Life

Where To Sleep, Eat, And Drink On The Cheap In The Cities We Love Most


People often cite money as being the biggest barrier to travel. While, yes, it does often cost some hard-earned cash to take that dream trip of the lifetime, you don’t have to break the bank on every trip. Travel can be inexpensive and still be fun. In fact, figuring out how to wander on a shoestring is often the best part.

With that in mind, we thought we’d list some of our favorite cities around America — highlighting the dope digs, killer food, and rad dives where you won’t break that bank. We sifted through Hostel World’s booking engine, checked prices, and uncovered some favorites spots to create a visual tour around America. Let’s dive in.

LOS ANGELES, CA

L.A. is a massive place. You could easily just chill and West Hollywood or Venice and have a great time without leaving those neighborhoods. In this case, we’re choosing the downtown area which has been going through a revival for the better part of a decade now. It’s also one of the only places on the west coast where you’ll feel like you’re in a big east coast city with the weather of, well, southern Cal.

STAY: The Freehand

The Freehand is located in the heart of downtown LA. The best feature of this spot is the rooftop pool and bar. You can party your heart out at night and just chill poolside all day with the whole of LA’s skyline serving as your technicolor backdrop.

Single dorm beds start at $39 per night — which is a steal for LA.

EAT: Philippe The Original

You can’t really go downtown LA and not dip into Phillipe’s for a sandwich. Their French Dips are the best in the city and the home of that sandwich’s origins. You can snag a Dip with beef, ham, turkey, pastrami, pork, or delicious lamb. They’re all great. The deli also does a decent greasy-spoon breakfast. Though, let’s face it, everyone comes for the French Dips.

DRINK: Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet

This is another classic DTLA spot, reminding you that this city does have some history (or at least imitates it well). This joint is a great cocktail bar with a hidden speak-easy out the back. The cocktails are decently priced and the dark wood and old leather booths give the whole place a throwback atmosphere. Hit up Cole’s for happy hour and snag a couple $6 Manhattans or Old Fashioneds.

If your French Dip appetite hasn’t been sated, try Cole’s version and decide for yourself which place does it best.

NEW ORLEANS, LA

New Orleans is all about the tourism … when you’re in the French Quarter. Travel a little to the left and right of center and you’ll find a completely different city. Don’t get us wrong, you can have an amazing time traipsing up and down Bourbon Street for a solid weekend. But, at some point, you’ll want to take a step out of that craziness and grab something a little more big and easy.

STAY: The Quisby

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Gin n Juice with a dash of gummy worm. #class

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The Quisby was refitted into the old Audubon Hotel on Charles Avenue about ten blocks from the French Quarter. The hostel is a new and fresh, but, come on, you’re only going to be sleeping there — no one goes to New Orleans to hang out in a hostel or hotel. You can snag a dorm bed for $28 per night, which is pretty cheap in NOLA.

EAT: Parkway Bakery & Tavern

A little north of the Quarter, you’ll find the neighborhood joint slinging great sandwiches. The Po’ Boys at Parkway Bakery are spot on and you’ll be surrounded by locals, not tourists. This month they’re serving #PARKWAYTHANKSGIVING PO’ BOYs on Wednesdays. If that doesn’t pique your interest, check out their signature fried potato po’ boy — smothered in beef roast gravy. Trust us, you’ll need the carbo-loading for all those Grenades you’ll be downing later.

DRINK: Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop

If you’re going to be drinking on Bourbon Street (and let’s face it, you are), then a drop in to Lafitte’s is a must. The drinks are well-priced and the atmosphere is unparalleled in all of NOLA. Lafitte’s is thought to be the oldest continually running bar in America and you feel it as soon as you walk in. Stay late enough and the only lights in the place will be flickering candles.

PORTLAND, OR

PDX holds a solid spot on the nation’s psyche as a hipster mecca where people live their fullest lives. That’s partly thanks to Portlandia for skewering the city’s denizens for the better part of the last decade. And, while Portlandia is just a show, Portland has a lot to offer for a weekend away — from an amazing food scene to some of the best bars in the country all with a laid back, Left Coast feel.

STAY: HI Portland Hawthrone

The HI Portland Hawthorne is suited right in one of Portland’s hippest neighborhoods. The hostel really doesn’t feel like a hostel at all since it’s inside a Craftsman house. You’ll literally feel like your crashing a cool friend’s pad. The friend even lets you borrow a bike. Dorms start at $30 a night.

EAT: Pok Pok

About a ten minute walk from the Hawthorne hostel you’ll find Pok Pok PDX. The hole-in-the-wall joint serves up some of Portland’s best fast-casual Thai food. Their Fish Sauce wings started a nationwide phenomenon and the rest of the Thai dishes are a testament to the greatness that is Northern Thailand’s food scene.

DRINK: Bible Club PDX

Down on the southern edge of Portland, you’ll find this bar in a completely non-descript house in a very Porltand neighborhood full of Craftsman houses. Inside you’ll find an old-school speak easy bar called The Bible Club. Everything in the bar looks like an antique from the 1930s — because it is. The novelty aside, the drinks are damn near perfect and there’s a decent barfood menu too.

CHICAGO, IL

Chicago is another massive, sprawling city. Seriously, you could just hang out on Milwaukee around Logan Square and have a great time without leaving the dives, record shops, and diners between Division and California. So we’re kinda focusing our efforts around one area here as well — basically the area around River North and Old Town.

STAY: The Freehand

The Freehand is really killing it with their hostels in America. The Chicago installation is a chic hostel experience that borders on a boutique hotel more than a dorm-like hostel. There’s a killer bar on site and the rooms are all well-fitted and lux (small, but cozy as hell, like a ship’s cabin).

You can snag a dorm bed for $31.67 per night.

EAT: Al’s Beef

About four blocks down E Ontario from the hostel, you’ll find Al’s Beef. Is it better than Johnny’s Beef? Well, that’s up for you to decide. Still, you can grab an Italian Beef from Al’s for about seven bucks. Make sure to add some homemade “hot” giardiniera for an extra 60 cents and get that sucker dipped in beef jus. It’s a great Chicago treat that you can’t leave town without trying once… or twice.

DRINK: Old Town Ale House

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#OldTownAleHouse #RogerEbert

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Roger Ebert once said the the Old Town Ale House is “the best bar in the world that I know about.” He’s not wrong. This dive is just that. The beer and drinks are still cheap. The juke box is on point. The atmosphere dances on the razor’s edge of hip and desperate. And the walls are covered in great satirical and political art.

Protip, make sure you stay late enough for the Tamale guy to show up. You can thank us later.

MIAMI, FL

Miami is another year-round tourist hot spot. There’s a lot to offer between the idyllic beaches and intense club scene — this is the sort of place where you want to be right in the thick of it.

STAY: Miami Beach International Hostel

The Miami Beach Int’l Hostel is right in the middle of the historic Art Deco district. The hostel is often voted one of the best in America for it’s great rooms and amenities. But the real allure is that this hostel basically turns into its own party spot most nights. The parties at the hostel often spill out into the streets.

Plus, it’s legit cheap to crash here: Dorms start at $18 per night.

EAT: Havana 1957 Cuban Cuisine Espanola Way

Cuban cuisine is an integral part of the Miami experience. Just a short ten minute walk up Washington Ave. from the hostel, sits the classic Cuban joint Havana 1957. The meals are filling and cheap (expect to pay $10-$15 for a full plate) and the bar is also a great time on its own. Snag a Cubano sandwich with all that pork, ham, and melty cheese. You won’t be disappointed.

DRINK: Bougainvillea’s Old Florida Tavern

There are seemingly endless options for getting wasted on Miami Beach. You literally just have to walk around. If you get tired of all the bottle-service beachside, head into Miami proper and hit up Bougainvillea’s Old Florida Tavern. It’s very much a no-frills bar with locals drinking cheap drinks and having a good time while doing it. The drinks are on point and some nights they give away pizza by the slice, which is about as awesome as it gets. Seriously, more bars need to start doing that ASAP.

PHILADELPHIA, PA

Philly holds a big place in a lot of hearts — thanks to classics like Rocky and the indelibly dark It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The city is the seat of America’s birth and maintains a great balance between old school Americana and modern city life. It’s also having a hell of a boom at the moment.

STAY: Apple Hostels

Right in the heart of that old school, red brick Americana is the Apple Hostels of Philadelphia. The hostel is a couple minute walk from nearly every historic spot your American-history-loving heart would ever want to see. It’s also only a stone’s throw from Market Street — being situated this well in Philadelphia is a big bonus when visiting the city.

For $30 per night for a dorm bed, you can’t find a better deal.

EAT: Reading Terminal Market

Just down Market Street you’ll find Reading Terminal Market. The food options here run deep. You can easily stock up on great food to cook for yourself back at the hostel, or hit up one of the many restaurants on site. If you’re eating at the market, don’t miss DiNic’s and their roast pork sandwich. It’s arguably better than the cheesesteak (uh oh).

No need to @ us, you can try them both and make up your own mind.

DRINK: Fiume

Out in Spruce Hill in West Philly, there’s a great neigborhood bar that has one of the best beer selections in the city. Fiume isn’t really listed and you kind of have to look for it, which keeps the lazier looky-loos at bay. There’s a fantastic cocktail menu and the “citywide special” of a PBR and a shot of whiskey — which is always a good, cheap way to start the night.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

San Francisco is probably where you’re going to spend the most amount of money on any trip. So saving some serious cash on a hostel bed over a three-digit per night hotel room will help you get more from all the great spots.

STAY: USA Hostels

USA Hostel is right in the middle of the city. You can easily walk through downtown and into Chinatown from the hostel’s front door. The private rooms are pretty much the same quality as a boutique hotel (albeit a little smaller) and the dorms are perfectly clean and comfortable for $37 per night — a steal in San Francisco.

EAT: Tadich Grill

About a 20 minute walk down California Street, you’ll happen upon the iconic Tadich Grill. The old school seafood joint still seats people around a huge bar with servers in white coats and ties mixing up great drinks and serving great seafood. The Seafood Cioppino served with huge chunks of garlic bread is one of the most ordered items and still manages to live up to the hype.

DRINK: Bender’s Bar & Grill

Down in the Mission District you’ll find Bender’s. It’s a great dive bar with a chilled out “smoke-weed-every-day” vibe. Wednesday nights they have $5 whiskey and PBRs which is probably one of cheapest ways to get drunk in San Francisco, hands down. It’s cheap, fun dive in a city full of expensive faux-dive bars.

SEATTLE, WA

Seattle is one of our favorite cities. The music, food, drinks, and natural wonders are some of the best around the country. Plus the city is one of the more laid back places in the country with an easy-going pace to life, food, art, and drink. In this case, we’re going to stick to some rad spots on the Fremont neighborhood just north of downtown.

STAY: Hotel Hotel Hostel

Hotel Hotel Hostel sits right in the middle of everything in Fremont. You’ll be able to talk to a long list of great cafes, bars, restaurants, and galleries. This part of Seattle has a very neighborhood feel with the city just in the distance. The hostel is well-fitted and has a very boutique feel to it. The dorms start at $30 per night for a bed.

EAT: Frēlard Pizza Company

Frēlard Pizza feels like the center of the world if you’re in Fremont. The place is always briming with customers either grabbing a quick slice or ordering a whole pie. There’s a great beer selection to go along with the excellent pizza. What more could you really want from life?

Snag a Carbonara pie with garlic confit, egg, parmesan, and pancetta from Seattle’s famed Salumi. It’s unique and straight up delicious.

DRINK: Fremont Brewing Company

Since you’re in Seattle, a great craft beer is in order. A short walk from Hotel Hotel will get you to Fremont Brewing. The “Urban Beer Garden” serves a deep list of great beers from around the world alongside a constantly rotating list of local brews from Fremont. It’s a great place to start a Pacific Northwest Beer oddyssey before shambling back to Hotel Hotel.

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