Martha's Vineyard, for Every Traveler

Martha's Vineyard may conjure up images of inflated hotel prices and posh retreats for presidents and a select few wealthy New Englanders. But it's possible to enjoy the 100-square-mile Massachusetts island without breaking the bank.

Add to this the yearly events and local cuisine, and the Vineyard is an ideal getaway for any demographic. Six towns present their own unique feel, with the three towns of Vineyard Haven, Edgartown and Oak Bluffs accounting for about three-quarters of the island's year-round population of about 15,000 people.

From a vacationer's perspective, Oak Bluffs may be the best bet. Outdoor areas are plentiful, including Ocean Park, which hosts summer concerts. Oak Bluffs also provides the energy of Circuit Avenue, a bustling strip that offers bars, a movie theater, restaurants and even an arcade for children.

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Another visual treat is the gingerbread cottages, built in the 1800s by a Methodist church community. They're brightly colored and ornate homes that look straight out of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.

With summer behind us now, fall brings with it cheaper prices at some of the island's more expensive boutiques. Bed-and-breakfast hotels are plentiful on the island. A room at the Madison Inn provides an intimate country appeal, complete with breakfast in the morning and a porch to sit on and watch passersby. Nightly rates run from $99 to $129 in the fall.

Next door to the inn sits a local favorite, the Sidecar Cafe & Bar. If the sound of lobster macaroni and cheese tugs at the foodie in you, Sidecar's signature dish will not disappoint. For an even more personal stay, try the 1720 House in Vineyard Haven, which gives travelers the true experience of living in a home, without having to pay property rental prices. Rates run at a reasonable $85 to $120 per night. If you don't mind sharing space, to really save, consider the Hostel International Martha's Vineyard, where a bed in a dorm costs $29 to $39 per night.

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Summer film festivals have continued to gain in popularity on the island in recent years; most notably the African-American Film Festival and Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival . This year, the International Film Festival, organized by self-proclaimed film buff Richard Paradise, hosted more than 20 films from around the world, including South Korea's controversial "Madeo" and the 2010 Oscar winner "El Secreto de Sus Ojos."

This year, actor Matthew Modine received the Global Citizen award, and premiered his new film, "The Trial." Although not the big lights of Sundance or Toronto, this festival encompasses an intimate community that appreciates a greater understanding of stories from afar, complete with after-hour parties and locally hosted dinners starring filmmakers' works.

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Another benefit the Vineyard certainly offers is reasonably priced food options. Sharky's Cantina, located in both Edgartown and Oak Bluffs, boasts of 50 menu items for less than $10. Happy-hour margarita prices and flat-screen televisions make this a sports fan's favorite hangout.

The scene is festive and light; the food is Tex-Mex with portions large enough for leftovers. There is southern charm in the form of cuisine available on the island as well. Fried pickles at Smoke-N-Bones can remedy even the worst hangover, and biscuits with gravy at Biscuits cafe are true to its down-home roots.

Nancy's restaurant on Circuit Avenue is synonymous with the town of Oak Bluffs. Fresh seafood and views of the yacht-filled marina are added bonuses, but the real treat comes in the form of Jamaican-born bartender Donovan at Nancy's outdoor bar. Reggae songs from the '90s fill the air, although often drowned out by Donovan's own booming voice, adding his special take on the tune.

Locals and tourists don't seem to mind, which might have to do with his heavy-pouring hand that swiftly concocts rum punch and his signature drink, the Dirty Banana. It adds to the laid-back feel of the spot. And, if you close your eyes for a second, you could mistake this mellow vibe for the Caribbean.

Continuing along the marina will lead to a few food options, including a sushi bar to take in the sunset and boats headed to and from Cape Cod and Nantucket.

If desserts are your weak spot, you may find nirvana at the Oak Bluff's Back Door Donuts. At this local favorite, full of croissants, honey-dipped donuts and buttercrunch cakes, the real secret is, indeed, at the back door.

After 7 p.m., pedestrians can walk to the back parking lot of the bakery and stand in line at a screened door that leads to a kitchen where the magic happens. Here, huge fresh-out-the-deep-fryer fritters, decorated with mounds of tart apples and moist sugar cinnamon bread for $3.75, are prepared for a hungry line of devoted fans. You have until the clock strikes midnight to experience this ridiculously delicious treat.

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The best way to see the island on a budget is by renting a bike. The rental will run about $25 for a full day. And, with a free day and conviction to take in as much as possible, viewing most of the island is possible in half the time. Enjoy a sandwich from the island's sandwich shop, Skinny's Fat, and take in the view along the way at one of the islands many beaches.

Aquinnah, located on the Western tip of the island, may not be as easily accessible by bike if you are staying in Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs. But a car or taxi ride is definitely worth the visit.

Grab a cup of clam chowder from a small shack called the Bite in the next door fishing village of Menemsha. Walk across the dirt road to the fresh seafood market, pick out a lobster.

Head down to the beach, just footsteps away, and watch a burnt-orange sun sink into a fushcia- and aqua-colored sky.

Now, you understand why both presidents and tourists alike keep coming back. There's magic in the air.