For many, Memorial Day weekend is an opportunity to staycation while catching up with family and friends. But for others—many millions in fact—it’s a good excuse to hit the road or soar the skies to enjoy the holiday weekend in a different city.
Given that it’s one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, now is the time to lock in your getaway plans since the cost of airfare will only increase for the most sought-after destinations.
To help you determine places to go to spend the unofficial kickoff to summer, we’ve rounded up top Memorial Day destinations that offer activities and experiences that are as American as apple pie.
5 Places to Go This Memorial Day Weekend
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that Memorial Day is a dedicated time to honor those who served in U.S. Armed Forces who have lost their lives. There is no better way to pay your respects than to visit Arlington National Cemetery, just on the other side of the Potomac River from Washington, DC.
Covering 624 acres, it’s the nation’s largest military cemetery where thousands of veterans and their immediate family members have been laid to rest. Rolling hills dotted with white marble headstones provide a tranquil setting for reflection. Every half hour from April 1 through September 30, there is an elaborate changing of the guard ceremony conducted at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, is one of only two U.S. presidents buried in Arlington National Cemetery, and an eternal flame marks the head of his gravesite.
In addition to spending time at Arlington National Cemetery, head into the nation’s capital to enjoy the National Memorial Day Parade, a free concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and the many other festivities taking place during the holiday weekend.
You can fly into any of three airports that surround DC—right now for as low as $53. Just use WAS as the airport code when searching for flights.
Americans may be divided on sports and politics, but one thing everyone will agree on is that barbecue is quintessentially American (ok, the execution and sauce preferences vary by region, but BBQ is undeniably part of the country’s culinary heritage). For those who want to chow down on America’s top eats during Memorial Day weekend, Austin is the place to go.
BBQ competition has been heating up in Austin, which means there are even more joints—food trucks and restaurants alike—serving up finger-licking good meats, flavor-packed sides, and monstrous portions. The Lone Star State takes its barbecue very seriously, and Austin is no different.
Locals will tell you that Franklin Barbecue, Kerlin BBQ and La Barbecue are must-visit spots for a mouthwatering meal, but don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. Judge each place by the size of its line or the length of the wait—you’ll find that the best ones are always long.
Book flights to Austin sooner than later to get the best deal. Right now they’re going from $53.
Each Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of thousands of racing fans flock to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to attend the wildly popular Indy 500. Dozens of drivers compete in this hours-long race of 200 laps, totaling 500 miles. There’s adrenaline and excitement in the air, not to mention a definite feeling of patriotism among race attendees.
Pre-race ceremonies include marching band performances, the singing of patriotic songs and the National Anthem, a U.S. military aircraft flyover and a moment of silence for U.S. service members who lost their lives.
The race itself is always scheduled for the Sunday before Memorial Day (barring a rain delay), but there are countless other events you can attend in Indianapolis throughout the weekend. Get a look at vintage race cars, watch race practice sessions, rock out to concerts and more. Find a hotel nearby, or consider staying onsite, in a tent or an RV as camping in the field outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway gives way to impromptu celebrations throughout the weekend.
Flights are still affordable at $65, but they won’t be that low for long.
Appreciating the land that our veterans defended is a great way to spend Memorial Day weekend. Whether you’re hiking, camping or just soaking in the magnificent vistas, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park is a wonderful spot for a getaway and a symbol of American beauty and freedom.
When you’re in the Rockies, take a leisurely drive on the scenic 48-mile Trail Ridge Road (be sure to stop at the Forest Canyon Overlook), hike to picturesque Emerald Lake, and enjoy tranquility at Bierstadt Lake. Keep an eye out for the park’s wildlife. You might see elk, yellow-bellied marmots, bighorn sheep, black bears, moose and more.
Use Denver as your basecamp to the park. This lively city is home to the Colorado Rockies Major League Baseball team, gorgeous Botanic Gardens, an impressive art museum, dozens of phenomenal breweries and the world-renowned Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre.
Right now, flights to Denver will only set you back $53.
Honoring the nation’s service members is something the city of San Diego already does on a daily basis, which makes it a natural destination for Memorial Day weekend. Start your visit by learning about military history at the USS Midway Museum. You’ll step aboard an aircraft carrier that served as a “city at sea” for thousands of sailors. While aboard, you’ll have a behind-the-scenes opportunity to explore both the flight deck and below deck.
Back on dry land, the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park honors the contributions of U.S. service members, and the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial is the ideal spot to pay your respects to lives that have been lost in service to the country.
Since Memorial Day is also about celebrating all things American, there’s no better place to enjoy some of the best brews in the country. The craft beer scene has exploded from coast to coast, and it’s especially thriving in San Diego. Try a pint at these celebrated breweries: Ballast Point, Stone, Modern Times and Green Flash.
San Diego International Airport is right downtown, and flights are only $53 if you book today.
Not interested in flying?
Since local spots have plenty of places to go for Memorial Day Weekend, many Americans choose to stay home. Jump in your car to a lovely quaint nearby town and stay at a unique hotel or bed & breakfast. Don’t have a car? Rent a car – dare we suggest a convertible? – and find a historic route or highway to escape the city rush. We’ve collected some of the Top 10 American Road Trips to help inspire you.
Make Memorial Day weekend 2020 your time to escape and relax, since it allows you a whole extra day of time to be spent with your family. Don’t waste that rare Monday off moping around your house! Get out of town, see some fireworks, have an adventure and, most importantly, honor those who serve while you’re away.