You might not know it, but this small Midwestern city has big-time architecture designed by such masters as I.M. Pei, Eero Saarinen and Robert Stern. It all started back in the 1940s, when a local business paid for celebrated architects to design public buildings. Today the “Athens of the Prairie” showcases nearly 70 fine examples of 20th-century architecture, a handful of them National Historic Landmarks. You can arrange a guided tour ($20 per person) or take a self-guided walk with free maps from the Columbus Area Visitors Center. It costs nothing to follow the sinuous curve of the White River on a stroll in Mill Race Park. Its remarkable design by renowned landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh enables it to withstand spring floods. Savor the city’s genial small-town vibe — and small-town prices — at ongoing free festivals and family-friendly places such as Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor, a beloved Victorian-era landmark. Across the street is The Commons, a steel-and-glass entertainment complex with a fantastic free indoor playground. — Photo by SuperStock/Age Fotostock (Ameritech Building)
En español | Even in these penny-pinching times, it’s easy to satisfy a case of wanderlust in the sprawling, diverse American landscape. The United States has plenty of lovely locations where the cost of living is low and the diversions are free or inexpensive. Here are some of America’s best-value cities.