Memorial Day is one of the most important American holidays, offering us a time to honor, remember, and celebrate the brave men and women who have died defending our country and its values.
It’s also the unofficial start to summer break — and a great time to get any vacations you have planned for the year started off on the right foot.
Memorial Day has long been a popular time to travel, and for good reason: By the time it’s here, the long winter has inevitably broken, and the sun is finally bright and reliable. Plus, it’s a three day weekend, the perfect amount of time for a quick jaunt in an RV rental.
But if you’re still wondering where February and March disappeared to and haven’t quite gotten ahead of your travel plans, you might be scrambling to choose a Memorial Day destination — a decidedly less-than-relaxed way to start a weekend trip full of barbecues, beers, and swimming.
Don’t worry. We’ve got our own planning catch-up to do… which means we’ve got you covered.
Here are ten awesome Memorial Day travel destinations we’re aching to weekend in this summer.
1. Asheville, North Carolina
Nestled in the shade of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville offers a perfect balance of city pursuits and countryside. Whether you’re looking to start your summer vacation with a gorgeous mountain hike or perusing art museums and galleries, you’ll find what you’re looking for in North Carolina’s hippest destination city.
You can choose from a host of nearby private campgrounds, or set up home base in the local Pisgah or Nantahala National Forests. Grab your tow(ed) vehicle to motor into town, and then retreat back into the wilderness of some of the prettiest landscapes in the southeast.
2. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
If you’re based in the northeast, you already know there’s no better time to take a trip out to the boot-shaped coast than the first major holiday weekend of the season. The temperature’s right, there’s tons to do, and you certainly can’t beat it for scenery.
Cape Cod is a popular destination this weekend, however, so be sure you reserve your spot early. Although there are many campgrounds to choose from, they’re all bound to book up fast!
3. Atlantic City, New Jersey
Whether you’re looking to catch a show or simply aching to stroll the historic boardwalk, Atlantic City is a hot place to be on Memorial Day weekend. And when you’re ready to escape the city’s glitz, head back to your campsite at Wharton State Forest, where you can fish, hunt, swim, hike, and enjoy an array of interpretive programs including a blacksmithing demonstration.
4. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
What better time of year to feast your eyes on this classic American landmark? And with average high temperatures still falling below 60 degrees Farenheit, this National Memorial is a great place to land if you’re not as stoked as some for summer’s swelter.
Camping options in the surrounding Black Hills National Forest abound. And once you’ve taken your selfies with Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln, you can enjoy the area’s hiking, biking, canoeing, and horseback riding opportunities — or just sit back and watch the midwestern grass grow.
5. Honeyman Memorial State Park, Oregon
If Oregon’s stunning coast is calling, consider setting up camp at this well-appointed state park, known for its smattering of pink rhododendrons come springtime. Swimming and fishing opportunities abound, of course, but you can also take advantage of the adjoining Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, which offers sandboarding as well as all-terrain-vehicle access.
6. Washington, D.C.
For honoring Memorial Day with an appropriate dose of patriotism, you can’t do much better than a pilgrimage to our nation’s Capitol. Plus, late May means you’ll miss the worst of the area’s hot and humid summer climes.
Events include the largest Memorial Day parade in the country, as well as a host of other opportunities to pay your respects. But you could also spend the weekend wandering the mall, pointing out historical landmarks to your children, or simply do some sun worshiping in one of the city’s many public parks.
7. Joshua Tree National Park, California
If you really want to get away this Memorial Day weekend, consider this southern California national park. Its twisted namesake trees will make you feel like you’ve somehow driven yourself to a different planet.
Plus, the park’s multitude of hikes are much more accessible before June and July bring truly unbearable temperatures — those trees don’t offer too much in the way of shade. Be sure to check out the nearby gateway city of Twentynine Palms, and be on the lookout for rattlesnakes.
8. Mackinac Island, Michigan
Although you might not be able to actually set up camp on the island, the nearby lakeshore in Michigan’s scenic Upper Peninsula offers a variety of public and private options. Then, you can ferry your way out to this four-square-mile destination, which offers tons of historical tourism (can you say patriotic?) as well as unique geological formations to explore.
9. St. Petersburg, Florida
If you want to enjoy sunny south Florida before high summer’s heat and humidity makes things truly florid, try this west-coast gem.
Tampa’s neighbor to the south, this peninsula community’s long been known for its thriving art scene, and a recent influx of gourmet restaurants and craft cocktail bars mean it’s only been getting more interesting. If you’re eager to get out and mingle, there always seems to be an event going on, especially when there’s a holiday weekend to use as a handy excuse. Plus, Florida’s gulf coast offers some of its very best beaches, with sugar-soft sand, year-round warm waters — and, of course, an excellent choice of seafood. For a public campground near the water with moderate fees, check out Fort De Soto Park.
10. Austin, Texas
One of the outdoorsiest cities in the country, Austin is a perfect spot to settle in for a sunny Memorial Day weekend. Whether you’re looking to kick back with a beer or three or set out for a full day of hiking, biking, and swimming, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for in this southern town — and then be able to top it all off with a long night of fantastic music.
With lots of recent press in the travel scene, Austin’s bound to be a popular spot this summer, so make sure you reserve a campsite early. But don’t worry, the city’s fame is also a positive thing: There are tons of Memorial Day events to choose from, whether your idea of a good time includes food trucks and wine slushies or bull riding followed by a two-stepping class.
Where will you take your RV this Memorial Day weekend?