Asheville, North Carolina
Why you’ll love it: The entry point to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a funky mix of breweries (the most per capita in the United States), great food, arts (the River Arts District is a fun and free way to spend a day), history (the Biltmore Estate), free-spirited hippie culture, and spectacular nature. For the latter, plan a picnic hike to the Craggy Mountains, stop to smell the berry bushes, and take in the exceptional panoramic views of the Craggy Pinnacle Trail. Asheville also makes a good jumping-off point for a Tail of the Dragon road trip.
Budget tip: Live music fills the streets of Asheville; you can listen to everything from old-time mountain music to new alternative rock just by dropping something in the tip jar. Kids will love the free Friday drum circles in Pritchard Parkwhere they can bang a drum and dance along (the festivities get rolling around 6 p.m.).
Where to stay: The Holiday Inn Asheville-Biltmore East feels more like a mountain lodge than a chain property, but it still has all the hallmarks that make Holiday Inn appealing, including a great pool and affordable deals, including kids 18 and under stay for free in their parent’s room, and up to four kids 11 and under eat free any time of the day at the on-site restaurant.
Why you’ll love it: Mother Nature went into hyperdrive in this breathtaking corner of Arizona; Sedona is surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest, four wilderness areas, and six state parks. Everywhere you look are the stunning peaks and spires of red rocks and sandstone outcroppings. Nature-lovers can hike and bike along hundreds of miles of free trials, and at night the stars put on a spectacular show, no ticket required.
Budget tip: Sedona is less than a two-hour drive (100 miles) from the Grand Canyon, making it an easy day trip or a pit stop on an Arizona road trip without the added expense of spending the night at pricey accommodations near the national park.
Where to stay: Plan an Arizona stay-cation at the luxurious Enchantment Resort located in the heart of Sedona surrounded by the towering red rock walls of Boynton Canyon. The resort offers more than 100 activities every week, plus pools, tennis, hiking, biking, and a kids club, along with spacious suites big enough to spread out in style.
Why you’ll love it: A perfect getaway from Los Angeles, it’s just 35 miles east, but completely without all the traffic that plagues the city. Claremont Village is home to over 150 shops and restaurants (don’t miss the I Like Pie Bakeshop or the frozen treats at 21 Choices) and where you’ll want to spend your evening. The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology and the Folk Music Center are local favorites to visit, keep an eye on the schedule for the latter for live concerts that will hopefully be back soon.
Budget tip: The five-mile Claremont Wilderness Trail in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains attracts hikers from all over the area and is a great way to work up an appetite for all the Village treats.
Where to stay: The Doubletree Claremont has lots of budget-pleasing amenities, including warm chocolate chip cookies when you check-in and a huge outdoor pool; doubles start at less than $200 a night in summer.
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Article by Melissa Klurman for Reader’s Digest©