The Best U.S. Cities for Affordable Getaways

March 28, 2017
VMD Staff

Travel + Leisure’s list of the best affordable US cities might just give you the inspiration you need for your next getaway. Plentiful urban parks, free concerts, low-cost historic attractions, cheap and tasty eats, and good beer make these cities low in cost but high in fun.

Thinking about your next getaway? Are you inspired by reasonable prices in fantastic cities? We sure are. That’s why we checked out Travel + Leisure’s picks for the most affordable US cities to visit this year.

In a list cultivated by the magazine’s readers, Texas came in with 3 of the top 10 cities—San Antonio, Houston, and Austin—while Tennessee landed 2 of the top 10 spots with Nashville and Memphis.

Here are the top 10 cities to set your sights on for your next budget-friendly vacation. Think parks, cheap (and tasty) eats, free music, and good beer.

1. Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City receives visitors every year simply for its slow-smoked barbecue, but there is so much more to do here than eat. Stretch your sightseeing budget with free admission to 3 of the city’s art museums. Enjoy relatively low hotel prices as well, with an average summer rate of $137 per night.

Recommendation: Take the complimentary tours at the Hallmark Visitors Center and the Boulevard Brewing Company.

2. Nashville, Tennessee

Maintain your music budget by going to the early shows. At the Bluebird Café—where a young Garth Brooks once played—the early show is free. Travel + Leisure readers also liked the local burgers, cafes, and microbrews.

Recommendation: Eat at East Nashville’s Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden, where burgers made with local beef start at just $7.

3. San Antonio, Texas

This year, San Antonio moved up 2 spots in the ranks. Explore the city’s free museums, or browse along the Riverwalk, a world-renowned urban waterway that beautifully showcases old and new San Antonio. The summers can be scorchers in this southern city, so you might want to consider San Antonio for a fall excursion.

Recommendation: Bike along the Mission Reach section of the Riverwalk with $10 daily bike rentals through B-Cycles.

4. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

More than 20 lakes and 200 miles of biking and walking trails are waiting for travelers to explore in this metro area. Affordable pubs and cafes also serve good food and craft beer in the Twin Cities.

Recommendation: Hit Bryant Lake Bowl’s weekly Cheap Date Night—dinner for 2 along with a bottle of wine and bowling for only $28.

5. Memphis, Tennessee

If you’re looking for good eats, Memphis-style barbecue gets raves. Enjoy free concerts at the Levitt Shell, and pause to toe-tap along to the city’s many street performers while you stroll around this historic city.

Recommendation: Chow down at Hog & Hominy, named by GQ as one of this year’s best US restaurants, where you can enjoy duck sausage with brussels sprouts slaw for under $10.

Click to the next page for cities 5 through 10.

Salt Lake City is clean, family-friendly, and reasonably priced, according to Travel + Leisure readers. You can also save money by purchasing a Connect Pass, which offers discounts on meals and attractions throughout the city.

Recommendation: Tour Olympic Park, explore the Natural History Museum of Utah, or feed the animals at the Hogle Zoo.

7. Houston, Texas

Enjoy free outdoor classical music concerts at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park. Dine at any of the city’s restaurants where delicious meals, according to Zagat, are about $3 cheaper than the national average.

Recommendation: Enjoy reasonably priced Tex-Mex fare at Ninfa’s on Navigation, which claims to be the home of the nation’s first fajitas.

8. Savannah, Georgia

Stroll through Savannah’s historic squares and along the river to admire the city’s southern architecture and charm. Don’t miss out on seeing the sights—download walking-tour apps such as Historic Savannah and Haunted Savannah for only $2.99 each.

Recommendation: Stop by Leopold’s Ice Cream parlor, which offers the city’s top-ranked frozen desserts.

9. Austin, Texas

Grab lunch from the city’s plentiful food trucks serving tasty and cheap eats, such as eccentric donuts like you’ve never seen at Gourdough’s. Listen to musicians performing at many outdoor—and often free, venues—as well as in the many clubs the city has to offer.

Recommendation: For one of the most authentic Austin experiences, take a dip in Barton Springs in Zilker Park for only $3.

10. Providence, Rhode Island

As the only northeastern city to make the top 10 list, Providence boasts a lively arts scene as well as several tasty restaurants. Stroll the self-guided, and free, 2.5-mile historic architecture trail that connects the State House and Brown University.

Recommendation: Take part in the free Gallery Nights on the 3rd Thursday of the month throughout the summer.