Oh look, it is almost Memorial Day, the holiday when each year we honor our nation’s fallen soldiers by forgetting to make travel plans until Karen from Finance asks if we’re going anywhere fun this weekend, and we realize that we are not and vow inwardly that we will do better next year. (My brother’s in the Marine Corps, as was my grandfather back in the day, so I am allowed to make these jokes that’s how PC culture works do not @ me.) Anyway, nonsense. There’s still time to make this weekend, Memorial Day weekend 2018, the relaxing mini-trip you need and deserve -- it’s just a matter of picking the right destination. Here are seven of the best.
Come here for the beach, but also -- and by also I mean mostly -- for the 3-mile-long Ocean City boardwalk. This is where you’ll get your Classic Family-Friendly Memorial Day vibes (unless your definition of this begins and ends with grilling, which, fair) with old-timey salt water taffy and nightly light shows every 20 minutes from 9pm to 11pm. Memorial Day weekend is also when all the boardwalk rides reopen for the season. If you get there by Friday night, you can catch a free screening of Peter Rabbit at Northside Park. On Saturday, head to 30th Street to watch the Summer Surf Series. Or, for something less Classic but still Family-Friendly, head to the pet fashion show -- proceeds go to local rescue animals.
No better place to spend a long weekend than one of the cheapest weekend cities in America. This time, come hungry. Friday nights (so, May 25) around here mean Reno Street Food, a free gathering of food trucks complete with live music and a lil train ride for the kids. On May 26, check out the Reno Beer Crawl and (if you have $80 for a ticket) set aside that evening for Reno Lantern Fest -- on top of the live music and food from local vendors, you’ll get to send your very own lantern up into the night sky. Yes, the lanterns are biodegradable, very considerate of you to ask. This is also an easy drive to North Lake Tahoe, so you can mix in some swimming, hiking, boat tours, and the still-trendy stand-up paddleboarding throughout, in the ridiculously clear waters of Lake Tahoe.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Hey, did you consider incorporating a wildlife safari into your Memorial Day weekend? A Jackson Hole safari (bison, coyotes, eagles, maybe a moose if you’ve been very good this year) can be yours for $109, which according to complex maths I just did nonchalantly in pen on my cocktail napkin is cheaper than booking a flight to Botswana. And for cheaper still -- tickets will be in the neighborhood of $30 -- you can get yourself a seat on a new aerial tram with 360-degree views of Grand Teton National Park so stunning you wouldn’t be out of line hoping that there’s a pot of gold at the top. Kidding. That would be silly. There are waffles at the top.
Occupy the rest of your Jackson Hole weekend with any an absurd number of outdoorsy activities such as the following, ordered according to my own entirely subjective scale of Less Ambitious to Real Fucking Ambitious: stagecoach rides, kayaking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, hot-air ballooning, hang gliding, and finally -- existing simultaneously at both ends of the spectrum like the quantum physics of outdoor recreation -- golfing.
Thousand Islands, New York but also Canada
The galaxy of islands at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, where it merges with Lake Ontario, is an outdoors person’s playground. If you’ve $15 and a competitive spirit to your name, you can register for the Spring Fishing Derby on May 26, though you’ll probably have to choose between potential spring-fishing glory that day and the first-ever Grape Blossom Festival, which is a thing you might enjoy if free live music, hayrides, and tasty foods from artisanal vendors sound more fun than fishing.
Swing through the Brockville Farmers Market one morning for that seasonal local produce your belly and social media followers crave, or take a boat tour to Rock Island, on which you’ll find a particularly fetching lighthouse. For $24, you can take a ride over the St. Lawrence River on a glass-bottomed boat. Not so much with the nature and the boats and such? Probably explains why you don’t have Memorial Day weekend plans yet, but also means you might enjoy the Thousand Islands annual spring art show running through June. Also, it’s pronounced “thousand islands,” not “a thousand” or “one thousand.”
On the doorstep of Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake has the charm of the Old West and the chill-ass lake-town vibe of the... New West. Spend a day or two strolling the boardwalk or the beach -- yes there is a beach -- from whence you can rent kayaks and paddle boats, plus of course go fishing. You can rent boats by the day or hour (around $100 for two hours on a modest-sized vessel) if your preferred method of relaxation involves being gently rocked by waves while you nap under the late-May sun (in this scenario a non-napping friend is driving the boat) if your enthusiasm for fishing is such that you simply cannot do it from shore. On Memorial Day itself, there’ll be a parade where you can spot some classic cars and listen to live music. That sound that is not live music? Elk bugling.
Caguas, Puerto Rico
This is an excellent time to give Puerto Rico your tourism dollars because it is not getting government dollars, and is still very much recovering from Hurricane Maria -- but make no mistake, Caguas is ready for you. About 20 miles from the better-known San Juan, Caguas is a modern city steeped in Creole tradition. You can lounge with cocktails at The Sangria Factory or pick up some hand-made cigars at the Museum of Tobacco. If you get to Caguas by Friday night you can make the (free!) Al Fresco Music Culinary Show where you can dance if you want to, leave your friends behind, sorry I am getting carried away but if you don’t want to dance you can simply eat and relax and enjoy the music.
If you’re feeling adventurous, take a $2 ferry ride east to the teeny island of Vieques for the literally and figuratively magnetic black-sand beach. On Sunday, head to Plaza del Mercado for some more live music, and if you haven’t done so already you must absolutely check out the Festival de Café y Chocolate (May 24-27) which ideally you do not need me to translate but which involves exhibits of Puerto Rican coffee and chocolate, and vendors selling the same. Depending on your precise arrival/departure dates, roundtrip flights are around $180 from Miami, $300 from New York, $400 from Washington, DC and New Orleans, and $450 from Chicago.
Arlington gets the main shout-out here because of Arlington Cemetery since it is, in fact, Memorial Day we are talking about here, but for travel purposes we’re really saying “Arlington and the surrounding DC/northern Virginia area.” Nearby Vienna’s ViVa! Vienna! festival lasts all weekend (think family-friendly county fair vibes -- amusement rides, live entertainment, foods that would be vaguely nauseating on an average weekday but become delicious on the weekend; all proceeds go to charity), as does the massive motorcycle parade that is Fairfax’s annual Ride of the Patriots to Rolling Thunder. On the 26th, head to the Distiller’s Festival in Falls Church, a beer-and-BBQ event supporting Operation Turbo, which sends care packages to active US service members. On the 28th, Alexandria hosts its annual Memorial Day Jazz Festival. Falls Church has its own Memorial Day festival and parade on the 28th as well, with amusement park-rides, food vendors, pony rides, and live entertainment.
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