5 Offbeat Ideas for an On-Budget Vacation in 2019

Fascinating, fun and easy on the funds! These budget cities are playing host to cool celebrations and events happening only this year.

African-American woman riding a bike in a San Diego park

by NEA Member Benefits


With the New Year comes new goals, plans and resolutions. And, for travel lovers, those lists usually include new destinations and places to explore. Whether your list includes bucket-list trips, cross-country journeys or simply more exploration of your own backyard, here are some suggestions to get you started.

These five places across the United States all have exciting grand openings (hotels, museums, parks and more), milestone anniversaries or events happening in 2019. So read on, and get inspired by these travel-worthy destinations. 

1. Jamestown and Yorktown, Virginia

Family exploring a ship at Jamestown, Virginia

Photo courtesy of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation

A perfect educational trip for the whole family, these Virginia settlements have two living history attractions: the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, which debuted in 2017, and the Jamestown Settlement, which explores the world of America’s first permanent English colony and the Powhatan Indian, English and West Central African cultures that converged there in the 17th century. These galleries have been undergoing a refresh that will be completed in 2019. Recently opened is TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia,” a special exhibition and 2019 Legacy Project that examines the struggles women faced in the New World and their contributions through interactive experiences and artifact displays. A series of special programs, from public lectures to performances, will complement the exhibit. Also note that 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of three major Virginia events with national significance: the anniversary of the first representative assembly in the New World, the arrival of the first recorded Africans to English North America and the observance of the first official English Thanksgiving in North America, making 2019 the perfect year for a visit. Stay at the Duke of York Hotel, Yorktown’s only riverfront hotel, which has newly remodeled rooms. 

Plan your trip: Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation | Virginia Is for Lovers

Driving distances: 1 hour from Richmond, Virginia | 2 hours 30 minutes from Washington, D.C. | 3 hours from Raleigh, North Carolina | 4 hours from Roanoke, Virginia | 5 hours from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

2. Bethel, New York

Concert at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

Photo courtesy of Visit the Catskills

It’s time get your groove on: 2019 marks 50 years since the famous three-day Woodstock music festival. The event was held August 15–17, 1969, in Bethel, New York, on a farm (not in the nearby town of Woodstock, as one might assume) and featured performances by more than 30 acts—including Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Janis Joplin—for more than 400,000 people. Various places in and around Bethel are planning events in honor of the anniversary: Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is working on yearlong programming, archaeologists have been excavating the site to help the Museum at Bethel Woods plan interpretive walking routes, Route 17B in Sullivan County is being renamed “The Woodstock Way” and the Sullivan County Visitors Association is planning the installation of 5-foot painted doves in each township. Finally, if you want to experience Woodstock for yourself, check out the anniversary concert festival from August 15–18, 2019. The Bethel area has seen a boutique hotel boom of late, with the likes of the Eastwind Hotel, so book lodging early if you plan to attend the festival. Pack your bell-bottoms, tie-dye and peace sign jewelry for a true musical journey.

Plan your trip: Visit the Catskills | I Love NY

Driving distances: 2 hours from New York City | 2 hours 30 minutes from Albany, New York and Hartford, Connecticut | 3 hours from Syracuse, New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | 4 hours 30 minutes from Boston, Massachusetts and Baltimore, Maryland | 5 hours from Burlington, Vermont

3. San Diego, California

San Diego is known for its always-perfect weather, beautiful beaches and family-friendly attractions like its world-famous zoo. It also offers world-class beaches (try La Jolla for seal sightings or Coronado for sparkling sand—literally), excellent hiking (scale Mount Woodson and its Potato Chip Rock) and whale-watching cruises (for as little as $16). You'll find wallet-friendly, but hip hotels, such as Moxy San Diego and Aloft San Diego, opening in the city’s historic Gaslamp Quarter. If you plan to visit a lot of museums, buy the Balboa Park Explorer Pass for admission to the San Diego Zoo and 16 other museums over the course of one week. An off-season visit in October will allow visitors to experience the 2019 ANOC World Beach Games, the inaugural Olympic-level competition where San Diego’s Mission Beach will host sports, such as kite surfing, water skiing, surfing, handball, volleyball and cycling.

Plan your trip: San Diego Tourism Authority | Visit California

Driving distances: 2 hours from Los Angeles, California and Palm Springs, California | 3 hours 30 minutes from Bakersfield, California | 5 hours from San Luis Obispo, California and Las Vegas, Nevada | 5 hours 30 minutes from Phoenix, Arizona

4. Houston, Texas

Big things are in store for this Texan city that saw heavy destruction in 2017 from Hurricane Harvey. Following recovery from the hurricane, the city is seeing a surge of major developments that are expected to debut in 2019, including a $450 million project to expand the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (two new buildings are being added to complement the existing two), a $33.8 million project to expand the Holocaust Museum Houston and a $30.5 million expansion of the Stages Repertory Theatre (with three new theaters). 2019 also marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and Houston’s Apollo Mission Control Center, a National Historic Landmark, is currently being restored—starting in July 2019, visitors will be able to experience the Apollo moon landing from the Visitor Viewing Room. Another milestone for the city is the 50th anniversary of Houston’s Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS); the 2018–2019 season is the theater’s first under Tony Award-nominated artistic director Dan Knechtges. Also coming in 2019 will be Lyric Market, an immersive food hall experience filled with chefs and purveyors from around the globe, plus a 4,000-square-foot rooftop deck. New affordable hotel openings for 2019 include Hotel RL Houston Downtown and Houston CityPlace Marriott at Springwoods Village.

Plan your trip: Visit Houston | Travel Texas

Driving distances: 2 hours 30 minutes from Austin, Texas | 3 hours from San Antonio, Texas | 3 hours 30 minutes from Dallas, Texas | 4 hours from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Shreveport, Louisiana | 5 hours from New Orleans, Louisiana

5. Indianapolis, Indiana

Gondola on the Indianapolis canal

Photo courtesy of Visit Indiana

This Midwest capital city is full of attractions for young and old alike. White River State Park is 250 acres of urban green space with seven family-friendly attractions, including the Indianapolis Zoo, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indiana State Museum (which has the state’s largest IMAX screen) and the NCAA Hall of Champions. Not to mention the city is home to the world’s largest children’s museum, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which recently opened a $38-million, 7.5-acre attraction called Sports Legends Experience. And, Newfields, where the Indianapolis Museum of Art is located among gardens and parkland, is a must visit. The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Slaughterhouse Five, native son Kurt Vonnegut’s famous novel. Many favorite stops in the city are Vonnegut-related, including The Rathskeller restaurant (which has a Kurt Vonnegut room), the Vonnegut Museum and Library, a two-story mural of the author at 339 Massachusetts Avenue and the many buildings in the city that were designed by his grandfather, a famous architect. It's also the 50th anniversary of the Indiana Medical History Museum, which has the oldest surviving pathology facility in the nation and is on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, a $260-million development of a former Coca-Cola bottling plant will open in 2019 as a food hall and one of furniture company West Elm’s first hotels.

Plan your trip: Visit Indy | Visit Indiana

Driving distances: 1 hour from Bloomington, Indiana | 2 hours from Cincinnati, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky | 2 hours 30 minutes from Columbus, Ohio | 3 hours from Chicago, Illinois | 3 hours 30 minutes from Peoria, Illinois | 4 hours from St. Louis, Missouri | 4 hours 30 minutes from Nashville, Tennessee | 5 hours from Cleveland, Ohio

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