15 Of The Cheapest Cities In The USA That You Need To Visit

It safe to say that most of us these days have cottoned on to the fact that travel doesn’t need to be expensive. (*And yes, we know ‘expensive or cheap’ is such a relative term). Thing is, even the (cash-)richest of us have budgets –  it’s just a bigger budget but a budget none-the-less (something I’ve said on here time and time again) and as such, we are all interested in getting as much value as possible out of our hard earned cash – especially so when we travel.

Over the year, we’ve found that one of the best things are looking for travel deals is opening yourself up to the possibility of new and exciting destinations outside of the well trodden path.

Thing is though, well-trodden paths are well trodden for a reason, there’s usually a lot to see and do for visitors in said well-trodden destinations and we’re very much advocates of mixing these more popular places with less popular ones when you travel. With that in mind, we’ve looked put together these 15 fantastic cities (quite a few of which are already quite popular, but all of which are bound to see your $$s carry you a lot further on your vacation), which you need to visit in the USA!

Memphis, Tennessee

Cheap must-eat: The $4 cheeseburger at the local chain Tops Bar-B-Q has everything you could want out of a fast-food burger: it’s thin, salty, and topped with the required slice of American cheese. Best if consumed with baked beans and slaw in one of the 15 locations’ ’70s ambiance.

Best cheap thing to do: Go roller skating at the Crystal Palace, a disco roller rink in South Memphis where the old pros will show you how it is done.

Why it’s worth a visit: Divey and proud, Memphis has kept some of the best parts of its history as a Southern music and food hub. We’re not as flashy as Nashville (we wouldn’t want to be) or as wild as New Orleans, but we’ve got charm and character galore. It’s easy to get comfortable in Midtown’s garage-rock haunts or North Memphis’ famous blues bars.

A good trip to Memphis takes knowing which tourist digs to take on, and which to dodge. Elvis’ famous shag-carpeted residence, Graceland, deserves the hype, but it will cost you. (The candlelight vigil during Elvis Week is a consummately weird local ritual, totally worth attending.) But if you spend too long lingering on the beloved blues drag that is Beale St, you’ll end up spending too much cash on watery drinks and miss Memphis’ best traits. Instead, splurge on music history during the day and then hit up the constellation of local dives. The P & H Cafe is the best for beer and pool; the Hi-Tone is your stop for garage rock.

For the culture buffs, one of Memphis’ most affordable and most unique museums is also its most scenic: located in an out-of-the-way enclave on a Mississippi River bluff, the Metal Museum exhibits contemporary and historic ornamental metalwork. It also includes a working forge and smithy, where master metalsmiths and apprentices are employed year-round. Crosstown Arts, a multipurpose converted strip mall, has a host of free art-related shows and events. Or you could take a free walking tour of Elmwood Cemetery, home to some of the most sculptural headstones on either side of the Mississippi.

Lodging is affordable but public transportation is not so good. Best to go by car, if possible, or use some of the city’s newly installed bike paths. There’s a lot of river to take in, actually — riding two wheels alongside the river, you’ll feel like Huck Finn in no time. — Eileen Townsend, Thrillist contributor 

Greenville, South Carolina

Cheap must-eat: The burger, fries, and sweet tea combo at Grill Marks for $9.99. It’s a half-pound, restaurant-style burger, and for another $1.25 you can add the trademark truffle Parmesan fries.

Best cheap thing to do: Run or bike the Swamp Rabbit Trail. This 21-mile rail-to-trail project is a shaded, scenic tour through Greenville and Travelers Rest. Jogging it is free; renting a bike for the full day is about $30.

Why it’s worth a visit: Some smaller cities in America pack as much punch into a weekend as the behemoths, as this town 90 minutes southwest of Charlotte proves. This city of about 60,000 feels four times that size, the kind of place where you’ll go to a rooftop bar like Ink N Ivy, take in a panoramic view of the city, order a round of craft cocktails, and get a bill for $15. Another rooftop wine bar, Sip, has premium wines for $5 at happy hour. Pour, a bar with 70 beers, wines, and ciders on tap, lets you pour your own drinks and pay by the ounce — $20 here goes a long way. You get the idea.

Eating is cheap here too. Barbecue is the culinary staple — this is one of the best cities in the country for it — and the legendary spots like Bucky’s sell two-meat platters with two heart-stopping sides for $9. Even the innovative, modern restaurants will have you out the door for under $100, with wine.

If you’re into more than eating or drinking, the state parks at Caesars Head and Jones Gap have the best lookouts in the state and a 420ft waterfall. Admission there is $2. And the Boston Red Sox-affiliated Greenville Drive play in a replica Fenway Park, and tickets start at $5. Plus $1 beers on Thursdays. — M.M. 

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