The 7 Best Memorial Day Weekend Getaways & Activities

By Larry Bleiberg

Get a jump start on vacation season with a Memorial Day vacation. Think of the holiday as summer's soft opening. With the Memorial Day parade, festivals and pool openings, it's the first real chance for warm weather fun.

Here are a few things to do Memorial Day weekend:

Stay the Weekend in Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

Gatlinburg Vacation Ideas

Head to the hills for Memorial Day weekend, where you’ll find azaleas in bloom as you hike around Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For the best Smoky Mountain attractions, souvenir shop in Gatlinburg, or stop by family-friendly Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge. The park is known for its top-notch entertainment and the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster.

Where to stay in the Smokies: Baskins Creek Condominiums

Go to Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf Shores Memorial Day Weekend

This family-friendly beach town is in full-swing come Memorial Day. Most schools in the South have already wrapped up for the summer, so there’s plenty of things to do in Gulf Shores. Singer Jimmy Buffett's sister, Lulu, celebrates the holiday at her landmark waterfront restaurant with her LuLuPalooza party. Anglers looking for a fishing trip will love the weekend's four-day big-game fishing tournament, featuring more than 100 Alabama fishing teams.

Where to stay in Gulf Shores: Lighthouse Condominiums

Vacation Ideas for Beaver Creek, Colorado

Beaver Creek Vacation Ideas

In Colorado, people come for the winters, but stay for the summers. By late May, the snow’s largely melted away from Beaver Creek. This place kicks off the season with its annual Blues, Brews and BBQ Weekend. The Memorial Day activities attracts the state’s top barbecue masters, with ample opportunities for tastings. Wash them down with your choice from scores of microbrews.

Where to stay in Beaver Creek: The Charter at Beaver Creek

Enjoy the Sunshine in Orlando, Florida

Beach Weekend Destination

Whether you’re drawn to wizards or whales, you’re guaranteed to have a blast at the theme park capital of the world. If you’re planning a family-friendly Memorial Day getaway, crowds might be more moderate than you’d think for a holiday weekend. Or, avoid rides altogether and head to the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, renowned by fishermen as the home of record-setting bass catches.

Where to stay in Orlando: Bahama Bay Resort & Spa

Watch Spring Melt Away in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Best Weekend Getaways in Whistler

While Canada doesn’t celebrate Memorial Day, the end of May still feels like a holiday at this sprawling and storied mountain resort. Skiing wraps up on May 23, and spring is in full swing, with mountain biking, golf and hiking. Adventure lovers can whitewater raft, rock climb, and even bungee jump. Then, pick up a smoked salmon and a bottle of wine from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley for a locally sourced picnic or a meal back at your vacation rental.

Where to stay in Whistler: Coast Blackcomb Suites

Don’t Miss Out on Delaware Beaches

Delaware Beaches Destination

On the Delaware shore, Memorial Day weekend typically marks the official start of summer. As one of the best beaches on the east coast, there are plenty of things to do on a Delaware Beaches vacation. Whether you’re strolling the boardwalk at Bethany Beach, fishing along the Indian River Inlet, or tasting at the Nassau Valley Vineyards, you’ll have no trouble easing into a holiday frame of mind. Or, just head to Fenwick Island with lifeguarded beaches, where you can grab a towel and your favorite book and relax to the sound of the surf.

Where to stay in Delaware Beaches: Sea Colony

Road Trip to Park City, Utah for the Weekend

Things to do in Park City

Park City is one of the premier Utah destinations. Zoom your way into the holiday at Utah Olympic Park, where tours include an 80 mph ride on a bobsled, available in late May. Or, grab a chairlift at Park City Mountain Resort for easy access to summer biking and hiking trails. For a one of the must-see places in Utah, shop the sidewalk sales at the galleries and boutiques on historic Main Street.

Where to stay in Park City: Mont Cervin Plaza

Freelance journalist Larry Bleiberg is the former Travel Editor of the Dallas Morning News, and Coastal Living magazine. He has co-authored four guidebooks, including three for National Geographic.