The United States is a large country with plenty of off-the-beaten-path destinations to explore. When you choose the cheap and hidden travel destinations over more famous travel spots, you save money while having more original and authentic vacations.

As winter fades into spring, travelers everywhere are eager to shake off the cold weather blahs with a weekend getaway or longer trip.

We’ve selected the top ten cheap and hidden destinations across the country for your travel planning pleasure. Save money, beat the crowds, and experience a place you’ve never been to or perhaps even heard of.

These ten towns and cities offer a mix of nature, arts, and history so you can count on finding something for everyone to enjoy whether you’re traveling solo, with a friend or partner, or as a family.

We want you to be financially responsible too, so we’ve outlined the cost of getting to each destination from major transportation hubs, how much you might pay for entrance to the most popular attractions in the area, and the price of accommodations.

When you do visit, make sure you’re using the right travel credit cards, preferably ones that give you travel insurance and other perks.

10. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Lancaster, Pennsylvania
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This small city is nestled within the beautiful Lancaster County countryside. Known for fresh produce and a DIY, creative spirit, Lancaster offers a variety of activities to satisfy all of your interests. It makes our list as an affordable destination often overshadowed by its larger urban cousin to the east, Philadelphia.

According to the most recent tourism impact report, Lancaster County sees 8.34 million visitors annually.

Getting there

Lancaster Airport offers flights with Southern Airways Express. It’s cheap to fly to Lancaster from within the Mid-Atlantic region. For example, round-trip airfare from Baltimore was recently priced as low as $57. Lancaster also has an Amtrak station, so you could take the train from New York, Philly, DC, and elsewhere in the region. A one-way Amtrak ticket from NYC can be as low as $59.

Travelers with a car may find driving to be the easiest way to get to Lancaster. You’ll pay a toll if you take the turnpike, but that’s the only one. Free on-street parking is easy to find throughout the city. Driving also makes it easier to visit attractions within the Lancaster County metro area.

Spending the night

Budget travelers will appreciate Airbnb’s wealth of Lancaster listings, where it’s easy to find a whole house for well under $100/night. Like Philadelphia or Baltimore, Lancaster is more of a “rowhome city” than a “block of flats” kind of town.

Want to save even more on accommodation? Couchsurfing.com has over 1,000 hosts in Lancaster.

If you don’t mind staying outside the city, you can find a hotel room for about the same rate as many Airbnb options.

What to do

Lancaster’s Amish population is one of its top tourist attractions. To learn more about this unique community, check out The Amish Farm and House Tour. Admission is $22.95 for adults (includes a bus tour of the surrounding countryside) and $15.95 or $4.95 per child depending on age. For a guided tour of the house and farm only, tickets are $9.95 for adults and $6.95 for children (kids under four are free).

If the downtown cultural scene is more your thing, time your visit to catch one of Lancaster’s First Fridays. The city’s artists and galleries, boutiques, and food vendors come together for an “art extravaganza.”

9. Fairmont, West Virginia

Top Ten Cheap, Hidden Travel Destinations in the US
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Nicknamed “The Friendly City,” Fairmont is the county seat of Marion County and home to Fairmont State University. Surrounded by rivers and featuring distinctive architecture in its downtown, Fairmont is a pleasant and beautiful place to visit.

Culinary tourists will want to try the Country Club Bakery’s pepperoni roll, which they claim to have invented.

Statewide, West Virginia welcomed 15.9 million overnight visitors in 2017.

Getting there

Southern Airways Express operates daily flights between Morgantown, WV (a 45 minute drive from Fairmont) and Pittsburgh or Baltimore-Washington airports. Recent ticket prices were $72 round-trip from Baltimore and $57 round-trip from Pittsburgh. There’s also a Greyhound bus station in Fairmont, and it’s an easy drive from bordering states such as Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia.

Spending the night

Airbnb listings in Fairmont include apartments and private rooms for less than $100/night. Check out this handsome two-bedroom apartment in a historic house for just $72/night.

Experience the friendliness of Mountain State residents firsthand by couchsurfing in Fairmont.

You can also stay in a motel or inn for around $50/night.

If you like to sleep under the stars, you can set up camp in nearby Audra State Park or Tygart Lake State Park for $22-$25/night.

What to do

We recommend Valley Falls State Park, a former lumber and grist mill community. Now it’s a beautiful, 1,145-acre park featuring “four picturesque falls created by the dark, rushing waters of the Tygart Valley River.” In addition to its scenic charm, Valley Falls State Park offers outdoor recreation and fun. The day-use park gates open at seven in the morning and close at sunset.

Like Lancaster, Fairmont hosts a “First Fridays” series of art and music during the summer.

History buffs will want to visit the Marion County Historical Museum.

8. Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City, Michigan
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When you’re “up north” in this part of the  Great Lakes state, you’ll see cherry trees, placid lakeside beaches, and happy, relaxed travelers. Traverse City and surrounding resort towns have seen some development recently, bringing brew pubs and other trendy attractions, yet this area still feels “untouched” and hidden.

In 2016, Michigan recorded 119 million visitors.

Getting there

Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City is serviced by United, Delta, and American Airlines with daily flights from Chicago, IL and Detroit, MI. With one stop, a round-trip flight from NYC is $469. You can get a round-trip ticket from Chicago for $408.

Driving or renting a car is a good way to visit Northern Michigan so you can experience the cute small towns connected by scenic, lakeside Route 22. There is also an Amtrak/bus station in Traverse City.

Spending the night

There are plenty of apartments and homes in Traverse City available for less than $100/night through Airbnb.

650 couchsurfing hosts are available in Traverse City.

You can also find a hotel room for less than $100/night.

What to do

Test your endurance at the amazing Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Kids and adults will be equally delighted by this giant sand dune. The Entrance fee is $20/private vehicle, valid for seven days.

Eat fresh-caught whitefish from Lake Michigan at the Bluebird restaurant in Leland.

7. Lewes, Delaware

Lewes, Delaware
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Experience the natural beauty of the Delaware coastline without the crowds and higher prices you’ll find in the more well-known beach towns south of Lewes. Historical Lewes is a postcard-pretty beach town with colorful architecture, a walkable downtown of stores and restaurants, and a quieter sunbathing scene.

In 2016, nine million people visited Delaware statewide.

Getting there

You’ll need a car to visit Lewes, which is a two-three hour drive from the Philadelphia and Northern Virginia/DC metro areas. It’s also a 90 minute drive from the Wilmington, DE Amtrak station. If you’d like to experience the beach from two different states, a ferry connects Lewes to Cape May, NJ.

Spending the night

Beach town rentals tend to consist more of houses than condos, so average nightly rates on Lewes Airbnb listings are higher than in our previous destinations: from the low-mid $100s. To keep your accommodation budget cheap, travel with a group—there will be plenty of space to share.

You can also stay with one of the 73 Couchsurfing hosts in Lewes or book a hotel room for less than $100/night. In general, staying at the beach is always cheaper in the off-season, and it can be more fun. While you can’t swim or lie around in a bathing suit, you can still read on the beach, walk along the ocean’s edge, and window shop and dine in town. Personally, I find the off-season beach scene romantic and tinged with the promise of summer days to come.

What to do

Shop, eat, read, relax, and visit Cape Henlopen State Park, an undeveloped coastal area featuring a lighthouse and nature center. Admission is free other than meter parking.

6. Lawrenceburg, Tennessee

Lawrenceburg, Tennessee
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Located between Chattanooga and Memphis, Lawrenceburg is a small city on the Shoal Creek, noted for its connection to “King of the Wild Frontier” Davy Crockett. There is plenty of history to explore here, as well as nature and music.

In 2016, the most recent year of available statistics, 110 million people visited Tennessee.

Getting there

The closest airport to Lawrenceburg is Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals, AL. Boutique Air operates flights from Nashville ($98 round trip) and Atlanta ($128 round trip).

Spending the night

You can get an Airbnb for well under $100/night, set up camp in David Crockett State Park for $10.50-$31.25/night, or book a hotel room for less than $100. There are also 21 couchsurfing hosts available.

What to do

Visit David Crockett State Park, which is free to park in and enter. If you want to do more than enjoy nature, you’ll pay for boat rentals, swimming, and other in-park activities.

The James D Vaughan Museum celebrates the history of Southern Gospel Music.

History buffs will enjoy the Old Jail Museum.

5. Paducah, Kentucky

Paducah, Kentucky
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Paducah is another charming small town with a connection to the frontier era: It was founded by William Clark of Lewis and Clark. Located at the meeting point of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, Paducah is a UNESCO Creative City with plenty to do and see. About half a million visitors experience Paducah each year.

Getting there

Paducah is halfway between Nashville and St. Louis on I-24. Direct daily flights are available on United Airlines from Chicago to Barkley Regional Airport for about $166 round-trip.

Spending the night

Choose from three local campgrounds, book an Airbnb or a hotel room for less than $100/night, or couchsurf with one of 200 hosts in Paducah.

What to do

Paducah earned its UNESCO designation for its arts and crafts heritage, which you can experience at The National Quilt Museum ($11 general admission; $15 for guided tour).

After dark, enjoy Paducah’s vibrant nightlife scene with a drink and live music.

4. Valley City, North Dakota

Valley City, North Dakota
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One of North Dakota’s bigger cities, Valley City is conveniently located right off of 1-94 in the eastern part of the state. It’s also a dramatic break from Western ND’s hundreds of miles of flat, straight highway. Your ears will pop as you drive down hill into town.

In 2014, Valley City received two percent of overall visitors to the state, making it an undeniably “hidden” destination ready for you to discover.

Getting there

The closest airport (65 mi) is in Fargo, ND, where a round-trip ticket from NYC is around $427.

Spending the night

Airbnb’s only Valley City option is The Three Oaks Guest Inn. You can also get a hotel room for around $100/night or stay with a couchsurfing host.

What to do

Valley City’s most popular and stunning attraction is the Highline Bridge, part of a historic railroad track.

Order a pie at Pizza Corner, home of the most popular frozen pizza in the state.

3. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Winston-Salem, North Carolina
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Brimming with history, art, and nature, this city in the North Central region of the state is a great destination any time of the year. It’s also more affordable and less “discovered” than larger cities like Charlotte and Raleigh.

The most recent tourist volume estimate, from 2016, is 48.6 million visitors across the state.

Getting there

You can fly into the Greensboro airport, where a round-trip ticket from NYC is $215.

Spending the night

In addition to plenty of Airbnb listings for less than $100/night, you can find a hotel room for $50-$75/night or stay with one of over 1,000 Winston-Salem couchsurfers.

What to do

Old Salem Museums and Garden (from $18-$27 for adult tickets; student discounts available) is a historic site featuring three different history museums: Historic Town of Salem, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, and Gardens at Old Salem. You’ll learn about early Southern life as it was experienced by Moravian settlers in the region.

2. Garden City, Utah

Garden City, Utah
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This summer resort town, on the shores of Bear Lake, is a great destination for a romantic trip, family vacation, or getaway for anyone who just wants to relax. The Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau reports that about 400,000 people visit the Utah and Idaho state parks on the lake each year.

Getting there

Fly into Salt Lake City ($274 round trip from NYC) or ride Amtrak’s famously scenic California Zephyr Line between Chicago and San Francisco.

Spending the night

In Garden City you’ll find that a hotel room is a cheaper option than renting a home through Airbnb, many of which are on the lake and therefore pricey.

What to do

Visit Bear Lake State Park (admission is about $10/vehicle) for swimming, boating, and other lakeside activities. Suspended minerals in the water create a striking blue color that leads many to compare the lake to the Caribbean.

1. Big Sur, California

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Author Henry Miller lived and wrote in this remote Northern California town for 18 years. Today it’s still beautifully undeveloped so you can enjoy stunning cliffside views of the Pacific Ocean, as well as arts and culture attractions in Big Sur and nearby Monterey.

About three million people a year visit the Big Sur region, according to The New York Times.

Getting there

The closest airport is in Monterey, with round-trip flights around $400 from NYC. Big Sur is also accessible by car from scenic highway US 1.

Spending the night

Do you prefer to sleep under the sky or beneath a roof? Big Sur’s website has information on local camping and hotel options.

What to do

Literary types can make a pilgrimage to The Henry Miller Library, a cultural center and live events space. Nature lovers won’t want to miss Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, featuring hiking trails, a nature center, and historic ranch house. There’s also the iconic Bixby Bridge, accessible from US 1 North.

Summary

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The United States is a large country with plenty of off-the-beaten-path destinations to explore. When you choose “cheap and hidden” over more famous travel spots, you benefit not only from saving money but also from having a more original, authentic, and uncrowded vacation.

Remember that using a travel rewards credit card is another great way to save money on your next trip by using points for free airfare or hotel rooms.

Here are a couple of our favorites.

Have you visited any of these places recently? Think we left a good one off the list? Share your feedback and suggestions in the comments.

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About the author

Elizabeth Spencer
Total Articles: 36
Elizabeth Helen Spencer is a personal finance and travel writer based in the Philadelphia area. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and still nurses a secret fiction writing habit on the side. When not writing for work or pleasure, she loves to sweat it out in a hot yoga class and find new books to read. Elizabeth lives with her husband and two children and has reached the conclusion that "having it all" is a myth.