Everyone likes a good weekend getaway in spring. But what if you need to get away from something specific this Memorial Day weekend, like your daily routine, the gray weather, or your iPhone?
Whether you’re looking to escape your sedentary lifestyle close to home or get away from civilization entirely, read on for last-minute travel inspiration to destinations across the country. And if you can’t get away from your family – or wouldn’t want to – we’ve got you covered with ideas for multi-generational travel too.
Work hard, play hard
For the active foodie – the sort of traveler who feels obligated to put up some respectable numbers on his Fitbit during the day before indulging in food and wine at night – there’s hardly a better weekend destination than the Mile High City.
By day, Denver’s hiking and mountain biking options are almost endless. You’ll find the most rewarding trails just outside of the city: try the steep Plymouth Trail at Deer Creek Canyon Park (jeffco.us/deer-creek-canyon-park/), which rewards you at the top with spectacular views of the city, or Red Rocks Canyon Park for miles of trails and otherworldly rock formations. More adventurous travelers can brave the region’s whitewater rapids with Clear Creek Rafting Company (clearcreekrafting.com).
Back in town, feast on sustainable “field-to-fork” cuisine at Root Down, then treat yourself to craft whiskey – Denver is famous for its distilleries – at Laws Whiskey House or Stranahan’s. Alternatively, hit the local craft beer circuit with a self-guided tour of breweries and tap houses. If you have any energy left after the day’s adventures, you could even do the tour (well, the first part, at least) on two wheels with B-Cycle (denver.bcycle.com), Denver’s handy and affordable bike-share program.
Closer to the Empire State? Another ideal option is Ithaca, New York, with its natural playground of gorges and waterfalls and, after dark, a lively dining and drinking scene.
Learn something new
If sleeping in till noon or dozing by the pool all afternoon isn’t a top priority on your Memorial Day agenda, lean in to your overachieving tendencies and plan your weekend around a course or class.
In Providence, Rhode Island, you can take a three-day sailing course, or book a private half- or full-day sailing class, with Narragansett Sailing (narragansettsailing.com). If you’d rather stay on dry land, there’s The Weekend Chef, a three-day course at Chef Walters Cooking School (chefwalterscookingschool.com). Or just drop in for the Community Yoga class at Rhode Runner (rhoderunner.com): the Saturday morning class, open to all levels, costs just five dollars.
Nowhere near New England? Try the Windy City. The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise, a guided boat tour that floats past dozens of the city’s key architectural landmarks, is the perfect combination of cultural education and al fresco entertainment. Did we mention there’s a bar onboard?
Take a break from tech
We know: you need a break from your iPhone. But cutting back on 24/7 connectivity requires serious discipline. A simple solution is to go someplace where there’s no reception – where you’re forced (ahem, free) to simply enjoy your surroundings without Instagramming the scenery or texting pictures to your mom.
Our pick? Grand Canyon National Park, an All-American classic. There’s no reception anywhere beneath the rim, so if you go on a hike or mule ride down into the canyon, you’re instantly off the grid. And if you make the three-hour drive around the canyon’s perimeter to the quiet, comparatively remote North Rim, you’re really in for some digital detox. There’s no wi-fi signal or any kind of internet service at the elegant Grand Canyon Lodge, just fresh air and drop-dead gorgeous views – preferably enjoyed from one of the Adirondack chairs on the terrace while sipping a Teddy Roosevelt-inspired cocktail from the nearby Roughrider Saloon.
Keep your phone in airplane mode – depending on your carrier, you won’t have reception, anyway – but go ahead and give in to the temptation to take a few photos. The panorama function is admittedly irresistible here. But skip the filter: there’s no improving upon the spectacular interplay of light and shadow as the sun and clouds move high above the Grand Canyon at sunrise and sunset.
Gear up for summertime
Technically, summer solstice is weeks away. But Memorial Day weekend feels like the unofficial kickoff to the season, especially in the sunshine-drenched landscape of southern California.
To get into a summery state of mind, head for San Diego – and especially to the wide beaches and laid-back seaside communities of North County, a short drive or train ride north of the city proper. Catch a wave or take an introductory surf lesson in Encinitas with Moonlight Beach Surf Camps (moonlightbeachsurfcamps.com - wetsuit recommended, the water is chilly), join a pick-up volleyball game in Del Mar, pedal down miles of beach paths on a bicycle, go for a hike in Torrey Pines, or just lie on the sand and work on your base tan.
Looking for an East Coast option? It feels like summer already in Miami, particularly when you’re cycling around South Beach or hurtling across the bay in a catamaran, Miami Vice style, on a sunset boat cruise from Spirit Yacht Charters (tropicalsailing.com/sunset-cruise-miami)
Reconnect to family
Maybe you’re spending Memorial Day weekend with your father, or your four-year-old, or your father’s father, or all of the above. What to do with the whole family? Head straight to Philadelphia, where all-ages outdoor activities and festivals are plentiful in spring.
There’s something for everyone at Spruce Street Harbor Park (visitphilly.com/spruce-street-harbor-park), voted one of the best urban beaches in America: bocce and ping pong, children’s activities, live music, an ice cream stand, and a floating restaurant and bar. Perhaps best of all, the wooded waterfront park has dozens of hammocks strung between the trees, ideal for anyone – your kid, or your grandma – who needs a little rest.
Other family-friendly options include the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square (historicphiladelphia.org/chineselanternfestival), featuring a 200-foot-long Chinese dragon, live acrobatics performances, and Pan-Asian food stands, and Parks on Tap (parksontap.com), a pop-up food truck festival with comfortable outdoor seating, games for kids, and, of course, craft beer on tap. Bring your binoculars: this Memorial Day weekend, the Parks on Tap venue is FDR Park Boathouse, a popular birdwatching spot.