Welcome to the roaring 20s! Make this year the best with a vacation that won't break the bank. There are so many great vacation destinations right here in the continental U.S. that you might not know exist. I've found ten destinations that are easy on the budget and offer incredible experiences, whether you are outdoorsy, love shopping, are a history buff, or want to chill by the water. Those marked with a * are ones I've visited and highly recommend! All others are on my future travel list.
Cape May, New Jersey is the southernmost point in New Jersey and the oldest seaside resort in the United States. Cape May is known for its clean beaches, world-class dining, small-town boutique shopping, and a charming county zoo. Outdoor activities include Back Bay Birding & Wildlife Boat Tours, Spirit of Cape May Sunset Dinner Cruises, Whale Watching tours, fishing excursions, and dolphin spotting charters. There’s plenty to do even on rainy days, including a visit to the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum, the Cape May Day Spa, the Fireman’s Museum, the Emlen Physick Estate, and more. For a seaside vacation off the beaten path, Cape May might be the perfect destination.
Considered one of America’s foremost art colonies, Taos is a small town with dozens of art galleries. With 300 days of sunshine, you can enjoy both indoor and outdoor activities year-round. Take a pottery class, visit the hot springs, ride in a hot air balloon, or go llama trekking. Taos is also home to a world-class ski resort, a World Heritage Site, one of the most photographed and iconic churches (St. Francisco de Asis), and a majestic landscape encompassing the Rocky Mountains and the Rio Grande Gorge. Experience rich spiritual traditions, fine art, distinctive cuisine, a thriving music scene, and the raw, natural beauty of the landscape. With five museums and over 40 art galleries and only an hour and a half drive from Santa Fe, you'll never get bored visiting Taos.
Idyllically situated in the picturesque Adirondacks, Saranac Lake not only has all the water sports you could hope for – fishing, boating, tubing, swimming - but also has a thriving arts scene, and award-winning professional theatre with performances year-round. The village boasts unique “cure cottage” architecture, there are multiple beaches, and meditative forest bathing. Known as a cure for tuberculosis in the 1800s, the area is still home to yoga retreats, cooking workshops, sound healing, and other holistic activities, not to mention nightly live music and golfing. If sports are your jam, the
Can-Am Rugby Tournament is held at Saranac Lake in late July.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado*
These 300-foot sandstone rocks nestled among dense green evergreen forests are truly a sight to behold. You can enjoy this National Landmark even if you aren’t an avid hiker, or have some mobility issues. You can witness the majesty of the Garden of the Gods via jeep, bike, electric bike, or Segway. The Visitor and Nature Center is the most visited attraction in the region with interactive exhibits and the Geo-Trakker theater experience. The area RV resort has cottages, suites, bunkhouses, RV, and tent sites. Nearby downtown Colorado Springs has eclectic shopping, fantastic food eateries and quaint lodging. One of my favorite places on earth!
St. Augustine, Florida* Located along 42 miles of beach, St. Augustine is the nation’s oldest city. The unique scenery and history of St. Augustine has something for everyone. The brick-lined streets have a European flavor with centuries-old buildings, horse-drawn carriages, hidden courtyards and no cars allowed in the historic shopping/dining district. The Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the continental US, is a Spanish stone fortress built to protect and defend Spain’s claims in the New World. You can take a pirate cruise complete with cannon fire, broadsiding and sword fights, visit Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, or the Medieval Torture Museum, and take a sip from the Fountain of Youth at the Ponce de Leon’s Archaeological Park.
Cache River State Natural Area, Belknap, Illinois Cache River State Natural Area is situated in southernmost Illinois within a floodplain carved long ago by glacial floodwater of the Ohio River. When the Ohio River adopted its present course, it left the Cache River to meander across rich and vast wetlands. Among the outstanding natural features found within the area are massive cypress trees whose flared bases exceed 40 feet circumference, and many are more than 1,000 years old. With its diversity of soils, bedrock, and landforms, the Cache River Valley contains four distinct ecological regions, each with its own unique assemblage of physical attributes, plants, and animals. A must-see for nature enthusiasts.
Berlin, Maryland* Winner of the 2014 Coolest Small Town in America by Budget Travel, two major films were filmed in Berlin, Tuck Everlasting, and Runaway Bride. With 50 buildings on the historic register, Berlin is an essential stop if you're an architecture fan and is less than a three hour drive from Washington, D.C.. Relax on the sandy beaches of Ocean City or nearby Assateague Island National Seashore where you can enjoy shellfishing and surf fishing. In May, you can attend the Jazz & Blues, Wine & Brews festival, or visit in June for the Annual Bathtub Races. For something truly different, visit in September for the 27th Annual Fiddlers Convention and enjoy a weekend filled with live bluegrass music.
Supai, Arizona. If a rural, rustic, and truly unique outdoor experience is more your style, you can't do better than a visit to Supai, Arizona. In the remote reaches of the Grand Canyon, the Village of Supai – the most remote community in the lower 48 states – beckons with a prized and rare feature: towering year-round waterfalls that are among the most photographed in the world. You can only get there by foot, horseback, mule or helicopter, so this trip is not for the faint of heart or those with mobility issues. The Village of Supai is home to the Havasupai, the smallest Native American tribe in the U.S.. For the super active, you can trek down to Mooney falls by nightfall and then look up and witness the most incredible starry sky you've ever seen since there are no lights for miles.
Franklin, Tennessee* Save hundreds by making Franklin your base to visit Nashville, only 20 miles to the north. Franklin boasts 11 depression-era factory buildings turned into a unique shopping, dining, and entertainment venue, the start of the Masters and Makers Trail - a 70-mile trail of wineries and distilleries, and the Midnight Sun Scavenger Hunt. Visit the Park at Harlinsdale Farm to learn about the famous Tennessee Walking Horse, and end your day at Kings Dining & Entertainment. For history buffs, The Battle of Franklin was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, and more than 150 years later, the stories of both despair and heroism have been carefully preserved and are shared daily with visitors from all over the world.
Camden, Maine - "Where the mountains meet the sea." If you're looking for a classic New England seaside village without the price tag of Gloucester, Portland, or Cape Cod, Camden has everything you're looking for and more. Whale and puffin watching cruises, boat tours of the Penobscot Bay, deep-sea fishing, and clam bakes on the beach are just some of the fabulous experiences to be had. The quaint town of Camden features 19th-century architecture with local specialty shops and boutiques. Take a ferry ride to nearby islands, go saltwater pier fishing, or embark on a bald eagle sighting tour. If that isn't enough, there is also golfing, swimming, kayaking, and camping nearby.