Family Life Things to Do

10 Budget-Friendly and Affordable Vacation Destinations in 2023

It’s impossible to ignore the impact that inflation is having on everything these days, and that’s forcing a lot of people to take some hard looks at their budgets. It’s natural to cut corners where you can – but that doesn’t mean that you have to totally forgo a spring or summer vacation.

Whether you’re looking for some cool outdoor activities, delicious food to try or unique cultural experiences, there are cities all around the country that are perfect for the cost-conscious traveler. With affordable accommodations and plenty of inexpensive attractions, you can enjoy an unforgettable vacation – without leaving your wallet empty. 

Here are 10 budget-friendly vacation destinations we think you’ll love:

1. Indianapolis, Indiana

Indy has long been a great destination for folks on a budget, thanks to low-cost attractions like the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Monon Trail and the Children’s Museum are all year-round draws, and tickets are cheap. You can also check out the Indianapolis Zoo, which offers a view of more than 1,200 exotic animals, plus gardens and an aquarium – or try something really unique, like a guided tour of the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to the Indy 500.

2. Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington offers plenty of affordable attractions for visitors. The Kentucky Horse Park is a popular destination and offers tours, horse shows and more. Other affordable attractions include Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, which offers hiking trails and wildlife exhibits, and the Lexington Arboretum, which features a variety of gardens and walking paths. If you’re on an adults-only trip, then you should definitely visit the James E. Pepper Distillery (for research purposes, of course) to learn all about Kentucky whiskey.

3. Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville is just a short drive from Lexington and offers plenty of reasonably priced attractions. 

The Louisville Mega Cavern has underground zip-lining and a tram tour at a very low cost. Other affordable destinations within the city include the Muhammad Ali Center, which celebrates the life and legacy of the famous boxer, and the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, where you can see how baseball bats are made and touch a bat that was actually used by Babe Ruth. You can also continue your tour of the state’s finer dram shops via the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience or the Stitzel-Weller Distillery.

4. Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati has so many things to recommend, from Shakespeare in the Park to second-hand stores and flea market extraordinaire at Findlay, it’s so worth the trip across the border from Kentucky. Other popular low-cost destinations include the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum. Just remember – you really haven’t been to Cinci until you’ve tried the famous Skyline Chili with all the fixings.

5. Columbus, Ohio

If you’re already in Ohio, why not meander your way over to the state capital of Columbus? 

The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens has acres to explore and offers discounted admission for children – and the Columbus Museum of Art offers free admission on Sundays. No visit to the city would be entirely complete, of course, without a visit to German Village, and the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) is an interactive adventure all of its own.

6. St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis is known for many things, including being the birthplace of the ice cream cone! The “Gateway to the West” is still marked by the Gateway Arch – and you can actually visit the observation platform at the top for a breathtaking view of the entire area. Other affordable attractions include the St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Lous Zoo and all of the events held throughout the season at Forest Park, including music festivals, concerts and more.

7. Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis is a city with a rich musical history and plenty of affordable attractions, including the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, which celebrates the history of soul music, and the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, which showcases the city’s musical history. You can also visit the Memphis Zoo, which is home to over 3,500 animals and offers discounted tickets for children. The city is also the home of the National Civil Rights Museum, located right at the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

8. Asheville, North Carolina

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a charming city known for its artsy vibe, craft breweries and stunning natural scenery. Visitors can hike in the nearby Pisgah National Forest, explore the Biltmore Estate, or take a stroll through the River Arts District. The city also has a thriving “foodie” scene, with many farm-to-table restaurants and legions of food trucks offering amazing Southern-style treats.

9. New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is a city like no other, with a unique culture, history and cuisine that everyone should have a chance to experience. The live music, Cajun food, Creole way of life and energetic nightlife makes this a perfect destination for childless couples. Visitors can explore the French Quarter, take a streetcar ride through the Garden District, or enjoy live music on Frenchmen Street – just make sure you try the crab po’boys, beignets and crawdad gumbo while you’re there!

10. Savannah, Georgia

Savannah has so much charm and such stunning architecture it was the only city spared from the flames during General Sherman’s march on the South during the Civil War. The city has been the site of many Hollywood movies, and the city’s quirks and characters were put on full display in the 1997 film “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Visitors can take a stroll through the city’s Historic District, visit the iconic Bonaventure Cemetery and check out the live music at places like the Savannah Music Festival or Forsyth Park.

Ultimately, wherever you choose to wander, you won’t regret your trip if you go in with a plan that keeps your budget in mind. Check out these destinations ahead of time and see if any of them spark the desire for a new adventure!