Top Ten Memorial Day Destinations

Let's take our hats off to our country and those who have served for it. Head to any of our top ten Memorial Day getaways and enjoy what the long weekend is all about—good food, good friends, and celebrating freedom. Here is our guide of where to go, where to stay, and, perhaps most importantly, where to eat.
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Bourbon Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans's Bourbon Street is the central nerve of the city's entertainment district  (Midioimages/Photodisc/Getty)

10. Kansas City, Missouri
Barbeque, barbeque, barbeque. Around Memorial Day each year, the Paris of the Plains hosts The Great American Barbeque Festival, where the savory juiciness of America's favorite meat is held high above all others. With events like a Sauce, Baste, and Rub Contest, the festival showcases the who's who of Kansas City BBQ. Bask in the BBQ greatness in the great outdoors while taking in one of KC's dominating sporting teams. Cheer on the Royals at Kauffman Stadium—plan ahead for a $10 ballpark tour taking you inside the Royals dugout. If speed is more your thing, pack a cooler, ear plugs, and sunglasses and take off for the Kansas Speedway—Nascar at its finest. Breathe in the cool, spring Midwest air on one of the area's luxury golf courses, where no minute of your three-day weekend goes wasted.

Where to eat: On the Kansas side of Kansas City is Oklahoma Joe's BBQ, a local favorite as evidenced by the consistent lunch line down the sidewalk. And forget about sitting down, this grub is served in a gas station and perhaps best enjoyed to-go. Though the frequent hour-long line could turn some impatient foodies off, those who have stuck it out swear it's worth the wait. The Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain named Okie Joe's on his list of Top Ten Places to Eat Before You Die.

9. New York City, New York
New York celebrates the holiday weekend through fireworks, Hamptons' getaways, and Fleet Week. This annual event docks hundreds of sailors for a week off of their deployed ships in the Big Apple. The vast greenery of Central Park is open for picnics, bike rides, and outdoor concerts. And as there is never a shortage of things to do in this city, for once, the typical tourist trail is a must. Step on the toes of Lady Liberty and revel in the ant-like feeling of standing in the middle of perpetually lit Times Square. Patriotic pride takes over the Empire State Building as red, white, and blue radiates from the top section; these colors constantly change to reflect the current holiday or day of significance.

Where to sleep: In a city that never sleeps and accumulates its fair share of unused, already-paid-for hotel rooms, we suggest skipping out on the typical downtown four-star hotel room. With enough research and advice, you can find other sleeping arrangements that are inviting, clean, and as far from horror movie-esqe as it comes. Check out a stay in a hostel, where meeting new friends from all over the world is an added benefit. Gaining popularity and becoming increasingly more secure is house swapping, the program where you put your home up for vacationers in exchange for a stay in theirs.

8. Freeport, Maine
Surrounded by the Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park, Freeport is a tranquil retreat with a back-to-nature vibe. Take a drive down U.S. 1 Coastal Highway stretching over 200 miles from Freeport to Quoddy Head, Maine. The sites along Maine's coastline are breathtaking, and U.S. 1 is ideal for meandering off onto side roads leading down the coast for a closer view of lighthouses, rocky cliffs, fishing boats, and the shoreline. The main tourist season is just starting this time of year, so crowds will still be at bay yet restaurants and roadside souvenir stands are open for the warm-weather season. Freeport is also only a short jaunt from Portland, the waterfront town that is booming with an active arts and culture district. Every first Friday of the month features the First Friday Art Walk, a voyage around Portland's galleries, where artists use unusual means to display their work. Take a day to sprint out to the photograph-friendly Boothbay Harbor, the boating capital of New England. Here you will find a bay filled with colorful windjammers, a rustic town center with friendly lobstermen, and a footbridge leading to summer cottages along the shoreline.

Where to go: Outlet shops abound here, and the only thing better than shopping is discount shopping. Check out the Freeport Shopping Outlets with everything from the L.L. Bean headquarters to J. Crew and Nike.

7. New Orleans, Louisiana
Is there ever a bad time to visit New Orleans? With the warm weather encroaching and the promise of sunshine, New Orleans holds the key to the hearts of those vacationers who just want to get away from it all. The simple stillness of the city is evident in the alligator swamps, in a chair underneath a drooping New Orleans oak tree, and through the lush bohemian way of life seen in the locals. The romance of this city is unexplainable by many but saturated in realness to visitors arriving for the first time. The captivity is undeniable in the city's French Quarter, situated along the Mississippi River. As the inspiration for numerous artists and musicians, the French Quarter is a welcome mat for out-of-towners who have come to get back to the simple things in life. Authentic New Orleans jazz seeps out of the cast-iron lined balcony windows, and rocking chairs on wrap-around porches offer front-row people watching.

What to do: Jazz! A trip to The Big Easy isn't complete without taking in some of the most talented musicians in the South. Though you won't have to go far to find any, they often set up camp right on the streets. A good starting point is Preservation Hall, located right in the French Quarter. Though one of the more famous venues, food and drinks are not allowed, so if you are looking for a more laid-back show with a cup of cognac, head to Fritzel's on Bourbon Street, where the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere has charmed locals and international musicians alike.

6. South Padre Island, Texas
Head south to Texas, land of big hair, big belt buckles, and big excuses to party. South Padre is easily accessible and distinct enough that you feel you have left the country. The tropical tip of Texas still rings true with its good ole boy theme and laid-back country living. If you've grown out of the all-night ragers, head to the island's 34-mile-long barrier reef for dolphin-spotting boat trips, fishing, and lazing on the beach. The only link back to mainland Texas is the two and a half mile Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge. Though sometimes labeled as a college destination, the island offers extensive options for families. Ride horseback along white-sand beaches, ride jet skis, or rent boogie boards from a local beach shop.

What to do: Sign up for sand castle lessons with one of the many companies on the island. Whether you're looking to just have fun or deeply expand your building skills, a day with the sand castle masters is a different and intriguing activity sure to engage all ages in your group.

Published: 11 May 2010 | Last Updated: 8 May 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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