11 Last-Minute Memorial Day Getaways You Won’t Want to Miss

It’s that time of year again, when procrastinators everywhere suddenly panic because they have no plans for Memorial Day weekend. Luckily we’re here to rescue you and your family from boredom!

Hit the racetrack in Indianapolis

500festCourtesy, 500 Festival, INC“Gentlemen, start your engines.” Who hasn’t heard the immortal words that launch the Indy 500 race every year? Why not a trip to Indianapolis to spend Memorial Day weekend finding out what all the excitement is about? Other than the actual race, Motor Speedway mania will be revved up with 500 Festival celebrations. The 500 Festival includes road races, parades, and kids’ activities. Don’t forget to wander through the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum before hitting the track! (Bet you didn't know these weird museums existed.)

Celebrate street painting in Santa Barbara

IMadonnariFestivalLuis MedinaThe Santa Barbara Mission in California was the first U.S. city to host an I Madonnari Festival, the three-day Italian festival of street painters. Now it's become an annual event that happens around Memorial Day weekend and includes hundreds of madonnari (street painters), who will cover the mission plaza with 150 different paintings. (These are the world's funniest paintings.) Though the paintings are made with chalk, the tradition, dating at least to the 16th century, is called “street painting” because of how closely the pictures can resemble the oil paintings the artists use as their models. The festival benefits the Children’s Creative Project, a nonprofit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

Get the best barbecue in St. Louis

stlouisribfestCourtesy, St. Louis RibfestLoosen your belt and head for the epic “rib-off” held during the U.S. Army St. Louis Ribfest, a free Memorial Day celebration with BBQ vendors from all over the country, live music, and activities for kids. If you're spending the weekend in the area, make time to visit Schlafly Bottleworks brewery's annual Memorial Day festival. This year, it's called Art Outside and will feature local art and local beer. On Memorial Day, you can tackle one of the largest flea markets in the Midwest, Gypsy Caravan, where the $5 entry fee benefits the St. Louis Symphony and its educational and community programs. These are the best free tourist attractions in every state.

Content continues below ad

Experience folk arts in Seattle

NorthwestFolklifeFestivalcpaulfell/shutterstockThe Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle celebrates Memorial Day weekend with four days of free performances intended to revive and sustain ethnic, folk, and traditional arts. It features more than 800 musical performances in multiple genres, covering American and international styles. Other events include cultural dance workshops, storytelling sessions, film screenings, cooking demonstrations, and conversation panels about the arts. The best part is that some of these events are participatory, which means you can join in all the singing and dancing action.

Attend the National Memorial Day Parade

memorialdayparadecdrin/ShutterstockThe largest Memorial Day parade in the country takes place every year in Washington, D.C. Watching hundreds of servicemen and women march down Constitution Avenue is a moving reminder of what this holiday is really all about, and it instills a powerful sense of national pride. This veteran's paintings of fallen soldiers is the perfect example of why Memorial Day is so important.

Sample wines in New Orleans

neworleansVia Nowfe.comJust when you thought New Orleans had the best cuisine, it takes your tastebuds to the next level. The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience gives you access to hundreds of wineries and restaurants from all over the country (and the world!) and their award-winning products. The festival also raises money for local non-profits, so all of your eating and drinking goes toward a good cause!

Content continues below ad

Get jazzy in Atlanta

saxophonepxl.store/ShutterstockOne of the largest free jazz festivals in the country, the Atlanta Jazz Festival features dozens of artists performing over Memorial Day weekend. Past performers include Lionel Hampton, Wynton Marsalis, Ray Charles, and Miles Davis, among other jazz legends. Check out the festival's lineup to see who's playing this year. (This is what your favorite music says about you.)

Marvel at flying kits in Atlantic City

kitefestivalCourtesy, Sky Festival ProductionsNew Jersey is home to the largest kite festival in North America, the Wildwoods International Kite Festival. It takes place just outside Atlantic City on Wildwoods Beach. Kite makers from all over the world showcase their most colorful creations. The first night of the festival makes its grand entrance with an illuminated night fly. There are even kite competitions, including the World Indoor Kite Competition where people fly kites without wind. Oh, and it's all free.

Witness the country's best performing arts in Charleston

spoletousaWilliam StruhsBeginning over Memorial Day weekend, Spoleto Festival USA brings two weeks of theater, opera, jazz, and symphonic and choral music performances to South Carolina. Each of the festival's 12 venues is among the city's most historic theaters and churches, and all have hosted world-renowned artists like Yo-Yo Ma and Jean-Yves Thibaudet. According to its website, Spoleto is internationally recognized as America's premier performing arts festival.

Content continues below ad

Get covered in flowers in Palm Springs

palmspringsairshowCourtesy, Palm Springs Air MuseumPalm Springs Air Museum in California hosts an annual Memorial Day ceremony called the Flower Drop & Air Fair. Throughout the day, visitors can watch air shows, visit flight exhibitions, and see a World War II reenactment. The ceremony culminates with the Flower Drop Memorial Service, a fly-by with planes in missing man formation (a salute to fallen military members) followed by B-25 Mitchell Bomber that drops 3,000 red and white carnations on spectators below. (Check out these rare color photos from WWII.)

Spend a day at Navy Pier in Chicago

navypierCourtesy, Navy PierMemorial Day kicks off the summer fireworks season at Navy Pier, but don't miss out on any attractions during the day. Hop aboard Spirit of Chicago for a cruise with a spectacular view of the Chicago skyline and an onboard DJ. Take a ride on the Centennial Wheel, the pier's 200-foot Ferris wheel. Stroll the picturesque south dock promenade. Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival is in the nearby Lakeview neighborhood, and if you're willing to travel to the Chicago suburbs, check out the Red, White & Bar-B-Q competition in Westmont.
View as Slideshow

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.