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Top 7 Budget Destinations for Summer Travel

Summer seems sweeter when it’s affordable, and these seven destinations offer sunny fun at a fraction of the costs!

New York City, New York

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple—especially during summertime—isn’t generally a cheap endeavor, but it is doable if you’re in the know.

Free events, attractions, and museums with complimentary admission abound, among them the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, and the Federal Reserve Bank; plus pay-what-you-want all day on Wednesdays at the Bronx Zoo and from 5 p.m. until close every Tuesday at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

The City That Never Sleeps is known for its world-class performances, and during summer, those offerings are in refreshing alfresco settings. The free summer concert series for 2015 has opened up its stages for performances by top music acts the likes of George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic, Biz Markie, Afrika Bambaataa, and Lucinda Williams, among many other talents. Also at the free park concerts, the Metropolitan Opera has recitals on six separate occasions peppered throughout the month of June, and a tribute festival for jazzman Charlie Parker is held over the fourth weekend in August.

Free screenings of major films, too, are held during summer at various city parks throughout NYC’s different boroughs.

Related: What Not to Do in New York City

Las Vegas, Nevada

It’s very important to establish goals before heading to Las Vegas. Strategies on how to beat the house in this desert oasis’ casinos are clever, but because the house never loses, just beating the desert heat during a summer visit will do.  Luckily, ice-laden drinks, AC-vented casinos, and especially pools aplenty are everywhere.

Get poolside pronto at some of the Strip’s hottest places-to-be-seen: Party hearty at the Hard Rock Hotel’s Rehab or the Palms’ weekly Ditch Fridays pool parties; soak in the opulence at the Palazzo Azure Pool or at the Caesars Palace Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis; and enjoy live entertainment at the Mandalay Bay’s Beach Concert Series, hosted all summer at the resort casino’s ultimate water world (think 11 acres of sand-and-surf beaches, lazy and wave pools, and basically a no-holds-barred water park for the 21+ crowd!). Get a cabana, get bottle service, get crazy—after all, “what happens in Vegas …”

Detroit, Michigan

The kiddies will get a kick out of Detroit’s The Henry Ford Museum, where some of the nation’s most renown vehicles are exhibited, including JFK’s limousine and the bus that Rosa Parks’ made her historical stand in. Timely for the summer is the museum’s John Margolies photography exhibit, one that pays homage to the all-American road trip.

What better place for a car race than in Motor City?! Detroit and its neighboring areas are hosting Autopalooza from late May through September this year. That’s 16 horsepower-pumping events featuring speedway races and classic-car shows.

Related: Detroit: Why You Need to Go Now

Texas Gulf Coast

Whatever it is they do, Texans do it BIG. And in the Texas’ Gulf Coast area, that usually means being beachside in Galveston, the area’s top vacation destination.

Sitting atop a pier that juts out more than a thousand feet into the Gulf of Mexico, even the fussiest child will be immensely entertained with a visit to Pleasure Pier. Hop on amusement rides (some with state-pride names like Texas Star Flyer, Big Wheelin’, and Texas Tea), dine at any of the plentiful dining options, and shopping galore. Pleasure Pier is open every day during summer, but only on weekends the remainder of the year.

San Salvador, El Salvador

El Salvador’s been on the travel map for surfers and backpackers for some time now, but cost-conscious adventurous types should also try their hand at this hidden gem.

A favorite activity—self-guided or with a tour operator—among those visiting the tiny Central American nation is the “flower route.” Itineraries are dependent on the provider, but stops on these tours generally include visits to colonial towns, coffee plantations, colorful produce markets, and craft-making co-ops. El Salvador’s lush countryside passes serenely by as visitors make their way from one mountaintop village’s artisanal workshop to a candle-lit market to a 16th-century church.

Making flights to San Salvador international airport more affordable, low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines increased capacity to four weekly nonstop flights as of May 2015.

Related: Why You Should Visit Honduras Despite Its Reputation

Chicago, Illinois

No need to fear Chicago’s wind during summer. The Windy City stays at a temperate low-80 degrees Fahrenheit during its popular June-through-August summer season. With the warm weather, too, come the many outdoor festivals. Main events include Chicago Blues and Chicago Pride festivals in June, the foodie-fave Taste of Chicago in Grant Park and Square Roots Festival in Lincoln Square during July, the Chicago Air & Water Show at North Avenue Beach in mid-August, and the Chicago Jazz Festival over Labor Day weekend. The Jazz Fest culminates summer’s festivities at Millennium Park, and does so gratis.

Miami, Florida

Known the world over for Ocean Drive’s art deco architectural structures, Miami’s South Beach is the real attraction here. Along this man-made beach you’ll find candy-colored lifeguard huts, warm waters, soft sand, and plenty of sunbathers, including the topless variety. But it’s not until the blazing sun sets that it gets truly hot in South Beach, home to one of the most happening nightlife scenes in the world. For South Beach’s international movers and shakers, the party doesn’t end until dawn.

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