Thinking about taking a break for Memorial Day? Now is the time to start planning. To point you in the right direction, we looked for celebrations across America that offered something special in honor of the Memorial Day holiday, be it a unique patriotic tribute, a celeb-worthy pool party, an epic blues festival, or a vineyard tour. But reading about a party that's taking place miles and miles from home is frustrating, not fun. That's why we highlighted places that are easily accessible no matter where you are in the U.S. (all of the cities called out under "easy getaway" are within either a 1.5-hour flight or four-hour drive from the featured destination). Consider this your guide to three-day weekend bliss.
While most beach seasons are just beginning, Memorial Day marks the end of bearable temps in the desert, so hotels and operators are running specials for the holiday. Though other parts of California will be in the midst of "May Gray" and "June Gloom," Palm Springs still has nonstop sunshine—plus dozens of vintage shops, acclaimed restaurants such as Copley's on Palm Canyon (where celebrity chef Andrew Copley whips up So Cal comfort food like lobster pot pie) and an enduring love for all things mid-century (its hotels and private homes offer some of the best examples of 1950s modern architecture in the country). It also makes a great base camp for exploring the striking desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park through hikes, mountain biking, or rock climbing—don't miss a scenic ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, one of Budget Travel's most beautiful cable cars in the world.
WHERE TO STAY Book one of the 157 pet-friendly rooms, with pool or mountain views and complimentary use of the hotel's desert cruiser bicycles, two pools, hot tub, cabana beds, BBQ area, and fire pit, at The Curve Palm Springs. From $129 per night. Call and mention "Budget Travel" for 20 percent off bookings over the weekend.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Los Angeles; San Francisco; Phoenix; Las Vegas.
As you might guess, Washington D.C. is the most patriotic place to celebrate the holiday, with a parade and plenty of pomp and circumstance taking place during special military ceremonies. The Thursday before Memorial Day, soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery put flags before each gravestone, while a wreath-laying ceremony happens on Memorial Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns accompanied by performances from the U.S. Army Band. Men in uniform also march in the National Memorial Day Parade along the National Mall at 2 p.m. Don't miss the National Memorial Day Concert Sunday on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
WHERE TO STAY Kimpton Hotels is running a Memorial Day weekend special at two of its hip properties—check in Thursday or Friday and you'll save 20 percent on two-night stays and 30 percent on three-three night stays between May 23rd and 28th. From $125 a night at the Monaco Baltimore and from $143 a night at the Lorien Hotel & Spa in Alexandria.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Baltimore; Boston; Charleston, S.C.; Columbus, Ohio; Hartford, CT; Louisville, Ky.; Nashville; New York City; Providence.
Memorial Day weekend in Las Vegas is one of the busiest times of the year, along with New Year's Eve. Parties held around the resorts' elaborate pools are the big event, and become daylight nightclubs with DJs, drink carts, bottle service, cabanas, and more. To get in on the action, grab a chaise at the Venus Pool Club at Caesars Palace—ladies always get in free, while admission is free for men Monday thru Thursday, with reduced rates before 2 p.m. Friday thru Sunday. The Tropicana Las Vegas opened its Bagatelle Beach & Nightclub last Memorial Day weekend, featuring Mediterranean food and comfy daybeds to lounge in by day, with poolside dining and a new nightclub by night—admission is $30 for men, $20 for women, and Nevada residents get in free with a valid ID. The XS Nightclub at the Wynn Las Vegas & Encore Resort will host DJ Afrojack Saturday night and David Guetta on Sunday night among other electronica superstars over the weekend—tickets can be purchased ahead of time starting at $55 for men and $25 for the ladies.
WHERE TO STAY The Orleans Hotel & Casino is just off the main drag and offers free shuttle service to and from the Strip every 30-45 minutes between 9 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. The hotel offers its own casino, comedy club, cabaret lounge, Irish pub, movie theater, bowling alley, as well as playgrounds and arcades for the kiddies. From $115 per night over Memorial Day weekend.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Los Angeles; San Francisco.
This year, Soldier's Memorial Park will host the Bluesweek Festival, free from Friday to Sunday, with performances by musicians including blues legend Mavis Staples. If all that music whets your appetite, head to the Schlafly Tap Room on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pork Shop, a combination community garage sale and neighborhood bar-b-que, featuring local pork and plenty of Schlafly beer. You'll need all this fuel to tackle the largest flea market in the Midwest, Gypsy Caravan, an annual Memorial Day event organized for the 41st year by the St. Louis Symphony Volunteer Association.
WHERE TO STAY Downtown, the 179-room Roberts Mayfair Hotel has a rooftop pool and emerged from a $9 million makeover in March 2011. You can get the MetroLink light rail two blocks from the hotel, which will take you to Soldiers Memorial and other downtown sites. From $89 a night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Chicago; Cincinnati; Kansas City, MO.; Memphis.
Contrary to popular belief, Atlantic City was not hit hard by Hurricane Sandy last fall and was actually back on its feet within a week of the storm—in fact the area still continues to bounce back post-Sandy with new openings and events along its iconic stretch of New Jersey coastline. Ultra-chic hotel Revel will open its new HQ Beach Club, a nightclub modeled after the posh décor of Mykonos that will feature pools, bungalows, bars, DJs, and a new dance floor. The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel is bringing back its beloved Beach Bar starting Memorial Day weekend, and will offer happy hours daily between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. The Tropicana Casino and Resort will open not one, not two, but six new restaurants this summer beginning with Tony Luke's and the Broadway Burger Bar & Grill. Steel Pier is open for business as well, debuting eight new rides this summer. Don't miss Boardwalk Beat, a new free 3-D light show opening May 27 featuring catchy music and summer fun-filled images against the façade of Boardwalk Hall every half hour between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m nightly.
WHERE TO STAY Prices along the iconic Boardwalk aren't cheap during Memorial Day weekend although they normally are very reasonable. Opt to stay at the Ramada West Atlantic City, located just 1.5 miles off the main drag with rates starting from $137 a night including complimentary continental breakfast, free parking, and shuttle service to the Boardwalk area for a small fee.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Philadelphia; New York City; Baltimore; Washington D.C.
Head to Lake Travis to soak up some of Austin's best weather of the year, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the eighties. Memorial Day kicks off boating season here, so the place to be is the lake. To get in on the action, check out Austin's REI store's schedule of events to find out what classes and events are on offer this weekend or rent a ski boat at Just for Fun ($75 for one hour). If you'd rather be a spectator, catch a glimpse of the Capital of Texas Triathalon on Memorial Day, an event founded in 1991 that brings in 3,000 participants annually. Things get started with a swim at Lady Bird Lake before athletes break out the bikes for a race through Austin, leading up to a foot race around the southern part of the lake.
WHERE TO STAY The Mansion at Judges' Hill is a reasonably priced, 48-room boutique hotel. Plus, the turn-of-the-century property is walking distance from downtown. From $119 per night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Atlanta; Dallas.
One of the earliest observances of Memorial Day was by a group of freed slaves and took place weeks after the Civil War ended in 1865 in Charleston's Hampton Park. Today, the world-renowned Spoleto Festival starts its two-week run this weekend, filling the historic city's theaters, churches, and outdoor spaces with opera, theater, jazz, symphonies, choruses, and visual arts. Highlights this year include a Cirque du Soleil-esque spectacle called Le Grand C, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, and dance performances by a Spanish Flamenco troupe among other events. Tickets can be purchased on a per-event basis, with prices ranging from $10 to $130.
WHERE TO STAY Rooms can be hard to come by during Spoleto, so for last-minute travelers, we recommend Lodge Alley Inn, a time-share that rents its unreserved rooms starting seven days in advance—it's an old collection of restored 18th century warehouses with your choice of a studio or a one- or two-bedroom condo, all with kitchenettes. Alternately, you can stay across the river at the Hampton Inn/Charleston Mount Pleasant-Patriot's Point. It's a short drive to downtown over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, and the rates are more affordable than those in the city center. Rates at the Lodge Alley Inn start from $209 a night while rates at the Hampton Inn/Charleston Mount Pleasant-Patriot's Point start at $139 a night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Miami; Washington, D.C.
Over Memorial Day weekend, more than 30 wineries and tasting rooms in the scenic Columbia Gorge area of Oregon, which borders Washington State to the north, will be holding open houses featuring such events as barrel tastings and special releases. Maryhill Winery (on the Washington side) toasts its 12th anniversary with live music, and tasting specials among other events. Outdoors, there are tournament-quality bocce ball courts, an amphitheater, and a vine-covered arbor terrace, all with sweeping views of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. Visit Cascade Cliffs Vineyard & Winery all weekend for live folk music, complimentary local cheeses, tastings, and vineyard tours.
WHERE TO STAY Historic Hood River Hotel was originally built in 1911 and restored in 1988—no two of the 41 rooms are alike and each is decorated with reproductions of antique furniture. The property is located in downtown Hood River, near wine tasting rooms, art galleries, jewelry shops, restaurants, and it's just a two-minute drive from the river. From $99 per night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Portland, Ore.; Seattle; San Francisco.
Fine art and pop culture descend on the Rockies over Memorial Day weekend. The Downtown Denver Arts Festival kicks off its 15th year on Friday, May 24, hosting more than 135 local artists from all over the state. The free festival lasts all weekend at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, and everything from 3D mixed media to jewelry to photography will be featured. If live music is more your style, try the Denver Day of Rock on Saturday, May 25, when 20 bands—including country music star Lee Brice among others—treat audiences to a series of free rock concerts from 2:30 P.M. to 9:30 P.M. along the 16th Street Mall. Best of all, the concerts benefit Concerts for Kids and Food Bank of the Rockies, two local organizations dedicated to fighting child hunger—everyone is asked to bring canned food to drop off at designated spots around the venue.
WHERE TO STAY Area hotels, like the Magnolia Hotel Denver are offering special Day of Rock packages just for Memorial Day weekend, with perks like a complimentary daily breakfast buffet, and an evening reception with free beer, wine, soda, and milk and cookies. From $135 a night during Memorial Day weekend—use promo code VISITDENVER when booking online. Participating hotels throughout Denver also offer deals throughout the summer starting at just $52 a night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Salt Lake City; Albuquerque; Las Vegas; Kansas City, M.O.; Phoenix; Dallas; Minneapolis.
While Fleet Week may be off this year—most likely as a result of the federal sequester budget cuts—Memorial Day Weekend is still a great time to visit the Big Apple. Catch a free musical performance by the New York Philharmonic at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, one of Budget Travel's most beautiful churches in America—tickets for the 8 p.m. show are free and available on a first-come first-served basis starting at 6 p.m. on May 27. Brooklyn's historic Green-Wood Cemetery also offers a free Memorial Day concert at 2:30 p.m. highlighting the works of some of its most famous residents like Leonard Bernstein among others. The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum will kick off its free summer movie series by showing Top Gun Friday night, while Memorial Day festivities continue all weekend long with demonstrations by the U.S. Coast Guard, performances by the Liberty Belles USO Show Troupe, and a Commemoration Ceremony at 11 a.m. on May 27. Families will want to catch the Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade, a tradition in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn since 1867. All Veterans, regardless of age or war, are invited to participate. The parade starts at 11 A.M., runs along 3rd Avenue towards Marine Avenue, and continues to 4th Ave. before making its way to John Paul Jones Park for a ceremony in honor of those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
WHERE TO STAY Finding a reasonably priced hotel in New York City is daunting any time of year, and especially so during a holiday. We wouldn't normally steer you to a large chain, but we make an exception for the Holiday Inn Long Island City-Manhattan View. It's just five minutes from Manhattan by subway and, true to its name, you can expect scenic views of the city skyline from most rooms. From $179 per night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Boston; Charleston, S.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; Baltimore, M.D.; Providence, R.I.
The Atlanta Jazz Festival turns 36 this year and fills the Piedmont Park area with music from May 25 through 27. Known for being one of the largest free jazz festivals in the country—it typically brings in 225,000 attendees over the three-day weekend—in past years the festival has featured performers like Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, and Shirley Horn as well as local artists. Kid-friendly activities like face painting and balloon art take place by the playground near the stage, while the live music plays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday through Monday. For more family fun, take the kids to Stone Mountain Park, a 35-minute drive from Atlanta, for some kid-friendly outdoor activities such as the "Sky Hike," a ropes-and-ladders obstacle course through the treetops. In honor of Memorial Day, the park is hosting evening fireworks, free concerts, and a laser show from Saturday through Monday (from $28 for those over age 12, from $22 for children ages 3-11).
WHERE TO STAY Atlanta Marriott Suites Midtown is a family-friendly, all-suite experience that is within walking distance of Piedmont Park and just a ten-minute drive from the Georgia Aquarium. From $169 per night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Savannah; Charleston, S.C.; New Orleans; Nashville; Charlotte, N.C.; Orlando.
Even fun-loving Vegas can't quite compete with the blow-out bash that takes place in Miami over Memorial Day weekend. Each year roughly 250,000 party-goers descend on the area for a booze-soaked bacchanalia full of music, dancing, and lots and lots of skin. Clubs around town host special Memorial Day kick-off parties, such as the one taking place on Sunday, May 26 at Cameo with DJ Drama, but the event everyone looks forward to is the Best of the Best Concert on Sunday, May 26—a 10-hour long music extravaganza starting at 2 p.m. in downtown Miami's Bicentennial Park (general admission tickets start at $52 per person). Of course, the point of the weekend is to honor our veterans, and Miami does so in style with the March of Colors, a parade that starts with a 21-gun salute at All Wars Memorial Park at 10 A.M. and then traverses the Snake Creek Canal Bridge. There is also a wreath laying ceremony on Monday, May 27 at 10:30 A.M. in front of the Miami Beach Police Headquarters.
WHERE TO STAY Book one of the 75 rooms at the Beacon Hotel South Beach and you'll be within walking distance of the beach, shopping, and nightlife. The bright, Art Deco-inspired hotel was fully renovated in 2009 and offers complimentary WiFi, beach chairs, and towels to guests. From $169 a night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Orlando; Key West, Fla.; Savannah; Charleston, S.C.; New Orleans; Atlanta.