Celebrate the New Year with a well-deserved vacation! You don't have to break the bank, though, but visit one of these amazing affordable destinations that don't skimp on the sites. From East Coast towns to islands in the Gulf of Mexico and perhaps even the Caribbean, your student group will ring in the New Year in style!
In the mountains of Pennsylvania you'll find a quaint little town with a lot to offer. The Poconos is the perfect budget friendly New Year's destination for those student groups who enjoy the outdoors as much as they enjoy touring Main Street shops. With over 185 slopes and trails, mountainside snow sports are a popular pull for visitors but you can also hang out at one of the indoor waterparks in the area resorts. Stay at or just visit the Great Wolf Lodge and their massive indoor park or the H2Oooohh Indoor Waterpark at the Split Rock Resort. If you like touring, you're sure to love the lovely Victorian neighborhoods, boutiques and flea markets, and dozens of shops leading to some truly amazing restaurants with delicious food to keep you going.
Bar Harbor, ME
Let's keep on the New England coast for a bit and visit Maine. This beautiful seaside city is quintessentially New England, especially since it was founded way back in 1796 under the name of Eden. It's a wonder they didn't keep the name as that's what Bar Harbor looks like. Home of Acadia National Park and some seriously mind-blowing scenery, Bar Harbor is a dream destination for outdoor lovers. During the winter, you can still visit the parks but you might want to spend some time in the lovely storybook looking streets lined with shops, the Abbe Museum to learn about Native American culture and history in Maine, or walk along the half mile Shore Path and see the view of the water from the edge of town. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Porcupine Islands.
South Padre Island, TX
Located off the coast of Texas, South Padre Island is a spectacular barrier island full of possibilities. It's also one of those places with an endless summer. Even in the winter months you can find people on the beaches, skimming the water on a jet ski or inner tube, fishing for deep sea catches, and more. During the holiday season, there are plenty of things to do to make the trip seem more special. The various resorts and hotels on the island host Christmas buffets and brunches or you can make your own new holiday tradition on the 34 mile stretch of natural beach. If you come for New Year's Eve, you can catch the fireworks on the beach and bring in the new year with a blast!
Hop on over to a big city for a minute and see what you can do in Seattle. You know it as coffee and grunge music central but that's not all what Seattle has in store. There are wonderful landmarks like the Space Needle which are, of course, wonderful for touring but you don't want to miss out on the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum which combines nature with blown glass art, or the Experience Music Project Museum, a fully interactive entertainment museum. Whether you're people watching at the Pike Place Market or touring the natural beauty of the Washington Park Arboretum, there's a way to see everything and save big in Seattle. Make visiting the Emerald City your New Year's resolution and your group will have an amazing time!
The thing with D.C. is that the weather can be brutal. While the city is fairly expensive regularly, there are ways to make a trip here extremely affordable - that is, if you can stand the biting cold and sometimes heavy precipitation. January to February is the city's low season so expect lower hotel prices after the New Year. What's even better is that most of the top attractions in the city are free to visit any day of the year so hop from Smithsonian museum to memorials and back again, starting with those around the National Mall. You can see everything from the National Museum of Natural History to the Lincoln Memorial to the National Zoological Park and only have to pay for food and transportation! There's plenty to see and do in the nation's capital so just be sure to bundle up!
Historical, charming, and dripping with scenery, Charlotte is a belle of the ball. And like every belle, Charlotte knows how to host and entertain guests. This little beauty is home to everything from the science museum Discovery Place to Carowinds amusement park. The Bechtler Museum of Art, Ovens Auditorium, and Tremont Music Hall bring culture and music to the masses while amusement lies in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Time Warner Cable Arena, and Bank of America Stadium. Spectacular scenery is found in the Wing Haven Gardens or you can explore the life of Billy Graham at the Billy Graham Library. There's no shortage of things to fill your day with and in Charlotte, you can do it even on a budget.
While the New Year spots the busiest season for much of the Caribbean, if you know where to look there are hidden deals for affordable travel. There are cheaper options and all-inclusive packages at various resorts and islands around the Sea. Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Cozumel come in as the cheapest destinations for New Year's getaways in Mexico. The average night for a cheap 3-star hotel comes out at $35.50, surprisingly enough, but you can find resort packages for all-inclusive holiday getaways. Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic comes in a close second place with an average 3-star hotel price of $56. Flights will be a little expensive, depending on where you're coming from, but you can also think about a student cruise and visit more than one island under a blanketed all-inclusive price.