20 Last-Minute Memorial Day Getaways You Won’t Want to Miss
From patriotic parades to sunny beach destinations, don't miss these great, safe vacation getaways for Memorial Day weekend around the United States to help kick off your summer in style.
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Welcome summer with a safe Memorial Day getaway
As the weather warms up, the days get longer, and more and more people are vaccinated, the urge to book vacations and get out and explore American is heating up, too. And what better time to take the first step into safe travel than to start the summer with an easy to get to destination—but where to go for Memorial Day weekend? We’ve rounded up some of the best spots in the country that either have in-person opportunities to celebrate America’s heroes with parades or special events or have great ways to kick off the summer with outdoor adventures. If you’re not traveling for the long weekend, consider these Memorial Day activities the family will enjoy.
Note: As COVID safety protocols can change frequently, it’s always best to check with attractions, hotels, and destinations in advance of visiting to confirm opening times as circumstances can change between publication time and when you may be planning a visit.
Celebrate the birthplace of Memorial Day in New York State
Wondering where to go Memorial Day weekend? The holiday actually has a home town and it’s the ideal place to learn about Memorial Day history: 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 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.
RELATED: 35 Patriotic Quotes to Honor America
Listen to live music in a Vineyard in Loudoun County, Virginia
Located just 25 miles outside of Washington, D.C., Loudoun, Virginia, is an exquisite culinary and heritage destination. The verdant rolling hills here boast more than 40 award-winning wineries and 30-plus craft breweries, as well as farm-to-table dining on actual farms, along with historic villages and charming small towns to visit, including Middleburg, the capital of Virginia horse country. When the summer season kicks into gear, Loudoun’s wineries and breweries offer countless opportunities to hear local musicians while you sip and soak up the sunshine. Kick off the season on Memorial Day weekend at Dirt Farm Brewing with an outdoor socially distanced performance by Americana singer/songwriter Gary Jay Hoffman, or make plans to check out the popular Tarara Winery Summer Concert Series.
The ideal place to stay is Salamander Resort & Spa, tucked into the rolling grasslands in Middleburg. The spacious resort is perfect for a luxe social distancing and features on-site outdoor activities such as horseback riding, fishing, falconry, biking, ziplining, and both archery and ax throwing. There are also indoor and outdoor swimming pools, kids’ programs, and an immersive spa. There are several dining spots at the resort that highlight the bounty of the county’s local wineries, breweries, and farm, with Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill a notable standout. (Be sure to order the Sweet as Salamander Honey house-made banana pudding with honey from onsite hives for dessert.)
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Be dazzled in Miami
Miami explodes with celebrations and events in honor of Memorial Day weekend including the Miami Beach Air & Sea Show, Music Explosion, and Fireworks Extravaganza; and the Flamingo Gardens Memorial Day Kidz Fest. After the festivities, there’s a number of secluded and private-feeling beaches where guests can go to relax, and stay socially distanced, in the sun.
For a safe and comfortable stay right on the beach, check into The Shelborne South Beach, an Art Deco oceanfront resort with 200 guest rooms and suites offering both ocean and city views. The stylish art-filled hotel is noteworthy inside and out, including the heated pool that has floating chairs in it. The Shelborne offers townhome-style suites for those traveling with families or small groups, providing a spacious, flexible alternative to booking multiple rooms. Nearby is delicious dining, including Pura Vida, a café with a healthy menu of fresh local ingredients, with options such as smoothie bowls and salads, perfect for sitting out by the pool for lunch. For dinner try the modern Asian offerings at Tanuki Miami, including Chinese and Japanese fare.
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. Although the parade was virtual in 2020, it’s expected to return for 2021 (details were still being finalized at press time).
Extend your weekend in the cool waterfront Wharf neighborhood where you can rent a kayak to paddle past some of D.C.’s most famous attractions and enjoy al fresco dining with views of the water. Check into the chic Canopy by Hilton Washington DC the Wharf which offers views of the Potomac River and a buzzy rooftop bar, Whiskey Charlie.
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Enjoy a music and art festival in Denver
Denver is where to go over Memorial Day weekend for live music, great food, fine arts, and outdoor activities, all with COVID safety in mind, all part of the Colorado Music & Arts Festival that takes place May 29 and 30 in Centennial Center Park. Check out the Taste of Denver Food Garden, with delicious cuisine, and cold domestic and craft beers. National recording artists will be performing throughout the afternoon and evening on the main stage, as well as juried visual artists presenting the heritage and the culture of this great western city.
Denver’s newest independent hotel, The Rally Hotel, officially opened to the public at the end of March. As part of the highly anticipated McGregor Square development in the heart of Denver’s vibrant LoDo neighborhood, there’s easy access to great restaurants, coffee shops, and boutique stores. Plus the hotel is pet-friendly, so you can take a road trip with your dog.
Honor American heroes in New Orleans
If you think of New Orleans and picture great food, the bayou, jazz, and carnival, you wouldn’t be wrong. But did you know The National WWII Museum is actually the number one attraction in New Orleans according to the 2020 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards? It’s also a great destination for the whole family to reflect on the meaning behind Memorial Day. Located in the up-and-coming Arts/Warehouse District, an alternative to the major tourist draw of the French Quarter, The National WWII Museum explores the American experience in the war that changed the world: why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.
History-enthusiasts can additionally book their stay at The Higgins Hotel New Orleans, located on The National WWII Museum’s campus. The art deco-style property features 230 guest rooms and suites that pay homage to WWII-era presidents, a rooftop bar called “Rosie’s on the Roof” that offers sweeping views of the city, and WWII artifacts, such as General George S. Patton’s piano.
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Ride a roller coaster in Richmond, Virginia
We’re big fans of Richmond for its incredible public mural art, delicious and diverse dining, booming craft beer and distillery scene, and outdoor adventures and natural beauty with a location along the James River. But come Memorial Day, there’s something else that fully captures our attention: The opening of the rides and attractions at the area’s largest amusement park, Kings Dominion, which sports 12 adrenaline rush roller coasters, and the connected water thrills and slippery water slides at Soak City.
Back in town, stay at the Graduate Hotel, with mod-meets-preppy indoor spaces and a chic rooftop bar and pool in a prime location adjacent to the VCU campus and the noteworthy Institute for Contemporary Art. And don’t miss the modern reworkings of southern cuisine (hello lobster topped shrimp and grits and short rib stuffed egg rolls!) at Lillie Pearl restaurant.
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.
Family Fun in South Walton, Florida
Kick off your summer during the Baytowne Wharf Memorial Day Celebration, with fun activities for the entire family, more than 20 great dining options, and live music all weekend long. The sugar-white sand beaches of South Walton also offer plenty of kid-friendly, socially distanced fun, plus a healthy dose of adventure, culture, and beach relaxation that adults will love too. And South Walton’s 16 beach neighborhoods stretching for 26 miles are so picture-perfect that they served as the backdrop for The Truman Show. South Walton is also one of our favorite warm-weather getaways for families that won’t break the bank.
The recently opened Hotel Effie is the perfect spot to call home while visiting South Walton, with 250 spacious, well-appointed guest rooms and suites, four dining options from celebrity chef Hugh Acheson, a luxury spa, and the only hotel rooftop pool and lounge on the Emerald Coast.
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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!
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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.
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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 (currently the festival is planning on being live in its Piedmont Park location, but details are still being worked out). Past performers include Lionel Hampton, Wynton Marsalis, Ray Charles, and Miles Davis, among other jazz legends. The modern Loews Atlanta Hotel is just a short walk away from the Piedmont Park venue and is popular with scene makers and musicians, so you’ll never know who you may see in the lobby or when you’re checking in.
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 new beach club and tiki bar. Find out other beach vacation ideas for your next getaway.
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Run for a cause in Nashville
A great Memorial Day weekend getaway, Nashville offers a number of celebration and commemoration ceremonies, such as the Fort Negley Memorial Program, held annually on the Saturday before Memorial Day, to honor all serving members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the Memorial Day Classic 1 Mile, 5K, and 10K in-person or virtual races, in which participants can run, jog or walk at their own pace and 15 percent of each registration is donated to Operation Gratitude (note that this year’s races will be held in Hendersonville, about 20 minutes from downtown, which affords more social distancing opportunities). Stay at the Hutton Hotel located in the city’s lively West End neighborhood, just steps from the heart of Music Row where you can spend part of your holiday weekend discovering Nashville’s creative music culture.
Hit the slopes in Mammoth Mountain, California
You say swim at the beach for where to go on Memorial Day, we say hit the slopes and ski! No really, with recent snowfall, Mammoth Mountain—an easy drive from Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Francisco in the Inyo National Forest—just announced that the slopes will be staying open through Memorial Day Weekend to ensure snow fans can squeeze in some spring skiing. The Westin Monache Resort provides easy access to all the snow fun, in addition to hiking trails, lake access, and gorgeous mountain views.
Walk in the Steps of Heroes in Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island, will host the dramatic and acclaimed Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial, which is on display for the public Friday, May 28 through Monday, May 31 at Fort Adams. The historic Fort Adams is also open for self-guided tours for visitors looking to explore one of the most complex fortresses in the country. The moving Memorial features nearly 7,000 military boots, each affixed with an American flag and bearing the name of an American service member killed in action in the Global War on Terror. The first of its kind, the display grows in size each year as the names of the most recent Service Members Killed in Action are added. Stay at the new Hammets Hotel perfectly situated on Newport’s waterfront. The property offers deals year-round including a special military appreciation discount.
Explore the Secret Coast of Mississippi
Bursting with southern hospitality and charm, Mississippi’s “Secret Coast’s” 62 miles of scenic shoreline welcomes families and visitors with warm weather and sunny skies. Another draw: the annual Sounds by the Sea event presented by the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, May 29, 2021; an open-air Memorial Day concert featuring patriotic selections and fireworks. Bring your picnic baskets, blankets, lounge chairs, and enjoy the music & show, all overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Make your base at the Grand Centennial Hotel, in Gulfport, which features a zero-entry pool and a lazy river.
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Honor the military in Myrtle Beach
With the majority of Americans eager to book a getaway after spending the past year at home, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is ready to safely welcome guests to its 60 miles of Atlantic Coast beaches this spring. Every year, Myrtle Beach hosts Military Appreciation Days to observe the city’s military history. The celebration features various free events, including Military Appreciation Days Parade and picnic. Stay at the Island Vista Resort, a local family-owned resort that’s in a quieter more residential part of the beach and has multi-bedroom suites perfect for families. The onsite restaurant Cypress Room is a popular area dining spot.
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Keep your eye on the sky in Palm Springs
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.
Ride the rails around Reno
Explore the beauty of the Lake Tahoe area with a trip from Carson City to Virginia City on the V&T Railroad, a unique stream train that starts its season on Memorial Day weekend. Virginia City is host to the Celebration of Heroes Parade on Saturday at noon. While you’re there, explore antique shops, take an old-time photo, and mingle with the characters of this historic mining town. Reno, Nevada bordering Lake Tahoe, also serves up a Memorial Day experience like no other, including a feast of the city’s culinary offerings at “Food Truck Friday.” There are also plenty of aquatic offerings on the shores of Lake Tahoe, including swimming, paddle boarding, and whitewater rafting.