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If you’re looking to squeeze a long weekend into a tight budget, the South offers a diverse array of destinations where you can experience old-fashioned Southern hospitality at its finest. Fun for the family and perfect for a couples getaway, these cities offer laid-back vibes, easy access to cultural attractions and scenic landscapes like leafy parks and picturesque beaches. While bigger cities like New Orleans and Charleston typically get all the (much-deserved) love, there are more budget-friendly alternatives. Instead, try exploring one of these cheap weekend getaways in the South.
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Jacksonville is a budget-friendly destination with stunning beaches and family-friendly attractions. Enjoy outdoor adventures like beachcombing, hiking and fishing, then catch a show at the iconic Florida Theatre, browse the treasure-filled Riverside Arts Market and interact with animals at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Head to Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens to admire blooming flowers, see fossils at MOSH! The Museum of Science and History or visit Little Talbot Island State Park to marvel at its washed up trees. Calm waters at Jacksonville Beach are also great for little ones or those who want to try surfing.
Columbia, South Carolina
You’ll be lured in by the artsy vibes of Columbia, South Carolina, while its collection of bakeries boutique shops, restaurants and coffee shops are a delight for all types of visitors. Offering an ambiance that is far from the stressors of city life, you can still find plenty of attractions. Travel across the river to browse antiques and vintage pieces at the Old Mill Antique Mall, take the family to Riverbanks Zoo and Garden or EdVenture Children’s Museum, then hit the trails or hop in a canoe at Congaree National Park. Finally, unwind with coffee at the cozy Cafe Strudel or sip English-style ales at Hunter-Gatherer Brewery and Alehouse.
A small mountain town in the north of Georgia, Helen is a re-creation of a Bavarian Alpine Village with colorfully painted wooden houses and cobblestone alleys. While the biggest attraction to Helen is its postcard-worthy architecture, visitors who come here are in close proximity to some of the state’s most appealing natural attractions that are light on the wallet. Tube down the river or explore scenic trails dotted around the city, then hike to Anna Ruby Falls. For a unique souvenir, browse for handmade crafts at the area’s captivating speciality shops.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville boasts eclectic shops, cultural museums and historical attractions that appeal to visitors of all ages, while its sheer abundance of outdoor activities and beer breweries are just the icing on top of the cake. Take a wander around the downtown area to appreciate the beautiful Art Deco buildings, visit the Biltmore Estate to see a stunning castle, and if you’re up for a drive, soak in the mountain scenery along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
St. Simons Island, Georgia
One of the largest barrier islands in Georgia, St. Simons Island lures visitors in with its fascinating history and natural attractions. Massingale Park Beach and Neptune Beach are some of the area’s top attractions particularly for families, while the historic St. Simons Island Lighthouse is worth a visit. Unspoiled scenery is abundant, where kite surfing and fishing off the pier are popular activities. Stroll through the area’s array of eclectic shops or play a round of golf, as this charming area offers plenty of budget-friendly treasures at every corner.
You’ll find a buzzing atmosphere around the Elizabeth River in Norfolk, Virginia, where you can help hoist the sails on a schooner or catch a paddle wheeler to a baseball game. This waterfront city is home to Nauticus, a maritime museum that features the World War II Battleship Wisconsin, while the Chrysler Museum of Art showcases glass art, paintings and sculptures. If you’re traveling with the kids, don’t miss seeing the bears, lions and farm animals at the riverside Virginia Zoo.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is a Mecca for family-friendly fun, where you’ll find more than 60 miles of pristine coastline and an extensive array of kid-approved accommodations that suit a range of budgets. Soak in the sunshine, build a sand castle or indulge in the area’s fun-filled watersports on offer. After a day at the beach, walk along the lively boardwalk and promenade to soak up the carnival-like atmosphere. Live entertainment, amusement parks, mini-golf and other family-friendly attractions are abundant here, such as the Broadway Grand Prix and Ripley’s Aquarium.
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Blowing Rock is tucked away in the mountains, only a 15-minute drive from Boone. Named after The Blowing Rock, an enormous cliff high above the Johns River Gorge, visitors will find plenty of wallet-friendly outdoor adventures and family entertainment. Go fishing or hiking at Moses Cone Memorial Park, go to the family theme park Tweetsie Railroad or explore the gravitational phenomenon at Mystery Hill. Main Street is lined with its shops, galleries and restaurants, while nearby attractions include Grandfather Mountain, Linville Caverns and Linville Falls.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Nestled on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, Gulf Shores is the perfect place for a fun and relaxing getaway. Enjoy its beautiful beaches, trails and pier, then get active on its golf courses and zip line adventures that soar over the dunes or visit the famous Flora-Bama beach bar that straddles the Florida-Alabama line nearby. Visit Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge to see sea turtles and migratory birds, then learn about the area’s history at Fort Morgan perched over Mobile Bay. Kids will love interacting with lemurs, kangaroos and sloths at Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Fort Walton Beach on Florida’s Emerald Coast is famous for its 24-miles of fuss-free shoreline where you’ll find plenty of budget-friendly fun. Browse interactive exhibits at the historic Air Force Armament Museum, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park and Emerald Coast Science Center, then admire colorful cottages and Hemingway-style wooden homes in nearby Grayton Beach, go fishing on Okaloosa Island Pier or look at fascinating artifacts at the Indian Temple Mound Museum.
Jekyll Island, Georgia
Jekyll Island offers a variety of cheap activities to fill a vacation itinerary. With 10 miles of sun-drenched beaches, the area is also home to Georgia Sea Turtle Center where you can watch veterinarians with injured sea turtles and the 4-H Tidelands Nature Center known for its kayaking tours, nature walks and hands-on programs. To see some of the area’s most stunning scenery, walk along Boneyard Beach or rent a bicycle and explore the flat terrain, but don’t miss the Jekyll Island Museum with its fascinating exhibits on the area’s history.