It has been a long, cold winter (at least here in New York), so we're especially looking forward to Memorial Day this year as the informal kickoff to summer and a signal of longer, warmer days ahead. The holiday to remember our nation's fallen veterans is a little over one month away. That leaves just enough time to plan a memorable and relaxing getaway without having to use coveted vacation days. Read on for our suggestions on where to stay and what to do with your get-out-of-work-on-a-Monday free card.
1. Carmel Valley
The Carmel Valley Ranch bills itself as a 500-acre summer camp-inspired resort for families and couples. Some of the Memorial Day-friendly activities on offer include an on-site vineyard, horseback riding, and nightly s'mores around the hotel's seven fire pits. Adults can hit the Pete Dye-designed golf course or participate in a wine tasting at the on-site Valley Kitchen. This summer, the resort is again launching the Ranch Hands Kids' Camp for indoor and outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, arts and crafts, and games with themes like Art of Imagination. Contemporary rooms include travertine fireplaces, just in case the evenings still have a spring chill in the air.
2. Wisconsin Dells
Memorial Day in Wisconsin means the much anticipated opening of Noah's Ark Water Park in Wisconsin Dells. But if the weather doesn't cooperate, 70 acres of outdoor water rides might not be that appealing. Chula Vista Resort provides an excellent backup plan with Lost Rios, an 80,000-square-foot indoor water park that features the fastest indoor water coaster in the world and a lazy river that replicates Mayan ruins. All-inclusive packages are available and there are eight restaurants to choose from. Accommodations range from simple hotel rooms to standalone villas that sleep eight people.
Depending on where you live, you may need to pad a trip to Cuba with an extra night or two, but the area around Havana is small enough to get a good feel and taste of the city in a handful of days. Hotel Nacional de Cuba provides an excellent base for exploring and has a fascinating history that includes secret tunnels in the hotel's gardens and an impressive roster of celebrity visitors. It's closer to the water than to Old Havana, but getting to the center in a vintage taxi is part of the Cuban experience.
4. New York City
New York City hosts a plethora of events for Memorial Day, including parades across the boroughs to honor the nation's veterans and an art fair at Washington Square Park. Visitors should also consider a visit to Coney Island and its famous Luna Park with a wooden roller coaster and Ferris wheel overlooking the beach. Nathan's Famous provides America's favorite summer treat: hot dogs. Back in Manhattan, Row NYC provides an ultra-convenient location one block from Times Square, excellent rooms with some amazing city views, and District M for pizza and evening cocktails.
Memorial Day weekend in Chicago brings locals and tourists out in droves to Millennium Park, sidewalk restaurants, and the lakeside parks, which officially open to the public for the holiday weekend. The Ivy Boutique Hotel offers a rooftop respite away from the crowds, along with some amazing city views and truffle fries, on their Ivy Sky Terrace. Guests also get passes to Equinox (for a fee) and lake views from many of the rooms.
For anyone looking to party, and we mean party, Urban Beach Week in South Beach is the scene. The festival markets itself as "the largest Urban Festival in the world that caters toward the Hip Hop Generation from 21 and over." Participants trek to Miami for four days of music, booze, food, and sun. Festivities and revelers go around the clock, so this isn't the weekend to visit if you're trying to relax on the beach. Fontainebleau Miami Beach provides direct beach access and nine pools. The on-site nightclub means you won't have to go too far to find the party, or your bed when you're ready to call it a night.
7. Santa Fe
We love the art and food scene in Santa Fe any time of year, but Memorial Day weekend is special for the Native Treasures Indian Arts Festival. Over 200 Native American artists are specially invited to represent their jewelry, pottery, textiles, and basketry at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. Visitors get a chance to speak with the artists about their craft and a portion of the sales goes to the museum. La Fonda on the Plaza (Santa Fe's oldest hotel) is just a six-minute walk from the festival, and the distinctive pueblo-style building is filled with Native American and Southwestern art. It also features a year-round pool and full-service spa.
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