When you're planning on a getaway during the holiday season, where to go and when really plays a big role with regards to the budget. Of course traveling nearer to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's means you'll find larger crowds and higher airfare prices around the country. But, if you know where to go, you'll be sitting pretty with your student group on a graduation celebration trip or educational adventure.
Airfare and hotel prices in all of the following destinations are lower this holiday season than they were last year, making them excellent choices. Wonderful even on their own, each of the following destinations has incredible educational and exciting attractions perfect for any kind of student group.
Airfare to the Lone Star State is down a whopping 11% with hotels bottoming out at 13% cheaper than last year. You have options all across the state but we recommend San Antonio. Home of the Alamo and the famous Riverwalk, San Antonio is the perfect mix of Mexican heritage, Republic of Texas pride, and southern charm. Popular for its museums, cultural attractions, religious and historic landmarks, and of course its food, San Antonio draws people in in droves yearly.
For educational trips, start off with either the Alamo, the site of the famous standoff between a handful of brave Texans against the invading Mexican army, or San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, home to four out of five of the original Spanish Catholic missions and a newly designated UNESCO Heritage Site. Sample the fun at San Antonio is the Schlitterbahn water park, or if you're really interested in animals, head to the San Antonio Zoo where you'll find over 9,000 animals representing 750 species. Whether you're in town for a celebration or for more out of school learning, you'll inevitably end up at the Riverwalk at some point. Over the holidays, the Riverwalk lights up to a spectacular show of color and vibrancy. You won't regret Texas for your holiday getaway.
Imagine spending your holidays at a Colorado ski resort - how cool would that be? Denver airfare is 7% cheaper than last year with hotels at an incredible 17% drop, making it extremely affordable. The beauty of the Rocky Mountains is unmatched during the winter holidays. Head first to Rocky Mountain National Park and find yourself in a wonderland of beauty surrounded by frozen lakes, skyscraper mountains capped with snow, and wildlife scattering around their natural habitats.
Denver's a big place though and the Mile High City has everything you'd ever want for a holiday getaway. Want to tour the city? No problem, hop on board with a local company and be guided through the history and intrigue of the old Gold Rush town. Find yourself drawn to science? Visit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science where you can explore exhibits on everything from the science behind Sherlock Holmes to mummies, dinosaurs, and more. Like animals? The Denver Zoo is among the oldest in the country and holds an amazing collection of exotic animals. The Denver Art Museum, Denver Botanic Gardens, United States Mint, and History Colorado Center are among the top attractions in the city and hold interest for both education and fun. After all your touring, end up at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center for some high end, upscale retail therapy in a beautiful outdoor mall.
Ever the budget destination, visitors to the Sin City will find four-star hotels with rooms $50 and under. How can you beat those deals? Vegas may not seem all that educational or kid-friendly but you'd be sorely mistaken. It does have a reputation but you can avoid all that by touring the affordable, and mostly free, attractions in the city.
Free attractions are something Vegas shines at so if you're on the Strip, look in at the Bellagio for a free fountain show and go inside to see the Bellagio Conservatory find a botanical garden and holiday decorations, jump over to the Silverton hotel and their indoor aquarium, or take a tour of the Ethel M Chocolate Factory. Most major hotels on the Strip perform free shows like the Fall of Atlantis at Caesar's or Circus Acts at Circus Circus. You can also find a Pinball Hall of Fame Museum, the Freemont Street Experience harking back to old Vegas with awesome attractions and cheap food, and an abundance of great Hawaiian food on the Strip!
Airfare to the Windy City is a whole 10% lower while hotels find their prices 9% cheaper than the year before. Of course, staying just outside the city center, or in a surrounding neighborhood, will drop your hotel prices even further. This Midwest city goes all out for Christmas and is home to the largest U.S. Christkindlmarket, a German-based Christmas market in Daley Plaza where you might find homemade goods, crafts, and German-influenced food.
For more Chicago based attractions, check out the Navy Pier (although the winter months make it quite chilly), the shopping on the Magnificent Mile, and the many museums. Be sure to visit the Shedd Aquarium, one of the largest indoor aquariums in the country, as well as the Lincoln Park Zoo (free!), the Field Museum of Natural History, the Chicago Art Institute, and the Museum of Science and Industry, the largest museum of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.
New York City is notorious for going all out for the holidays but this year you'll find some budget breaks with prices lower than usual. Honestly, who wouldn't love New York during Christmas? If you choose the Big Apple, you absolutely have to go by Rockefeller Center to see the tree, like the one shown above from 2013. The entire city goes all out for the holidays and you'll find decorations and Santas and horse-drawn sleigh rides through Central Park, ringing with Christmas bells.
The magic of New York's attractions is not dimmed in the least by the Christmas decor. You'll, of course, want to visit the Empire State Building and see the Statue of Liberty (the Staten Island Ferry will glide you by for free) while the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Central Park attractions, and Times Square make for amazing destinations as well. Explore your heritage at Ellis Island, discover the past at the Met and Guggenheim, shop along Fifth Avenue, and experience the energy in the city that never sleeps!