For travelers, the three-day weekend is a last-ditch chance to soak in the waning rays of sunshine before the crisp autumn air creeps in. The weekend marks the tail-end of high season rates, but Labor Day deals are out there if you know where to look. Even a spur-of-the-moment trip doesn’t have to put a dent in the wallet if you look to big cities, which tend to empty out this particular weekend.
The origins of Labor Day can be traced back to 18th-century Europe, when skilled workers found respite in working longer hours for fewer days, eventually taking off "Saint Monday"—the Monday after payday—to enjoy rest and recreation, from attending concerts and museums and various town events. In 1894, Labor Day became the first American holiday to be designated on a Monday—the first Monday in September—as a way to honor the working class and serve as a nationwide reminder that summer is drawing to a close.
According to the AAA, some 86% of travelers fitting in the last of their weekend getaways head to beaches like New York’s Coney Island; South Beach Florida; Hilton Head, South Carolina; and Nassau, Bahamas. Others are content with an indulgent staycation, breaking out the picnic baskets and sandwiches for a final nap and chat on the grass. In the spirit of “Saint Monday,” a variety of parades and events are held throughout the country as a last hurrah in the outdoors. Whether you’re headed to an annual music festival like New York City’s Electric Zoo and the D.C. Blues Festival, catching that last spin on the ferris wheel before the local carnival closes for the season, or taking an hour to browse the city farmer’s markets or crafts fair, every city does its best to offer a range of activities to fill your weekend—and counter those end-of-summer blues. Let Travel + Leisure be your guide to what’s on.