How to road trip the Southwestern US on a budget

​From the fun of Sin City to the jaw-dropping beauty of the national parks, this scenic route packs amazing sights and tastes into a manageable itinerary.

From the fun of Sin City to the jaw-dropping beauty of the national parks, this scenic route packs amazing sights and tastes into a manageable itinerary.

If you’re looking for a vacation that includes warm sun, gorgeous desert landscapes, snow-covered mountains, and big-city stye, the American Southwest is a go-to option. Here, you’ll discover the 24/7 excitement, of Vegas, the otherworldly landscapes of national and state parks (think humanoid-like cacti and red rocks), and the vibrant communities and culinary scenes of Phoenix and El Paso. Here, a step-by-step affordable itinerary that includes wallet-friendly lodging, plus the best places to grab a taste of Southwestern flavors.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Start your engine in Las Vegas, where the legendary Strip beckons with endless neon and who-has-time-to-sleep gaming, food, and drink. Even the grandest hotels here typically offer reasonable nightly rates – rooms at Circus Circus Hotel, Casino, and Theme Park, for instance, can start as low as $25/night, but keep in mind that taxes and standard charges can add at least another $40/night to your stay.

Before hitting the road, you may want to catch a concert, theater performance, or stand-up comedy, and remember that Vegas offers plenty of quirky off-the-beaten-path delights such as the Neon Museum with its incredible array of bright lights and kitschy designs, and the surprisingly riveting National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, more commonly known as the Mob Museum. Food options, from shockingly affordable buffets to $700 burgers deliver something for every culinary preference. (Take a Taste Buzz Food Tour for a taste of a little bit of everything.)

strange-rock-formations-in-the-Nevada-desert.jpg?mtime=20200122163510#asset:107753Valley of Fire State Park is known for its strange “beehive” rock formations © Carol Polich / Lonely Planet

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Less than an hour’s drive from Las Vegas along Route I-15 North, Valley of Fire State Park, in the Mojave Desert, feels like a world away. As you enter the park, you’ll stay on Valley of Fire Scenic Byway, the only main road, which runs about 11 miles, connecting the east and west entrances. Pull over for one of the park’s exceptional hikes, where you can explore the iconic red Aztec sandstone formations that give the park its name – timing your visit to include at least one sunset is as must, as the combination of golden light and deep red of the rocks creates the namesake “fire” display.

In addition to its geological wonders, Valley of Fire is also home to remnants of prehistoric communities, such as roadside petroglyphs and ancient rock art. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like antelope, bobcat, coyote, and Nevada’s state animal, the desert bighorn sheep.

Arrive with picnic foods and snacks and plenty of water, and pack layers of clothing: winter temperatures can veer from the mid-70s to freezing; summer temps range from more than 100 degrees in the day to much cooler at night. You can treat Valley of Fire as a day trip from Vegas, or book one of the park’s 70+ campsites for the night.

downtown-Phoenix-sunrise.jpg?mtime=20200122163503#asset:107752Sprawling Phoenix holds many surprises © tonda / Getty Images

Phoenix, Arizona

From the Vegas/Valley of Fire area, you’ll want to set aside a day for the 300-mile drive along US 93 South to Phoenix, Arizona; if more than four hours in the car feels like a long trip (westerners reckon driving distances differently from those visiting from back east), plan a stop in Kingman, Arizona, where a stop at the Alpacas of the Southwest ranch will delight kids of all ages.

Once in Phoenix, you’ll want to spend at least a full day discovering America’s fifth-largest city (with a population of more than 1.6 million). Hike the trails on Camelback Mountain for the best vistas; visit Papago Park with its red rock buttes, botanical garden, and zoo just minutes from downtown; and drop by architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s former winter home, Taliesin West, a Unesco World Heritage site, for its beautiful synthesis of modern design and desert-inspired rooms and gardens. Don’t miss the Heard Museum, celebrating the history and culture of Native American people with an extensive collection of art and artifacts. Fuel up at the award-winning Pizzeria Bianco, in Heritage Square, and when it’s time to rest your head, Phoenix offers an array of affordable lodging such as the stylish Cambria Hotel Downtown Phoenix.

Tall-cacti-alongside-a-dirt-road.jpg?mtime=20200122163520#asset:107754See the strange saguaro cacti in Saguaro National Park © Dmitry Vinogradov / 500px

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

From Phoenix, you’ll hit I-10 East for the two-hour drive to Saguaro National Park. Get ready to meet the gigantic, humanoid forms of Saguaro cacti, some as high as 50ft and as old as 200 years. Some visitors swear the cacti take on a truly human appearance and personality, which only adds to the otherworldly quality of this Southwestern road trip. The park is also home to 8000ft mountains and unique desert wildlife such as javelinas, desert tortoises, and the Mexican spotted owl.

Start at one of the park’s visitor centers for maps and advice about hikes, museum exhibits, a cactus garden, and ranger-led programs. Lodging options for visiting Saguaro range from posh digs in nearby Tucson, such as the University Inn to camping in the backcountry of the Rincon Mountain District (check in with the park’s visitor center for up-to-date camping options).

El-Paso-and-nearby-mountains-_reduced.jpg?mtime=20200122163558#asset:107757Blossoming El Paso is a worthy stop on your Southwestern road trip © Beau Rogers / 500px

El Paso, Texas

From Tucson, you’ll get back on I-10 East for a four-hour drive across New Mexico before you dip into the western corner of Texas, where El Paso awaits. This vibrant city is ready for its closeup. A construction boom in recent years has led to exceptional hotel bargains, such as comfy and reliable stays at the Doubletree or Holiday Inn Express, and a renaissance of community spirit.

Catch a minor-league baseball game and cheer for the hometown Chihuahuas, sip an exceptional local craft beer, and hop a ride on the newly restored streetcar line. Set aside at least a day to get to know this important border city’s art museum and gorgeous Franklin Mountains State Park.

the-Chandelier-stalactite.jpg?mtime=20200122163524#asset:107755Strange cave formations await you in Carlsbad Caverns National Park © PHOTO 24 / Getty Images

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Hit US-62 East for the two-hour drive from El Paso to one of America’s most extraordinary national parks, Carlsbad Caverns. Aboveground, the park is home to beautiful grassland, the lovely Guadalupe Mountains, and canyons. Below, you’ll explore the unique cave system that rivals any on earth for its scale and visual impact – at 250ft high and 4000ft long, it’s truly like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

Ranger-led tours of the caverns, guided hikes among the mountains and canyons, and other hands-on programs keep every member of the family engaged. Reliable lodging is available about a half-hour’s drive from the park, in Carlsbad, NM, ranging from roadside chain motels to Quality Inn & Suites.

Produced by Lonely Planet for GEICO. All editorial views are those of Lonely Planet alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.

What to take to the beach – your ultimate guide

The last thing you want to happen when you get to the beach is to realise you’ve left a beach essential at home. So when you are planning what to take to the beach, use this guide to make sure you have everything you need for a blissfully relaxing day in the sun!

My problem as a solo traveller is often deciding what to take to the beach – do I take my camera and get some nice shots of the beach sunset? Or do I go without any valuables so that I can swim in peace knowing my valuables aren’t at risk of being stolen?

what to take to the Beach - picture of flip flops sunglasses sun hat

Fortunately, I have discovered a few brilliant ideas to solve this dilemma which I will share with you today. They make deciding what to take to the beach MUCH easier!

No time to read it now? No worries, pin it for later!

Beach packing list pin

So here is my list of things you need for the beach to have a perfect summers day.

What to take to the beach – your beach packing list

Practical things you need to take to the beach

A sand-free, quick-dry, antibacterial beach towel.

Hands up who seems to always get sand absolutely everywhere?

Yep, me too.

However, one thing that helps me limit the damage is to use a sand-free beach towel. One quick shake and the sand is gone meaning that my beach bag stays sand free at the end of the day.

When choosing a beach towel, make sure you get one which is quick-dry and antibacterial specially if you are travelling between places and need to pack your towel away each night.

These days there are some really nice beach towels that are practically fashion statements as well as functional items.

Here are just a few you can choose between;

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Reef safe sunscreen

So much of the world’s coral has been damaged and discoloured over the past few decades that we should all be trying to limit the damage we do to our environment.

Sunscreen is one of the things which is damaging our marine coral but luckily there is an alternative – reef-safe sunscreen.

Make sure you put this on your beach packing list!

If you plan to be doing a lot of swimming in the sea, make sure you use this sunscreen to help protect our planet. You can keep your other sun screen for days around the pool instead.

Plenty of water

Did you know on an average day, we should be consuming 2 litres of water a day? When you go to the beach, you are more likely to get dehydrated so you need to drink more than this – closer to 3-4 litres.

Therefore when planning what to take to the beach, make sure plenty of water is on the list!

Save money and help the environment but getting a reusable water bottle with a filter so that you can fill it up from any source (except the sea) safely.

A swimsuit

Putting a swimsuit on your beach packing list goes without saying really! You’re going to want a dip in that inviting water, especially on a hot day! Here are a few of my swimsuit picks;

A hat

Avoid heat stroke and don’t forget to pack a sun hat!

A beach cover-up

Take a beach cover-up or sarong for nipping to a beach bar or to cover up in a conservative country.

Things to take to the beach for a fun/relaxing day

A kindle

I love my kindle on holiday. Now they are waterproof making them even more perfect to take to the beach!

You can load them up with a variety of books and magazines before your holiday and pick and choose what you fancy when you are there.

They are also anti-glare so you can read them even in bright sun light unlike other devices like Ipads.

Headphones

Enjoy some music whilst you are relaxing on the beach – don’t forget to pack some headphones. I usually recommend noise-cancelling headphones which are also perfect on the flight when your neighbour is snoring loudly in your ear!

A snorkel set

If you plan to do a lot of snorkelling on holiday, it often makes more sense to bring your own set with you so put these on your beach packing list. Make sure you choose anti-fog goggles!

A self-inflating beach lounger

Save money by not hiring a beach bed but instead bring your own with a self-inflating lounger (which also helps to keep your stuff sand free!)

What to take to the beach to keep your belongings safe.

As a solo traveller, I often worry about what to do with my belongings when I go for a dip in the sea. Here are some great options to keep your belonging safe!

Anti-theft beach safe

You can now get anti-theft bags which can be locked to an immovable object which are also water resistant and slash proof.

Here are a few options. The latter has better waterproofing and is cheaper but the first is slash-proof preventing anyone from slashing it open with a knife when your back is turned.

A waterproof phone case

Alternatively, you could take your belongings with you when you swim. This only works for smaller items like a phone, money or keys. But since your phone can double as a camera, it may still be a good solution.

You can get waterproof phone cases which also fits your money or keys that attach to your wrist or even around your waist.

A ‘fake’ sunscreen bottle safe

I like this ingenious way of keeping your belongings safe. This portable safe looks like a bottle of sunscreen so thieves will ignore it, helping to keep your belongings like hotel room keys and money safe.

Best Beach Bags for your beach packing list

Now that you have a complete list of what to take to the beach, you need a pretty bag to put it all in.

Preferably it would be sand-free, roomy and pen wide allowing you to see what’s inside.

I prefer lighter colours so that my belongings are easily visible inside.

Also, look for broader shoulder straps for comfort.


Hopefully you now have a better idea of what to take to the beach to make your beach day hassle free and wonderful!

Bookmark this beach packing list so that you never forget a beach essential ever again!

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51 affordable discoveries across America

From Alabama’s rock-and-soul capital to Wyoming’s stunning parkland, from the oldest city in the US to the jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches of the States’ northern “third coast,” we’ve gathered budget destinations in each state, plus Puerto Rico.

Our mission is simple: track down outstanding destinations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico where lodging averages well under $200/night and great food and drink, natural beauty, and vibrant arts and culture share the spotlight. No pressure, right? Here’s to kicking off the new decade with an unparalleled to-do list!

Alabama: Muscle Shoals

It’s time for Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to take its rightful place alongside America’s major pop music destinations like Memphis, Cleveland, and Detroit. Here, in this small town in the northwestern corner of the state, some of the most popular and critically acclaimed rock and soul music – including seminal works by Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, and Lynyrd Skynyrd – was recorded at Fame Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.

These days, you can enjoy a music-themed visit to the area while also savoring its first-rate comfort food and natural beauty. Tour the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, in Tuscumbia; make a pilgrimage to Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, in Sheffield; and drop by Pegasus Records, in Florence, for its Friday-night showcases of emerging musical talent. Alabama Shakes were discovered at Pegasus – who will you discover?

mountainbiking-in-kenai-alaska.jpg?mtime=20200115140736#asset:107685The Kenai Peninsula brings all your Alaskan adventures within reach © CSNafzger / Shutterstock

Alaska: Kenai Peninsula

Alaska isn’t quite as far away as you think: an authentic Alaska experience, complete with whale watching, hiking, fishing, and ogling wildlife, is available in the Kenai Peninsula, along the state’s southern coast, south of Anchorage.

Whether you approach this vacation wonderland via cruise ship or a road trip on the Seward Highway (one of America’s finest scenic drives), you’ll find enough activities to last a week or a month, including a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park; hiking in Chugach National Forest, and viewing animals you won’t easily find in the lower 48, including orcas and puffins. And an irresistible perk of visiting this corner of Alaska is that you’ll taste the freshest, most deeply flavorful salmon anywhere in the world.

Arizona: Saguaro National Park

Some travelers keep a list of rare or unique sights they must see. The saguaro cactus is something every American should visit in person. Saguaro National Park, Arizona, near the always rewarding city of Tucson, is devoted to protecting and preserving a forestful of the immense succulents, which are unique to the Sonoran Desert and can grow to a height of 50 feet and live more than 200 years.

In addition to these “kings of the Sonoran Desert,” you’ll also find towering pine-covered mountains alive with wild javelina, coyotes, desert tortoises, and, at higher elevations, black bear and the Mexican spotted owl.

triple-falls-in-Arkansas.jpg?mtime=20200115141705#asset:107686The Ozark-St Francis National Forests are great destinations anytime of year © Mark C Stevens / Moment / Getty

Arkansas: Ozark-St. Francis National Forests

Not one but two major national forests crossed by six US Scenic Byways? Yes, Arkansas delivers thousands of acres of four-season activities in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests, in the state’s northern and eastern regions. Here, from the shores of the Mississippi River to the deep woods filled with wildlife and opportunities for water sports, visitors discover an unexpected side of Arkansas.

Choose between cycling and canoeing, fishing for striped and largemouth bass and catfish, swimming in Bear Creek Lake, camping amid the hardwood trees, and hopping an ATV – or, our recommendation, try them all.

California: San Pedro

Think you know California? Meet San Pedro, at the southern point of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and home to the Port of Los Angeles, the largest in the US. Here in this up-and-coming must-see city, you’ll delight in packing your days with an array of pursuits: ride the free San Pedro Downtown Trolley with hop-on-hop-off stops at the incredible collection of nautical vessels at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, beautiful Cabrillo Beach, and the jaw-dropping Cabrilla Marine Aquarium, designed by Frank Gehry.

History buffs and kids of all ages will want to visit the Battleship Iowa Museum, the only battleship open to the public on the West Coast, and everyone will appreciate a meal at California’s biggest seafood restaurant, the San Pedro Fish Market & Restaurant – get ready to snap a few they-won’t-believe-this-back-home pics of the immense shrimp trays.

black-canyon-of-the-gunnison-national-park.jpg?mtime=20200115141826#asset:107687The lesser-known Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has Grand Canyon-quality vistas with fewer crowds © AlexeyKamenskiy / Getty Images

Colorado: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Southwest Colorado is home to a lesser-known gem: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Located near the city of Montrose, the site is an incredible natural landscape featuring black cliffs (formed 2 billion years ago) towering 2,000 feet above the Gunnison River.

Stock up on food and water in Montrose, then head for the canyon’s South Rim, where you’ll find gentle nature trails with Instagram-ready overlooks, backcountry experiences for visitors who yearn to get off the beaten path, and an array of opportunities for camping, fishing, and rock climbing. Consider participating in ranger-led programs to learn about the geology and wildlife of the area.

Connecticut: Mystic Seaport

For travelers in the Northeast, America’s most important collection of National Historic Landmark maritime vessels is just off I-95 in northern Connecticut. Mystic Seaport’s towering sailing ships will delight children, of course, and grownups (especially fans of the novels of Patrick O’Brien and Herman Melville) who want to step back in time to the days of wooden ships.

Tour a whaleship, an active waterfront, planetarium, gardens, and hands-on experiences that help you appreciate the crafts that went into the construction and maintenance of these amazing vessels. Art lovers will savor the excellent Maritime Gallery, which hosts major exhibitions of marine art and intricately detailed miniature ship models.

Boats-in-Lewes-Delaware.jpg?mtime=20200115142051#asset:107688Big things come in small packages in Lewes, Delaware © Mdgmorris / E+ / Getty

Delaware: Lewes

We believe too many travelers simply pass through compact Delaware on their way somewhere else. It’s time to slow down and enjoy this welcoming mid-Atlantic state, and the charming town of Lewes, where the Atlantic Ocean meets Delaware Bay, is the perfect place to do so.

The vibrant downtown is perfect for strolling and popping into unique boutiques and seafood restaurants, and the lovely beaches just minutes away. Have your camera or smartphone ready for iconic shots of Breakwater Lighthouse, cycle or walk the Lewes Canalfront, and devote some time to exploring Cape Henlopen State Park with its scenic trails, beaches, campgrounds, and pier.

Florida: St Augustine

If “founded in 1565” sounds unusually old for an American city, well, it sure is. St Augustine is commonly referred to as the oldest city in the US (in actuality, it is the longest continually inhabited European-founded city in the nation). Here, visitors find an experience that is decidedly different from – and a wonderful complement to – Florida’s beaches and theme parks.

Immerse yourself in 400 years of history that includes an array of cultures, including Native American, Spanish, British, African American, and Greek. Must-see sights include the Castillo de San Marcos (this is the classic I’m-in-St.-Augustine image), the narrow European-style streets, an array of museums dedicated to local history and cultures, and even Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon’s legendary “Fountain of Youth.”

Georgia: Alpharetta

From the coast to bustling Atlanta to the mountains, Georgia offers well-known vacation charms. We want travelers to add the city of Alpharetta, in the Atlanta metro area, to that list. If you’re looking for a welcoming community with endless eating options (more than 200 restaurants), an exceptional craft brewery experience at Jekyll Brewing, and ample parkland (750 acres), including the eight-mile-long Big Creek Greenway, Alpharetta, an easy drive from downtown Atlanta, makes a great day trip or weekend escape.

If all that sounds as if it ought to be topped off with an evening of fine music, head to The Velvet Note, honored by Downbeat Magazine as one of the world’s best jazz venues.

the-lush-cliffs-of-Waimea-Canyon-State-Park-in-Kauai.jpg?mtime=20200115142314#asset:107689Kaua’i’s Waimea Canyon is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” © MNStudio / Shutterstock

Hawaii: Waimea Canyon State Park

Have you seen the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”? On the western side of the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i, Waimea Canyon is 14 miles long, more than 3,600 deep, and boasts an array of colorful, gorges, and buttes that do, indeed, remind many visitors of Arizona’s famous canyon.

And, of course, this being Hawaii, the gorgeous surroundings go beyond the canyon: Waimea Valley is home to a 45-foot waterfall and thousands of beautiful botanicals along an easy paved path. For an elegant splurge, there are 60 vintage restored cottages along the beachfront just south of the park.

Idaho: Snake River Valley

Another canyon that most travelers have not yet discovered awaits in Idaho, where the Snake River winds through prehistoric lava flows to create a 50-mile canyon where you’ll find photo-ready waterfalls and springs. Stroll along the 10-mile paved walking path on the south rim with access to a visitor center.

Then head to the iconic Perrine Bridge, where you can stand nearly 500 feet above the river and recall the exploits of 1970s daredevil Evel Knievel, who attempted to jump the canyon here (unsuccessfully, alas). You may also see BASE jumpers taking the plunge off the bridge. Just south of the bridge, you’ll find scenic overlooks of the canyon and at the beautiful Shoshone Falls; beautiful; Centennial Waterfront Park is just west of the bridge.

Unusual-sites-line-Route-66.jpg?mtime=20200115142410#asset:107690Route 66 contains many examples of quirky Americana, such as the The Gemini Giant sculpture at the Launching Pad restaurant © Marco Bicci / Shutterstock

Illinois: Route 66 Heritage Project

Sure, you know kitschy Route 66, and may have driven a stretch or two of the “Mother Road.” But exploring the 300-mile Illinois portion of the quintessential US highway may be the kitschiest stretch of all. Snap some pics at the beginning of your journey, in downtown Chicago at the “Route 66 Begin” sign on E. Jackson Boulevard.

Once you’re on the road, there are many tempting places to stop: Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket has been famous or its fried chicken since the 1940s; the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum is a treasure trove of vintage artifacts; the 19-foot-high Paul Bunyan clutching an immense hot dog across the street from The Palms Grill Cafe announces its presence from a distance and delights passersby; the world’s largest covered wagon awaits not far down the road, alongside a statue of Abraham Lincoln. The road rolls on, and the kitsch rolls along with it, all the way to the Chain of Rocks Bridge across the Mississippi and into St Louis, Missouri.

Indiana: Nashville

Did you know there was “another” Nashville? And that it’s also a significant music destination? Here in southern Indiana, Nashville was an artists’ colony in the early 20th century, establishing a tradition of creativity complete with galleries and crafts studios.

These days, the community has become a mecca for musicians, with a great schedule of performances at the Brown County Playhouse and shops like Weed Patch Music Company with its stash of custom guitars and banjos. Music pours forth from cafes and wine bars, and, of course, on the streets.

downtown-Sioux-City.jpg?mtime=20200115142550#asset:107691Sioux City is where small-town charm meets big-city culture © BergmannD / iStock / Getty

Iowa: Sioux City

This little city in northwest Iowa has earned big honors for its livability, cuisine, and economic development. For travelers, that all translates into an experience that combines small-town warmth with big-city style and culture. Families will especially love the LaunchPAD Children’s Museum and the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. Culture vultures must see the Art Center and hear the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra.

Outdoor fun is a four-season priority here, as the city continues to develop trail connectivity and riverfront development, and a wide diversity of multicultural cuisine sets Sioux City apart from most small cities in the heartland.

Kansas: Colby

Start at the Prairie Museum of Art and History to get a sense of Colby’s place in the settlement of the prairie and its vibrant artistic legacy; while you’re at the museum, don’t miss its Cooper Barn, the largest barn in the state.

Colby’s new 2.2-mile walking trail is a good way to get a sense of this special town, with its especially noteworthy historic courthouse. The best times to get to know Colby may be during its annual festivals: in April, you can take a taste of the Great Oasis Cookoff; in July, you’ll love the Pickin’ on the Plains Bluegrass Festival; and kids will especially appreciate a December visit to Santa City.

Cumberland-Falls-in-Corbin-Kentucky.jpg?mtime=20200115142637#asset:107692Kentucky Wild Rivers are overflowing with adventure © Ehrlif / iStock / Getty

Kentucky: Kentucky Wild Rivers

Say the word Kentucky and most travelers will immediately think bourbon, bluegrass, and horses. While that’s perfectly understandable, don’t forget the wild waterways. With more than 2 million acres of national forest and more navigable rivers than any other state in the lower 48, paddlers can take their pick from more than 1000 miles of running water. Nine of them are designated Kentucky Wild Rivers, which means they are, and always will be, protected from development. Novice paddlers will find gentle waters on the Cumberland River, while experienced whitewater enthusiasts will enjoy the Class IV rapids found on the Big South Fork River; and, of course, there’s something for everyone in between.

Louisiana: Cajun Country

When it comes to an eye-opening, transformative trip, Louisiana’s Cajun Country may be unrivaled in the US. Here, about a four-hour drive northwest of New Orleans, a diversity of cultural traditions came together in early colonial days, with French, Spanish, African American, and Caribbean people mingling language, cuisine, and religious traditions in a way not found anywhere else in America.

In and around the town of Natchitoches (pronounced nack-a-tish), you can tour winding European-style streets, see authentic Creole cottages, partake of distinctive dishes like gumbo and jambalaya, and get to know the history of plantations like Melrose and Oakland, where enslaved Africans created finely crafted artwork that combined West African religious traditions with Christian iconography.

View-from-Bigelow-Mountain-in-Maine.jpg?mtime=20200115142801#asset:107694Sunset from the Appalachian Trail, Bigelow Mountain, Maine © Cavan Images / Getty

Maine: High Peaks Region

With Portland as your gateway city, exploring Maine’s extraordinary lakes and mountains is an unforgettable four-season opportunity that rivals the better-known “peak experiences” found out West. Located where the Appalachian Trail reaches its northernmost point, this region contains 10 of Maine’s highest peaks, with seemingly endless opportunities for camping, cycling, camping, and paddling glacial lakes and gin-clear rivers.

Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy a moose photo safari, or just take a memorable drive along one of three scenic byways: High Peaks, Grafton Notch, and Rangeley Lakes. Autumn brings some of the deepest reds, golds, and oranges anywhere in the US, and winter offers cozy cabin fireplaces and some of America’s finest ski resorts.

Maryland: Chesapeake Bay

Maryland’s star attraction may be the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the US, which manages to touch beautiful waterfront towns, wild spaces, and the state’s biggest city. With such a variety of settings, the activities for visitors are nearly infinite.

For starters, be sure to experience Annapolis, the state capital and the sailing capital of America; a ferry ride to Smith Island, where residents still speak with a trade of the Elizabethan accent of the first settlers 350 years ago; Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, available for tours via a ferry from Annapolis; and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, with its great seafood, public concerts, and National Aquarium.

Falmouth-Massachusetts-coastline.jpg?mtime=20200115142917#asset:107695Many travelers overlook Falmouth, Massachusetts, on their way to Cape Cod, but this coastal community is worth a stop © KenWiedemann / E+ / Getty

Massachusetts: Falmouth

Some New England visitors know Falmouth only as a name on a roadside sign on the way to points farther out on Cape Cod. But this charming community on the western end of the Cape offers an array of affordable lodgings and activities to satisfy even the most discerning traveler.

Eight decidedly New England villages are set along more than 60 miles of shore here, with exceptional seafood, historic lodgings such as the Sea Crest on Silver Beach, and a great local theater scene that dates back to the summer stock of the early 20th century. Start at the Falmouth Village Green to get a sense of place; the bell you hear ringing each hour from the First Congregational Church was cast by Paul Revere – it doesn’t get any more New England than that!

Michigan: Charlevoix

Even seasoned travelers sometimes forget that the US has four coasts. The pristine beaches of Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan are found up north in Michigan, and offer a laid-back vacation experience that reminds many visitors of bygone days.

First, there’s the water and all that comes with it: charted sailboats, kayaks, and paddleboards; 20 hiking trails and nature preserves, not to mention the iconic Earl Young Mushroom House and the majestic Castle Farms. In search of seclusion? Head to Beaver Island. Looking for cool boutiques, great food, and public events along Round Lake? That’s exactly what you’ll find in the town of Charlevoix. No wonder visitors become regulars, and the Charlevoix region becomes a summer family tradition.

Split-Rock-Lighthouse-at-Sunset-L-ake-Superior.jpg?mtime=20200115143004#asset:107696Split Rock Lighthouse on the Lake Superior shore © Gian Lorenzo Ferretti Photography / Getty

Minnesota: Lake Superior State Parks

Speaking of the beaches of the Great Lakes, northern Minnesota’s Lake Superior shoreline is home to eight state parks where nature lovers’ dreams come true. All reachable from the city of Duluth, some highlights include: Gooseberry Falls delivers not only Lake Superior shore but also Instagrammable waterfalls, rivers, and forest, a paved cycling trail, and excellent cross-country skiing; Split Rock Lighthouse, with a superb visitor center, exhibits, and documentary film; Temperance River offers gorges, footbridges, and waterfalls for hikers to discover; and Cascade River boasts trails that can get you up Lookout Mountain for – what else? – spectacular views.

Mississippi: Gulf Coast Islands

The Gulf Coast is always a good idea, and Mississippi’s Gulf Islands National Seashore is the perfect place to get up close and personal with the region’s wild side, amazing gourmet seafood, and craft beer.

The six barrier islands beckon visitors with attainable adventures like exploring the bayous and marshland of Cat Island; taking a boat ride from Biloxi to the beach at Deer Island; doing some serious pelican watching (and photography) on Horn Island; and hitting up the tiny islands of Round Island and Petit Bois for a look at visiting migratory birds (they’re here for the great seafood, just like you).

Missouri: Hermann

Just an hour west of St Louis, in the Missouri River valley, the town of Hermann is like stepping into a wormhole to old-world Germany. Start at Historic Hermann Museum for an overview of the settlement of the area from the 1830s to the 1900s. Then be sure to pack an appetite for comfort food and good local wine as you explore local eateries and favorite sights such as: Deutschheim State Historic Site with its exhibits and galleries of artifacts from the days when German immigrants settled here; Hermann Farm with its living history exhibitions; and a variety of excellent local wineries.

Bridger-Mountain-Range-near-Bozeman.jpg?mtime=20200115143041#asset:107697The mountains are never very far from Bozeman, Montana © Carol Polich / Lonely Planet

Montana: Bozeman

By Western standards, Bozeman is “near” both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, though folks from back East will notice that “near” can mean a few hours in the car. But we love Bozeman not just for its proximity to amazing parkland and amazing skiing but also for the city itself, a college town with great community spirit, food that even Californians envy, and one of the finest museums in the US, the Museum of the Rockies.

Set aside most of a day to take in all the museum has to offer, from its excellent planetarium to its Montana history division, natural history exhibitions with a special emphasis on the dinosaur fossils unearthed in Bozeman’s backyard at Hell Creek, and its living history pioneer cabin. In Bozeman, you’re never far from a gorgeous mountain vista or a great meal – we especially love the huge, reasonably priced sandwiches at the Pickle Barrel.

Nebraska: Grand Island

When it comes to friendly, historic towns, we love Grand Island. The community may be best known for its access to the epic Sandhill Crane migration here in central Nebraska, but that’s just where the fun begins.

Start in the town’s historic downtown, known as the Railside District, to take in the finely restored buildings, then grab a craft beer and grub at one of the excellent downtown breweries. Then explore the city’s Stuhr Museum with its Railroad Town pioneer village and beautifully landscaped grounds, and take a dip in one of Grand Island’s public pools. Be sure to visit the gentle Platte River, an important landmark from the days when settlers from the East headed west across the prairie.

A-road-through-Valley-of-Fire-State-Park.jpg?mtime=20200115143122#asset:107698Located near Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park features some of Nevada’s most unique landscapes © Alexander Howard / Lonely Planet

Nevada: Valley of Fire State Park

How did Nevada’s Valley of Fire get its name? How about 40,000 acres of red sandstone? Here in Valley of Fire State Park you’ll come face-to-face with the ancient, including petrified trees and petroglyphs left by native people more than 2000 years ago.

Hit the park’s visitor center for an overview and great exhibits devoted to prehistoric times, geology, and the history of the region – pick up maps and tips here as well. As wild as the terrain looks, the park still provides two campsites with tables and grills and running water (including RV hookups), plus miles of trails for those who want to explore this unique environment.

New Hampshire: Seacoast

When you mention New Hampshire’s “coast” to some people, they look at you kind of funny. Sure, New Hampshire is mostly landlocked, and better known for its mountains and forests, but it also boasts a vibrant Atlantic shoreline that’s just a few miles long but includes the cool small city of Portsmouth with its cobblestone streets, winding alleys, historic John Paul Jones House and Strawbery Banke, and quaint shops like the excellent Riverrun bookstore, plus lovely beaches and more. Take kids to the Seacoast Science Center for a hands-on deep dive into marine life, including a “please touch” tide pool and other stuff the little ones love to explore.

Asbury-Park-architecture.jpg?mtime=20200115143158#asset:107699Architectural window details in silhouette at historic old casino along the boardwalk in Asbury Park, NJ © littleny / Shutterstock

New Jersey: Asbury Park

Asbury Park has been dubbed one of America’s Coolest Small Towns in 2017, featured on Bruce Springsteen’s debut studio album and regularly called one of the best destinations on the Jersey Shore. Yet few people have heard of it. It’s time to visit before everybody else gets the word. Conveniently located between New York City and Philadelphia, and boasting amazing seafood, art galleries, and legendary music venues and the boardwalk that Springsteen helped put on the map back in the 1970s, Asbury Park welcomes visitors from everywhere and delivers a first-rate weekend escape.

New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

The jaw-droppingly beautiful Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico, not far from the Texas border, are the site of a national park whose secret is about to get out: Carlsbad Caverns National Park offers beautiful terrain to hike, including canyons, cactus, grassland, and its namesake cave – which is a staggering 250ft high and 4000ft long.

Ranger-led tours of the caverns, plus hikes and other programs at the visitor center and out in the park’s terrain are a wonderful way of getting to know this noteworthy landmark.

Rock-Island-in-Blue-Mountain-Lake-NY.jpg?mtime=20200115143254#asset:107700Tucked away in America’s largest state park, Blue Mountain Lake is idyllic bliss © Patty Barker / 500px

New York: Blue Mountain Lake

When visiting New York’s six-million-acre Adirondack State Park, it’s easy to forget you’re even in New York – the mountains and lakes make you feel transported to, say, Wyoming. Of all the communities in this, America’s largest state park, Blue Mountain Lake is an ideal place to begin your exploration of the region, thanks to its incredible namesake lake and the Adirondack Experience, an immense museum with state-of-the-art interactive exhibits devoted to the natural history, human history, and wildlife of the Adirondack Mountains.

Set aside at least a full day for the museum, or visit more than once in between paddling local waterways, hiking to scenic overlooks, and enjoying great BBQ and craft beer just about everywhere you turn. Just up the road from Blue Mountain Lake, Great Camp Sagamore offers a rustic, unplugged experience you’ll never forget.

North Carolina: Boone & Blowing Rock

Take the Blue Ridge Parkway into North Carolina and you’ll notice that the area around the town of Boone seems to have received more than its fair share of stunning scenery. Endless hiking trails and scenic overlooks abound outside of town – you must experience the Mile High Swinging Bridge with its views of the Carolina Piedmont.

In town, there’s just as fine a variety of living history like the Hickory Ridge Museum and the Daniel Boone Heritage Gardens. In nearby Blowing Rock, you’ll love the Ultimate Adventure park’s ziplines, and the town’s nice array of quaint shops and indulgent spa treatments.

North-Dakota-Badlands.jpg?mtime=20200115143337#asset:107701Dickinson is the gateway to North Dakota’s iconic Badlands © Rruntsch / Getty

North Dakota: Dickinson

Cowboys + dinosaurs – what’s not to love about North Dakota’s star attractions? The town of Dickinson is best known as the gateway to amazing Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and it enjoys two scenic byways, the Old Red Old Ten and the Kildeer Mountain Four Bears.

But the town itself is decidedly ready for its close-up. The Dickinson Museum Center exhibits life-size dinosaurs, fossils, and other reminders of ND’s prehistoric residents; an assortment of beautiful spots like Patterson Lake Recreation Area and West River Community Center for watersports; and annual festivals like Roughrider Days and the Ukrainian Festival bring the community together and are a great time to pay a visit.

Ohio: Put-In Bay

Ohioans know there’s a 2.5-by-5-mile island in Lake Erie that makes for a spectacular vacation. And now you know too. Put-In Bay is one of those family escapes that pack plenty of great activities and attractions into a small package.

The island boasts a cave you can explore, winery tours, parasailing, jet skiing, and fishing for the area’s prized walleye. And don’t miss the chance to ride the elevator up to the observation deck atop of Perry’s International Peace Memorial for endless views of Lake Erie all the way to the Cleveland skyline when the air is clear.

Downtown-Tulsa-during-twilight.jpg?mtime=20200115143423#asset:107702Oklahoma’s second-largest city is still an underrated charmer © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Oklahoma: Tulsa

You don’t have to be a devotee of folk singer Woody Guthrie, composer of “This Land Is Your Land,” or of novelist S.E. Hinton, who wrote The Outsiders when she was 15 years old, to fall in love with Tulsa. But it won’t hurt. Those two pop culture iconoclasts, whose work happens to have deeply touched and even transformed lives, hailed from this Oklahoma city.

That may not be a coincidence: From its unique 100-acre Gathering Place public park along the Arkansas River to the Philbrook Museum’s collection of art from the classics to the modern era in a Renaissance-style villa built by the founder of Philips Oil and donated to the city in the 1930s, Tulsa exceeds expectations. You can even take a tour of a house that played a starring role in Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation of The Outsiders – the house has been meticulously restored and outfitted with artifacts and film memorabilia.

Oregon: Columbia River Gorge

Choosing a National Scenic Area for your next trip guarantees you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty. And the Columbia River Gorge is the largest designated scenic area in America, with vistas that rival any in the world. The Columbia River runs from its source in the Canadian Rockies down through Washington State and into Oregon, where it eventually meets the Pacific.

Along the way, it has cut a majestic gorge through the Cascade Mountains, delivering dozens of waterfalls, some of which can be ogled right from the Historic Columbia River Highway. The opportunities for outdoor recreation along the way are extraordinary, including cycling the Post Canyon mountain bike network or hiking up Dog Mountain. And, this being the Pacific Northwest, you can pretty much count on great craft beer, fresh locally raised fare, and an array of pinot noir, chardonnay, and other fine wines.

Pennsylvania: Alleghenies

It’s time to get to know the Alleghenies, Pennsylvania’s vast south-central region between Pittsburgh and Gettysburg. You can expect a warm welcome in small towns that boast covered bridges and elegant Victorian-era homes.

Elsewhere, explore miles of mountain trails on foot or on two fat tires, and dive into this important historical region with its rich Native American legacy, Revolutionary War landmarks, and reminders of the early days of the republic, when this was literally the American frontier. College sports fans will enjoy a stop in State College, home to Penn State and its loyal fans, not to mention tasty comfort food and craft beer.

Puerto Rico: Culebra

We’ll get this right out in the open: when your friend tells you she’s visiting Puerto Rico but refuses to give away exactly where she’s headed, she may be headed to the 10-square-mile island of Culebra, about 20 miles off PR’s Fajardo coast.

Fans of Culebra, which was a US naval base until 1975, have good reason to keep it top secret. Twenty percent of the island is a designated national wildlife refuge, protecting endangered sea turtles and other wild denizens. So far, the island has been untouched by giant hotels, casinos, golf courses, and fast-food restaurants. If that sounds like heaven, get ready to explore Culebra’s “diamond-dust” beaches (the star is Flamenco Beach, but you’ll find others that are more secluded), snorkeling sites, and hiking trails.

Point-Judith-lighthouse-at-sunrise-Narragansett-Rhode-Island.jpg?mtime=20200115143547#asset:107703Narragansett packs Rhode Island’s best qualities into an easily digestible size © Shobeir Ansari / Moment / Getty

Rhode Island: Narragansett

Everybody knows that Rhode Island is the smallest state geographically. What everybody also needs to know is that the small size belies a wealth of vacation opportunities. Narragansett may be Exhibit A: the town is home to four popular beaches, minutes away from affordable hotels, B&Bs, and vacation rentals via the town’s fine public transportation system. You can also opt for camping at Fishermen’s Memorial State Park, which locals prize for its “seaside village” atmosphere.

Get ready to snap pics of the Point Judith Lighthouse at the entrance to Narragansett Bay, and set aside some time to explore the unique and vital exhibitions at the Pequot Museum, devoted to Native American history and culture and the natural history of the New England region from prehistoric times through the arrival of European settlers and beyond.

South Carolina: Greenville

If you haven’t already heard the great word-of-mouth generated by folks who have visited Greenville, take it from us: if your idea of vacation perfection is a charming Main Street packed with great art galleries, excellent local restaurants, and a cycling- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure and outlook, this is a place you must see for yourself.

Start in lovely Falls Park, where the 345-foot-long Liberty Bridge crosses the Reedy River (you can grab a great cup of coffee at the bridge entrance). Cyclists will want to hit the curiously named Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail (say it five times fast, or just call it “Swamp Rabbit,” as locals do), which runs more than 20 miles from Lake Conestee Nature Park to the nearby town of Travelers Rest. Tour local craft breweries, visit one of the local live theaters, hit up local galleries, studios, and public murals, and you’ll soon be one of the people spreading Greenville’s great word-of-mouth yourself.

boxwork-rock-formations-in-Wind-Cave.jpg?mtime=20200115143729#asset:107705Boxwork is an rare type of rock formation that forms honeycomb-like structures in caves © Zack Frank / Shutterstock

South Dakota: Wind Cave National Park

What’s the oldest national park you’ve perhaps never heard of? Wind Cave, in the prairie grasslands in the southwestern corner of South Dakota, where the buffalo roam along with elk and other wildlife, was founded in 1903 and consists of lovely preserved prairie aboveground and an intricate cave system below, known for rare rock formations called boxwork.

Easy hikes and ranger-led programs abound, including a 1-mile round-trip hike from Elk Mountain campground, a loop from Prairie Vista visitor center, and, of course, tours of the cave. Note that as we publish this story, the elevators at Wind Cave are closed for maintenance – please check nps.gov/wica before planning your trip. Ranger programs, including an excellent documentary film, and above-ground activities remain open daily, and access to the cave will resume when maintenance is complete.

Tennessee: Franklin

Psst: seventeen miles south of Nashville, the welcoming small city of Franklin beckons with history (for starters, it was founded way back in 1799 and named for Founding Father Benjamin Franklin), great dining (there are more than 500 restaurants to choose from, and we especially love the upscale versions of Southern favorites like fried chicken and oyster po’boys), and unique shopping for locally made apparel, crafts, and snacks (if you haven’t the Tennessee favorite Goo-Goo Clusters, do yourself a favor).

Start on Main Street, designated a “Great American Main Street,” learn about the 1864 Battle of Franklin (and see the bullet-riddled Carter House), and spend some time on the Natchez Trace Parkway, which runs through Franklin and the village of Leiper’s Fork, where great art galleries rub elbows with fantastic BBQ ­– the Natchez Trace runs from Nashville all the way to Natchez, Mississippi, and is the eighth most-visited site in the National Park system.

El-Paso-Texas.jpg?mtime=20200115143817#asset:107706El Paso is a cultural melting pot with influences from the Southwestern USA and Mexico © Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

Texas: El Paso

El Paso’s unique location, in the far western corner of Texas, bordering both Mexico and New Mexico, utterly defines the city’s culture. As national attention has focused on this border region, El Paso has been in the midst of a construction boom, including new hotels, the restoration of a streetcar lines, new craft breweries, and even a Minor League Baseball team, the Pacific Coast League’s Chihuahuas, part of the San Diego Padres franchise.

Reasons to get to know El Paso include the beautiful El Paso Museum of Art with its collection of 12th-through-21st-century works; Franklin Mountains State Park, the largest urban park in America within city limits, with elevations reaching more than 7,000 feet above sea level; and, of course, a unique culinary tradition that blends Mexican traditions like exquisite tacos with Texas’s love of good steak, plus upscale taverns serving innovative dishes and great cocktails.

Utah: Moab

Sure, you want to visit Utah’s amazing national parks, but, like many travelers, you’re not sure where to start? One word: Moab. The Utah town is in close proximity to both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, providing you with a comfy home base from which to explore the incredible red rock landscape that makes some visitors feel as if they’ve landed on Mars.

Here in Moab, affordable lodging, great Southwestern and gourmet food, and the Colorado River make for a beautiful stay. When you’re not hiking in one of the two national parks, be sure to set aside time to discover Dead Horse Point State Park, along the Colorado River with its seven-mile rim trail and great vistas that include some of the terrain in Canyonlands.

Autumn-in-Groton-Vermont.jpg?mtime=20200115144000#asset:107707Groton, Vermont, in the state’s Northeast Kingdom region, is great in the fall © Nan Zhong / Moment Open / Getty

Vermont: Northeast Kingdom

As the name may suggest, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom region, including Caledonia, Esses, and Orleans counties, is a world unto itself. You won’t find cities up here, but you’ll find plenty of elbow room, pristine lakes, and forests just waiting for you to discover them.

An array of state parks serves as the best way to plan your Northeast Kingdom adventure, offering campsites, cabins, and cottages – and in some cases a lodge – from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Groton State Forest will keep you busy with more than 26,000 acres of fly fishing, swimming, and hiking.

Virginia: Jamestown Settlement

If you’re looking for a living history experience that dates back to the early colonial days, Virginia is the place to be. Jamestown Settlement is where the first permanent English colony was settled. Here, visitors are introduced to the settlement’s origins as a business venture, the ways in which the English arrival affected the local Powhatan Native American way of life, and the arrival of the first enslaved Africans on Virginian soil.

You’ll want to spend most of a day exploring gallery exhibits, documentary films, and outdoor re-creations of a Powhatan village, a 17th-century fort, and even a replica of a sailing ship that brought the first English colonists to what they called the New World. While you’re in the Jamestown area, you can further immerse yourself in colonial history with a visit to nearby Colonial Williamsburg and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

The-Hoh-Rainforest-on-the-Olmpic-Peninsula_0.jpg?mtime=20200115144133#asset:107708A path through the Hoh Rain Forest is filled with old temperate trees covered in green and brown moss © Roman Khomlyak / Shutterstock

Washington: Olympic National Park

Yes, the American West is so packed with amazing national parks, we can forgive you if you’ve overlooked a true gem on the Washington State coast. Olympic National Park covers nearly 1 million acres that includes an exceptional variety of ecosystems, including mountains, old-growth rainforests (yes, it may be drizzling during your visit, but that’s all part of the experience), and more than 70 miles of coast.

Visit the Elwha Valley, just 11 miles from the town of Port Angeles (a good place to find charming, affordable lodging), which is home to the popular Elwha River and the surrounding mountains that make for a lovely introduction to the park’s offerings. Hurricane Ridge is easily reached and the views on a (rare) clear day are incredible. Hit the Olympic Hot Springs Road and Whiskey Bend Road for access to a number of great trails like the Boulder Creek and Humes Ranch loop.

West Virginia: Lewisburg

If you love truly cool small towns as much as we do, you must discover Lewisburg, on the Greenbrier River, with its fabulous arts, outstanding artisanal food scene (think way beyond traditional Southern fare here, with menu items like the Middle Eastern spiced lamb burger), and eminently shoppable downtown.

Don’t miss the unique Salt Cave and Spa and its indulgent treatments and unusual location within a cave system. The opulent Greenbrier Resort is worth-it splurge that delivers value, and the grounds and restaurant are worth a visit even if you’re not spending the night. Head out along the stunningly beautiful Greenbrier River Trail, a repurposed railroad route that’s part of the West Virginia state parks system, for a hike or cycling trip; you won’t run out of things to see – the trail is 70 miles long.

Statue-of-Vince-Lombardi.jpg?mtime=20200115144333#asset:107709The statue of coach Vince Lombardi outside the Historic Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers and also known as The Frozen Tundra © Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock

Wisconsin: Green Bay

Sure, the name Green Bay is synonymous with NFL football, but there’s a lot more to this beautiful region of Wisconsin than adorning one’s head with an immense cheese replica. The city if named for the big bay on which it stands, and you’ll find plenty of “green” in the city’s wild-ish places, like the Brown County Reforestation Camp and the Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve.

Families will love the Children’s Museum of Green Bay with plenty of hands-on experiences, the National Railroad Museum, including train rides through October and a Polar Express at holiday time. For grownups, brewery tours take you behind the scenes for a taste of the fine crafting going on here. Oh, and if you absolutely must have a football-themed experience in Green Bay, the Packers Heritage Trail is a cool city walk that takes you to commemorative plaques dedicated to the creation of the Green Bay Packers franchise.

Wyoming: Rockies to Tetons

First of all, yes, we adore Yellowstone. But we want you to know that Wyoming offers a wealth of other outstanding outdoor adventures. One of our favorites is the Rockies-to-Tetons road trip that takes you from the Snowy Ridge, in southeast Wyoming, all the way to Grand Teton National Park. Your first step will be visiting the Snowy Ridge Range, which includes the 12,000-foot Medicine Bow Peak, via nearby Laramie. Then you’ll have to tear yourself away from all that gorgeousness on your way to Dubois, where affordable hotels and the Longhorn Ranch Resort are options (as is taking in a Friday-night rodeo in summer).

From Dubois, you’ll head toward the Grand Tetons, ideally with a stop for rafting the Snake River in Jackson, then enter the beautiful national park, where you can try your hand at shooting some of the iconic peaks and landscapes made famous by photographer Ansel Adams. (And from Grand Teton National Park, you can sneak a visit to adjoining Yellowstone with no additional entry fee.)

Produced by Budget Travel for GEICO. All editorial views are those of Budget Travel alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.

51 affordable discoveries across America 2020

From Alabama’s rock-and-soul capital to Wyoming’s stunning parkland, from the oldest city in the US to the jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches of the States’ northern “third coast,” we’ve gathered budget destinations in each state, plus Puerto Rico.

Our mission is simple: track down outstanding destinations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico where lodging averages well under $200/night and great food and drink, natural beauty, and vibrant arts and culture share the spotlight. No pressure, right? Here’s to kicking off the new decade with an unparalleled to-do list!

Alabama: Muscle Shoals

It’s time for Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to take its rightful place alongside America’s major pop music destinations like Memphis, Cleveland, and Detroit. Here, in this small town in the northwestern corner of the state, some of the most popular and critically acclaimed rock and soul music – including seminal works by Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, and Lynyrd Skynyrd – was recorded at Fame Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.

These days, you can enjoy a music-themed visit to the area while also savoring its first-rate comfort food and natural beauty. Tour the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, in Tuscumbia; make a pilgrimage to Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, in Sheffield; and drop by Pegasus Records, in Florence, for its Friday-night showcases of emerging musical talent. Alabama Shakes were discovered at Pegasus – who will you discover?

mountainbiking-in-kenai-alaska.jpg?mtime=20200115140736#asset:107685The Kenai Peninsula brings all your Alaskan adventures within reach © CSNafzger / Shutterstock

Alaska: Kenai Peninsula

Alaska isn’t quite as far away as you think: an authentic Alaska experience, complete with whale watching, hiking, fishing, and ogling wildlife, is available in the Kenai Peninsula, along the state’s southern coast, south of Anchorage.

Whether you approach this vacation wonderland via cruise ship or a road trip on the Seward Highway (one of America’s finest scenic drives), you’ll find enough activities to last a week or a month, including a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park; hiking in Chugach National Forest, and viewing animals you won’t easily find in the lower 48, including orcas and puffins. And an irresistible perk of visiting this corner of Alaska is that you’ll taste the freshest, most deeply flavorful salmon anywhere in the world.

Arizona: Saguaro National Park

Some travelers keep a list of rare or unique sights they must see. The saguaro cactus is something every American should visit in person. Saguaro National Park, Arizona, near the always rewarding city of Tucson, is devoted to protecting and preserving a forestful of the immense succulents, which are unique to the Sonoran Desert and can grow to a height of 50 feet and live more than 200 years.

In addition to these “kings of the Sonoran Desert,” you’ll also find towering pine-covered mountains alive with wild javelina, coyotes, desert tortoises, and, at higher elevations, black bear and the Mexican spotted owl.

triple-falls-in-Arkansas.jpg?mtime=20200115141705#asset:107686The Ozark-St Francis National Forests are great destinations anytime of year © Mark C Stevens / Moment / Getty

Arkansas: Ozark-St. Francis National Forests

Not one but two major national forests crossed by six US Scenic Byways? Yes, Arkansas delivers thousands of acres of four-season activities in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests, in the state’s northern and eastern regions. Here, from the shores of the Mississippi River to the deep woods filled with wildlife and opportunities for water sports, visitors discover an unexpected side of Arkansas.

Choose between cycling and canoeing, fishing for striped and largemouth bass and catfish, swimming in Bear Creek Lake, camping amid the hardwood trees, and hopping an ATV – or, our recommendation, try them all.

California: San Pedro

Think you know California? Meet San Pedro, at the southern point of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and home to the Port of Los Angeles, the largest in the US. Here in this up-and-coming must-see city, you’ll delight in packing your days with an array of pursuits: ride the free San Pedro Downtown Trolley with hop-on-hop-off stops at the incredible collection of nautical vessels at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, beautiful Cabrillo Beach, and the jaw-dropping Cabrilla Marine Aquarium, designed by Frank Gehry.

History buffs and kids of all ages will want to visit the Battleship Iowa Museum, the only battleship open to the public on the West Coast, and everyone will appreciate a meal at California’s biggest seafood restaurant, the San Pedro Fish Market & Restaurant – get ready to snap a few they-won’t-believe-this-back-home pics of the immense shrimp trays.

black-canyon-of-the-gunnison-national-park.jpg?mtime=20200115141826#asset:107687The lesser-known Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has Grand Canyon-quality vistas with fewer crowds © AlexeyKamenskiy / Getty Images

Colorado: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Southwest Colorado is home to a lesser-known gem: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Located near the city of Montrose, the site is an incredible natural landscape featuring black cliffs (formed 2 billion years ago) towering 2,000 feet above the Gunnison River.

Stock up on food and water in Montrose, then head for the canyon’s South Rim, where you’ll find gentle nature trails with Instagram-ready overlooks, backcountry experiences for visitors who yearn to get off the beaten path, and an array of opportunities for camping, fishing, and rock climbing. Consider participating in ranger-led programs to learn about the geology and wildlife of the area.

Connecticut: Mystic Seaport

For travelers in the Northeast, America’s most important collection of National Historic Landmark maritime vessels is just off I-95 in northern Connecticut. Mystic Seaport’s towering sailing ships will delight children, of course, and grownups (especially fans of the novels of Patrick O’Brien and Herman Melville) who want to step back in time to the days of wooden ships.

Tour a whaleship, an active waterfront, planetarium, gardens, and hands-on experiences that help you appreciate the crafts that went into the construction and maintenance of these amazing vessels. Art lovers will savor the excellent Maritime Gallery, which hosts major exhibitions of marine art and intricately detailed miniature ship models.

Boats-in-Lewes-Delaware.jpg?mtime=20200115142051#asset:107688Big things come in small packages in Lewes, Delaware © Mdgmorris / E+ / Getty

Delaware: Lewes

We believe too many travelers simply pass through compact Delaware on their way somewhere else. It’s time to slow down and enjoy this welcoming mid-Atlantic state, and the charming town of Lewes, where the Atlantic Ocean meets Delaware Bay, is the perfect place to do so.

The vibrant downtown is perfect for strolling and popping into unique boutiques and seafood restaurants, and the lovely beaches just minutes away. Have your camera or smartphone ready for iconic shots of Breakwater Lighthouse, cycle or walk the Lewes Canalfront, and devote some time to exploring Cape Henlopen State Park with its scenic trails, beaches, campgrounds, and pier.

Florida: St Augustine

If “founded in 1565” sounds unusually old for an American city, well, it sure is. St Augustine is commonly referred to as the oldest city in the US (in actuality, it is the longest continually inhabited European-founded city in the nation). Here, visitors find an experience that is decidedly different from – and a wonderful complement to – Florida’s beaches and theme parks.

Immerse yourself in 400 years of history that includes an array of cultures, including Native American, Spanish, British, African American, and Greek. Must-see sights include the Castillo de San Marcos (this is the classic I’m-in-St.-Augustine image), the narrow European-style streets, an array of museums dedicated to local history and cultures, and even Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon’s legendary “Fountain of Youth.”

Georgia: Alpharetta

From the coast to bustling Atlanta to the mountains, Georgia offers well-known vacation charms. We want travelers to add the city of Alpharetta, in the Atlanta metro area, to that list. If you’re looking for a welcoming community with endless eating options (more than 200 restaurants), an exceptional craft brewery experience at Jekyll Brewing, and ample parkland (750 acres), including the eight-mile-long Big Creek Greenway, Alpharetta, an easy drive from downtown Atlanta, makes a great day trip or weekend escape.

If all that sounds as if it ought to be topped off with an evening of fine music, head to The Velvet Note, honored by Downbeat Magazine as one of the world’s best jazz venues.

the-lush-cliffs-of-Waimea-Canyon-State-Park-in-Kauai.jpg?mtime=20200115142314#asset:107689Kaua’i’s Waimea Canyon is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” © MNStudio / Shutterstock

Hawaii: Waimea Canyon State Park

Have you seen the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”? On the western side of the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i, Waimea Canyon is 14 miles long, more than 3,600 deep, and boasts an array of colorful, gorges, and buttes that do, indeed, remind many visitors of Arizona’s famous canyon.

And, of course, this being Hawaii, the gorgeous surroundings go beyond the canyon: Waimea Valley is home to a 45-foot waterfall and thousands of beautiful botanicals along an easy paved path. For an elegant splurge, there are 60 vintage restored cottages along the beachfront just south of the park.

Idaho: Snake River Valley

Another canyon that most travelers have not yet discovered awaits in Idaho, where the Snake River winds through prehistoric lava flows to create a 50-mile canyon where you’ll find photo-ready waterfalls and springs. Stroll along the 10-mile paved walking path on the south rim with access to a visitor center.

Then head to the iconic Perrine Bridge, where you can stand nearly 500 feet above the river and recall the exploits of 1970s daredevil Evel Knievel, who attempted to jump the canyon here (unsuccessfully, alas). You may also see BASE jumpers taking the plunge off the bridge. Just south of the bridge, you’ll find scenic overlooks of the canyon and at the beautiful Shoshone Falls; beautiful; Centennial Waterfront Park is just west of the bridge.

Unusual-sites-line-Route-66.jpg?mtime=20200115142410#asset:107690Route 66 contains many examples of quirky Americana, such as the The Gemini Giant sculpture at the Launching Pad restaurant © Marco Bicci / Shutterstock

Illinois: Route 66 Heritage Project

Sure, you know kitschy Route 66, and may have driven a stretch or two of the “Mother Road.” But exploring the 300-mile Illinois portion of the quintessential US highway may be the kitschiest stretch of all. Snap some pics at the beginning of your journey, in downtown Chicago at the “Route 66 Begin” sign on E. Jackson Boulevard.

Once you’re on the road, there are many tempting places to stop: Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket has been famous or its fried chicken since the 1940s; the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum is a treasure trove of vintage artifacts; the 19-foot-high Paul Bunyan clutching an immense hot dog across the street from The Palms Grill Cafe announces its presence from a distance and delights passersby; the world’s largest covered wagon awaits not far down the road, alongside a statue of Abraham Lincoln. The road rolls on, and the kitsch rolls along with it, all the way to the Chain of Rocks Bridge across the Mississippi and into St Louis, Missouri.

Indiana: Nashville

Did you know there was “another” Nashville? And that it’s also a significant music destination? Here in southern Indiana, Nashville was an artists’ colony in the early 20th century, establishing a tradition of creativity complete with galleries and crafts studios.

These days, the community has become a mecca for musicians, with a great schedule of performances at the Brown County Playhouse and shops like Weed Patch Music Company with its stash of custom guitars and banjos. Music pours forth from cafes and wine bars, and, of course, on the streets.

downtown-Sioux-City.jpg?mtime=20200115142550#asset:107691Sioux City is where small-town charm meets big-city culture © BergmannD / iStock / Getty

Iowa: Sioux City

This little city in northwest Iowa has earned big honors for its livability, cuisine, and economic development. For travelers, that all translates into an experience that combines small-town warmth with big-city style and culture. Families will especially love the LaunchPAD Children’s Museum and the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. Culture vultures must see the Art Center and hear the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra.

Outdoor fun is a four-season priority here, as the city continues to develop trail connectivity and riverfront development, and a wide diversity of multicultural cuisine sets Sioux City apart from most small cities in the heartland.

Kansas: Colby

Start at the Prairie Museum of Art and History to get a sense of Colby’s place in the settlement of the prairie and its vibrant artistic legacy; while you’re at the museum, don’t miss its Cooper Barn, the largest barn in the state.

Colby’s new 2.2-mile walking trail is a good way to get a sense of this special town, with its especially noteworthy historic courthouse. The best times to get to know Colby may be during its annual festivals: in April, you can take a taste of the Great Oasis Cookoff; in July, you’ll love the Pickin’ on the Plains Bluegrass Festival; and kids will especially appreciate a December visit to Santa City.

Cumberland-Falls-in-Corbin-Kentucky.jpg?mtime=20200115142637#asset:107692Kentucky Wild Rivers are overflowing with adventure © Ehrlif / iStock / Getty

Kentucky: Kentucky Wild Rivers

Say the word Kentucky and most travelers will immediately think bourbon, bluegrass, and horses. While that’s perfectly understandable, don’t forget the wild waterways. With more than 2 million acres of national forest and more navigable rivers than any other state in the lower 48, paddlers can take their pick from more than 1000 miles of running water. Nine of them are designated Kentucky Wild Rivers, which means they are, and always will be, protected from development. Novice paddlers will find gentle waters on the Cumberland River, while experienced whitewater enthusiasts will enjoy the Class IV rapids found on the Big South Fork River; and, of course, there’s something for everyone in between.

Louisiana: Cajun Country

When it comes to an eye-opening, transformative trip, Louisiana’s Cajun Country may be unrivaled in the US. Here, about a four-hour drive northwest of New Orleans, a diversity of cultural traditions came together in early colonial days, with French, Spanish, African American, and Caribbean people mingling language, cuisine, and religious traditions in a way not found anywhere else in America.

In and around the town of Natchitoches (pronounced nack-a-tish), you can tour winding European-style streets, see authentic Creole cottages, partake of distinctive dishes like gumbo and jambalaya, and get to know the history of plantations like Melrose and Oakland, where enslaved Africans created finely crafted artwork that combined West African religious traditions with Christian iconography.

View-from-Bigelow-Mountain-in-Maine.jpg?mtime=20200115142801#asset:107694Sunset from the Appalachian Trail, Bigelow Mountain, Maine © Cavan Images / Getty

Maine: High Peaks Region

With Portland as your gateway city, exploring Maine’s extraordinary lakes and mountains is an unforgettable four-season opportunity that rivals the better-known “peak experiences” found out West. Located where the Appalachian Trail reaches its northernmost point, this region contains 10 of Maine’s highest peaks, with seemingly endless opportunities for camping, cycling, camping, and paddling glacial lakes and gin-clear rivers.

Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy a moose photo safari, or just take a memorable drive along one of three scenic byways: High Peaks, Grafton Notch, and Rangeley Lakes. Autumn brings some of the deepest reds, golds, and oranges anywhere in the US, and winter offers cozy cabin fireplaces and some of America’s finest ski resorts.

Maryland: Chesapeake Bay

Maryland’s star attraction may be the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the US, which manages to touch beautiful waterfront towns, wild spaces, and the state’s biggest city. With such a variety of settings, the activities for visitors are nearly infinite.

For starters, be sure to experience Annapolis, the state capital and the sailing capital of America; a ferry ride to Smith Island, where residents still speak with a trade of the Elizabethan accent of the first settlers 350 years ago; Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, available for tours via a ferry from Annapolis; and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, with its great seafood, public concerts, and National Aquarium.

Falmouth-Massachusetts-coastline.jpg?mtime=20200115142917#asset:107695Many travelers overlook Falmouth, Massachusetts, on their way to Cape Cod, but this coastal community is worth a stop © KenWiedemann / E+ / Getty

Massachusetts: Falmouth

Some New England visitors know Falmouth only as a name on a roadside sign on the way to points farther out on Cape Cod. But this charming community on the western end of the Cape offers an array of affordable lodgings and activities to satisfy even the most discerning traveler.

Eight decidedly New England villages are set along more than 60 miles of shore here, with exceptional seafood, historic lodgings such as the Sea Crest on Silver Beach, and a great local theater scene that dates back to the summer stock of the early 20th century. Start at the Falmouth Village Green to get a sense of place; the bell you hear ringing each hour from the First Congregational Church was cast by Paul Revere – it doesn’t get any more New England than that!

Michigan: Charlevoix

Even seasoned travelers sometimes forget that the US has four coasts. The pristine beaches of Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan are found up north in Michigan, and offer a laid-back vacation experience that reminds many visitors of bygone days.

First, there’s the water and all that comes with it: charted sailboats, kayaks, and paddleboards; 20 hiking trails and nature preserves, not to mention the iconic Earl Young Mushroom House and the majestic Castle Farms. In search of seclusion? Head to Beaver Island. Looking for cool boutiques, great food, and public events along Round Lake? That’s exactly what you’ll find in the town of Charlevoix. No wonder visitors become regulars, and the Charlevoix region becomes a summer family tradition.

Split-Rock-Lighthouse-at-Sunset-L-ake-Superior.jpg?mtime=20200115143004#asset:107696Split Rock Lighthouse on the Lake Superior shore © Gian Lorenzo Ferretti Photography / Getty

Minnesota: Lake Superior State Parks

Speaking of the beaches of the Great Lakes, northern Minnesota’s Lake Superior shoreline is home to eight state parks where nature lovers’ dreams come true. All reachable from the city of Duluth, some highlights include: Gooseberry Falls delivers not only Lake Superior shore but also Instagrammable waterfalls, rivers, and forest, a paved cycling trail, and excellent cross-country skiing; Split Rock Lighthouse, with a superb visitor center, exhibits, and documentary film; Temperance River offers gorges, footbridges, and waterfalls for hikers to discover; and Cascade River boasts trails that can get you up Lookout Mountain for – what else? – spectacular views.

Mississippi: Gulf Coast Islands

The Gulf Coast is always a good idea, and Mississippi’s Gulf Islands National Seashore is the perfect place to get up close and personal with the region’s wild side, amazing gourmet seafood, and craft beer.

The six barrier islands beckon visitors with attainable adventures like exploring the bayous and marshland of Cat Island; taking a boat ride from Biloxi to the beach at Deer Island; doing some serious pelican watching (and photography) on Horn Island; and hitting up the tiny islands of Round Island and Petit Bois for a look at visiting migratory birds (they’re here for the great seafood, just like you).

Missouri: Hermann

Just an hour west of St Louis, in the Missouri River valley, the town of Hermann is like stepping into a wormhole to old-world Germany. Start at Historic Hermann Museum for an overview of the settlement of the area from the 1830s to the 1900s. Then be sure to pack an appetite for comfort food and good local wine as you explore local eateries and favorite sights such as: Deutschheim State Historic Site with its exhibits and galleries of artifacts from the days when German immigrants settled here; Hermann Farm with its living history exhibitions; and a variety of excellent local wineries.

Bridger-Mountain-Range-near-Bozeman.jpg?mtime=20200115143041#asset:107697The mountains are never very far from Bozeman, Montana © Carol Polich / Lonely Planet

Montana: Bozeman

By Western standards, Bozeman is “near” both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, though folks from back East will notice that “near” can mean a few hours in the car. But we love Bozeman not just for its proximity to amazing parkland and amazing skiing but also for the city itself, a college town with great community spirit, food that even Californians envy, and one of the finest museums in the US, the Museum of the Rockies.

Set aside most of a day to take in all the museum has to offer, from its excellent planetarium to its Montana history division, natural history exhibitions with a special emphasis on the dinosaur fossils unearthed in Bozeman’s backyard at Hell Creek, and its living history pioneer cabin. In Bozeman, you’re never far from a gorgeous mountain vista or a great meal – we especially love the huge, reasonably priced sandwiches at the Pickle Barrel.

Nebraska: Grand Island

When it comes to friendly, historic towns, we love Grand Island. The community may be best known for its access to the epic Sandhill Crane migration here in central Nebraska, but that’s just where the fun begins.

Start in the town’s historic downtown, known as the Railside District, to take in the finely restored buildings, then grab a craft beer and grub at one of the excellent downtown breweries. Then explore the city’s Stuhr Museum with its Railroad Town pioneer village and beautifully landscaped grounds, and take a dip in one of Grand Island’s public pools. Be sure to visit the gentle Platte River, an important landmark from the days when settlers from the East headed west across the prairie.

A-road-through-Valley-of-Fire-State-Park.jpg?mtime=20200115143122#asset:107698Located near Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park features some of Nevada’s most unique landscapes © Alexander Howard / Lonely Planet

Nevada: Valley of Fire State Park

How did Nevada’s Valley of Fire get its name? How about 40,000 acres of red sandstone? Here in Valley of Fire State Park you’ll come face-to-face with the ancient, including petrified trees and petroglyphs left by native people more than 2000 years ago.

Hit the park’s visitor center for an overview and great exhibits devoted to prehistoric times, geology, and the history of the region – pick up maps and tips here as well. As wild as the terrain looks, the park still provides two campsites with tables and grills and running water (including RV hookups), plus miles of trails for those who want to explore this unique environment.

New Hampshire: Seacoast

When you mention New Hampshire’s “coast” to some people, they look at you kind of funny. Sure, New Hampshire is mostly landlocked, and better known for its mountains and forests, but it also boasts a vibrant Atlantic shoreline that’s just a few miles long but includes the cool small city of Portsmouth with its cobblestone streets, winding alleys, historic John Paul Jones House and Strawbery Banke, and quaint shops like the excellent Riverrun bookstore, plus lovely beaches and more. Take kids to the Seacoast Science Center for a hands-on deep dive into marine life, including a “please touch” tide pool and other stuff the little ones love to explore.

Asbury-Park-architecture.jpg?mtime=20200115143158#asset:107699Architectural window details in silhouette at historic old casino along the boardwalk in Asbury Park, NJ © littleny / Shutterstock

New Jersey: Asbury Park

Asbury Park has been dubbed one of America’s Coolest Small Towns in 2017, featured on Bruce Springsteen’s debut studio album and regularly called one of the best destinations on the Jersey Shore. Yet few people have heard of it. It’s time to visit before everybody else gets the word. Conveniently located between New York City and Philadelphia, and boasting amazing seafood, art galleries, and legendary music venues and the boardwalk that Springsteen helped put on the map back in the 1970s, Asbury Park welcomes visitors from everywhere and delivers a first-rate weekend escape.

New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

The jaw-droppingly beautiful Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico, not far from the Texas border, are the site of a national park whose secret is about to get out: Carlsbad Caverns National Park offers beautiful terrain to hike, including canyons, cactus, grassland, and its namesake cave – which is a staggering 250ft high and 4000ft long.

Ranger-led tours of the caverns, plus hikes and other programs at the visitor center and out in the park’s terrain are a wonderful way of getting to know this noteworthy landmark.

Rock-Island-in-Blue-Mountain-Lake-NY.jpg?mtime=20200115143254#asset:107700Tucked away in America’s largest state park, Blue Mountain Lake is idyllic bliss © Patty Barker / 500px

New York: Blue Mountain Lake

When visiting New York’s six-million-acre Adirondack State Park, it’s easy to forget you’re even in New York – the mountains and lakes make you feel transported to, say, Wyoming. Of all the communities in this, America’s largest state park, Blue Mountain Lake is an ideal place to begin your exploration of the region, thanks to its incredible namesake lake and the Adirondack Experience, an immense museum with state-of-the-art interactive exhibits devoted to the natural history, human history, and wildlife of the Adirondack Mountains.

Set aside at least a full day for the museum, or visit more than once in between paddling local waterways, hiking to scenic overlooks, and enjoying great BBQ and craft beer just about everywhere you turn. Just up the road from Blue Mountain Lake, Great Camp Sagamore offers a rustic, unplugged experience you’ll never forget.

North Carolina: Boone & Blowing Rock

Take the Blue Ridge Parkway into North Carolina and you’ll notice that the area around the town of Boone seems to have received more than its fair share of stunning scenery. Endless hiking trails and scenic overlooks abound outside of town – you must experience the Mile High Swinging Bridge with its views of the Carolina Piedmont.

In town, there’s just as fine a variety of living history like the Hickory Ridge Museum and the Daniel Boone Heritage Gardens. In nearby Blowing Rock, you’ll love the Ultimate Adventure park’s ziplines, and the town’s nice array of quaint shops and indulgent spa treatments.

North-Dakota-Badlands.jpg?mtime=20200115143337#asset:107701Dickinson is the gateway to North Dakota’s iconic Badlands © Rruntsch / Getty

North Dakota: Dickinson

Cowboys + dinosaurs – what’s not to love about North Dakota’s star attractions? The town of Dickinson is best known as the gateway to amazing Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and it enjoys two scenic byways, the Old Red Old Ten and the Kildeer Mountain Four Bears.

But the town itself is decidedly ready for its close-up. The Dickinson Museum Center exhibits life-size dinosaurs, fossils, and other reminders of ND’s prehistoric residents; an assortment of beautiful spots like Patterson Lake Recreation Area and West River Community Center for watersports; and annual festivals like Roughrider Days and the Ukrainian Festival bring the community together and are a great time to pay a visit.

Ohio: Put-In Bay

Ohioans know there’s a 2.5-by-5-mile island in Lake Erie that makes for a spectacular vacation. And now you know too. Put-In Bay is one of those family escapes that pack plenty of great activities and attractions into a small package.

The island boasts a cave you can explore, winery tours, parasailing, jet skiing, and fishing for the area’s prized walleye. And don’t miss the chance to ride the elevator up to the observation deck atop of Perry’s International Peace Memorial for endless views of Lake Erie all the way to the Cleveland skyline when the air is clear.

Downtown-Tulsa-during-twilight.jpg?mtime=20200115143423#asset:107702Oklahoma’s second-largest city is still an underrated charmer © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Oklahoma: Tulsa

You don’t have to be a devotee of folk singer Woody Guthrie, composer of “This Land Is Your Land,” or of novelist S.E. Hinton, who wrote The Outsiders when she was 15 years old, to fall in love with Tulsa. But it won’t hurt. Those two pop culture iconoclasts, whose work happens to have deeply touched and even transformed lives, hailed from this Oklahoma city.

That may not be a coincidence: From its unique 100-acre Gathering Place public park along the Arkansas River to the Philbrook Museum’s collection of art from the classics to the modern era in a Renaissance-style villa built by the founder of Philips Oil and donated to the city in the 1930s, Tulsa exceeds expectations. You can even take a tour of a house that played a starring role in Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation of The Outsiders – the house has been meticulously restored and outfitted with artifacts and film memorabilia.

Oregon: Columbia River Gorge

Choosing a National Scenic Area for your next trip guarantees you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty. And the Columbia River Gorge is the largest designated scenic area in America, with vistas that rival any in the world. The Columbia River runs from its source in the Canadian Rockies down through Washington State and into Oregon, where it eventually meets the Pacific.

Along the way, it has cut a majestic gorge through the Cascade Mountains, delivering dozens of waterfalls, some of which can be ogled right from the Historic Columbia River Highway. The opportunities for outdoor recreation along the way are extraordinary, including cycling the Post Canyon mountain bike network or hiking up Dog Mountain. And, this being the Pacific Northwest, you can pretty much count on great craft beer, fresh locally raised fare, and an array of pinot noir, chardonnay, and other fine wines.

Pennsylvania: Alleghenies

It’s time to get to know the Alleghenies, Pennsylvania’s vast south-central region between Pittsburgh and Gettysburg. You can expect a warm welcome in small towns that boast covered bridges and elegant Victorian-era homes.

Elsewhere, explore miles of mountain trails on foot or on two fat tires, and dive into this important historical region with its rich Native American legacy, Revolutionary War landmarks, and reminders of the early days of the republic, when this was literally the American frontier. College sports fans will enjoy a stop in State College, home to Penn State and its loyal fans, not to mention tasty comfort food and craft beer.

Puerto Rico: Culebra

We’ll get this right out in the open: when your friend tells you she’s visiting Puerto Rico but refuses to give away exactly where she’s headed, she may be headed to the 10-square-mile island of Culebra, about 20 miles off PR’s Fajardo coast.

Fans of Culebra, which was a US naval base until 1975, have good reason to keep it top secret. Twenty percent of the island is a designated national wildlife refuge, protecting endangered sea turtles and other wild denizens. So far, the island has been untouched by giant hotels, casinos, golf courses, and fast-food restaurants. If that sounds like heaven, get ready to explore Culebra’s “diamond-dust” beaches (the star is Flamenco Beach, but you’ll find others that are more secluded), snorkeling sites, and hiking trails.

Point-Judith-lighthouse-at-sunrise-Narragansett-Rhode-Island.jpg?mtime=20200115143547#asset:107703Narragansett packs Rhode Island’s best qualities into an easily digestible size © Shobeir Ansari / Moment / Getty

Rhode Island: Narragansett

Everybody knows that Rhode Island is the smallest state geographically. What everybody also needs to know is that the small size belies a wealth of vacation opportunities. Narragansett may be Exhibit A: the town is home to four popular beaches, minutes away from affordable hotels, B&Bs, and vacation rentals via the town’s fine public transportation system. You can also opt for camping at Fishermen’s Memorial State Park, which locals prize for its “seaside village” atmosphere.

Get ready to snap pics of the Point Judith Lighthouse at the entrance to Narragansett Bay, and set aside some time to explore the unique and vital exhibitions at the Pequot Museum, devoted to Native American history and culture and the natural history of the New England region from prehistoric times through the arrival of European settlers and beyond.

South Carolina: Greenville

If you haven’t already heard the great word-of-mouth generated by folks who have visited Greenville, take it from us: if your idea of vacation perfection is a charming Main Street packed with great art galleries, excellent local restaurants, and a cycling- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure and outlook, this is a place you must see for yourself.

Start in lovely Falls Park, where the 345-foot-long Liberty Bridge crosses the Reedy River (you can grab a great cup of coffee at the bridge entrance). Cyclists will want to hit the curiously named Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail (say it five times fast, or just call it “Swamp Rabbit,” as locals do), which runs more than 20 miles from Lake Conestee Nature Park to the nearby town of Travelers Rest. Tour local craft breweries, visit one of the local live theaters, hit up local galleries, studios, and public murals, and you’ll soon be one of the people spreading Greenville’s great word-of-mouth yourself.

boxwork-rock-formations-in-Wind-Cave.jpg?mtime=20200115143729#asset:107705Boxwork is an rare type of rock formation that forms honeycomb-like structures in caves © Zack Frank / Shutterstock

South Dakota: Wind Cave National Park

What’s the oldest national park you’ve perhaps never heard of? Wind Cave, in the prairie grasslands in the southwestern corner of South Dakota, where the buffalo roam along with elk and other wildlife, was founded in 1903 and consists of lovely preserved prairie aboveground and an intricate cave system below, known for rare rock formations called boxwork.

Easy hikes and ranger-led programs abound, including a 1-mile round-trip hike from Elk Mountain campground, a loop from Prairie Vista visitor center, and, of course, tours of the cave. Note that as we publish this story, the elevators at Wind Cave are closed for maintenance – please check nps.gov/wica before planning your trip. Ranger programs, including an excellent documentary film, and above-ground activities remain open daily, and access to the cave will resume when maintenance is complete.

Tennessee: Franklin

Psst: seventeen miles south of Nashville, the welcoming small city of Franklin beckons with history (for starters, it was founded way back in 1799 and named for Founding Father Benjamin Franklin), great dining (there are more than 500 restaurants to choose from, and we especially love the upscale versions of Southern favorites like fried chicken and oyster po’boys), and unique shopping for locally made apparel, crafts, and snacks (if you haven’t the Tennessee favorite Goo-Goo Clusters, do yourself a favor).

Start on Main Street, designated a “Great American Main Street,” learn about the 1864 Battle of Franklin (and see the bullet-riddled Carter House), and spend some time on the Natchez Trace Parkway, which runs through Franklin and the village of Leiper’s Fork, where great art galleries rub elbows with fantastic BBQ ­– the Natchez Trace runs from Nashville all the way to Natchez, Mississippi, and is the eighth most-visited site in the National Park system.

El-Paso-Texas.jpg?mtime=20200115143817#asset:107706El Paso is a cultural melting pot with influences from the Southwestern USA and Mexico © Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

Texas: El Paso

El Paso’s unique location, in the far western corner of Texas, bordering both Mexico and New Mexico, utterly defines the city’s culture. As national attention has focused on this border region, El Paso has been in the midst of a construction boom, including new hotels, the restoration of a streetcar lines, new craft breweries, and even a Minor League Baseball team, the Pacific Coast League’s Chihuahuas, part of the San Diego Padres franchise.

Reasons to get to know El Paso include the beautiful El Paso Museum of Art with its collection of 12th-through-21st-century works; Franklin Mountains State Park, the largest urban park in America within city limits, with elevations reaching more than 7,000 feet above sea level; and, of course, a unique culinary tradition that blends Mexican traditions like exquisite tacos with Texas’s love of good steak, plus upscale taverns serving innovative dishes and great cocktails.

Utah: Moab

Sure, you want to visit Utah’s amazing national parks, but, like many travelers, you’re not sure where to start? One word: Moab. The Utah town is in close proximity to both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, providing you with a comfy home base from which to explore the incredible red rock landscape that makes some visitors feel as if they’ve landed on Mars.

Here in Moab, affordable lodging, great Southwestern and gourmet food, and the Colorado River make for a beautiful stay. When you’re not hiking in one of the two national parks, be sure to set aside time to discover Dead Horse Point State Park, along the Colorado River with its seven-mile rim trail and great vistas that include some of the terrain in Canyonlands.

Autumn-in-Groton-Vermont.jpg?mtime=20200115144000#asset:107707Groton, Vermont, in the state’s Northeast Kingdom region, is great in the fall © Nan Zhong / Moment Open / Getty

Vermont: Northeast Kingdom

As the name may suggest, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom region, including Caledonia, Esses, and Orleans counties, is a world unto itself. You won’t find cities up here, but you’ll find plenty of elbow room, pristine lakes, and forests just waiting for you to discover them.

An array of state parks serves as the best way to plan your Northeast Kingdom adventure, offering campsites, cabins, and cottages – and in some cases a lodge – from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Groton State Forest will keep you busy with more than 26,000 acres of fly fishing, swimming, and hiking.

Virginia: Jamestown Settlement

If you’re looking for a living history experience that dates back to the early colonial days, Virginia is the place to be. Jamestown Settlement is where the first permanent English colony was settled. Here, visitors are introduced to the settlement’s origins as a business venture, the ways in which the English arrival affected the local Powhatan Native American way of life, and the arrival of the first enslaved Africans on Virginian soil.

You’ll want to spend most of a day exploring gallery exhibits, documentary films, and outdoor re-creations of a Powhatan village, a 17th-century fort, and even a replica of a sailing ship that brought the first English colonists to what they called the New World. While you’re in the Jamestown area, you can further immerse yourself in colonial history with a visit to nearby Colonial Williamsburg and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

The-Hoh-Rainforest-on-the-Olmpic-Peninsula_0.jpg?mtime=20200115144133#asset:107708A path through the Hoh Rain Forest is filled with old temperate trees covered in green and brown moss © Roman Khomlyak / Shutterstock

Washington: Olympic National Park

Yes, the American West is so packed with amazing national parks, we can forgive you if you’ve overlooked a true gem on the Washington State coast. Olympic National Park covers nearly 1 million acres that includes an exceptional variety of ecosystems, including mountains, old-growth rainforests (yes, it may be drizzling during your visit, but that’s all part of the experience), and more than 70 miles of coast.

Visit the Elwha Valley, just 11 miles from the town of Port Angeles (a good place to find charming, affordable lodging), which is home to the popular Elwha River and the surrounding mountains that make for a lovely introduction to the park’s offerings. Hurricane Ridge is easily reached and the views on a (rare) clear day are incredible. Hit the Olympic Hot Springs Road and Whiskey Bend Road for access to a number of great trails like the Boulder Creek and Humes Ranch loop.

West Virginia: Lewisburg

If you love truly cool small towns as much as we do, you must discover Lewisburg, on the Greenbrier River, with its fabulous arts, outstanding artisanal food scene (think way beyond traditional Southern fare here, with menu items like the Middle Eastern spiced lamb burger), and eminently shoppable downtown.

Don’t miss the unique Salt Cave and Spa and its indulgent treatments and unusual location within a cave system. The opulent Greenbrier Resort is worth-it splurge that delivers value, and the grounds and restaurant are worth a visit even if you’re not spending the night. Head out along the stunningly beautiful Greenbrier River Trail, a repurposed railroad route that’s part of the West Virginia state parks system, for a hike or cycling trip; you won’t run out of things to see – the trail is 70 miles long.

Statue-of-Vince-Lombardi.jpg?mtime=20200115144333#asset:107709The statue of coach Vince Lombardi outside the Historic Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers and also known as The Frozen Tundra © Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock

Wisconsin: Green Bay

Sure, the name Green Bay is synonymous with NFL football, but there’s a lot more to this beautiful region of Wisconsin than adorning one’s head with an immense cheese replica. The city if named for the big bay on which it stands, and you’ll find plenty of “green” in the city’s wild-ish places, like the Brown County Reforestation Camp and the Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve.

Families will love the Children’s Museum of Green Bay with plenty of hands-on experiences, the National Railroad Museum, including train rides through October and a Polar Express at holiday time. For grownups, brewery tours take you behind the scenes for a taste of the fine crafting going on here. Oh, and if you absolutely must have a football-themed experience in Green Bay, the Packers Heritage Trail is a cool city walk that takes you to commemorative plaques dedicated to the creation of the Green Bay Packers franchise.

Wyoming: Rockies to Tetons

First of all, yes, we adore Yellowstone. But we want you to know that Wyoming offers a wealth of other outstanding outdoor adventures. One of our favorites is the Rockies-to-Tetons road trip that takes you from the Snowy Ridge, in southeast Wyoming, all the way to Grand Teton National Park. Your first step will be visiting the Snowy Ridge Range, which includes the 12,000-foot Medicine Bow Peak, via nearby Laramie. Then you’ll have to tear yourself away from all that gorgeousness on your way to Dubois, where affordable hotels and the Longhorn Ranch Resort are options (as is taking in a Friday-night rodeo in summer).

From Dubois, you’ll head toward the Grand Tetons, ideally with a stop for rafting the Snake River in Jackson, then enter the beautiful national park, where you can try your hand at shooting some of the iconic peaks and landscapes made famous by photographer Ansel Adams. (And from Grand Teton National Park, you can sneak a visit to adjoining Yellowstone with no additional entry fee.)

Produced by Budget Travel for GEICO. All editorial views are those of Budget Travel alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.

How rum is making at comeback at these 6 distilleries

Long associated with sugary cocktails or just splashed into a Coke, rum is making its craft comeback at a few fine distillers around the US and the Caribbean.

Quick: what’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions rum? Chances are you think about sticky-sweet, umbrella-garnished beach drinks, fraternity parties, or Coke. But in 2020, this historic spirit is more diverse, sophisticated and, most importantly, funner than ever before, as American small distilleries produce a variety of styles – both classic and creative. Their spirits can hold their own against time-tested legacy brands.

Like any craft spirit, rum is arguably best enjoyed at the source, where you can talk to distillers and see how it’s made. Here are a few to check out around the US and Caribbean when you’re passing by.

1. Lassiter Distilling Company: Knightdale, North Carolina

Yes, the Caribbean is the heartbeat of the rum industry and rum was a cornerstone of Colonial New England’s economy, but here’s a little lesser known fact: before the pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, rum was drunk all along North Carolina’s coast. The region was a hub for the sugar trade, after all.

That’s one of the nuggets of info you’ll learn when you visit Lassiter Distilling Company, a rum-focused distillery in Knightdale, a charming town just off Route 64, which connects Raleigh to the beach. Among the many independent businesses that have sprung up here in the past few years is Lassiter, which is located in a gorgeous old railroad depot. Drop in on a Saturday for a distillery tour or schedule a visit for another day in advance. The husband and wife distiller/owners turn out a silver (unaged) rum, one that’s aged in classic American white oak and a clever Rum au Café that’s infused with Raleigh Coffee Company coffee beans, each of which you can sample as part of the free tour. Got time? Stick around for a rum drink at their small yet elaborately designed tiki bar, which is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

LDC-TR-2018-2.jpeg?mtime=20200114145821#asset:107678Potted plants dot the tasting room of Lyon Distilling Co. © courtesy Lyon Distilling Co.

2. Lyon Distilling Co.: Saint Michaels, Maryland

When Lyon Distilling launched in 2013, it completed a drinking trifecta. Now travelers can visit a brewery, a winery and a distillery, all within Saint Michaels, a one-square-mile town on the Chesapeake Bay’s picturesque eastern shore. Located 45 minutes from Annapolis and 90 minutes from Washington and Baltimore, the town attracts makers of all sorts, like boat-builders and brewers. That, along with the fact that the bywaters of the Chesapeake were a rum-running hub during Prohibition, convinced co-founder Jaime Windon that this was an ideal spot to open a distillery and make maritime spirits. “The proper shore is 90 minutes from us. With all the sailors coming through there, making rum feels right on Bay,” Windon says. Situated in a former flour mill, Lyon turns out dark and unaged rums, over-proof expressions, and several special products, like limited-edition holiday releases and coffee rum, a rich, enchanting spirit flavored with fresh ground coffee from a local roaster and cocoa shells from a DC chocolatier. Free tours with tastings are offered every day at 2PM.

3. Hye Rum: Stonewall, Texas

Tourists have long traveled to Texas Hill Country, birthplace of Lyndon B. Johnson, to visit his ranch. This region, which extends to parts of Central and Southeast Texas, is covered with rocky soil, the kind that lends itself to fine vintages in Europe. Accordingly, it’s long been a draw for winemakers, and there are presently more than 65 wineries along the 25-mile strip of Interstate 290 that connects Fredericksburg to Johnson City. But that’s not why we’re here.

Hye – population: 100-plus – sits along that stretch and in addition the nearly dozen wineries you can visit there, you’ll find Garrison Brothers, a whiskey distillery, and Hye Rum, a distillery that opened in 2017. It’s set in a quaint house that co-owner Stephanie Houston describes as “slightly larger than a tiny house.” They produce five different French-island-inspired rums with molasses from Louisiana. Visit for a tour with the distiller then settle in at the low-key bar with a flight of rums, each of which delivers bold flavors befitting of the Lone Star State. A souvenir tasting glass is part of the package. Cocktail classes are also on offer.

4. Havana Club: Havana, Cuba

Since the Obama administration relaxed restrictions on travel to Cuba, Americans have headed posthaste to this tropical island to ogle at its colorful architecture, abundant vintage cars, and so much else. The food, of course, is a big draw for many, but for some, the most compelling lure is the preferred spirit of one of Cuba’s most legendary residents, Ernest Hemingway, who penned seven books just outside Havana.

The historic and massive Havana Club distillery, which sits in the nation state’s capital, is not open to the public, but you can learn about the rum-making process – from sugar farming to barrel aging – and its history in great detail at the Havana Club Museum of Rum. Located in a colonial townhouse built in the 18th-century, the museum’s exhibits provide a closeup view of the many crafts involved in rum production, from building stills and constructing barrels to distillation. And, of course, you can experience the consumption part for yourself in the 1930s-era tasting room.

NB50010.jpg?mtime=20200114145636#asset:107677A bottle of Montanya on the taproom bar © courtesy Montanya / Nathan Bilow

5. Montanya Distillers: Crested Butte, Colorado

Situated in the West Elks, a little mountain range in the Rockies, Crested Butte is an incredible Colorado ski town and the wildflower capital of the United States. It’s also a mountain biking mecca and home of Montanya Distillers, a destination not only for its lively bar and restaurant, complete with live music, but for the in-depth lesson you can get on a tour about the quirks and beauty of making rum at 8800ft. Montanya’s staff, from founder and owner Karen Hoskin to the distillers to the bottling line, is 64% women, which is unique among the many producers in the world. Their special release, Valentina, highlights this, as every step in the process involved women.

Whether or not you tour the distillery, a flight of Montanya rums, which are made with molasses from Louisiana-grown sugar cane, is complimentary. Come for the samples, stay for dinner and a cocktail. Come for the samples, stay for dinner and a cocktail and live music. The cozy wood- and brick-heavy tasting room/eatery is a lively local hangout.

6. MISCellaneous Distillery: Mount Airy, Maryland

Meg McNeill, co-owner of MISCellaneous Distillery in rural Maryland, an hour north of Washington DC, describes her Popi’s Finest Rum as “rum that thinks it’s whiskey.” Like bourbon, it’s aged in new American oak barrels, which imbues Popi’s with its oaky flavors.

See for yourself on one of the tours they offer every weekend. Tours are free, but a $5 recommended donation is passed on to a local charity. Go to learn about the distillation and aging process, stay to create your own cocktail with a variety of made-in-DC mixers like Element Shrubb’s inventive vinegar-based drinks (honeydew-jalapeno, anyone?) and natural syrups from Pratt Standard Cocktail Company.

In addition to aged and silver rums, the distillery produces whiskey from grains harvested from the surrounding rural property, as well as vodka, gin, and bourbon. They all meet the approval, by the way, of husband-and-wife owners’ pup Jaimee, a friendly Bernese mountain dog. Got one of your own? Feel free to bring him along for a play session.

The Best Anti Theft Travel Bags in 2020

As a travel photographer and blogger, I carry a lot of expensive equipment when I travel and one of the biggest travel stressors is the risk of theft.

That’s why I am always on the lookout for the best anti-theft travel bags which are both functional and stylish.

Sadly, theft is a common problem for backpackers and holidaymakers. Whether it’s their pasty I’ve-not-seen-sun-in-a-year complexion, their lobster sunburn or their camera slung around their neck, tourists stand out a mile away.

Thieves loiter around crowded tourist attractions, sometimes working in pairs to distract and steal from you.

Being travel-savvy and keeping an eye on your belongings, isn’t always enough. Especially as thieves are constantly developing more sophisticated techniques for stealing from you including electronic theft.

Having an anti theft travel bag is becoming more important than ever.

Today we’re going to look at some of the best theft proof travel bags on the market in 2020.

From pretty theft proof travel purses with secret pockets to anti-theft camera bags with all the bells and whistles…

What you can expect from this article…

What is an anti-theft travel bag?

An anti-theft travel bag is a bag designed with travellers in mind which has additional safety features to reduce the risk of you being a victim of theft.

The perfect theft proof bag for travel would spacious, easy to access with lots of pockets whilst also being sturdy, waterproof and very difficult to steal from. It may have secret pockets, padlocks, strong zips or reinforced material which is slash proof.

girl wearing theft proof bag for travel

What features to look for in an anti theft travel bag

The following features are ones to look for when choosing an anti-theft bag for travel;

  • Anti-slash fabric – Reinforced with durable, fine metal mesh which makes it very difficult to slash it open with a knife. Slashing bags open is more common in very crowded environments where it is more likely to go unnoticed.
  • Secret zips – Backpacks sometimes have a secret zip on the back so that you can’t see how to access it.
  • RFID blocking – Thieves can now scan bank card details by being in close vicinity. RFID pockets protect your cards from electronic theft.
  • Lockable pockets and zippers.
  • High quality YKK zips which can’t be prized apart.
  • Steel enhanced shoulder straps – to prevent slashing.
  • Locking hardware – for securing your theft proof travel bag to an immovable object.
  • Waterproofing – no point keeping your belongings safe from theft only to have them ruined when you get caught in a shower!

Types of Theft proof Travel Bags

Hidden opening – the opening is hidden behind your back and very hard to reach without you becoming aware. However, these bags are not always safe from being slashed and don’t have padlocks.

Across body bags – these bags are great as you can keep a close eye on your belongings. You can also get a wide variety of bags in this style with additional security features.

Backpacks with safety features – backpacks need to have additional features since your belonging are out of view. Padlocks, hidden zips, slash proof material are all important features.

Lockable – many bags come with inbuilt padlocks and some have wires which you can wrap around your bag to securely attach it to an immovable object. You can also buy these separately.

Bum bags – no security features as such but bumbags can be good on a . night out to keep your belongings close to you. Also known as fanny packs in America.

The best anti-theft travel bags in 2020

Anti Theft Handbags and Theft Proof Purses for women

These days, you don’t have to choose between functionality and style, you can have both. Travelon is a great brand which makes anti-theft purses that are actually pretty. Many of them come in a range of colours and safety features.

Choose from a pretty backpack with a hidden zip or a fully theft proof travel purse depending on the level of security you feel comfortable with.

Here are a few of the best anti theft purses and handbags for travel…

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

The best Anti Theft Camera bags

As a travel photographer, I carry a lot of expensive travel gear. Therefore safety features like anti-slash, padded, waterproof material and secret openings with padlocks are all super important features to consider before buying a camera bag.

Make sure you get a spacious camera bag as you will no doubt add to tour collection over time.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Anti-theft day bags for travel

For me, the perfect anti-theft day bag would be spacious with lots of pockets. It’s also really important that it is waterproof for days when I get stuck in the rain.

I personally like bags which open from the back as I don’t have to faff around with padlocks but it’s virtually impossible for a thief to access the contents without you knowing. I had this bag when I travelled around the busy souks in Morocco and I always felt safe.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Anti theft backpacks

If it’s a larger backpack you are looking for, then here are still some great anti-theft backpacks on offer with companies such as Pacsafe. Again look for slash-proof material, padlocks, hidden pockets and the ability to lock it to an immovable object.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Anti theft Beach Bags

As a solo traveller, I usually face a dilemma every time I go to the beach. Do I take my camera to get some photos or do I go without valuables so I can take a dip in the ocean?

Luckily there is now a solution. Lockable, anti slash beach safes which can be locked to an immovable object.

I also like the idea of this fake sunscreen bottle where you can hide your phone, money and keys.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Did you find a theft proof travel bag that you loved?

Other Anti-Theft accessories

Alongside these theft-proof bags, you can also look into getting anti-theft accessories to help keep your money and belongings safe. From scarves and belts with hidden pockets to RFID protected purses, padlocks with mesh and portable safes.

Best Brands for buying Anti Theft Bags for Travel

The two most popular anti-theft travel bag brands are Travelon and Pacsafe. Both are available to buy on Amazon.

Pacsafe’s bags are often no-frills but packed with safety features and they have various options for larger backpacks as well as day bags.

Travelon has a huge variety of styles including smaller travel purses and handbags all with plenty of theft-proof features.

I personally prefer the look of Travelon bags which look slightly less obviously theft-proof.

Safety Tips for avoiding theft whilst travelling.

Whilst having a theft-proof travel bag helps, it’s important to take certain precautions when you travel. Here are my top suggestions which have kept me safe this far;

  • Always stay alert when you are in crowded places.
  • Wear backpacks over both shoulders and avoid wearing bags over one shoulder.
  • When you are in a crowd, consider wearing your backpack on your front.
  • You are especially vulnerable on public transport which is a theft hotspot. Make sure you keep one hand on your luggage at all times.
  • I always spread my money and cards across more than one bag.
  • Make use of hotel safes or if there is none, I leave my valuable with reception and get a receipt. It’s not ideal but better than keeping it in my room.
  • Put expensive cameras away when you are walking though somewhere crowded at night.
  • Avoid walking too close to the curb. Someone I travelled with was subjected to motorbike crime – it’s just not worth the risk!

I hope you’ve now found the perfect anti theft travel bag. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments below!

4 reasons why you should travel to the Bahamas this…

Hurricane Dorian was the worst tropical storm to strike the Bahamas in the country’s history. The effects of the storm, from severe wind damage to flooding, left scars on the archipelago that will take years to heal, but the Bahamas is on the rebound and ready to see visitors again.

Traveling to the Bahamas this winter is not only more affordable than usual, but visiting this season also directly helps a community working hard to resume life after Hurricane Dorian’s devastating destruction. Here are the top four reasons you should visit this Caribbean archipelago this winter.

1. You can give back on Grand Bahama

Hurricane Dorian caused catastrophic damage on Grand Bahama, but today the island is largely up and running and ready to accept visitors.

Grand Bahamas is a great destination for travelers who want to give back. The dog- and cat-loving world rallied around the Humane Society of Grand Bahama during and after Hurricane Dorian. Six shelter workers and one volunteer rode out the storm inside the shelter until it flooded and their own lives were put in danger (they had to swim out to safety). But by staying so long, they saved the lives of many animals who would have otherwise perished (sadly, many still did).

The animal shelter itself was severely damaged, but thanks to a global fundraising effort is slowing start to re-build. They are happy for volunteer help with the animals — you can take a dog or two for an outing or socialize at the shelter with the cats. The shelter welcomes volunteers 11am-2pm Monday to Saturday. Many of the shelter’s staff lost everything in the storm, and donations of new or lightly used clothing are also welcome.

How to get there: The airport in Freeport has re-opened and there are flights on BahamasAir and Silver Airways to and from Fort Lauderdale most days of the week. The ferry between Freeport and Fort Lauderdale is also operating again, as is the cruise port. Many of the hotels and restaurants have opened their doors again.

Where to stay: Many of Grand Bahama’s hotels have re-opened, including the all-inclusiveViva Wyndham Fortuna, which saw major renovations post Dorian. Rates are also down about 25% and the property is located on a pretty stretch of sand on the island’s south shore. Other lodging options include Pelican Bay, Lighthouse Pointe at Grand Lucayan, Bell Channel Inn and Castaways Best Western.


2. Experience Bimini blue on a budget

As a result of the hurricane, hotel prices across the islands have fallen in an effort to draw in visitors. As such, now is a great time to visit some of the more traditionally expensive Out Islands, like beautiful Bimini.

The water around Bimini is so well known, it has its own color named after it: Bimini blue. It’s the kind of place where life still moves slowly and locals get around by golf cart. Bimini was also once a favorite retreat for Ernest Hemingway, who came to write and indulge in his other passion, sport fishing, which is something else Bimini is known for.

How to get there: Bimini is the closest Bahamas island to the mainland US and is easy to access from Miami via airplane or a high-speed ferry service that makes the trip in just two hours. If you fly, you’ll arrive on South Bimini. Most of the accommodation is on North Bimini, which is just a short ferry ride away.

Where to eat: At the end of the day head to the Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marinafor a cold beer and fish sandwich at Sharky’s Bar & Grill. Located right by the pier overlooking the marina and the bonefish flats beyond, you can often see massive bull sharks swimming in the water just in front of the restaurant. You can also stay here, although the resort is definitely geared towards anglers.

Where to stay: Here you’ll find theHilton at Resorts World Bimini is the island’s only large resort and offers some great deals, especially if you stay mid-week when the vibe is much more laidback anyway. On the weekends the property has a party vibe when Floridians pop over on the ferry from Miami. The resort features luxe suites with floor-to-ceiling windows and amenities like a rooftop swimming pool, live action casino and 10 restaurants, bars and cafes. The property can also arrange day trips that include snorkeling in and around a partially submerged shipwreck (an old rum runner known as the SS Sapona).

3. Nassau is easy to get to

Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas and actually located on New Providence Island, but everyone seems to refer to the area as Nassau. At first glance, with its throngs of cruise ship passengers, careening jitneys and vendors selling straw-goods, Nassau might not be the Caribbean escape many are looking for. But that urban bustle is exactly why we love it: it’s been been a hustler hideout since 18th-century pirates were dropping their doubloons on rum and excitement. If you’re looking for a classic Bahamian beach, look no further than Cable Beach, just three miles from downtown Nassau.

How to get there: Nassau is the easiest island in the Bahamas to access from the mainland US with direct flights on multiple airlines. Outbound US travelers get to clear US Customs and Immigration on the ground in Nassau, which eliminates having to go through customs and border control in their arrival city.

Where to stay: If you’re looking for an all-inclusive property with good food on a lovely stretch of white sand on Cable Beach then check into the Melia Nassau Beach – All Inclusive. Part of the Baha Mar development, the resort has ocean facing rooms and suites to choose from as well as 7 restaurants and 4 bars onsite.

4. Cat Island is still pristine, undeveloped Bahamas

As an antidote to the hubub of Nassau, Cat Island sits in the Caribbean relatively untouched by tourism. Another of the Bahamas’ Out Islands, Cat Island, located some 130 miles southeast of Nassau, is still mostly undeveloped and known as one of the more budget-friendly islands. Derelict plantation ruins dot the islands, and the Hermitage atop Mt Alvernia forms the main historic site. Elsewhere, beaches are blissfully free of big-name resorts.

How to get there: There are two airports on Cat Island, Arthur’s Town Airport and New Bight Airport, which serve chartered and scheduled flights. There is also a mailboat service from Nassau to points around the island but it only runs weekly.

Where to stay: Check out the Pigeon Cay Beach Club, which has just 11 cottages right on a gorgeous three mile long white sand beach and a shabby chic hippie vibe. It isn’t fancy, but they do have WiFi now. Breakfast and dinner are served at the honor bar and you can also cook in your cottage’s kitchen. Explore the island by bike, canoe or kayak, which are all on offer to guests.

Budget Travel reader’s 2020 bucket list

We asked Budget Travel readers on Facebook to tell us what places are on their 2020 bucket list. Here are some of the top responses.

Big Bend National Park, TX
©Witold Skrypczak/Alamy Stock Photo

Big Bend National Parkin Texas provides some of the best stargazing sites in North America


Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

©John Woodworth/Getty Images

Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming is beautiful, and Yellowstone is a short drive away!


Las Vegas, Nevada

©f11photo/Shutterstock

Las Vegas is a perennial favorite (albeit difficult to do on a budget)


New York, New York©Yukinori Hasumi/Getty Images

New York, New York, the city of lights.


Alaska©mtnmichelle/Getty Images

Lots of Budget Travel readers are planning trips to Alaska in 2020!


Hawaii©Valentin Prokopets/500px/Getty Images

Who among us wouldn’t want a trip to Hawaii?


Bahamas©pics721/Shutterstock

Cruises to the Bahamas can be found for cheap rates!


Charleston, South Carolina©f11photo/Shutterstock

Charleston, South Carolina is a great place for a long weekend.


Niagara Falls, Canada©CPQ/Shutterstock

Niagara Falls is a great place to visit!


New Orleans, Louisiana©Micha Weber/Shutterstock

New Orleans, Louisiana (or NOLA), known for throwing a great party.


San Juan, Puerto Rico

©Martin Wheeler/EyeEm/Getty Images

San Juan in Puerto Ricois an explosion of color!


Seattle, Washington©cdrin/Shutterstock

Seattle, Washington has great weather and mountain views!


Sedona, Arizona

©Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

Sedona, Arizona might be a spiritual pathway to God


Catskills, New York©lightphoto/Getty Images

The Catskills in New York are a great road trip!

Manhattan’s top 7 dive bars for cheap drinks

Dive Bars In NycDive Bars In Nyc

© Peter Kim / Shutterstock

From Hell’s Kitchen to the South Street Seaport, these classic NYC watering holes still pour ‘em cheap and strong.

Across Manhattan, bars prevail. The Mayor’s Office counts at least 13,000 nightlife establishments in the borough, with still more new liquor licenses issued every week. But among the island’s posh lounges and trendy speakeasies charging $25 per cocktail, there remain a cherished handful of classic New York City dive bars.

These are the haunts that have survived the decades with their own kind of style: mismatched furniture, extended happy hours, charmingly surly bartenders, and wooden bars worn down from a billion wipedowns. You won’t find leather-bound mixology menus on this extreme shortlist. Just cheap drinks in dives from downtown to Midtown, each one serving up its own unique character.

1. Jeremy’s Ale House

Few bars outside the French Quarter can claim such sentimentality about Styrofoam cups, but those 32-ounce draft beers never tasted so good – or so cheap (just $6.50 to $10.50 for a nice selection). Since 1973, Jeremy’s has watered down locals and workers around the South Street Seaport, who pack around its many ale-house tables for drinks and bar grub, starting as early as 8 am on weekdays.

Nobody really knows why there are bras hanging from the ceiling, but it shouldn’t deter you. Because really, Jeremy’s draws an uncommon mix of Wall Streeters, construction workers, and true-blue New Yorkers – all of whom share the common interest of drinking cheaply in the familiar ambience of a simple, fun neighborhood joint.

2. 169 Bar

Slinging drinks since 1916, this Lower East Side barroom is a bonanza of old-Manhattan originality. The colorful sign over the door shows a multicolored martini tipping over, perhaps a harbinger of what’s ahead at 169, home of the pickle martini. Inside, it feels like anything can happen, from pool on a leopard-print table to soul and funk grooves under the disco ball, to tasting an array of oysters and seafood. But you’re in the right place if you just want to drink on a budget, with happy hour prices from 11:30 am to 7:30 pm daily. Bonus: At 169 Bar, you can text in your drink order for speedy service.

3. Milano’s

In the middle of Nolita’s high-priced cocktail scene is this affordable oasis. Milano’s has served up boozy standards since 1880, and now stands alone on a stretch of E. Houston Street as a staple dive for shot-and-beer specials (usually $5) and 5-8 pm daily happy hours. The long, narrow bar is perfect for both drowning sorrows or laughing with pals, either activity accentuated by the jukebox and crazy décor.

4. Doc Holliday’s

If you like your dive with attitude, Doc Holliday’s honkytonk is your joint. Occupying a prime spot on Avenue A at E. 9th Street, Doc’s often sports a sign out front discouraging moneyed/entitled types from whisking in for its cheap, potent pours. Expect friendly bartenders and a boozy crowd, many of whom arrive early for the 5-8 pm weekday happy hours, then stay for the pool table and rollicking jukebox.

5. Trailer Park Lounge

This dive is a little different, because its kitsch, like its drinks, are so strong. But for New Yorkers who want a little trailer-park flair in their firewater fun, hitch up to this Chelsea bar. Happy hours of $3 beers (including rarely-seen-in-NYC Shaefer cans) and $5 margaritas beckon daily from 4 to 6 pm. You can balance the booze with tater tots, sloppy joes, moon pies, and other down-home delights. It all suits this setting of Naugahyde furnishings and dazzling memorabilia that seem left behind from too many trailer-park yard sales.

6. Jimmy’s Corner

The dive-bar desert of Times Square still has a glorious winner in Jimmy’s Corner. Parked in the middle of W. 44th Street (just east of Broadway), this boxing-shrine bar was opened by former prizefighter Jimmy Glenn in 1971. It’s going strong today, thanks to devotees who pack into the slim front bar and back tables for strong pours by no-nonsense bartenders. There’s no happy hour, but on the bright side, drinks are wildly inexpensive (e.g. $3.50 for a vodka-tonic), and the bar is open from 10 am to 4 am daily.

7. Rudy’s Bar & Grill

There’s something lovable about a dive that’s survived condo culture despite its duct-taped seating. That’s Rudy’s, the self-proclaimed “historic dive bar in NYC” marked by a giant pink pig statue. This Hell’s Kitchen tavern opened in 1933 at the sunset of Prohibition. Today, most locals who love Rudy’s rely on its free hot dogs, if not for genuine sustenance, then to help them curb the drunkenness delivered from $12 pitchers. But this bar is lovable any way you want to drink it, from affordable top-shelf tipples to $4 shots (no happy hour need).

10 Wild and Tasty North American Food Trails

Navigate your way to unexpected flavors that locals savor.

Eating locally is a delicious way to enjoy your travels. But some corners of the United States and Canada offer more direct routes to falling for regional fare: food trails. Sure, there are food trails that are familiar for their states. (We’re looking at you, Wisconsin Cheese Tour and New York’s Buffalo Wing Trail!) This list, on the other hand, will direct you to 10 food-loving paths where eccentric and scrumptious tastes converge.

1. Cajun Boudin Trail, Louisiana

Southern Louisiana serves up several culinary-trail choices, which take travelers along the I-10 and LA-90 corridors for specialties like gumbo, jambalaya, alligator, and crawfish. But even more homegrown is the Cajun Boudin Trail, centered around Lafayette. Pronounced “boo-dan,” boudin is a sausage filled with meat, rice, and herbs that’s served across bayou country. The boudin trail will lead you to markets and restaurants to taste the best locally made links – plus other savories like fried boudin balls, cracklin (fried pork skin), smoked meats, and more. Bonus: Visit in October and fill up at Lafayette’s annual Boudin Cookoff.

2. Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, New Mexico

You may wonder what’s so special about a burger topped with cheese and chiles that it’s earned its own food trail. One bite of this juicy New Mexican specialty, however, should answer your question. When it comes to the magical flavor formula of salt, fat, acid, and heat, the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail has it all (including plenty of other chile-licious dishes). Navigate with the state-wide interactive map to tickle your taste buds with green-chile burgers from Taos down to Las Cruces.

3. Country Ham Trail, Kentucky

You wouldn’t be wrong to think of Kentucky for its Bourbon Trail or even its Fried-Chicken Trail. But the simply delicious Country Ham Trail is the state’s showcase for producers who have been curing ham for more than a century (sometimes inside bourbon rickhouses, for even more local flavor). Better still, visit the trail in September as it leads to Marion County’s annual Country Ham Days food and music festival.

4. Nova Scotia Chowder Trail, Canada

Atlantic Canada is easily one of the continent’s best seafood regions. And while the Lobster Trail is sure to impress travelers, Nova Scotia’s Chowder Trail leads to nearly 60 unforgettable chowder houses across the province. Let the interactive map guide you to the best bowls from Halifax to Cape Breton and beyond, and don’t forget your “chowder passport” to earn stamps along the way.

5. Tehama Trail, California

Northern California is famous for wine. But drive north towards Redding and Shasta Cascade to discover the riches of the Northern Sacramento Valley along the Tehama Trail – where olives and olive oil are beautifully cultivated. Starting from the town of Corning, the trail leads to some of America’s best olive farms, many of them with tasting rooms to sample artisanal oils, vinegars, and all manner of olives. Don’t miss the region’s honeys, pies, fresh produce, and, of course, spectacular wines.

6. Lowcountry Oyster Trail, South Carolina

Come for the scenery, stay for the sea-to-fork riches. The famous bivalves of South Carolina’s coastal Lowcountry region anchor this oyster trail, where travelers can sample every type of preparation – from fried to Oysters Rockefeller to raw on the half-shell. Find a handy map with suggested itineraries on the Lowcountry Oyster Trail site, covering oyster farms, shucking facilities, and oh-so-many great seafood restaurants, some serving oyster-loving craft-beer and wine pairings.

7. Richmond Dumpling Trail, British Columbia, Canada

Neighboring Vancouver is the city of Richmond, where Asian cuisine is abundant, and so delicious it may be the best on this side of the Pacific. Dumplings stand out in particular, making the official Richmond Dumpling Trail one of British Columbia’s gastronomic highlights. With the help of the trail website, you’ll learn about types of dumplings, best times of day to enjoy dim sum, and which restaurant-crawl itinerary is going to lead to the most satisfying dumplings for your eager chopsticks.

8. Fruit Loop, Oregon

For 35 miles, travelers to Hood River County can get loopy tasting the natural bounty of 17 farm stands, 10 wineries, three cideries, six berry farms, and two lavender farms. They’re all on the Fruit Loop, which marks its 27th anniversary in 2020. Download a map for easy touring by car or bike, then plan to take in the seasonal produce and year-round bites and beverages found only in central Oregon. Pick up a brochure at any site, get stamped at 14 farm stands, and get a Fruit Loop bag to help tote your edible souvenirs.

9. Tenderloin Trail, Indiana

Save your calories for this Hamilton County food trail, showcasing a mighty indulgent staple of the Hoosier State. Behold the tenderloin sandwich, composed of an oversized slice of pork that’s been pounded, breaded, and deep fried, and usually served on a comically small bun with burger fixings. (You can try grilled too, but why would you?) With the help of the trail’s online map, you can try more than 50 restaurants serving up this Indianan classic, and print your own Tenderloin Trail passport for July’s annual Tenderloin Tuesday specials.

10. A to Z Foodie Trail, Iowa

Pella, Iowa, may be a small town, but its bursting with tasty delights. So many that the region offers an A-to-Z Foodie Trail to showcase 26 different dishes and drinks unique to Marion and Mahaska Counties (southeast of Des Moines). The trail is a top tourist activity, guiding hungry travelers to sample a bevy of local foods, from apple pie at Pella Nursery and gouda cheese curds at Frisian Farms; to pigs in the blanket at Vander Pleog Bakery and Yoga Poser Pale Ale at Nocoast Beer Co.