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These Are The Best Cheap Vacation Destinations Within The U.S.

As the COVID-19 pandemic slowly begins to ease, and travel restrictions along with it, thoughts turn to not only when can we go on vacation, but where. COVID-related changes in employment status and the resulting budget constraints might put the brakes on long, leisurely travel excursions to far-off exotic places, at least for right now, but there are plenty of affordable locales in the U.S. – some even just a tank of gas away – that can get you back in vacation mode and ready for some long-overdue fun and frolic.

According to U.S. News, these are America’s top 10 low-cost travel destinations.

Photo: Flickr/Justin Mier

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

You can see why Gatlinburg is a natural choice for a scenic vacation:  This city is home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, awesome skiing, and hiking trails aplenty. Head indoors and you can browse unique museums, and a wealth of wineries, whisky distilleries, and breweries.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Justjeffaz (Jeff Brunton)

Phoenix, Arizona

The golf courses are legendary, and the historic Tovrea Castle and Mystery Castle are the stuff of legends. Another reason head to Phoenix? The breathtaking Desert Botanical Garden. Budget travelers can rest easy knowing that numerous hotel options in the area are available for under $100 per night.

Photo: Pixabay

Salt Lake City, Utah

For just $3 per car, you can take in the beauty and expanse of the Great Salt Lake, which spans a staggering 1,700 miles. Superb ski resorts attract novices and professionals alike, while indoor activities like the Utah Museum of Fine Arts offer mind-expanding exhibits that entertain and enlighten.

Photo: Flickr/Joe Ross

Williamsburg, Virginia

Looking to leave 2020 (way) behind? Step back in time to the 1600s at Colonial Williamsburg, a family-friendly village offering authentic entertainment, good food, and more exhibits than you can shake a stick at. You’ll also find a Busch Gardens theme park with heart-stopping roller coasters.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Joseph Novak

Memphis, Tennessee

Put on your walking shoes (or blue suede shoes) and amble through the many luxurious rooms of Graceland, home of Elvis Presley. The tours can be pricey, but entry to the outdoor meditation garden is free between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. and you can expect to snap some beautiful pictures of not only the garden but also the house exterior. Worthy of note:  Memphis offers plenty of free musical performances at the Art Museum of the University of Memphis, the Pink Palace Museum, and Overton Park.

Photo: Picyrl

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Take a break from your routine and head to Albuquerque, where you can take in a free self-guided tour of locations featured in the hit TV-show Breaking Bad; Lonely Planet offers a do-it-yourself tour linking sights with Breaking Bad episodes. Annual events include the Native American Gathering of Nations Powwow and an impressive hot air balloon festival.

Photo: Flickr/Joe Parks

Tucson, Arizona

Tucson is rarely too hot or too cold:  Temperatures here seldom, if ever, dip below 60s. This warm retreat features great, inexpensive museums, historic sites, and parks such as the iconic Saguaro National Park. After a tasty meal of authentic Mexican food, head to the “Old Tucson” movie set that transports you back in time to the Old West.

Photo: Flickr/Jared

Las Vegas, Nevada

A vacation in Vegas is never a gamble – you’re sure to find excitement every day of the week. Here, casinos are king:  Staying at a casino is usually cheap, owing to the fact that these establishments make their money primarily from gambling. But you’ll find plenty of other attractions, too, like art galleries, theme parks, entertainment venues, and shops like the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, which you might recognize from the History channel’s Pawn Stars.

Photo: Flickr/Nan Palmero

San Antonio, Texas

The historic Alamo mission offers guided tours and historic reenactments certain to leave an impression (how can you not remember the Alamo?). Choose to stay at one of several luxury hotels, or keep your budget in check with an Airbnb option. Either way, you’ll want to get out and about by hopping aboard a boat tour or strolling among the shops and restaurants found along the city’s renowned River Walk.

Photo: Flickr/Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Without a doubt, it’s one of the most beautiful, mind-blowing natural attractions in the world, and you can take it all in without taking a huge bite out of your budget:  Snag a weekly pass for only $30 per vehicle. Free entrance days are also offered, and you can save even more by taking advantage of overnight campground rates ranging from only $12 to $50 per night. How grand!