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If you’re looking to squeeze a long weekend into a tight budget, the South offers a diverse array of charming 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.
A charming 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 specialty shops.
Asheville, North Carolina 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.
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, and 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 is a hotspot 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.
One of the most beautiful mountain towns in North Carolina, Blowing Rock is 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 shops, galleries, and restaurants, while nearby attractions include Grandfather Mountain, Linville Caverns, and Linville Falls.
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. For lively action, stop for an adult beverage at the 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.
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.
The town of Bentonville, Arkansas is best known for being the home of Walmart, but there is more to do here than just shop for deals. There’s a great art museum called the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art that always offers free general admission. Then, of course, there’s the Walmart Museum, which is undergoing renovations but set to reopen in the spring of 2024 and is also free to visit. Bentonville has a walkable town square area with unique restaurants and coffee shops. On your cheap weekend getaway here, you can head to the Coler Mountain Bike Preserve to ride the trails and get in a great workout. There’s also Osage Park, with wetland boardwalks, a dog park, and a food truck park to check out.
If you visit Panama City Beach, Florida during the off-season, you can enjoy a budget-friendly trip that’s lots of fun. It is generally more affordable than many other Florida beach destinations, and you can keep costs low if you simply spend your days relaxing in the sand and water. There are nearly 100 beach access points in the area, so you can often find a secluded stretch of sand for a little peace and quiet. There are numerous tours, museums, and experiences that you can pay for in PCB, but you can also spend time walking the trails at Conservation Park, watching dolphins along Russell-Fields Pier, and checking out a festival or event at Pier Park.
If you’re looking to plan a weekend getaway from Atlanta, Blue Ridge is a highly recommended and budget-friendly destination. You can plan a romantic couple’s trip or family vacation in Blue Ridge by renting an affordable cabin and spending time out in nature. There are lots of hiking trails in the area to check out, as well as waterfalls, a swinging bridge, and a fish hatchery. DIY driving tours are popular in this area, especially during the fall foliage season, and are a great way to make stops along the way that don’t cost a thing.
Mobile is a port city on the Alabama coast that is filled with history and scenic views. There are art galleries here that you can check out to experience the city’s thriving art scene. Take walks along Dauphin Street and through Cooper Riverside Park to admire the river. There are also historic churches and cemeteries in town, regularly scheduled art walks in the downtown area, and a farmers’ market at Cathedral Square. Other budget-friendly ideas include biking along the Eastern Shore Trail, having a picnic at Medal of Honor Park, and window-shopping at the Shoppes of Bel Air.
Located along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the city of Biloxi can provide a cheap weekend getaway when you want to switch up your usual weekend routine. You can find affordable vacation rental homes and hotels here and spend lots of time soaking up the sand at the beach. Visit the famous lighthouse in town and take a tour to learn more about it. Another idea is to visit the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum. For free, you can walk or ride your bike across the Biloxi Bay Bridge to cross over to Ocean Springs and get lovely views of the coast.
If you live in or are traveling in the south, you might also consider Greenville, South Carolina for a cheap weekend getaway. The city has a walkable Main Street and features a 32-acre park right downtown called Falls Park on the Reedy. There are other public spaces worth visiting in the area, including the Swamp Rabbit Trail, Conestee Nature Preserve, and Paris Mountain State Park. There’s a free self-guided tour of art in public places that you can check out, free city events on Main Street at NOMA Square, and free admission at the Greenville County Museum of Art.
Destin, Florida is another coastal destination that can be quite affordable if you plan your trip right. To save money on accommodations and other costs, plan to visit Destin between November and February. You can watch the sunrises and sunsets from the local beaches, experience the lively scene at HarborWalk Village, and go fishing at Norriego Point. You can also go for a bike ride along Highway 98 for scenic views, explore the city’s antique shops, and stop by Destin’s art galleries without spending a dime.
In Galveston, there are free, self-guided tours that you can do to learn about art and history. There’s a downtown art walk that is free to attend, and the Galveston/Bolivar Ferry that transports cyclists, cars, and pedestrians is free and offers opportunities to see dolphins. This 30-minute ride takes you from Galveston Island to the Bolivar Peninsula. Saengerfest Park and Galveston’s Historic Strand Seaport Area are also free to visit. The museums are affordable here too, with many offering admission under $10 per person.
The North Carolina city of Charlotte is a fun and affordable place to visit in the South. You can spend your days here visiting farmers’ markets, viewing public art, and exploring the nearby farms and orchards. Several museums in town offer free admission days to keep your trip costs down. Other budget-friendly things to do in Charlotte include hiking or biking around the U.S. National Whitewater Center, doing a free walking tour of the Charlotte Liberty Walk, and buying affordable tickets to a Charlotte Knights baseball game.