The days are getting shorter, the kids will be heading back to school in weeks, and you might not have even enjoyed a vacation this summer. It seems like every year this season comes and goes by too quickly, leaving you scrambling to have one last family hurrah.
Waiting until the end of summer to make your plans can be a good thing, as oftentimes crowds are smaller and prices are lower. We’ve put together a list of affordable and fun cities from five regions in the U.S to consider visiting for an end-of-the-summer getaway.
San Diego, CA
San Diego affords you similar luxuries of a Los Angeles vacation but with way less traffic. This city is great for the outdoorsy folks; 70 miles of coastline means there are dozens of public beaches for sunbathing and building sandcastles.
Take advantage of the many state and national parks and reserves where you can hike, fish and golf while simultaneously enjoying the natural scenery and ocean views. Balboa Park is the jackpot of all activities; located in the center of San Diego, it encompasses museums, gardens, the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet all in one area.
California can be pricey, but not if you’re mindful. While attractions such as the zoo and ballet will cost you, many of the beaches and parks are very inexpensive, if not completely free! Many museums offer free admission on certain days each month, and there are usually many other free events and deals around the city. Toward the end of August, you can get a budget hotel room for as low as $150 for two people. For a plethora of inexpensive food options, check out the highly anticipated Liberty Public Market, which is now open year-round.
Visit “the Jewel” of San Diego and see the ocean sunset at La Jolla Cove
Old Town of San Diego
U.S Olympic Training Center (free!)
Named one of the best places to travel in 2015, Cleveland has something for all generations. For those interested in the outdoors, the Cleveland Botanical Garden displays a range of plants, and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Rainforest has more than 3,000 animals from six continents.
For the thrill seeker, there’s Cedar Point Amusement Park, with a range of roller coasters and rides, many for kids and families. If the weather is really hot, stay cool at Soak City Cedar Point, which has dozens of pools, water rides and slides.
A good time to visit Cleveland is in the fall, as the temperature won’t be hot and humid or freezing cold. There are a ton of different events during this time, including Arts in August, which showcases the beauty and positive influence of the arts by offering events at the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival and the Opera Theater, as well as many other free attractions!
During this time, you can book a 4-star hotel with breakfast for two for as low as $200 per night, with 3-star hotels as cheap as $100 per night. For affordable and local food, visit the West Side Market or Perk Plaza for the largest gathering of food trucks.
Cleveland Museum of Art (free!)
Rocky River Nature Center (free!)
Cleveland West Side Market
Tabletop Board Game Café (With more than 1,000 board games you can play!)
The first World Heritage City in the United States, Philadelphia is packed with museums, parks and attractions displaying the city’s rich history. Home to the Constitution, Liberty Bell and the cheesesteak, this city is perfect for history buffs and foodies alike. Take in some scenic views at Valley Forge National Park, visit the first coining press, and go back in time to when the Founding Fathers signed several important American documents.
If you have little ones, the Please Touch Exhibition offers a collection of 25,000 toys, theater demonstrations and guest appearances. Visit the family-friendly Franklin Square that houses an old-fashioned carousel, Philly-themed miniature golf course and one of the Once upon a Nation Storytelling Benches, where children and adults can listen to stories of America and the Founding Fathers.
The summer months are more expensive, but starting in late August to early September, prices for accommodations start to drop. You can rent a hotel room in the heart of downtown for as low as $150-$200 for two people; if you want to splurge, the Ritz-Carlton hotel can be as low as $300 per night in August. If you’re on a budget, renting bikes allows you to affordably travel around the city while allowing you to see all the sights. Many museums, art galleries and walking tours are free too.
Liberty Bell Center (free!)
Elfreth’s Alley (America’s oldest street museum and street tour)
Shane’s Confectionary (oldest sweet shop in America)
Carlsbad, New Mexico
I’m not a huge fan of high temperatures, but even I would consider New Mexico towards the end of summer. Carlsbad offers outdoor and indoor options for everyone. Play golf and various other sports at several golf courses and recreational centers. Cool off at the Carlsbad Water Park, and once the sun goes down, you can watch New Mexico’s night sky showcase millions of stars, considered by some to be one of their natural resources.
You cannot miss the Carlsbad Caverns National Park, one of the most famous cave systems in the world. Travel just 18 miles away from the city to hike or take a tour of the caverns. Stay in the evening or visit early in the morning to watch hundreds of thousands of bats fly out of the caverns. For the National Park
Service’s 100th birthday, there are centennial events happening through December, including nightly hikes, bird watching and stargazing.
Hotels can range from $65-$185 per night for two people. The city has a range of local diners offering reasonably priced food, as well as many authentic Mexican restaurants. Bring your hat, some sunscreen and a water bottle because it’s going to be hot!
Visiting Sitting Bull Falls
Carlsbad Downtown Farmers’ Market
Three of my friends went to Nashville over the 4th of July, and they all raved about it! This city is a must for music lovers. Named the “Music City” of the U.S and “Songwriting Capital of the World,” musicians and songwriters from around the globe congregate in the city to share their passion for music. So many of the city’s attractions revolve around this, including over 150 music venues.
In addition, there are attractions for those interested in other activities. Walk through history at the Belle Meade Plantation where you learn about the home that stood the test of time, through the 18th century, the Civil War and the end of slavery. If you’re looking for an international experience, check out the Parthenon, an exact replica of the one in Athens, Greece.
Nashville is a relatively inexpensive city to visit, offering free music 24/7. In the city center, there are dozens of reasonably priced restaurants. The city also offers dozens of free parks, art galleries, museums and attractions. Even some of the museums you need to pay for, like the Musicians Hall of Fame, offer free entry for kids.
The end of summer into early fall is the perfect time for a visit. There are tons of music festivals. The weather is still warm, but more comfortable than in July, and the crowds will be dying down. You can find 4-star hotels for as low as $150 per night and 3-star hotels as low as $60 a night.
Ryman Auditorium (it’s been hosting performances for more than a century)
Music City Walk of Fame Park
Nashville Shakespeare Festival (August 11-September 18)
Whether you’re looking for fun outdoors, time at the museum or a little bit of both, these cities can offer it all at a reasonable price, so you and your family can enjoy an end-of-summer vacation. Where are your favorite places to visit? Share in the comments below!
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