Sick of the sight of the Golden Gate Bridge? Tired of endless Victorian terraces giving way to scenic views over the bay? If you're stuck inside of San Francisco and itching to get out and see some other part of the States, then just take a look at our run-down of the ten cheapest flights from the city's airport. By analyzing millions of airfare searches made in the past year, we can figure out the ten cheapest destinations you can fly to from any particular city. So, from San Fran, you can climb into the Rocky Mountains, ride into Houston or descend into the sins of Vegas — all for an exceptionally low cost. Just take your pick of the ten cities we've lassoed together here.
With Colorado blazing a trail in the legalization of marijuana, Denver is starting to catch up with San Francisco in the race to be America's leading laid-back vacation destination. But Denver has far more than just a socially liberal attitude and a few flowers in its residents hair, including a spectacular mountainous setting where the Great Plains bunch up into the Rocky Mountains. This makes it terrific for hiking in the summer months and for winter sports when the snow descends, with several great ski resorts within easy reach of the city. The cheapest flights between the two cities are direct with Frontier Airlines.
Fly from America's most experimental city to one of its most traditional, Salt Lake City, founded in 1847 as the base of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Of course this is something of a simplification of Salt Lake City, which has a diverse population with many outdoors enthusiasts drawn to its rugged setting. But the city's spiritual heritage remains a striking sight in imposing Temple Square. Cheap direct flights are available with Alaska, United and Delta.
Frontier operate the only direct flights between West-Coast San Fran and Deep-South Houston, which, at $155 round trip, are fantastically good value. The biggest city in Texas makes for a very distinctive city break destination, with all the food, culture and entertainment you'd expect of a thriving metropolis, but all of it available with a local twist — whether it's Tex-Mex and BBQ in the restaurants, honky-tonk country in the bars, rodeos in the stadiums or livestock shows on the festival calendar.
Down at the southern tip of California's coast, sun-drenched San Diego has a vibe all of its own. This vibe is generally a pretty laid-back one, whether you're chilling with the sunbathers and surfers on the city's terrific beaches, strolling the elegant districts and picturesque coastline of La Jolla, discovering the Mexican and frontier history etched on the Old Town, or dropping into the bars, cafes and clubs of Little Italy and the Gaslamp Quarter. Cheap flights south from San Francisco are direct with United and Virgin America and take just over an hour.
Traveling north up America's Pacific coast, Portland is a beautifully situated city that is a hub of many fine things: craft beer, political activism, hipster cafes and excellent vegetarian eateries. But even if you're a miserable old fart who can't stand any of these activities — if they strike you as more self-involved than selfless, more pretentious than artisan — then you can just take your grumpy old self out for a stroll among the cool green Douglas Firs that line the Willamette River, or further out to the Cascade Range or Columbia River Gorge. Virgin America, Alaska and United all operate direct flights for as little as $145 return.
Portland is pretty, but Seattle is truly spectacular. Evergreen trees and expansive parks run throughout the city, which overlooks Puget Bay and Lake Washington and is framed by the Cascade mountains to the east and by the Olympic mountains to the west. Visitors can alternate enjoying the city's urban pleasures — good food, fascinating museums, raucous bars — with strolling through its many leafy parks, taking a boat onto one of the area's many lakes or driving to the Olympic peninsula, site of the only temperate rainforest in the lower 48 states. Alaska and Virgin America operate the cheapest flights, both direct and with a flight time of two hours.
It's a short trip down the coast from San Francisco to Santa Ana — only 90 minutes aboard these direct United flights. The seat of Orange County, Santa Ana has a thriving artistic community which makes it always worth checking out what's new in the galleries and exhibition spaces of the Artist Village and the Bowers Museum. For the kids, there's also a sizeable zoo and a great Science Museum with plenty of inventive interactive exhibits for them to get their hands on. And for later in the evening, Santa Ana has two very characterful places to eat and drink: Original Mike's and the Gypsy Den.
United operate the cheapest direct flights to the desert town of Phoenix, located in the lowlands of the Sonoran Desert. The cheapest flights are during the milder months at the end of the winter, with March a particularly pleasant time to visit. Highlights include the city's unique desert botanical garden, and walking, cycling or hummer trips out among the red rock and rolling dunes of the Sonoran.
If you're hit by a craving for a bigger, more intense urban experience, you can fly from San Fran to the City of Angels for as little as $134 return on American and Virgin. LA is every bit as cramped, crowded and noisy as its reputation suggests, but it's just as vibrant, too. You can take in the big ticket attractions of Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory, Mulholland Drive, Venice Beach and Universal City, then scout around the city's many more idiosyncratic sights, such as the Museum of Tolerance, the Big Lebowski Tour and the Japanese American National Museum.
Direct flights will take you inland from the chilled-out hedonism of San Francisco to the more frantic and fast-paced thrills of Vegas, where dancing girls oversee big-buck bets in the city's world-famous casinos, and every childhood fantasy from flying a fighter plane to surviving a zombie apocalypse can be fulfilled at the swipe of a credit card. And with flights priced at little more than $100 round trip, you'll have plenty of cash left over to try your hand on the blackjack tables.