The Most Affordable Southern Cities for Your 2022 Family Vacation

Nashville Panoramic View of Skyline
Photo: Getty/Adina Olteanu / 500px

Whether you're curious about exploring a new-to-you charming small town or want to visit one of the region's bustling cities, there is a Southern vacation spot for every family on a budget. From free tours at world-class art museums, scenic bike and hiking trails, and restaurants that are destinations in their own right, here are seven vacation ideas to put on your must-visit list for 2022.

01 of 07

Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, NC
Getty/Walter Bibikow

For families that crave the outdoors, go for a walk or cycle the William B. Umstead State Park—a 5,000-acre green space with 22 miles of dedicated hiking trails and 13 miles of multi-use trails. Be sure to check in to the new Heights House Hotel, a 9-room boutique property restored from a historic 1858 Italianate mansion in the heart of downtown Raleigh. Also, for those on a budget, admission is always free at the Contemporary Art Museum in the heart of downtown.

02 of 07

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville Panoramic View of Skyline
Getty/Adina Olteanu / 500px

Opened in 2021, families can travel through time at the National Museum of African American Music, a 56,000-square-foot facility that encourages visitors to discover the central role African Americans have played in shaping all genres of American music, from classical to country to jazz and hip hop. Take the free Architecture Tour at the Frist Art Museum every Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and afterwards, visit local, regional, national, and international artist exhibitions. For a lunch break, Slim + Husky's Pizza Beeria offers budget-friendly custom-built pizzas, takeout and delivery. Their Fifth + Broadway location is the first black-owned business on the famous Broadway honky tonk strip.

03 of 07

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island Driftwood Beach

Although Jekyll Island once had a reputation as being "Millionaire's Island," there are many activities available that cater to affordable travel. The Landmark Historic Trolley Tour takes you around part of the 240-acre historic district which includes former stately homes of the Morgans, Vanderbilts, and Rockefellers. Be sure to have lunch on the outdoor patio overlooking the marina at Zachry's Riverhouse, which serves local seafood like crab cakes, oysters, and shrimp (and chicken fingers for the kids).

04 of 07

Montgomery, Alabama

Montgomery, Alabama, Historic District
Getty/John Coletti

You can attend church service (or just tour) the preserved Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family resided during his pastorate from 1954-1960. Founded in 1917, Chris' Hot Dogs has been a destination for over a century. One of their more notable patrons was Franklin D. Roosevelt who would frequently ask for a box of the 'world famous' hot dogs as his train stopped in Montgomery's Union Station. Make a day trip out of a 45-minute drive to Selma to see the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The journey is down the same highway from the Montgomery airport, so it puts you on an easy path for your arrival or departure flight.

05 of 07

Massanutten, Virginia

Massanutten, Virginia
Getty/Justin Smith

When you need a place where your kids can burn off some real energy, take them to Massanutten, Virginia. One of the biggest highlights of the destination is the Massanutten Resort, which is located among 6,000 sprawling acres in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. The best aspect is the resort is open all seasons, so families can explore 30 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails, ski slopes in the winter, escape rooms, and a Family Adventure Park that features a mega zipline, a golf course, water park, and scenic chairlift. The Shenandoah Caverns are a 40-minute drive from the property where you can explore the cave's 17 rooms and passageways.

06 of 07

New Braunfels, Texas

New Braunfels, Texas
Getty/Sinisa Kukic

A must visit for history buffs is Gruene, the historical part of New Braunfels, Texas. Here, families can enjoy live music in the iconic Gruene Hall, known as Texas' oldest dancehall. Afterwards, take a walk around the area's local shops. There are also many places in New Braunfels where you can take walking tours in safe outdoor places such as Landa Park, where you can explore the 51 acres by trail or by miniature train. Have lunch or dinner on a budget at the Huisache Grill, which serves favorites like fried catfish, mac and cheese, and tilapia.

07 of 07

New Orleans, Louisiana

Popular pedestrian friendly Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans
Getty/John Coletti

Walking the French Quarter is high on most tourist's lists but seeing New Orleans by bike should not be overlooked. Free Wheelin' Bike Tours' Creole Crescent Tour takes you to highlights like Saint Louis Cemetery No. 3, where you can learn about the cemetery's tombs and burial practices; Creole mansion and oak-lined Esplanade Avenue; Frenchmen Street and City Park; and the Tremé neighborhood. Head over to the St. Roch Market: a Southern food hall featuring a diverse lineup of food and beverage purveyors including seafood, fried chicken, and Southern snacks. Work off some of those tasty jambalaya and crawfish dishes you'll be eating in New Orleans with a vinyasa yoga session at Reyn Studios.

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