14 Last-Minute Memorial Day Getaways You Won’t Want to Miss
Even if you haven’t booked a vacation getaway for Memorial Day weekend yet, there are plenty of great options around the United States where you can kick back and enjoy the first rays of summer sun even at the last minute.
Celebrate the birthplace of Memorial Day in New York State
Memorial Day actually has a home town, Waterloo, New York in the Finger Lakes region of central New York, where the idea to remember the patriotic dead was first suggested in1865, and then made it a formal holiday in 1868 by General John Logan. Today the modern-day celebration involves a parade with divisions for military members, veterans and officials; illumination ceremonies at the American Civil War Memorial; horse and wagon tours; Seneca Lake Reel Tours on a 50-foot catamaran; downtown Waterloo historical scavenger hunt; presidential and Civil War reenactors, including Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln; plus a firework grand finale. Keep the historic feelings going with a stay at the 19th century Belhurst Castle in nearby Geneva, New York. Here are some Memorial Day facts you didn’t learn in school.
Immerse in the performing arts in Charleston
Beginning over Memorial Day weekend, Spoleto Festival USA brings two weeks of theater, opera, jazz, and symphonic and choral music performances to charming Charleston, South Carolina. The festival fills Charleston’s historic theaters, churches, and outdoor spaces with performances by renowned artists such as Yo Yo Ma and Esperanza Spalding as well as emerging performers. Stay at the HarbourView Inn, where professional docents from the Principal Gallery host weekly presentations on the therapeutic benefits of the artistic process.
Go fly a kite in New Jersey
New Jersey is home to the largest kite festival in North America, the Wildwoods International Kite Festival, which 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. Then spend the weekend on the free beaches of Atlantic City at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Set on 17-acres, with the legendary boardwalk as its backdrop, the Hard Rock dials up the AC excitement Memorial Day weekend excitement with expansive nightlife, lavish guestrooms, and a brand new beach club and tiki bar. Find out other beach vacation ideas for your next getaway.
Show your patriotic side in Washington, D.C.
The 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. After the parade, enjoy a free concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol by the National Symphony Orchestra. Extend your weekend at the waterfront Wharf neighborhood where you can rent a kayak to paddle past some of D.C.’s most famous attractions and check into the InterContinental Washington D.C. which offers views of the Potomac River and a buzzy new restaurant.
Witness a sea of light in Oahu
Although it’s a tropical paradise year-round, Memorial Day weekend is a uniquely picturesque time to visit Oahu, when the free Lantern Floating Ceremony draws 50,000 people to the beach to watch as thousands of illuminated lanterns are set out to sea memorializing those who have died in service to their country. In addition to the lantern ceremony, there’s also a Memorial Day Picnic, and the Hawaiian island offers plenty of sand and surf for travelers to enjoy over the long holiday weekend, too. Base your holiday weekend at the Moana Surfrider, known as the “First Lady of Waikiki,” a short walk from some of Oahu’s best shopping and dining.
Get your motor running in Indianapolis
“Gentlemen, start your engines.” Who hasn’t heard the immortal words that launch the Indy 500 race every year? So why not take 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!
Hit the streets for amazing art in Santa Barbara
The Santa Barbara 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. 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. Don’t miss these other summer weekend getaways you’ll want to book ASAP.
Get folksy in Seattle
The 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. Motif Seattle Hotel offers the perfect retreat in the heart of the city’s downtown with a rooftop lounge with sweeping views, and both a heated indoor pool and an outdoor swimming pool, so you’ll be able to take a swim no matter what the Seattle weather offers up.
Enjoy free jazz in Atlanta
One 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. The Loews Atlanta Hotel is just a short walk away from the Piedmont Park venue.
Keep your eye on the sky in Palm Springs
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Palm 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. Find out more about the surprising history of Memorial Day.