Let’s be honest, folks — the dog days of summer are here.
And as much as we hate to admit it, time is running out for you to hit the beach, break out the grill or take the summer trip you’ve been putting off.
Luckily, there’s still Labor Day! Just around the corner is the last three-day weekend before the weather turns cold, and Wanderu has you covered with cheap bus and train tickets across the country.
Even more luckily, we’ve compiled the best cities to enjoy Labor Day so that you can truly take full advantage of the long weekend. So scroll on through and get to booking, travelers!
New York, NY
We’ve all heard the song from “Hamilton”: There’s nothing like summer in the city.
And there’s nothing like closing out the summer in the city so nice they named it twice. New York plays host to the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art and the Met, making it easy to cool off while enjoying phenomenal fine art.
Balance out that appreciation for the finer things by sampling New York’s specialty, the dollar pizza slice. While we’d recommend 99 Cent Fresh Pizza on Broadway (between 54th and 55th), the real best dollar slice in the city is whichever one you’re closest to. You’re never more than 10 minutes from pizza in New York, so take advantage of that!
And finally, if you’re looking to take things slow, grab a drink with a view at one of New York’s 500+ rooftop bars. (We favor the view from Jimmy in SoHo — just don’t fall in the pool.)
No matter what you’re looking for, odds are you’ll find it in the Big Apple. (Don’t believe us? Check out our guide to NYC on a budget, which practically proves the matter.)
OUR PRO TIP: Skip Yankee Stadium and Citi Field. Instead, hit MCU Park for a Brooklyn Cyclones game to get a great night at the ballpark without taking a bat to your bank account.
Ah, Beantown: The Cradle of Liberty that offers a lid for every pot.
Are you a history buff? If so, you can walk the Freedom Trail. Sports fan? Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, is the oldest baseball stadium in America. Whether you’re taking in a game or touring the ballpark, Fenway is a bucket list item for any sports fanatic. (Want to tour another iconic sports landmark? Make your way to Foxborough to see Gillette Stadium, home of the Pats.)
OUR PRO TIP: For outdoor fun, skip Boston Common. Instead, grab a blanket, pack a cooler and head to the Charles River Esplanade for a relaxing afternoon by the water.
The Beltway is the best way to spend Labor Day. (Seriously, in our opinion it’s up there).
As the nation’s capital, it’s only natural that D.C. contains the best collection of national monuments in the United States. Pair that with a laundry list of top-notch museums and a blossoming local food scene (seriously, anyone from D.C. will talk your ear off about &pizza), and you’ve got a pretty fantastic spot to spend a long weekend.
So, as Congress wraps up their recess from the Capitol, take a recess of your own to get to know it. A number of scenic Amtrak routes go to Washington, D.C., so perhaps a picturesque train ride is in order.
OUR PRO TIP: You’ll get a lot of recommendations on places to eat, but none will serve you better than D.C. institution Ben’s Chili Bowl. After a long day trekking around the National Mall, chow down on a half smoke to refuel. The quarter-pound sausage is grilled to perfection before being served on a steamed bun and piled high with mustard, onions, and a whole lot of homemade chili.
If Boston is the best city in the U.S. for Revolutionary War-era history, the City of Brotherly Love is a close second.
Whether you’re sampling your first Wawa hoagie (don’t you dare call it a sub), hitting Pat’s for a cheesesteak (or Geno’s, depending on who you ask), or sprinting up the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s stairs like Rocky (trust us, don’t do things in that order), Philly offers visitors a unique experience that remains true to the city itself. Looking for more things to do? Check out our Philadelphia Summer Guide.
Oh, and while you’re there, could you ask some locals what “jawn” means?
OUR PRO TIP: You won’t hear about Graffiti Pier on a lot of travel sites, but it’s quickly becoming a Philly must-see for art fanatics the world over. And if you need to snap a pic for the Gram, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better backdrop.
A stone’s throw from Boston’s city limits lies the capital of Rhode Island, Providence.
Despite being in Beantown’s backyard, Providence quickly demonstrates that it’s no city’s little brother. Between the WaterFire that stays burning through November and Federal Hill’s flourishing Italian food scene, the capital of the Ocean State is a classic New England nook with a flair all its own. (And loads of activities to keep you busy.)
OUR PRO TIP: Take a walk through the RISD Museum. We won’t make an immature joke about RISD’s mascot (Google it), but we won’t judge you if you do.
As the biggest city along the Chesapeake Bay, it’s only natural that Baltimore has developed around the Inner Harbor. History buffs can tour one of the city’s three historic ships, or even Fort McHenry, while those who are feeling lucky can try said luck at the Horseshoe Casino.
While you’re in Baltimore, be prepared to see a lot of seafood on the menu … it is, after all, a city on the water. And if you’re a fan of Old Bay Seasoning (which, really, why wouldn’t you be?) be prepared to eat very well in the Charm City.
Baltimore is also the fourth-cheapest drinking city in the entire U.S., so don’t miss out on a wallet-friendly beverage while you’re in town.
OUR PRO TIP: While every city touts its own regional delicacies, few have remained so localized as Baltimore’s champion, Smearcase. The German-inspired dessert is best described as a lighter, less-sugary, more-custardy version of cheesecake. We prefer to describe it as delicious, but that’s just our opinion.
Unfortunately, the dream of the 90s isn’t alive in this Portland. But dreams of great local beer, fresh seafood and picturesque landscapes? They’re alive and well!
With 78 breweries within a 5 mile radius, Portland makes sure that a cold one is never far from your hand, and the proximity is matched only by the quality. In-between pints, why not take a stroll around Portland’s Old Port? Home to a collection of clothing boutiques, gourmet food stores and a myriad of other shops, you’re practically guaranteed to leave with the perfect Forest City keepsake.
And if your trip to Maine wasn’t Maine enough for ya, you could always venture out to the Portland Head Lighthouse. A stunning view of Portland’s scenic, rocky coastline from a vantage point that dates back to the 1700s? Sign us up!
OUR PRO TIP: Any trip to Portland would be incomplete without mentioning the Allagash Brewery. It’s one of Portland’s most well-known attractions for a reason, and even though it’s a little bit outside of downtown Portland, the trip is more than worth it.
Smack dab in the heart of Virginia, Richmond could be seen as a jumping-off point for traveling somewhere else, whether that somewhere is the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west, Washington, D.C. to the north, or Virginia Beach to the east.
But truth is, Richmond is so rich in activities that visitors have no need to go elsewhere. Hungry travelers can stop in at Buz and Ned’s for a heaping plate of barbecue made with century-old recipes, while anyone seeking a more active attraction can bike the Virginia Capital Trail: 52 miles through the picturesque Virginia countryside is sure to be one of the most beautiful bike rides you’ll take.
Or, if you’re in the market for a nature fix without the cardio, we recommend Maymont Estate. Originally built in the 1890s, the mansion is surrounded by grounds featuring a Japanese garden, a koi pond, a waterfall and more. Richmond may not be the household name that some other cities are, but once you’re there it’s every bit as charming as any city in the U.S.
OUR PRO TIP: Where some cities opt for rooftop bars, a feature in Richmond’s nightlife is The Circuit Arcade Bar. Settle who buys the next round with a round of pop-a-shot, and reminisce while playing arcade fixtures from your childhood like Street Fighter and Ms. Pac-Man. It’s an experience Richmond has made its own, and once you’ve spent a night at an arcade bar you’ll have a hard time grabbing drinks without an air-hockey table nearby.
Contrived Drake jokes aside, running through The Six will make you leave your woes behind.
A stroll through the cobblestoned streets of Toronto’s Distillery District will be one of the best (strolls) you’ve ever had, and you could do a lot worse than the … er, “Views” … from the top of the CN Tower. Toronto is, after all, one of our top cities to visit after graduation.
Additionally, might we suggest a trip out to the Toronto Islands? You’ll have to take a ferry, but as some famous person once said: “You only live once. That’s the motto. YOLO.”
OUR PRO TIP: You might not think beaches when you think of Canada, but the truth is that the beaches up north are delightful this time of year. Bring the cooler, bring a towel, and leave the 100-degree heat further south.
While your favorite Chicago artists might’ve let you down lately (yes, Chance, we may or may not be referring to “The Big Day”) spending a weekend in the Windy City definitely won’t!
No matter if you’re traveling to Chicago’s Art Institute, marveling at a giant bean in Millennium Park, or gazing down at the skyline from the Willis Tower Skydeck, your time in Chicago will be packed to the brim with entertaining possibilities.
When it’s time to grab a bite, Chicago offers everything from empanadas to edible balloons. Whether it’s Italian beef, deep-dish pizza or a late night offering from the Tamale Guy, Chicago is sure to keep your belly full.
A famous Chicagoan once said that “life moves pretty fast,” and we can guarantee that the Second City is a great spot to stop and look around.
OUR PRO TIP: While we already mentioned some of the pillars of Chicago’s food scene, the hidden gem of Chicago cuisine is the Jibarito sandwich at Humboldt Park’s Papa’s Cache Sabroso. The only sandwich we’ve seen made with crispy plantains in place of bread, it’s sure to provide a flavor combo that’s utterly new.
St. Louis, MO
Any St. Louis native will tell you that you can’t spell style without STL, and once you’re in the city you’ll see a unique, uhh, STyLe.
Start your journey at the St. Louis City Museum, where visitors are encouraged to climb and play on a myriad of exhibits all made from reclaimed architectural materials. More jungle gym than old-fashioned museum, the City Museum is sure to make you feel like a kid again. Next, if you are looking for some old fashioned city features, head over to President Ulysses S. Grant’s farm. Once the home of Grant’s cabin, the grounds are now home to more than 900 animals belonging to over 100 different species, most famously the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Finally, for a little more fun in Mound City (odd nickname, we know), head to St. Louis’s Miniature Museum. While a “two-story collection of dollhouses” might not sound like much, we assure you it’s a great time. The multitude of dollhouses found in the museum is sure to impress visitors, while we’re mostly impressed that we made it through this entire description without cracking a miniature joke.
OUR PRO TIP: Philly has the cheesesteak, Miami has the Cuban, and St. Louis has the Gerber Sandwich. A local delicacy, the Gerber takes the classic “ham and cheese” and cranks it up to 11. Served on crispy garlic bread, the sandwich features grilled ham alongside a cheese only found in St. Louis: Provel. No, we didn’t mess up typing “provolone” — this mix of mozzarella, provolone and Swiss is the star of St. Louis-style pizza (another Gateway treat), and is the main reason the Gerber Sandwich became the phenomenon it did. Head over to Ruma’s Deli to get the original Gerber Sandwich, or try it at any number of delis around the city.
Las Vegas, NV
We know you swore off Las Vegas after … well, you know. We’re not going to break the “what happens in Vegas” rule. But we also know that once the lights are shining and the cards are getting dealt, it’s hard to resist the allure of Sin City. Luckily for your wallet, Las Vegas is a lot more than blackjack and Backstreet Boys (they had a 2019 residency, and yes, you did miss it).
Visitors can travel 30-minutes west to Red Rock Canyon National Park for a breathtaking set of landscapes unique to the southwest, while the city’s museum lineup (headlined by the Mob Museum and the Neon Museum) puts a uniquely Las Vegas spin on the old “hit a few museums” travel tip. If you’re more of a thrillseeker, might we suggest ziplining across the Las Vegas skyline?
And if all that’s not enough, Vegas is currently experiencing a local dining boom. Venture away from the hotels and casinos to grab a bite at one of Vegas’s up-and-coming neighborhood eateries, such as Andiron Steak & Sea for a top-of-the-line brunch experience. Kick the hangover from your night on The Strip by hitting their impressive Bloody Mary bar, or stick to classic bottomless mimosas for the same effect. Oh, and order the donut plate for the table as a starter. It’s really on the menu, and it’s really incredible.
OUR PRO TIP: If you enjoy having a drink and don’t mind getting adventurous, try a Scorpion Shot. Whatever you think it is, you’re probably not far off. Vegas hotspot Nacho Daddy adds a pickled scorpion to a shot of whatever liquor you like, although it’s hard to go wrong with the house tequila.
Few cities combine gorgeous natural landmarks with classic big-city staples quite like Canada’s Terminal City. Opportunities to take in the fresh air are plentiful, whether you’re driving the Sea-to-Sky highway, climbing the Grouse Grind, or exploring Stanley Park.
When you’re ready to ramp things up, Vancouver is there for that as well. With a lengthy list of live music venues, Vancouver ensures that your search for a concert will never be a long one. (We recommend checking who’s playing at the Commodore Ballroom, but the truth is it’s hard to go wrong in this city.)
For dinner, there’s no shortage of options on Commercial Drive, which allows foodies to choose between Portuguese bakeries, Brazilian coffeehouses and old-school Italian joints. Of course, you don’t have to choose, if you’re OK with overeating a bit.
OUR PRO TIP: While spending a few hours in Chinatown might not sound revolutionary, we simply had to include Vancouver’s Chinatown on this list. Headlined by the legendary Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden, Vancouver’s Chinatown offers a collection of unique shops, in addition to a Dim Sum scene that rivals any in North America.
While Bella from Twilight wanted no part of this Pacific Northwest hotspot, she’s not exactly an authority on making good choices. Where Bella went wrong, we’re gonna help you go right.
The Emerald City turns the tables on city travel tropes, starting with its flagship attraction, Pike Place Market. Maybe you’ve seen the Market’s famous fish-throwers in a movie, but the hidden gem of Pike Place is its flower vendors. Brighten you (or someone else’s) day with a gigantic bouquet, and try any number of the fantastic local-food options.
A lesser known Seattle spot: Dick’s Drive-in. The local burger joint has been shouted out by Macklemore and Sir Mix-a-lot, and with a Deluxe Burger costing just $3, it’s easy to see why. Stop by after a night out for the best late-night snack this side of the Mississippi.
Finally, for slower-speed sightseeing, stroll through the Washington Park Arboretum. The 230-acre green space, and the neighboring Japanese Garden, offers visitors some serenity to balance out the frenetic pace. With autumn around the corner, these outdoor destinations are must-sees. (In fact, Seattle is among our top cities for outdoor activities.)
OUR PRO TIP: You could catch a game in just about any city, and while Seattle no longer offers the opportunity to catch pro basketball (the gone-but-not-forgotten Supersonics are still a sore subject among locals), it does feature Seattle Sounders FC’s “March to the Match.”
Fans meet in Occidental Park 90 minutes before kickoff to hear the team’s starting lineup announced, participate in competitions, and see live music from the team band. Then, an hour before the opening whistle, the entire crowd marches three blocks through the city to CenturyLink Field. If you’re lucky, you might even be in town when the Sounders play their cross-region rivals, the Portland Timbers.
San Diego, CA
SoCal’s second city feels like LA’s laid-back cousin. The same palm trees and the same sunshine, but San Diego takes things a little bit slower than its up-the-highway neighbor.
Featuring a laundry list of the best beaches in the U.S., and some of the best in the world, the 619 is the perfect place for travelers to soak up the sun while the weather still allows for it.
When you get tired of catching rays, SD has plenty of spots to go to that aren’t beaches. Whether it’s the beautiful architecture of Balboa Park, the scenic views from the city’s harbor front, or the world famous San Diego Zoo, “America’s Finest City” will keep you entertained long after you’ve packed up your beach blanket.
OUR PRO TIP: San Diegans will puff out their chest at any mention of their city’s famous Mexican food, and we’re not about to disagree with that praise. While we would recommend one or two Mexican spots in most cities, San Diego Mexican cuisine simply cannot be boiled down to a single place. Most locals have a different restaurant for every menu item (best tacos, etc.), so our recommendation is simple: Mexican food early and often. By the time you leave, you just might have three or four favorites of your own to brag about.
San Jose, CA
While San Francisco gets a lot of shine in tourism circles, slightly southern San Jose offers travelers a California experience all its own.
Any discussion of San Jose has to start with its famed Municipal Rose Garden, a perfect spot for visitors to take in some outdoor beauty as the summer winds down. Once you’ve had your fill of roses, you can head to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, one of the top Egyptology locations in the country. While every city in the country will boast its museum lineup, the truth is that few feature real mummified bodies.
For even more educational entertainment, hit the San Jose Tech Interactive. Sure to be one of the most visually striking locations you’ll see, the Tech Interactive allows common folks to connect with the intellectual hotbed that is Silicon Valley.
OUR PRO TIP: Travel off the beaten path and take a trip through the Los Gatos Creek Trail. Whether you’re running, biking, or skating, the fresh air is sure to leave you feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the city again.