Finals are long over and you’re now packing in the middle of the best summer of your life. But there’s only one problem: you’re broke. Have no fear, my friend, you can bake your cake and eat it too! Road tripping throughout the U.S. is not only fun, but it'salso cheap if you know the tricks of the trade. There are tons of amazing cities throughout the country, but if you need a point of origin, here are five potential places to start, and the thrifty things to do once you get there!
1. New York, New York
This city gets a ton of media attention, but for good reasons: it has a ton of places to see and often for a low price. Apart from the better-known locations, such as Times Square, Central Park and the Empire State Building, here are some other spaces to try:
For the movie obsessed, Film Forum has an amazing repertoire of showings all for relatively affordable prices. Whether it’s for modern art or free weekly dance parties, be sure to stop by P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island. Admissions are suggested to be $10 for adults and only $5 for students. For awesome music, the Bowery Ballroom is by far the best place to go. If you can’t make it to a show, check out its other venues (Mercury Lounge, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Terminal 5, or Webster Hall) scattered around the city. Shows can get a bit pricey, but I’ve found tickets as low as $10 for up-and-coming, and local bands.
2. Boston, Massachusetts
Quite the opposite of NYC, Boston is by far one of my favorites cities in the U.S. Though the city is most famous for their beloved Red Socks and Fenway Park, there is so much more to see in the Massachusetts’s capital.
For all you history buffs, the Freedom Trail is a must. Hitting a total of 16 historic sites, it’s one activity you can't miss. If you want the guided tour, tickets are $11 for adults and $9 for students. Samuel Adams Brewery, named after one of the Founding Fathers, is the true taste of American beer and quite a show for all you “21 and up” college students. Though payment is not required, all donations benefit local charities. Built by a group of survivors of Nazi concentration camps, the New England Holocaust Memorial is an awe-inspiring structure smack in the middle of the city. Definitely a must see! Since it’s public, it’s completely free.
3. San Francisco, California
Jumping from the East coast all the way to the West is quite a leap, but also an amazing change of atmosphere. Loaded with tons of tourist locations, from Alcatraz to the Golden Gate Bridge, and activities like driving down Lombard Street or riding around on cable cars, San Francisco is jam-packed with fun outings.
As the city’s historical fishing district, Fisherman’s Wharf is full of attractions, from fresh seafood restaurants, to Fleet Week air shows, and even the World Famous “Bushman.” Home to the largest urban population of Chinese people outside of China, Chinatown is truly a “city within a city.” With its own government, not only is Chinatown a cool tourist location, it's also an important stepping-stone for Chinese immigrants. Castro Street, the first, largest and best-known gay neighborhood in the country, is packed not only with popular bars and clubs, but also sites of historic LGBT events and protests.
4. Seattle, Washington
A little farther north of San Fran is yet another cool coastal city. Famous for the Space Needle, for being the birthplace of the most beloved grunge bands in history – Nirvana – and even its rainy weather, Seattle has much more to offer the devoted traveler.
Washington hosts one of the largest summer festivals in the country, otherwise known as Sasquatch! Located in a teenage wasteland, the Gorge (Quincy, WA) is about a two and a half hour drive from the big city. Tickets have reached up to $300; however, the 4-day festival is home to one of the widest variety of music and high-profile artists. If music isn’t your thing and the great outdoors is calling your name, try skiing on Crystal Mountain. It’s a two-hour drive and skiing is offered during winter and spring. Daily tickets run up to $65, but it’s definitely worthwhile if you plan on staying there the whole day. If you want to actually explore the city, here’s a twist: try exploring it completely underground. Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour takes you to walk through Seattle’s subterranean passages that were once the main roads and storefronts of old downtown Seattle.
5. Paducah, Kentucky
Last but certainly not least is one town that seems to be consistently missed on most “top places to visit” lists. Located in the South and quite off-the-beaten path is Paducah. Aiding its rise to fame is its ever-increasing artist population, and its historic buildings. Founded roughly 200 years ago by the famed William Clark, Paducah has kept many of its historic building completely intact. The walk around town is already worth the visit.
If you do anything in this town, make sure it’s visit the National Quilt Museum. With an admission fee of $11 for adults and $5 for students, the museum provides quite a new way to look at art. If you’re looking for a more thrilling adventure, take a trip to Manchester, Tenn., which is only three hours away. Why, you may ask? Because it is home to Bonnaroo – most famous music festival in the country. Quite a bit pricey with general admission at around $200 (changing each year); however, the fest spreads out over four days with camping available and an amazing line-up each year. I can’t even pretend to keep calm when talking about this festival… it’s awesome!
Remember, these are just starting points. There are tons of cities to visit all over the country, so have fun and start exploring!