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.
10. Bainbridge Island, Washington
For Seattleites set on avoiding Memorial Day weekend traffic, the 30-minute ferry ride to Bainbridge Island offers a perfect solution. For everyone else, there’s a bit more travel involved to get there, but the panoramic views of the Olympics Mountains, Cascade Mountains and Puget Sound are worth it. Rent a bike to cruise around the island, and when you want some next-level relaxation, head to Bloedel Reserve. The park has some 150 acres to wander through.
The Pacific Northwest has a reputation for good food, craft beer and wine, and you’ll find all three on Bainbridge. For breakfast, try the Streamliner Diner. For afternoon drinks, you’ll have to choose between the offerings of a local brewery, distillery, and seven wineries.
9. Lake Havasu City, Arizona
Lake Havasu City sits on the Colorado River, relatively convenient driving distance from Las Vegas, Phoenix, and southern California. Start your day with brunch at The Red Onion (and some of their popular Bloody Marys, depending on what you’ve planned next). Adventurous travelers can try archery, rock climbing or wakeboarding. In the evening, the sunset cruise offers a more passive way to take in the scenery and learn about the history of the area.
Havasu can get crowded, so to escape the hubbub, visit Cattail Cove State Park. There’s a boat ramp and a beach, meaning plenty of opportunity to get out on the water, plus 61 campsites.
8. Big Bear Lake, California
Big Bear gets about 300 sunny days every year, so chances are good that a trip to the small town will kick-start the summer in style. Big Bear sits at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains and is known for attracting snow bunnies, but the warmer months have plenty of outdoor activities to offer as well. To get your daily steps in while enjoying sweeping views over the lake, head up Pine Knot Trail.
In town, try to Maui crab cakes at popular Peppercorn Grille, then catch the Miss Liberty Paddlewheel Tour Boat for a 90-minute tour around the lake. You’ll take in the scenery and get a lesson in the history of the town, dating back to 1845.
7. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
One of the best parts of Rehoboth Beach is the trademark mile-long boardwalk running the length of the small town. The first version was built back in 1873, and while the town has changed significantly in the years since, it’s kept the charm.
With Memorial Day weekend temperatures expected to be around 80 degrees, plan to get out on the water by taking a kayak, paddle board or windsurfing lesson. To cool down, head for beers at Revelation Craft Brewing Company then try dinner at Shorebreak Lodge for dishes including wild mushroom bruschetta and slow braised short rib served with fresh scallops and risotto.
6. Arlington, Virginia
To celebrate the true meaning of Memorial Day, there’s no better place than the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. The most well-known section is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The burial site of an American soldier who died in World War I is guarded around the clock. If you plan to visit the cemetery, allow for at least a few hours to see the various areas.
If you haven’t worn yourself out walking through the cemetery, hike or bike along the Potomac Heritage Trail for views of the river and a break from the city. For dinner, visit Liberty Tavern for treats like fried chicken or their popular Vermont pizza, covered in prosciutto, apple and caramelized onions.
5. Provincetown, Massachusetts
Provincetown sits at the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. As the site of the Mayflower’s landing in 1620, and home to the Wampanoag Nation for long before that, the oceanfront town’s history is enough of a reason to visit. Today the town is known for being home to artists, and for having one of the largest LGBT communities in the country.
For a history lesson and some striking views of the grass billowing on sand against a backdrop of pines, take a tour of the dunes. After, get your obligatory lobster roll at The Canteen, and then, to make the most of the long weekend, treat yourself to a massage at Namaste Spa.
4. Ocean City, New Jersey
At a few hours drive from New York City and even closer to Philadelphia, Ocean City is an easy weekend escape from the big city grind. Though it doesn’t start to get truly hot until summer, average highs in the mid-sixties in May are warm enough to enjoy the nearly eight miles of beachfront.
For brunch, try OC Surf Cafe. They’re known for serving the classics along with healthier, Mexican-inspired options. Ocean City is family friendly: there are activities on the boardwalk, miniature golf, and watersports including kayaking and paddleboarding. For a weekend getaway with the grown ups, try the popular Day Sipper tour. You’ll pile into a Volkswagen bus and spend your day being chauffeured to vineyards, breweries or distilleries.
3. Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor is a tiny town sitting on the northern edge of Maine’s Acadia National Park. Walking trails and ‘carriage roads’, built in the early 1900s, snake through the park, and Park Loop Road offers a dramatic drive through forest and along cliffs overlooking the ocean.
Because Bar Harbor is so far east, it’s one of the first places in the US to catch the sun coming up each day. Watch from the shore along Ocean Drive. To get up close to seals, take a guided kayak tour or book with Lulu Lobster Boat Ride for a lesson on the lobster fishing industry. Back on land, enjoy the fruits of that industry in the shape of a lobster roll from Side Street Cafe.
2. Ocean City, Maryland
Ocean City's 10 miles of beach, arcades, and more than a dozen golf courses mean there's plenty to do for every kind of visitor. To make the most of the warmer weather, stroll the three-mile long boardwalk or rent a paddle board, kayak or jet skis. For a more relaxed option, visit Fenwick Lighthouse about 15 minutes drive north of Ocean City. The lighthouse was built in 1859, following a series of shipwrecks in the shallows off the coast of the island. Today it houses a museum, with historical interest for kids and adults. There are plenty of local restaurants to choose from, but a favorite is Liquid Assets. Visit the bistro and wine bar for late afternoon wine and cheese.
1. Port Angeles, Washington
Located on the edge of nearly a million acres of Olympic National Park, with snowy mountains, rainforest and coast, Port Angeles is a perfect spot for some rest and relaxation. One of the highlights of Olympic National Park is Hurricane Ridge, a short drive from the city. Stop at the visitor center to get local insight on the best trails, and then walk quietly: Lucky hikers sometimes see blacktail deer grazing in the area. Another favorite activity is heading out on a whale watching tour. You’re likely to see humpback whales and orcas, and sometimes steller sea lions, harbor seals and bald eagles. Take advantage of the city’s proximity to water at Kokopelli Grill for crab cakes, salmon chowder and grilled oysters.