These days, travelers don’t need to choose between going to a fun, exciting spot and being able to stay within their budget. Here are five U.S. destinations that are sure to please, whether you’re flying solo, traveling as a couple, or planning a vacation for the whole family.
- Front Royal, Virginia
Front Royal is a Virginia gem. It’s sits at the gateway to Shenandoah National Park, the most popular national park in the nation, and is less than a 70 mile drive from D.C. You can have the best of both worlds here – some of the best views of America from Skyline Drive as well as big city excitement. The Front Royal Entrance station to the Park opens hikers and nature lovers up to more than 2,000 acres of protected land and 500 miles of trails, ranging from beginner level to extremely difficult.
Shenandoah Caverns and Luray Caverns are also close by, and wine lovers will enjoy a trip to Chester Gap Cellars. Virginia wines will surprise you! On Main Street in Front Royal, you’ll find the old-time county seat right next to fun shops and eateries. Don’t miss Gourmet Delights, a great little gift store, and Cafe Amore, a family-owned, Italian cafe and bar.
- St. George, Utah
Saint George, Utah was originally settled by Mormons traveling south from Salt Lake City. Now, it’s known for its great golf courses and close proximity to Zion National Park. It’s also just under a two hour drive to Las Vegas, the gaming and entertainment capital of the world. The trip to Vegas is spectacular as you pass through the Virgin Gorge.
Don’t miss strolling in Springdale, Utah, the small town right next to Zion National Park. The Bit and Spur Restaurant and Saloon is outstanding for dinner the night before you strike out on a hike through the Narrows. You can stay in the Park at the Lodge (but make reservations well in advance), or stay in one of the many retro motels in Springdale, or alternatively for less money at the nearby towns of La Verkin and Hurricane. If you dare, on the way out of the area, drop by Grafton Cemetery that’s reported to be haunted.
- Jacksonville, FL
Jacksonville is the first major city as you drive into Florida from I-95. Many don’t realize all this small city has to offer the budget conscious traveler. It sits right on the Atlanta Ocean, and the St. Johns River runs right through it. The St. John’s is the longest river in Florida. It’s considered a “lazy river,” and is one of the few rivers in the U.S. that flows north.
Jacksonville is the perfect spot to relax in the sun. Discover delicious organic juice bars right on the coast. If you’re in Jacksonville on Saturday, check out the Riverside Arts Market under the bridge. You’ll find an array of artwork, handmade crafts and jewelry by local artists. Jacksonville is also one of the most popular golfing destinations in the South. The PGA Tour has its headquarters at TFC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach where the Players Championship happens every year and Amelia Island, which has 117 holes of golf in beautiful surroundings, as well as golf clubs in Ocala only a drive away.
Believe it or not, you can take in a Broadway show in Jacksonville at Jacksonville Theater, right in the Orange Park event center. Take a day trip 40 miles south to visit St. Augustine, the oldest settlement in the U.S., and visit the wacky Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, an affordable fun spot for kids of all ages.
- Omaha, NE
Though not especially known as a vacation spot, if you have kids, a trip to Omaha is a must because of The Lied Jungle at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. In recent years, the Zoo has added numerous attractions. You’ll have fun exploring the largest indoor rainforest in America. On multi floors, you’ll see monkeys, macaws, tapirs, and small hippos in their natural habitat, representing species from Africa, Asia and South America.
- Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Boothbay Harbor is the quintessential New England Coastal town. Relax and enjoy and have some lobster on the pier, freshly caught courtesy of real Maine lobstermen. Boothbay Harbor is known as the Boating Capital of New England. Explore Burnt Island Lighthouse, the Maine State Aquarium, Penny Lake Preserve, or take an Atlantic sunset cruise on a historic schooner.
No matter which season you’re planning your trip and regardless of your budget, Front Royal, St. George, Jacksonville, Omaha, and Boothbay Harbor are all definite spots to add to your vacation short list.