If you don't need to drive, they are great cities," says Gamell, a sales manager who has traveled to every state except Wyoming and Hawaii.

Las Vegas, which some frequent travelers cite as a favorite destination, is the least favorite of Bill Stuart of Franklin, Tenn.

"It's a great city, but I'm not a big gambler, and you hear nothing but the sounds of slot machines from the time you get off your plane until the time you get back on one to leave," says Stuart, CEO of a retail consulting company. "After 30 years of traveling there, it gets a little old."