As the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day is filled with festivals, parties and communal grill-outs, along with holiday parades, remembrance services and firework displays. (And, of course, there’s the sartorially sanctioned return of white clothes to your wardrobe. Hellooooo, mustard stains!)
Yet above all, Memorial Day is for honoring and remembering those who gave their lives in service of our country.
At Wanderu, we believe booking a three-day getaway to somewhere new is an excellent way to gain appreciation for each and every great state (or local municipality—here’s looking at you, Vancouver) that our service members have fought to protect.
Using Wanderu data around bus and train travel, we pinpointed locales that have historically seen the biggest spike in visitors over this holiday weekend compared to other weekends in the year. The result: Our list of the 18 most popular Memorial Day weekend travel destinations.
In addition to special events and evergreen activities for each city, our list lays out the cheapest way to get to each of these places via bus or train. Because, let’s be honest: No one wants to drive in holiday-weekend traffic when you could be staring out the window on Megabus or Amtrak, contemplating life’s big questions like, “Do goldfish have souls?” and “Why does BTS have so many members?”
As an added bonus, buses and trains are proven to be the most environmentally friendly ways to travel, so you can traverse the country without worrying about your carbon footprint.
So, steam those linen pants and shave your Speedo line—these 18 Memorial Day travel getaways await!
New York City, NY
“The City That Never Sleeps” is the ideal destination if you’re looking to get the most out of your three-day weekend.
At a loss for what to do? Start like a typical tourist and hit up as many of NYC’s famous landmarks as possible—The Met, The High Line, Central Park, Broadway. Or if you’re a New York veteran, dig a little deeper: Catch live comedy at the storied Comedy Cellar, eat oysters beneath Grand Central Station and visit the trendy Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn.
Otherwise, if you’re truly committed to getting your Memorial Day on, party like a sailor at Fleet Week, a seven-day festival (encompassing Memorial Day) that honors the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps, with numerous special events and parties at venues across the Big Apple.
And if you’re on a tight budget, fear not—we’ve got you covered: Read our article on five ways to get that full Gotham experience without breaking the bank.
Book your trip:
|Baltimore, MD to New York City||$23.95||$84.32|
|Boston, MA to New York City||$34.33||$78.66|
|Washington, D.C. to New York City||$26.71||$94.03|
|New Haven, CT to New York City||$14.48||$48.91|
|Pittsburgh, PA to New York City||$44.13||$95.96|
|Philadelphia, PA to New York City||$10.50||$64.80|
|Richmond, VA to New York City||$43.34||$98.89|
|Syracuse, NY to New York City||$40.62||$67.23|
|Your City to New York City||See Prices||See Prices|
The nation’s largest Memorial Day parade is appropriately held in its capital, winding along Constitution Avenue in front of the National Mall and the White House.
The parade is preceded by the National Memorial Day Concert on Sunday: A free, celeb-studded event held every year on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol building. (Last year’s bizarre hodgepodge of guests included General Colin Powell, actress Allison Janney, singer Leona Lewis and Lieutenant Dan himself, actor Gary Sinise.)
However, the city is a living memorial year-round, with more than 160 monuments—including, of course, the marble statue of Lincoln on human growth hormone—and the world-renowned Smithsonian Institution, with 17 museums and a zoo.
Furthermore, the city’s attractions outside of the historical/political are truly underrated, as our writer expresses in her love letter to the District of Columbia.
Book your trip:
|New Haven, CT to Washington, D.C.||$52.54||$115.33|
|Newark, NJ to Washington, D.C.||$29.50||$98.24|
|New York City, NY to Washington, D.C.||$27.58||$107.36|
|Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, D.C.||$46.79||$91.76|
|Philadelphia, PA to Washington, D.C.||$22.08||$70.41|
|Richmond, VA to Washington, D.C.||$21.47||$36.08|
|Your City to Washington, D.C.||See Prices||See Prices|
The first World Heritage City in the U.S., Philly oozes history around every cobbled corner, from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall to Reading Terminal Market, the nation’s oldest farmers’ market. (How else did you think Ben Franklin satisfied his kombucha fix?)
But there’s plenty of modern-day fun to be had as well. The Delaware River Waterfront encompasses myriad open-air attractions like Spruce Street Harbor Park, which boasts a boardwalk, beer garden, more than 50 hammocks, a “local vegan fast-casual restaurant” and more. (Visit our full Philly guide for a complete tour of the city’s art, food and history scene.)
And if you’re wanting to top your trip off with star-spangled vibes, catch the Memorial Day fireworks at Longwood Gardens, choreographed to music and colorful fountains.
Book your trip:
|Baltimore, MD to Philadelphia||$23.72||$84.32|
|Boston, MA to Philadelphia||$43.23||$105.50|
|Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia||$20.78||$68.43|
|Newark, NJ to Philadelphia||$17.06||$64.87|
|New York City, NY to Philadelphia||$11.08||$66.15|
|Pittsburgh, PA to Philadelphia||$42.97||$73.00|
|Richmond, VA to Philadelphia||$46.43||$78.45|
|Your City to Philadelphia||See Prices||See Prices|
The capital of Connecticut, Hartford’s draw spans the literary, cultural and historic.
The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is the first public art museum in the country, and boasts the largest collection of Hudson River School paintings in the world. (Landscape paintings of rural New England are a known aphrodisiac.)
For all the bookworms and aspiring novelists out there, Hartford is also home to The Mark Twain House and Museum and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, both National Historic Landmarks worth a proper pilgrimage.
And don’t leave town without spending some time outdoors—known for its photo-friendly Memorial Arch, Bushnell Park is the nation’s oldest publicly funded park, hosting events and shows year-round.
Of course, the city with some of the earliest monuments in our country’s history does Memorial Day right.
Every year, the Massachusetts Military Heroes honor fallen service members by planting 37,000 flags on Boston Common during the week leading up to Memorial Day, making for a truly powerful sight.
You’ll also find holiday parades all around the city: in Newton, Watertown, Cambridge and Medford. In addition, you’d be remiss to pass up Boston’s Freedom Trail, which takes you past John Hancock’s Grave and Paul Revere’s House on up to Bunker Hill.
Or if you’d rather raise a toast to our soldiers, consider drinking in one of the city’s open-air gardens, many of which—like Night Shift Brewing’s Owl’s Nest, The Patios at Boston City Hall Plaza and the City Winery on the Greenway—are opening just in time for Memorial Day festivities.
For even more of Beantown’s must-hit summer destinations, check out our full guide.
In Baltimore, it’s all about that #HarborLife.
After arriving into town, head straight to the center of action. Inner Harbor lines Chesapeake Bay with all sorts of attractions: shops, restaurants, parks, and museums like the Maryland Science Center. (We know what you’re wondering, and oh yeah, baby: There’s an IMAX.)
Or, for a more appropriate Memorial Day maneuver, you can tour one of the harbor’s three historic ships: The USS Constellation, the USS Torsk or the USCGC Taney. (The Torsk is actually a Tench-class submarine that torpedoed and sunk the last enemy ship of WWII.)
Once you’re all harbored out, fuel up on local fare with (arguably) the nation’s best seafood at nearby Fells Point—Baltimore’s crab houses, in particular, are purportedly world-famous. Additional spots of interest, including the breathtaking George Peabody Library, can be found in our guide to summer in Baltimore.
Jewel-encrusted diadem of the Midwest, Chicago is beloved for its distinctive cuisine—think deep-dish pizza, mustard-heavy hot dogs and cheddar-caramel popcorn. (You know, the three major food groups.)
Yet the Second City’s influence extends far beyond high-cholesterol eats. It’s a pioneer in architecture, from the soaring Willis Tower, to the many Frank Lloyd Wright homes strewn throughout Oak Park, to the corn-cob-esque towers at Marina City. Chicago is also one of the few U.S. cities to have at least one professional team in each sport within the metro limits.
The City by the Lake is downright impossible to fully take in over one long weekend, though try if you so wish by scanning our full Chicago guide. Otherwise, can’t-miss sites (read: most Instagram–worthy) include “The Bean” at Millennium Park, Navy Pier and, opening Memorial Day weekend, the 18-mile Lakefront Trail.
Between the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant where the Model T was born, the Detroit Historical Museum and GM World, America’s “Motor City” will delight any auto buff. (Or just about anyone in need of a little engine-revving.)
But the metropolis also has Motown roots—you can still visit Marvin Gaye’s recording studio and Motown–founder Berry Gordy Jr.’s apartment—along with a theater district second in size only to New York City’s.
Alternatively, you could just spend the entire weekend exploring the 978-acre Belle Isle Park. Set in the center of the Detroit River, with Windsor, Canada, on the other side, the park is only accessible via one bridge, and houses the Belle Isle Aquarium, Nature Center, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory and the Dossin Great Lakes Museum.
Las Vegas, NV
Whether you have a date with Lady Luck or just consider her a platonic pal, Vegas is eye-popping in its extravagance: massive casinos, gaudy buffets and star-studded entertainment.
While headliners across all forms of art—dance, music, magic—regularly perform here, the lineup this Memorial Day weekend, historically among the busiest holidays in Vegas, includes favorites like Blue Man Group, Celine Dion (🙏), David Copperfield and six (count ‘em!) different Cirque du Soleil shows.
There’s a perception that Las Vegas is especially expensive, and OK, if you’re in a nightclub like XS or OMNIA then that reputation is probably deserved. But, in our ranking of the cheapest and most expensive drinking cities, it actually falls more in the middle of the pack (#35 out of 55) thanks to relatively cheap beer and wine—meaning you really can enjoy Vegas without emptying your wallet.
Come for the tunes, stay for the BBQ.
Specifically, we’re talkin’ Franklin Barbecue. Sure, you may wait in line for an hour, but a heaping tray of brisket, bread and coleslaw is sure to whitewash your memory. Seconds, anyone?
The “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin is flooded with festivals year-round, among them the nationally recognized ACL Music Festival and SXSW. On a Saturday night, must-hit music venues include The Continental Club and Broken Spoke, where even left-footed folks learn to two-step.
As each of Austin’s 10 entertainment districts can attest, there’s more to the city than concerts: A vibrant arts scene, myriad outdoor activities and endless food truck varieties make the capital of the Lone Star State appealing to any adventurous traveler.
San Antonio, TX
Everything’s bigger in Texas, or so the saying goes. (Fun fact: It’s also Matthew McConaughey’s favorite pickup line.)
Nowhere is this motto more apparent than at San Antonio’s Market Square, lovingly described as the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico, with more than 100 local vendors and restaurants filling a three-block stretch. Spend ample time perusing the bright pottery, jewelry and art before scarfing a delectable ribeye taco at Viva Villa Taqueria. (Nos gusta mucho.)
Other notable attractions include the Riverwalk, an internationally recognized urban waterway that meanders for several miles through the heart of downtown. And of course, you must remember The Alamo, where a small group of fighters held off the Mexican Army for 13 days during the Texas Revolution.
Bonus points: San Antonio is our 11th cheapest drinking city in the U.S.
San Diego, CA
If you’re not taking advantage of the great outdoors on your holiday weekend in San Diego, then you’re not doing it right.
Stroll through the 1,200-acre Balboa Park, a cultural mecca of beautifully curated gardens, museums, theaters, restaurants, and also home to the world-renowned San Diego Zoo. The SDZ houses over 3,500 animals of more than 650 species, including the totes adorbs (and exceedingly rare) giant panda.
An afternoon at La Jolla Cove, a hot spot for swimming, scuba-diving, snorkeling and seal-watching, makes for an excellent follow-up. Or, if you really are in need of some shade, consider the USS Midway Museum, where you can tour the historic carrier, dozens of restored aircraft, and even pilot a flight simulator.
Looking for a ladies-only getaway? San Diego is also #4 in our ranking of the best cities for a girls trip.
Los Angeles, CA
Over Memorial Day weekend, L.A. is festival central.
The weekend kicks off with Fiesta Hermosa, the “largest arts and crafts fair in Southern California,” as well as the Valley Greek Festival, which is the place to be if you’re a fan of gyros, moussaka or chocolate baklava. (Hint: You are. Even if you don’t know it yet.)
Of course, SoCal’s regularly scheduled offerings are also ready and waiting: Disneyland and California Adventure, Universal Studios, The Getty Center museum and gardens. (Pokémon trainers: L.A. is also our #1 city in the U.S. for catching rare Pokémon.)
But then, of course, there’s the beaches. (Did you know L.A. has beaches? L.A. has beaches.) And they’ve got white sand, a gentle surf and they’re free, baby, so pop a squat on that blanket and let the good times rolllll.
Sure, you won’t find white-sand beaches in landlocked Orlando, but at least you’ll have beach-like weather to reap that sun-kissed glow.
For an experience you can’t get elsewhere this holiday weekend, check out the Orlando Fringe Festival. The lineup of shows, live music, and art displays is founded on the concept of being “100% unjuried, uncensored, accessible and inclusive,” with all of the proceeds going back to the artists themselves.
For even more fun in the sun, check out our Sunshine State guide with other essential activities, shopping and eateries to hit in Orlando.
Sure, it put artists like Ludacris, John Mayer and Whitney Houston on the map, but Hotlanta has so much more to offer. (Which is saying a lot, because c’mon—we’re talking Luda and The Prom Queen of Soul.)
Diverse claims to fame abound here. There’s the World of Coca-Cola, where you can sample more than 100 of the brand’s different beverages from around the world, like Beverly, a non-alcoholic Italian aperitif that Coke debuted in 1969.
For a full listing of Atlanta’s attractions and food scene, check out our guide to the ATL. In brief, we recommend Little Five Points, an eclectic neighborhood that’s been called “Atlanta’s Haight-Ashbury,” with a bar and restaurant scene well worth a visit. After that, bike the BeltLine—a 22-mile loop of trails based on railroad corridors that formerly circled the city.
San Francisco, CA
Spend your holiday weekend in San Fran! (Fair warning: Locals don’t actually call it that, preferring the more elegant acronym “S.F.”)
The San Francisco Public Library hosts free walking tours of the city during Memorial Day weekend, so if you’re looking to explore beyond The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Chinatown (though all worthy attractions!), we recommend starting there.
Or you can just party down at the city’s 41st annual Carnaval celebration in the Mission District, held over Memorial Day weekend, with a Grand Parade, international music, dance and entertainment. Then, slip away for a meal at El Castillito or Taqueria La Cumbre, because leaving the Mission without eating a burrito is a sin punishable by flogging with a limp Taco Bell Roll-Up.
Seriously though, S.F. is a city best seen by bicycle, as our “Ultimate Guide to Biking in San Francisco” demonstrates.
Ranked among the “Most Beautiful Cities in the World” by both Forbes and Buzzfeed, Vancouver is picturesquely sandwiched between the North Shore mountains and seven different bodies of water.
The birthplace of Lululemon, it’s no surprise that outdoor activities are so popular here. From watersports to hiking and biking—check out the scenic Seawall that rims Stanley Park, the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path—you won’t waist a second of that Memorial Day sunshine. (Our full Vancouver guide also recommends essential eating and drinking establishments.)
For far cheaper than the cost of a helicopter tour (only $30 online), soar across The Great White North on Flyover Canada: an immersive eight-minute video experience that suspends you in front of a 20-meter spherical screen. Dipping and diving you over Vancouver and beyond, the state-of-the-art experience is bound to blow you away. (No seriously, they blow wind in your face.)
Welcome to charming Reno! (OK, maybe that’s not a sentence you’ve heard before, but hear us out.)
There are casinos in “The Biggest Little City in the World,” to be sure—the charismatic Peppermill is a must-visit—but the town also offers loads of outdoor activities and a vibrant arts backdrop. (It’s the nearest permanent community to Black Rock City’s Burning Man, so mind-bending murals and art installations abound.)
How you decide to fill your weekend is on you: Mountain bike along Flume Trail, which splits Spooner Lake and Sand Harbor; float down the Truckee River as it cuts through the heart of the city; or take an hour-long bus ride from Reno to the shores of Lake Tahoe, surrounded by the imposing Sierra Nevada mountains.
The prices above are based on the average price for these routes on Wanderu over Memorial Day weekend from past years. By providing a guide to the most popular Memorial Day destinations, we hope to make your holiday-weekend travel plans a little bit easier. (And, well, cheaper. We’re gonna say it like it is. 👀)
But if these locales aren’t quite hitting the mark, try out our Explore by Wanderu tool. It’ll populate a list of budget-friendly bus- and train-travel suggestions built around your current location, ideal destination and budget.
Or maybe you’re considering a last-minute Memorial Day adventure overseas. (And if you’re looking for a little 🍴, 🙏, ❤️, who are we to argue with that?) Before you book, check out our rankings of the cheapest (and the most expensive) European capitals for travelers. It just might help inform your itinerary.
To explore on the go, don’t forget to download the Wanderu app for the lowest-price bus and train travel options no matter where you are or where you’re going. Happy trails!