The Best U.S. Destinations to Visit Without a Rental Car

Physical side effects aside, COVID has had some lingering effects on the travel industry. Some of them we saw coming: lay-offs in the hospitality industry, furloughs in the airline industry, small businesses closing their doors temporarily or for good. Some, however, caught us off-guard, such as the rental car shortage. But don’t let that stop you! As long as you choose an accommodation downtown or within walking distance of the things you want to do, you can still travel without spending an arm and a leg on a rental car!

Need an alternative to walking or driving? Sometimes renting a bicycle is the best way to see a new place!

Why is there a Rental Car Shortage?

Looking back, I understand how this started. Rental car companies were compelled to sell off their inventory because no one was traveling for so long. Road trips were happening in cars people already owned because of safety concerns associated with shared spaces (like planes and rental cars) during the pandemic. An additional, unforeseen cause was a fire at a car “chip” factory in China. The place where all the computer chips for cars were made literally burned to the ground, so no chips for existing cars can be replaced (so some car repairs cannot be made), and no new cars can get chips and thus cannot be sold because the cars won’t work!

So now, there’s a major rental car shortage, and the cars that can be rented are going for sky-high prices—some are going for $1500 per day or more! If you’re like me, that’s definitely not on your list of things to do with your money, even if you LOVE to travel. So, I decided to come up with a list of my favorite places to travel where you won’t need a rental car. If your favorite didn’t make my list, please add it in the comments section! And wherever you travel this year, remember to support the small businesses when and where and how you can. 

Sometimes the best thing is a walk through the woods!
This article from The Points Guy in April is also helpful in understanding why there’s a rental car “apocalypse!”

Waikiki

In my personal and professional opinions, you really need a car on any of the Hawaiian islands you visit. The exception? Waikiki on O’ahu! There is so much to see and do in and around the Waikiki area. It’s literally one of the most picturesque and iconic locations in the world. It’s within easy rideshare or taxi distance from HNL. 

And to help inspire your trip, take a look at my book set in Waikiki, Confidence Lost and Found!

Pro Tip

One of my favorite hacks for Hawaii is to only rent a car on the day or (non-consecutive) days you need one. There are so many car rental location in Waikiki, you can walk to one to rent a car just for a day to go around the island, or to drive to a farther location or activity. This saves you money on the days you don’t need or want to drive anywhere, as well as on parking or valet fees at your hotel!

Hanging out with Duke on Waikiki!

What to See Within Walking Distance

Things to Do Within Rideshare Distance

  • Pearl Harbor
  • Koko Head Crater Hike
  • Hanauma Bay
No matter where you go on Waikiki, you can almost always get an epic view of Diamond Head Crater!
More here: 10 Things to do in Waikiki

Key West

My husband and I visited Key West for the first time in January. We loved it so much, we took my parents back with us in June! We love how walkable Key West is, so it’s a perfect location for a car-free trip. There are so many activities and excursions you can do right from Key West, so whether you’re into museums, shopping, eating, water sports or National and State Parks, there will definitely be plenty to keep you busy! The airport is just 3 miles from Old Town Key West, so it’s a quick rideshare or taxi ride!

Getting our obligatory photo at Key West’s Southernmost Point Bouy!

What to See Within Walking Distance

Things to Do Within Rideshare Distance

There are some places you can only visit on foot!
Read next: The Best Things to do in Key West

Nantucket

Nantucket is one of the most beautiful places. Between the vibrant hydrangeas and the friendly people, it’s no wonder some people go back year after year! It’s also a wonderful cycling location if you want to rent a bike for your trip, too. There are few places in the world as charming, quaint, and walkable as Nantucket! You can fly directly to ACK and take a taxi or rideshare from there, or if you prefer, take the ferry from Martha’s Vineyard or various locations on mainland Massachusetts. 

In fact, I loved my time on Nantucket so much, I set one of my books here! Click here for your copy of Summer Lost and Found.

I loved my trip to Nantucket and can’t wait to go back!

What to See Within Walking Distance

  • Historic House Museums
  • Waterfront
  • Jetties Beach
  • Shops
  • Restaurants

Things to Do Within Rideshare Distance

  • Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum
  • Siasconset
It really is as pretty as a picture!
Read on: 10 Reasons to Visit Nantucket

Block Island

Never heard of Block Island? Put it on your list! This adorable island off the coast of Rhode Island is only accessible by ferry or small plane, and feels like a world away. It’s easy to get around on foot or by bicycle, and while you can bring your car with you on the ferry, why would you want to? If you’re coming by ferry, you can walk to one of the many accommodations near where the ferry docks, or if you’re flying in, simply take a taxi to your accommodation (at the time of this writing, rideshare services are not available). Once there, you can easily rent a bike or scooter to get around!

Block Island’s famous Southeast Lighthouse is easy to reach on foot or by bike!

What to See Within Walking Distance

  • National Hotel
  • Block Island Historical Society
  • Old Harbor Historic District
  • Shops
  • Restaurants

Things to Do Within Bicycling Distance

  • Mohegan Bluffs
  • Northeast Lighthouse
  • Block Island National Wildlife Refuge
Don’t forget to stop into the National Hotel while you’re here!
Also helpful: How to Get to Block Island

Washington, D.C.

I quite literally chose to move to D.C. in large part because I did not need to drive everywhere! Thanks to the close proximity of D.C.’s main attractions and its wide-spread metro system, you can definitely fill up a few days, a week, or a month and never once think about “needing” a car to get around. You can get into town by flying into DCA and taking the Metro, or flying into IAD and taking the Metro (via the bus to the silver line), a taxi, or rideshare.

Want a sneak peek of a car-free D.C. trip? Check out my book, American Lost and Found!

One of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken!

What to See Within Walking Distance

Things to Do Within Rideshare Distance

See if you can find Albert Einstein on your trip!
Essential info: The Most Helpful Blog Posts You Will Every Find about D.C.

San Francisco

Okay, so it’s walkable, but consider the hills that make San Francisco so famous! Pace yourself. That said, it’s a great place to explore on foot. You could come by ferry from a variety of California locations, or from the airport, which is easily accessible via rideshare, a taxi, or the BART rail system. 

Anyone else hear the “Full House” theme song right about now?

What to See Within Walking Distance

  • The Wharf
  • Ghirardelli
  • Coit Tower
  • Shops
  • Restaurants

Things to Do Within Rideshare Distance

  • The Painted ladies
  • Sausalito (via ferry)
  • Alcatraz
  • Golden Gate Bridge
Don’t forget to stop by one of the most famous bridges in the world!
Read on: 10 Reasons to Visit San Francisco

Boston

New England’s pre-Revolutionary cities are fantastic for car-free trips. You know why? Because when they were planned and built, no one even considered cars for transportation! Everything had to be close enough to walk or ride a horse. So, most of the best things to do are well within walking distance, and Boston fits that description. It’s easy to get into the city center via the T rail system, or you could use a rideshare or take a taxi as well. 

Walking is one of the best ways to really see Boston!

What to See Within Walking Distance

Things to Do Within Rideshare Distance

  • Red Sox Stadium
  • Lexington and Concord
  • Harvard
  • MIT
The Boston Tea Party site is one of the more popular ones!
Bookmark this one: Your Ultimate Guide to Boston’s Freedom Trail

Miami Beach

Thanks to this barrier island’s fantastic boardwalk, it’s one of the most pedestrian-friendly destinations you’ll find! Dozens of hotels, restaurants, and shops line the famous shoreline, not to mention the colorful lifeguard stands and Art Deco architecture. Having so much to do and see definitely helps you cover lots of ground without realizing it, and no matter how many times you walk back and forth here, you’ll always see something different—which will probably include buttcheeks… Fair warning! You can get here easily from the MIA airport via rideshare, taxi, bus, or shuttle. 

Our bathing suits totally matched, and we didn’t even mean to!

What to See Within Walking Distance

  • Art Deco District
  • South Beach
  • Miami Beach Boardwalk
  • Shops
  • Restaurants

Things to Do Within Rideshare Distance

  • Fontainebleu Hotel
  • South Pointe Park
  • Miami Beach Botanical Garden
The views of South Beach can’t be beat!
More here: Where to Eat in Miami Beach

Charleston

Much like historic cities in the northeast, Charleston was founded in the 17th century and came to prominence long before cars became an option! As a result, the walkability here is pretty fantastic. You can take a rideshare or bus from the airport, then never think about getting into a car again until time to fly home!

Don’t miss the iconic Rainbow Row!

What to See Within Walking Distance

  • Rainbow Row
  • Battery Park
  • Historic House Museums
  • C.S.S. Hunley
  • Waterfront Park

Things to Do Within Rideshare Distance

  • Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
  • Drayton Hall
  • The Citadel
I loved finding this little gem: It’s the oldest house in Charleston!
One of my most Pinned posts EVER: The Ultimate List of FREE Things to Do in Charleston

Savannah

I love Savannah. I simply love it! The fountains, the squares, the Spanish moss, the history—Savannah is a favorite. You know what else I love? The walkability! It’s an exceptionally pedestrian friendly town, and it’s a good thing: you’ll want to eat all the Leopold’s Ice Cream, all the Olde Pink House dinner options, all the things all slathered in butter! Just take a rideshare from the airport or the 22-minute bus for $5 into Savannah, then let your feet do the walking!

Want a peek at a fun trip to Savannah? My book, Grace Lost and Found is set here!

The iconic Forsythe Fountain is within easy walking distance of everything you want to do!

What to See Within Walking Distance

Things to Do Within Rideshare Distance

  • Tybee Island
  • Hilton Head Island
  • Wormslowe Historic Site
  • Bonaventure Cemetery
Fuel your walking days with Leopold’s Ice Cream!
More here: The Best Places to Eat in Savannah

Austin

The downtown area of the Texas capitol city is pretty compact, so if you can take the heat, this is a great car-free option! My husband lived in Austin for a few years before he ever met me, so he took me and showed me around his favorite old haunts. Just take a rideshare or a bus from AUS into downtown Austin, then have fun on your trip!

My love showed me some of his favorite places!

What to See Within Walking Distance

  • Zilker Park
  • Welcome to Austin Mural
  • Texas State Capitol
  • South Congress (SoCo)
  • Congress Avenue Bridge (and bats!)
  • Mexic-Arte Museum
  • Lady Bird Lake

Things to Do Within Rideshare Distance

  • Mount Bonnell
  • Magnolia Cafe
  • Neill-Cochran House Museum
  • President Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library
Welcome to Austin!
Read next: The Best Places to Eat in Austin

Notable Mentions

This list, of course, is not exhaustive! Other car-free destinations include New Orleans, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Nashville, Mackinac Island, Redondo Beach, Pensacola, and so many more! What’s your favorite car-less vacation spot, and what are your favorite things to do there? Comment below!

And for more destination inspiration, check out the dedicated Destination section of my Travel Tips Page!

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Published by quickwhittravel

Hey there! I am an avid traveller and adventurer, and you're always welcome to join me! The things I love most are God, my husband Steve, and seeing new places! My favorite places include Sydney, Australia; Ise City, Japan; and Bergen, Norway--but there's always room for more favorite places!

4 thoughts on “The Best U.S. Destinations to Visit Without a Rental Car

  1. Philadelphia was definitely walkable, from when I worked there. The subway could get you “reasonably” anywhere else.

    1. Thank you! I hope it’s helpful and inspirational! I still prefer walking to public transportation, but sometimes it’s the best option!

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