BudgetNortheast Feature
8.8.16 Leisure & Travel

Travel for Cheap: 15 Budget-Friendly Destinations in the Northeast

By: Amber Brooks

From magical snow-topped towns and flowery parks in full bloom, to sun-drenched seaside escapes and hiking trails lined with fallen autumn leaves, the American Northeast boasts beautiful destinations all year long. Tourists are often left in awe of the mountains, beaches, landmarks, and quaint atmosphere of the original 13 colonies.

However, everything tends to be fairly expensive in the Northeast — especially in the larger cities — so planning a budget-friendly trip can be a challenge. Your vacation up north could get pretty pricey, but not if you do your research beforehand. We can help with that! We’ve compiled 15 Northeast destinations that offer the best comparative prices in groceries, transportation, and consumer goods.

Don’t stress over your travel plans. Between affordable attractions and low prices, these U.S. cities are amazing budget-friendly places to visit.

 In regards to data used: The average cost-of-living statistics are based on a numerical scale. For example, 100 represents the average cost of living in the U.S. Any number higher than 100 is considered more expensive, and any number below 100 is considered less expensive when compared to other cities across the U.S.

15. New London, Connecticut

A photo of the sea near New LondonFirst up is New London, Connecticut, located at the mouth of the Thames River. This tiny seaport, with a population of about 27,000, is a lovely summer vacation destination for you and your family. Named after London, England, in 1658, this small town has a rich history and culture.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
115.7119122Fort Trumbull State Park, Ocean Beach Park, and Old Town Mill

From fishing at Fort Trumbull State Park to dipping your toes in the Atlantic at the Ocean Beach Park, this waterfront destination is full of family-friendly fun. Interested in history? You can get free admission to the Old Town Mill, restored after Benedict Arnold’s soldiers burned it down during the American Revolution. Today, it plays host to music and art festivals.

Between its cheap attractions and a laid-back atmosphere, New London is a great budget-friendly destination in the Northeast.

14. Westerly, Rhode Island

Photo of the Ocean House hotel in Westerly, RIWesterly is a cozy town of quiet beaches and beautiful scenery on the southwest corner of Rhode Island. From affordable oceanside activities to low-cost eateries, this Rhode Island getaway is a tranquil place to escape to for a fun, relaxing vacation.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
111.4108133Misquamicut State Beach and Champlin Glacier Park

Pictured above, the glamorous and iconic Ocean House resort sits on the beach with views of Montauk, Block Island, and the Atlantic Ocean. From there it’s just a 10-minute walk to the Napatree Point Conservation Area, a thin peninsula known for its sandy beaches and natural landscape. Other popular and low-cost preserves include Misquamicut State Beach and Champlin Glacier Park. Whether enjoying the waves or the nature trails, you’ll fall in love with Westerly.

13. North Adams, Massachusetts

A photo of a hotel in Westerly, Rhode IslandLocated in Berkshire County, North Adams is Massachusetts’ smallest city with a population of under 14,000 but it’s full of intriguing history, breathtaking nature, and vibrant culture. From charming eateries to cascading waterfalls, this city has tons of indoor and outdoor diversions for tourists on a budget.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
117112113Natural Bridge State Park, Windsor Lake, and the Cascades Trail

To cool off on a hot day, Windsor Lake offers a relaxing spot to boat, picnic, or swim. Don’t miss out on the Natural Bridge State Park where North America’s only natural white marble arch resides. Geologists estimate that the bedrock marble is around 550 million years old. Plan a trip to North Adams, and you’ll quickly discover the raw beauty of this city.

12.Springfield, Massachusetts

Photo of the Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, MassachusettsThis bustling city in Massachusetts is home to a diverse arts and entertainment scene in a cultural hub teeming with interesting places to visit. The Springfield Armory, for instance, manufactured U.S. military firearms from 1777 to 1968 and currently features the world’s largest collection of historic American firearms.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
112.3106118Springfield Armory National Historic Site and the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden

Springfield also has the distinction of being the birthplace of beloved children’s author and illustrator Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. As a tribute to him, the city erected a bronze sculpture garden where you’ll find life-size versions of your favorite storybook characters from Horton to the Lorax. The sculpture garden is the center of “the Quadrangle,” a cluster of 5 museums, a library, and a park.

With so many fun and cheap places to explore, Springfield, Massachusetts is an unforgettable destination.

11. Montpelier, Vermont

Montpelier's State CapitolMontpelier, the capital of Vermont, is a picturesque and affordable city to visit. Many unique attractions (such as a maple farm) offer cheap daytime amusement. You can even take a free tour of the Vermont State House, the oldest state capitol still in use.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
110.5108112Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, Camel’s Hump, and State Capitol Tour

For hikers and trailblazers, Camel’s Hump State Park offers awe-inspiring views along the trails of this wooded mountain. To discover the natural beauty of Vermont, come see all that Montpelier has to offer.

10. Chautauqua, New York

Trumpeter swans on Chautauqua LakeNestled the southwest corner of New York state, Chautauqua is one of the most affordable places to visit when you’re up north. The resort community on the banks of Chautauqua has just about everything you need for summer fun — great outdoors, fun activities, and a peaceful atmosphere. You can sit back and watch the lake’s graceful trumpeter swans, attend a lecture, or take in performances by the Chautauqua Opera and Chautauqua Theater Company.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
110109111Chautauqua Institution and Barcelona Lighthouse

Shopping centers, shows, and lakeside entertainment abound in Chautauqua. With a population of just under 5,000 people, this little town is a hidden treasure in the Northeast.

9. Beachwood, New Jersey

A photo of the beach in Beachwood, New JerseyBeachwood, New Jersey, is named for its greatest attraction: the beaches. Known as “the pearl in the Bed of Toms River,” this small town has boating, fishing, and other cheap waterfront fun to delight visitors. It doesn’t cost much to have fun in the sun here.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
100114115Beachwood Community Center and Recreation Events

The Beachwood Community Center is an active place for family-oriented events such as relay races and fireworks displays over the Toms River. You can go to the city’s website to check out upcoming events happening around town. Make a big splash and work on your tan at Beachwood.

8. Newark, Delaware

The downtown scene in Newark, DelawareA popular city in Delaware, Newark is home to diverse culture, nature trails, and a quaint downtown scene. For a small entry fee, you can visit some stunning outdoor attractions. For example, White Clay Creek is a lush oasis and a great place for a picnic or a barbecue. During the winter in Newark, you’ll likely find people rushing outside with their sleds and skis.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
109109110Newark Reservoir, Middle Run Valley Natural Area, and White Clay Creek

The Middle Run Valley Natural Area is an 860-acre park of wetlands and wildlife open free of charge for everyone to explore. From community events to the great outdoors, Newark is among the best and most budget-friendly destinations in the Northeast.

7. Havre de Grace, Maryland

A photo of a street in Havre de Grace, MarylandHavre de Grace is a small town with a lot to do. Ideally located at the head of the Chesapeake Bay and the mouth of the Susquehanna River, Havre de Grace is rich with marina and boardwalk attractions. The town offers tourists the chance to visit lighthouses, go crabbing, and explore the beach. It’s no wonder tourists flock here.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
109109110Sion Hill, Concord Point Lighthouse, and Steppingstone Museum

Overlooking the Upper Chesapeake Bay, the Concord Point Lighthouse is an impressive historic site in operation since 1827. Another historic landmark is Sion Hill, a Federal period architecture mansion that was built by a family with a generations-long seafaring history. If you visit during the summer months, the Maritime Summer Concert Series provides easy listening on Wednesday nights.

The city was named after the port of Le Havre, France, which in full was once Le Havre de Grâce (Haven of Grace). Come discover this idyllic city and see why it’s one of the most budget-friendly cities in the Northeast.

6. New Castle, Delaware

An overview of New Castle, DelawareDon’t let this small city in Delaware fool you — New Castle has so much to offer, especially for history buffs. Situated along the Delaware River, New Castle was founded in 1651 by the Dutch, but, because of its strategic location, the settlement was constantly changing hands. The flags of the Netherlands, Sweden, and Great Britain have all flown over New Castle.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
109109110The Read House & Gardens Museum and New Castle Court House Museum

This charming coastal town has an abundance of historic buildings for visitors to explore at their leisure, including Old New Castle Court House, which served as meeting place for Delaware’s colonial assembly in the 1700s when New Castle was Delaware’s capital.

Steeped in history, the New Castle Historic District, declared a National Historic Landmark in 1967, has about 500 buildings built between 1700 and 1940. For fascinating and cost-effective diversions, it’s hard to top New Castle’s many museums and landmarks.

5. Saranac Lake, New York

A boathouse on Upper Saranac LakeIn northeast New York state, the peaceful village of Saranac Lake is known for its magnificent lakes and top-notch breweries. Whether you like paddling, golfing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, or bird watching, this destination has an amazing array of affordable outdoor recreations for visitors.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
105110106Blue Line Brewery, Adirondack Lakes, and Adirondack Scenic Railroad

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad is on a mission to preserve all that’s great and wondrous about America’s railways. For a low price, you can book a ticket to popular attractions in the area, including Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, and enjoy the wooded scenery along the way. See for yourself all the beauty that Saranac Lake, New York, has to offer on your next trip to the Northeast.

4. Skowhegan, Maine

A photo of Old Mill Pub at Skowhegan, MaineSkowhegan, a small town in Maine, may look old-fashioned but its timeless antique shops and traditions will soon win you over. Pictured above, the Old Mill Pub is a tourist favorite located right on the Kennebec River.

You may also want to check out the Skowhegan State Fair, the nation’s oldest consecutively running agricultural fair. These horse shows, hayrides, and concessions have been delighting visitors since 1818.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
99111110Skowhegan History House Museum, Oak Pond Brewing Company, and Skowhegan State Fair

From the mountains to the farmers market, visit Skowhegan if you enjoy the great outdoors and simple life. Full of history and merriment, this old-timey city is one of the best and most budget-friendly cities in the Northeast.

3. Caribou, Maine

A photo of Caribou's City HallNestled in northeastern Maine, Caribou is another affordable destination that boasts fun events and breathtaking scenery. From exploring nature to enjoying unique sights, there’s so much for you and your family to do for a low price at Caribou.

An extensive system of cross-country ski trails and snowmobile trails make this a great wintertime spot. If you’re visiting during the summer, you might want to look into the town’s annual Caribou Days. These family-friendly events are full of free activities like tie-dying shirts, a parade, and a movie in the park.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
105.3106104Caribou Historical Center & Museum, Thursdays on Sweden Street, and Go Aroostook Outdoors

Thursdays on Sweden Street is another popular event that happens — you guessed it — on Thursdays. Crowds of people enjoy music, food, and shopping with different themes such as “Beach Night” and “Sci-Fi Night.” Come experience the beauty of Caribou, and soak in the laid-back atmosphere of this incredible town.

2. Durham, New Hampshire

A photo of Durham, New HampshireHome to the University of New Hampshire, Durham is a melting pot of culture, entertainment, and attractions. In search of scenic vistas? Make a visit of Wagon Hill Farm, a 139-acre secluded preserve with a mowed shoreline overlooking the beautiful Great Bay. You’ll also find apple orchards, oak forests, and grassland habitats tucked in this quiet area.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
94103116Wagon Hill Farm, Prescott Park, and Doe Farm

Just 20 minutes outside of Durham, Prescott Park Arts Festival hosts outdoor music, theater, dance, and other performances in a downtown setting next to the Piscataqua River. If you want to stick closer to Durham, Doe Farm has 87 acres of conserved land with many rivers and trails.

With such affordable nature parks at hand, this city comes in second in our list of the most budget-friendly destinations in the Northeast.

1. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Photo of GettysburgRanked as our most budget-friendly town in the Northeast, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is also probably the most recognized and famed places on this list. The city where Lincoln gave his thunderous address attracts thousands of tourists every year. Most come to view the Gettysburg battlefield, but there’s so much more to do and see here.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
101102101Gettysburg Battlefield, Sachs Covered Bridge, and Eisenhower National Historic Site

Stepping onto the field where that notable Civil War battle was waged is enough to send a chill up anyone’s spine. There are plenty of guided tours and museums centered around that undeniably important moment in history. However, tourists can also visit other educational spots such as the Eisenhower National Historic Site or General Lee’s Headquarters Museum. From ghost tours to wineries, this town isn’t just the home of a historic battlefield — it’s a thriving community.

Gettysburg tops our list because of the affordability of this popular and historic destination. When vacationing in the Northeast, make sure you don’t miss out on this historically significant and incredibly cheap city.

Pack Your Bags: Budget-Friendly Travel Awaits

It doesn’t get much better (or cheaper) than these Northeast destinations. Any of these 15 cities would make a great low-priced getaway on your vacation. A trip to the Northeast doesn’t have to break your budget if you know where to go to save money while having a good time. From outdoor recreation to historical sites, this list encompasses inexpensive but fun-filled activities that can be enjoyed all year round.

Making a stress-free plan for a budget-friendly trip couldn’t be any easier with our tips and recommendations. Happy travels!

Photos courtesy of mapio.net, oceanhouseri.com, massvacation.com, Alan Cordova on flickr.com, vermonter.com, prweb.com, cbsnews.com, commons.wikimedia.org, explorehavredegrace.com, visitdelaware.com, thepointsaranac.com, Mike Stuckey on panoramio.com, cariboumaine.org, preferred-movers.com, and federalpointinn.com.