Last Minute July 4th Adventures That Won't Break The Bank

About 43 million Americans will travel for the Fourth of July holiday. This is a new record, according to AAA's annual July 4th annual holiday survey, and an increase of 1.3 percent over last year. Most people, approximately 84 percent or 36 million, will be taking a road trip, a true American pastime for the most patriotic holiday of the year. The lowest gas prices since 2005 have a lot to do with their choice.

Alaska’s Seward Highway

Explore Alaska's Seward Highway for a marvelous wildlife-spotting experience and stunning glacier sights that make this road trip unlike any other. Get out of Anchorage and drive along Turnagain Arm, an inlet where you see beluga whales following salmon and other fish. Go farther south  to see the Chugach Mountains, where you're sure to witness moose, Dall sheep, and bald eagles. You can pull over anywhere along the route to go hiking. Some of the glaciers are accessible by foot or boat. Don't miss the chance to explore the incredible terrain. Byron Glacier, for example, is a popular day hike.

Route 66, Illinois to California

This is the ultimate American trip – the legendary 2,400 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica. It has been featured in just about everything – TV, music, movies. Many places still keep the original two-lane highway. The most popular locations along the trip are in the Southwest, but Illinois has something to offer as well. Stop by Pontiac and visit the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum. Along the way you'll also find stunning panoramas, charming towns, rocky cliffs, and beautiful deserts and parks. If you really want to see what it's like to be "alone" on the road, go west from Kingman past the saguaro cacti and loose boulders. You'll get to Oatman, an old gold-mining town. Don't forget to visit the Meteor Crater in Arizona, which is 50,000 years old.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe will hosts its 41st annual Pancakes on the Plaza event, a 4th of July tradition involving delicious pancakes, cool cars on display, toe-tapping music and a unique art show. Tickets are $7 per person ($8 on July 4th) and proceeds benefit local charities. Go on an astronomy adventure for a journey through the night sky,  wine and Jeep tours. You will also enjoy hiking, with a chance to do yoga in the forest, and rafting. You can find hotel rates as low as $60-$100 per night.

Mendocino County, California

Head out to Mendocino Country for a weekend  of fun. You get to see the longest, continuous rodeo in the state ($12 for adults and $5 for kids), where cowboys and cowgirls participate in several events to win the coveted All-Around title; the world's largest salmon barbecue, a Country Music Rodeola, a horseshow content, fireworks and a kooky hometown parade. Outdoor activities in the area include biking, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, horseback riding and surfing. There are still hotel rooms available for around $90 a night.

Lake Powell, Utah

Lake Powell is a great location for a relaxed and lighthearted vacation year-round. Locals and tourists go there for the many boating, tubing and wakeboarding opportunities. The reservoir is not far from Las Vegas and Phoenix. You can enjoy two inexpensive expeditions during one holiday trip. Some houseboating specials for two include staying at Lake Powell Resort for $299 for two nights, including breakfast and lunch. You can also go fishing, hiking, golfing, jet skiing, and camping.  

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas is a bucket list experience in general. Going there for Independence Day can save you a lot of money, as a lot of hotels offer 50 percent discounts and more (largely because it's usually hot this time of year). You can easily find rates for $100 a night, leaving you with extra cash for all kinds of adrenaline-inducing activities such as racing dunes, taking a hot air balloon for some incredible photo opportunities, and mountain biking.   

Monument Valley, Arizona-Utah border

The spectacular scenery of Monument Valley, at 5,200 feet in elevation, is fascinating every day because of the sandstone formations which have imaginary names like Mittens, Elephant Butte, Totem Pole, and North Window. Many facilities offer campgrounds so you can be close to some of the most iconic impressive 400- to 1,000-foot towers of the southwest. Trails outside of the Tribal Park are unmarked and considered backcountry, requiring a $5 day-use permit from the visitor center.

Go on a cruise

You can travel from Miami to Nassau, Cape Canaveral and back to Florida with the MSC Divina cruise for $279 per person with a departure date on July 2. Last minute 7-night Caribbean cruises start from $499 per person, or about $70 a night. There is a real stone piazza, a lavish casino and a Broadway-size Pantheon Theatre for an incredible onboard experience. Enjoy the beautiful infinity pool that extends seamlessly out to sea. You also have access to a spa, fitness center, shops and 14 entertainment facilities.

Asheville, North Carolina

Enjoy the charm of the South and indulge in its exciting food scene, locally known as Foodtopia, after an exhilirating hot air balloon ride. Exploring the small city on foot, trolley, or zip line is best way to submerge yourself in the perennial splendor of Asheville's natural wonders. You can find hotels around $100 a night and dozens of delicious cheap eats. Cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway and see its beauty along the crest of the mountains for free. Visit local famers and try amazing cheese, also for free.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Breaking Bad fans will be delighted to know that you can go to many of the locations in the movie for as much as a trolley ride. Outdoor activities like hiking in the desert, tracking down petroglyphs and enjoying hot springs are mostly free. From gallery tours to wine tastings at select wineries, you can find plenty of free things to do in Albuquerque. Bonus: You are very close to part of the iconic Route 66. Make the most of this opportunity and explore one of America's most scenic roads. You can still find plenty of hotels between $60 and $80 per night.

Black Hills, South Dakota

Being at Mount Rushmore for Independence Day is one of the best places to celebrate America's birthday. Spending the weekend in Black Hills, a family-friendly, small mountain range, where you can enjoy  Badlands National Park, will also save you money. If you love  backcountry camping and hiking, Badlands National Park is the perfect park for you. Go camping and drive the Badlands Highway 240 Loop Road for the ultimate experience. Also, go bird watching, hiking and auto touring. There are still lodgings available for around $90 per night.

Jekyll Island, Georgia

You can find family packages for about $690 for a 3-day stay in Jekyll Island, an iconic place to celebrate Independence Day. The price includes activities and accommodations for everyone – golfing (compete for the longest drive from the tee-box), horseback riding, a holiday cookout, beach-side fireworks show, and shuttle services. Exploring the island on wheels is a must-do, and visiting the Summer Waves Water Park is the best way to beat the heat.

South Padre Island, Texas

If you didn't get a chance to go to this iconic Spring Break destination, head to South Padre Island. It'll be much cheaper. You can still find hotel rates ranging between $100 and $150 a night. Enjoy a vacation filled with a family fun, and beach adventures such as surfing, flyboarding and diving. Nightlife at South Padre Island is all about live music and dance. You will not miss a fireworks extravaganza on July 4. Enjoy the show on the beach starting at 8 p.m.

Boulder, Colorado

For an adventurous small town celebration of Independence Day, consider Boulder. There will be a bike rodeo. Enjoy a pig roast, live music performances, humungous beer gardens and the famous Ralphie's Independence Day Blast fireworks display. Sign up for the 2016 Louisville Slugger Softball Tournament and celebrate while playing a version of America's favorite pastime. Late night swimming, jazz shows and walking tours are other options. Outdoor must-do adventures include climbing the Third Flatiron, mountain bike at Heil Valley ranch, and hike the Guardians of the Flatirons. Hotels for up to $150 per night are still available.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Go to Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains, if you want to be among the first in the country to celebrate Fourth of July. The city hosts the first Independence Day Parade in the U.S., starting at midnight on July 4. More than 80,000 people mark the occasion. There is also a river raft regatta, music festival, and fireworks display. Outdoor activities are endless – more than 800 miles of hiking trails, over 120 species of birds to watch, biking routes, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, to name a few. Some hotels average $70 per night.