From the forests of the Rockies to seaside refuges.
10 Scenic Travel Destinations for Memorial Day Weekend
From the forests of the Rockies to seaside refuges.
Memorial Day weekend has long been considered the unofficial kickoff to summer – and for good reason! It arrives during a sweet spot of the year when the weather is consistently pleasant and the entire summer is still ahead. It’s the kind of holiday that has an air of limitless potential about it, making it perfect for planning a scenic getaway.
That said, with a weekend so renowned for travel plans as Memorial Day is, long-haul airfare tends to spike. So, save the European jaunt for later in the year and plan a trip to a charming destination located right here in the United States.
From the forests of the Rockies where you can partake in national park hikes to relaxing seaside refuges, the 10 trip ideas ahead should have you well on your way to a perfect Memorial Day Weekend.
1. Taos, New Mexico
If you were to try to encapsulate Taos in just one word, ‘otherworldly’ comes to mind. Situated in New Mexico’s picturesque high desert, this small southwestern town is a destination unlike anywhere else. In the background sit the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, often with a blue sky and impossibly fluffy white clouds hanging overhead, and in the foreground, visitors can admire the long plateau peppered with adobe buildings and diverse trees and shrubs. For early summer, outdoor activities such as horseback riding, hiking, and rafting are perfect for Memorial Day Weekend. You can also take it easy with a visit to nearby Ojo Caliente for a soak in their stunning hot mineral springs.
2. Big Sur, California
If dramatic cliff-sides, majestic redwood trees, and turquoise-hued waters pique your interest, book a trip to Big Sur along California’s breathtaking coastline. It’s one of those special places that despite being known and beloved worldwide, still maintains its rugged, remote feel. Unsurprisingly, some of the best things to do here involve the great outdoors, from hiking and camping to foraging and stargazing. You can also check in to one of the region’s unique accommodations, such as the historic Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, which has been around since the 1930s. If you’re looking to splash out, reserve a room at Alila Ventana Big Sur overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
3. Cannon Beach, Oregon
Bask in the sun along the sandy shores of Cannon Beach this Memorial Day Weekend. This coastal Oregon village is known for its tall, majestic Haystock Rock that rises 235 feet out from the ocean’s edge. During low tide, visitors and locals alike walk up to the rock to discover tide pool regulars such as colorful sea stars, urchins, and barnacles. Other unique nature-spotting opportunities abound here, including birdwatching (check out the nesting Tufted Puffins and Common Murres colonies) as well as seals and sea lion sights and whale watching (there are many varieties of whales that can be spotted any time of year). At the end of the day, unwind with a casual meal at Driftwood Restaurant and check in at Hallmark Resort & Spa for oceanfront lodging.
4. Whitefish, Montana
At the dramatic edge of Glacier National Park in the northern Rocky Mountains travelers arrive at Whitefish, Montana. Here, nature is the main attraction, with rivers, lakes, and forests stretching as far as the eye can see. During the late spring when Memorial Day hits, a beautiful cycling ride is one of the best ways to spend the day as you pedal past cascading waterfalls and along bighorn sheep and mountain goats. You’ll also want to make good use of the river with a leisurely paddleboard or kayak, or even a hike on The Whitefish Trail. After a day of picturesque outdoor activity, savor a meal on the patio of this cozy cabin rental located by Birch Creek and soak in the outdoor hot tub beneath the stars.
5. Fredericksburg, Texas
Situated in the heart of Texas Hill Country is Fredericksburg, a town with unique heritage and charming scenery. In 1846, German settlers arrived here and left behind a string of historic buildings and culinary traditions that make visiting this special destination feel entirely immersive. For Memorial Day Weekend, book a wine tasting at one of the region's over 100 wineries and vineyards (Fredericksburg is regarded as the epicenter of Texas Wine Country). You can also mosey over to the Pioneer Museum which tells the story of Fredericksburg’s first German immigrants; or book a horseback ride to experience the town through a unique lens. Kick the uniqueness up a notch and book a stay at Onera, luxury treehouses located minutes within the main street.
6. Telluride, Colorado
What was once a Victorian mining town in the Colorado Rockies is now Telluride – a travel destination with world-class scenery and activity, art, and cuisine to match. One of the village’s main attractions – the gondola – is set to reopen on May 25, just in time for Memorial Day Weekend. The towns of Telluride and Mountain Village are linked by this gondola, a free transportation system that takes just 13 minutes. The gondola gives visitors access to activities such as hiking and biking trails, but before you do any of that be sure to take in the magnificent views of the forested peaks from 10,500 feet up. And if you're looking for digs, look no further than Dunton Town House, a historic property complete with Tyrolean antiques, Austrian ceramics, and other thoughtful decorations that speak to the home’s historic backstory.
7. Jackson, Wyoming
Known for its world-class ski slopes, Jackson also happens to be a fantastic destination during the year’s warmer months as well. It’s not all that surprising; the town’s scenery brings the drama thanks to the craggy Grand Teton mountain range and sweeping bluffs and National Elk Refuge. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself here for Memorial Day Weekend, take a ride up the gondola for show-stopping views of Jackson Hole. From there, set out into the great outdoors on one of the many (many) trails the region has to offer, spotting wildlife and wildflowers along the way. You could also try your hand at fly fishing, or settle for a stroll around the stylish city center (fun tip: the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is one of the best places in town for people-watching).
8. Cold Spring, New York
If you don't live in New York City, one might think access to nature is limited – but that would be a mistake. Hop aboard the Amtrak up to an area such as Cold Spring and you’ll swiftly be immersed in some of the state’s most beautiful destinations for hiking and kayaking. Partake in the latter and you can paddle your way out to Bannerman Island, home to Bannerman Castle, where you can attend seasonal events such the castle farm-to-table dinner or movie night. The town itself is charming as well, with enough quaint shops and restaurants to fill a leisurely afternoon.
9. Kennebunkport, Maine
Scenic views are in full supply once you make your way up to Maine. This coastal state has jaw-dropping beauty at every turn, from historic fishing villages by the sea to rocky coastlines fit for a romance novel. In the town of Kennebunkport, all of these features come together, making it the perfect location for a Memorial Day Weekend getaway. While here, you’ll want to get your fill of fresh seafood, so why not book a lobster boat tour? Also: peruse the shops and galleries for a souvenir, take a tour of historic St. Ann's Church built circa 1891, go whale watching, and enjoy a hike on Parson’s Way. One of the best hotels in town is Hidden Pond, which is surrounded by 60 acres of birch groves and balsam fir and features a three-room treetop spa.
10. Sedona, Arizona
A destination so scenic it could be mistaken for a movie set, Sedona is in a league of its own. This Arizona desert town is encircled by red-rock buttes and is located in the Coconino National Forest. There are juniper trees, ponderosa pines, and cottonwood trees (among many other natural splendors) that create a lovely environment for the region’s iconic red rocks to contrast. Of course, you’ll be setting off into red rock country during your stay here, but other activities are at your fingertips such as off-road jeep tours, swims in oak creek, water-to-wine kayaking tours, and a walking tour of Sedona’s art galleries. If a spa day sounds like more your speed, check in to a casita at Mii Amo for a journey package that includes meals, spa credits, and more.
Photo by Davey Heuser
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