Nowadays, with millennials counting their every last nickel and dime while saving intensely for homes, cars, and a lifetime of student debt, travel seems like a luxury we’re expected to deny ourselves.
However, the benefits of travel are extensively documented and increasingly difficult to deny. With the internet enabling us to learn about different cultures with a simple Google search, the advantages of fully immersive travel experiences are being downplayed.
if you still believe the prevailing myth that summer vacations are only for the privileged, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The reality is that traveling has never been easier for people on every imaginable budget, whether you’re doing it alone for introspective, soul-searching reasons, scouting out potential new cities to move to, or giving the kids something to remember for the rest of their lives.
You might not be ready to hop on an international flight and enroll in some Waikiki surfing lessons quite yet, and while we understand your hesitation to head abroad this summer, there is still plenty to do closer to home, from a trip to Cajun country to a remote coastal town in southwest Oregon.
You don’t have to rely on your own local bar to try the best new craft beers, or suffer through your quarter-life crisis by searching for new boats for sale. You can actually get out there and experience the world instead. Get your travel fix at any one of these incredible locations right here at home — we’ve got you covered with some ideas for popular American vacation destinations.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Louisiana, the often overlooked state on the Gulf of Mexico, is rich with history. A melting pot of numerous cultural influences, the most dominant being French and African, the state of Louisiana is known for its colonial architecture, authentic jazz music, fresh seafood (especially crawfish), and wild Mardi Gras festival.
When most people think of Louisiana, they think (understandably) of New Orleans, the metropolis known for its bawdy and charismatic nightlife. The capital city is certainly a popular destination in the summertime, due to the variety of touristic activities and historic landmarks that can be explored.
If you go, check out the above-ground Roman Catholic cemeteries and majestic cathedrals that have gained international acclaim in popular culture. For a spooky summer adventure, book a New Orleans cemetery tour and view the haunting marble graveyards that have made New Orleans famous.
The French Quarter, and especially the famous Rue Bourbon, is a predominantly LGBT-friendly neighborhood which draws countless tourists annually. The nightlife is unbeatable: from fine dining to rowdy jazz bars, there is something for everyone 21 and older. For a slower pace, head just northwest of city limits and enjoy some cajun dining in Metairie, LA, a small but thriving suburb on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
North Bend, Oregon
A peninsula on the Pacific Coast with striking views of the majestic Coos Bay inlet, North Bend, Oregon (located southwest of Eugene) has a population lower than 10,000. It’s known for its sweeping McCullough Memorial Bridge, originally the Coos Bay Bridge, which was completed in 1936. Mostly, it’s known for being a quiet bayside community that provides an authentic Oregon experience.
If you’re dreaming of a Pacific Northwest getaway without the ridiculously sky high costs common to hipster paradise Portland, you’ll find everything you desire and more in North Bend, where oceanfront views and forested terrain offer an escape from the real world and a chance to unplug.
Just a short drive from the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport, it’s surprisingly easy to access despite its remote location. With a recreational campground over the bay and a small-town community feel, this is the place to put your phone on airplane mode and breathe in the smell of the crisp pine and juniper trees.
North Bend is definitely a destination for the outdoorsy type, but even if you aren’t prepared to hit the trails or go kayaking this summer, the town is also known for one activity you won’t find just anywhere in the United States: gambling. There is more than one notable casino in North Bend, OR that draws a fair amount of tourism.
Did you think the capital of Michigan was Detroit? You’re not alone. Motown is definitely the most renowned city in the Mitten State and since the turn of the century has been famous for its automotive history.
However, the capital city of Lansing, with a modest population of around 117,000, is rich in American Rust Belt history, too. It’s also significantly less expensive, if you’re planning a Midwest trip on a budget. Don’t let the smallness of Lansing deter you — it’s a city with plenty to see and do, especially if you’re creative.
If you’re the type to get confused by the types of cars your Uber drivers use, you’ll be able to learn a lot about classic and contemporary vehicles at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum, a surprisingly educational adventure with lots of swoon-worthy old cars on display.
For nature lovers, Hawk Island Park is gorgeous in the summer months and invites hikers to hit the trails, swimmers to take the plunge, and photographers to capture jaw-dropping shots of some of the natural wildlife. Speaking of animals, the Potter Park Zoo is one of the best in the Midwest, showcasing rare and endangered species you may have never heard of before.
Even in the lazy days of summer, everyone loves a good challenge. If you’re feeling competitive, the city of Lansing has made tourism more efficient and exciting by creating a bucket list of attractions for everyone to experience. Take the LAN150 Challenge and learn to “love Lansing like a local.”
The hometown of Dr. Pepper and the Magnolia Market Silos, this little central Texas town has seen an explosion of tourism in the years since Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper fame graced our television screens. But there is more to Waco than wholesome home decor, as you’ll quickly learn.
Science geeks will love the Waco Mammoth National Monument, a designated paleontological site in honor of the bones of Columbian mammoths found fossilized in the area. The Dr. Pepper Museum is a quirkier point of interest, containing a gallery of memorabilia and located in a bottling plant built in 1906.
The quaint southern city by the Brazo River is home to prestigious Baylor University, which means there is plenty of millennial culture to go around, from ulta-hip coffee bars to unique craft cocktails. Some popular student hangouts, like Dichotomy Coffee and Spirits, have both on the menu.
There is no shortage of interesting hidden gems to find in and around this slow-paced college town, including every sort of wine bar or liquor store where you’ll love to drink a glass of vino after a long day of touring the Silos.
In keeping with the Gaineses’ devout religious beliefs, they don’t serve alcohol at Magnolia Table, but the popular restaurant and bakery does have the best cupcakes in town. There’s a reason why HGTV fans routinely make the pilgrimage to Waco just to catch a glimpse of Chip and Jo’s latest business venture in action.