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 parades, festivals and pool openings, it's the first real chance for warm weather fun.
Here are some great Memorial Day getaway spots.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
This family-friendly beach town is in full-swing come Memorial Day as most schools in the South have already wrapped up for the summer. Singer Jimmy Buffett's sister, Lulu, celebrates the holiday at her landmark waterfront restaurant, with her LuLuPalooza party. Anglers also love the weekend's four-day big-game fishing tournament, featuring more than 100 teams.
Incredible beaches and beautiful properties make Gulf Shores a family favorite season after season, generation after generation. Find the perfect rental home to stay.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
In Colorado, people come for the winters, but stay for the summers. By late May, the snow’s largely melted away from Beaver Creek, which kicks off the season with its annual Blues, Brews and BBQ Weekend. The Memorial Day celebration attracts the state’s top barbecue masters, with ample opportunities for tastings. Wash them down with your choice from scores of microbrews.
Whether you’re drawn to wizards or whales, you’re guaranteed to have a blast at the theme park capital of the world, where crowds might be more moderate than you’d think for a holiday weekend. Or avoid rides all together and head to the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, renowned by fishermen as the home of record-setting bass catches.
If you’re planning a Memorial Day trip to Orlando, FL. stay in a beautiful rental home near the theme parks.
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
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 or 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.
Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Head to the hills for Memorial Day weekend, where you’ll find azaleas in bloom as you hike around Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Souvenir shop in Gatlinburg, or stop by family-friendly Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, known for its top-notch entertainment and the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster, opening in early 2016.
Sun Valley, Idaho
The famed ski resort makes for a vibrant late-spring getaway with golfing and hiking in the Sawtooth Mountains. Those interested in healthy living should seek out the annual Sun Valley Wellness Festival, with films, workshops and movement classes during Memorial Day. Past keynote speakers have included Deepak Chopra, Elizabeth Gilbert, Mariel Hemingway and Robert Kennedy, Jr.
On the Delaware shore, Memorial Day typically marks the official start of summer. 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 book and towel and relax to the sound of the surf.
The "Quiet Resorts" of the Delaware Coast offer pristine beaches, family amusements, watersports, fine dining, tax-free shopping and more. Find the one that best suits your needs with Wyndham Vacation Rentals.
Park City, Utah
Zoom your way into the holiday at Utah Olympic Park, where tours include an 80 mph ride on a bobsled, available even in late May. Or grab a chairlift at Park City Mountain Resort for easy access to summer biking and hiking trails. For a different kind of excitement, shop the sidewalk sales at the galleries and boutiques on historic Main Street.
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.