9 Cheap and Exciting U.S. Destinations

Affordable travel destinations don't have to be boring. On the contrary, cities like these are among the most exciting, fun-packed and affordable vacation spots in the entire country! So if your student group is looking for a great place to unwind from school, relax and tour all of the best attractions, head to one of these top 9 cities!

1. Baltimore

One of the country's top historic seaports makes its way up the list of the most affordable U.S. cities. The average price of lodging in Baltimore in 2014 was around $138 although discount hotels, franchises, and small inns can be anywhere from $60 to $100, making it more affordable for students. The attractions in Baltimore, however, are fantastic. Go on free museum days to the Baltimore Museum of Art but don't miss out on the Inner Harbor where you can find the National Aquarium, or discover Edgar Allan Poe's grave and museum. Also stop by the National Baltimore Basilica, the oldest Roman Catholic church in the established United States.

2. Richmond

The capital city of the long-gone Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia, is not only a historic grand dame but an exciting and trendy up and comer. Plenty of amazing historical attractions are free to visit including Tredegar Civil War History Center and the Richmond National Battlefield Park as well as the Eppington Plantation among others. The Virginia Holocaust Museum is free, as well as the stunning Virginia Museum of Fine Arts which is open 365 days a year! War memorials, slave trails, gardens and parks, museums and the Virginia state capitol give you plenty to see and do in Richmond.

3. Minneapolis/St. Paul

Visiting the Twin Cities makes for a wonderful change of pace. Experience Midwestern charm with metropolitan flair in a two-for-one style vacation! With pretty affordable lodging and dining prices, Minneapolis/St. Paul is the perfect destination for easy middle America travel. Free attractions, for even more affordable touring, include the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, visiting the local lakes, free tours of the state capitol, music at the 331 Club, a tour of the Cathedral of St. Paul, and plenty of parks, tours, and demos around the cities. Festivals are found year-round, but you might want to steer clear during the bitter cold months as Midwest winters can get pretty brutal.

4. New Orleans

The Big Easy draws in millions of tourists every year and you can visit too, even on a budget! The closer to the French Quarter you go, the more expensive the lodging. So try further out in the Garden or Market Districts for cheaper lodging and simply ride the thrilling cable car to all your desired attractions within the city. Take advantage of free museum days, walkthrough and shop the French Quarter, see a cooking demo in the farmer's markets, and explore Jackson Square where you can see the gorgeous Saint Louis Cathedral.

5. Riverside, CA

Instead of going to L.A., San Francisco, or even San Diego, why not go a little inland to an affordable southern California alternative? Riverside, situated on the Santa Ana River, is a historic and incredibly lovely quintessential California city surrounded by mountains, orange trees and plenty to do for everyone. The average price of a hotel room is less than $100 a night, much cheaper than other California cities. Attractions, too, are affordable. Indoor and outdoor attractions range from historic homes and museums to gorgeous parks and botanic gardens. Many attractions in Riverside charge admission so make sure you visit during the free museum days and explore open markets, festivals and more!

6. Portland, OR

Trendy, affordable and proud of its weirdness, Portland is gaining popularity as one of the top tourist destinations in the United States. Set in the glorious and lush Pacific Northwest, Portland is chock full of outdoor activities. Don't spend money to enjoy the outdoors at places like Forest Park and the Grotto, Hoyt Arboretum or the International Rose Test Garden, one of the best in the world. The Portland Farmers Market is a hopping place and one of the most popular and free attractions in the city. If you're a reader, stop by Powell's City of Books, the purveyor of 1.5 million titles in the world's largest independent bookstore. But most of all, you don't want to miss out on Portland's weird festivals, going on all year long!

7. Phoenix

Under the hot Arizona sun, find yourselves among the desert landscapes cast in the brilliant purple and gold of a southwestern sunset as you have an outdoor adventure. Perhaps too hot in the summer, Phoenix makes for amazing winter vacations when the temperature drops to a more reasonable level. There's nothing better in Phoenix than touring its illustrious and rich history. Native American heritage sites abound, including the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park (free) which was built on the site of 1,500-year-old Native American ruins. Also, visit the exciting Enchanted Island Amusement Park for free touring and cheap game-playing fun, walk through the wonderful Phoenix art districts, sample some first-rate Mexican food, and explore the surrounding parks to fill your days with Phoenix beauty!

8. Nashville

Music City brings in tourists yearly for a couple of reasons: barbecue and the Grand Ole Opry. Midwest prices, southern charm, and metropolitan attitude make Nashville a sight for sore eyes. There's free live music every day of the year, extremely affordable good eats and loads of barbecue to enjoy, as well as incredible parks and art galleries with free admission. Several Civil War attractions offer free tours, as do many distilleries, breweries, and vineyards in the area. Get your history fix at the Tennessee State Capitol and Fort Donelson National Battlefield and end your day in a fabulous dive listening to live music and chowing on delicious eats.

9. Philadelphia 

Philly is the birthplace of the cheesesteak sandwich and free America as we know it. What more could you ask for but food and freedom? While people generally believe Philadelphia is an expensive city, there are ways to make it very affordable especially when you utilize the city's free attractions. The top free attractions include the ever-popular Independence Hall where the Constitution was signed, as well as the Liberty Bell and Congress Hall, all located in Independence National Historical Park. Carpenters' Hall originally hosted the First Continental Congress among other things and is open weekdays along with the United States Mint, Schuylkill River Waterfront, Edgar Allan Poe House, and the Institute of Contemporary Art.