Sometimes you just need to escape from your everyday routine – but you may not have weeks (or funds) on end to spend away from home. For those seeking a quick, affordable trip, we’ve compiled a variety of cheap weekend getaways across the U.S., organized by region so you can find something within driving distance to keep costs low (or further afield if you’re up for the journey).
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy Burlington, Vermont – especially since the best ways to experience it are low-cost or free. Rent bikes and go for a ride on the Burlington Bike Path, which later becomes the Island Line Trail – a stunning pathway over Lake Champlain. You can also stroll Church Street Marketplace, where the Burlington Farmers Market is hosted on Saturdays; sample sweets at Lake Champlain Chocolates; and enjoy a craft beer tasting or two.
Niagara Falls, New York
There’s no cost to visit this iconic landmark, and if you want to get up close, you’ll find several affordable tours of Niagara Falls – namely boat rides that’ll get you up close to the roaring waters. A visit to Niagara Falls, New York, also omits the cost (and hassle) of getting or renewing a passport. Free and low-cost things to do in Niagara Falls include hiking state parks and sampling vinos along the Niagara Wine Trail.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
You can enjoy an affordable weekend in Atlantic City – provided you steer clear of (or don’t spend too much time at) the casinos. Instead, explore the beach and boardwalk, whose roots date back to 1870. Other budget-friendly things to do in Atlantic City including visiting Absecon Lighthouse (the tallest in New Jersey) and Lucy the Elephant. If you come here for a romantic getaway, treat yourself and your partner to dinner on the waterfront.
The Poconos, Pennsylvania
Spend as much or as little as you like in the Pocono Mountains. Located in northeastern Pennsylvania, the region’s terrain affords a variety of free and low-cost activities amid beautiful scenery, from hiking and biking to fishing and boating. Lake Wallenpaupack, Hickory Run State Park and Lehigh Gorge State Park offer some of the best camping for those who’d like to keep lodging costs low, though you can also find affordable vacation rentals in the area.
(Courtesy of Destination Gettysburg)
Gettysburg National Military Park (which also comprises the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center) is free to visit, and there’s no cost to explore the Civil War battlefields with a national park ranger. Gettysburg ghost tours – a must for anyone who’s interested in the area’s haunted history – are relatively affordable, too, as are local hotels, which include options under $200 and $100 per night.
Farm Sanctuary: Watkins Glen, New York
(Courtesy of Farm Sanctuary)
Farm Sanctuary in the Finger Lakes region of New York is part animal sanctuary, part country retreat – and an ideal location for a weekend escape from New York City. Travelers eager for a break can book a tiny home or cabin and spend time with more than 500 rescued farm animals in Watkins Glen. Nightly rentals start at $250 per night (plus a $25 membership fee) for up to two people in May through December, and include a special tour each morning of your stay. Sample the region’s signature rieslings and chardonnays at some of the top wineries in the Finger Lakes during your visit, or hike to waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park.
Black Hills National Forest and Badlands National Park, South Dakota
This area of the U.S. is home to Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park and the fascinating caverns of Wind Cave, making it easy to see several iconic attractions in one jaunt. To save on entry fees, consider the America the Beautiful National Park Pass. Priced at $80, it provides access to all national parks and federally protected lands in the U.S., so you’ll likely be able to use it for another trip down the road, too.
Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari: Santa Claus, Indiana
(Courtesy of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari)
Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari ranks among the most affordable amusement parks in the U.S., in part because of its free parking and modest lodging costs. The amusement park also offers complimentary family-friendly perks with admission, including sunscreen and soft drinks.
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
(Courtesy of Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau)
Wisconsin Dells is home to myriad water park resorts – many of which combine water park admission and overnight lodging in one rate. Other attractions in Wisconsin Dells include a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, a bustling downtown and plenty of gorgeous scenery marked by unique rock formations. You can frequently find hotel and attraction discounts on the Wisconsin Dells tourism bureau’s website; keep in mind for any family trips that the best prices are typically available when kids are in school.
(Courtesy of Explore Branson)
Table Rock Lake State Park, where you can swim, canoe, kayak, fish, hike and bike, as well as Branson Landing, which features a spectacular fountain show at night, are among the free attractions in Branson, Missouri. You can also ride a free trolley around town from March to December. The most expensive activity in Branson might be a visit to Silver Dollar City, though you can often find deals on tickets, like discounted evening rates in the fall. For affordable lodging in Branson, try the Thousand Hills Resort Hotel, which often lists rates around $100 per night.
(Courtesy of Visit Indy)
There are a variety of free things to do in Indianapolis, including the Monon Trail, which connects downtown Indy to the Carmel area, with shops and restaurants along the way; the 250-acre White River State Park, perfect for a picnic lunch; and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which connects the city’s public spaces. On the first Thursday of every month, the Newfields Art Museum offers free admission (and whether or not you go to the museum, the grounds alone are worth a visit). In the summer, Concerts on the Canal brings free entertainment to the area – just bring your own blanket or lawn chair.
No matter your budget, a visit to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum is worth the splurge if traveling with kids – it is the largest children’s museum in the world.
Cedar Point: Sandusky, Ohio
(Courtesy of Cedar Point)
Not only is Cedar Point one of the best amusement parks in the U.S. – and the self-proclaimed Roller Coaster Capital of the World – but a visit here is also relatively cheap when you factor in the affordability of hotels in Sandusky. The Comfort Inn Sandusky, for example, offers free breakfast with rates starting at less than $100 per night. Keep in mind that, as a seasonal attraction, Cedar Point is typically closed from November to early May.
(Courtesy of Washington.org)
With 22 free Smithsonian museums including the National Zoo, Washington, D.C. is an obvious choice for a cheap weekend getway. And while many hotels in D.C. are expensive, you can still find affordable accommodations on rental sites like Airbnb and Vrbo.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf Shores boasts more than 30 miles of white sand beaches, making it one of the best beaches on the Gulf Coast. You don’t have to visit during the summer to experience the area’s best weather, though: Spring and fall bring temperatures that are still comfortable for sunbathing, swimming and strolling on the sand.
Budget-friendly things to do in Gulf Shores include bike riding at Gulf State Park; casting a line at Gulf State Park Fishing and Education Pier; exploring The Wharf, an entertainment and shopping venue; and visiting the Orange Beach History Museum and the Gulf Shores Museum, both of which are free. At local hotels like the Staybridge Suites Gulf Shores, nightly rates for apartment-style accommodations and free breakfast currently hover around $100 a night.
Massanutten Resort: Massanutten, Virginia
An ideal weekend getaway from Washington, D.C., Massanutten Resort offers four-season fun, from winter sports like skiing and snowboarding to golf, mountain biking and water park action during warmer months. A la carte fees for many activities allow you to spend as much or as little as you’d like, and while there’s a nightly resort fee, it covers access to the indoor and outdoor pools, playgrounds, sports courts (including pickleball), hiking trails and more. Plus, the resort fee doesn’t seem so bad when you consider that townhomes and guest rooms are available for less than $150 a night.
Asheville, North Carolina
Krista Rossow|Courtesy of ExploreAsheville.com
Situated within the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is known for its mix of history (Biltmore Estate), nature (the Blue Ridge Mountains) and food (from craft breweries to a flourishing dining scene). Travelers can tackle a number of hikes in Asheville for some scenic – and low-cost – fun. You can also stroll along the 1.7-mile Asheville Urban Trail to learn about the city’s unique past, go for a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway and explore downtown, where you’re bound to come across some of the tiny city’s famous street performers. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an easy and relatively affordable day trip from Asheville, too.
Bahia Honda Key, Florida
You don’t have to visit Key West – or break the bank – to experience the best of the Florida Keys; in fact, the best beaches in the Florida Keys are not even in Key West. At Bahia Honda State Park, for example, you can swim, rent kayaks and snorkeling gear, or even hop on a boat to snorkel in the Looe Key marine sanctuary reef. Entry fees at Bahia Honda State Park are $8 per vehicle with two to eight passengers. Plus, you can camp here for just $36 per night (not including tax and the utility and reservation fees). Renting a cabin costs about $120 per night plus fees from May through October, and slightly more in the cooler months.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
One of the most affordable beach destinations in the U.S., Myrtle Beach is known for its roster of low-cost or free activities that appeal to travelers of all ages. Explore the mile-long Myrtle Beach Boardwalk (home to the iconic Skywheel) as well as Broadway at the Beach (an entertainment complex), both of which offer live entertainment including music performances and fireworks shows. Vereen Memorial Gardens, just north of the city, is also free to visit. When it comes to Myrtle Beach accommodations, there are affordable options aplenty; the Crown Reef Resort, for example, offers an on-site, year-round water park and rates as low as $92 per night for a family of four.
Polk County, Florida
(Courtesy of Visit Central Florida)
A vacation in Orlando has its time and place, but if you’re on the hunt for a cheap weekend getaway, head to Polk County instead. Here, you can explore stunning (and free) parks and nature preserves such as Bok Tower Gardens, a National Historic Landmark, as well as Bonnet Springs Park. The park connects several attractions, including a kids treehouse, a rooftop bar, a butterfly house, The Florida Children’s Museum, botanical gardens and more. Legoland Florida Resort and Peppa Pig Theme Park are close by if you decide to splurge on a theme park visit.
There are more things to do in New Orleans than you could ever accomplish in a weekend, but you can still enjoy a short and cheap trip to The Big Easy. Ogle the historic houses in the Garden District, stroll along iconic Magazine Street, wander through the French Quarter (where you’re bound to see street performers), or stop in a local eatery for a famous po’boy sandwich or beignet. For affordable accommodations in New Orleans, look outside of the French Quarter.
South Padre Island, Texas
(Courtesy of South Padre Island CVB)
Not only does South Padre Island offer 34 miles of coastline and the cleanest beach water in Texas, but it’s also ultra-affordable. Low-cost attractions include Sea Turtle, Inc., which is currently building the world’s largest sea turtle hospital, and South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. There are also plenty of places to enjoy fishing, one of the island’s most popular activities. A visit to the Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site – the last Texas lighthouse open to the public – costs just $5 per adult ($3 for kids). Sandcastle Days, the island’s beloved festival that is hosted every October, is also free.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
One of the most beautiful national parks in California, Joshua Tree National Park is also fairly affordable thanks to campgrounds like Jumbo Rocks, where you can enjoy the seclusion of the deserted wilderness. There are more than 100 primitive campsites available here, with reservations required in the busy season from September to May; a maximum of six people can occupy a campsite for just $20 per night (on top of fees to enter the park).
San Luis Obispo, California
(Courtesy of Visit SLO CAL)
Combining small-town charm with beautiful weather, San Luis Obispo is an ideal weekend getaway from Los Angeles (about 190 miles from the city). With the plethora of outdoor activities here, visitors can enjoy budget-friendly fun like hiking the area’s trails, surfing in the ocean, zip lining or horseback riding. For local flavor, visit the Thursday evening farmers market or dine alfresco at one of many downtown patios. The town’s free Concerts in the Plaza series features performances by the area’s top artists. Beaches await those seeking relaxation in SLO, while wine lovers can explore the region’s Edna Valley wineries.
A glitzy getaway in Las Vegas can be yours – and it may be less expensive than you initially imagined. Hotels in Vegas can cost as little as $50 per night on weekdays (plus resort fees), and local attractions like Bellagio Fountains, the Fremont Street Experience, the Las Vegas Sign and Seven Magic Mountains (just outside the city) are all free to visit. This might just mean you’ll have some room in your budget for a casino visit, tickets to one of the city’s spectacular shows, and/or a tour of the Grand Canyon.
(Courtesy of Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau)
It won’t cost you a penny to visit most attractions in Sedona, including Cathedral Rock, Devil’s Bridge and Fay Canyon. And while Sedona’s spa and wellness resorts are undoubtedly pricey, you can find lodging for less in off-peak months (summer and winter), as well as a variety of vacation rentals year-round.
Gros Ventre Wilderness, Wyoming
The Gros Ventre Wilderness, which is part of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, is another natural wonder worth visiting. Plan a weekend here to discover rolling rivers, abundant wildlife, and amazing geological features such as rock formations and natural slides. As for accommodations, travelers can rent the cozy Hoback Guard Station cabin for $80 per night for a party of up to six guests from May to October.
Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic National Park is well worth a weekend visit, whether you want to hike, stargaze or explore its more than 70 miles of untouched Pacific Coast shoreline – which include dog-friendly beaches, if your furry friend wants to come along. While here, visit the famous Hoh Rain Forest, Lake Crescent and Rialto Beach. You can even camp within the park for as little as $40 per night for up to 10 people sharing a campsite. Note that you’ll have to pay a fee to enter the park.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(Courtesy of Visit Albuquerque)
Albuquerque is quirky and fun, with an Old Town that features cobblestone streets and adobe-style buildings and is free to explore. Plan a visit during spring or fall for the best weather, then take advantage of local, low-cost festivals: May brings the New Mexico Wine Festival ($25 or less per ticket) to town, or come autumn, you can stop by the famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (around $15 per person) to witness one of the best hot air balloon festivals in the U.S. Other things to do in Albuquerque include visiting the Petroglyph National Monument, which is free of charge. Opt for a vacation rental rather than a hotel to save some coin.
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is an affordable Texas destination brimming with cultural flair, historical significance and free activities. There’s no cost to visit iconic attractions like the Alamo or the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and you won’t pay anything to stroll the famous River Walk (though dining at least once here is a must). Another popular activity, narrated river cruises are also cheap, with tickets for less than $15 per person via local operator GO RIO Cruises.