10 Cheap Destinations to Travel in the United States
The United States isn’t among most popular backpacking and cheap destinations in the world. It may lack some low-end fancy hostels, convenient transportation between the States and extensive bus network. Typically, outside major cities, you end up staying at roadside motels and hotels that are still more expensive than hostels. Another way is to find a few affordable options with Airbnb or Couchsurfing. Travel infrastructure inside the continent doesn’t provide many options either, which means you have to pay more.
However, there is a chance to visit the United States on a budget. This country has amazing nature, inexpensive national parks, affordable camping sites and lovely cities that can offer both – great attractions and budget accommodation. I have put together a list of budget-friendly cities that won’t break the bank and will allow feeling the spirit of the country. A multitude of options available if you desperately want to take a vacation in the US, but short of money to make it come true. You may have more options than you are actually aware of.
These budget destinations in the United States offer backpackers a chance to gratify their wanderlust. You can reduce expenses in an exponential manner by visiting affordable cities with great food, accommodation and wide array of activities.
Attend the Parade in New Orleans, LA
While big cities may end up demanding a massive portion of your savings, New Orleans is a perfect place for travelers on a budget. You can save big when it comes to entertainment with a large number of street performers everywhere and festivals held during every season.
If you are fond of observing people, then this city has a lot to offer too. Ride in the famous streetcars that not just provide a pleasant experience but are also affordable ones. If you obtain a one-day pass for just 3 USD you can ride as many times you want in any local bus or streetcar. The city offers numerous lodging options. Hostels in the city charge less than 20 USD per night.
The city of New Orleans is ideal for exploring on foot. Opt for a guided walking tour to know more about the historic mansions, old cemeteries and other architectural monuments that adorn the city.
Do not forget to explore the French Quarter, which is the focal point of this city. You can find old buildings that date back to 300 years with incredible architecture reflecting French influences with picturesque courtyards, red-tiled roofs, arcades and wrought iron balconies. Be a part of the signature event of this city, the Mardi Gras, which lasts for two weeks. The celebrations include all kinds of festivities, entertainment, and daily parades. The National WWII Museum is another outstanding offering with its documentary snippets and engaging exhibits that tell the tale of WWII.
Five Things To Do In New Orleans
- No matter how you call it – the Vieux Carre or Old Square, no trip to New Orleans would be complete without visiting the French Quarter. The only bad thing about it is that you will need more than an entire day to explore the neighborhood till the end. The good thing is that you have a good excuse for staying in the Big Easy for a little bit longer.
- I was really excited to visit Laura Plantation during my quick visit to New Orleans. Imagining generations of Creole families spending time working in the fields, remembering episodes of the American Civil War and learning new facts about racial segregation, I had time well invested by attending the tour. Named after the fourth mistress of the plantation, the entire site has been restored so you can visit it to enjoy a large collection of family treasures, some items of apparel and memoirs of Laura herself.
- Stroll the Bourbon Street at night to see how the city is partying!
- Roam around the Garden District to expore ornate historic mansions with blue ceilings. You may find the Garden District to be something quite the opposite to Bourbon Street, so relaxing and laid-back with amazing trees along the roads and gingerbread Victorian-style homes dotted between the alleys. Consider exploring the District from the charming trolley!
- When I hear that New Orleans isn’t only about splendid Creole architecture, plantations, and buzzing Bourbon street, I just can’t agree more. Louisiana is home to abundant wildlife such as gators, muskrats, and raccoons that can be enjoyed from a slow-paced boat cruising along the waterways. Louisiana’s wetlands are considered one of the best places in the United States for bird watching. If you’re adventurous enough to take an airboat ride, then expect some adrenaline-inducing experience.
View the Wildlife in Yellowstone
To be honest, I visited Yellowstone as a tourist so I didn’t know much about its secret places and most budget tips were unknown to me. So now, you can use my knowledge to visit Yellowstone on a budget. With pristine lakes and dramatic peaks, the Yellowstone National Park is a paradise for backpackers (if you know the spots). The verdant forests and the hot springs offer dramatic views of the untouched natural beauty. Paying a moderate admission fee (or getting there on certain free dates) guarantees you access to numerous activities inside the park ranging from wildlife watching to photography and snowshoeing. The park has some budget friendly attractions in the vicinity.
With a decent selection of restaurants and lodging options in Yellowstone, it is better to stay outside the park to get more reasonable prices (and book in advance as well!). This also applies to food if you’re on a tight budget. Despite the fact that West Yellowstone possesses two grocery stores and several restaurants scattered throughout the territory, you may consider bringing your own food to enjoy the nature on the cheap. Save some time for lesser-known areas such as hot springs of the West Thumb Geyser Basin.
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City is one of the best cities in terms of affordability. It boasts a high culture, barbecue, diverse cuisine and art scene. What makes the city a great travel destination is the numerous free attractions. The average price of a hotel is 120 USD per night, however, motels and several inns make accommodation rates more affordable. You would not be happy to know that there are no hostels in the city, but you can consider some cheaper options such as Airbnb or Bed and Breakfast (which offer better value for money sometimes).
Be sure to visit the historic River Market, which is one of the largest in the region. The market boasts of numerous restaurants and unique gift shops. The Crossroads Art District comes to life on the first Fridays of each month as numerous people flock the place for the 40-gallery art crawl.
A wide variety of food trucks and sidewalk vendors, as well as live entertainment options, brighten up the district during the time. The Country Plaza is another tourist attraction, which should not be missed because of its ambiance. Modeled after Seville in Spain, the place is ideal for grabbing a bite. The Crown Center offers an interesting mix of kid’s activities, dining and shopping options. These also offer interactive, free exhibits all year round for kids. You can go skating during winters in the KC ice terrace. The tour of Boulevard Brewing Company and Harley-Davidson Plant is offered for free in the city.
Escape the Heat in Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix is an ideal place for those who love the sun. The region experiences sunny days all year round. This large sprawling city is known for its Spanish and Indian colonial influences. The city is home to numerous cultural and art attractions, the diverse art community, museums and historic neighborhoods. Numerous mountains in the surroundings offer plenty of opportunities for climbing, cycling, and hiking.
The city offers plenty of accommodations to those traveling on a budget. You can easily find anything from budget hotels to spas in the city. Visit the renowned Heard Museum, which is devoted to the culture and art of Native American people of the Southwest. The displays include textiles, jewelry, pottery, a large collection of Kachina dolls and basket work. You can visit the Desert Botanical Garden, which offers specimens of vegetation from deserts in the cactus garden.
There are several trails you can take for getting a close view of the desert life. Heritage Square is yet another popular tourist area in the city which houses lovingly restored houses from the early days of the city. These buildings date back to the late 1800s and many have now turned into restaurants and shops. Travel around the city in the METRO Light RAIL which would cost you just 4 USD if you purchase an all-day pass.
This vibrant city is known for two things: musical history and barbecue. The city has turned synonymous with Elvis Presley. There are plenty of museums in the city, which offer insight into the musical roots of the city, arts, and history. Two main parks along the majestic Mississippi – Tom Lee and Greenbelt Park, offer amazing views of the river.
Memphis has become more inviting over the years with its live music and exciting nightlife. Train, car, and bus are viable options to travel all over the city. The cheapest way would be to use public transportation.
The city offers a wide range of accommodation in terms of price. There are budget hotels and hostels that start from 25 USD per night per person. All those animal lovers out there should consider visiting the Memphis Zoo, which boasts of numerous activities for the adults and the children alike.
You can’t say you’ve visited Memphis unless you’ve seen Sun Studio and Graceland. Both these iconic places are a must even if you’re not a fan of Johnny Cash or Elvis Presley. I felt like I took a step back in time and learned some awesome facts about Memphis music legends. Try not to miss the Stax Museum of American Soul Music for the same reason.
Explore the museums in Downtown Phoenix and shop in Scottsdale. Hike up Camelback Mountain and explore the indoor and outdoor shopping malls.
Listen To The Music in Nashville, Tennessee
Even though I’m not a country music fan, I found Nashville to be a great destination for solo travelers. I stayed here for only two days and seen not as much as I initially planned, Nashville has a lot of things to offer aside from the history behind the music.
Did you know that you have a chance to see an exact replica of the Parthenon in Nashville? Located not far away from downtown, the Centennial Park is home to this replica and hosts some interesting events every weekend. Take a stroll along the alleyways or ride a bike, this park is a great place to unwind!
Since Nashville was listed among the friendliest cities in the United States, you can take advantage of Southern hospitality and meet the locals during pedal tavern tour! This is so much fun! Not into sipping beer and pedaling? Visit everyday Nashville Farmers Market at Bicentennial Mall and kill three birds with one stone! Get fresh food from farmers, find some trinkets at the flea market and grab free samples with music during Night Market.
No trip to Nashville would be complete without visiting Lower Broadway or the Honky Tonk Highway. Nashville is associated with this place! A street filled with bars, neon signs, street musicians and tourist shops. You can dance or get a glass of beer at a very low cost. Honky Tonk is one of the best spots in Nashville for people watching!
Visiting Nashville with kids? Set aside country music and head to Adventure Science Center. This place is made for kids. Planetarium, flight simulator, regular demonstrations, and lectures help educate not only little ones but adults as well. I found some anatomy displays to be very impressive!
If you want to reduce your expenses on transportation, stick to local bus service, or hop-on the Music City Circuit bus, which is free and takes you all around the downtown. It covers Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame, Bicentennial Mall and Farmers Market.
Hit the Beaches in Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is a city steeped in history. This photogenic city remembers the very first days of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, boasts eye-catching architecture and offer a laid-back vacation at any of several beaches.
Start your trip through Charleston from strolling the King Street, a place to enjoy the most renowned restaurant scene. If you are looking for a great shopping and locally made goods, then you won’t want to miss Charleston City Market. The city has also preserved its tradition of sweetgrass basket weaving. Head to the City Market to get a couple of them.
How To Do Charleston On a Budget?
Most centuries-old mansions and moss-draped trees can be reached on foot, which means you don’t have to spend extra money on a bus or car rental. Explore the old streets of the Downtown, check out some free of charge galleries and attend a free walking tour!
Take advantage of Charleston’s natural beauty. Go for a walk in Hampton Park or The Citadel. Marion Square hosts a number of free events throughout a year. Don’t let the charming beaches of Charleston drop off your radar! Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach are great for a laid-back weekend!
You will find great angles and perspective for your photos if you direct your feet to the East Battery Street. A splendid neighborhood, the Battery is filled with Antebellum architecture, charming promenade, and a seawall. The district is named after the fact that the artillery was placed here during the Civil War. Start your trip along the Battery at the 12-acre Waterfront Park (home to the giant pineapple fountain featured on many Charleston postcards). Then follow the walking paths on the East Battery Street for the nearly mile-long stroll to White Point Gardens.
Enjoy the Antebellum Architecture in Savannah, Georgia
I found Savannah with its oak trees draped in Spanish moss and creepy cemeteries to be an extremely slow-paced city of the Old South. Savannah is totally worth a visit during any US trip. It offers an amazing mix of charming old mansions, delicious food, and eclectic architecture.
As you start exploring the city, there are plenty of great places to visit and sights to see. You won’t want to miss the Forsyth Park with the Confederate Monument and the old French Fountain. Be sure to visit the Forsyth Park on St. Patrick’s Day to see how the water of the fountain turns green. Spend a day here visiting the rose gardens, going on a picnic and attending events!
The historic district was a highlight of my trip to Savannah! Strolling the streets of the city and the alleyways of Bonaventure Cemetery can be very informative. Familiarize yourself with squares filled with different statues and sculptures by hopping-on and off the tour trolley.
No trip to Savannah would be complete without visiting the nearby Isle of Hope and exploring the Wormsloe Historic Site. I really enjoyed the ride along the alley with more than 400 oak trees lining it up to the foundation of the original house. Amazing place to take awesome snapshots!
For those into the paranormal and unsolved mystery, Savannah offers a wide array of ghost tours. The city has kept its antebellum architecture well-preserved during the Civil War. So now there are a number of mansions that serve as a perfect breeding ground for ghost stories. While the Blue Orb offers the most popular tours, Ghosts and Gravestones offers several family-friendly tours. Most tours take you around the historic downtown and to the Colonial Park Cemetery.
Savannah is a walkable city, but you can still do it on a bike. While Cat Bike provides only a few pick-up and drop-off locations, its price levels tend to be lower than everywhere else. Expect to pay 5 USD per day or 20 USD per week. Sekka Bike would be a cheaper option while renting a bike for 10 USD for three hours, but more expensive while renting for week – 60 USD. Transportation is accessible through Uber.
The city can get extremely hot in summer so make sure to bring extra light clothes and drink a lot! The Savannah food scene is diverse with butter-laden biscuits and PB&J Wings everywhere. Some of the best cafes are Cafe M, The Collins Quarter and Treylor Park.
Get Some Coffee in Seattle, Washington
The Rain City, the Coffee Capital, and the Emerald city. Seattle has so many nicknames and so many things to do and see! It may not be the biggest city in the United States, but Seattle offers lots of opportunities for escaping to the outdoors. Summer is the best time for exploring (and hiking) Mt Rainier. The National Park possesses a number of great hiking trails that are just 70 miles away from Seattle.
On the contrary, you will find the center of the city filled with corporations, great food, music, and shopping. Visit the Space Needle to enjoy the most mind-blowing views of the city and surroundings. If you visit the restaurant at the top, the observation deck comes for free.
I used the streetcar to get to the downtown and then walked about six blocks to the Pike Place Market. It was a highlight of my trip to Seattle. This Market shouldn’t be missed because everyone who visits Seattle come here to see the incredible street performers, buy flowers and get some coffee in the very first Starbucks located nearby. I walked from one side of the market to the other and back again. It is better to put aside enough time to enjoy it because it has lots of things to offer. I found it packed with vendors selling seafood, candles, clothing and handmade soap and I felt like I could find anything here! Even the fishmongers that were throwing fish seemed very amusing.
I have to admit, Seattle replenished the list where I felt myself like a tourist. Mostly because I only stayed here for three days. But having said that, I attended the Seattle Free Walking Tour, which was amazing! You should definitely attend the Tour if you want to learn some history, the fact giving and enjoying the neighborhoods with some cool stories. Tours should be booked in advance and usually it is well worth tipping after the tour.
Seattle boasts an amazing art scene and culture life (especially on a rainy day). So if you’re into it then Seattle Art Museum and Chihuly Garden and Glass should be on your bucket list. Maritime fans shouldn’t miss the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and watch the vessels passing by.
San Antonio, Texas
I was thrilled to know that San Antonio has so many places that can keep your wallet fat. I wasn’t planning to visit the city during my US trip. But once I found a cheap flight from Memphis, I decided I should give a try. Home to several famous historic sites, San Antonio offers some opportunities for adventures within and near its borders. If you don’t have much time for exploring every corner, then stick to the highlights, such as the River Walk, the Alamo and the Pearl District with the finest cuisine in the city.
If you visit San Antonio with family, Paseo del Río is the perfect place for strolling the embankment or cruising.
On the other hand, if you have sufficient time, then Natural Bridge Caverns totally worth a visit. Located just a 30-minute ride away from San Antonio downtown, these breathtaking caves boast their narrow passages and interesting formations.
You can visit The San Antonio Museum of Art, the DoSeum and the Witte Museum for free on certain days of the week. Many of the art galleries host free exhibits. They are great for discovering new artwork, enjoying complimentary drinks and maybe meet like-minded people.
Outdoor lovers will appreciate the amazing parks of San Antonio. The Comanche Lookout and San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. Try not to miss the stunning Japanese Tea Garden when the plants are blooming.
Another cool spot to visit in the city is the Pearl Brewery. Due to a convenient location, you can catch a tour boat or reach the downtown, past the San Antonio Museum of Art and numerous art galleries with tons of spectacular new piece of artwork. Pearl is just great for learning new things, eating, living, working, all at a time!
You can’t say you’ve visited San Antonio unless you’ve seen the Alamo. A mission complex that dates back to the early 1700s gained much attention after the legendary battle of 1836 and was a place where many important historical events took place. Located in downtown San Antonio, the museum hosts numerous events throughout a year drawing huge crowds of all ages.