If the long Memorial Day weekend snuck up on you and you’re scrambling to get plans together, relax. Here are five last-minute trips perfect to take over Memorial Day weekend.
Gatlinburg is full of cabins with beautiful views of the Smoky Mountains, but if you’re throwing a trip together at the last minute, a hotel will work just as well. One of the most well-known Gatlinburg Memorial Day celebrations is Family Fest, a multi-day event that features an impressive lineup of gospel singers. Another special celebration is the Smoky Mountain Thunder Memorial Ride, where hundreds of motorcyclists honor America’s soldiers by riding 65 miles through the Smoky Mountains; the ride ends in a closing ceremony at Clinch Mountain. Other popular Gatlinburg adventures include visiting 10,000 sea creatures at Ripley’s Aquarium, getting wet at the Dollywood Splash Country Water Adventure Park or visiting Ober Gatlinburg (which has bumper cars, mini golf, an air tram and more).
What better place could there be to spend Memorial Day than Washington, D.C.? The nation’s capital will be crowded over the long weekend, but don’t let that deter you from planning a last-minute trip. PBS holds a National Memorial Day Concert each year on the west lawn of the Capitol; it’s free and does not require tickets in advance. The National Memorial Day Parade on Constitution Avenue (which occurs on Memorial Day itself) is also popular — again, no need for a ticket, but get there early to get a good spot. And finally, go the National Mall and stop by the war memorials. The relatively new American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial is an important way to bring meaning to the holiday. Consider walking the mall at night, when the heat of the day has faded.
Chicago celebrates Memorial Day in style with a parade, fireworks and sandy toes. The Memorial Day Parade goes down State Street on Saturday after the wreath laying ceremony at noon. Fireworks, synchronized to music, happen at the Navy Pier. Plus, Chicago’s beaches open for the summer on Memorial Day weekend. And since no American holiday is complete without food, stop by Smoque BBQ on Pulaski Road — a delicious, family-friendly restaurant serving ribs, brisket and more.
According to Denver.org, “When Memorial Day weekend rolls around in Denver, we go big.” Catch a Colorado Rockies baseball game, hear some live music at Red Rocks Ampitheatre or check out the Denver Day of Rock — a huge block party that happens on the 16th Street pedestrian mall. If you’re planning to fly to Denver and you need a plane ticket on short notice, consider signing up for airline newsletters or price alerts now.
Overseas Highway (Miami to Key West)
Take advantage of the long weekend, hop in the car and drive the Overseas Highway this Memorial Day. The highway runs from Miami to Key West and can be completed in just four hours (perhaps longer during a holiday), but allow time to experience everything along the way. Stop at the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail and stroll along the path; swim with dolphins at the conservation-focused Dolphin Research Center (although the center is closed on Memorial Day); enjoy the views from the Seven Mile Bridge. Don’t forget about food — the key lime pie at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo is a must and the perfect way to end your Memorial Day vacation.