If you’re looking for a last-minute summer getaway before school starts, check out these spots named as the best summer destinations by WalletHub. (Or save these suggestions for fall break!)
To compile this list, WalletHub compared 100 metro areas across 40 key indicators of budget and family fun factors including data ranges from cost of the cheapest flight to number of attractions to average price of a two-person meal.
*To note: Nashville is #9 on WalletHub’s list. Here are 5 more recommendations.
1. Austin, TX
Austin, Texas has become a favorite place not only to live but also to visit. Many industries have moved there for its thriving community featuring music and arts as well as general creative atmosphere. The city has made a name for itself that attracts people to it daily.
If you’re into live music, Austin is a great destination. From large arenas like the Moody Theater to smaller spots such as The Continental Club, Austin has an endless, quirky and diverse selection of live-music venues.
The creativity and small local businesses are an important part of the city’s identity supported by the city’s unofficial slogan, ‘Keep Austin Weird,’ which stemmed from a campaign in 2000 to protect local businesses against larger, national chains.
History is also a strong part of the city including the Bob Bullock Museum in Austin. Through the exhibits spanning three floors, you can learn all about the people, places and events that shaped Texas, from independence from Mexico, annexation by the USA, immigration, Civil War, Reconstruction and the Depression-era right through to today.
Food & Drink
If you’re looking for good food and drink, Driftwood’s Salt Lick BBQ has been serving its sweet barbecue sauce and delicious cooked meats for over 50 years, feeding three generations of hungry Austinites. Houndstooth Coffee changed the landscape of Texas coffee when it opened on North Lamar in 2010, and its Frost location is now one of SXSW’s top destinations. The shops serve beans from Houndstooth’s own roasting den, Tweed Coffee, along with several others from out of state. Owner Sean Henry previously worked for Caffe Medici, another influential local coffee brand, and now operates four locations in Dallas and Austin. Austin’s night life is also strong with many of the clubs ranking high on national lists for best places to host a bachelor or bachelorette party weekend. The long time scenes includes their Sixth Street District, affectionately known as ‘Dirty Sixth’ by locals.
2. Cincinnati, OH
On the banks of the Ohio River, the history-steeped Queen City has risen from its postindustrial history into a modern attractive city with plenty to see and do for the whole family.
Those interested in art should check out the Cincinnati Contemporary Museum of art. Adults should be sure to check out their basement level which hosts some unique exhibits that are more explicit. For an art-themed stay, visitors should also book a room at the 21C Museum Hotel. The former landmark Metropole Hotel is now an art-centric hotel with its own collection, as well as rotating installations and exhibits.
Over-the-Rhine District: History, Shopping, Food & Drink
If you’re looking for a one-stop center of history, shopping, food, and drink, you should head over to the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) district. It has one of the biggest concentrations of 19th-century architecture in the country, but it is also one of the most sought after hubs in the city. Findlay Market first opened on OTR’s northern fringes in 1855. It’s a hub of gourmet shops, stalls, cafés, and restaurants, and on the weekends, the adjacent outdoor farmers’ market is flooded with producers from Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.
For more food options, head to Eli’s BBQ, where the hickory-smoked ribs are the star attraction. Cincinnati also has a strong history that goes back to the prohibition era including the Maverick Chocolate Company; its Prohibition bar mixes milk chocolate with Kentucky Bourbon. Before Prohibition, 15 of Cincinnati’s 26 breweries were located in the OTR area, and there’s been a recent boom in openings. Cincinnati Brewery Tours takes visitors underground for a glimpse of the pre-Prohibition tunnels under the city streets. Afterward, sample a local brew at Taft’s Ale House. Named in honor of local boy and former president William Howard Taft, it’s housed in the former St. Paul’s Evangelical Church, and retains the soaring ceilings from 1850.
Cincinnati also has plenty of public green spaces, particularly along the river bank. Pick up a Cincy Red Bike near Smale Riverfront Park and freewheel along the riverside cycle lane. You’ll pass the Great American Ball Park, the retro-charm of Carol Ann’s Carousel and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Architecture lovers should cross the river into Covington via the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. It was the longest bridge of its kind in the world when it was built in 1867, until it was surpassed by Roebling’s more famous creation, New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, in 1883.
3. Louisville, KY
Louisville is another city that has grown in popularity especially for young families. It has plenty to offer including the waterfront, dessert treats, and attractions in the city.
The downtown sits right on the river, with many workers spending their lunches strolling the river or hanging out on the benches. For a casual lunch, head over to the Humana Waterside building for a number of options from some of the best food trucks in the area. For the perfect dessert, enjoy some of the best ice cream from Comfy Cow in Clifton neighborhood; it’s the big pink building. Some popular flavors include Cookie Monster Dough, Bourbon Pecan Pie, Summer Lovin’, and Blueberry Cheesecake. Not sure what to order, they welcome you to ask for as many samples as you want.
Looking for something fun to do? There’s a lot of options for the whole family. Check out Louisville’s popular Mega Cavern. Tour the man-made cavern which contains more than 17 miles of underground passageways. Afterward, take the zip lines underground for a unique way to see the city, then relax at an Arcade bar. In Jeffersontown, Recbar offers a full bar and restaurant with more than 40 arcade games and more than 30 pinball machines. In Germantown, Zanzabar has a collection of rare pinball machines as well as a music venue and great food and booze. Wrap up your visit to one of the best and most popular zoos. It has a train tour, carousel, and an old cemetery in addition to the animal exhibits.
4. Raleigh, NC
Raleigh, NC is one of the most popular cities for food and sights to see.
At the North Carolina Museum of Art’s 164-acre Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park, people walk through local artist Thomas Sayre’s “Gyre,” a set of gigantic earthcasting rings. There’s a 46-foot, stainless-steel tree, a massive naked human form, a giant, patterned pig that you can enter via an airplane-style staircase and a sculpture made entirely of crowd-control barricades. The free museum has the Southeast’s largest collection of Rodin sculptures and hosts Art in Bloom, a spring festival with floral interpretations of the museum’s pieces.
For a truly unique experience, visit the NC State University James Hunt Library. It features a BookBot which enables the smaller library to hold more than 2 million books. The library also includes a game lab, visualization lab, virtual reality space, maker space, gorgeous top-floor reading room and quiet room where you can still sniff books from a real shelf, if that’s your thing. Free tours every Friday and Saturday except around holidays and exam time. Head across from NC State to Mitch’s Tavern; The small restaurant which doesn’t take reservations and fills up quickly for dinner and brunch has bright walls and a bar decorated with collages of old magazine pictures. This is only one of many food options in Raleigh.
Visit 2Transfer Co. Food Hall, built in a historic Carolina Coach bus garage. Transfer’s centerpiece is a huge, lug-nut-shaped bar.
6Carroll’s Kitchen will really hit the spot with their hockey-puck-size sweet rolls. It’s particularly known for its mission as a nonprofit restaurant that employs women transitioning from homelessness, incarceration, or abuse. 7Brewery Bhavana, a striking, high-ceilinged space that houses a little flower shop where you can build your own bouquet and a small book shop.
There’s a vast lending library to enjoy while dining, including Tennyson’s poems, Ai Weiwei’s art and the 1,364-page compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. The brother and sister owners, who grew up in Laos, also own Bida Manda next door.
Finish off your day by visiting the 14Umstead Hotel and Spa. The 150-room hotel is owned by local billionaire businessman and philanthropist Jim Goodnight and his wife, Ann, who is responsible for curating the property’s 95-piece art collection. The Umstead, which sits on a three-acre lake, hosts afternoon tea with a live harpist and offers complimentary yoga and bike tours. If the opulence stresses you out, take a deep breath and listen to the waterfall in the meditation garden, just outside the spa.
5. Kansas City, MO
Kansas City, MO makes the list for several reasons, including being one of the most attractive due to their low-cost hotels.
Kansas City is famous for a number of things including barbecue, jazz, the WWI museum, trains, and technology. One of the most popular barbeque places is Joe’s Kansas City known for their Z-Man or ribs. Expect to wait in 45+ minute lines though, they are usually out the door. For a little jazz, there’s the popular Jazz Club.
The World War I Museum and Memorial is a great place for all ages, and you really learn a lot about the horror and tragedy of World War I. The museum and memorial features a poppy field that you walk over to get into the gallery, and there are a number of quotes and stories featured for a historical look. Kansas City also has trains that you can ride throughout the city by taking a trip to the Union Station and Crown Center. You get to see the train station and what it was like in its hay day. If you want to see the train yard, head on over to Argentine and take a look. It is quite amazing. It is the biggest freight train yard in the country, except maybe behind Chicago, IL.
These are only 5 of the cities on the list. Here’s the Top 20 list of Summer Travel Destinations from WalletHub.
1 Orlando, FL
2 Austin, TX
3 Washington, DC
4 Chicago, IL
5 Dallas, TX
6 Las Vegas, NV
7 Cincinnati, OH
8 Tampa, FL
9 Nashville, TN
10 New York, NY
11 Atlanta, GA
12 San Antonio, TX
13 Oklahoma City, OK
14 Louisville, KY
15 Raleigh, NC
16 Columbus, OH
17 Kansas City, MO
18 El Paso, TX
19 Houston, TX
20 Los Angeles, CA
You can see the full report of cities in the meantime while you plan a trip to these great destinations.