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10 vacation spots where you don’t need a rental car: Disney World, Austin, Louisville

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 8/1/2021 Katie Jackson
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Can't find a rental car? That's OK. Can't afford them at their current rates? That's OK, too. The coronavirus pandemic caused an unprecedented rental car shortage and sky-high prices felt by travelers in Alaska, the Aloha State, and everywhere in between.

Fortunately, the U.S. is home to plenty of places where having your own wheels is optional, if not outlawed. From an island where automobiles are illegal to a mountain town where most of the traffic you encounter will be on the bike trails and even a city where you can sightsee by stand-up paddle board, here are 10 vacation destinations where you don’t need a rental car.

a man riding on the back of a bicycle: Madison, Wisconsin, was recently designated a Gold Level Walk Friendly Community – the first in the state. With its B-Cycle electric-assist bike share program and more than 240  200 miles of bike paths, Madison is also one of only a handful of five Platinum Bike Cities in the country. © Sharon Vanorny/courtesy of Destination Madison Madison, Wisconsin, was recently designated a Gold Level Walk Friendly Community – the first in the state. With its B-Cycle electric-assist bike share program and more than 240  200 miles of bike paths, Madison is also one of only a handful of five Platinum Bike Cities in the country.

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Jackson, Wyoming

a man sitting on a bench in a park: With its scenic chairlift, mountain coaster, alpine slides, ziplines, mini golf and more, it’s possible to spend several days at Snow King Resort in Jackson, Wyoming, without ever getting into a vehicle. © Carol A. Baetzel With its scenic chairlift, mountain coaster, alpine slides, ziplines, mini golf and more, it’s possible to spend several days at Snow King Resort in Jackson, Wyoming, without ever getting into a vehicle.

As the gateway to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, Jackson is a convenient base for seeing two of America’s most iconic national parks in one trip. With numerous rideshare options and hotels offering shuttle services to and from the airport, rental cars aren’t required.

The best way to see the parks is on a guided tour so try the open-air safari vehicles,  where you can be on wildlife watch instead of focused on the bumper of the RV in front of you.

Within Jackson, getting around is easy. START (Southern Teton Area Rapid Transit) buses are free within town limits or if you're riding between the Teton Village Transit Center and Teton Village. They run every 45 minutes between Jackson and Teton Village, making stops at popular destinations.

Stay: With its scenic chairlift, mountain coaster, alpine slides, ziplines and mini golf, it’s possible to spend several days at Snow King Resort without ever getting into a vehicle. The resort is just a few blocks from Jackson Town Square, home to the most photographed antler arches in the world.

Bozeman, Montana

a bridge over a body of water: A gateway to Yellowstone National Park, Bozeman, Montana, is a bucket list must for travelers with mountains on their mind. © Seth Anderson Photography A gateway to Yellowstone National Park, Bozeman, Montana, is a bucket list must for travelers with mountains on their mind.

Another gateway to Yellowstone National Park, Bozeman is a bucket-list must for travelers with mountains on their mind. This college town, which has turned into one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. It's also surrounded by six serious mountain ranges (including the Madisons) and home to Big Sky Resort and the “biggest skiing in America."

The popular Skyline shuttle service offers low-fare rides from Bozeman to Big Sky Resort. Within Bozeman, Streamline buses are a free and convenient way to reach breweries and trailheads. The city’s trail system, Main Street to the Mountains, boasts more than 90 miles of manicured trails enjoyed by cyclists, hikers and birders.

Stay: The LEED-certified Element Bozeman has a free airport shuttle. It’s located downtown and guests have access to a fleet of bicycles for exploring the city’s trails. Across the street, the historic Kimpton Armory Hotel also has loaner bikes for guests.

Miami

a building with a pool table: With its panoramic views of the Miami River and Biscayne Bay, the Kimpton Epic Hotel feels like a luxurious waterfront property. While public transportation options stop right outside the front door, everything guests need – restaurants, rooftop pools and a spa – are all on site. © Kimpton Epic Hotel With its panoramic views of the Miami River and Biscayne Bay, the Kimpton Epic Hotel feels like a luxurious waterfront property. While public transportation options stop right outside the front door, everything guests need – restaurants, rooftop pools and a spa – are all on site.

Miami has so many cultural institutions – from restaurants to museums and street art – that it can feel like another country. When it comes to free public transportation, there are so many options it can feel overwhelming.

The City of Miami Trolley covers all the hottest neighborhoods like Little Havana, Coral Way and Little Haiti. Then there’s the Metromover, a free electric train servicing three loops in downtown Miami and Brickell seven days a week. Finally, there’s the eye-catching Freebee electric cars which can even be hailed using the Ride Freebee app (available for iOS and Android). The only public transportation Miami visitors might need to pay for is the Metrorail, which goes to the airport. Fares start at $2.25, but at least the WiFi is free.

Stay: The Kimpton Epic Hotel is in the heart of downtown, but with its panoramic views of the Miami River and Biscayne Bay, it feels like a luxurious waterfront property. While public transportation options stop right outside the front door, everything guests need – restaurants, rooftop pools and a spa – are all on site.

Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

a person riding a horse drawn carriage: Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, is a ferry ride from Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. Much of this car-free island is a wildlife conservancy best seen on foot, bicycle or horseback. It's also home to a healthy population of Marsh Tacky horses, an endangered Colonial Spanish horse dating back to the 1500s. © Courtesy of Haig Point Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, is a ferry ride from Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. Much of this car-free island is a wildlife conservancy best seen on foot, bicycle or horseback. It's also home to a healthy population of Marsh Tacky horses, an endangered Colonial Spanish horse dating back to the 1500s.

Golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation on this car-free island accessible, by ferry from Hilton Head and Savannah. Daufuskie Island is South Carolina’s southernmost inhabited island, but with a population of just 430, birds, bottlenose dolphins, and loggerhead turtles outnumber residents.

Much of the island is a wildlife conservancy best seen on foot, bicycle or horseback. The island is home to a healthy population of Marsh Tacky horses, an endangered Colonial Spanish horse dating back to the 1500s. Walk miles of white sand beaches, taste your way through a rum distillery tour or play Haig Point’s signature golf course – named one of America’s top 100 by Golf Digest.

Stay: Daufuskie Island doesn’t have hotels, but it’s home to plenty of AirBnBs, Vrbo properties and other rentals. Or book the stay and play package at Haig Point – a historic private community – where accommodations include a lighthouse built in 1873 and a mansion dating back to 1910.

Catalina Island, California

a large body of water with a city in the background: Catalina Island is the only California municipality permitted by the state to limit the number and size of cars in use. Residents get around by golf cart, bike or foot. © Love Catalina Island Catalina Island is the only California municipality permitted by the state to limit the number and size of cars in use. Residents get around by golf cart, bike or foot.

A scenic 60-minute high-speed ferry ride from Los Angeles, Catalina Island is the only place in California allowed to limit the number and size of cars in use. Residents get around by golf cart and anyone who want to get a new car has to get on a 25-year waiting list

Fortunately, it only takes 20 minutes to walk from one end of the Mediterranean-esque village of Avalon – the island’s main town – to the other. For inland exploration or to see other harbors, visitors can charter boats, hire taxis (Lyft and Uber don’t exist here) or rent golf carts or bicycles, including e-bikes.

During the summer, a free shuttle runs to Descanso Beach. Year-round, a public bus connects downtown with the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Gardens, where visitors can access miles of hiking trails.

Stay: The recently renovated Hotel Atwater has complimentary boat-to-room baggage service so families can relax upon arrival. For couples, it’s hard to beat the Mt. Ada B&B, the former Wrigley Mansion. All guests get complimentary roundtrip ferry or airport/heliport transportation and a golf cart to use during their stay. 

Austin, Texas

a group of people standing next to a body of water: Perhaps the best way to get around Austin, Texas, involves a paddle. Several outfitters along the Colorado River rent kayaks, canoes and paddle boards. © Visit Austin Perhaps the best way to get around Austin, Texas, involves a paddle. Several outfitters along the Colorado River rent kayaks, canoes and paddle boards.

The “Live Music Capital of the World” boasts a vibrant downtown district and fun neighborhoods like SoCo and Barton Hills, all designed for foot traffic. To cover more ground in Austin, take advantage of the city’s many pedicabs or its growing fleet of bikes and scooters.

But perhaps the best way to get around involves a paddle. Several outfitters along the Colorado River rent kayaks, canoes and paddle boards. The Texas Rowing Center alone has more than 400 paddleboards. The only time you’ll need to order an Uber is for the 15-minute ride to the airport. Or pay just $1.25 for non-stop Capitol Metro bus service from the airport to downtown.

Stay: Four Seasons Hotel Austin is conveniently located on the scenic shores of Lady Bird Lake, in the heart of downtown. Guests have access to 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, and all of Austin’s best shopping and nightlife is within walking distance.

Madison, Wisconsin

Situated between two lakes, the lively downtown district of Wisconsin’s capital city is just a 10-minute Uber from the airport. It’s home to the historic capitol building and award-winning museums.

Travelers can visit the Madison Children’s Museum, dozens of shops and restaurants and the country’s largest producers-only farmers market all on foot in just a few hours. In fact, the city was recently designated a Gold Level Walk Friendly Community – the first in the state. With its B-Cycle electric-assist bike share program and more than 200 miles of bike paths, Madison is also one of only a handful of Platinum Bike Cities in the country.  

Stay: Billing itself as a waterfront urban resort, the Edgewater Hotel is where Lake Mendota meets downtown Madison. Its pier offers boat tours, boat rentals, pier parties and public access to the lake.

Louisville, Kentucky

a group of people standing around a motorcycle in front of a building: The walkable Kentucky Bourbon Trail features four of Louisville’s top distilleries, all just a few minutes from each other on foot. © Louisville Tourism The walkable Kentucky Bourbon Trail features four of Louisville’s top distilleries, all just a few minutes from each other on foot.

If you start on Main Street, just a 12-minute Uber ride from the airport, most of Derby City’s main attractions are all within a 1.5-mile radius of each other. The walkable Kentucky Bourbon Trail features four of Louisville’s top distilleries, all just a few minutes from each other on foot.

For a culture fix, the Muhammad Ali Center, Louisville Slugger Museum, Kentucky Science Center, Roots 101 African American Museum and the Frazier History Museum are also all within walking distance of each other. To maximize your time, take advantage of the electric scooters and LouVelo bikes located throughout the city.

Stay: Part museum, part hotel and part restaurant, the funky boutique 21c Museum Hotel is hard to define. It’s located on Main Street along Louisville’s Museum Row.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

a person riding a horse drawn carriage: Bikes and horse and buggies are the main modes of transportation on Mackinac Island, a car-free destination situated between Michigan's Lower and Upper Peninsulas. © Mission Point Resort Bikes and horse and buggies are the main modes of transportation on Mackinac Island, a car-free destination situated between Michigan's Lower and Upper Peninsulas.

Cars aren’t allowed on this idyllic Lake Huron island where bikes and horse and buggies are the main modes of transportation. There’s a public airport; however, most visitors arrive by ferry.

This historic island, once home to an active military fort, boasts fishing, golfing, birding and more. Visitors can zip-line in the morning and make or shop for fudge, in the afternoon before attending a vintage – think 1800s-era rules – baseball game played on the state’s oldest baseball field.

Mackinac State Park covers nearly 90% of the island, so there’s no shortage of hiking and biking trails including an 8-mile trail circumnavigating the island.

Stay: Pets are welcome and kids eat free at Mission Point, an award-winning waterfront retreat with a spa and five eateries. Guests can take advantage of on-site bike rentals and guided hikes or enjoy the property’s swimming pool, tennis court, golf course and movie theater.

Disney World, Florida

a small boat in a body of water: Disney Skyliner, an air gondola service connecting Disney Worlds' 30-plus hotels and resorts to its four theme parks, debuted in 2019. There are also buses, water taxis, ferries, trams and walking trails. © David Roark Disney Skyliner, an air gondola service connecting Disney Worlds' 30-plus hotels and resorts to its four theme parks, debuted in 2019. There are also buses, water taxis, ferries, trams and walking trails.

The architects of the world’s most-visited theme park know that the majority of its  more than 20 million annual visitors don’t want to mess with cars. That’s why Disney World boasts an elaborate transportation system that could impress any major urban planner.

Through the end of 2021, guests staying at Disney resorts can board a complimentary Disney Magical Express bus at the airport in Orlando and be in the park within 40 minutes (reservation required). Inside the park there are more buses as well as water taxis, ferries, trams, and the relatively new Disney Skyliner, a system of themed air gondolas connecting several Disney resorts, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Of course, there are also miles of manicured walking and jogging paths.

Stay: There are more than 30 Disney properties to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a traditional hotel room or a Polynesian villa, it exists at Disney and there’s probably free transportation to and from the airport running 24/7

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 10 vacation spots where you don’t need a rental car: Disney World, Austin, Louisville

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