51 Affordable Discoveries Across the U.S.

Norwalk CTBangor MaineStockbridge MA
Portsmouth NHWesterly RIBurlington VT
Newark NJBuffalo NYPittsburg, PA
Dover, DelawareNoMa Washington DCBerlin, Maryland
Eau Claire, WIIllinois Shawnee National Park Garden Of GodsWINONA LAKE, INDIANA
Oklahoma Pawhuska Pioneer Woman MerchantileROCHESTER, MINNESOTAST. JOSEPH, MISSOURI
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NORWALK, CT, with its iconic Sheffield Island Lighthouse, Maritime Aquarium, and Lockwood-Mathews Mansion, is an easy, affordable escape from the NYC metro area, perfect for a weekend or day trip.

Courtesy Connecticut Office of Tourism

BANGOR, ME, keeps visitors busy with beautiful Baxter State Park, Cascade Park (with a 20-foot-high waterfall), and great food, wine, and culture.

STOCKBRIDGE, MA, in the Berkshire Mountains, offers fine art, amazing trails, and some of America's finest fall foliage.


PORTSMOUTH, NH, the third-oldest city in the U.S., may look like a step back to the Colonial days, but in addition to its old-world charm, it's packed with contemporary eateries, bookshops, and a vibrant cultural scene. 

Sean Pavone/Dreamstime

WESTERLY, RI, is a well-known "secret" getaway for Rhode Islanders for years, and you'll love being in on the secret too: Beaches, a water park, cool carousel, and even a winery guarantee a great vacation.

Courtesy Visit Rhode Island

BURLINGTON, VT, may be best known for Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Senator Bernie Sanders (he was Burlington's mayor in the '80s), but visitors will love the shores of Lake Champlain, local craft beer, and a working dairy farm.

Alexi Skripanev/Dreamstime

NEWARK, NJ, is enjoying a renaissance, including the opening of chef Marcus Samuelsson's Marcus B&P, the New Jersey Performing Art Center, Off the Hanger boutique, and tasty Burger Walla, where hamburgers are prepared using Indian spices.

Sean Pavone/Dreamstime

BUFFALO, NY, is a big-city escape that includes canoeing, with an incredible waterfront scene, great restaurants and brewpubs, and, of course the city's namesake wings.

Joe Cascio

PITTSBURGH, PA, is seeing a renaissance of creativity among eateries, cocktail bars, and lodgings, as well as the classic Primanti's restaurant and the museum that honors the city's trail-blasing native, Andy Warhol.

Courtesy Andy Warhol Museum

DOVER, DE, the state's capital, offers an array of museums that celebrate the region's art and Colonial history, a hoppin' NASCAR scene, and the amazing First State Heritage Park.


NOMA NEIGHBORHOOD, WASHINGTON, D.C., proves that even a well-trod destination like the District of Columbia has its well-kept secrets. NoMa feels like a European neighborhood with its tasty multicultural Union Market culinary offerings and design-forward murals.


BERLIN, MD, enjoys a great location near Maryland's Eastern Shore and welcomes visitors the way you'd expect a cool small town to: Great local food, arts and crafts, and a friendly vibe.

Courtesy Worcester County Tourism

EAU CLAIRE, WI, is the "Indie Capital of the Midwest," a college town with a great music scene, public art, and an imaginative local brewing community.

courtesy www.VisitEauClaire.com

SHAWNEE NATIONAL FOREST, IL, covers 10 Illinois counties, offering swimming, fishing, all kinds of boating opportunities, and beckoning trails that can keep visitors busy for well over a weekend. (Psst: There's also a local wine trail!) 

Courtesy Illinois Office of Tourism

WINONA LAKE, IN, is an easy road trip from Chicago, and it's relatively unknown to vacationers outside the Midwest, with a gorgeous lakefront, charming homes, and hiking, cycling, paddle boarding, and other water sports, plus chic shopping and the Hallmark Ornament Museum.

Indiana Office of Tourism Development

PAWHUSKA, OK, is home to Pioneer Woman Mercantile, founded by Food Network host Ree Drummond, and the combo story, restaurant, and bakery is just one example of why this Oklahoma destination belongs on your list. Visit the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve with its free-range bison, and enjoy watersports and hiking at Osage State Park.

Lori Duckworth/Oklahoma Tourism

ROCHESTER, MN, is a charming burgh offering historic trolley tours, a Frank Lloyd Wright tour, an exploration of local Amish culture, and a microbrewery scene, not to mention great Greek food, BBQ, and more.

Lisa Mckown/Dreamstime

ST. JOSEPH, MO, has more museums per capital than D.C., including one devoted to the Pony Express, and one to outlaw Jesse James, in the spot where he was famously shot and killed. Reasonable hotel rates and nearby sites that honor native son Walt Disney and the dude who invented sliced bread make St. Joseph a great affordable getaway.

Courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

LOESS HILLS, IA, is home to a National Scenic Byway that lets you explore the 200 miles of hills as well as the work of creative locals such as organic farmers, artists, and a nature center.

Courtesy Travel Iowa

LAWRENCE, KS, may be the ultimate college town, with the diverse community of the University of Kansas supplying the town with a near-endless supply of lectures, art events, film, sports, natural history, and more.

Courtesy Kansas Tourism

RAPID CITY, SD, is in close proximity to Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and Custer State Park (where "traffic jam" means "bison crossing"), but the city itself is ready for its close-up, with a welcoming town square, vibrant arts community, great murals, and much more.

Visit Rapid City

ALPENA, MI, overlooking Thunder Bay, on Lake Huron, is one of the great waterfront destinations in the Midwest, with boating, diving, paddling, and more, all in a wildlife sanctuary right in the middle of town. Tour historic lighthouses and even legendary shipwrecks before hoisting a local Austin Brothers' beer.

Courtesy Pure Michigan

HOCKING HILLS, OH, about a 90-minute drive outside Columbus, is a natural oasis where you'll find canopy tours, ziplines, state parks, prehistoric caves, plus campsites, cabins, and even stylish B&Bs for those who prefer keeping all that nature as a "sometimes" thing.

Michael Shake/Dreamstime

WATFORD CITY, ND, is a classic small town in the heart of the state's beautiful Badlands that's recently seen an expansion thanks to the booming oil industry, leading to similar boom in restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, and great shopping downtown.


DANNERBROG, NE, may feel like a trip to Denmark, and for good reason: An influx of immigrants from that Scandinavian country more than a century ago left its charming mark here, where you'll find danish baked good, mural depicting Viking history, and the annual Grundlovsfest with food and fun.


WACO, TX, may be best known these days for Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of HGTV's Fixer Upper. Visit their Silo District campus including a home-design store, Magnolia, food trucks, and a green space for playing. Waco is also where Dr Pepper was invented, and a local museum pays tribute to the pharmacist who dreamed it up.

Courtesy Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau

ORANGE BEACH, AL, surprises many visitors who didn't realize Alabama had such a happening beach and boating scene, Here, the Gulf of Mexico beckons with opportunities fishing, catamarans,, water skiing, and much more, not to mention fresh seafood for days.

George Dodd/Dreamstime

EL DORADO, AR, a former oil boomtown that's welcoming visitors like never before, opened its Murphy Arts District in 2017 with performances by Brad Paisley and Smokey Robinson. The town is a great place to ogle a variety of architectural styles, grab some authentic local cuisine, and meet friendly locals.

Casey Crocker

SPACE COAST, FL, is home to the justifiably renowned Kennedy Space Center, where the history of the U.S. space program can be traced and celebrated, but the entire "space coast," from Titusville to Melbourne offers perfect beaches, great cuisine (including Cuban favorites), and a surfing scene worth watching even if you're not quite ready to "hang 10."

Sergey Chernyaev/Dreamstime

ATHENS, GA, is one of the most vibrant college towns in the South, with international menus, a great alt-music scene (after all, it gave birth to the B-52s and R.E.M. and hasn't let up since), a two-day Human Rights Festival, and, of course, college sports during the school year.

Sean Pavone/Dreamstime

PADUCAH, KY, is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, with noteworthy points of interest including the National Quilt Museum, the Floodwall Murals, and the cool local food and beverage makers housed in the restored Coca-Cola Bottling Plant.

Lisa Mckown/Dreamstime

LAFAYETTE, LA, is a quirky destination we love for its unique University of Louisiana-Lafayette campus, which its own swamp. Visitors can tour the bayou to ogle irises and gators, and pay tribute to the Cajun music staple, the accordion, at Martin Accordions, featuring handmade instruments.

Courtesy Louisiana Office of Tourism

BILOXI, MS, is home to a 2,000-year-old tree affectionately dubbed "Patriarch" by locals. The town is a Gulf Coast beach mecca for its sugary beaches, great seafood, an historic lighthouse, and sites dedicated to maritime and Civil War history.

Sean Pavone/Dreamstime

WINSTON-SALEM, NC, is an epicenter for awesome vacation pursuits, including food, wine, NASCAR, theater, art, and craft beer, not to mention the city's location at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Courtesy VisitNC.com

SPARTANBURG, SC, draws visitors for its location in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but visitors are equally wowed by the town's great arts and culture, including a Children's Museum, Science Center, Railroad Museum, and the 7,000-acre Croft State Park.

Courtesy DiscoverSouthCarolina.com

CHATTANOOGA, TN, boasts an Innovation District that's enough to get any traveler salivating, from high-tech developments such as the fastest internet in the U.S. to decidedly more earthly delights such as Stir cocktail bar, American Draft in a revamped train car, and easy access to the Appalachian Mountains.

Sean Pavone/Dreamstime

ROANOKE, VA, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains (in fact, it's the largest city on the Blue Ridge Parkway), offers lakes, cool history, annual festivals, and the nearby Shenandoah Valley.

Larry Metayer/Dreamstime

MORGANTOWN, WV, welcomes visitors with natural beauty at the Monongahela River and Cooper's Rock State Forest, but also offers a great arts, food, and entertainment scene thanks to West Virginia University (which also offers a canopy tour via zipline).

Courtesy West Virginia Tourism Office

GIRDWOOD, AK, is the kind of place where you can raise a glass at the top of a mountain summit after a tram ride offering epic views of the charming town known as "Glacier City." If your perfect summer vacation includes hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and rafting, Girdwood may be the spot for you.

Courtesy of Visit Anchorage/Ken Graham

AGRITOPIA, AZ, is basically the locavore aesthetic taken to its logical extreme, with 11 acres of farmland on a homestead property founded almost a century ago, including a marketplace, coffee shop, and, of course, restaurant serving up local bounty.


MORRO BAY, CA, is an open "secret" on the central coast, at least to non-Californians. Here, you'll find the seaside village of your dreams, with fresh-from-the-sea bounty at the wharfside market, beautiful local parks, Pacific beach, and the iconic Morro Rock.

Mariusz Jurgielewicz/Dreamstime

SALIDA, CO, celebrates food, drink, and creativity in a way we can all appreciate. In fact, the town's mayor founded a local distillery. This is a place to find unique hand-crafted gifts, serious eats, and, yes, local beer and spirits that are a cut above the usual.

Scott Peterson

PAIA, HI, on the northern coast of Maui, is the "World Capital of Windsurfing," which is logical given its location, and even if you're not keen on taking to the water yourself, watching the spectacle is worth the trip. Amazing seafood, gorgeous sunsets, and charming B&Bs round out this town's offerings.

Eq Roy/Dreamstime

LAVA HOT SPRINGS, ID, population 412, is the place to soak up soothing mineral-rich waters, plus swimming, ziplines, with affordable lodging near the action.

Courtesy Idaho Tourism

FORT BENTON, MT, is the oldest town in Montana, but it brings history to life in such as way that you feel that you are in the midst of a vibrant community that pays tribute to its past while looking forward. Once the "deadliest town in the west" due to a gunslinger way of life, these days Fort Benton is all about celebrating the natural beauty of central Montana in all its glory.

Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

GREAT BASIN, NV, with a national park established in 1986 (making it a relative newcomer to the NPS), is a wonderland of mountains, rivers, lakes, streams, and diverse wildlife.

Courtesy Sydney Martinez/TravelNevada

ALBUQUERQUE, NM, enjoys 310 sunny days a year, a culinary tradition that includes traditional Mexican, Native American, and European settler influences (dominated by delicious chiles in red and green varieties), and boasts the title of "Hot Air Balloon Capital of America."


ASHLAND, OR, shows what happens when you combine the gorgeous natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest with a world-class Shakespeare company. Between the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and four seasons of hiking, cycling, kayaking, and whitewater rafting, Ashland truly has it all.

Courtesy Travel Oregon

ST. GEORGE, UT, is the "gateway to Zion National Park," and if that's not enough of a draw for you, consider how the town combines outdoor pursuits like hiking, climbing, and canoeing with art galleries and a museum dedicated to local Native American and pioneer history.

Jeremy Christensen/Dreamstime

CASPER, WY, has been a crossroads of the Oregon Trail, the Pony Express, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail, but the city is not looking back as much as it is looking to a renaissance, with the David Street Station event area connecting downtown to the Old Yellowstone District, drawing visitors like never before for food, arts, local history, and, of course, the incredible beauty all around Wyoming's second-largest community.

Jeremy Christensen/Dreamstime

COLUMBIA CITY, SEATTLE, WA, is an easily navigable neighborhood in the Rainier Valley area of Seattle, with a diverse population, international restaurants, green spaces, and a walkable waterside district.

Courtesy Visit Seattle

Take a photo tour of our top value vacations in each state, plus D.C., as we celebrate beautiful - and beautifully affordable! - destinations across the U.S.

We love introducing you to the affordable spots you haven't visited yet, and our annual 51 Best Budget Destinations in America series is the result of months of travel, research, and writing about towns, cities, parks, beaches, and other value trips, with lodging well under $200/night, that belong on every Budget Traveler's bucket list.


Across our online, video, social media platforms and our television partnership with The Weather Channel's AMHQ morning show, we've enjoyed sharing this information in articles, videos, Facebook Live segments, Twitter Chats, and TV segments devoted to the best value trips in the Northeast, Midwest, South, and West.


Above, we're sharing trip-inspiring image from each of this year's Best Budget Destinations - one in each state, plus D.C. - with some info to get you started on your next vacation.

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