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With flight and gas prices coming down for the season, travel is as accessible as its ever been. And while getting there may not be a problem, some of the most popular places will pummel your wallet upon arrival: Think pricey museum entrance fees, $20 cocktails and insane hotel rates. But “popular” doesn’t always mean “better,” and there are plenty of great destinations out there that won’t suck away all your vacation dollars for the year! Now is the time to seize your adventurous aspirations and seek out a destination a little different than the usual go-tos. To help out, we’ve rounded up a list of awesome, affordable alternatives to popular, pricier places.

RELATED: 6 amazing places you didn’t know you could do in a long weekend

 

Philadelphia not NYC

We love Gotham’s 24/7 dynamism, and there is no city like it, but the City of Brotherly Love offers charming row houses, Revolutionary history and an enviable food scene at half the price. The Liberty Bell is all it’s cracked up to be—get it?—and don’t miss the creepy Mutter Museum and the requisite arms-in-the-air photograph atop the “Rocky Steps” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. New York may have all the bright lights, but when it comes down to a big city that won’t break the bank, Philly’s the one that shines.

EAT Philly is a foodie town just like New York, and you can feast on outstanding global cuisines without shelling out nearly as much dough as at those Brooklyn hot spots. Walk into Suraya on buzzing Frankford Avenue for some mouthwatering Lebanese dishes like garlicy baba ganoush and spicy lamb kebabs. And you can bet the cocktails won’t be more than an Andrew Jackson!

STAY Go for a chic boutique hotel experience (because you can!) and book the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, or opt for affordable luxury suites at the Global Luxury Suites at Rittenhouse Square.

 

San Antonio not Austin

Austin isn’t the only town oozing Texas charm. Just 90 miles southwest of the Lone Star capital, San Antonio has been undergoing quite the revival in recent years. Lined with great restaurants and live music venues, the city’s famed River Walk has never been more alive, and new sections like Mission Reach are giving tourists an incredible look into the area’s Spanish colonial UNESCO missions. Stroll the River Walk, hike historic trails, indulge in top-notch Tex-Mex and—if you’re feeling crazy—hop on a horse and join a trail ride. There’s so much character in this Texas town, and prices are famously more bearable that Austin or Dallas. And remember to, um, “Remember the Alamo”—admission is free!

EAT San Antonio has always been an incredibly diverse town, and now chefs are flocking to the city to be a part of the dynamic mix of people and cuisines. Pile on the brisket (with plenty to spare) at the new 2M Smoke House, or go old-school with traditional Tex-Mex at La Fonda on Main. Drown yourself in their beloved chile con queso appetizer and thank us later!

STAY Keep your home base in the heart of downtown San Antonio, so the River Walk is within walking distance. Check out either the Hyatt Regency San Antonio River Walk or Hotel Contessa—both have rooftop pools!

Anza-Borrego not Yosemite

Anza what? If you haven’t already heard of it, let us introduce you to the wildly underrated Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Located in eastern San Diego County, Anza-Borrego is actually California’s largest State Park with over 600,000 acres of pristine wilderness. Best known for its epic wildflower bloom in the spring, Borrego boasts loads of year-round draws, including cool limestone canyons, crazy cacti, rugged badlands, exceptional stargazing, a plethora of unique wildlife and the stellar Metal Sky Art Sculptures littered throughout. Don’t get us wrong, Yosemite’s dramatic mountain terrain is nothing short of spectacular, but lodging prices can be quite high and the experience is filled with entrance fees, permit fees, camping fees, trail fees and, of course, tons of visitors! Meanwhile, only an hour and half outside of San Diego, Borrego occasionally collects a $10 “day use fee” at popular spots, but other than that, the park offers free entrance, free open camping throughout and even some free park programs. Kids definitely need to check out the Junior Ranger Program—also free!

EAT Bring along your own burger and s’mores ingredients for a fun cookout at your campsite or grab the best Mexican in the area at Carmelita’s Mexican Grill.

STAY Stay near the park at the rustic, southwest-style Borrengo Valley Inn or indulge leisurely activities, like golf or spa, at the Borrego Springs Resort Golf Club and Spa.

 ALSO: Join CheapCash and start earning rewards!

Chattanooga not Nashville

Nashville’s enjoyed its time in the spotlight; now it’s time for a new Tennessee town to shine! A refreshing mom-and-pop spirit and outdoor adventure await you in scenic Chattanooga. Surrounded by mountains, this East Tennessee town is a nature-lovers’ paradise. You can spend your days hiking to enchanting waterfalls, paddle-boarding on the Tennessee River or hang gliding off Lookout Mountain. Keep your dollars in your pocket and enjoy the bounties of Mother Nature in and around the city. Spend a day downtown exploring art the galleries in the Bluff View Arts District and perusing local shops in Warehouse Row. Sure, Carrie Underwood make may not shop there, but we guarantee they offer better value than those trendy Nashville ones!

EAT A new eatery within the Chattanooga Choo-Choo building, STIR offers fun craft cocktails and tasty Southern favorites with a creative twist, like their fried green tomatoes and divine pimento cheese starters. The trendy spot certainly allows for a fun night out without breaking the bank!

STAY For your hotel selection in the “Scenic City,” enjoy some historic charm at The Read House or indulge in all the modern amenities and full-service spa at The Chattanoogan Hotel.

 

The skyline of Old Quebec City

Quebec City not Toronto

Besides world-class museums, renowned culinary scene, and buzzing waterfront, Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world. It can also claim the title of Most Expensive City in Canada, according to a recent Mercer study. Instead, consider a trip to Quebec City, where you’ll find a little more charm, and a little more weight to your wallet! The très-French city makes you feel like you’re in Europe with its narrow cobblestone streets and abundance of cafés filled with cappuccino-sipping locals. When the weather is nice, stroll La Promenade Samuel-de Champlain and explore the historic streets of Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Come winter, hit one of the many ski slopes in the area and sip on savory onion soup at a cozy French restaurant. You’re average dinner out for two in Quebec City costs around $40, whereas in Toronto, it can run  upwards of $60!

EAT When in Quebec, you have to try poutine—French fries topped with cheese curds and mouth-watering gravy. The no-frills Chez Gaston serves the best in the city and you can get to stay or to go.

STAY Book one of the elegant guest rooms at the castle-like Hôtel Plaza Québec or the rustic-chic Hôtellerie d’Expérience au Monastère des Augustines in the heart of Old Quebec.

Portland, ME not Portland, OR

Sorry, Oregon! But we’ve hurled plenty of well-deserved shout-outs your way. This time, we’re going to give the love to Maine. Portland, (Oregon) has been an undeniable breakout destination thanks to its quirky vibe, hipster coffee culture and “Keep Portland Weird” mantra. However, the city’s cool, rebellious character is exactly what’s attracted so many folks over the past decade, and with that has come an inevitable price hike. Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, Portland (Maine!) is just taking off. This East Coast city offers the seaside charm for which Maine is so famous, as well as all the benefits of urban life. A bustling waterfront, great museums, scenic parks (with very Instagrammable lighthouses) and a vibrant culinary scene have made Maine’s largest city a very desirable and—still affordable—getaway!

EAT Get your seafood fix with a dozen East Coast oysters and a fried fish sandwich at laid-back Eventide Oyster Company in downtown Portland. This tiny joint puts a creative touch on typical New England fare—like oysters served with their famous Tabasco ice!

STAY Housed in one of Portland’s signature redbrick, warehouse-style buildings, the new Courtyard by Marriot Portland Downtown/Waterfront sits steps from all the lively restaurants and entertainment venues in the historic Old Port district.

 

La Paz not Cabo

Cabo San Lucas probably first comes to mind when envisioning a dreamy beach escape to Mexico’s beloved Baja Peninsula. Development in the popular Pacific beach town never ceases to end, and new resort after new resort continues to crowd the beachfront, each one snazzier than the last. Meanwhile, 115 miles north of Los Cabos International Airport lies a little gem of a Mexican beach town called La Paz. Spanish for “peace,” La Paz offers exactly what the name promises: A peaceful getaway with a genuinely Mexican feel and lack of major commercialization. Overlooking the Sea of Cortez, the town’s Malecon promenade attracts tourists searching for a glimpse of sea life during the day and local lovers strolling hand-in-hand at night. Famous for its wealth of marine life, the waters off La Paz host impressive migrations of whales, whale sharks and sea lions. The protected Sea of Cortez, meanwhile, offers calm waters, ideal for watersports like paddle boarding and snorkeling.

EAT In downtown La Paz, two blocks form the sea, MC-Fisher has long been famous for its fresh fish and low prices. Scooch into one of their no-frills picnic tables for a late lunch feast of Baja specialties like smoked marlin, fish tacos, and enchiladas.

STAY Almost all of the hotels you’ll find in La Paz fall in the budget-friendly category; however, you need not look any further than Hotel Catedral La Paz. With room rates that will make you look twice (in a good way!), Hotel Catedral has the coolest rooftop bar and pool in town, along with chic, modern guestrooms.

Tagged: Beach, Cheap City, USA, Cheap Tips, City, Destinations, Family, International, Mexico, Seasonal, Texas, Texas, Top 10 list, Types of Travel

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