10 Most Affordable Staycation Cities

The young beautiful woman swims in the pool in a garden.
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According to The State of the American Traveler study conducted by Destination Analysts, the average person spends more than $4,000 per year on travel. That’s a significant chunk of change – especially with a potential recession looming.  

If your bank account balance has fewer zeros than you’d like, but you still want to have fun this summer, consider taking an affordable staycation rather than an expensive vacation. Recently, WalletHub published an analysis of 182 cities across the United States to determine the best staycation destinations.

The analysis included 42 metrics that assessed each city’s amenities and costs. When the numbers got crunched, every town received a score on a 100-point scale, with 100 being the ideal staycation spot.

Here’s a look at the top ten affordable staycation cities, along with their scores.

1. Honolulu – 59.46

The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is a must-see if you’re a history buff. You can learn more about one of the turning points of World War II and pay your respects to those who gave their lives. 

Honolulu also features beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and nature preserves. Don’t forget to visit Manoa Falls for a breathtaking natural scene. If you’re hungry, you can grab a wallet-friendly bite. Poke bowls and shaved ice are fun favorites.

2. Orlando, Florida – 58.22

Orlando offers much more than Disney World and other theme parks (though you can get discounted tickets to see the famous mouse). You can visit the Sea Life Aquarium or Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum. 

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You can also spend the day cruising up and down International Drive, taking in the sights. If you’d like to enjoy a quieter activity, Orlando is home to several serene parks and gardens. When it’s time to eat, you can take your pick of countless local, ethnic restaurants. You can also find just about any chain restaurant that comes to mind.

3. Las Vegas – 57.63

If you want the Vegas experience everyone thinks of, walk or drive The Strip. You can watch the Fountains of Bellagio put on a show or stick to a strict gambling limit at one of the many casinos.

If you’re into history, be sure to stop at The Mob Museum or the Hoover Dam. Las Vegas also features lush botanical gardens if you want to spend time in nature. The city offers a wide range of cuisines to satisfy all tastes. You can also pick up a bag of gourmet popcorn at Garrett Popcorn Shops.

4. Tampa, Florida – 56.27

Tampa has entertainment options for the whole family. You can spend the day at ZooTampa at Lowry Park or stroll down the Tampa Riverwalk.

The city also offers parks, museums, and theaters. Plus, you can take a streetcar ride to tour the area. Tampa has a variety of food options, including pizza and tacos. If you’re a beer drinker, you should check out the Coppertail Brewing Company.

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5. Salt Lake City – 55.17

If you deeply appreciate architecture, your Salt Lake City staycation should include visits to Temple Square, Salt Lake Temple, and the Cathedral of the Madeleine. The area also boasts several museums for a quiet but educational afternoon.

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When you want to get out into nature, you can hike, camp, and fish at the Big Cottonwood Canyon. You can also visit the Tracy Aviary, home to 130 species of birds. Salt Lake City features many cafes serving up a variety of fare. If you’re in the mood for European or German food, a trip to Siegfried’s Delicatessen is a must.

6. Charleston, South Carolina – 54.21

Charleston is steeped in military and cultural history. The Fort Sumter National Monument and the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens both provide an opportunity to step back in time.

If you love to shop on a budget, you’ll enjoy exploring the Charleston City Market. When you’re in the mood to be entertained, visit the Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre. The Brown Dog Deli is a popular lunch spot, serving well-rated sandwiches. After dinner, you can stop at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams for a frozen treat.

7. Chicago – 53.97

Chicago offers a lot to art and history lovers. You can check out The Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Architecture Center.

If you want to spend some time outdoors, visit the Lincoln Park Zoo or rent a kayak on the Chicago Riverwalk. You can also enjoy the city skyline and a cocktail from 1,000 feet up on the 360 Chicago Observation Deck. The Windy City has donuts galore, and you can get the popular treat from many well-rated shops. Don’t forget to eat a Chicago dog (or two) at Devil Dawgs.

8. San Diego – 53.72

You’ll want to visit the USS Midway Museum if you’re an aviation or history buff. The USS Midway was the longest-serving aircraft carrier during the last century.

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You can also swim with seals at La Jolla Cove or hike in the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. If you want to see the city from a different vantage point, take a ride over the Coronado Bridge. When you’ve got a craving for fish tacos, stop at Marion’s Fish Market and Restaurant. For dessert, you can visit one of several ice cream and gelato shops. 

9. Cincinnati, Ohio – 53.67

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is great to explore on a sunny day. When you’re ready for an indoor activity, check out the Cincinnati Museum Center or the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

The Findlay Market offers a fun and frugal shopping experience. Afterward, a walk across the Roebling Suspension Bridge will help you see the city in a new light. Cincinnati loves its Chili. If you want a bowl of this hearty, meaty soup, you can visit Skyline Chili or Camp Washington Chili. The city also serves a variety of other fare.

10. New Orleans – 52.93

A New Orleans staycation would be incomplete without a visit to the French Quarter. Take your time and appreciate the history, architecture, shops, and street performers.

You can also spend the day learning at The National WWII Museum or (quietly) exploring the St. Louis Cathedral. In addition, the city features the Audubon Zoo and street car tours. If you want to be entertained and fed, visit Leah’s Pralines. You can watch the confection get made and sample the treats.

Planning Your Staycation

You can enjoy a budget-friendly staycation no matter where you live. Consider:

  • Touring your city
  • Camping in your backyard
  • Having a picnic
  • Biking or hiking a local trail

If you have some extra cash, you may want to book an affordable vacation rental.

Make Your Money Work for You

Pro Tip: Whether you vacation or staycation this summer, avoid making money mistakes, like not having a budget (or totally blowing it) and using your credit card to cover the costs when you know you can’t pay it off immediately.

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