GOBankingRates

The Most Expensive Tourist Destinations in the US

Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Staying stateside is often a great way to cut costs while traveling. But vacations in the U.S. aren’t all created equal when it comes to certain expenses.

Look: 15 Worst States To Live on Just a Social Security Check
More: 10 Richest People in the World

After reviewing rankings from a variety of travel sites to determine the nation’s most popular U.S. tourist attractions, GOBankingRates calculated food and drink costs, the average nightly rate for the three least-expensive hotels in the area, as well as airfare averages, to find out which destinations might be the biggest blow to travelers’ bank balances.

Keep in mind that hotel rates are based on July stays, and seasonality can drive prices up or down at some expensive tourist destinations. But even in these swank spots, there are ways savvy spenders can cut costs. Keep reading to see the most expensive places to travel in the U.S.

28. Las Vegas, Nevada: $1,244

Sin City is another famed U.S. hotspot for visitors, and 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. Or, feel free to enjoy a stroll down the infamous Strip and marvel at the street performers and bright lights.

Make Your Money Work for You

27. Phoenix, Arizona: $1,33

The best time to visit Phoenix is November through April, according to U.S. News. If you’re lucky, you’ll escape the summer heat and enjoy temperatures in the upper 60s to 70s.

26. New Orleans, Louisiana: $1,394

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. If you stock on alcohol at the liquor store rather than buying all your beverages at a bar, you can save some cash along the way.

25. Miami Beach, Florida: $1,399

A day at the beach in Miami can be free, but there are plenty of other free places to snag some shade, too. For one, there’s Mac’s Club Deuce, the oldest club in Miami for happy hour.

Make Your Money Work for You

24. Orlando, Florida: $1,407

This central Florida theme park mecca is one of the most popular U.S. cities to visit. However, visitors can save even more if they venture outside of its famous parks like Disney World, where they can find plenty of fun and inexpensive things to do.

23. Palm Springs, California: $1,489

Palm Springs isn’t just a popular place to retire, it’s also a relaxing place to spend your fall vacation. Save money on your trip by looking for low-cost or cost-free activities. For example, tour the Palm Springs Art Museum and marvel at the works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and more. Or, visit the weekly VillageFest, a downtown street fair featuring arts, crafts, food and entertainment every Thursday.

22. Washington, D.C.: $1,540

Washington, D.C., is one of the most popular U.S. tourist attractions, and you’ll want to make sure you save enough money ahead of time before you visit. From food to airfare, the cost to visit D.C. is on the higher side, though there’s no shortage of sightseeing to take in while there

Make Your Money Work for You

21. Austin, Texas: $1,553

The city of Austin is another popular tourist haven, and it’s also known for high hotel costs and airfare. On the plus slide for visitors: Austin has one of the best airports for both local cuisine and live music.

20. Asheville, North Carolina: $1m585

The largest city in the western half of North Carolina, Asheville lies at the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa rivers, meaning there’s plenty of beauty to take in. The area’s home to plenty of live music, and you can check out Sunday Fundays at Kolo Bike Park.

19. Anaheim, California: $1,586

Fall travelers who want to save time and money when visiting Disneyland should schedule a trip during the off-season — mid-September through mid-November. This is when the park tends to be less crowded. Just avoid it during Halloween time.

18. Atlanta, Georgia: $1,616

Atlanta is one of the destinations that is getting cheaper to visit. To save money on transportation during your trip, 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.

Make Your Money Work for You

17. Philadelphia, Pennyslvania: $1,677

Visit the city famous as “the birthplace of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” with lots of free historical sights such as The Liberty Bell, [x] or low cost, such as the National Constitution Center.

16. Nashville, Tennessee: $1,679

Even though it’s relatively low on the list, Nashville can get expensive. If you’re minding your pocketbook, look for free or low-cost activities to ease the financial pain. Sample Music City’s offerings at the honky-tonks on Lower Broadway, which rarely, if ever, charge a cover.

15. Portland, Oregon: $1,689

Portland is known as the City of Roses — and for good reason. To get a look at some stunning specimens, check out the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. The site offers free public tours daily.

14. Denver, Colorado: $1,690

Among all of the tourist destinations on this list, Denver has one of the lowest airfare costs. That’s not too surprising considering the city boasts one of the most affordable airports in the U.S.

Make Your Money Work for You

13. Chicago, Illinois: $1,696

To save money when visiting one of the best shopping capitals in America, consider getting a Go Chicago Card. It offers discounts on numerous attractions, including the Field Museum of Natural History, LEGOLAND, SkyDeck Chicago, rides at Navy Pier and more. Savings and pass prices vary depending on which options you choose.

12. Los Angeles, California: $1,710

You can find plenty of cheap things to do in Los Angeles during the fall. 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.

11. Park City, Utah: $1,726

Home to the largest ski resort in the U.S., Park City offers plenty more than steep slopes coated in fresh powder. One example would be the Kimball Arts Center, which is free and open to the public year-round.

10. San Francisco, California: $1,781

Make Your Money Work for You

San Francisco is both an expensive place to live and visit. It’s probably no surprise that airfare and hotels are pricey, but don’t forget about food. A meal for two can cost you $95 at a mid-range restaurant.

9. Savannah, Georgia: $1,815

You can save money on your trip to Savannah if you book your travel plans at the right time. When visiting, take a stroll through City Market. It features shopping, dining and other attractions — just watch your spending.

8. New York City, New York.: $1,886

Unsurprisingly, the Big Apple is one of the most expensive tourist destinations in the U.S. It has the highest cost for hotel stays and meals, which can leave you with less money to spend on attractions, souvenirs and more. To save money in New York City, explore Central Park — it’s fun and (even better) free. The park also offers a variety of attractions, including gardens, fountains, meadows, a carousel and more. 

7. Hilton Head, South Carolina: $1,913

Despite being relatively expensive as a destination, Hilton Head is rife with plenty of free natural beauty you can take advantage of, from beaches to hiking or biking trails as well as nature preserves and museums that won’t cost you too much.

6. Charleston, South Carolina: $1,988

It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day for you to visit one of the most romantic cities in the country. When in Charleston, check out 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 1800s.

5. Boston, Massachusetts: $2,056

When visiting one of the most historic places in America, seek lodging bargains at boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. You’ll appreciate the savings, given that Boston can be as pricey as it is historic.

4. San Diego, California: $2,140

San Diego might be a summer destination hotspot, but it can also be affordable in the fall if you’re a smart vacationer. The SoCal city is full of 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 guided tours for as little as $5 per person.

3. Key West, Florida: $2,151

Key West was previously ranked as one of the worst spring break destinations, and it doesn’t rank too well in this one, either, in terms of costs. However, the small island does boast a larger-than-life time year-round.

2. Seattle, Washington: $2,176

Seattle is one of the most pricey cities to visit on this list– unless you learn how to travel on a budget. For example, skip the Uber 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. 

1. Aspen, Colorado: $2,809

If you’re planning a ski vacation, you might want to hit up one of the best world-class ski resorts in the country found in Aspen, Colorado, but be aware that you’re going to pay heavily for it. The Aspen Art Museum offers free admission daily, but the museum is closed until early December. For visitors who want to take a break from downhill skiing and upscale pricing, the Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System maintains more than 90 km of free trails linking the communities of Aspen, Snowmass and Basalt.

More From GOBankingRates

Christian Long and Charlene Oldham contributed to the reporting for this article.

Methodology: To find the most expensive tourist destinations, GOBankingRates assembled a list of U.S. destinations with available data and then used the following factors to determine which cities are the most affordable, assuming two adults are staying in the cities for three nights from July 21, 2022 through July 24, 2022: 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); 2) Hotel rates from Hotels.com. Hotels with three or more stars and near the city center were considered, but the average price of the three cheapest hotels were used; 3) Most recent airfare costs come from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. If prices for a particular city weren’t available, the next-closest city’s fares were used. All data was collected and is up to date as of June 21, 2022.