Weekend Getaways: Best Budget Destinations of 2017
A weekend getaway can be an ideal way for busy couples and families to reconnect, recharge, and relax. From ski slopes to beaches to iconic towns waiting to be explored, the destinations Cheapism has featured this year offer something for just about everyone -- even determined road trippers. Which one will be your new favorite?
Mesa may not be as popular as neighboring Phoenix or Scottsdale, but budget-minded travelers will find more affordable accommodations and the same easy access to area attractions. Last-minute room packages at the Phoenix Marriott Mesa start at $80 a night for a weekend in December, while rates at the comparable Marriott in Scottsdale run $105. Plan a foodie road trip with a tour of the Queen Creek Olive Mill, which features a market and eatery, or Hayden Flour Mills to take pasta-making and bread-baking classes. Sample local ice cream and cheese at Superstition Dairy Farms.
John Denver described West Virginia as "almost heaven," and skiers in search of a deal will find the rates here pretty heavenly, too. A Stay & Ski package for two at Canaan Valley State Park Resort Dec. 15-21 is $79 per person per night, and $178 per person per night Dec. 22-25. The rate includes room, lift tickets, and breakfast. Group and private ski lessons are available (from $40), and ski and snowboard rentals start at $34 a day for adults. Seek out the nearby towns of Thomas and Davis for galleries, shops, and restaurants with live music.
Mississippi's Gulf Coast is one of the South's hidden gems. Visitors can take a sunset sail through the Mississippi Sound, home to the highest concentration of bottlenose dolphins in the U.S., or try kayaking through the waterways. Get a dose of culture at the Frank Gehry-designed Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art ($10 for adults 18 and up, $8 for seniors), or see the "business end" of the Saturn V rocket at NASA's Infinity Science Center. Popular places to stay include Bay Town Inn in Bay St. Louis, Hard Rock Biloxi, and the Inn at Ocean Springs.
Rekindle your romance while walking the quaint downtown main streets of Manassas. Situated 30 miles west of Washington D.C., the city is best known as the home of Manassas National Battlefield Park, the site of two Civil War battles. Nearby, historic Occoquan hosts more than 60 shops and restaurants. Several area bed-and-breakfasts also have reasonably-priced rooms.
Situated between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the laid-back town of Pismo Beach is ideal for a seaside rendezvous. Pismo Preserve, recently rescued from development, is expected to increase tourism (and potentially prices) when park facilities are completed in late 2018. In the meantime, visitors can take docent-led tours, hikes, and horseback and mountain bike rides. Go before the end of February to see an average of 25,000 butterflies wintering at Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. The beaches, downtown wine tasting rooms, and sunsets on the pier round out a pleasant stay.
Hit the links with a golf deal at CasaBlanca Resort in Mesquite. A one-night stay for two and 18 holes of golf for one cost $99. Another $55 entitles the second person to try out the links. That brings the total cost of lodging and a day of outdoor activity to less than $160. Nearby is the free Mesquite Hot Air Balloon Festival Jan. 26-28, an event that's sure to be a hit with any hardcore balloon festival aficionados.
The site of Winston Churchill's Iron Curtain speech 70 years ago, Fulton is home to the National Churchill Museum and a piece of the Berlin Wall (admission costs $5.50 to $8.50, depending on age; children under 5 are free). Atop the museum sits the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, which was brought to the United States from England stone-by-stone in the mid-1960s. Fulton is just 25 minutes from the state capital, Jefferson City, and 90 minutes from Ha Ha Tonka State Park, which features hiking trails and castle ruins.
Wayne County, Indiana, is a vintage lover's dream, locally known as Antique Alley. The town of Richmond is the starting point for two antique shopping trails that lead shoppers to different shops. One of the routes features 30 stores and the other passes by 27. The area is also home to an Amish community, and Fountain Acres Foods, an Amish market, is in nearby Fountain City.
Visitors to Charleston can peek at 18th-century gated mansions in the historic district and walk through gaslit alleys in the French Quarter. Touring Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is another popular option ($20 for adults, $10 for kids, including a hedge maze and petting zoo) as is strolling through the historic Charleston City Market, which is open 365 days a year. "Charleston has an old-world charm," says Cheryl Rosner, CEO of hotel site Stayful. "It's so easy to fill a weekend here, between the plantations, markets, and home tours."
The seven villages of the Amana Colonies offer a break from the bustle of modern life. This National Historic Landmark was originally settled in 1855 by German Pietists seeking an isolated place to practice and live their beliefs. They maintained a self-sufficient communal lifestyle until the 1930s. Now, tourists visit the town for its historic charm, restaurants, and craft shops. There are several festivals throughout the year, as well as a German pickle hunt throughout December.
This Western town located near Bighorn National Forest is home to Connor Battlefield, Fort Phil Kearny, and the Trail End State Historic Site, a mansion that gives visitors a window into the lifestyle of a successful rancher and politician during the early decades of the 20th century. King's Saddlery and Museum is full of cowboy memorabilia, and the Sheridan County Museum gives a history of the area. Get a glimpse of buffalo and elk in the wildlife area next to Kendrick Park, too.
Take in all the beauty nature has to offer by escaping into the scenic mountains of Umatilla National Forest. Starting at $35 a night, visitors can stay in a historic Forest Service cabin or fire lookout, each with a unique history. In warmer months, traditional camping opportunities are available, along with hiking, biking, and fishing. The forest also is home to sites for geocaching and letterboxing, and visitors can enjoy several scenic driving routes.
This southern Minnesota town is known for its German heritage and was dubbed "the most German city in America" according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Along with German restaurants and shops, the town is home to a glockenspiel, a tall bell tower with figurines that make an appearance three times every afternoon. New Ulm also hosts several festivals throughout the year. Winter highlights include Fasching -- a traditional event to chase winter away -- which includes music, dancing, food, and costumes on Feb. 10.
Take a day trip through the Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile stretch of old Highway 101. Winding through Humboldt Redwoods State Park, this part of the road boasts some of California's magnificent redwoods. There are three trees to drive through -- Klamath, Shrine, and Chandelier -- with a small fee attached to each for the chance to take the ultimate woodsy selfie. There are also plenty of things to do along the way. Enjoy a picnic, explore a trail, or visit the shops in nearby small towns.
Stretch a weekend getaway budget a little further by heading to Canada, where the U.S. dollar is currently worth $1.29. Toronto "is exploding with new restaurants, chefs, hotels, and entire neighborhoods that have emerged as hotspots," says Vanessa Somarriba, media relations manager for Tourism Toronto. She recommends the Junction neighborhood's restaurant and bar scenes. West Queen West, for its unique restaurants, boutiques, cafes, and the city's largest concentration of art galleries.