Which US travel destinations give you the best value for your vacation dollars? Trivago has the answer. The hotel-price comparison website mined its database of hotel costs (looking at the average rates travelers paid for double rooms in 2013) and combined those figures with the destinations’ overall hotel reputations (as determined by traveler reviews) to uncover the country’s top spots for vacation value.
Trivago touts some of these destinations as alternatives to more expensive nearby visitor centers; other spots are more isolated. Go here for the full list.
Port Charlotte, Fla.
The main draw in this city on Florida’s Gulf Coast is the outstanding sailing, along with boating, fishing, birding, and the other usual Florida vacation activities. Port Charlotte is just across the Peace River from Punta Gorda, between Sarasota and Ft. Myers, and it shares many of the advantages of those well-known vacation centers, but at a lower cost.
The average nightly hotel rate is $93. The nearest mainline airports are Southwest Florida International in Ft. Myers (38 miles) and Tampa International (74 miles). The need for a car depends on what you want to do.
Manitou Springs, Colo.
This longtime mineral-springs spa center, a few miles northwest of — and less expensive than — Colorado Springs, is a good base for exploring the area’s many attractions, including the Cave of the Winds, the Garden of the Gods, Red Rock Canyon, the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway, as well as extensive Native American sites. A bit farther out, you can visit the Air Force Academy (18 miles) or Royal Gorge (64 miles).
The average nightly hotel cost is $116. The nearest mainline airports are Colorado Springs (23 miles) and Denver International (90 miles). You’ll almost certainly need a car.
Logan, about 85 miles north of Salt Lake City, is the home of Utah State University and a notable Mormon tabernacle. It’s a good base for visiting the many attractions of Utah’s Wasatch Front and areas to the north, including the Promontory site where the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific finally completed the transcontinental railroad system, the Beaver Mountain ski area, and the Great Salt Lake.
The average nightly hotel cost is $99, which is less than what you’d pay in nearby Ogden or Salt Lake City. The nearest mainline airport is Salt Lake City International (86 miles). You’ll almost certainly need a car.
Brunswick, about halfway between Jacksonville and Savannah, is a good-value base for exploring coastal Georgia’s vacation and historical centers, including Blackbeard, Cumberland, and Jekyll islands and several historical sites. Golf center Hilton Head and legendary Savannah are also within range. Also popular: Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation and Blythe Island Regional Park.
The average nightly hotel cost is $82, the lowest on this list. Brunswick has its own airport, with service from Atlanta on Delta Connection; the nearest mainline airports are Jacksonville International (61 miles) and Savannah/Hilton Head International (76 miles). You’ll almost certainly need a car
The largest city in Vermont, Burlington is hardly one of those hidden destination some gushing writers love to “discover.’’ It really has a lot to offer: mountains for skiing, water recreation on Lake Champlain, classic New England charm, and lots of cultural activities. And if that isn’t enough, Montreal is less than a two-hour drive — just remember to bring your documentation to return to the United States.
The average accommodations cost is $103 per night. Burlington International Airport is busy, with flights on Allegiant, American, Delta, JetBlue, Porter, and United serving local traffic, augmented by Canadians looking for low US airfares. You can enjoy Burlington without a car, but a car will allow you to more easily explore the scenic region.
Eureka Springs, Ark.
In the scenic Ozarks of northwest Arkansas, Eureka Springs has been a favorite of Midwestern vacationers for years. Its surroundings and historical Victorian architecture have attracted a significant art community. The entire city center is on the National Register of Historic Places. You’ll find lots of cultural activities, many with something of a religious focus; the Christ of the Ozarks statue is nearby, and the city hosts an annual passion play that runs from May through October.
The average cost of a hotel stay is $106 per night. The closest airport is Northwest Arkansas Regional (50 miles), with service from Allegiant, American, Delta, and United, bolstered by the Walmart corporate office in nearby Bentonville. You’ll almost certainly need a car.
Sioux Falls, S.D.
Yes, Sioux Falls has a real waterfall, and the park that surrounds it is the center of the city’s visitor interest. Also, sidewalks and storefronts feature many sculptures—some original, some copies of classics. Beyond that, Sioux Falls seems to come up short on visitor attractions when compared with the other nine cities on this list, but reviews on our sister site TripAdvisor show that visitors seem to love it anyhow.
The average cost of a hotel stay is $107 per night. Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, and United serve the local airport; no major hubs are close.
Do you know of any city with a population of just 10,000 that boasts 28 active theaters? Branson does. Tucked away in the southeastern Missouri Ozarks, Branson attracts hordes of annual visitors, mostly from the Midwest. Nashville may be the world’s country music capital, but Branson surely is the capital on a per-capita basis. Although some of the theaters were originally built as more-or-less permanent showcases for individual celebrities, they host a long list of local and touring performers. And if you get tired of the country sound, you can visit Silver Dollar City, the nation’s oldest homegrown theme park, enjoy water recreation on nearby Table Rock Lake, or explore Ozarks scenery.
The average cost of a hotel room is $96 per night. Branson’s airport hosts only two national airlines, Frontier and Southwest.
Not your ordinary quickie summer-theater event, Ashland’s Oregon Shakespearean Festival (OSF) mounts a February-November season. The fest features two indoor and one outdoor venues and produces 11 plays every year — three or four by Shakespeare, the rest a mix of classic, modern, and original plays, and lately at least one musical. The OSF has spawned lots of other year-round theater action, complemented by outstanding musical offerings at nearby Southern Oregon University and Medford’s Craterian Theater and local symphony, opera, and ballet companies. Dozens of restaurants cater to the theater audience, from effete (and expensive) to down-home and limited fast food.
The average cost of a hotel stay is $116 per night. Medford Airport (15 miles) accommodates flights on Allegiant, Delta, Horizon, and United to/from limited destinations; the closest big airports, Portland International and Sacramento International, are each almost 300 miles away. You can enjoy OSF without a car, but you’ll need one for other activities.
Idaho’s capital and biggest city, Boise enjoys a mountain setting, a vibrant downtown with a Basque block and large Basque community, lots of theater and music venues, and an outstanding historical museum. Boise State University has recently become a football powerhouse — don’t try to find cheap accommodations on big game weekends — and it offers lots of other sports action and cultural presentations. Nearby blockbuster attractions include Hells Canyon on the Snake River — deeper than the Grand Canyon, although not as spectacular — as well as great mountain scenery.
The average cost of a hotel stay is $112 per night. Boise Airport is served by Alaska, Allegiant, Delta, Southwest, and United. You’ll probably need a car.