Everyone is on a budget these days, but we still like our vacation time. Figuring out where to go and how much we can spend can be a tedious and almost impossible task, especially if our schedules are busy. The cities listed below are close to more popular vacation spots, however, they have their own histories and activities that may not drain your wallet quite as much and will really peak your interest.
1) Carson City, Nevada
Most people, when they think of Nevada, they think of gambling and shows in Las Vegas and Reno. Maybe they think of Area 51 where aliens are said to be tested. But Carson City, Nevada, with a population of over 52,000, is a wonderful city to be a thrifty tourist. With loads of history, being built around the 1850’s, this city was known to be the area where the largest silver mine in the world was found.
What To Do:
With plenty of museums to choose from in Carson City, all are inexpensive to get in ($8 or less). Here are just a few:
Nevada State Railroad Museum — open Friday through Monday, $4 adults, $3 Seniors and kids under 17 are free
Dake Hawkins House — a historical Victorian house (thought of as the oldest in Nevada), Free to get in
Nevada State Capitol – Guided tours Mon-Fri, must book in advance, Free
-Grimespoint Archaeological Site
Visited by Native Americans thousands and thousands of years ago, this is beautiful land with ancient, Indian rock art, a large lake that dried and formed crevices and boulders, and trails for visitors to travel. It is free to navigate this area as long as you abide by the Bureau of Land Management’s rules.
Where to Eat:
They have the chain restaurants we all know, but if you want something different for a good price, try:
Reds Old 395 Grill- Enjoy ribs from the smoker and the portions are large so you could share a plate for $25. Tuesday nights they have stuffed chicken breasts for only $13.99, and for lunch you can get their mighty burger for $7.99. Authentic Nevada BBQ.
San Marcos Grill – Fantastic Tex/Mex food that is delicious and inexpensive. The highest priced entree so far is about $14.95 which are authentic, fajitas with everything – fish, beef chicken and more. Order steak with cactus and tortillas for 9.95. A fun place to take the family.
Where to Stay
-Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites in Carson City – The Holiday Inn offers packages and deals, so for a budget, this is a great place to stay. Rooms are available for $99.
-There are also motels which are usually cheaper as well: Days Inn, Super 8, Quality Inn, Best Western
2) Syracuse, NY
New York City is a very popular place to visit, however, New York has some other great cities. Syracuse, New York, home of Syracuse Universities Orangemen, is an industrial and college town that has beautiful Autumn’s and gorgeous, snowy winters. Syracuse has a lot of Native American history as well as being part of the Underground Railroad. There are plenty of areas in and surrounding Syracuse that are worth a visit.
What to Do:
Silverman Planetarium – The “public” fees to get in are low, maybe because it is located in a smaller US city or a college town, but adults are $11.50 for both a movie and the exhibit hall, children $9.50 for both. If you have paid admission, the flight simulator is only $2.00 extra. A great place for kids and adults. Open Wed – Sunday with extended hours for IMAX movies on Saturday nights.
Erie Canal Museum – A wonderful place to learn about the Erie Canal in this historical building. The museum is one of the old “Weigh-locks” which was “was a lock designed to weigh cargo-carrying boats for the purpose of charging tolls. The heavier the cargo, the greater the toll. There were seven such weigh-locks along the Erie Canal at Rochester, Syracuse, Oswego, Utica, Troy, Albany and Waterford.”
Open 7days, check for times. Admission is free, but they do take donations.
Onondaga Historical Association – This is also free, and they also take donations if you are so inclined. Between information on the Underground Railroad, the Franklin automobile, Indian artifacts and more, this is truly a learning experience. Open Wed thru Sunday. Check for times.
The Armory – see under “Where to Eat”
Where to Eat:
The Mission Restaurant – a “Pan American” dining experience. Taste Southwestern, South American and Mexican food. There is also a wonderful history to this building that was built in 1840 because it was a 19th century “way-station” on the Underground Railroad, a church and now a restaurant. This makes the restaurant atmosphere and it’s food almost “magical”. Prices are very fair and they have plenty to choose from.
The Armory – This is a very historical place in Syracuse (so it could have gone under “What to do” as well) that has not only dining, but shopping, entertainment and more. Most of the buildings in the area were built between 18760 and 1890, and it is also close to the Eerie Canal. There are so many options, from chains like “Subway” to Pubs or Upper scale restaurants – so plenty to choose from for your wallet.
Where to Stay
-They have the all the budget motels you need, Best Western, Clarion, Days Inn, Comfort Inn etc…
– Bed and Breakfasts – if you are looking for something more romantic or historical (and a little more pricey, although with all the free museums, these could be affordable), try The Inn at Gothic Eves, Notleymare Cottage, or
Bed & Breakfast Wellington.
3) Lake Charles, Louisiana
Lake Charles is a beautiful part of Louisiana that is lakefront with incredible sunsets, sandy beaches, natural habitats, rivers and marshes, and so much more. Not only is it a great place to live, and residents will attest to that, it is also a great place to visit.
What to Do
Gray Plantation – If you like to golf, this is the place for you. The course is open to the public and also has a driving range. Check for fees.
Mardis Gras Museum – A fun must-see. The costumes displayed are incredibly intricate, mannequins tell stories, and you can climb into a parade float. Only $3 for adults, $2 for children and seniors.
Charpentier Historic District – Charpentier is the french word for “carpenter”, and this district is an homage to the carpenters who built “freely” and “designed as they built” in Lake Charles. The Mardi Gras Museum happens to be located here as well as fabulous mansions, Art galleries, entertainment and more. It is a 40 block radius and is free to walk around and take pictures.
Where to Eat
Toga Grill – Family owned, Lebanese food and great reviews. The menu is not large, but the food is made to order and delicious. Appetizers are about $5.95 each and dinner plates $8.95 each. A bargain.
Leonard’s Food Quarters – Cajun and creole style. If you are looking for some authentic Louisiana Food, try this restaurant. Order boudin balls and craklin. Don’t know what that is? Stop by to find out. Entrees under $10.
Where to Stay
If you like to camp, there is the Sam Houston Jones State Park Campground. It is on the river and great fishing.
For a more romantic place, A River’s Edge Bed and Breakfast. Seven minutes from downtown. Great for honeymooners or people who want more privacy and quiet.
For a casino vacation, stay at L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort. Look for specials and hotel packages.