Best Cheap Vacations in the U.S.
The United States is home to a wide range of vacation spots that offer plenty of things to do at reasonable prices. U.S. News, with the help of expert opinions and user votes, ranked the best value vacations America has to offer. Use this list to help pick your next affordable domestic destination, and don't forget to vote for your choice getaway below to help shape next year's list.
- View 23 PhotosBelongs on List?#1 in Best Cheap Vacations in the U.S.Read More
A favorite destination for hikers, Glacier National Park borders Canada from the northern edge of Montana. After paying the nominal entrance fee, you can hike, swim and climb to your heart's content. Also take advantage of the park's free ranger-led activities, including daylong hikes and stargazing at the Logan Pass. There are nature centers and small parks to rest in after you've exhausted yourself.
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It doesn't get more affordable than camping, and the views from the North Rim of Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park are priceless. After trekking the trails that weave through this 277-mile-long park and exploring the Cave of the Domes on Horseshoe Mesa – the only in-park cave that is open to the public – peruse the shops and art galleries in Grand Canyon Village. The Grand Canyon's entrance fee covers many of the park's activities, but you can save even more by visiting on one of the National Park Service's free entrance days.
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With nearly 1 million acres to explore, Olympic National Park in northwest Washington state offers visitors panoramic views of glacier-capped mountains and temperate rainforests. Popular activities include fishing, exploring tide pools, hiking and stargazing. Travelers may even get the chance to spot wild animals like elk, black bears, gray whales and bald eagles while making their way through the park. For the warmest weather and mostly sunny conditions, visit between July and August.
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It's all about the outdoors in this Tennessee town. Home to three entrances to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg shines in the fall when the leaves change colors. Plus, the town offers a variety of free places to go fishing, biking, bird-watching and camping, making it a great vacation spot for budget-conscious families and groups. If the weather isn't ideal for outdoor activities, take in the views from the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway or spend the day watching Appalachian crafts being made in the galleries and shops that comprise the Great Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts Loop.
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Sequoia National Park's varied terrain is home to all kinds of wildlife, including bobcats, gray foxes and bears. This park in central California is also known for its giant sequoia groves, and you're guaranteed to see hundreds of the massive namesake trees when you drive through the park. Make the most of your modestly priced park pass by leaving the car to explore the underground Crystal Cave and various hiking trails.
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Anchorage is home to more than 40% of Alaska's population, and many of the state's visitors pass through the city on their way to the northern wilderness. Exploring the nature to the north is free (if you already have gear), but be sure to take advantage of the interesting shops and reasonably priced museums in town as well. Many feature items that have ties to Anchorage's Russian and Native American communities, plus its gold rush and pioneer history.
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Sitting on the border of the Colorado Rockies and the Great Plains, Colorado Springs is easily accessible from all around the country. Once you arrive in this Colorado town, you can enjoy its bevy of free attractions. Picnic between the red rocks that make up the Garden of the Gods, or take a dip in the creek within North Cheyenne Cañon Park.
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Portland, Oregon, is home to countless craft breweries and boutique shops, but this Pacific Northwest destination also boasts many budget-friendly activities to keep you from breaking the bank. Powell's City of Books is free to peruse, while the nearly 5-acre International Rose Test Garden offers free complimentary tours at 1 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. What's more, Portland features a walkable downtown neighborhood that hosts free outdoor concerts and a farmers market every summer.
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Home to the legendary Alamo and River Walk, San Antonio is continuously buzzing with things to do. On a warm, sunny day, visitors can enjoy a relaxing picnic in Brackenridge Park or a leisurely stroll around the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. While hotels and restaurants in the heart of the city will charge a pretty penny for their convenient location, room rates here are still cheaper than other Texas travel destinations.
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This Virginia town is both affordable and educational. Williamsburg and the adjacent towns of Jamestown and Yorktown make up the Greater Williamsburg Area, which features more than 400 years of valued American history. Step back in time at Colonial Williamsburg, then head to the Williamsburg Premium Outlets for a discounted shopping spree. Visit in the fall or spring to avoid extreme temperatures.
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Nags Head#11 in Best Cheap Vacations in the U.S.
Spending time in the sun is the main reason to make the trip to Nags Head, part of the Outer Banks region of North Carolina. The beach town's towering sand dunes in Jockey's Ridge State Park and great fishing spots in the surrounding Gulf Stream waters attract travelers with varying interests. When visitors are not lounging on the sand, they can explore Nags Head's lighthouses or look for birds, sea turtles and more at nearby Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Fall and spring are the best seasons to visit thanks to fewer crowds and lower prices for accommodations.
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Immerse yourself in musical history in Memphis, Tennessee. Visit Elvis Presley's former kingdom at Graceland, tour the birthplace of rock 'n' roll at Sun Studio and groove to live music along Beale Street. For additional information about Memphis' deep ties to the music industry, check out local museums like the Blues Hall of Fame Museum and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. Each costs $10 or less per person to enter.
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Visit Albuquerque, New Mexico, for one of its many events, such as the unique Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta or the free monthly ARTScrawl gallery tours. Or, stay grounded and visit the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, which offers free admission on Sunday mornings and the first Friday of every month. If you can stand the heat, you'll find even deeper discounts in the summer.
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Sunny Tucson, Arizona, gives travelers ample opportunities to sightsee and stay in shape without breaking the bank. Several of the city's landmarks are free to visit, including Mission San Xavier del Bac and the University of Arizona campus. Plus, this desert locale is home to Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, which features picturesque waterfalls and miles of hiking trails. Plan a visit during the second weekend of your month of choice, when Tucson's lively downtown area fills with food trucks, musicians and vendors selling various goods.
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Whether you're searching for a beach with top-notch conditions for Jet Skiing and surfing, a more secluded spot for lounging or a place that's ideal for deep-sea fishing, Myrtle Beach offers something for everyone. After spending the day enjoying this South Carolina city's family-friendly sands, check out Broadway at the Beach, an outdoor entertainment area with shops, eateries and live entertainment venues. Visit during the summer to also take advantage of seasonal, free activities like outdoor concerts, carriage rides and movie screenings.
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The 11 lakes that comprise the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York are an outdoor enthusiast's playground. Must-do activities that won't break the bank include fishing at Skaneateles Lake and hiking past Watkins Glen State Park's 19 waterfalls. Visitors can also learn about auto racing at Watkins Glen International or tour the beautiful Cornell University campus. Money saved can be spent at the wineries in the region.
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With average hotel prices hovering around $150 per night or less, an inexpensive trip to Salt Lake City is possible year-round. Save money on activities by participating in free events (think: concerts and block parties) in Temple Square. Or, stick to free attractions like Liberty Park, the Salt Lake Temple and the Family History Library. If you're itching to get outside during the warmer months, venture about 20 miles west of the city to the Great Salt Lake to hike, picnic and fish.
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When people think of Florida, their minds often drift to Orlando's theme parks or upscale Miami Beach, but they'd be remiss to overlook the country's oldest city. St. Augustine is packed with historical landmarks, including Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the Old Jail and St. George Street. Plus, downtown St. Augustine sits 5 miles northwest of St. Augustine Beach, an almost 2-mile-long shoreline with a splash pad and a fishing pier.
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This Ozark town in western Missouri will likely stir up some deja vu thanks to its Las Vegas-style water and fire fountain show at Lake Taneycomo and its Titanic Museum, a realistic replica of the infamous ship. Though family-friendly attractions like Silver Dollar City and White Water Branson can get pricey, budget-conscious travelers can bypass these sights in favor of enjoying an array of affordable activities. Cheap ways to pass the time include swimming at Table Rock Lake and feeding fish at the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery.
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Gettysburg is best known for its three-day battle in 1863 and former President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. As such, the small Pennsylvania town appeals to history buffs and families eager to learn about the blood, sweat and tears that once blanketed the battlefield. But Gettysburg offers more than just historical attractions. Visitors can check out farmers markets, sign up for a ghost tour or browse the boutiques and art galleries lining downtown's main thoroughfare.
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