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6 Fantastic Memorial Day Weekend Ideas to Create Your Own Traditions

I LOVE Memorial Day weekend! To me this three-day weekend signifies the unofficial kickoff to the summer. It’s the first weekend that you can truly rely on for good weather, and the whole country just feels alive and ready for a few months of sunshine and warm temperatures. Some families have generations-long traditions and others like to switch it up every year. If you haven’t started planning and need your own memorial day weekend ideas, check these below.

6 Memorial Day Weekend Ideas to Kick-off Summer

Arlington National Cemetery

1. Celebrate the Actual Meaning of Memorial Day in D.C.

Of course, the real meaning behind Memorial Day is to honor those who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. If you want to spend your weekend doing just that, then there’s no better city than Washington D.C. Most memorials around the city will have special ceremonies to pay tribute and, of course, nothing is quite as moving as visiting Arlington National Cemetery. There you can pay your respects and see small flags posted at all 250,000 graves.

Celebration-wise, there are a few big events not to miss. The day before Memorial Day is Rolling to Remember, a huge motorcycle rally that raises awareness for veteran issues and to honor soldiers who are MIA or prisoners of war. Later that evening, head to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for the free National Memorial Day Concert. On the day of, don’t miss the huge National Memorial Day Parade: Our Sacred Honor which will have patriotic floats dedicated to all aspects of American sacrifice – starting with the Revolution. 

2. Plan a Classic New England Getaway

While many regions in the United States have their own beaches and islands, there’s really something classic about a New England summer. (Or maybe I’m just biased as a New Hampshirite!) Coming out of a long, cold winter, this region comes alive once Memorial Day hits, and it really is a sight to behold. Mom and pop shops open up for business, visitors start coming from all over, and the lakes and beaches are warm enough to enjoy (at least from the sand, maybe not quite the water just yet).

Some of my favorite picks in New England include:

  • Coastal MaineI always have such fond memories of Maine. Its rocky, wild landscapes were always just a short drive away my whole childhood, and only as an adult do I appreciate the beauty that was in my backyard. From Acadia National Park to all you can eat lobster, there are so many things to do here!
  • Stowe, VTStowe is stunning in all seasons, but in the summer it’s the perfect mountain escape. Plan for some stunning hikes and canoeing. 
  • Portsmouth, NH – I mean, of course I have to shout out my hometown. Use it as a base to explore New Hampshire’s tiny Sea Coast region.
  • Watch Hill, RIFull of Victorian-era homes and white sand beaches, Watch Hill is one of the more underrated beach destinations along the New England coast.

3. Gather your Girlfriends for a Relaxing Getaway

Who doesn’t love a fun girls’ getaway? Especially as we get older and partners and kids come into the picture, it can be hard to find a way to schedule a getaway with your closest girlfriends. Well, use this Memorial Day weekend as your excuse! Pick a more relaxing locale and get ready for three straight days of laughter and much-needed bonding time.

Some of my top picks for a relaxing girls’ getaway: 

  • Colorado Springs – There’s a good reason this area has always been popular with East Coast Americans looking for a rejuvenating escape. From breathtaking views to healing spring waters (in nearby Manitou, that is), it’s the perfect weekend escape for everyone in your crew to recharge. Make it extra fun by staying at the historic Broadmoor and getting some beers at the woman-owned Atrevida Beer Co.
  • Sonoma County – What says girls’ getaway better than wine country? Skip over the busier Napa and head to Sonoma County. Pair your vineyard hopping with some coastal walks and more unique finds like a safari or a museum dedicated to the creator of Snoopy – Charles M. Schulz.
  • Corning & the Southern Finger Lakes – For those on the East Coast, the Finger Lakes is the perfect destination to gather all your friends! Use Corning with its gorgeous downtown and world-renowned glass museum as your base and then venture out to any number of beautiful vineyards. Plan a fun glassmaking class so you can all walk away with a unique souvenir to remember the weekend.

4. Try out a Shorter Family Road Trip

A three-day weekend is a great way to ease your family into road trips. I would say keep the driving to 2-3 hours or less per day with plenty of stops and breaks. The nice thing is, every state has some sort of opportunity for road tripping. From where we live in Brooklyn, we could go up to upstate New York, over to the Finger Lakes, or even down to the Jersey Shore and back up through Pennsylvania. 

Check out some of our road trip episodes to get ideas:

  • “California Road Trip” – Instead of heading along the famous Pacific Coast Highway, we opted for a smaller circle in southern California.
  • “Oregon Family RV Trip” – We took a 4-day road trip from Portland down to Bend to check out everything from the Mt. Hood Fruit Loop to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monuments.
  • “Hill Country, TX” – A beautiful, huge region in southwest Texas perfect for weekends. You might get lucky and still see some bluebonnets at the end of May!


5. Head up North

What better way to spend a U.S. holiday than to… head up north across the border? Canada is home to some seriously charming cities and incredible nature. This can be a fun way to go abroad without going all that far from home. 

Some of my picks:

  • Montréal – As the largest city in Québec, Montréal has all the charm of a major European city but is only mere hours from some major East Coast cities. Once there, hop on a bike and ride around Vieux-Montréal before stopping off to try Canada’s national food – poutine. On Sunday, be sure to visit Mount Royal Park for the very unique Tam-tams experience.
  • Quebec City – Feel like you’ve been transported into a French fairytale as soon as you get to Quebec City and see the giant Fairmont Château Frontenac perched on its hill. Every corner feels like a step back into history, and you’ll want to spend your long weekend exploring every nook and cranny. Don’t forget to enjoy some afternoon tea inside Fairmont during one of your afternoons.
  • VancouverPut a cosmopolitan city right next to incredible wilderness, and you’ve got Vancouver. Be sure to spend time in the massive Stanley Park and take the ferry over to Granville Island for some cool shops and eateries.

Samantha Brown enjoying the lookout and view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville North Carolina

6. Opt for a Smaller City Break

No doubt bigger cities will be extremely popular over Memorial Day weekend and may not be the fun city break you’d want. I say instead of opting for major metropolitans, look into smaller, less famous cities. Many of these places offer everything you’d love in a bigger one – a variety of good restaurants, cool culture, and ease of transport – but won’t be overwhelmed with crowds. 

Here are some of my picks:

  • Huntsville, ALI still find Huntsville to be one of the most underrated city destinations out there. It’s such a gem for anyone interested in space and, of course, being located in the south means you’re in for some seriously good food.
  • Brooklyn, NYTechnically Brooklyn is a borough of NYC, which is, in fact, one of the most popular places in the world to visit at any time. However, all that tourism is largely focused in Manhattan and most people will never make it across the bridge. However, Brooklyn is full of incredible eateries, quirky things to do (like a shuffleboard club!), and beautiful sights – all minus the hustle and bustle of Midtown. You’re in for a real treat if you opt to visit here instead.
  • Louisville, KYVisiting Louisville guarantees a fun time. Spend your weekend learning about all the famous names that have come from this city – Muhammad Ali, the Louisville slugger, and bourbon. Then eat at some seriously delicious spots including The Brown Hotel, home to the famous Hot Brown.
  • Asheville, NCAsheville is an excellent pick for anyone looking to incorporate some outdoor adventures into their small city break. Take advantage of the nice weather and explore The Biltmore Estate’s gardens as well as its interior.
  • Chattanooga, TNChattanooga is another great pick for anyone who wants both the outdoors and a bit of small city living. Enjoy everything from the Tennessee RiverWalk to an electric Swincar drive in through Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. Whatever you do, don’t miss the views from Rock City; if you’re lucky you’ll be able to see views to seven different states!
  • St. Augustine, FLGet both the beach and some serious history in St.Augustine. As the country’s oldest country, you just know this place has a lot of stories to tell whether it’s at landmarks like Castillo de San Marcos or out in nature, like the places I saw on my St. Augustine Eco Tours.

And there you have it! Some fun Memorial Day weekend ideas to ring in the start of summer. Do you have any traditions for this weekend or trips planned? Share them below!

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