Plenty of Americans need a midwinter getaway, and most travelers strongly consider hotel and entertainment prices when making plans, according to “Best U.S. Cities for Affordable Getaways,” a survey from Travel + Leisure. Thirty-five cities are ranked in categories including bargain dining and cultural offerings.
Whether travelers seek snow or sun, the top 15 cities for wallet-friendly weekend escapes are:
1. Kansas City, Missouri. One of the few cities where hotel prices have stayed the same or even dropped in the past year, the survey finds. Sightseeing remains a great value, and meals are well priced. Kansas City is the survey winner for budget-minded, slow-smoked barbecue.
2. Nashville, Tennessee. A locavore-friendly food scene earns the city high marks for burgers, cafes and microbrews.
3. San Antonio, Texas. Plenty of free attractions, such as all five of the city’s historic missions, including the Alamo, and the Riverwalk, a 15-mile stretch of urban ecosystem restoration, make San Antonio a popular spot.
4. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. A down-to-earth metro area, the Twin Cities has 20 lakes and more than 200 miles of biking and walking trails. The Twin Cities scored near the top of the survey for easy-access parks, where trails get plowed during the long winters.
5. Memphis, Tennessee. Street performers provide nearly omnipresent—and free—music. Levitt Shell, where Elvis was the opening act one night in 1954, is a must-see. Finger-friendly gourmet food is easy to come by, according to the survey.
6. Salt Lake City, Utah. A pleasantly spic-and-span city, home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is family-friendly, peaceful and reasonably priced. Take advantage of a discount pass that pays for itself by bundling a long list of free meals and attractions.
7. Houston, Texas. Restaurant meals are about $3 cheaper than the national average. Houston also scored in the top 10 for its classical music. Don’t miss the barbecue or the folk art Beer Can Residence.
8. Savannah, Georgia. Pedestrian-friendly charm and loads of happy hour specials on River Street are popular features. The city also offers tours inspired by the best-selling book (and movie) “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
9. Austin, Texas. Many of the Texas capital’s diversions have a young vibe, since they are geared toward local college students and young techie types.
10. Providence, Rhode Island. The only northeastern city to make the budget-friendly top 10 this year, perhaps thanks to its crowd-pleasing dining, arts and theater scenes.
11. Portland, Maine. Winter is a cost-cutting time to visit, and travelers can still enjoy Portland’s highly ranked microbrews, coffees and indie boutiques.
12. New Orleans, Louisiana. Live music and fabulous food in abundance, found at often-free festivals, are top features, as is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, resting place of the famous Voodoo queen Marie Laveau.
13. Portland, Oregon. The city’s top ranking for mass transit makes it possible to avoid a car rental, a great cost-cutting measure.
14. Charleston, South Carolina. Travel + Leisure advises joining Culinary Tours of Charleston for $40, a bargain that lets travelers meet award-winning low-country chefs, heirloom bakers, and artisanal food producers.
15. San Juan, Puerto Rico. Airfares into the Puerto Rico capital have become more competitive, making this centuries-old port city a great choice for those who want to beach it along with some historic charm.