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The Most Exhilarating Memorial Day Destinations

The Most Exhilarating Memorial Day Destinations

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Getaway Staff
Updated: Mar 1, 2022

Memorial Day is a time to pause and pay homage to our nation's armed forces, honoring those who died in the line of duty. The three-day holiday weekend does exactly that, becoming synonymous with parades, fireworks, and around-the-clock action. With prices low and energy high, it's an ideal time to travel, and you'll find enticing events at every turn. From riveting live music to delicious BBQ and burgers fresh off the grill, the start of the summer vacation season comes in strong at these celebration-worthy destinations.

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01Atlantic City, New Jersey

Steel Pier - Atlantic City, New Jersey AUDREY SCRIPP / Getty Images

The "Las Vegas of the East" steps up its no-holds-barred attitude during Memorial Day, with the Bradley Beach Memorial Festival transforming the shore for an entire weekend. This riveting event brings the city to life with a grand parade, over 200 food and merchandise vendors, all-day entertainment, live performances, and kiddie rides. Similar events include the Atlantic Highlands and Beach Haven parades, and you'll arrive just in time for the Wildwoods International Kite Festival, the largest event of its type in the country. Around-the-clock gambling, iconic concerts, family-friendly attractions, and boardwalk fun round out the itinerary.

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02Austin, Texas

Water Bikes in the Colorado River and the skyline of Austin, Texas, USA at night. benedek / Getty Images

Incorporate Southern flavor into your celebration in the Texas state capitol. Boating season is in full swing, and since temperatures haven't reached their scorching summer highs, it's the perfect time to try paddleboarding, kayaking, or exploring the city on a laid-back cruise. Swimming holes like Jacob's Well are starting to get busy, nearly 200 miles of scenic hiking trails await, and camping, fishing, and picnicking are all starting to pick up. The dining scene also kicks into full gear during Memorial Day weekend, with lively patio and rooftop bars, quaint cafes, craft breweries, and seafood shacks serving up specials to satisfy every flavor.

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03Bermuda

woman and children going to swim in Bermuda Matt Henry Gunther / Getty Images

With the high season just starting, this tropical haven is bustling with action come May, yet costs are still low, and temperatures remain moderate. Soak in the rays on striking pink sand beaches, rejuvenate at a world-renowned spa, explore the scenic gardens and caves that dot the island, or swim with the dolphins at sunset. Kayak in the crystal-clear waters, go snorkeling, sailing, or fish for exotic species in the picturesque reefs; aquatic adventures are always in season. Whether you're craving relaxation or adrenaline-packed thrills, Bermuda offers something for every traveler.

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04Catalina Island, California

Aerial view of Catalina Casino and Avalon harbor with sailboats, fishing boats and yachts moored in calm bay

An hour-long boat trip transports you from the lively streets of Los Angeles to this pristine oasis in the Pacific. Charming cobblestone streets lend the island a European aesthetic. Tour the 11-story Catalina Casino, which guides you through the island's vibrant history and culture, including its use in over 225 films. Take it all in on a scenic vehicle tour, or experience captivating views from Mt. Ada. Nature here is indescribable; connect with octopi, sea stars, and anemones as you explore the seas with glass bottom boat tours, paddle boating, and snorkeling, or simply relax and spread out on the shore. A tropical vacay without the high price tag, Catalina Island offers an All-American way to escape.

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05Charleston, South Carolina

Historic houses along Battery st excellent example of 18th-century Georgian townhouse construction in Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston held one of the first Memorial Day observances in the nation, with 10,000 freed slaves honoring fallen Union soldiers less than a month after the Civil War ended. Today, that celebratory spirit remains alive and well, with the 17-day Spoleto Festival kicking off during the weekend. With striking opera, theater, dance, jazz, choral, and symphonic shows occurring throughout the city, you'll catch performances from top names and emerging artists alike. History lovers can travel through time at Rainbow Row, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, and the Charleston City Market, and everyone can unite over full-dress parades at the 200-year-old Citadel.

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06Mackinac Island, Michigan

Downtown Mackinac Island Michael Deemer / Getty Images

Vehicles are prohibited in this picturesque island community, so you can wander the area by foot, bicycle, or even a horse-drawn buggy; jump on a ferry to explore even further. The Mackinac Island Marina and Haldimand Bay brim with activity from sunup to sundown, with sailing, fishing, and kayaking all in full force. Historic hotels and restaurants, including the 1887-era Grand Hotel, lend the city a storybook ambiance. With ice cream socials, games, reenactments, and parades at Fort Mackinac, there's never a dull moment.

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07Phoenix, Arizona

Man on top of Camelback Mountain in Arizona Reuben Schulz / Getty Images

Soak in the Grand Canyon State in all its glory before temperatures start to skyrocket. Prices fall as the heat rises, making Phoenix a go-to destination for your holiday weekend. Not only can you catch the canyon without overheating (it's a short, four-hour drive), but you can enjoy scenic helicopter and train rides, explore Camelback Mountain and the Desert Botanical Garden or embrace vibrant nightlife downtown. A "Salute to our Heroes" celebration at Wet 'n' Wild Phoenix pairs splashy adventures with fireworks, family-friendly fun, and all-you-can-eat barbecue.

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08Williamsburg, Virginia

Major General Marquis De Lafayette in downtown colonial Williamsburg talking as a carriage passes by

This all-American getaway is a prime place to soak in our nation's history and culture. Visit Colonial Williamsburg or Jamestown and spend the entire day immersed in the American story, with countless museums, reenactments, and authentic activities to enjoy. When you've finished exploring, start the summer off right with golfing, kayaking, and fishing, or visit Busch Gardens to experience thrill rides, and animal encounters all in one place.

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09Whidbey Island, Washington

People men friends sea kayaking carrying boats on beach at sunset. Whidbey Island, Washington, United States outdoor adventure water sports travel. solarisimages / Getty Images

Whidbey Island features 55 miles of verdant terrain, a refuge for outdoor enthusiasts. Climb the famous Coastal Douglas Firs to catch eye-catching forest vistas, hike your way around the island to get up close and personal with striking wildlife, or engage in aquatic activities from dawn to dusk, including tubing paddleboarding, waterskiing, and sailing.

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10Washington, D.C.

Washington DC city view at a orange sunset, including Washington Monument from Capitol building f11photo / Getty Images

Our nation's capital is the patriotic way to spend Memorial Day, with engaging activities spanning the entire weekend. No visit is complete without stopping by the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and the numerous memorials spread throughout the city. On the holiday itself, Constitution Avenue honors veterans with awe-inspiring floats, music, and entertainment as it greets crowds of thousands for the National Memorial Parade.

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