Though small towns are revered for their quiet atmosphere, idyllic charm, and ample space, there's something about visiting a bustling metropolis that really hits the spot. Cities are the most diverse hubs in the world, brimming with an endless variety of cultures, cuisine, and activities. At every turn, visitors are blessed with a multitude of sensory delights, from hopeful musicians strumming in the streets to the scent of local fare permeating the air.
Hitting the avenues of a big city can cost a pretty penny, though. The hit to the wallet makes it hard to enjoy the trip, as visitors consider how their vacation will affect everyday life once the fun is over. Luckily, there are plenty of cities across the U.S. that are as affordable as they are enjoyable. These urban getaways promise to deliver incredible experiences without breaking the bank.
10 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Saddle up and settle down in Oklahoma City, a spot known for its cowboy culture, friendly residents, and ever-emerging hip atmosphere. People who head to "The Big Friendly" should do these things for a well-rounded, budget-friendly experience:
- Get a taste of wild west history at The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum , featuring an extensive collection of Native American artifacts and rodeo memorabilia.
- Grab a bite at local hotspot Cheever's for a taste of contemporary comfort food in a cozy setting, or grab an Oklahoma staple fried onion burger at Nic's Grill .
- Stroll the beautiful grounds of the Myriad Botanical Gardens and go on a photo scavenger hunt of OKC's colorful permanent murals .
- Hit the repurposed warehouse spaces in Bricktown for a night of fun starring hip craft beer breweries, live entertainment, and water taxi rides down the canal.
9 Tuscon, Arizona
Set in the Sonoran Desert, the stunning natural scenery is reason enough to travel to Tuscon. Fortunately, there's an array of affordable activities to enjoy in the desert oasis. Add these to the itinerary for a nature-filled city adventure:
- Explore the dramatic desert landscapes at nearby Saguaro National Park or enjoy an urban nature experience at Sweetwater Wetlands Park .
- Admire the centuries-old San Xavier del Bac Mission , an ornate Spanish Colonial church on the Santa Cruz River.
- Analyze the art at the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun and Tuscon Museum of Art .
- Cool off with a sweet treat from Frost Gelato , gnash on an experimental dish at The Parish , and sample the unique salsas at BOCA Tacos Y Tequila .
8 New Orleans, Louisiana
The pulse of New Orleans beats strong. The streets of the historic French Quarter are constantly abuzz with live music and free entertainment guaranteed to get travelers' toes tapping. To make the most out of the least, check out these quintessential NOLA attractions:
- Gain a residents' perspective at the Lower 9th Ward Living Museum , focusing on the area's history over several generations.
- Read the fact-filled plaques highlighting notable buildings and art in the historic French Quarter, Bourbon Street, and the Garden District.
- Browse the stalls at The French Market , the diverse shops on Oak Street , and the culturally rich history at the Marie Laveau House of Voodoo.
- Enjoy a classic New Orleans cocktail at The Sazerac Bar and a sticky sweet beignet at iconic Café du Monde .
7 Louisville, Kentucky
The state famous for its fried chicken should also be known for Louisville, a diverse metropolis full of affordable attractions and good vibes. Louisville bound tourists can enjoy these activities for the ultimate budget-friendly getaway:
- Walk across the Ohio River (and cross state lines) on the Big Four Bridge connecting Kentucky and Indiana.
- Hit a homerun and learn about America's favorite pastime at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory , or watch the horse races at historic Churchill Downs , home of the Kentucky Derby.
- Tour the impressive architecture in Old Louisville and learn a thing or two about one of the city's most famous residents at the Muhammad Ali Center.
- Grab a bite, shop, and dance the night away at 4th Street Live! , an enormous entertainment complex in the heart of downtown Louisville.
6 Memphis, Tennessee
Music lovers will have no trouble keeping busy in Memphis, a city saturated by a rich musical history spanning many genres. TripSavvy named the southern hotspot the top overall travel destination in 2019, and the beat goes on with these entertaining attractions:
- Head to iconic Beale Street and choose from over 25 bars and clubs featuring live music, including legendary B.B. King's Blues Club, The Absinthe Room, and offbeat gem Wet Willie's .
- Satisfy cravings with some finger-licking barbecue at Elwood's Shack , Ballhoggerz, or Memphis' oldest restaurant, Coletta's .
- Appreciate the epic murals and street art that breathe new life into the city's buildings.
- Enjoy the hip-shaking history on display at Memphis Music Hall of Fame , and remember the past at the National Civil Rights Museum .
5 Albuquerque, New Mexico
Located in the high desert, Alburquerque is an ideal city getaway for those who enjoy sunny days, good food, and rich culture. Enjoy the best of New Mexico's urban scene with these attractions:
- Get a bird's eye view of the mountain landscapes on the Sandia Peak Tramway .
- Enjoy a culturally enriching experience at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center .
- Go back into time in nature at Petroglyph National Monument , featuring thousands of Ancestral Pueblo carvings and volcanic rock formations.
- Grab a deliciously affordable enchilada at Duran Central Pharmacy and some good old American fare at the Dog House Drive In .
4 Indianapolis, Indiana
There's plenty to do in Indianapolis, with attractions guaranteed to suit the tastes of every type of traveler. These essential Indy hotspots will leave tourists wishing they had more time in the underrated Midwestern treasure:
- Hit the sprawling Newfields campus, home to the prestigious Indianapolis Museum of Art, The Beer Garden, and the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park .
- Zoom through race car history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum .
- Enjoy some local cuisine at the Bluebeard gastropub and a slice of cake at the Instagrammable Cake Bake Shop .
3 San Antonio, Texas
Supercool Austin and Houston often overshadow San Antonio, a Texas city known for its delicious barbecue and famous historical locations. Guests won't be disappointed when they check out these noteworthy San Antonio attractions:
- Learn the intriguing history of The Alamo , a former Catholic mission and fortress recognized for its 1836 battle and transformed into a museum.
- Stroll down the scenic San Antonio Riverwalk , and stop at the diverse shops and eateries sprinkled along the waterway.
- Find serenity in the Japanese Tea Garden , a gorgeous arboretum on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
- Enjoy some open-air art in Essex Modern City, a large collection of colorful murals.
2 Washington, D.C.
The capital of the United States doesn't disappoint when it comes to free attractions. It's also an extremely navigatable spot with a grid setup guaranteed to keep even the most directionally challenged folks on the right track. There's almost too much to enjoy in D.C., but these activities are a great way to get started:
- Explore the top-notch free museums on the National Mall , including The National Museum of African Art, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and The National Gallery of Art, just to name a few.
- Visit the historical Lincoln Memorial and towering Washington National Monument , the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech.
- Enjoy the culturally diverse cuisines of the city, from Ethiopian fare at Beteseb Restaurant to Taiwanese-Cambodian fusion at Maketto , plus so much more.
1 Raleigh, North Carolina
A city known for its university needs to have a variety of affordable attractions to keep students happy, and there's something fun to do on every corner in beautiful Raleigh, North Carolina. Visitors should add these activities to their must-do lists to ensure an enjoyable stay:
- Hit the scenic trails at William B. Umstead State Park , part of the East Coast Greenway connecting Maine to Florida.
- Visit the futuristic James B. Hunt Library , an architectural masterpiece featuring fascinating interior design and state-of-the-art technology.
- Get a taste of Raleigh's nightlife at The Green Light , hidden behind a secret bookcase in The Architect Bar and Social House.
- Grab a mouthwatering pastry at the Layered Croissanterie and a satisfying sandwich at Capital Club 16 .