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The U.S. has a plethora of incredibly unique places to explore, from exquisite National Parks to the coastline of California. But they must all be pretty expensive, right? Nope!

If you’re traveling on a budget but don’t want to miss out on the best that the U.S. has to offer, we’ve got you covered. There are loads of alternatives to going into debt by checking into a penthouse suite in NYC.

Below are the best cheap vacation spots in the U.S. that guarantee a great adventure without a great big cost.

Cheap Vacations in the U.S.

If you live in the US and are looking for inexpensive trips to take on the weekend, you’ll find them here.

And if you’re traveling from a different country and want to find cheap places to travel in the US, you’ve also come to the right place. 

Let’s dive straight into the best budget-friendly places to visit in the US.

San Luis Obispo, USA

1. San Luis Obispo, California

When you think of California, you may think of the glamorous Hollywood Boulevard and an exorbitantly priced cocktail in one of the nearby bars – or you might imagine sipping on fine wines in Napa Valley and enjoying delicious meals at its neighboring Yountville restaurants

However, a trip to California doesn’t have to break the bank, and vacationing in San Luis Obispo will show you why.

San Luis Obispo (also known as SLO) has gorgeous beaches, hiking spots, and one of California’s best farmer’s markets. Plus, it’s also home to three underrated wine regions. 

You can also find affordable accommodation around SLO. Check out the Peach Tree Inn for a comfortable stay. 

Either join in on the surfing or watch from the shores of Pismo Beach, hike the Bishop Peak trail, or sip on Chardonnay in the nearby Edna Valley.

The best part is that these activities are free (besides the wine – but even these prices are affordable). This is definitely our favorite pick for the best cheap summer vacation.

Moab, Utah, USA

2. Moab, Utah 

When most people think of Utah, they think of Salt Lake City, but the state has much more to offer.

If you’re a nature lover and want to take advantage of the beautiful landscapes Utah has to offer, you’ll be in for a treat at Moab. This town is unique as it borders Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.

In Arches, you can admire the famous red rock sandstone formations while Canyonlands boasts exquisite expansive desert landscapes. Moab is quite literally the best of both worlds, especially for the outdoor adventure seeker.

If you’re a hiker, I highly recommend reading this post about the best and most stunning hikes in Moab, including the iconic Delicate Arch hike.

In and around Moab, you’ll find different inexpensive accommodation options, from campgrounds within the park to motels and vacation rentals surrounding it. One of the best places to pitch your tent is the Sand Flats Recreation Area.

If you’re keen to grab a meal and a drink in Downtown Moab, you’ll be spoilt for choice with a number of health-focused eateries.

The Moab Brewery is a must for a cold beer, and after that, you can spend a bit of time discovering the quirky shops downtown. 

Boat on a lake

3. The Finger Lakes, New York 

We all know that New York ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world, and a trip to the Big Apple can be detrimental to your bank balance.

But don’t despair; the Finger Lakes region of New York has a number of affordable attractions and activities that are bound to keep you smiling. 

Boating, fishing, swimming, and engaging in water sports are great ways to spend a day on the lakes of the region, and you can tailor the activities to align with your budget.

Also a scenic wine region, this is a great place to spend an afternoon wine tasting without spending a fortune.

The Finger Lakes Gorge has an abundance of hiking trails that weave through the lakes. Be prepared for gushing waterfalls and immense natural beauty.

Most of the trails are free but when you decide which trail you would like to embark on, make sure you check if there’s a fee for parking at the starting point or any other extra costs.

The Dorm Hotel is a great place to stay while in the Finger Lakes. It’s modern and comfortable but still affordable. 

If you’re driving from New York City to the Finger Lakes during apple season, make sure to make a quick stop along the Hudson Valley to stop at a farm and do some pickings!

Hot Air Balloons in Albuquerque

4. Albuquerque, New Mexico 

The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a cultural hub with rich Native American influences and stunning never-ending scenery. From the modern downtown area to the stone buildings of Old Town, you won’t tire of exploring the largest city in this amazing state.

A great way to explore the art scene in Albuquerque for free is to join one of the ARTScrawl gallery tours that happen twice a month.

This won’t cost you a cent, and you’ll be able to discover and explore some of the best art galleries on offer in New Mexico.

This city is also home to a number of interesting museums, such as the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum and the American International Rattlesnake Museum.

Both museums make for fascinating day activities, and admission to each is nominal, with each charging a $6 admission fee.

Albuquerque is famous for being the hot air ballooning capital of the world, and if you’re willing to splurge – a hot air balloon ride is the way to do it. 

If you’d prefer to admire the balloons from the ground, the best time to do this is during the nine-day International Balloon Fiesta in October.

It won’t cost you a thing to find a good spot to sit and gaze up at the colorful balloons floating across the sky.

P.S. You can combine Denver as another major destination to visit when in the area. The drive from Denver to Albuquerque is stunning and an easy one to do. It’s worth doing as a mini road trip between New Mexico and Colorado.

Glacier National Park, USA

5. Glacier National Park, Montana

Calling all avid hikers and nature lovers – this is one of the best cheap places to visit in the US. It’s a perfect, affordable, outdoorsy vacation for families, couples, and solo adventurers.

Glacier National Park is breathtakingly beautiful and offers over 700 miles of hiking trails meandering through valleys, glaciers, and waterfalls. 

Plus, it’s much cheaper to visit than other National Parks like Grand Canyon National Park. You’ll need to pay an individual entrance fee of $15 or a private car fee (including all passengers) of $25; both are 7-day passes during the low season.

But bear in mind that some National Days are no-fee days, so be sure to check these out if you’d like to enter the park without paying.

Once you’re in the park, you’ll be able to swim, climb, and hike to your heart’s content. You’ll also be able to take advantage of the free ranger-led day hikes and stargazing at Logan’s Pass.

And, in case you’re not looking for strenuous hikes, there are plenty of easy hikes in Glacier National Park.

If you have a car with you, be sure to take a scenic drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. 

There are plenty of great spots to set up camp within the Glacier National Park, so pack your gear and save on accommodation costs. If you’d rather stay just outside of the Park, Glacier Haven Inn is a great spot.

Also, you should explore the charming mountain town of Whitefish, Montana, for some outdoor activities, shopping, and sightseeing.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA

6. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

This small mountain town is one of the best vacation spots in the U.S. for budget-conscious families and groups.

Situated just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s also an ideal starting place if you’re planning a trip into the mountains. 

Gatlinburg is geared up for any season that you decide to visit. Fall is particularly beautiful as the town glows in the amber autumn colors. But if you visit in winter, you’ll be able to ski, and in summer, you’ll have hiking and white water rafting at your fingertips. 

The town also offers a variety of free places to enjoy fishing, biking, and bird-watching, so there really is something for everyone in Gatlinburg.

If the weather isn’t playing ball, you can take a ride on the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway or visit Ripley’s aquarium.

There are loads of accommodation options that will suit your budget but for an authentic experience, try and book into a rustic mountain cabin. 

Also, if you have extra time, why not take a road trip across the state to discover more of Tennessee? From visiting Chattanooga with kids (a National Historical Park) to exploring Mud Island River Park, and visiting Presley’s Graceland mansion in Memphis; Tennessee is full of year-round activities for outdoor enthusiasts and families alike.

Aerial View of Kansas City, Missouri

7. Kansas City, Missouri

When most people think of the great cities of the US, their minds are drawn to places like New York City, LA, and Boston. However, Kansas City is a place that shouldn’t be overlooked.

It’s full of free attractions, and flight and hotel prices tend to be relatively low.

If you’re a beer-lover, then you can check out the Boulevard Brewing Company tour for just $10 per person on weekdays. Here, you’ll learn about the brewing process and even get to try some free samples!

You can also take in downtown KC with a free ride on the KC Streetcar which stops off at iconic locations like the Kauffmann Center, Union Station, and City Market.

When you’re ready to soak up some culture, head to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, where you can see works by famous artists such as Willem de Kooning, Georgia O’Keefe, and David Hockney. The gallery also has an excellent on-site restaurant called Cafe Sebastienne.

There are plenty of other low-cost attractions in KC like The Money Museum, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and Hallmark Visitors Center.

For an affordable place to stay, be sure to check out the Seville Plaza Hotel (but make sure you book well in advance to keep the price down).

Aerial View of Denver, Colorado

8. Denver, Colorado

OK, you might be wondering how Denver has found its way onto this list. After all, it’s usually associated with expensive skiing vacations. Yet, the city and the surrounding countryside are also perfect for a cheap getaway.

In fact, if you’re looking for a vacation that includes the creature comforts of a city and easy access to the wonders of nature, you can’t do much better than Denver.

While you’re in the city, pay a visit to the Denver Art Museum and enjoy a stroll through the Botanic Gardens. You can also visit the Colorado State Capital building for free and learn all about its history.

One of the best things about visiting Denver is that you can travel around its downtown by bus for free using The Denver MallRide service. It’s available seven days a week from early morning to late at night and is an ideal way to save money on transport.

After you’ve explored the city, take advantage of the incredible hikes that are right on the doorstep. The Trading Post Trail is a family-friendly hike that includes a stop at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater. By the way, if you time it well, you can even go to one of the free outdoor concerts at the amphitheater.

Coca Cola in Downtown Atlanta

9. Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is one of the gems of the American South, and as far as cities go, it’s a pretty affordable destination. There are loads of low-cost or even free attractions like the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, and the Fernbank Science Center.

Atlanta is a city that’s bursting with green spaces and since the weather is usually nice, you can easily spend a whole afternoon walking around its large urban parks. These include Centennial Olympic Park and Piedmont Park.

Atlanta is also the home of Coca-Cola, and no trip to the city would be complete without a visit to the World of Coca-Cola. For $21 per adult, you can learn about the history of the world’s most popular soda and sample some different flavors from around the globe!

The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas

10. San Antonio, Texas

While some other cities in Texas are fairly expensive, like Houston, San Antonio is an affordable destination for vacations in the Lone Star State.

One of my favorite things to do here is take a stroll along the San Antonio River Walk. It stretches along the banks of the San Antonio River, and there are plenty of great restaurants along the way.

The San Antonio Zoo and the Botanical Garden are other budget-friendly ways to spend a day in the city.

While you’re there, you should definitely visit the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s full of amazing architecture and fascinating history and is home to the famous Alamo. Plus, admission to the park is absolutely free!

Discovering Cheap Vacation Ideas in the U.S. 

So, there you have it – some of the cheapest places to travel to in the US.

There’s a spot on this list to suit everyone’s needs and budgets. From breathtaking hikes in some of the US’s best National Parks to hot air balloon rides in Albuquerque, there is a lot for you to see and do that won’t break the bank.

All it takes is careful planning and knowledge of the best cheap vacation spots in the US, and you’re good to go. 

If you often vacation on a budget and need some more vacation ideas, check out how to plan a cheap trip to Machu Picchu, as well as how to get around Berlin on the cheap.

Adventure Awaits


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