More than ever, Americans are craving local, affordable adventures. We’ve assembled a list of affordable discoveries in every state (plus the US Virgin Islands!) to inspire your next adventure.
Be sure to check local safety guidelines before traveling to any of these destinations.
Alabama – Florence
Florence, Alabama is the largest city in an area known as ‘The Shoals,’ which is the most legendary music town you haven’t visited. Some of music history’s largest acts have recorded here: Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Etta James, and Paul Simon, to name but a few. Music lovers will find a plethora of historic recording studios they can tour, as well as live music from all corners of the region. History lovers will appreciate the rich history of the region from sacred Native American burial grounds to the Civil War.
Alaska – Anchorage
There’s never been a better time to visit Alaska, and Anchorage is the perfect place to “anchor” your adventure while you explore the breathtaking landscapes that make up Alaska. Anchorage provides access to 4 of Alaska’s National Parks, as well as transportation options to the rest of the state. Don’t forget to check out the local culinary and arts scene for some unique flavors and wares.
Arizona – Sedona
Sedona, Arizona is a spiritual pilgrimage. The large red rock formations that dot the desert landscape provide a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and hikers to connect with nature. The people of Sedona are focused on conserving the landscapes and expect visitors to pledge to leave no trace.
Arkansas – Hot Springs
Hot Springs, Arkansas is known for the thermal baths that it gets its name from. They dot the landscape and have been believed by many to have healing properties. The hot springs have been preserved through time, and visitors can take a mineral bath spa treatment after a long day of hiking the trails. Hot Springs National Park is celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2021, and the town has quite a few celebratory events planned.
California – Mono Lake
Mono Lake is an otherworldly spot located in the eastern Sierra Nevada (just beyond the east entrance to Yosemite National Park). The high salinity of the lake has created a unique ecosystem for local wildlife and structures called ‘tufa towers’ which tower out of the lake like they are from another planet. Mono Lake is close to Mammoth Mountain, a tourist town that offers amazing snow sports in winter, and great hiking in summer.
Colorado – Durango
Durango, Colorado’s remote location in the San Juan Mountains offers unimpeded access to some of the best attractions in the state. Take the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad through the gorgeous mountain peaks. Explore the ancient Pueblo ruins of Mesa Verde National Park. Take a road trip along the ‘Million Dollar Highway’, known as one of the most scenic drives in America. Outdoor adventurers will love the 300+ miles of mountain biking and hiking trails near downtown Durango.
Connecticut – Fairfield
Fairfield, Connecticut is a charming coastal New England town, with access to 5 different public beaches. Golfers will find a haven of 6 public and private courses to play 18-holes. Art lovers will enjoy meandering through the plethora of art galleries that make up the downtown.
Delaware – Wilmington
Wilmington, Delaware is the largest city in the state of Delaware, and visitors will find access to some of the best museums, restaurants, and cultural arts in the northeast USA. Head outside the city to the Brandywine Valley and step back into time to visit one of the grand estates built by the Du Pont family in the 19th century. Save on access by building your own Adventure Pass, which provides access to the museums, gardens, and estates of the Brandywine Valley.
Florida – Key Largo
Key Largo is the first key along Florida’s legendary Overseas Highway that links Key West to Miami. Key Largo provides a more affordable option to explore the Keys than nearby Key West and boasts some of the best scuba diving and sport fishing opportunities in the state. A plethora of state and federal natural parks ensures the conservation of the wildlife for future generations. Make sure you try a key lime daquiri before you leave!
Georgia – Lake Lanier
Lake Lanier is a resort town located less than an hour north of Atlanta, way down yonder on the dammed up Chattahoochie River. The Lanier Islands have plenty of engaging resorts to choose from, and you’re sure to find fun for the whole family. There are golf courses, adventure courses, white sand beaches, and plenty of water sports. Its accessibility to Atlanta and Chattanooga makes it a delightful day trip or weekend trip.
Hawaii – Kailua
Kailua is on the Kona Coast of east Oahu, Hawaii. It is the best way to see Hawaii on a budget. Relax on Kailua Beach, where the water is turquoise clear and stays a perfect 75 degrees year-round. Hike up the top of the island and you’ll be able to explore two concrete bunkers from WWII and see some dramatic Hawaiian coastal views. Check out some of the historical shops and museums downtown to learn about the rich history of the Hawaiian Islands.
Idaho – Idaho Falls
Idaho Falls, Idaho, sits in the shadow of the Grand Tetons, but is generally a place for more budget accommodations than nearby Jackson Hole. Visitors will find Idaho Falls to be a charming western town, full of art, great food, and plenty mountain hiking. Idaho Falls also makes a great base camp to explore Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks just a short drive away.
Illinois – Woodstock
Woodstock, Illinois is known for its picturesque town square and its world-renowned Opera house that regularly has concerts, plays, workshops, and, yes, opera shows. Visitors looking for some Americana small town charm will enjoy attending one of the many festivals that are hosted in Woodstock around the year.
Indiana – Indiana Dunes
Indiana Dunes National Park is located on the south end of Lake Michigan, an ideal 40-mile driving distance from Chicago. Visitors will find picturesque views of the sand dunes and great lakes that were carved by glaciers, as well as plenty of white-sand beaches and wilderness hikes. Indiana Dunes is also home to 9,000 years of American history, from the indigenous peoples who inhabited the area to the European immigrants who made their homes here for centuries. There are plenty of unique things to discover here, and visitors will find it one of the most fulfilling destinations in the mid-west
Iowa – Ames
Ames is located smack-dab in the middle of Iowa and is best known as one of the nation’s best college towns for Iowa State University. Iowa State is the leading student-centered research institute in the United States, and there is evidence of this all over Ames. One of the first things visitors will notice is the plethora of street art that can be found downtown, alongside the vibrant and charming main street of a community that invests in itself and its students.
Kansas – Oakley
Oakley, Kansas, is located right in the middle between Denver and Topeka. Its primary claim to fame is as the town where the legend of Buffalo Bill Cody, the legendary cowboy of the American West, originated. Bill has an entire visitor’s center, and the region is full of unique museums that showcase the history of manifest destiny. Just south of Oakley is the Kansas Badlands, full of beautiful and unique stone structures that are all that remains of a sea that once flowed here millions of years ago.
Kentucky – Cumberland Gap
The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky is the mountain gateway to Appalachia, an area traversed by Daniel Boone and other frontiersmen of the time. Now, the Gap is a state park that provides amazing hiking and camping options for families and explorers. Contrary to the popular lyrics in “Wagon Wheel,” the Cumberland Gap is located east of Johnson City, TN.
Louisiana – Lafayette
Lafayette, Louisiana isn’t as renowned as nearby New Orleans, but that doesn’t stop it from being the most charming place in Louisiana. Lafayette has a long, unique history in the region, and is currently known as the “happiest city in America” according to the Wall Street Journal. The best part about a stop in Lafayette is the food. The culinary scene here takes advantage of the Cajun tradition of cooking but is infused with a new generation of talented chefs putting new spins on old classics.
Maine – Bangor
Bangor, Maine, was made famous by Stephen King, who lives in town and often uses Bangor as the inspiration for his thrillers. King fans can go on a tour of over 30 locations that inspired the writer or were shown in his movies. The city is ideally located to see the pristine beauty of Northern Maine, a region that has mountains, highlands, rocky coastlines, and lush green forests, and once you’re all horror-movied out, you can head to the gorgeous Acadia National Park on the east coast.
Maryland – Assateague
Assateague Island is a must-see for all horse lovers. The 37-mile island sits between Maryland and Virginia and is best known for the herd of wild horses that runs the shores, as well as the annual pony swim each July, when younger horses from the island are auctioned to the public for other careers (this is done to keep the wild horse population of the island at a sustainable level). Visitors can explore, hike or bike more than 14,000 acres of the Assateauge Natural Wildlife Preserve. Daily cruises around nearby Chincoteague Island will provide wild pony viewing opportunities.
Massachusetts – Salem
Salem, Massachusetts is best known for its role in the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, which makes it a unique town to experience American history. Salem has fully leaned into its identity as a witching town. Tourists can take a history tour of local witch houses and experience a reenactment of a witch trial. The best time to visit Salem is in October, when the town fills the month with “haunted happenings” and goes full Halloween. It’s great fun for the whole family!
Michigan – Traverse City
Traverse City sits on the northern edge of Lake Michigan. It is surrounded by lakes and rivers of all sizes, and the culture of the city is steeped in lake life. Spend the day relaxing on the lake, or hiking up nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes, or just breathing in the fresh air.
Minnesota – Grand Marais
Grand Marais is in northern Minnesota, almost near the Canadian border on Lake Superior. The town has tons of personality, and visitors will enjoy wandering up and down the local streets and discovering the charms of unique shops and art galleries. Grand Marais is one of the entrance points for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a wilderness area that stretches across 1.1 million acres and is a popular destination for canoe trips.
Mississippi – Biloxi
Biloxi is located along what Mississippi calls “the secret coast,” the 61-mile stretch of beach that makes up the state’s southern border. Biloxi has a plethora of casinos and cheaper accommodation options, and explorers will find it a great jumping off point to experience the coast. Make sure you check out nearby Ocean Springs and its cute downtown, and go antiquing in Bay St Louis. Science fans and families with kids will love the INFINITY Science Center, which provides a glimpse into how NASA launches rockets from the coast.
Missouri – Lake of the Ozarks
Lake of the Ozarks is in the heart of Central Missouri and is considered one of the best lake destinations in the country. Lake of the Ozarks has access to adventurous watersports and vibrant night life. Families will also find plenty of activities to satisfy the kids, from go-karts to mini golf, to waterparks.
Montana – Kalispell
Kalispell calls itself the “soul of Montana” and its proximity to some of the most stunning landscapes in America certainly nourishes the soul. Kalispell's proximity to Glacier National Park makes it a great place to organize your bucket list hike. Nearby Flathead Lake offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor water sports and fishing. Downtown Kalispell is a charming mountain town with plenty of exciting dining options and several breweries to explore.
Nebraska – North Platte
North Platte, Nebraska, is the perfect place to experience the Old West. The town is where Buffalo Bill resided, and you’ll find him on much of the town’s branding. Buffalo Bill’s ranch has been turned into a State Historical Park where visitors can explore the landscape by horseback, or tour the cowboy’s historic mansion that’s been preserved across time. Kids will be entertained by one of the many amusement parks or carnivals around town.
Nevada – Carson City
Carson City is located just minutes from the gorgeous, turquoise waters of Lake Tahoe, and provides a more affordable place for accommodations in the area. The beautiful landscapes provide endless opportunities for outdoor adventurers. The newest family attraction is a railbike tour, which shows off the beautiful Carson River Canyon with easy-to-pedal motorized rail bikes.
New Hampshire – Laconia
Laconia, New Hampshire, is a charming town with rich history to explore. Spend a day picnicking on Weirs Beach, or take a tour of the Belknap Mill, a relic of the early 19th century. Stay at one of the affordable New England resorts near town.
New Jersey – Tom’s River
Tom’s River is a small city in New Jersey that makes a great weekend with the kids! Spend some time on the beach before you head to Insectropolis, the ‘bugseum’ of New Jersey, to see all sorts of creepy crawlies. Then close the night at the local planetarium that offers light shows and educational shows for the whole family.
New Mexico – Truth or Consequences
Truth or Consequences was named after a radio show. This small resort town is best known for its hot springs, with the first public bathhouse opening in the early 1800s, and there are 10 of them open to the public today. It is also close to Elephant Butte Lake State Park, home to a unique geological feature that provides fun hiking trips.
New York – Adirondacks
The Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York offer some of the most beautiful scenery on the East Coast. The state park offers plenty of opportunities for camping, hiking, or renting a cozy cabin in the mountains with loved ones. Hiking trails are available for all skill levels and distances. Head to Lake Placid to explore the structures from the 1932 and 1980 winter Olympics.
North Carolina – Cherokee
Cherokee is located on the eastern edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and provides a more budget-friendly option for housing than Gatlinburg on the other side of the park. Cherokee is located on the Qualla Territory, land of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. There are several museums dedicated to the history of the Cherokee and the region, along with several unique attractions, such as a recreated village from 1760.
North Dakota – Devil’s Lake
Devil’s Lake itself is named for the mirages that often appear on its surface. The nearby town of Devil’s Lake offers a wide variety of things to do for families and adventurers. Rent a boat and spend the day exploring all the coves on the lake, head to the swimming beach in Grahams Island State Park (and pack a picnic!) and pick up some fresh donuts from Devil’s Lake Doughnuts. There are also plenty of opportunities for golfers and sports fishing.
Ohio – Cincinnati
Cincinnati is a charming city full of amazing things to do for the whole family. Check out the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, which features 3 separate museums and an OMNIMAX theater. Walk along the riverfront and wonder at the murals that have been painted all along the river wall. Head over to the Cincinnati Zoo and take the kids. Cincy has several major sports teams, a ton of great local food, and a charm to it that will keep you coming back!
Oklahoma – Norman
Norman is located 20 miles away from Oklahoma City and is home to the University of Oklahoma. Explore the downtown area that is full of charming shops. Go camping and swimming at nearby Lake Thunderbird. Experience an NCAA football game on Saturdays in the fall. Plan ahead and experience one of the many free festivals that happen year-round.
Oregon – Hood River
Hood River is an hour east of Portland and nestled in the Columbia River Valley in the shadow of Mt Hood. The Columbia River Gorge offers some of the most beautiful waterfalls in America, with plenty of amazing hiking options as well. Hood River is located close to the ‘fruit loop’ - a fun drive to over 25 different fruit stands and wineries that call this valley home. Taste home grown wines and pick seasonal fruits. Head up to the top of the iconic Mt Hood to the Timberline Lodge, most famous for being the setting of The Shining.
Pennsylvania – Harrisburg
Harrisburg might be the capital of Pennsylvania, but it often feels like a small town. Harrisburg offers plenty of options for everyone. Check out the adventure trail, which has biking and hiking options. Take the whole family to nearby Hersheypark, a theme park with more than 70 different rides, and even more varieties of chocolate!
Rhode Island – Greenville
Greenville is a village located near Providence, Rhode Island, and contains quite a few different state parks and outdoor activities for the whole family. Head to a local orchard for some apple picking in the fall, or go to Verde Vineyards for a glass of wine. Head into the city of Providence for a plethora of night life and great dining.
South Carolina – Beaufort
Beaufort is a coastal South Carolina city that offers perfect beaches for you to soak up the sun. Beaufort has featured in more than 15 movies, from Forrest Gump to The Big Chill, and tours are available to tour the sites from these movies. Make sure you stop for some fresh caught shrimp and drinks. Stop into one of the multiple museums that highlight the unique and storied history of the region.
South Dakota – Deadwood
Deadwood is an old west town in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The discovery of gold in 1876 meant the tiny encampment boomed into a gold town almost overnight, attracting all sorts of outlaws and gunslingers. Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane were both regulars here. Today, you can find these characters walking the streets of Deadwood as part of a theater troupe that reenacts major historic events of the period.
Tennessee – Chattanooga
Chattanooga is Tennessee’s best-kept secret. Nestled in the mountains of Southeast Tennessee, and the shores of the Tennessee River, Chattanooga has a plethora of unique things to do. Take a riverboat cruise up the river. Take the incline railway up to Lookout Mountain and see 7 different states from the vantage point. Head underground to Ruby Falls, a huge waterfall in a cave. Chattanooga has quirks in every corner of the city, and visitors will love exploring.
Texas – Beaumont
Beaumont, Texas is where the first major oil field was found in the United States, and this Southeast Texas town provides plenty of opportunities. Outdoorsmen will love the fishing and hunting options available nearby. Take an airboat ride through a swamp and hold an alligator, or take a hike through the Big Thicket, a massive park that spreads across multiple Texas counties.
US Virgin Islands – Charlotte Amalie
Charlotte Amalie in St Thomas of the US Virgin Islands is one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean. Charlotte Amalie is one of the most affordable ways to experience the USVI. You’ll wander the cobblestone streets and see the historic homes and settlements from the 17th century. Explore Blackbeard’s Castle, which used to operate as the watchtower guarding Charlotte Amalie. You’ll also be able to see a replica of the Liberty Bell in Emancipation Garden.
Utah – St George
St George is the gateway to Zion National Park, which everyone should experience at least once. St George is heaven for outdoor enthusiasts. The fresh air and red rocks soothe the soul. There are plenty of unique hotels nearby, along with several campgrounds in the National Park itself, and several nearby Bureau of Land Management areas (where camping is free!) Rent an ATV or take a horseback ride to explore the timeless wilderness.
Vermont – Middlebury
Middlebury, Vermont will warm the hearts of anyone with a passion for history or literature. Robert Frost lived here and was constantly inspired by the beautiful scenery of the Green Mountain National Forest nearby. Road trippers will love taking one of the 11 scenic byways that crisscross the state up to Lake Champlain and back.
Virginia – Luray
Luray, Virginia is the perfect place to rent a cabin in the mountains with your loved ones. Luray is nestled in the mountains near Shenandoah National Park. Go hiking, chase the sunset on Skyline Drive, and breathe in the fresh mountain air. During the day, head to Luray Caverns and explore the huge caves underground.
Washington – Forks
Forks is located in the heart of the Olympic Peninsula and sits between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Olympic mountains to the east. This charming town has several beaches and plenty of outdoor activity options for adventure seekers. Fans of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series will find a town ready to show them the key spots from the popular vampire novels.
West Virginia – New River Gorge National Park
As of December 2020, New River Gorge is America’s newest National Park, and therefore should now be on the bucket list of all Americans! The New River is the oldest river in America and provides some of the best whitewater rafting and rock climbing on the east coast.
Wisconsin – Eau Claire
Eau Claire is the indie capital of the US. The town is a haven for independent artists and entrepreneurs, and the originality can be found in all things the town does. The town features several different art attractions, from murals and sculptures that can be seen around town, to the Pablo Center’s art shows, to the amazing local music festivals that feature some of the biggest names in indie music.
Wyoming – Cody
Cody bills itself as “the great American adventure” and visitors will find this town embraces the Wild West. Cody is a perfect, and affordable, hub to see several world-renowned attractions, such as Yellowstone National Park. Cody has several museums dedicated to the history of the American West. It is a central point for 5 different scenic drives, through the mountains nearby and into Yellowstone. Families will love all there is to do in this charming western town.