Memorial Day

On the last Monday of May, Americans pause to observe Memorial Day, a national holiday that honors those that have died during their service in the United States’ armed forces. Decoration Day, as it was originally called, was founded in 1868, when family and friends of the dead would drape flowers over the graves of their loved ones whom they had lost in the American Civil War. But it wasn’t until 1971 that the observance of Memorial Day was established on a Monday. Now, as our country reflects, it also celebrates: the three-day weekend marks the glorious beginning of summer vacation season, when beaches and pools reopen to the public, amusement park rides creak back into service, and ever-patient employees planning their Memorial Day weekend getaways can finally cash in those summer Fridays. Where to GoAccording to the AAA, more than 36 million Americans travel during this weekend every year, bound for sunny escapes like South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas, and Orlando, Florida. Food also plays a huge part in the festivities. Memorial Day travel has become synonymous with plates of corndogs, bowls of potato chips, and juicy burgers hot off the grill. Those in search of fried food can’t do better than brisket and barbecue in Austin or ribs in Memphis while listening to some rock ‘n roll blues, while many head to Kennebunkport, Maine, for endless clam chowder and lobster rolls before the summer crowds descend.Whether you’re planning a weekend trip with friends, a backyard barbecue with family, or just looking to get away, Travel + Leisure tracks the places to go, things to eat, and celebrations to see on Memorial Day to kick off the sunny season right. So break out the sandals and sun hats, slather on the sunscreen, and take advantage of three-day weekend and springtime sales—because summer is finally here.

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These Are the Hottest Memorial Day Weekend Destinations in the U.S.

The first day of summer is technically June 21, but Memorial Day weekend heralds the unofficial beginning of the season. Even if the weather isn’t perfect, the weekend signals to winter-weary Americans across the country that they can finally — finally! — put away their winter coat, dust off the barbecue, and replace last year’s expired sunscreen. After cold weather snaps across the West Coast, and four nor’easters that forced East Coasters to Google the terms “ bomb cyclone” and “bombogenesis,” the summer months can’t come fast enough. One of the first times Memorial Day was observed was in 1868, a few years after the end of the Civil War, when mourners gathered at Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia. Back then, it was known as Decoration Day, and was marked by speeches and a parade of people delivering flowers to the graves of soldiers. Today, Americans commemorate the efforts of soldiers in much the same way. At Arlington National Cemetery, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment places more than 230,000 flags at gravesites. And in cities across the country, parades honour those who fought in U.S. wars. In addition to remembering the reason for the holiday, the three-day weekend means the opportunity for a quick escape. AAA estimates that more than 41.5 million people will take advantage of the opportunity to head out of town this Memorial Day. Despite higher than normal gas prices, a whopping 89 percent will be traveling by car. Plan ahead by looking at local projections of the best and worst times to leave town, then pick a playlist, pack some snacks, and enjoy the open road. You don’t have to go far from home to make the most of the holiday weekend. If you’ve left your planning to the last minute, there's no reason to worry. Yelp compiled the top 10 trending Memorial Day destinations by looking at cities that saw the biggest spike in search traffic before the holiday in 2017. From national parks to beachfront boardwalks, here's where to have a great weekend.