When searching for a rental, cost is undoubtedly key. Though $1,000 doesn’t go as far as it used to, having an open mind can lead you to some options other renters may overlook. This is especially true if you’re willing to look at places that are a little unconventional—in a good way. From a tiny house in a major city to a duplex masquerading as a vintage dude ranch, these unique apartments offer great value and plenty of personality.
Off-the-grid cabin with plenty of land
Life is sweet—and simple—in Fairfield. This Midwestern town has the classic tree-lined streets, old-fashioned homes, and friendly vibe the state is known for. There isn’t a typical downtown here, but a town square area around the small Central Park. But among the banks and offices, you’ll see a notable array of restaurants offering global cuisines. That’s because Fairfield is surprisingly diverse thanks to the Maharishi University of Management, where students come from all over the world to practice transcendental meditation in addition to their courses of study.
If you’re looking to get in touch with your spiritual side, this off-the-grid cabin is for you. It was built in accordance with the ancient design system Maharishi Sthapatya Veda, which aims to create good fortune for those who live in it. Don’t confuse “off-the-grid” with “camping,” though. While the cabin is powered by solar, propane, and wood, you’ll still have high-speed internet, French clay walls, bamboo floors, and nice appliances.
Incredible three-bedroom in a historic home
The southern Louisiana town of Franklin was once a thriving port city established by the many nearby sugar plantations. You can still see glimpses of Franklin’s moneyed past, particularly in the architecture—more than 400 structures have made it onto the National Register of Historic Places. But despite the grand architecture, Franklin is an unpretentious place where you won’t find trendy bars, but you will find a strong sense of community. (Along with some great homestyle cooking.) Like in many Louisiana cities, downtown follows the path of a river. Here, it’s the Bayou Teche. There you’ll find the beloved Teche Theatre for the Performing Arts, along with the annual Harvest Moon Fest. For those who love nature, take the public boat launch to the Franklin Canal, which will take you to the Louisiana wetlands and delta regions.
You can create your own kind of Southern hospitality in this three-bedroom rental. That’s because it isn’t just an apartment, but a portion of a meticulously updated historic Victorian manor.
Panama City, Florida
You’re probably familiar with Panama City from its reputation as a spring break destination—but that would technically be Panama City Beach, located west of town. While you might not have college-age partiers coming to Panama City itself, tourists do come here. However, they visit mainly for the old-school Florida feel. The main drag of W. 18th Street takes you to dive bars, great delis, and the kind of seafood markets with kitschy beach paintings everywhere (don’t miss Buddy Gandy’s Seafood). And that’s mainly it—the rest of the scene here revolves around hanging out on the water and living your low-key dreams. Since it’s not considered hipster territory just yet, the market is a little under-the-radar, meaning you can find a great place to live and still have some money left over for margaritas and shrimp tacos.
For living in this Floridan paradise, this sweet little two-bedroom cottage can’t be beat. The sherbet-colored exterior underscores the whole permanent-vacation vibe, while the beamed ceilings and stone fireplace are the definition of adorable. Plus, it’s just a block from W. 18th Street and the waterfront.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque has long had a unique and artsy spirit, along with a strong sense of history. Though you will find the typical touristy shops filled with turquoise jewelry here, there’s been a creative revival in recent years—particularly downtown. Central Avenue anchors downtown’s Huning Highland Historic District, where you’ll find such unique attractions as a late-night diner housed in an old gas station (Standard Diner) to bars that invite you to share a pint alongside your dog (Anodyne). The historical neighborhood was Albuquerque’s first suburb, arriving at the same time as the railroads. Today, it’s as charming as it is well-preserved.
This studio in a 1917 local landmark on Broadway Boulevard SE puts you right in the middle of the Huning Highland Historic District. Though you’re near Central Avenue, you have one of the city’s best experimental performing arts spaces just across the street. Two other venues—Popejoy Hall and Orpheum Arts Space—are right around the corner on Coal Ave SE.
Pine Valley, California
Rustic mountain rental with old-timey appeal
Located in the scenic Cuyamaca Mountains of southeastern San Diego County, Pine Valley feels like a time warp in the best way. The town has a distinct mid-century rustic charm. You’ll find the town’s library housed in a quaint ranch-style home, a retro diner (Major’s Coffee Shop), and an old-fashioned burger stand (Frosty Burger). It’s a small town of around 1,500 that’s very spread out—great for those who love being surrounded by nature and plenty of peace. And while rural, the town is popular among professionals.
You can claim a little corner of Pine Valley with this charming one-bedroom apartment in a building full of vintage Western charm. From its whimsically askew name above the door to its timber-and-stone exterior, this place has the down-home look down pat. Oh, and when you’re looking for some fun, you’re right near the Golden Acorn Casino.
Tiny house minutes away from downtown
Atlanta is a unique city mainly due to its sheer size—it’s 134 square miles. While public transportation is good thanks to MARTA, you’ll definitely want to bring a car to take advantage of everything the city has to offer. One of the most interesting neighborhoods is Grant Park. Its 131-acre green space of the same name is an oasis of outdoor recreational opportunities and beauty, along with Zoo Atlanta. That, plus the many gorgeous Victorian and Craftsman-style homes, make the neighborhood feel far removed from the busy downtown, even though it’s mere minutes away. However, you might not even have to make the drive if you’re looking for a night out. Grant Park’s Memorial Drive SE is home to eateries ranging from Tex-Mex cantinas to retro country diners.
This tiny home puts you close to I-20 for an easy commute, but also approximately three blocks from both Grant Park and Memorial Drive SE. You’re also a few blocks away from a huge grocery store, a beloved wine shop (3 Parks Wine Shop), pastry shop (Cake Hag), and a handful of acclaimed modern bistros.
Upgraded loft in a 1910 landmark
Pennsylvania’s capital city has a low cost of living, a down-to-earth feel, and a compact size that makes it less intimidating than bigger metros. In recent years, Harrisburg has attracted artists and small businesses looking to bring a more creative spirit to the city. While it used to be true that the city would shut down after five (a ton of state offices are here), there’s now plenty to do—particularly along N 2nd Street and N 3rd Street. From the vegan restaurant/brewery The Vegetable Hunter to the excellent used bookstore The Midtown Scholar, a night out in Harrisburg can lead to many surprises.
This spacious loft is located in the former city hall, which dates back to 1910. It’s a great spot for culture lovers since it’s basically across the street from The Forum Auditorium, home of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra. The location is also an easy drive to I-83, which can take you on a quick trip to one of the most unique places in America: Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Greenville, South Carolina
Greenville is one of the most beautiful cities in the country. Located in the northwest portion of the state, Greenville sits at a high elevation with brilliant views of the surrounding Appalachians. In the past few years, this city has attracted a ton of attention from food and travel bloggers, particularly for its many great restaurants downtown. Outside of the historic downtown, the main draw is the natural beauty that makes even a visit to Walmart seem epic.
Located about 10 minutes from one of the most scenic parks in the area—Paris Mountain State Park—is this cute, one-bedroom tiny home on a lush green lot surrounded by trees. Its nearest neighbor? Furman University. If you can, visit the Henry David Thoreau Replica Cabin on campus—you might pick up a few tips for tiny-house living in the woods.