By Thrillist — Last year, Americans left a whopping 650 million vacation days on the table -- four per working person. When asked why, people say cost. Which is just bonkers, because this country -- maybe more than almost any other on the planet -- abounds with badass cities worth exploring, and at prices often less than what you'd pay in your hometown.
Simply put, taking a vacation you'll remember for the rest of your life doesn't need to break the bank. If you're reading this, you've almost certainly been to a handful of these 15 cities -- but others, you're still waiting to explore. We're here to tell you these are all places worth diving into, and if you save up even a little bit of scratch, you can probably afford to do 'em up bigger than you'd expect. Enjoy: chances are you've more than earned it by now.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Cheap must-eat: Head to Finca for some serious locavore Spanish tapas for as little as $2 to $4 a plate. Try the lamb meatballs, the smoked pork stuffed piquillo peppers, and literally anything that involves the sherry cream sauce.
Best cheap thing to do: Hike. You are never more than a half-hour from a mountain. For a short jaunt, there is a canyon that you can explore right Downtown, next to the City Creek Mall.
Why it's worth a trip: Perpetually, Salt Lake City is going to be overlooked by tourists -- it's in a landlocked state, it's notoriously religious -- but that just means less competition for the best finds. Take, for instance, vintage shopping. It's amazing here, and never better than at Decades, one of the best shops in the country for vintage and antique clothing. I picked up a Edwardian wedding dress for a mere $80, a price that ensures whale-bone corsets will make a comeback soon.
If you are planning to stay a few nights, forego the hotels and crash in one of the Downtown Victorian B&Bs -- you can find rooms at the Ellerbeck Mansion, for one, at less than $130 a night. Romantic and quaint, with four poster beds and lots of floral, even a hard-hearted city dweller will be charmed.
Since SLC hosted the Olympics in 2002, getting around has been made incredibly easy. The Trax trolley system runs all over town, with stops at the airport and the University of Utah campus. There are also buses, but Uber here is cheap and plentiful. This can prove useful should your legs feel too wobbly after one of those mountain hikes or if drinking at the high altitude proves challenging, which, spoiler alert, it definitely will.
Park City and Sundance are both within an hour's drive of Salt Lake City. Also, one cannot visit Utah and miss the chance to observe perpetually smiling Mormons at their mysterious Temple. We plebes cannot go inside, alas, but a museum there welcomes visitors. You can also check out your family history in their database to see if you have any "elders" lurking in your family tree. Now you just have to know, right? -- Ruthie Darling, Thrillist contributor