Weekend Getaways: Best Budget Destinations of 2016

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GREAT ESCAPES

A weekend getaway can be an ideal way for busy couples and families to reconnect, providing just enough time away from it all to recharge, while adding a mix of fun and relaxation. From skiing to beaches to iconic towns waiting to be explored, these 15 destinations Cheapism has featured this year offer something for just about everyone. Which one will be your new favorite?

Related: Hit the Highway: Best Road Trips of 2016
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MESA, ARIZONA

Mesa may not be as popular a destination as neighboring Phoenix or Scottsdale, but budget-minded travelers will find more affordable accommodations and the same easy access to area attractions. For example, last-minute room packages at the Phoenix Marriott Mesa start at $94 a night for a weekend in December, while rates at the comparable Marriott in Scottsdale run $189. Plan a foodie road trip with a tour of the Queen Creek Olive Mill, which features a market and eatery, or Hayden Flour Mills, where visitors can take pasta-making and bread-baking classes. Sample local ice cream and cheese at Superstition Dairy Farms.
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ALLEGHENY MOUNTAINS, WEST VIRGINIA

John Denver described West Virginia as "almost heaven." A Stay & Ski package for two at Canaan Valley State Park Resort is $116 a night Sunday through Thursday ($298 a person for a two-night weekend stay) and includes room, lift tickets, and breakfast, as well as access to the fitness center and pool. Group and private ski lessons are available (from $40), and ski and snowboard rentals start at $31 a day for adults. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating are also available. Seek out the nearby towns of Thomas and Davis for galleries, shops, and restaurants with live music.

Related: 10 Pricey Ski Resorts and Where to Hit the Slopes for Less
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GULF COAST, MISSISSIPPI

Mississippi's Gulf Coast is one of the South's hidden gems. Buoyed by a wave of development following Hurricane Katrina, the city offers sun, sand, and plenty of gambling. Visitors can take a sunset sail through the Mississippi Sound, home to the highest concentration of bottlenose dolphins in the United States. Or take a more active approach and kayak or paddleboard through the waterways. Culture awaits at the Frank Gehry-designed Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art ($10 for adults 18 and up, $8 for seniors), and a Saturn V rocket went on display this summer 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.
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PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, VIRGINIA

Reconnect and reignite that spark while walking the quaint downtown main streets of Manassas, which feature wineries and breweries. Situated 30 miles west of Washington, 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 provide reasonably priced accommodations.

Related: Centennial Celebration: Explore One of the Best National Parks in Every State
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PISMO BEACH, CALIFORNIA

Situated between San Francisco and Los Angeles along the California coast, the laid-back town of Pismo Beach is just right 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, seafood galore, and sunsets on the pier round out a pleasant stay.
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MESQUITE, NEVADA

Bask in the sun 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. 20-22.

Related: Get High: 12 Spectacular Balloon Festivals From Coast to Coast
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FULTON, MISSOURI

A visit to this central Missouri city combines history and small-town charm. 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. Downtown, the brick streets are lined with shops and restaurants. 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.
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ANTIQUE ALLEY, INDIANA

Wayne County, Indiana, is an antique-lover's dream -- there's a reason this area east of Indianapolis is locally known as Antique Alley. The town of Richmond is the starting point for two antique trails that lead buyers and browsers 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 there's an Amish market in nearby Fountain City.

Related: Watch Out for These Tourist Traps in All 50 States
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CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA

Vistiors 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 ($15 for adults, $10 for kids, including a hedge maze and petting zoo) as is strolling through the vibrant and 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."
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AMANA COLONIES, IOWA

The seven villages of the Amana Colonies offer a break from the bustle of modern life. This National Historic Landmark was originally settled by German Pietists in 1855. They were seeking an isolated place to practice and live their beliefs, and 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, including a Winterfest celebration on Jan. 21. Lodging is available at nearby bed-and-breakfasts and hotels, as well as campgrounds and RV parks during warmer months.
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SHERIDAN, WYOMING

This Western town located near Bighorn National Forest is home to several historic spots and a lot of outdoor recreation. Historic sites in the area include 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.
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UMATILLA NATIONAL FOREST, OREGON

Take in all the beauty nature has to offer by escaping into the scenic mountains of Umatilla National Forest. Starting at $40 to $100 a night, visitors can stay in a historic Forest Service cabin or fire lookout, each with a unique story. In winter, give Nordic skiing a try. 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.
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NEW ULM, MINNESOTA

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 knows how to celebrate, laying claim to 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. 25.
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HUMBOLDT COUNTY, CALIFORNIA

Take a weekend 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 most magnificent redwoods. There are three trees to drive through -- Klamath, Shrine, and Chandelier -- with a small fee attached to each for the thrill of doing so. Beyond marveling at the enormous redwoods, there are plenty of things to do along the way. Enjoy a picnic, explore a trail, or visit the shops in the small towns.

Related: Tiny Travelogue: 50 Small Towns to Visit Across the U.S.
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TORONTO, CANADA

Stretch a weekend getaway budget a little further by heading to Canada, where the U.S. dollar is currently worth $1.33 and the country is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2017. 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, with unique restaurants, boutiques, cafes, and the city's largest concentration of art galleries, is also not to be missed. (Vogue named it one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world for street style.