Top Labor Day Escapes That Are TOTALLY Worth the Money

Looking for the ultimate long-weekend escape? Relax! Budget Travel has done all the homework. Whether you're craving one more trip to the beach or are searching for the perfect end-of-summer festival, getting away has never been quicker, easier—or more affordable.

By Kaeli Conforti, Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014, 6:00 PM

Morey's Piers Raging Waters in Wildwood, New Jersey

This Labor Day weekend, pay a visit to one of New Jersey's many beachside waterparks, like Raging Waters at Morey's Piers in Wildwood, for a fun way to cool off in the hot summer sun.

(Courtesy Morey's Piers & Beachfront Waterparks)

Labor Day weekend may be just around the corner, but it's not too late to plan the perfect three-day getaway. From coast to coast, there are plenty of free and budget-friendly activities to choose from. Whether you're in the mood for a Jazz Festival in Chicago, a quirky traditional event held every year in Park City, or an American music extravaganza in Virginia Beach, we've rounded up eight exciting events and festivals around the country you won't want to miss.


Daytona Beach: For family-friendly fun on a famous Florida beach

While the words Daytona Beach may conjure up scenes from MTV's Spring Break, the area has come a long way since then, and is now much more of a family destination offering a wide variety of kid-friendly events, festivals, and beachfront entertainment fit for all ages. This Labor Day Weekend, you can catch free concerts at the Daytona Beach Bandshell on Friday and Saturday starting at 7 p.m., including performances by a Journey tribute band—stick around for a fireworks show starting at 9:45 p.m. on Saturday. Baseball lovers can watch the Daytona Cubs play ball on Aug. 29th, 30th, and 31st at the Jackie Robinson Ballpark starting at 7 p.m., where dogs are welcome and the kids will have a chance to run the bases—don't miss their fireworks show Saturday night. If you're traveling without kids, check out the Third Annual Main Street End of Summer Party & Rum Fest at Main Street Station, an event held on Aug. 31st featuring live entertainment on two stages and plenty of drink specials starting at 7 p.m. Also while you're in town, stop by the Daytona International Speedway for a behind-the-scenes look at all things NASCAR. Hotels in this part of Florida are super affordable over Labor Day Weekend, too, with rates at the Courtyard Daytona Beach Speedway/Airport starting at $79 a night and rates at the Residence Inn Daytona Beach Speedway/Airport starting at $119 a night.

Lake Tahoe: For carnivals, boat races, and great discounts on ski gear

On Saturday, Aug. 30th, you'll have the opportunity to board one of South Shore's two Mississippi paddlewheeler boats, the Tahoe Queen or the M.S. Dixie II, for the 22nd annual Great Lake Tahoe Sternwheeler Race, a unique only-in-Tahoe experience that can be yours for from $25 per person including brunch and drink specials. If you'd rather be a spectator, cheer runners on from the sidelines as they compete in the third annual Heavenly Mountain Run, racing from the California Base Lodge at 6,565-feet all the way up to the Tamarack Lodge at 9,150-feet. You can also enjoy live music with an impressive fireworks display over the lake Sunday night starting at 8:30 p.m. Another notable weekend event is the 5th annual Sample the Sierra Festival on Aug. 31st from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Bijou Community Park, where you can sample fresh farm-to-table food and wine creations by local chefs and farmers. Don't miss the chance to stock up on ski gear for next season at the 28th annual Heavenly Sports Labor Day Tent Sale, where you can save up to 70 percent on ski and snowboard equipment at Heavenly's California Main Lodge on Aug. 30th from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Aug. 31st from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sept 1st from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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The Jersey Shore: For beachside water parks on the pier

The beaches along the Jersey Shore have definitely bounced back from last year's storm damage with style—some of them even made our list of America's Most Awesome Boardwalks, and Ocean City, N.J. was featured as one of BT's favorite beach towns. This Labor Day weekend, pay a visit to one of New Jersey's many beachside waterparks, like Raging Waters and the Ocean Oasis Waterpark & Beach Club at Morey's Piers in Wildwood, now celebrating its 45th season, for a fun way to cool off in the hot summer sun, whether you prefer to relax in the lazy river or take on adrenaline-pumping attractions like the Cliff Dive slide and WipeOut. Waterpark passes start at $43 for adults and $35 for children under 48". Seniors over age 65 get in free with a valid photo ID. This year, guests staying at Morey Hotels & Resorts properties like the Pan American Hotel, Port Royal Hotel, Starlux Boutique Hotel, and Blue Palms Resort can save up to 70 percent on water park and ride passes thanks to the Play & Stay package now thru Sept. 14th. Families with toddlers and small children should opt for Asbury Splash Park—try the $50 family fun pack that includes four passes to Asbury Splash Park, four passes to the onsite mini-golf course, four beach access passes, a daily parking pass, and discounts at vendors along the boardwalk. Admission to Asbury Splash Park costs $5 for adults, $9 for children, or $20 for a family day pass for two adults and two children.

Washington D.C.: For free concerts and kayaking on the Potomac

Each year on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, the National Symphony Orchestra performs a free concert for the public on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol at 8 p.m. While no tickets are required, it is recommended that you get there early to get a good spot—gates open as early as 3 p.m. and you can watch them rehearse at 3:30 p.m. The 26th Annual DC Blues Festival is slated for Saturday, Aug. 30th at the Carter Barron Amphitheater from noon to 7:30 p.m., with performances by the Stacy Brooks Band, the Eddie Turner Band, and Shakura S'Aida among others. You'll also have the opportunity to attend vocal, guitar, and harmonica workshops led by talented Blues artists at the John Cephas Workshop Stage. The DC Blues Festival is free and open to the public. Want to enjoy the great outdoors during your long weekend? Consider renting a kayak or canoe from the Thompson Boat Center for a totally different view of the city from the Potomac. Canoe rentals cost $14 per hour or $35 for the day and can hold up to three adults or two adults and two small children. Rent a single kayak for $15 per hour or $40 per day, or a double kayak for $20 an hour or $50 per day. Also worth noting is the 150th Anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery, located just across the river from Downtown D.C. Kimpton's Honor & Remembrance package gives you a special 10 percent discount at 11 of their hotels in Washington D.C. and Alexandria, Virginia, as well as two Metrorail cards, and a map of Arlington National Cemetery. Rates start at $119 a night when you use promo code ARL150 to book your stay now thru Sept. 1st.

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Chicago: For free art fairs and a jazz festival

The 36th annual Chicago Jazz Festival takes place this year from Aug. 28th to Aug. 31st at Millennium Park. Admission is free and you'll have the chance to view performances by Terence Blanchard with Ravi Coltrane & Lionel, Kevin Eubanks, and Eric Harland among others. From Friday to Monday, Washington Park is home to the 25th Annual African Festival of the Arts, an event featuring exhibitions by Chicago's best artists. General admission tickets cost $20 for adults; family and weekend passes are available for $30. If you believe that one man's junk is another man's treasure, you may want to check out Remix Chicago, (formerly known as Ravenswood Remix), a recycled art fair on Saturday and Sunday where artists showcase their original, hand-made art, clothing, jewelry, and crafts made from used or recycled goods. You can even attend free one-hour workshops and learn how to get in on the eco-friendly action by creating new items from old or used materials. Click here for more fun things to do in Chicago year-round.

Virginia Beach: For three days of bands on the beach—and a half-marathon

Music lovers, rejoice! For three days over Labor Day weekend (Fri-Sun), more than 20 bands will take the stage for the 31st annual American Music Festival playing all kinds of music—rock and roll, jazz, blues, country, and R&B—by local, regional, and national bands on a giant beachfront stage on 5th Street as well as several outdoor stages at the 17th Street Park, the 24th Street Park, and the 31st Street Park. Highlights include big-name artists like Hunter Hayes and Waterloo Revival on Friday night, Creedence Clearwater Revisited and Blues Traveler on Saturday night, and a performance by Train on Sunday night. Tickets cost $20 in advance and $25 the day of the show. This year, you can purchase a Passport Pin for access to all three shows, from $40 when purchased in advance. Those seeking a more active vacation can sign up for the Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach Half-Marathon, a race through the streets of the city on Sunday, Aug. 31st, that raises money for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Registration prices may vary; check the website for more details.

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Miami: For parties, brunches, and bike rides on the beach

Party people won't want to miss Reload, a pool party event from noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 31st, at the Shore Club featuring international DJs like Ollie Sanders, Donnie Lowe, and Jerome Robins among others. Refuel at the Shore Club's Sunday brunch, where ladies pay $44 per person including unlimited mimosas and bellinis—men must pay $44 for the brunch plus an additional $20 for unlimited drinks—access to the Bloody Mary bar is an extra $20. Tickets to the Reload pool party start at $40 per person for all day access or from $25 per person for pool party access between noon and 3 p.m. Take Miami's public bike sharing program, Decobike Miami Beach, for a spin, and rent a bike anywhere from 30-minutes to a full day. 30-minute passes are available for $4; one-hour passes for $6; two-hour passes for $10, four-hour passes for $18; and one-day passes are available for $24. Looking for a calmer beach experience? Stake out the perfect spot on any of Miami Beach's seven miles of sand. The best part: it's free.

Park City: For historic parades and the Running of the Balls

Labor Day is more commonly referred to as Park City Miner's Day in this part of Utah—a tradition dating all the way back to 1898. Each year there's a celebration in honor of the area's rich mining heritage, complete with a community pancake breakfast, live music, races and games for the kids, the Funky 5K Fun Run, and the annual Miner's Day Parade down Historic Main Street. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the celebration is the annual Running of the Balls, a charity fundraising event held on Monday at 10:45 a.m. where participants "adopt" a ball for $5 (or 5 balls for $20), and watch in awe as thousands of them are released down Main Street, racing to the bottom of the hill. The first ten to reach the bottom of the street are tracked, earning their owners a grand prize of airline tickets, season ski passes, or any number of other donated surprises.


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