AUGUSTA COUNTY, VIRGINIA
Augusta is the gateway to the legendary Blue Ridge Parkway, one of America's most beautiful highways. The county is home to two wilderness areas, a national forest, a state wildlife management area, and award-winning fly-fishing streams. Visitors can also explore the area's Fields of Gold Farm Trail, where they can pick fruit, stroll through farmers markets, or tour a working farm.
Budget accommodations: In a beautiful region for camping, Shenandoah Acres Family Campground charges $29 a night for tent sites. If you prefer sleeping indoors, rates at the Best Western Staunton Inn start around $109.
AVERY ISLAND, LOUISIANA
Being the birthplace of Tabasco hot sauce is one of the more colorful facts about this intriguing destination outside New Orleans (a city with its own free and fun options.) Avery has abundant oak trees draped in wild muscadine and Spanish moss, and wildlife viewing is a popular pastime at the island's Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre botanical garden that includes a bird sanctuary established by Tabasco heir and conservationist Edward Avery McIlhenny.
Budget accommodations: Visitors can't stay on the island itself, but there are plenty of accommodations nearby, including Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites New Iberia, where rates start at $106 a night.
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA
Antiques shopping, a vibrant restaurant scene, historic homes, museums, and an abundance of parks are some of the highlights in Columbia. Affordable outdoor activities range from swimming at Lake Murray (entrance is $3 per car) to exploring the 26,000-acre Congaree National Park, which is free and holds some of the tallest trees in the East.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Columbia Airport start at around $130 a night.
ST. FRANCISVILLE, LOUISIANA
Another getaway near New Orleans, St. Francisville is more famous than you may realize: The picturesque community has appeared in several movies, including "Dead Man Walking." There are six architecturally unique plantation homes open for tours — and the Myrtles Plantation, claims to be one of the most haunted homes in the United States.
Budget accommodations: Among the best options for lodging are bed and breakfasts. Rates at the Butler Greenwood Plantation & Bed and Breakfast, operated out of a historic antebellum home, start at $150 a night.
Elvis Presley fans will recognize the name of this city — it was, after all, the birthplace of The King. But visiting the modest, two-room home where Elvis was born, while worthwhile, is not the only reason to visit. This charming southern city offers more than 160 restaurants, three shopping districts, and Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo, the largest in Mississippi.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the Hampton Inn & Suites Tupelo/Barnes Crossing start at around $119 a night during the summer.
SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIFORNIA
North of Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo is known as the cultural, commercial, and entertainment hub of California's central coast. The local hiking trails provide some of the best ways to enjoy the region's natural beauty — along the Bowden Ranch & Reserve Canyon Trail, there are oak groves, a waterfall, rivers, and eucalyptus groves. It's also in a world-class wine region and has a downtown filled with charming shops, restaurants, and hotels.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the Heritage Inn Bed & Breakfast, which is just minutes from downtown, start at $115 a night.
HOWARD COUNTY, MARYLAND
Spend a few summer days on the Howard On Tap Craft Brew Trail and experience some of Maryland's unique breweries. The county is also home to Patapsco Valley State Park, a 16,000-acre public recreation area where visitors can hike, fish, camp, and canoe. Minutes from Baltimore, Howard County is also less than an hour from Washington, D.C., and its many affordable attractions.
Budget accommodations: Summer room rates at the Holiday Inn Express Columbia East- Elkridge are around $124 nightly.
HIGHLAND COUNTY, VIRGINIA
Highland County is a mountain escape from Washington, D.C., where visitors can explore winding country roads, the history of the Civil War, bluegrass music festivals, and more. Near the famed Shenandoah Valley, it's a popular place for picturesque bike rides, hiking, and exploring wildflower trails such as the 25-mile Blue Grass Valley Trail.
Budget accommodations: There are bed and breakfasts throughout the county, including the Cherry Hill Bed and Breakfast, where rooms start at $110 a night.
JEKYLL ISLAND, GEORGIA
The tiny, pristine island outside Savannah is known for its miles of wide-open beaches, golden salt marshes, ancient maritime forests, and being home to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the state's only such rehabilitation and education facility. Once an exclusive hunting club for some of the nation's wealthiest families, such as the Rockefellers, the island is now part of one of the largest preservation projects in the Southeast.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at Quality Inn on Jekyll Island can be found for about $152 a night, but this popular summer destinations books very fast.
In addition to claiming the most beautiful town square in Texas, Georgetown has popular activities such as boating on 1,200-acre Lake Georgetown; taking a dip in the lagoon at scenic Blue Hole Park; and visiting Inner Space Caverns, an underground cave discovered in 1963.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the historic San Gabriel House Bed & Breakfast, a mansion from 1914, start at $150.
BOWLING GREEN, KENTUCKY
The "Home of the Corvette" hosts the National Corvette Museum and many of the namesake cars, including classics and prototypes. Other attractions in Bowling Green include Mammoth Cave National Park, where visitors can hike and bike inside the caves. Bowling Green's Lost River Cave has underground boat tours. For some sunshine after all the caving, visit Fountain Square Park, which is surrounded by restored historic buildings.
Budget accommodations: Summer room rates at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Bowling Green are around $156 a night.
Spend a weekend frolicking lakeside at the home of Lake Erie — a popular destination for water sports such as boating, swimming, and fishing, and the warmest of the Great Lakes thanks to its shallow depths. Don't miss exploring Presque Isle State Park, a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula with a shoreline perfect for lounging in the sun.
Budget accommodations: Book a quaint mini-cottage at Lakeview on the Lake starting at $149 a night.
FAYETTEVILLE, WEST VIRGINIA
Recognized recently as one of the "Coolest Small Towns in America," this under-the-radar destination offers a mix of outdoor adventure (think whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and rock climbing), authentic food and late-night music — all paired with small-town prices. And while in the area, don't miss taking in the stunning New River Gorge Bridge, the longest arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere.
Budget accommodations: Camping at Arrowhead Bike Farm starts at $8 for a field site and $35 for a wooded site. Ace Adventure resort offers everything from ranch bunkhouses (starting at $136 a night) to A-frame chalets starting at around $189 a night.
GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA
A quaint Main Street, bustling art scene, and delicious food offerings are some of the highlights in Greenville. Rent bikes and cruise along the more than 20-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail, or explore one of the five state parks with hiking, biking trails, scenic waterfalls, and more.
Budget accommodations: Queen rooms at the Pettigru Place Bed and Breakfast start at $175 a night. At the Microtel Inn & Suites Greenville, rooms are around $98 a night.
BLUE RIDGE, GEORGIA
Located about 90 minutes north of the bustling metropolis of Atlanta is Blue Ridge, renowned for its greenery, vineyards, and country roads ideal for bicyclists looking for a challenge. There's plenty of hiking to be done, and camping under the stars. In between all of the outdoor activity, indulge in some of the region's fine wines and craft brews while dining on sustainable farm-to-table fare. And don't miss stopping by family-run Mercier Orchards, which dates back to 1943 and its year-round family events, winery, and market.
Budget accommodations: For those who want to stargaze, campsites at Toccoa River Sandy Bottoms Recreation Area start at $8 a night. Rooms at the Blue Ridge Inn Bed & Breakfast start at around $157.
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, VIRGINIA
Just 30 miles outside of Washington D.C., Prince William County stretches from the banks of the Potomac to the foothills of the Bull Run Mountains. Explore parks and trails, museums, and Civil War battlefields — Prince William and Manassas were the site of some pivotal battles. (One of the top attractions is the Manassas National Battlefield Park). On the arts and culture scene, The Hylton Performing Arts Center is the area's largest outdoor concert venue and holds events all summer long.
Budget accommodations: At the Days Inn by Wyndham Manassas Battlefield rooms start at $72 a night.
MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST
Mississippi was recognized as one of the states where $100 goes furthest. One of the best places to prove that theory is the Mississippi Gulf Coast, known for its golf courses, fresh seafood, and casinos, as well as 62 miles of scenic shoreline and beaches. There are eco-tours exploring untamed rivers, kayaking, and bird watching, and for local culture, don't miss a shrimping trip ($16 adults; $11 children).
Budget accommodations: Built in 1894, the Grand Magnolia Ballroom & Suites oak and magnolia trees starting at $115 a night.
AMELIA ISLAND, FLORIDA
Off Florida's northern Atlantic coastline, Amelia Island is famed for its long stretches of quiet beaches, natural beauty and unique history. It offers activities such as kayaking, biking, and golf and is home to Fernandina Beach. Once a vibrant Victorian seaport, the village is now a charming district of shops and eateries.
Budget accommodations: The Comfort Suites Oceanview, Amelia Island, offers rooms for about $100 a night.
SHASTA CASCADE REGION, CALIFORNIA
Roughly the size of Ireland, the Shasta Cascade Region of California is made up of eight rural counties where travelers will find lakes, rivers, mountains, waterfalls, and historic mining towns. There's also two national monuments, six national forests, and seven state parks — another paradise for lovers of the great outdoors. Don't miss Lassen Volcanic National Park (entrance $25 per vehicle) where there's boiling springs, sparkling lakes, and splattering mud pots.
Budget accommodations: The Best Western Plus Hilltop Inn offers a Family Getaway Package until Sept. 3 that includes a two-night stay for two adults and two children, complimentary breakfast, a $20 restaurant gift certificate and up to four passes to Waterworks Park and also Turtle Bay Exploration Park. The starting rate is $460.
RENO TAHOE REGION
Fresh air, farm-to-table cuisine, and craft beer are just some of the reasons to escape to the Reno Tahoe area. There's also casinos, Lake Tahoe and its many beautiful beaches, and hiking, not to mention the North Lake Tahoe Ale Trail covering six mountain towns with world-class breweries, bars, and restaurants to enjoy after a day of outdoor adventure. Food Truck Fridays feature more than 30 gourmet food, craft dessert, beer, wine, and mixed drink vendors.
Budget accommodations: Located on Lake Tahoe's west shore, Tahoma Meadows and Cottages offers pet-friendly accommodations starting at $119 a night. For those looking to stay in Reno, the casinos offer budget-friendly deals (some starting at $39 to $99 a night).