Most people are aware of European hostels, very low-cost travelers accommodations that provide shelter and camaraderie to young people on their summer wanders. You may not be aware that hostels are also available to those traveling the U.S. I'm guessing that, with the drop in the dollar vs. the Euro, domestic hostels will see a lot of traffic this year.
The U.S. hostels that are part of the Hostelling-International organization number.almost 80. They are mostly clumped in the Northeast and the West Coast, with a smattering in other states. Some are vacation-oriented, such as the four in the Cape Cod Area, Midpines in Yosemite, and the Redwood National Park Hostel. Others serve large city visitors, such as HI-New York in Manhattan and the Harris Family Hostel in Chicago.
What you will find in a hostel is low-cost accommodations; the hostel in NYC starts at $29 a night! Hostels usually also have kitchen access so you can cook your own meals. Most importantly, to my mind, a hostel provides a chance to meet other travelers from all around the world. My best memories of hostel travel are not the buildings, but the tales I've heard from people from dozens of countries.
What you won't find in a hostel is uniformity; each has its own character and characters. Some offer single rooms slightly larger than a casket, others (the norm) dormitory-style sleeping arrangements. Some have bare-bones amenities, while others may have a hot tub or beach outside.
Lastly, while most people refer to hostels as youth hostels, they are open to people of all ages. However, they best serve those with an adventurous attitude. If you're game and on a tight budget, you can reserve your hostel rooms online.