The Best Museums in Every State
With so many amazing cultural, quirky, history-focused and art-centric attractions to visit across America, it’s nearly impossible to choose the one best museum in each and every state. However, these institutions continually rise to the top of must-see lists for good reason:
A multi-faceted interpretive museum and research center, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute takes visitors on a moving and important journey through the advent and progression of the Civil Rights movement.
Inside its stunning glacier-like façade, the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North in Fairbanks offers an in-depth peek into the biodiversity, culture and geology of this intriguing northern terrain.
Founded in 1929, The Heard Museum in Phoenix celebrates Native American culture and advances American Indian art through a remarkable collection of historic and modern items, textiles, jewelry, ceramics and Hopi katsina dolls.
Named for the natural spring that feeds the 120-acre grounds, the striking architecture of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville makes a memorable first impression; inside, view exhibitions housed within a linked series of pavilions for free.
The expansive views of the Los Angeles basin rival the art inside the uber-modern Getty Center; admire the European and American collections, then enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Central Garden and an al fresco café lunch or refreshment.
On a 15-acre former rail yard, the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden maintains more than 100 historic locomotives, passenger cars and cabooses to observe, along with a depot museum, a railroad reference library and a functioning roundhouse.
Experience adventure at sea without ever leaving dry land; the Mystic Seaport Museum pays homage to America’s seafaring heritage with more than 500 watercraft on display, a recreated coastal village, a research center and a working shipyard.
The former childhood home of horticulturalist Henry Francis du Pont, the opulently restored Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library fills 175 rooms with American decorative art pieces and furnishings, some dating back as far as 1640.
With a thought-provoking permanent collection of original objets d’art, prints, photos, sculpture, paintings and illustrations, the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg lends an immersive peek into the life of the eccentric artist and master of Surrealism.
The World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta traces the lineage of the iconic soft drink with a 4-D film presentation, a look at the bottling process, a pop culture gallery, and the opportunity to sample more than 100 different products from around the world.
The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in downtown Honolulu serves as a thoughtful repository for royal family heirlooms and also maintains a science adventure center, a planetarium and one of world’s largest collections of natural history specimens.
The quirky Museum of Clean in Pocatello goes way beyond vacuum cleaners and washing machines to address the evolution of cleaning products and equipment and their effects on the environment; a gallery for kids actually makes chores fun.
No Windy City visit is complete with a trip to the iconic Art Institute of Chicago to marvel at original masterpieces by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Chagall and Picasso during a docent-led or self-guided tour.
Dinosaurs crashing through The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis façade get visitors excited for the five floors of interactive fun they’ll discover inside, including areas that focus on science, global culture, archeology, space travel and extraordinary children.
Part of the 30-acre TechWorks campus in Waterloo, the John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum gives voice to Iowa’s farming history and heritage as interpreted by one of the industry’s most significant contributors.
The Kansas Aviation Museum in the original Wichita Airport facility flies high with historical military and civil airplanes, flight simulators, exhibits on major aircraft manufacturers, a retired air control tower and the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame.
The stunning works of art on display in the National Quilt Museum’s three exhibition galleries make it easy to see at a glance why enchanting little Paducah is famous for its quilting, crafting and fiber arts heritage.
Let the good times roll at Mardi Gras World on the New Orleans riverfront with an insider glimpse at how extravagant parade floats take shape, in addition to the opportunity to learn about Mardi Gras history and try on costumes.
The Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth’s Fort Williams Park dates back to 1791, making it the oldest lighthouse in Maine; the museum in the former Lighthouse Keeper’s quarters holds maritime artifacts, documents, navigational tools and models.
Both part of the Harriett Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center in Cambridge and the Harriett Tubman Underground Railroad State Park Center in Church Creek honor the life and legacy of the groundbreaking abolitionist.
Inside a striking exterior designed by I.M. Pei, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library in Boston examines the life of America’s 35th Commander in Chief from childhood through his political career, marriage and assassination.
Encompassing the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, the Greenfield Village living history site and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, the comprehensive 250-acre Henry Ford campus in Dearborn merits several days of exploration to fully absorb.
Founded in 1883, the Minneapolis Institute of Art boasts a permanent collection of 90,000 objects spanning 20,000 years and six continents, in addition to gorgeous architecture, traveling exhibits and community-oriented programming.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the sounds and stories of legendary artists like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton and John Lee Hooker at the Delta Blues Museum in the historic 1918 Clarksdale freight depot building.
Crawling through colorful tunnels, scaling large-scale wire sculptures, playing amid indoor urban artscapes and riding the rooftop Ferris Wheel at the 600,000 square-foot City Museum in St. Louis is enough to make anyone feel like a kid again.
The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman honors its rugged roots with one of the world’s largest dinosaur fossil collections, a Yellowstone National Park display, planetarium shows, a paleontology research facility and a seasonal living history farm.
Step back in time to the days of the Oregon Trail; the landmark Archway facility in Kearney retraces the steps of America’s settlers as they traveled the Great Platte River Road during Westward Expansion.
Get a lesson in Las Vegas history with a walk through the Neon Museum to see flashy signage that once adorned the Strip’s extravagant casinos, hotels and tourist attractions, along with blueprints, photos and other memorabilia.
The Mount Washington Observatory and Weather Discovery Center in North Conway offers a way to safely explore some of the planet’s most extreme climates and conditions through guided weather station tours and interactive science exhibits.
Experience the bells and whistles of the Jersey Shore at the Pinball Hall of Fame and Silverball Museum Arcade in Asbury Park by trying your luck on a rotating selection of 200-ish playable machines from the museum’s 600-item collection.
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe imparts an inspiring look at the life and work of New Mexico’s most recognized 20th-century artist by inviting guests to experience her distinctive abstract, landscape and floral paintings in nine themed galleries.
Rising from the ruins of the World Trade Center, the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City honors the lives lost during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and pays tribute to the heroes that emerged.
With 8,000 acres, 250 preserved rooms, priceless works of art, a massive banquet hall, 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool and bowling alley, the palatial French chateau-style Biltmore House and Gardens estate is Asheville’s crown jewel.
The North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum in Bismarck takes a wide-ranging look at the state’s geologic evolution over 600 million years through four galleries filled with artifacts, art and interactive displays.
Music fans make pilgrimages to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to learn about the legions of legends who’ve been inducted into the Hall of Fame, catch live performances and even noodle on real instruments in the Garage.
Experience the great American West at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City through exhibits and galleries that highlight Native American life, the American Cowboy, rodeo and other cultural touchpoints.
One of the top science centers in the country, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland maintains 200 hands-on exhibits spread across five halls, a planetarium, six labs and a full-size US Navy submarine to discover.
The echoes of history ring through the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitors Center; the museum offers a primer on one of America’s most significant Civil War battles before visitors embark on guided tours of the battlefield itself.
The RISD Museum on the campus of the Rhode Island School of Design holds its own against much bigger facilities thanks to an extensive collection of 100,000+ globally sourced paintings, sculpture, textiles and furniture.
On the actual site where slaves were auctioned back in the mid-1800s, the Old Slave Mart Museum educates visitors on the facts and realities of the most shameful chapter of American history through informative, emotionally moving content.
Currently closed for a massive architectural expansion with plans to reopen in 2021, the National Music Museum on the University of South Dakota campus in Vermillion delights visitors with instruments on display from the facility’s 15,000+ piece collection.
A shrine fit for a King, Graceland in Memphis gives visitors the chance to tour the estate of Elvis Presley to see the rooms in which he lived, his racquetball court, personal family effects and final resting place in the meditation garden.
Retired spacecraft, astronaut spacesuits, an Independence shuttle replica, an International Space Station gallery, moon rocks, virtual reality experiences and motion simulators await at the Smithsonian-affiliated Space Center Houston.
Just west of Temple Square, the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City provides an overview of the religious history and foundations that inform the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Mormon faith.
The Shelburne Museum serves up an all-inclusive sampler of history, art and culture through 39 New England–style buildings on a bucolic 45-acre site, all filled with materials and artifacts from the collections of founder Electra Havemeyer Webb.
Colonial Williamsburg brings American history to life through costumed interpreters who populate a working 18th-century village, as well as museums dedicated to folk art and decorative arts, seasonal programming and historic dining opportunities.
Next to the Space Needle, Seattle’s long-term Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition sparkles and shines with eight galleries, three drawing walls, a Glasshouse and a garden filled with vibrant works by the renowned glass artist.
Veteran miners lead underground tours through the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine and Youth Museum, a recreated 20th-century Appalachian miner’s camp settlement and an authentic West Virginia mountain homestead.
Get your motor running at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee while learning all about the history of America’s signature motorcycles and the culture they’ve inspired among their loyal customer base through the years.
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody encapsulates the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Plains Indian Museum and the Cody Firearms Museum all under one expansive roof.
7 College Campuses That Are Actually Great to Visit
Back to school season is almost upon us, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up your travel plans as you head back to class or send your beloved students off to school. Some of America’s college and university campuses are destinations unto themselves. We’ve rounded up the most notable campuses across the US, highlighting features like stunning architecture, diverse landscapes, and culture and activities for the whole family. Because, let’s face it, studying isn’t everything. Flagler College, St. Augustine, FL Imagine attending college in a luxury hotel? This opulent campus centers around the original Ponce de Leon Hotel and was built in 1867 by a New York oil tycoon in the Spanish Renaissance Revival style. The school is a National Historic Landmark once visited by distinguished guests like Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and Babe Ruth. Thomas Edison personally wired it for electricity and the world’s largest collection of Tiffany stained glass works resides inside. In 2018, Flagler celebrated its 50th anniversary and Flagler Legacy Tours are offered from May to August. Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY This National Historic Landmark overlooks the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains – spreading out over 540 acres. And though it dates to 1860, its architecture swings wildly from neoclassical to modern. With sweeping mansions now used as dorms, students and their families will appreciate the beauty of the Georgian revival Blithewood, the Collegiate Gothic Stine Row and Tudor revival Ward Manor. But it’s the cutting-edge Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Frank Gehry’s first building constructed in the Northeast and open since 2003, which provides this campus a solid home for theater, music and adventurous performing arts, with over 200 events open to the public every year. The main building of Rice University from inside the campus © Christian Offenberg / Dreamstime.comRice University, Houston, TX Nestled in the museum district of this busy city, Rice University consists of about 50 buildings spread across 285 acres and boasts an oasis of green space – including the over 4000 trees and shrubs in the Lynn R. Lowrey Arboretum. Of course, this is Texas, so football is a big part of campus life, and Rice Stadium, the site of Super Bowl VIII, can seat 47,000 fans and up to 70,000 people for other events. Most of the architecture is uniform in its Mediterranean Revival-style, though older buildings like Lovett Hall, named after the university’s first president, preserves medieval elements and welcomes students and families alike with its iconic Sallyport arch. The more modern Twilight Epiphany Skyspace is also a draw, and the light show is open to the public six days a week.De Pauw University, Greencastle, IN Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, this Midwestern campus combines old world charm with a naturalist bent, boasting nine miles of trails in its 520-acre nature park – which encompasses fields, forests, waterfalls and even an abandoned limestone quarry. It’s also closely integrated with the lively town of Greencastle, which offers a rotating roster of performing arts and community events as well as a safe, fun space to socialize. The university’s celebrated Joyce Green Center for the Performing Arts hosts everything from musicals and theater productions to ensembles and chamber music concerts. A small Japanese style bridge on the campus of College and William and Mary © Brian Cherry / Dreamstime.comCollege of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA This campus is a bastion of history, housing the oldest collegiate building in the US, the Sir Christopher Wren Building. Named after the English royalty which chartered it in 1693, William III and Mary II, the college’s 1200 acres accommodates several other historic buildings used as both dorms and academic spaces, and the grassy Sunken Garden, best to visit in spring and fall, is a haven for students to relax, study and socialize. The Duke of Gloucester Street also links the campus to Colonial Williamsburg’s reconstructed capital – allowing for a unique relationship to the past while retaining the student body’s robust modernity. Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR This Pacific Northwestern campus is named after renowned explorers Lewis and Clark and more importantly, is contiguous to the Tryon Creek State Natural Area. Though just over 130 acres, its location atop Portland’s Palatine Hill allows for stunning views of Mt. Hood and the over 100 types of trees that surround it. Though beautiful to look at and explore, the college’s location also inspired its LEED-certified buildings, which uses 100 percent wind power to provide electricity. The Tudor-style Frank Manor House presides over the campus architecture and includes a conservatory, a rose garden and reflection pool. Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA Proudly towering over the City of Angels atop the Del Ray Hills bluffs, you’ll be bowled over by the striking views of the Pacific Ocean as well as the proximity of Los Angeles proper. Because of its Catholic roots, there are six chapels dotted inside campus, four of which are operated by its ministry. The Spanish Gothic–style Sacred Heart Chapel is known for its intriguing and colorful stained-glass windows, while the post-modern Chapel of the Advocate designed by Frank Gehry includes a sunken entrance and an igloo-like structure with more impressionistic stained glass.
7 Affordable Alternatives To Europe’s Busiest Destinations
Europe’s top cities groan with museums, wine bars, hotels and plenty of tourists. But happily, the continent is also awash in destinations that promise more elbow room and less spending. From the source of Bordeaux wine to the birthplace of the Beatles, from tulip-flecked towns to island escapes, here are the spots too often eclipsed by their big-name neighbors that beg to be explored. Instead of Dubrovnik, try Pula Located in the far north of Croatia, Pula was never cast in Game of Thrones like Dubrovnik but it certainly looks the part: the city’s architecture is composed of several surviving ancient Roman structures, including a 1st-century amphitheater. In the summer months, the ancient mammoth hosts concerts and a film festival. The space that once served as a Roman forum in antiquity is now Pula’s bustling main square, hemmed in by restaurants and cafes; grab a coffee within eyeshot of the neighboring Temple of Augustus, dating back to roughly 27 BC. Beach-dappled peninsula Verudela and the verdant Brijuni Islands (declared a national park) are tempting day trips. Instead of Santorini, try Milos Home to the iconic Venus de Milo statue, this Aegean island shimmers with a beauty all its own. Over 70 beaches rim the shores, from family-friendly Firiplaka to elusive Tsigrado (reaching its turquoise waters involves shimmying down a rope ladder). Stroll through village Klima with its punchy multi-colored doors before lunch at beachside tavern Medousa. Later, watch the sunset from the Panagia tis Korfatissas church, whose dazzling viewpoint encompasses the Cape Vani gulf and the islet of Antimilos. For a good dose of antiquity, seek out the island’s ancient Roman Theater from the Hellenistic Age. Instead of London, try Liverpool The northwest port metropolis of Liverpool boasts an impressive resume: besides birthing The Beatles, it reigns as a UNESCO World Heritage City, is the home base of six-time European-cup football champion Liverpool FC, and has one of the richest collections of museums in Europe. Waterfront Albert Dock brims with cultural hotspots, including art gallery Tate Liverpool, Merseyside Maritime Museum, and immersive experience The Beatles Story for Fab 4 devotees. Eating well on the cheap is a cinch, too. Local pub the Baltic Fleet shines in cellar-brewed ales and unfussy breakfast plates, while Liverpool institution Kimos dishes out Middle Eastern and North African fare. When the sun ducks down, the Ropeswalk district thumps with live music. Read more: The Beatles Tour of Liverpool Instead of Barcelona, try León Barcelona may be known for its splashy architecture, but León more than holds its own, with a skyline thick in Gothic and Romanesque-style buildings. Gaudí made his mark here, too, with modernist masterpiece Casa Botines. The soaring Basilica de San Isidoro and 13th-century Catedral de León keep watch over the city; duck inside the latter and marvel at its vidrieras, or stained-glass windows. In the evening, peruse the city’s “old town,” or former medieval quarter, also known as the Barrio Húmedo. Translated as the “wet neighborhood” thanks to its slew of taverns, bars, and restaurants, this slice of León enjoys a hallowed tapas scene. Instead of Paris, try Bordeaux An exceptional gastronomic culture is enough of a reason to flock to Bordeaux. The city’s unceasing viticulture tradition and myriad vineyards have made it arguably the wine capital of the world; paired with an unparalleled dining scene, ranging from staunchly traditional French restaurants to fusion to food trucks, locals and tourists alike are merrily well fed and watered. Not sure where to begin? Bordeaux’s tourism board has debuted a downloadable wine guide, and the city also hosts museum Cité du Vin, dedicated exclusively to the grape. The Musée des Beaux Arts and CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain, meanwhile, pamper art enthusiasts. Instead of Amsterdam, try Leiden Wedged in between Amsterdam and the Hague, the city of Leiden proves delightfully Dutch: think gabled houses, crisscrossed canals, and a smattering of windmills. Its art game is strong, too, as both the birthplace of Rembrant (look for various tributes to the artist around the city) and the home of Museum De Lakenhal, which displays paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. On Wednesdays and Saturday, hundreds of stalls set up shop in the city center, hawking everything from flowers to gouda cheese. Sunny days, meanwhile, call for a visit to the leafy green sprawl of the botanical gardens, where the very first tulip bulbs in the Netherlands were planted in 1593. Read more: Save Big in Europe's "Second Cities" Instead of Venice, try Bassano del Grappa Venice’s strife with mass tourism has raged for years; if a budget-friendly, serene holiday is what you’re after, swap the floating city for nearby Bassano del Grappa. A little over an hour from its noisier neighbor, this medieval hamlet sits at the foot of the Venetian Prealps and gazes out onto the Brenta river. Wooden bridge Ponte degli Alpini gives a lovely view of the town, made up of craggy mountains and charming arcaded streets. Unsurprisingly, grappa, a nostril-clearing distillation made from the discarded skins and pulp of wine-making, originates here. Sample some at local favorite Grapperia Nardini. If Venice is an absolute must, save it for a day trip; connecting trains run daily.
8 Last-Minute Affordable Summer Getaways
As the end of summer nears, squeezing in one more vacation before the fall arrives sounds like a spectacular idea. With hotels, airlines and car rentals offering massive deals and incentives to book before the end of the summer, the only question you have to ask yourself really is, why not? This year, top summer hotspots are Orlando, Las Vegas, and Myrtle Beach followed by Maui, New York City, Key West, and New Orleans according to a recent study, but if you’re looking for something less crowded we’ve got you covered. Our best advice for saving money is to book these flight and hotel deals now! Bangor, Maine This offbeat alternative to Portland, Maine, is a hub for good food, great music and is home to a growing art scene. Bangor is the gateway to many outdoor activities, whether visiting Moosehead Lake or hiking through Baxter State Park. Bangor is easy to get to with the Bangor International Airport located conveniently in the center of the city. Acadia National Park is also close by and can be reached in a short one-hour drive. At the park, visitors can stop at the popular Sand Beach or explore the famous Carriage Roads. The annual Dark Sky Festival (Sep 25-29) is a starry-eyed way to wrap up the perfect summer. Read more: 25 Gorgeous American Lighthouses Cancun, Mexico Mexico is always a good idea. Just a hop, skip and a jump from the US, Cancun lies at the heart of the Mexican Caribbean. With direct airlift and easy access to the Yucatan's most amazing sights – from the ruins of Chichen Itza, to the cenotes of Tulum – Cancun is a destination ideal for a last-minute summer vacay. If shopping is more your speed, book a guided shopping tour in Playa del Carmen to find your most precious souvenir (think vibrant textiles and maybe even a hammock?) for just $19.99 through GetYourGuide. Set your out of office and book a room at the newly renovated JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa, a sprawling resort with 447 ocean-facing guest rooms, all of which peer out over the palm-studded grounds. Lake Atitlán, Guatemala If you’re looking to explore a little further than Mexico, Lake Atitlán in Guatemala has your name written all over it. It’s easy to get lost in the lake’s natural beauty that has been dubbed, the “most beautiful lake in the world” for it’s breathtaking views of three volcanoes. Perched on the shore of Lake Atitlán in the Guatemalan highlands is Casa Palopó, a former home-turned-boutique hotel offering a Labor Day weekend rate of $188 per night, which includes free airport transfers. Sign us up! Joshua Tree, California Before the busy autumn season sets in, take some time to fully immerse yourself in nature at Joshua Tree, part of the Greater Palm Springs region of California. It’s home to Joshua Tree National Park and some of the best stargazing in the state. Within the national park, lives Cholla Cactus Garden (don’t forget your camera for this trail of massive succulents), a multitude of various levels of hiking trails and lookouts like Keys View that offers panoramic views of the Coachella Valley. The average nightly rate for a hotel is under $200 with a variety of last-minute deals available on Hotel Tonight. Portland, Oregon Portland is a perfect summer getaway with plenty of water adventures available on the city’s rivers and affordable eats. The city is a veritable food truck heaven, with food truck pods popping up all over the city. For more stationary eats, check out Hey Love, a popular local joint with a fresh summer menu. A 90-minute day trip gives you access to Mt. Hood National Forest, the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area, Willamette Valley Wine Country and the Oregon Coast. Hotel Monaco Portland is a home base for your P-Town escapades, offering free perks like nightly socials with complimentary local beer and wine, and free bike rentals to cruise the cycle-friendly city. And good news, little Fido got an invite because pets stay free! Check out their hotel deals page for discounts of up to 25 percent off nightly rates. Read more: 7 Exceptional American Food Halls Nassau, Bahamas Sitting beachside with a piña colada in hand in the Bahamas sounds like the definition of vacation. So why not make it happen? Beach, swim, sleep, repeat is the motto at Breezes Bahamas, an all-inclusive resort located on the powdery, white sands of legendary Cable Beach. Guests can enjoy land and water activities ranging from rock-wall climbing, tennis, beach volleyball, kayaking and windsurfing, all of which include complimentary instruction and equipment. Breezes is offering a "Summer Savings" deal with rates as low as $140 per night for bookings until August 31st. The deal includes all meals, drinks, land and water sports, daily activities, and nightly entertainment. Cleveland, Ohio Located on the shore of Lake Erie, Cleveland is a warm-weather paradise with beaches galore and waterfalls and hiking trails twenty minutes outside the heart of downtown Cleveland at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The charming lakefront town has a welcoming “come as you are” attitude and a walkable downtown area. The average hotel nightly rate is well under $200, and the city has a free trolley system throughout downtown. Other free activities include concerts, museums and more. Ljubljana, Slovenia The fairy tale–like country of Slovenia is an affordable under-the-radar destination for summer travel. Situated just 20-minutes away from Jože Pučnik Airport, the centrally located capital city of Ljubljana is the perfect place to start exploring Slovenia. In the summertime, quaint outdoor cafes, bustling food markets and lively festivals line the historic streets. From Ljubljana, most of Slovenia’s iconic sites can be reached in under an hour. Travelers can view the serene beauty of Lake Bled in the Julian Alps or experience Slovenian wine in the stunning vineyards. Cheers to that!
10 Cheap Fall Beaches You'll Love
To tell the truth, here at Budget Travel we've never signed off on the notion that beach season ends on Labor Day. Balmy beach breezes, warm sun, and lobster rolls remain available well into October. And one of the benefits of hitting the shore in autumn is affordable hotel rates, putting dream destinations like Hilton Head, Montauk, Laguna Beach, and even Nantucket within your reach. Here, 10 of our favorite American beach towns with fall rates that say, "Welcome!" 1. HILTON HEAD South Carolina Warm beaches, warm welcome—plus pirates! With fall temperatures in the 70s and 80s, miles of pristine lowcountry beaches, and the utterly unique Gullah culture, Hilton Head is truly like no other beach town in America. Learn more about what makes the island special at the Coastal Discovery Museum, or discover it for yourself on a quiet beach. If you're traveling with kids, don't miss Pirates of Hilton Head Island, with its ride aboard the Black Dagger ship. Or take a deep breath and explore the island on ZipLine Hilton Head's two-hour sky-high tour! 2. SAUGATUCK Michigan Step back in time in this sleepy Lake Michigan town Picket fences, a 19th-century vibe, and not a chain restaurant in sight. Saugatuck is one of the places savvy Chicagoans go to get away from the big city. Before you can plant yourself on Oval Beach, you've got to hop a hand-cranked ferry across the Kalamazoo River. 3.LAGUNA BEACH California Live the SoCal beach dream No, you don't have to surf just because you're on an iconic seven-mile stretch of Southern California sea and sand, but you can take a group surfing lesson for $75 with a guarantee that you'll "get up" on your board. Nearby Laguna Village offers excellent art galleries and shops, a nod to this gorgeous beach town's roots as an artists' colony. 4. BAY ST. LOUIS Mississippi Gulf beaches, fresh seafood, and art galleries One of Budget Travel's Coolest Small Towns in America 2013, Bay St. Louis was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but has done more than recover since then. Explore Historic Old Town, go fishing, and take a walking tour of 19th-century homes, Creole cottages, and galleries, or just take Main Street straight down to the beach. 5. POINT PLEASANT BEACH New Jersey The lines for the roller coaster and zeppoli are way shorter in September! One of Budget Travel's Coolest Small Towns in America 2018, Point Pleasant Beach is, well, pleasant enough in summer if you enjoy being part of a major scene, rubbing elbows with in-the-know New Yorkers, Philadelphians, and Jersey girls and boys who love Jenkinson's Boardwalk and the lovely stretch of beach here. But come September, the rides stay open, the cotton candy is just as sweet, but rates for hotel rooms just a block from the beach can be literally a third of the summer price. 6. PORT TOWNSEND Washington Old-timey seaport in the Pacific Northwest We love the harbor and the foodie scene in this Victorian-era Olympic coast seaport, which was one of our Coolest Small Towns last year. A sea kayaker's dream town, Port Townsend also boasts nearby mountains for hiking and biking, and is an especially great place to cast for fish. 7. KEY WEST Florida You can't go any farther—or ask for a more beautiful location—down the East Coast Well-known as one of Ernest Hemingway's favorite locales—with a party reputation to match—this gorgeous spot at the waaaaaaaaaay bottom of the U.S.'s East Coast boasts a much wider variety of activities, including tours of Victorian homes, nature kayaking, and unique art galleries. Sunset-watching here is not mandatory, but thoroughly recommended. No matter how cliché, it never gets old. 8. MONTAUK New York Parkland and board shorts at the very end of Long Island's East End Sure, this dreamy beach town at the tip of New York's Long Island has gone a bit more upscale over the years, with some classic motels closing and serious eateries moving in. But with only 17 square miles bounded by water and 40 percent of the land devoted to state and county parkland, this place is still pretty wild, and one stop at the Ditch Plains beach and its surfing scene will make you feel as if you've traveled back to the days when trekking the 100+ miles from NYC kept most folks away. 9. LAHAINA Hawaii A hoppin' main street in paradise For some people, the words "beautiful beach" and Maui are synonymous, and it's difficult to argue. But you'll also find a beautiful town—Hawaii's former capital, Lahaina—on the unparalleled island, with one of the U.S.'s most thriving main streets, the result, in part, of the 19th century whaling industry, for which Lahaina served as something of an unofficial capital as well. Nearby Kaanapali Beach, mountains you can almost reach out and touch, and a tranquil harbor make Lahaina a perfect town for kicking back. 10. NANTUCKET Massachusetts Eighteenth-century architecture meets 21st-century style "See what a real corner of the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore, more lonely than the Eddystone lighthouse," wrote Herman Melville about Nantucket in Moby-Dick. This charmingly whale-shaped island still holds its lonely position off the coast of Cape Cod, but of course these days the whaling captains, sailors, and harpooners who made the island home two centuries ago have been replaced by captains of industry who can meet the sky-high summer rates. But things cool down literally and figuratively come September, when you can have perfect beaches, 18th-century cobblestone streets lined with contemporary galleries—and a table with a view—to yourself. (And don't miss the Nantucket Historical Association, with its beautifully designed whaling exhibits and exceptional docents, in the heart of downtown.)
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