Top Ten Memorial Day Destinations - Page 2

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Duval Street, Key West, Florida
The palm tree paradise of Key West is alive and well along bar-lined Duval Street  (Key West Tourist Development Council)

5. Key West, Florida
Laid-back living at its finest—Jimmy Buffet sang about it, the sun loves it, and pie has been inspired by it. The three-day weekend is always a big event in the Keys and plans should be made accordingly—i.e., book ahead of time! The U.S.'s southernmost point is as close as you can get to the Caribbean without boarding a boat, and it's an island paradise that's still relatively low-key. Though developments line the beach, the city vibes like a small town. The people are friendly, the food is legendary, and the views are majestic. Aside from remembering those who have served our country, Memorial Day is an official welcome to warmer months and a good break from everyday life—though for locals, no excuse is needed to party here. If traveling with young kids, perhaps reconsider—the Spring Break label is deserving here. Even the bums come here to party.

Where to go: Duval Street. Though booze is always in the blender here, carousing the lively street is not ruined if you are not much of a drinker. The people-watching is more eclectic than a Rolling Stones concert, and all the big-name chains are intertwined with local dives where Mr. Buffet is on rotation more than the bartenders would like to remember. The island is small, perfect for two wheels and a handle bar. If you can't bring your own, we suggest renting a bike instead of a car.

4. Lake Tahoe, Nevada/California
This freshwater lake has been climbing the ranks of America's favorite getaways throughout the years, and it has its vast array of outdoor activities to thank. Memorial Day usually marks the opening day of the lake and surrounding hiking trails. Master mariners delight in the overabundance of water sports—from parasailing to swimming to windsurfing. The nightlife here can get rowdy and unrefined—perhaps a place better enjoyed by the single folk. Keep in mind that this is not a hidden gem anymore, and things can get quite crowded. Plan your trip so that you are not driving up on Friday and leaving Monday as to avoid the mass traffic-snarled exodus of Memorial Day-goers.

What to do: Rent a bike at one of the numerous local bike shops and hit the trails. Trails range from scenic mellow cruises to mountain-bike-required rocky cliffs. Some ski resorts in the area have special bike paths where you can buy lift tickets to the top and careen back to base. Many companies offer guided backcountry overnight camping rides through Lake Tahoe's wilderness. Though quite strenuous, we suggest the Tahoe Rim Trail, a picturesque jaunt through the top of Lake Tahoe Basin. The 165-mile course winds through the highest basin peak, a national park, and two states.

3. Memphis, Tennessee
For the foodies out there, head to Memphis. Think baked beans, potato slaw, and slaw (they leave out the "cole" in the South). I think few would argue against the fact that nothing defines Memorial Day like a plastic plate of heaping meat on a sesame-seed bun. To get the best of the 'que head to Beale Street, a mecca of deliciously appetizing BBQ joints and clubs that play music straight from Memphis's heart—what more would you expect from a city that has been hailed the Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock 'n Roll?

Where to eat: The '50s come alive at The Pig on Beale. The spirited atmosphere is only a backdrop to the mouthwatering BBQ The Pig serves up. Barbeque pork nachos, jumbo barbeque pork sandwich, and sweet potato pie—the delicatessen of down-home cookin'. If you want to kick up your boots, walk down a few blocks to the Double Deuce, where mounted longhorns, Monday Night Football, and Jack, Jim, and Johnnie reign supreme.

2. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
The small town of Hilton Head, South Carolina, is a popular east coast getaway. With seaside attractions and hometown charm, Hilton Head is an ideal Memorial Day family escape. The tiny island is jam packed with restaurants, golf courses, and shopping opportunities. Apple blossom trees are in full bloom this time of the year and supply a breathtaking backdrop during walks with the whole family. Hilton Head is truly one of those places that allows you to stop, sit, and take a breath. Relaxation is key here.

Where to eat: Nuzzled in amongst the ancient South Carolina oaks is CQ's, a renovated art studio built in 1970. The building features original pieces, including the pine flooring stretching from wall-to-wall. Time stands still inside CQ's, and ancient stories echo from the sepia photographs displayed proudly on the restaurant walls. Dinner options include tuna tartar, lobster pasta, and venison.

1. Washington, D.C.
Where better to remember past heroes than the nation's capital? The District offers more than enough opportunities to pay tribute where tribute is due. Monuments, landmarks, cemeteries, and memorials dot the landscape of this east coast city, commemorating those who have fought for our country. Attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, watch the Presentation of the Colors at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and join the masses of patriotic Americans as they celebrate our veterans at the National Memorial Day Parade—each branch of the military is honored with bands, floats, and active and retired military units marching down Constitution Avenue past 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the president's home.

Where to go: D.C. is stuffed full of free places for amateur historians, art-lovers, or wannabe botanists to explore. Every night of the week at 6 P.M. The Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage holds a free show. Visit one out of the cornucopia of free museums—National Air and Space Museum, The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and all of the other Smithsonians to name a few. Stroll through Georgetown, a quaint shopping district with small-town charm but prices that reflect the trendiness of the area. Visit the president, or at least walk around his house. With a little pre-planning and an email to your Member of Congress you may be able to get a free guided tour of the White House guts. Stroll through the U.S. Botanic Garden, where more than 26,000 different plants are maintained with meticulous detail. Free 45-minute tours are available with advanced planning.

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