The first day of summer is technically June 21, but Memorial Day weekend heralds the unofficial beginning of the season. Even if the weather isn’t perfect, the weekend signals to winter-weary Americans across the country that they can finally — finally! — put away their winter coat, dust off the barbecue, and replace last year’s expired sunscreen. After cold weather snaps across the West Coast, and four nor’easters that forced East Coasters to Google the terms “bomb cyclone” and “bombogenesis,” the summer months can’t come fast enough.
You don’t have to go far from home to make the most of the holiday weekend. If you’ve left your planning to the last minute, there’s no reason to worry. From national parks to beachfront boardwalks, here’s where to have a great weekend!
Bainbridge Island, Washington
For Seattleites set on avoiding Memorial Day weekend traffic, the 30-minute ferry ride to Bainbridge Island offers a perfect solution. For everyone else, there’s a bit more travel involved to get there, but the panoramic views of the Olympics Mountains, Cascade Mountains and Puget Sound are worth it. Rent a bike to cruise around the island, and when you want some next-level relaxation, head to Bloedel Reserve. The park has some 150 acres to wander through.
The Pacific Northwest has a reputation for good food, craft beer and wine, and you’ll find all three on Bainbridge. For breakfast, try the Streamliner Diner. For afternoon drinks, you’ll have to choose between the offerings of a local brewery, distillery, and seven wineries.
Lake Havasu City, Arizona
Lake Havasu City sits on the Colorado River, relatively convenient driving distance from Las Vegas, Phoenix, and southern California. Start your day with brunch at The Red Onion (and some of their popular Bloody Marys, depending on what you’ve planned next). Adventurous travelers can try archery, rock climbing or wakeboarding. In the evening, the sunset cruise offers a more passive way to take in the scenery and learn about the history of the area.
Havasu can get crowded, so to escape the hubbub, visit Cattail Cove State Park. There’s boat ramp and a beach, meaning plenty of opportunities to get out on the water, plus 61 campsites.
Big Bear Lake, California
Big Bear gets about 300 sunny days every year, so chances are good that a trip to the small town will kick-start the summer in style. Big Bear sits at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains and is known for attracting snow bunnies, but the warmer months have plenty of outdoor activities to offer as well. To get your daily steps in while enjoying sweeping views over the lake, head up Pine Knot Trail.
In town, try to Maui crab cakes at popular Peppercorn Grille, then catch the Miss Liberty Paddlewheel Tour Boat for a 90-minute tour around the lake. You’ll take in the scenery and get a lesson in the history of the town, dating back to 1845.
Provincetown sits at the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. As the site of the Mayflower’s landing in 1620, and home to the Wampanoag Nation for long before that, the oceanfront town’s history is enough of a reason to visit. Today the town is known for being home to artists, and for having one of the largest LGBT communities in the country.
For a history lesson and some striking views of the grass billowing on sand against a backdrop of pines, take a tour of the dunes. After, get your obligatory lobster roll at The Canteen, and then, to make the most of the long weekend, treat yourself to a massage at Namaste Spa.
Ocean City, New Jersey
At a few hours drive from New York City and even closer to Philadelphia, Ocean City is an easy weekend escape from the big city grind. Though it doesn’t start to get truly hot until summer, average highs in the mid-sixties in May are warm enough to enjoy the nearly eight miles of beachfront.
For brunch, try OC Surf Cafe. They’re known for serving the classics along with healthier, Mexican-inspired options. Ocean City is family friendly: there are activities on the boardwalk, miniature golf, and watersports including kayaking and paddleboarding. For a weekend getaway with the grown-ups, try the popular Day Sipper tour. You’ll pile into a Volkswagen bus and spend your day being chauffeured to vineyards, breweries or distilleries.
Got any more destinations to add to the list? Comment below!