With the unofficial start of summer fast approaching, chances are you're thinking about packing up the kids and hitting the road for a getaway to remember. And if you haven't locked in your vacation plans yet, you're in luck: There are plenty of easily accessible destinations across the country to celebrate the long weekend without breaking the bank. Whether you want to check out festive parades and kid-friendly attractions in Detroit or get a fun history lesson in Boston, these vibrant spots are great places to enjoy summer activities and quality bonding time with the gang on the cheap this Memorial Day.
Boston offers plenty of inexpensive attractions well suited for families. Visit the Harborwalk for scenic views of Boston Harbor and the skyline before visiting the Boston Fire Museum, which offers free admission, or the Boston's Children's Museum, which charges a $1 entry fee on Friday nights. The Boston Theater District, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston Public Garden, the New England Aquarium and the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum are also worth exploring over the long weekend. What's more, affordable accommodations abound, including the Element Boston Seaport, which has full in-room kitchens and a complimentary breakfast, along with complimentary bikes.
Farmington, New Mexico
Farmington's annual Riverfest will take place over Memorial Day weekend. During the free event, you can enjoy live music along the trails, river raft rides and the Riverfest Fine Art Show, among other activities. Farmington is also ideal for hiking and biking. The area boasts five lakes for fishing and the Animas River for rafting or kayaking. What's more, Farmington is an ideal gateway to prized national parks, including Aztec Ruins National Monument, Chaco Cultural Historical Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Hovenweep National Monument and Natural Bridges National Monument. As for lodging, you can take your pick from a range of affordable hotels, camping options and bed-and-breakfasts.
Bryson City, North Carolina
There's plenty going on in Bryson over the holiday weekend. Festivities start on Saturday with the free Heritage Festival on the river. Expect live music, food, arts and crafts, sack races and even a log-sawing contest. On Saturday, Darnell Farms will also host its annual Strawberry Jam Festival with live music, a petting zoo and hayrides. At night, hop on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for a BBQ & Brews train ride and dinner event with family-friendly seating. After checking out the best of Bryson City, venture to the nearby Deep Creek recreation area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is known for its waterfalls, trails, swimming holes and opportunities for creek tubing and fly-fishing. Or partake in other outdoor adventures, such as kayaking, fishing, paddleboarding, horseback riding or zip lining. There are private campgrounds and other places to stay in the national park, including cabins starting at $135 a night for a family of five.
Panama City, Florida
Gulf World Marine Park is the destination to visit for dolphin, sea lion, reptile and tropical bird shows. If you dare, you and the kids can swim with dolphins during a private swimming lesson. For more outdoor activity, visit one of the area's three state parks. St. Andrews State Park has nearly 2 miles of beaches on the Gulf of Mexico and Grand Lagoon. Swim, snorkel, dive, kayak, canoe and fish from the pier. When you've worked up an appetite, head to Schooners, a casual beach club. Kids are abound to get a kick out of the daily cannon blasting ritual to mark the nightly sunset celebration. The Sheraton Bay Point Resort, located on a 1,100-acre wildlife sanctuary, is offering a package with every fourth night free, just in time for Memorial Day.
Atlanta will host a variety of festive events over the holiday weekend, including one of the largest free jazz festivals in the country. On May 27, visit Brew at the Zoo, with more than 70 beers and wines, and live music on five stages. For more activity, bike or walk the Atlanta BeltLine, a new space of 22 miles of unused railroad tracks that circle the core of the city's neighborhoods. Along the BeltLine, you'll find many crowd-pleasing restaurants. As for accommodations, you can find reasonable rates at Homewood Suites by Hilton Atlanta Midtown, with its elevated outdoor pool deck with a whirlpool and fire pit area; Memorial Day weekend rates start at $165 per night, making it an ideal place to stay if you have a tight vacation budget.
This lakefront city offers easy accessibility and plenty of family-friendly attractions. Enjoy the free trolley system throughout downtown and don't miss checking out the free Cleveland Museum of Art, which features more than 45,000 pieces of art. Looking for more active outdoor adventures? In Cleveland's backyard, you'll find the 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Take the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for a three-hour, round-trip National Park Scenic ride or stop by a Day Out with Thomas with the kids from May 26- 28. Families can ride with the popular Thomas the Tank Engine character, learn about trains, watch magicians perform and enjoy other live entertainment. Just a short trip west of the city is Cedar Point. The new Cedar Point Shores opens Memorial Day weekend, and will feature attractions like the six-story-tall aqua-drop body slide and the family splash area with water slides. For the holiday weekend, hotels such as DoubleTree Hotel Cleveland, Aloft Cleveland Downtown and the new Kimpton Schofield Hotel have nightly rates for two adults and two kids for under $200.
Belle Isle Park, located in the Detroit River, and houses the Belle Isle Aquarium, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, the James Scott Memorial Fountain and plenty of open recreation area. Every Saturday, Lake St. Clair hosts their Morning in the Marsh event. For $5 you can paddle through a marsh aboard a 34-foot Voyageur canoe to commune with nature. Meanwhile, the Michigan Science Center has more than 250 hands-on exhibits, lab activities, special exhibits and a planetarium. Just 15 minutes outside of Detroit you can catch the Memorial Day parade and visit the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. Plus, family-friendly restaurants abound, including Buddy's Pizza, which has been part of Detroit lore since 1946. Even better, there are plenty of accommodations for two adults and two children for less than $200 a night.
It's not a Memorial Day getaway without fireside s'mores, cool dips in the pool and hiking with the family. For quality time in the great outdoors, visit the Ranch at Bandy Canyon. Spread across more than 144 acres of land in the heart of San Pasqual Valley, the area begs visitors to enjoy horseback riding and hiking before retreating to its 1930s-style adobe lodge appointed with multiple fireplaces, a pool, an outdoor bar, a barbecue area and an equestrian center. Plus, the lodge is a short drive to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and nearby wineries. Rates over Memorial Day start at around $190 per night.
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