Five places to get away this Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend sneaks up on you. Suddenly, it’s less than two weeks away, but it’s not too late to plan a fabulous last-minute trip.

If you’ve waited until now to start thinking about travel plans, three of our editors have shared their top recommendations for the destinations across the US that they’re dreaming about this Memorial Day Weekend. Or you can save this list for the next long weekend – because it’ll sneak up on you, too.

Plan a summer vacation to one of these top destinations for 2024

Newport Harbor with sailboats in the foreground and Balboa Pavillion in the background
One thing that’s pretty much guaranteed in Newport Beach: you’ll end up on a boat © Visit Newport Beach

1. Newport Beach, California

Ann Douglas Lott, Associate Editor

Vibes: Somehow, Orange County feels both posh and laid-back. In Newport Beach, you could spend the morning luxury shopping, sunning yourself by the pool or going for a spa treatment, and in the afternoon, you could be cycling around Balboa Island or exploring the coastal Crystal Cove State Park. And it’s easy to get to – fly into SNA, and you’ll be within 20 minutes of wherever you’re staying.

Do: Go whale and dolphin-watching on a Zodiac boat. It’s a thrill of a ride, and you’re almost on the same level as the animals; it feels like you’re nearly swimming alongside them. If a slow cruise is more your vibe, hop on a Duffy boat tour of the harbor with prosecco and charcuterie (I call it an HGTV cruise because look at those mansions!). They’ll even drop you off at your dinner reservation.

Eat: For breakfast, the breakfast burrito from Malibu Farm or the coconut-macadamia pancakes from Beachcomber Café. For everything else, seafood – like the creamy ravioli bianco with shrimp at JOEY and gumbo at the waterfront Bluewater Grill. For dessert, frozen bananas on Balboa Island, either from Sugar ‘n Spice or Dad’s Donut Shop & Bakery.

Stay: Book a room at the newly opened Pendry Newport Beach. The rooms are spacious, they have a fabulous pool deck for tanning, and their restaurant and bar are places to see and be seen. And it’s not a far drive from the harbor and beach. Or, if you want to test your luck, try to snag one of the charming beachfront cottages at Crystal Cove State Park.

Read more highlights from Ann Douglas’ recent getaway in Newport Beach

View of historic street in Nantucket, MA
Rent a bike and cycle the cobblestone streets of Nantucket © Atlantide Phototravel / Getty Images

2. Nantucket, Massachusetts

Brekke Fletcher, Senior Director of Content

Vibes: Preppy, nautical, coastal chic. Cobblestone streets and charming historic homes. Lots of striped shirts, boat shoes, sun hats. Long beach walks and plenty of bike paths. 

Do: Rent a bike (or better yet, stay at accommodation that offers them as an amenity) to explore the island. Visit Sconset to do the Bluff Walk (it can get crowded in high season, so go early if you want to beat the crowds). The footpath brings you in close contact with incredibly dreamy shingled beach houses, some of which have been there since the 1800s. Visit Cisco Brewery for craft beers, live music, outdoor games and food trucks. Shop for vintage dresses (and wine) at Current Vintage. Learn all about Nantucket’s history at the Whaling Museum.

Eat: Eat seafood whenever you can. Have a hearty breakfast at a local diner, Downyflake and be sure to get a donut. On the healthier side, make your way to Lemon Press for smoothies and bowls. A fun lunch outing is Topper’s at the Wauwinet – there is a boat that you can take there from the downtown boat basin ($25 per person). They harvest their own oysters just outside and make a darn fine lobster roll. Dinner options abound, but I love the food and interiors at Via Mare – order the Boulevardier cocktail, with baccala and boquerones. You also must try their kale salad, which is not my usual jam – this one is really delicious.

Stay: I just got back from a weekend stay at the Cottages at Nantucket Boat Basin. These newly refurbished dockside accommodations offer incredible views of the harbor, free bikes and kitchens so you can make your own meals and morning coffee. They feel truly home-like but with the bonus of incredible service. 

Discover more car-free US vacations like Nantucket

A group of friends explore the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay on stand up paddle boards
Explore Grand Traverse Bay on a stand-up paddle board © Pure Michigan

3. Traverse City, Michigan 

Sarah Stocking, Editor

Vibes: Stylish but not stuffy, relaxed yet action-packed, Traverse gives pretty-as-a-picture beach town vibes like Taylor Swift gives a love song: catchy, on-the-nose and inarguably delightful.

Do: Get on the water. Rent a kayak and spend the day taking in the phenomenal views of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore. After you’ve spent the day poking into the boutiques on Main Street or kayaking through the crystal clear water, find a spot on the beach to watch the sunset. Bring a cocktail and linger long after the sun has put on its evening show because watching all those stars fill up the sky as you dig your toes in the sand is a special kind of peace.

Eat: Make a reservation at Modern Bird. This area of Michigan is surrounded by small, independent farms, and Modern Bird sources its ingredients locally. The ever-changing menu is as elegant as it is homey, the perfect pairing for a weekend in Traverse City.

Stay: Look for waterfront accommodations as much as you can. I like the Bay Shore Resort. The Victorian vibes feel on brand for this area of the country, and there is nothing like waking up with the beach steps from your door.

Want to stay longer? Here’s how to plan the ultimate summer vacation in Northern Michigan

waterfront dining on the Crystal Coast
Eating out on the Crystal Coast is very “dock-to-dish” © Brad Tyron Photography, Crystal Coast

4. Crystal Coast (Southern Outer Banks), North Carolina

Ann Douglas Lott

Vibes: The lesser-visited Outer Banks (but no less deserving of a trip). Home to over 85 miles of gorgeous coastline, the beaches are uncrowded, and opportunities for outdoor adventure are everywhere, as is a healthy dose of small-town charm.

Do: Spend a day on the white-sand beaches of Emerald Isle or Atlantic Beach. Also, go on a guided jet skiing tour, hike through dune fields and salt marshes in Fort Macon State Park, kayak to Rachel Carson Reserve (keeping an eye out for wild horses) or visit the lighthouse and walk down the beach on Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Eat: Eating here is very “dock-to-dish,” meaning you’re supporting local fishermen and farmers. In Beaufort, go to City Kitchen for the seafood and waterfront views. In Morehead City, go to Circa 81 for Spanish tapas, or sample locally sourced caviar (with fresh chives, dill, crème fresh, pringles – all the fixin’s!) at Prime Bistro and Wine Bar.

Stay: If you’re not the Airbnb type, the Beaufort Hotel overlooks Taylor Creek and feels very coastal North Carolina, with on-property bike and golf cart rentals and a pool. Or check out the Pecan Tree Inn, a Victorian-style B&B with locally sourced breakfast and afternoon snacks (like homemade maple butter pecan cookies).

Ancient dwellings of UNESCO World Heritage Site named Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Taos Pueblo is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in USA.
The Taos Pueblo is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited US settlements © Shutterstock

5. Taos, New Mexico

Sarah Stocking

Vibes: Bohemian artist colony meets deep history in a spectacular natural setting. It’s a magical spot, even in the Land of Enchantment. 

Do: Visit the Taos Pueblo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the US. Take a guided tour to learn about the art and architecture of the Pueblo people and how they maintain their way of life. 

Eat: Housed in a 19th-century chapel, The Love Apple is romantic, candlelit and oh-so-stylish. They serve New Mexican cuisine inspired by local growers, and the menu changes seasonally.

Stay: If you’d like to stay in town, La Dona Luz Inn has nine joyfully decorated rooms that embrace the feel of Old Taos. If you’re looking for a luxury getaway, check out El Monte Sagrado. Relaxing in the serene rooms nestled among the gorgeous Sangre De Cristo mountains is the perfect way to spend a long weekend. Pair your stay with a spa treatment, and you’ll be forever refreshed.

Explore more of the best places to visit in New Mexico

For more long weekend inspiration:

This article was first published May 21, 2019 and updated May 15, 2024.

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