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Orlando tops the list of best U.S. cities for a staycation

Here are the top places to take a staycation looking at three areas: recreation activities, food and entertainment, and rest and relaxation.
/ Source: TODAY

As the U.S. economy continues to recover from the financial crisis, many Americans have had to make cutbacks when it comes to spending. After taking care of necessary bills and expenses, there tends to be little left to spend on bonus things like a family vacation. With that in mind, personal finance website WalletHub did extensive research to find out where some of the best places are to take a staycation by analyzing the 100 most populated U.S. cities and looking at three key dimensions: recreation activities, food and entertainment, and rest and relaxation.

“Hopefully, our findings can help frugal-minded consumers who are on the fence about staying home or taking a trip make the best decisions for their wallets and enjoy a bit of fun this summer,” WalletHub reports.

Orlando tops the list of great "staycation" spots
Orlando tops the list of great 'staycation' spots.Shutterstock

The city to top the list, Orlando, Florida, should come as no surprise considering it's also the setting of "the happiest place on earth." More than Mickey and Minnie Mouse giving you a hug though, the southern spot also scored well with having the most golf courses, spas, zoos and aquariums. And that wasn't the only Florida city to rank high on the list; Tampa came in at No. 8, St. Petersburg at No. 12, and Miami at No. 24.

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But, if you're looking for a bit more culture than relaxation, then head to New Orleans, Louisiana, Washington, D.C., or St. Louis, Missouri, where they have the most museums per 100,000 residents. "There are many wonderful things which a family can do at little to no cost depending on where you live," said Howard Adler, professor of hospitality and tourism at Purdue University. "A family can check their local city or close by to check out which day museum might be half price or even free."

With activities still costing money even if you're not traveling far, you should still take a budget into consideration. "One easy way to weight the cost benefit is to ask yourself, 'What could I do with the approximately $200 per day that I would be spending on a hotel,'" said Susan Williams, associate professor of recreation and tourism management at Concord University. "While the local water slide might not be Typhoon Lagoon, you will still get wet, hang out with family and friends, and climb a bajillion steps at a fraction of the cost of traveling to Orlando (unless you live there, of course).

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And not only are staycations a great, cost-effective way to explore your hometown or a city close by, but they also have some positive psychological effects as well. "Attitude is everything," said Williams. "The biggest psychological pitfall is trying to combine the daily routine with the vacation routine. Let the daily grind go. Refuse the ordinary. So the cliché "stop and smell the roses" becomes a critical element in truly escaping the mundane and discovering something fun and exciting right in your back yard."

Other locations that topped the list included Atlanta, Georgia, Cincinnati, Ohio, Scottsdale, Arizona and Boise, Idaho, while surprisingly spots like New York and Las Vegas ranked much lower.

Here's the full list:

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Atlanta, Georgia
  3. Cincinnati, Ohio
  4. Scottsdale, Arizona
  5. Boise, Idaho
  6. St. Louis, Missouri
  7. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  8. Tampa, Florida
  9. Portland, Oregon
  10. Las Vegas, Nevada
  11. Tucson, Arizona
  12. St. Petersburg, Florida
  13. New Orleans, Louisiana
  14. Omaha, Nebraska
  15. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  16. Austin, Texas
  17. Reno, Nevada
  18. Denver, Colorado
  19. Honolulu, Hawaii
  20. Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  21. Seattle, Washington
  22. Kansas City, Missouri
  23. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  24. Miami, Florida
  25. Raleigh, North Carolina
  26. Buffalo, New York
  27. Sacramento, California
  28. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  29. Tulsa, Oklahoma
  30. Washington, D.C.
  31. Lexington, Kentucky
  32. San Francisco, California
  33. Madison, Wisconsin
  34. Lincoln, Nebraska
  35. Greensboro, North Carolina
  36. Baltimore, Maryland
  37. Cleveland, Ohio
  38. Toledo, Ohio
  39. Birmingham, Alabama
  40. Lubbock, Texas
  41. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  42. Boston, Massachusetts
  43. Nashville, Tennessee
  44. St. Paul, Minnesota
  45. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  46. Henderson, Nevada
  47. Chicago, Illinois
  48. Fort Wayne, Indiana
  49. San Diego, California
  50. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  51. Mesa, Arizona
  52. Corpus Christi, Texas
  53. Chandler, Arizona
  54. Durham, North Carolina
  55. Louisville, Kentucky
  56. Virginia Beach, Virginia
  57. Memphis, Tennessee
  58. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  59. Columbus, Ohio
  60. Indianapolis, Indiana
  61. Glendale, Arizona
  62. Long Beach, California
  63. El Paso, Texas
  64. Wichita, Kansas
  65. Phoenix, Arizona
  66. Plano, Texas
  67. New York, New York
  68. Jacksonville, Florida
  69. San Antonio, Texas
  70. Norfolk, Virginia
  71. Anchorage, Alaska
  72. Dallas, Texas
  73. Garland, Texas
  74. Charlotte, North Carolina
  75. Aurora, Colorado
  76. Detroit, Michigan
  77. Houston, Texas
  78. Fort Worth, Texas
  79. Arlington, Texas
  80. Los Angeles, California
  81. Stockton, California
  82. Irvine, California
  83. Chesapeake, Virginia
  84. Irving, Texas
  85. San Jose, California
  86. Oakland, California
  87. Gilbert, Arizona
  88. Riverside, California
  89. Bakersfield, California
  90. Fresno, California
  91. Laredo, Texas
  92. Newark, New Jersey
  93. 9North Las Vegas, Nevada
  94. Hialeah, Florida
  95. San Bernardino, California
  96. Jersey City, New Jersey
  97. Fremont, California
  98. Anaheim, California
  99. Santa Ana, California
  100. Chula Vista, California