Travel News Top destinations for a Memorial Day weekend getaway

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Top destinations for a Memorial Day weekend getaway

Times are tough for travelers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure - whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

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. Have you planned out where to go for Memorial Day weekend yet?

Given that it’s one of the busiest weekends of the year and traveling is starting to ramp up again, now is the time to lock in your getaway plans since the cost of airfare will only increase for the most sought-after destinations. However, according to recent Skyscanner data, there are some wonderful destinations to visit that aren’t expensive to get to.

To help you determine places to go to spend the unofficial kickoff to summer, we’ve rounded up top Memorial Day destinations that celebrate the best of America, as well as some wallet-friendly international locales for more far-flung adventures.

An American flag flies in front of a city skyline. Are you still deciding where to go Memorial Day weekend?

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This article was last updated May 12, 2021.

Where to go for Memorial Day weekend

  1. Washington, DC
  2. Orlando, Florida
  3. Austin, Texas
  4. Honolulu, Hawaii
  5. Indianapolis, Indiana
  6. New York City, New York
  7. Denver, Colorado
  8. Las Vegas, Nevada
  9. San Diego, California
  10. San Juan, Puerto Rico
  11. Cancun, Mexico

1. Washington, DC

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 visit the monuments, museums and other treasures that call DC home. Festivities typically take place during the holiday weekend, such as the National Memorial Day Parade and a free concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, but they are not being held for public view in 2021 due to the pandemic. In the meantime, enjoy some wonderful dining experiences at the French brassiere Le Diplomate or more local flavor at the Green Almond Pantry.

Recent Skyscanner data found that you can fly into any of three airports that surround DC—right now for as low as $45. Just use WAS as the airport code when searching for flights.

2. Orlando, Florida

What’s more American than a sunny day spent in beautiful Florida? Even better, try a weekend in Orlando, the epicenter of thrilling theme parks. Plus, the area boasts a distinct culture of art and food downtown that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Spend a day or two with the mouse or at Universal, then take a stroll through some of Orlando’s chic tree-lined neighborhoods or the Harry P Leu Gardens, sprawling across 50 acres of the city. You can stay centrally at the chic Waldorf Astoria Orlando, or splash out at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas right inside the park.

According to Skyscanner’s data, with flights starting at $36 this May—and averaging $171—you can’t beat a quick getaway to O-town for a change of scenery and to find out why this place is nicknamed “The City Beautiful.”

Orlando's skyline glows during an orange sunset

3. Austin, Texas

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. The Austin Proper Hotel with it’s pretty poolside relaxation space is a great base while staying in the city, too.

Book flights to Austin sooner than later to get the best deal. Right now they’re going from $46.

4. Honolulu, Hawaii

Sit back, relax and enjoy the long flight to Hawaii, knowing your end destination is one of the most breathtaking places in the country to visit. This Memorial Day weekend can be the ideal time to check Hawaii off the bucket list, as flights start at $343 per round-trip ticket from the mainland, according to Skyscanner data. For under $500 you could be jetsetting to Honolulu, Hawaii’s Polynesian capital city. You’ll have to at least see the iconic shores of Waikiki while you’re there, but don’t miss the chance to sample homemade noodles in the Chinatown Markets (try Lucky Belly!), or pay your respects at the nearby Pearl Harbor Memorial. The Queen Kapiolani Hotel is a good choice steps from the beach, as is Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel.

When thinking of where to go for Memorial Day weekend, this beach and ocean in front of the Honolulu skyline seem perfect!

5. Indianapolis, Indiana

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, like the classic Omni Severin, 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 $56, but they won’t be that low for long.

6. New York City, New York

Has the Big Apple been calling your name? This famous city is leading a resurgence in a cautiously post-COVID world, showing tourists what it means to fall in love with a melting pot of culinary delights and international culture. For Memorial Day weekend, you can first visit any of the hundreds of war memorials throughout NYC, including the Korean War Memorial or the Eternal Light Flagstaff in Madison Square Park that honors World War I veterans. An ideal budget-friendly place to stay is Yotel, complete with robot check-in! Nearby is the iconic Empanada Mama, where you can grab some quick and tasty, sweet and savory pockets.

With flights starting at $56, you can save your vacation budget for a blowout shopping trip on 5th Avenue, a five-course meal at one of more than 60 Michelin-starred restaurants or an extension of your vacation out of town.

The Brooklyn Bridge in NYC -- one place where to considering going Memorial Day weekend

7. Denver, Colorado

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, like Spangalang, and the world-renowned Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre.

Right now, there are flights to Denver that will only set you back $34, with airfare at $178 on average.

8. Las Vegas, Nevada

There’s nothing like taking a trip to a destination that has something for everyone. Las Vegas might be considered Sin City, but there’s a lot more to this hot desert town than meets the eye. Obviously you’ll have to cruise The Strip to be wowed by the blazing lights of casinos and ritzy hotels like the iconic Bellagio, but don’t forget to make plans for some spectacular shows, award-winning restaurants, such as The Golden Steer Steakhouse. Leave some time downtown too to see Old Vegas and the Neon Museum.

You can get out of dodge, too, for a day trip to nearby Death Valley, California or the Hoover Dam on the border between Nevada and Arizona. All of this can be yours with flight prices averaging $208 for Memorial Day weekend.

The famous Las Vegas sign welcomes Memorial Day weekend travelers

9. San Diego, California

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. After securing a stay at a gorgeous hotel like the Hotel Z downtown, 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 as low as $34 if you book today.

10. San Juan, Puerto Rico

The small and sensuous island of Puerto Rico is waiting for you this Memorial Day weekend. Embrace the freedom and fun found in the capital of San Juan without even needing your passport! This U.S. territory is bursting with rich history, gorgeous beaches and even the country’s only tropical rainforest. Grab a big plate of mofongo at El Jibarito and tuck into a luscious travel experience, perfect for a romantic couple’s trip or a girl’s weekend away.

While there, weave through the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan and have a breezy peek at the kite flyers surrounding the El Morro fort by the ocean. If there’s time, take a day trip to El Yunque rainforest to be awed by waterfalls and exotic foliage.

Flights into San Juan are easy to find from many major U.S. cities, and rates start at $79.

11. Cancun, Mexico

If you do have your passport in hand, go international this Memorial Day weekend and fly to Mexico! Cancun is especially ready to welcome you to its wide array of luxurious resorts that are perfect for relaxation, indulgence and lots of sun soaking. Also, if you hope to learn about local lore, take a day trip to the grand Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula, offering a sacred space that’s more than 1,500 years old. Then come back for a traditional meal at La Habichuela inside the scenic garden terrace.

Skyscanner data suggests you can reach Cancun this May starting at $173 for a round-trip flight, with the average seat price rounding at $391.

Enjoy sandy beaches near Cancun, Mexico--a lovely destination if you're still deciding where to go for Memorial Day weekend.

Do note that COVID-19 cases are currently high in Mexico, but there is no testing requirements to or from the country, according to the CDC. Fully vaccinated travelers are least likely to contract COVID-19, and all are required by U.S. federal law to wear masks in U.S. airports and on flights.

Discover where you can go

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