- Washington, D.C. offers celebrations rich in pomp and circumstance
- Las Vegas' hotel pool parties offer a more hedonistic take on the long weekend
- Saint Louis is hosting a frees blues festival from Friday to Sunday
Taking a break for Memorial Day? To point you in the right direction, we looked for celebrations across America that offered something special in honor of the Memorial Day holiday, be it a unique patriotic tribute, a celeb-worthy pool party, an epic blues festival or a vineyard tour.
But reading about a party that's taking place miles and miles from home is frustrating, not fun. That's why we highlighted places that are easily accessible no matter where you are in the U.S. (all of the cities called out under "easy getaway" are within either a 1.5-hour flight or four-hour drive from the featured destination). Consider this your guide to three-day weekend bliss.
Palm Springs, California: For guaranteed summer weather
WHY GO THIS WEEKEND While most beach seasons are just beginning, Memorial Day marks the end of bearable temps in the desert, so hotels and operators are running specials for the holiday. Though other parts of California will be in the midst of "May Gray" and "June Gloom," Palm Springs still has nonstop sunshine -- plus dozens of vintage shops, acclaimed restaurants such as Copley's on Palm Canyon (where celebrity chef Andrew Copley whips up So Cal comfort food like lobster pot pie) and an enduring love for all things mid-century (its hotels and private homes offer some of the best examples of 1950s modern architecture in the country). It also makes a great base camp for exploring the striking desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park through hikes, mountain biking, or rock climbing.
WHERE TO STAY Book one of the 155 pet-friendly rooms, with pool or mountain views and breakfast included, at the hip and affordable Palm Springs Travelodge. Call and mention "Budget Travel" for 20 percent off bookings over the weekend. From $115 per night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Los Angeles; San Francisco; Phoenix; Las Vegas.
Washington, D.C.: For patriotism, pomp, and circumstance
WHY GO THIS WEEKEND As you might guess, D.C. is the most patriotic place to celebrate the holiday, with a parade and plenty of pomp and circumstance taking place during special military ceremonies. The Thursday before Memorial Day, soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery put flags before each gravestone. On Memorial Day, a wreath-laying ceremony happens at the Tomb of the Unknowns -- President Obama spoke at last year's ceremony -- and the U.S. Army Band, Pershing's Own, performs. Men in uniform also march in the National Memorial Day Parade along the National Mall. Don't miss the National Memorial Day Concert Sunday on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol from 8 P.M. to 9:30 P.M.
WHERE TO STAY Kimpton Hotels is running a Memorial Day weekend special in five of its hip properties. Check in Thursday or Friday and stay for three nights for the $120 a night rate at the Helix, $130 per night at the Rouge, $140 a night at Topaz or the Madera, or $150 per night at the Palomar Washington D.C., all in northwest D.C. near The White House, when you mention booking code "PMEM" (that's over 25 percent savings off of normal rates). From $120 per night over Memorial Day weekend.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Albany, N.Y.; Baltimore; Boston; Charleston, S.C.; Columbus, Ohio; Hartford; Louisville, Ky.; Nashville; New York; Providence.
Las Vegas: For free rock concerts and parties by the pool
WHY GO THIS WEEKEND Memorial Day weekend in Las Vegas is one of the busiest times of the year, along with New Year's Eve. Parties held around the resorts' elaborate pools are the big event, and become daylight nightclubs with DJs, drink carts, bottle service, cabanas, and more. To get in on the action, grab a chaise at the Venus Pool Club at Caesars Palace (if you're a guest, there is no cover charge for hunkering down poolside until 1 P.M., at which point women pay $10 and men $30 to attend.
Caesars Palace is one of the few properties that allows non-guests to enjoy the party for a cover charge -- women get in free until 1 P.M. and pay $10 after that, while men are charged a $30 cover all day) The Tropicana Las Vegas opens its brand new Bagatelle Beach & Nightclub this Memorial Day weekend, featuring Mediterranean food and comfy daybeds to lounge in by day, and offers poolside dining and a new nightclub by night.
The XS Nightclub at the Wynn Las Vegas & Encore Resort will host DJ Tiesto Friday night and David Guetta on Monday night among other electronica superstars over the weekend -- tickets can be purchased ahead of time starting at $30 per person. The Rock of Vegas free summer concert series also kicks off this weekend at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas, and runs every Saturday night thru Labor Day with performances by Vince Neil of Motley Crue, Poison front-man Brett Michaels, and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister.
WHERE TO STAY The Orleans Hotel & Casino is just off the main drag and offers free shuttle service to and from the Strip every 30-45 minutes from 9:30 A.M. to 12:30 A.M. The hotel offers its own casino, comedy club, cabaret lounge, Irish pub, movie theater, bowling alley, and playgrounds and arcades for the kiddies. From $95 per night over Memorial Day weekend.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Los Angeles; San Francisco.
Saint Louis: For comfort food, a Blues Festival, and the ultimate treasure hunt
WHY GO THIS WEEKEND This year, Soldier's Memorial Park will host the Bluesweek Festival, free from Friday to Sunday, with performances by over 50 musicians, including local blues legend Arthur Williams. If all that music whets your appetite, head to the Schlafly Tap Room on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pork Shop, a combination community garage sale and neighborhood bar-b-que, featuring local pork and plenty of Schlafly beer. You'll need all this fuel to tackle the largest flea market in the Midwest, Gypsy Caravan, an annual Memorial Day event organized for the 40th year by the St. Louis Symphony Volunteer Association.
WHERE TO STAY Downtown, the 179-room Roberts Mayfair Hotel has a rooftop pool and emerged from a $9 million makeover in March 2011. You can get the MetroLink light rail two blocks from the hotel, which will take you to Soldiers Memorial and other downtown sites. From $149 a night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Chicago; Cincinnati; Kansas City, MO.; Memphis.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire: For seaside New England charm
WHY GO THIS WEEKEND Portsmouth keeps popping up on lists of cool, small towns, and Memorial Day weekend, when locals and visitors alike come out en force to honor our veterans, is a great time to explore the area. Sitting at the northern point of New Hampshire's brief coastline, the 17th-century seaport here is one of the oldest in America. Every year, the U.S. Navy conducts a ceremony at the USS Albacore Museum & Memorial Park, a 1953 test submarine that is now a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, set in a park honoring those lost in deep-sea battles or tragedies.
WHERE TO STAY The Ale House Inn, a 130-year-old former brewery, sits right downtown at Market Square. Its 10 contemporary rooms come with complimentary in-room iPads. From $139 per night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Boston; Hartford; Portland, Maine; Providence.
Austin: For boating season and outdoor fun
WHY GO THIS WEEKEND Head to Lake Travis to soak up some of Austin's best weather of the year, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the eighties. Memorial Day kicks off boating season here, so the place to be is the lake. To get in on the action, check out Austin's REI store's schedule of events to find out what classes and events are on offer this weekend or rent a ski boat at Just for Fun ($75 for one hour). If you'd rather be a spectator, catch a glimpse of the Capital of Texas Triathalon on Memorial Day, an event founded in 1991 that brings in 3,000 participants annually. Things get started with a swim at Lady Bird Lake before athletes break out the bikes for a race through Austin, leading up to a foot race around the southern part of the lake.
WHERE TO STAY The Mansion at Judges' Hill is a reasonably priced, 48-room boutique hotel. Plus, the turn-of-the-century property is walking distance from downtown. From $129 per night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Atlanta; Dallas.
Charleston, S.C.: For high art with Southern hospitality
WHY GO THIS WEEKEND One of the earliest observances of Memorial Day was by a group of freed slaves and took place weeks after the Civil War ended in 1865 in Charleston's Hampton Park. Today, the world-renowned Spoleto Festival starts its two-week run this weekend, filling the historic city's theaters, churches, and outdoor spaces with opera, theater, jazz, symphonies, choruses, and visual arts. Highlights this year include the urban dance fused cabaret show, Traces; ukulele prodigy Jake Shimabukuro; Brazilian vocalist Virginia Rodrigues; and Kepler, a new operatic piece by Philip Glass. Tickets can be purchased on a per-event basis, with prices ranging from $10 to $130.
WHERE TO STAY Rooms can be hard to come by during Spoleto, so for last-minute travelers, we recommend Lodge Alley Inn, a time-share that rents its unreserved rooms starting seven days in advance. It's an old Masonic temple with choices of a studio or a one- or two-bedroom condo, all with kitchenettes. From $209. Alternately, you can stay across the river at the Hampton Inn/Charleston Mount Pleasant-Patriot's Point. It's a short drive to downtown over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, and the rates are more affordable than those in the city center. From $169 per night.
EASY GETAWAY FROM Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Miami; Washington, D.C.