Staying stateside is often a great way to cut costs while vacationing. But domestic destinations aren’t all created equal when it comes to certain expenses.
After reviewing rankings from a variety of travel sites to determine the nation’s most popular tourist cities, GOBankingRates used food and drink costs, the average nightly rate for the three least-expensive hotels in the area and airfare averages to determine which destinations would be the biggest blow to travelers’ bank balances.
The five most expensive U.S. cities on the list predictably included vacation hot spots on the East and West Coasts, but also featured a smaller Southern destination that landed near the top of the rankings because of pricey airfares:
New York City
However, keep in mind that hotel rates are based on October stays, and seasonality can drive prices up or down at some of these expensive tourist destinations. But even in these swank spots, there are ways savvy spenders can cut costs. Click through for travel tips and affordable attractions to help you save money in some of the best tourist cities.
29. Cost to Visit Orlando, Fla.: $1,182.52
- Meals: $322.50
- Drinks (including beer): $45.24
- 3-night hotel stay: $285
- Airfare: $529.78
Savings tips: This central Florida theme park mecca is one of the best tourist cities for your wallet, but visitors can save even more by taking advantage of deals and discounts on the Visit Orlando website. The tourism promotion agency also operates an app that allows users to access and redeem offers.
Low-cost or free activities: Float down the free-flowing natural Rock Springs at Kelly Park in nearby Apopka, or visit the city of Winter Park, just north of Orlando. Its Central Park screens a free, family-friendly classic movie on the second Thursday of each month.
See Also: The Best States to Visit This Spring
28. Cost to Visit Palm Springs, Calif.: $1,309.20
- Meals: $319.38
- Drinks (including beer): $45.96
- 3-night hotel stay: $259
- Airfare: $684.86
Savings tips: Know the best time to book and plan your vacation. For example, schedule your Palm Springs visit during the middle of the week for the best savings. Many hotels in this desert destination up their room rates on weekends, especially during the peak winter travel season, according to U.S. News and World Report. To save even more money, consider visiting in the summer when hotter temps help keep costs — and crowds — down.
Low-cost or free activities: Tour the free Agua Caliente Cultural Museum for a look at the history and culture of the area’s Native Americans. Or, visit the weekly VillageFest, a downtown street fair featuring arts, crafts, food and entertainment.
27. Cost to Visit Park City, Utah: $1,386.44
- Meals: $294
- Drinks (including beer): $42.48
- 3-night hotel stay: $320
- Airfare: $729.96
Savings tips: Park City operates a free bus system in which the vehicles are fueled by environmentally friendly biodiesel. The routes link residential neighborhoods, resorts and the city’s historic Main Street, which also features a free trolley service that runs from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day.
Low-cost or free activities: Exhibits at the Kimball Art Center are free to the public. Tours are free at the High West Distillery, which also features a restaurant that offers custom pairings of food and wine or, of course, whiskey. To save more money, discover more free things to do in Utah.
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26. Cost to Visit Las Vegas: $1,404.58
- Meals: $330
- Drinks (including beer): $43.92
- 3-night hotel stay: $528
- Airfare: $502.66
Savings tips: Affordable airfares could make Vegas one of the cheapest tourist destinations in the country, but other expenses add up. Luckily, money-minded visitors can save on transportation once they arrive. The Regional Transportation Commission operates a bus route dubbed The Deuce, which runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week along the Strip and through downtown Vegas. Passes are available in increments of two hours ($6), 24 hours ($8) or three days ($20).
Low-cost or free activities: There are many fun and free things to do in Vegas. Take in fabulous fountains and flora for free at the Bellagio, which features a conservatory in addition to its famous fountains. Plants and flowers also flank the towering waterfall in the Atrium of the Palazzo, where window shopping at the Grand Canal Shoppes is also free.
25. Cost to Visit Miami Beach, Fla.: $1,429.68
- Meals: $450
- Drinks (including beer): $51.96
- 3-night hotel stay: $299
- Airfare: $628.72
Savings tips: The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau features a web page showcasing hip hostels, many of which offer beachfront locations and a choice of shared or private accommodations. One price-conscious pick, the Freehand Miami, has also advertised a 30 percent discount for visitors who stay on or through a Sunday night.
Low-cost or free activities: A day at the beach can be free, but there are plenty of other free places to snag some shade, too. The Ball and Chain bar and lounge in Little Havana doesn't charge a cover fee. And, the music starts early at 2 p.m. for its monthly Pineapple Sunday shows.
24. Cost to Visit Honolulu: $1,442.16
- Meals: $375
- Drinks (including beer): $54.12
- 3-night hotel stay: $308
- Airfare: $705.04
Savings tips: Honolulu was hip to the food truck trend long before most of the mainland, and local “lunch wagons” are a fixture in parts of the city. For an inexpensive treat, try Banan for a unique taste of non-dairy, banana-based soft-serve “ice cream” that now comes in flavors that add chocolate and macadamia nut, among others. Check out these other affordable things to do in Hawaii that can save you money on your trip.
Low-cost or free activities: Honolulu is one of the most expensive U.S. cities to visit, but you can still see many sites for free. If visitors can pull themselves away from the beach views, they might want to make time to visit the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, home of the USS Arizona Memorial, to learn more about the pivotal attack on Pearl Harbor. The program is free but requires a timed ticket.
23. Cost to Visit Aspen, Colo.: $1,446.58
- Meals: $360
- Drinks (including beer): $54
- 3-night hotel stay: $388
- Airfare: $644.58
Savings tips: If you're planning a ski vacation, you might want to hit up one of the best world-class ski resorts in the country, like Aspen. But your vacation can get pricey.
To save money, hit the happy hours. The Red Onion features two daily happy hours, one from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and another from 10 p.m. to midnight, each offering discounts on beer, wine and well drinks. The Lounge at the Limelight Hotel showcases $10 pizzas, $3 Bud Lights and other discounted drinks from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. each day, as well as live music from local bands from Monday through Thursday.
Low-cost or free activities: The Aspen Art Museum offers free admission daily, but the museum is closed on Mondays. For visitors who want to take a break from downhill skiing and upscale pricing, the Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System maintains more than 60 miles of free cross-country and snowshoe trails linking the communities of Aspen, Snowmass and Basalt.
22. Cost to Visit Anaheim, Calif.: $1,452.62
- Meals: $306
- Drinks (including beer): $53.76
- 3-night hotel stay: $408
- Airfare: $684.86
Savings tips: Travelers who want to save time and money when visiting Disneyland should schedule a trip during the off-season — September through November or January through March. This is when the park tends to be less crowded and hotel room rates are generally lower. And those who only want to drop into Disneyland for a day should buy a one-day pass for a "value" season date to get the lowest possible price.
Low-cost or free activities: The nearby Fullerton Arboretum suggests visitors make a $5 donation to check out its gardens and exhibits. The garden also offers Saturday morning yoga classes at $13 per session for annual arboretum members and $15 for non-members.
21. Cost to Visit San Diego: $1,455.54
- Meals: $330
- Drinks (including beer): $50.76
- 3-night hotel stay: $383
- Airfare: $691.78
Savings tips: Vacationers can save money in both San Diego and Anaheim with a Southern California CityPASS. The multi-park pass will set you back $353 for people ages 10 and up, and you can also add admission to the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park for an additional $42.
But for those planning to visit Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California, investing in a CityPASS could save you at least $151.99. Adding on the zoo or Safari Park boosts the savings by another $10 per person.
Low-cost or free activities: San Diego abounds with beaches, hiking and biking trails for outdoor enthusiasts. Those looking for a little athletic inspiration can visit the U.S. Olympic Training Center in nearby Chula Vista. It offers free staff-guided or self-guided informational tours of the facility.
20. Cost to Visit Breckenridge, Colo.: $1,457.26
- Meals: $345
- Drinks (including beer): $52.68
- 3-night hotel stay: $415
- Airfare: $644.58
Savings tips: Breckenridge is one of the best getaways for solo travelers. But even if you're visiting alone, take advantage of savings opportunities.
Search sites like Liftopia to buy discounted ski lift tickets in advance. But shop early because good deals sometimes sell out. Multi-day passes can also cut costs. For example, a one-day Epic Pass for a day early in the ski season costs $98 when purchased in advance online, while a three-day adult pass will set skiers back $279.
Low-cost or free activities: Breckenridge features several museums and historic sites that offer free admission with a suggested $5 donation. Check out the Summit Ski Museum to learn more about the history of the sport in the region. Visit the Barney Ford Victorian Home to get a glimpse of the life of escaped slave, entrepreneur and civil rights activist Barney Ford.
19. Cost to Visit Portland, Ore.: $1,474.28
- Meals: $306
- Drinks (including beer): $51.84
- 3-night hotel stay: $474
- Airfare: $642.44
Savings tips: You can save money on your hotel costs in this expensive U.S. city by sharing a bathroom at the Crystal Hotel. While this historic hotel’s king rooms offer individual bathrooms, its unique queen and double twin rooms feature access to bathrooms down the hall. Rates for Oct. 19 offered a savings of at least $70 for guests opting for rooms with common bath facilities.
Low-cost or free activities: Portland is known as the City of Roses for good reason. To get a look at some stunning specimens, check out the free International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. The site offers free public tours daily. Washington Park is also home to the free Hoyt Arboretum and an expansive children's playground.
18. Cost to Visit Los Angeles: $1,496.62
- Meals: $360
- Drinks (including beer): $59.76
- 3-night hotel stay: $392
- Airfare: $684.86
Savings tips: The airport offers LAX FlyAway bus service to and from several stops in the area, including Hollywood and Long Beach, with one-way fares between $8 and $10. After arriving in the sprawling SoCal city, try getting a room in the area you want to explore so you can save time and money traveling on foot. Want to split time between Hollywood and the beach? Consider switching hotels mid-stay since traffic tie-ups can be a nightmare.
Low-cost or free activities: Strolling Venice Beach is always free. For a less leisurely walk, try hiking through Griffith Park to the Griffith Observatory, which offers free admission and access to telescopes. Hiking Runyon Canyon is also a fun, free activity — it's also one of the best places to spot celebrities in L.A.
17. Cost to Visit Jackson, Wyo.: $1,514.06
- Meals: $294
- Drinks (including beer): $42.06
- 3-night hotel stay: $398
- Airfare: $780
Savings tips: Some of your favorite celebrities are known to visit this hot spot — but that doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune on your vacation.
Check the Jackson Hole Traveler, a locally produced print and online travel guide, for deals and discounts. For example, its current specials include a 10 percent online booking discount code for a float trip in Grand Teton National Park.
Low-cost or free activities: The Bridger Gondola offers free evening rides from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Once there, grab dinner or drinks at Piste Mountain Bistro, where the deck offers peak views and the bar offers two-for-one drinks after 8 p.m.
16. Cost to Visit Atlanta: $1,551.40
- Meals: $330
- Drinks (including beer): $44.40
- 3-night hotel stay: $464
- Airfare: $713
Savings tips: Move around Atlanta with MARTA. One-way fares for the transit system are $2.50 each. Visitors who plan to take the train often might want to invest in a three-day pass for $16.
Low-cost or free activities: Get inspired at the Carter Center, which offers Conversations at the Carter Center that bring together policymakers, experts and special guests to discuss important world issues. Many of these events are free but require online reservations.
15. Cost to Visit Seattle: $1,557.20
- Meals: $375
- Drinks (including beer): $53.04
- 3-night hotel stay: $475
- Airfare: $654.16
Savings tips: Skip the taxi, and take the Link light rail instead. The line between Angle Lake and the University of Washington includes an airport stop and also has stations at popular sites including Chinatown and Pioneer Square. Adult fares range from $2.25 to $3.25, depending on trip distance.
Low-cost or free activities: The Chateau Ste. Michelle winery offers a complimentary tour and tasting to give visitors a glimpse of the wine-production process in the Columbia Valley. The winery is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
14. Cost to Visit Memphis, Tenn.: $1,688.16
- Meals: $306
- Drinks (including beer): $43.44
- 3-night hotel stay: $525
- Airfare: $813.72
Savings tips: Music buffs who plan to visit Graceland, Sun Studio, Stax Museum and the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum should opt for a Backstage Pass. The $84 pass offers a 17 percent discount over individual admission prices to the four attractions.
Low-cost or free activities: Take in The Peabody Hotel Duck March through the Grand Lobby to the historic hotel’s fountain. The free procession happens twice daily, at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
13. Cost to Visit Chicago: $1,718.72
- Meals: $360
- Drinks (including beer): $52.32
- 3-night hotel stay: $648
- Airfare: $658.40
Savings tips: The Go Chicago Card offers discounts on attractions, including the Field Museum of Natural History and Shedd Aquarium. Savings and pass prices vary depending on which options you choose.
Low-cost or free activities: The Lincoln Park Zoo is just one of many free features in Lincoln Park, which boasts five playgrounds, a cultural center and more.
12. Cost to Visit Charleston, S.C.: $1,731.32
- Meals: $339
- Drinks (including beer): $42.72
- 3-night hotel stay: $602
- Airfare: $747.60
Savings tips: King Street closes to car traffic for its Second Sunday event, which often features food and drink samples. Many bars and restaurants along the shopping thoroughfare also offer brunch menus and Sunday drink specials.
Low-cost or free activities: Visit the Charleston City Market or take a trip to the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, a 28-acre remnant of an expansive rice and indigo plantation that dates back to the 18th century.
11. Cost to Visit Boston: $1,815.12
- Meals: $382.50
- Drinks (including beer): $57.84
- 3-night hotel stay: $697
- Airfare: $677.78
Savings tips: Seek lodging bargains at boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. For example, room rates at the Oasis Guest House typically range from around $156 to $259 in October, which adds up to a three-night total as low as $468.
Low-cost or free activities: The Samuel Adams Brewery offers free tours — and tastings if you’re over 21. The suggested $2 donation goes to local charities or Brewing the American Dream, the beer maker’s nonprofit program to boost budding food and beverage business owners.
10. Cost to Visit Sedona, Ariz.: $1,815.68
- Meals: $286.50
- Drinks (including beer): $39
- 3-night hotel stay: $841
- Airfare: $649.18
Savings tips: Check out the Visit Sedona site, which offers discounts on everything from spa packages to psychic readings. For example, the site operated by the Sedona Visitor Information Center offered a buy one, get one half-off deal on tickets to the recent Red Rocks Music Festival.
Low-cost or free activities: Hike to a spot where you can experience Sedona’s famous energy vortexes or explore the shopping, food, flamenco and farmers market at the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village.
9. Cost to Visit Nashville, Tenn.: $1,898.04
- Meals: $316.50
- Drinks (including beer): $45.36
- 3-night hotel stay: $813
- Airfare: $723.18
Savings tips: The Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority operates a free Music City Circuit for tourists and locals alike. The bus and van service offers stops at popular attractions including Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Low-cost or free activities: Sample Music City’s offerings at the honky-tonks on Lower Broadway, which rarely, if ever, charge a cover. Many early shows at The Bluebird Cafe are also free, although a minimum food or drink purchase is required.
8. Cost to Visit Asheville, N.C.: $1,916.24
- Meals: $309
- Drinks (including beer): $43.26
- 3-night hotel stay: $730
- Airfare: $833.98
Savings tips: If you visit the Biltmore Estate, purchase tickets online at least seven days in advance to save $10 per person off the regular $50 to $75 ticket price. You can buy a second-day visit for $15.
Low-cost or free activities: The outdoor mecca offers a multitude of hiking trails and is known for its scenic beauty and burgeoning music scene. Downtown Asheville abounds with street performers. Visitors can also check out performances at pubs like Jack of the Woods, which often offers free shows.
7. Cost to Visit Philadelphia: $1,921.28
- Meals: $360
- Drinks (including beer): $46.92
- 3-night hotel stay: $759
- Airfare: $755.36
Savings tips: You can save money when visiting this expensive U.S. city by catching a show at the Walnut Street Theatre. It offers $20 and $40 tickets in rows Q and R of the mezzanine that can be purchased in advance for its Mainstage shows. Or, buy remaining half-price tickets in other sections online on the day of the show using the promo code WSTDAY.
Low-cost or free activities: Brush up on your American history at the Liberty Bell Center and Independence Hall. Both are free, although Independence Hall requires tickets for some days and times.
6. Cost to Visit New Orleans: $1,929.26
- Meals: $381
- Drinks (including beer): $39.90
- 3-night hotel stay: $866
- Airfare: $642.36
Savings tips: To save money at one of the best tourist cities, New Orleans, start your happy hour in your hotel. If you stay in the French Quarter, you can take your drink outside — as long as it’s not in a glass or metal cup — and enjoy it on the way to dinner. So, stocking up on alcohol at the liquor store rather than buying all your beverages at a bar can save some cents.
Low-cost or free activities: People watch on Bourbon Street, and then duck into a bar to enjoy some jumping jazz by local musicians. The Jazz Playhouse has a one-drink minimum per person, per set, for each show, but otherwise operates without a cover charge — unless music lovers want to spring for preferred seating.
5. Cost to Visit Savannah, Ga.: $1,942.06
- Meals: $360
- Drinks (including beer): $44.88
- 3-night hotel stay: $699
- Airfare: $838.18
Savings tips: When visiting this expensive U.S. city, consider investing in a Savannah ePass. The app offers discounts on dining, shopping, attractions and more. Visitors can purchase the 72-hour Weekend Getaway Pass for $4.95.
Low-cost or free activities: Take a stroll through City Market, which features shopping, dining and other attractions. For example, there's an Art Center where you can watch local artists in action. A little more than a mile away, you’ll find 30-acre Forsyth Park, home to a famous fountain that’s a touchstone for tourists and locals alike.
4. Cost to Visit New York City: $1,958.58
- Meals: $465
- Drinks (including beer): $59.40
- 3-night hotel stay: $667
- Airfare: $767.18
Savings tips: Home-sharing sites can cut your hotel costs significantly in New York City. For example, the average nightly rate in New York for Airbnb offerings from Oct. 19 through 21 was $136, which would add up to $408 for a three-night stay. But book early for the best selection.
Low-cost or free activities: Exploring Central Park is fun and free any day. The park also offers a variety of free tours and activities, including various welcome and garden tours.
3. Cost to Visit San Francisco: $1,976.04
- Meals: $405
- Drinks (including beer): $61.80
- 3-night hotel stay: $729
- Airfare: $780.24
Savings tips: Flying into or out of another airport in the San Francisco area can sometimes add up to significant savings on your travel costs — a tip that could help you save on travel to several of the most expensive U.S. cities.
For instance, the least expensive round-trip flight between the New York area and San Francisco International Airport for Oct. 19 through 22 leaves from Newark, N.J. And vacationers with flexible travel dates can sometimes save even more.
Low-cost or free activities: Although many attractions in Golden Gate Park charge admission, visitors can see sites such as the Buffalo Paddock for free. Those who want to learn to shake a leg should plan their visit for noon Sunday, when Lindy in the Park offers free half-hour swing dance lessons for beginners.
2. Cost to Visit Washington, D.C.: $1,977.64
- Meals: $375
- Drinks (including beer): $58.68
- 3-night hotel stay: $664
- Airfare: $879.96
Savings tips: Washington, D.C., operates a Circulator service that offers a National Mall route. Individual rides cost $1, and passengers who pay with a SmarTrip transit fare card can even re-board for free if it’s within two hours of when they boarded on their last Circulator trip.
Low-cost or free activities: The Smithsonian Institution is largely federally funded, which helps keep admission to its 17 museums and galleries in the capital city, as well as the National Zoo, free to the public. Most monuments in the National Mall and Memorial Parks are also free to visitors. Here are other famous landmarks you can visit for free.
1. Cost to Visit Napa, Calif.: $2,448.90
- Meals: $540
- Drinks (including beer): $63
- 3-night hotel stay: $1,267
- Airfare: $578.90
Savings tips: When in Napa, one of the most expensive U.S. cities to visit, you can always find ways to save money.
For example, the Napa Valley Welcome Center offers a complimentary VIP concierge service that can help you plan and book trip details. Visitors can stop by the center once they arrive in wine country for the latest coupons, deals and discounts. They can also preview special offers, such as a 20 percent discount on a private reserve tasting at Beringer Vineyards, on the welcome center website.
Low-cost or free activities: Take a hike to walk off some of that wine. The Land Trust of Napa County offers several free hikes, although advance registration is required. Upcoming options include a “Newell Preserve Raptor Migration” hike and an easy “Family-Friendly Hike in the Redwoods.”
Methodology: To find the most expensive tourist destinations in the U.S., GOBankingRates.com sourced from a variety of travel sites to find the most popular destinations in the country. GOBankingRates then used the following factors to determine which cities are the most expensive U.S. cities to visit, assuming two adults are staying in the cities for three nights from 10/19/17 through 10/22/17: 1) Food and drinks costs from Numbeo.com. Food costs include meals for two at mid-range restaurants (assuming three meals total) and meals at inexpensive restaurants (assuming 12 meals total). Drink costs include domestic beer prices (six total) and Coke/Pepsi prices (12 total). These figures are accurate as of 8/28/17; 2) Hotel rates from Hotels.com. Hotels with three or more stars and within 5 miles of the city center were considered, but the average price of the three cheapest hotels were used. These figures are accurate as of 8/28/17; and 3) The most recent airfare costs from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. If prices for a particular city weren't available, the next-closest city's fares were used. For Jackson, Wyo., the average of the best airfare sourced from Google Flights was used.