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Take an Entertaining City Break Without Breaking the Bank

by Aoife O'Riordan

Dec 19, 2022

PHOTO: © WILLIAM MORRIS | DREAMSTIME.COM

Tips / Budget

With rising prices around the world, planning a trip might prove overwhelming when considering the cost of hotels, restaurants and attractions. However, many U.S. cities offer budget-friendly options for travelers looking to avoid splurging while also enjoying the best of the city. Here are some with affordable sites, restaurants and accommodations, allowing you to spend more time making memories and less time worrying about your wallet.

 

PHOTO: © SMONTGOM65 | DREAMSTIME.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA
Indiana’s capital and largest city might surprise you with its many affordable activities, hotels and restaurants. Not only does the city’s downtown area offer various options, but the surrounding neighborhoods also boast some neat, artsy places. Head to Eagle Creek Park, the largest in Indianapolis, and explore its more than 3,900 acres. The park features 10 miles of paths and an array of attractions, from state nature preserves to Woodland Wildlife Preserve and picnic areas to fishing spots.

 

Operating since the 19th century, Indianapolis City Market invites visitors to peruse the many businesses found there. You’ll find everything from locally designed jewelry to rich coffees and teas and authentic cuisines from around the globe. The more adventurous can explore City Market Catacombs and learn some of the more interesting stories of the city’s history.

 

Looking for something active to do? Ride a bike along the city’s Cultural Trail, which takes cyclists past sites like the convention center at Georgia Street, the LED-lit Swarm Street and Poet’s Place. Pacers Bikeshare stations allow visitors to rent a bike for just $1, plus 15 cents per minute, with no time limitation. An hour-long ride comes to only $10.

 

With an average room rate of $100, finding affordable and comfortable accommodations in the city is easy. Great budget- friendly hotel options include Hilton Garden Inn Indianapolis Downtown and Hyatt Place Indianapolis/Downtown.

 

A big city means many dining options at great prices. Explore top-rated and affordable restaurants such as Livery, a Latin American eatery, and Iozzo’s Garden of Italy, a Mexican- inspired restaurant.

 

© SEAN PAVONE | DREAMSTIME.COM

ATHENS, GEORGIA
Home to the University of Georgia, this college town features more than just the university. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia lies within the city and encompasses more than 300 acres. The garden also boasts a conservatory run by University of Georgia. With 11 botanical and horticultural collections and 5 miles of trails, outdoor lovers cannot skip out on a visit here.

 

Georgia Museum of Art offers free timed ticketing for those who want to see the museum’s permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. The museum displays American art dating back to the 19th century as well as collections such as the Thompson Collection and the Kress Collection.

 

For delicious and locally sourced food head to Athens Farmers Market on Saturdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m.–noon. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the market sells everything from wine and fruit to cheese and fresh and seasonal vegetables.

 

Being a college town means great happy hour deals at many bars and restaurants. The Pine Bar and Trappeze Pub are just two of many in the area serving great happy hour drinks with light bites.

 

You can’t spend time in the South without enjoying authentic Southern cuisine, and restaurants like South Kitchen + Bar, The Place and Heirloom Café and Fresh Market comprise some of the great restaurants in Athens. At night, find affordable hotels like Graduate Athens and Homewood Suites by Hilton Athens.

 

© SEAN PAVONE | DREAMSTIME .COM

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO

With a variety of activities and experiences for visitors of all interests, from the arts to history to nature, Albuquerque’s affordable prices make it a great city to visit. Be sure to visit Petroglyph National Monument, which costs just $1 on weekdays and $2 on weekends. This park contains an estimated 24,000 images carved by the Pueblo people and early Spanish settlers centuries ago.

 

With a car, hop onto Route 66 and cruise down the old highway to take in stunning views of the desert and rock formations. Back in the city, head to Old Town, a series of narrow streets with adobe houses, shops and restaurants. Old Town contains many restaurants at good prices, including Church Street Café, a restaurant serving New Mexican cuisine with both indoor and patio dining as well as seating in the secret garden. For a drink, Albuquerque’s Brewery District features dozens of craft breweries and wineries.

 

Those who want to spend the night in Albuquerque have several affordable options, such as Isleta Resort and Casino, a 4-star hotel with a nightly rate of $129–145, and Nativo Lodge, a Native American-inspired hotel with local artwork integrated throughout the property.

 

PHOTO: © MARK VANDYKE | DREAMSTIME.COM

ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
Few cities have great forests, mountains and rivers on their doorstep, but Asheville can claim all as its neighbors. Less than an hour from the city lies Pisgah National Forest. Within, visitors find countless trails, scenic spots and waterfalls. Drive through the park to see Looking Glass Falls, a stunning waterfall with a plunge pool at the bottom and many viewing points to take in the sheer height of the rock and pouring water. Other waterfalls in the area include Tom’s Creek and Whitewater Falls. Within the national forest visitors can also explore The North Carolina Arboretum. Tickets are just $16–21 a car and provide access to its exhibition centers, including the Bonsai Exhibition Garden.

 

Blue Ridge Parkway sits less than 15 minutes from Asheville and provides even more ways to enjoy the surrounding landscape. Slow down and enjoy a relaxing and scenic drive through long- range vistas and endless mountains.

 

Back in the city center, River Arts District buzzes with life through colorful murals, artisan studios, art galleries, restaurants, cafés and craft breweries. The area even features some music venues for exciting nightlife events. Here, find 12 Bones Smokehouse for some top-notch barbecue dishes. For caffeine, Ultra Coffeebar proves a hip place to hang out both inside and out on the patio.

 

Another popular spot in Asheville is Highland Brewing Company. Its casual atmosphere combined with a taproom and options to sample a pint or flight makes it a great place to visit for a drink. Everyone knows of nearby Biltmore Estate, but the prices of tickets to visit the home are talked about almost as much as its size and grandeur. Instead of spending more money than necessary to see the estate, choose to visit Biltmore Village, a charming village that once housed employees of the estate. Along the streets find boutiques, galleries, jewelry stores, farm-to-table restaurants and cafés.

 

Comfortable and budget-friendly hotels in and around Asheville include Tru by Hilton Asheville East, Brookstone Lodge and The Residences at Biltmore.

 

BUDGET TIPS IN OTHER U.S. CITIES
Did you know all of the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. , are free? With a staggering 19 museums in the city, you can easily spend your days wandering the galleries and halls of the many museums, from Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to the National Air and Space Museum. Other places in the city with free admission include the U.S. Capitol Building, the White House and the many memorials.

 

Near San Antonio, Texas, lies the iconic Alamo. Many don’t realize there is no charge to enter and explore the site and building. All that’s required is a ticket for timed entry. Other free places to visit include Mission San José, an 18th- century neighborhood, and the Japanese Tea Garden.

 

In Kansas City, Missouri, ride the KC Streetcar for free to enjoy even more free attractions and experiences, such as the free tour of Boulevard Brewing Company, River Market, Crossroads Art District and the Money Museum.

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