Going on vacation doesn’t have to cost a lot, provided that you’re smart about picking your destination. While trips to popular locations like New York City, Hawaii, and San Francisco tend to be on the pricey side, you can often score a great deal if you’re willing to be a little flexible about where you go.
Travel website Hotels.com recently compiled a list of the average hotel price for the 50 most popular U.S. destinations in the first half of 2015. Typical nightly room rates topped $200 in five cities, including New York, Miami, and Boston, and rates were nearly as high in Seattle, New Orleans, and Chicago. But bargains abound in other U.S. cities, many of them offering activities and entertainment that are just as much fun as their more expensive counterparts. Here are the seven major destinations with the cheapest hotel rooms in the U.S., along with our suggestions about what to do when you get there.
Average hotel room cost: $112
What to do in Orlando: Theme parks are the big attraction in this Florida city, from the big names (Walt Disney World, Universal Studio) to quirky attractions like Gatorland (where you can wrestle an alligator for a mere $10). If you’re not in the mood to wait in line to see Mickey, you can tour Orlando Brewing, an all-organic brewing company, or take to the skies in a genuine World-War-II-era fighter plane at Warbird Adventures.
6. Raleigh, N.C.
Average hotel room cost: $108
What to do in Raleigh: North Carolina’s state capital is home to numerous unique museums, including the North Carolina Museum of Art (on view this fall: “The Worlds of M.C. Escher”) and the Legends of Harley Drag Racing Museum. Later, shop for premium, made-in-America jeans at Raleigh Denim Workshop or see how handcrafted chocolate is made at the Videri Chocolate Factory.
5. Oklahoma City
Average hotel room cost: $106
What to do in Oklahoma City: The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is a sobering tribute the victims of the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building and a necessary stop on any visit to the city. Other notable attractions include the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and the Bricktown Entertainment District.
4. Jacksonville, Fla.
Average hotel room cost: $101
What to do in Jacksonville: Covering a sprawling 840 square miles of ground, there’s no shortage of things to keep you busy in Jacksonville. Tickets to Jaguars games are among the cheapest in the NFL, according to Team Marketing Report, or you can catch a Jacksonville Armada match if soccer is more your speed. Or just relax on the city’s 22 miles of white sand beaches.
3. Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Average hotel room cost: $99
What to do in Pigeon Forge: This mountain resort community is nestled on the north side of the Smoky Mountains, making it a natural home base for a vacation in America’s most-visited national park. Attractions in Pigeon Forge run the gamut from mini golf to helicopter rides to the Titanic Museum (a two-story museum shaped like the doomed ship). But the town’s biggest draw is probably Dollywood, an amusement park owned by Dolly Parton.
2. Albuquerque, N.M.
Average hotel room cost: $91
What to do in Albuquerque: See Walt and Skyler’s house and Los Pollos Hermanos on the Breaking Bad RV tour, which is led by actors from the acclaimed show. Petroglyph National Monument is one of the largest rock carving sites in the U.S., or visit in early October for the International Balloon Fiesta, the biggest ballooning event in the world.
1. Reno, Nev.
Average hotel room cost: $85
What to do in Reno: Of course you can gamble at one of the dozens of casinos in Reno, but that’s not the only thing to do in “the biggest little city in the world.” Outdoor activities abound due to the proximity of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, including rafting on the Truckee River, but skiing at the more than 18 resorts in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area is the main attraction in the winter months.
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