8 unique summer vacations that won’t break the bank!
A getaway can really put an exclamation point on a great summer, but not if it ruins your budget for the rest of the year.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans, on average, spent $1,372 on travel in 2011.
Don’t let that dissuade you from traveling, however.
Both tranquil and exciting vacations can be had for a song if you research ideal travel times and discover unheralded destinations that don’t hurt your wallet like a trip to New York or Miami might.
We’ve done the curation work for you and identified eight affordable (and often overlooked) domestic vacation ideas.
Love food and wine, but don’t want to pay Napa Valley prices? Charlottesville has both in spades. The city has been building up a formidable food scene in recent years that boasts southern fare like grits, fried chicken and renowned bakeries, as well as international styles like sushi and tapas.
For sightseers, Charlottesville is home to three presidential estates and sits about 40 miles from the gorgeous Shenandoah National Park, as well as the Skyline Drive Scenic Highway.
Where to visit: Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
What to attend: Mineral Bluegrass Festival, July 16-18
Where to eat: Ace Biscuit & Barbecue
2. Kansas City, Missouri
Want to visit a big city this summer, but wary of expensive metropolises like Chicago, New York or Los Angeles?
According to a GOBankingRates study, Kansas City is the fourth most affordable vacation city in the U.S. In 2014, according to Hotels.com, travelers paid an average of $114 a night to stay in KC.
In addition to saving on a hotel room, you’ll be able to do plenty in Kansas City over the summer. The city is a mecca for jazz enthusiasts and has more fountains than Rome. For families, KC has a renowned science museum and zoo.
Where to visit: The Arabia Steamboat Museum
What to attend: Boulevardia, June 19-21
Where to eat: Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
3. Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania
Not all state parks are known for their scenery and architecture. Ohiopyle, located in Southwest Pennsylvania, is.
Situated on nearly 20,000 acres, Ohiopyle features four waterfalls and a natural waterslide for visitors to flow down. Hikers will love the park’s 79 miles of trails, and rafters of all skill levels can enjoy the Youghiogheny River, which features class one, two and four rapids.
Ohiopyle also features two masterpiece homes by Frank Lloyd Wright — Kentuck Knob and Fallingwater — and Fort Necessity, a 18th century garrison that was the site of a pivotal battle in the French and Indian War.
Where to visit: Cucumber Falls
What to attend: Beer and Gear Festival, June 20
Where to eat: Falls City Restaurant & Pub
4. Gulf Shores, Alabama
Following Hurricane Ivan, Alabama poured millions of dollars into restoring Gulf Shores State Park’s ivory-colored beaches and turquoise waters. The results are promising; visitors are again flocking to the area to enjoy dolphin watching, chartered fishing, scores of golf courses and freshly snagged crab. Gulf Shores is great for families who don’t want to pay typical summer resort prices.
Where to visit: Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
What to attend: 82nd Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, the largest fishing tournament in the world, July 17-19
Where to eat: Flying Harpoon
5. St. Petersburg, Florida
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the average airfare itinerary cost $391 last year. Round-trip flights originating in St. Petersburg cost only $97 in the fourth quarter of 2014, however.
Aside from dirt-cheap airfare, St. Pete has carved itself out as an arts capital. Visitors flock to the city’s many art galleries, museums and theaters.
Where to visit: Sunken Gardens
What to attend: Night in the Islands, July 11 and August 1
Where to eat: BellaBrava
6. San Juan Islands, Washington
Ditch the car for the weekend and head to San Juan Island to enjoy sublime silence. Accessible by ferry, San Juan Island is an idyllic retreat for walkers, cyclists, hikers and kayakers, who flock to San Juan for its forests, lighthouses and vast valleys, plus a few orca and alpaca sightings.
San Juan’s mild summer weather is ideal for fishing, or a walk on the beach. Visitors can rent cabins to capitalize on deals.
Where to visit: San Juan Island Sculpture Park
What to attend: Summer Solstice Parade, June 20
Where to eat: The Mansion at Rosario
7. San Antonio, Texas
Summertime in San Antonio is filled with lights, sounds and history. In addition to the city’s famous River Walk, which twists around the San Antonio River, San Antonio is home to five former missions (including The Alamo), numerous art galleries and 19th century cathedrals and homes.
The city is also affordable — according to Hotels.com, travelers paid just $123 for a room in San Antonio.
Where to visit: Natural Bridge Caverns
What to attend: Texas Folklife Festival, June 13-14
Where to eat: La Fogata
8. Bar Harbor, Maine
New England isn’t just a winter ski destination. During the summer, it offers pristine shorelines, mountain views and some of the best seafood on earth.
Bar Harbor is no different. A gateway to Acadia National Park, the getaway offers hiking and biking trails, lighthouse tours, kayaking and rock climbing. If you get bored in Bar Harbor proper (which you won’t), Acadia offers 120 miles of hiking trails and a 27-mile scenic drive.
Where to visit: Walk Ocean Trail
What to attend: Acadia Night Sky Festival, September 10-14
Where to eat: The Travelin’ Lobster