The dust has barely settled on Independence Day but the traditional end of summer is just around the corner. Don’t leave your travel plans to the last minute this year – we’ve put together a great shortlist of inexpensive, interesting vacations to make the most of your long weekend wherever you live!
A long weekend requires a short flight so you can get to the fun and not spend too much time in the airport. With that in mind, we’ve broken it down into regional options to maximize the experience and minimize the cost.
Arches National Park, Moab, Utah
Southern Utah’s landscape – rich in natural offerings can be somewhat overwhelming – it’s probably best to choose one National Park to explore for a long weekend. We choose the fascinating, alien and otherworldly sandstone formations of Arches National Park, just north of Moab. Moab is a quirky little town in and of itself, so in the unlikely event you grow weary of the stunning landscapes, you can always hang at a myriad of brew pubs and swimming holes that otherwise dot the Moab scene.
What to Do: Spend a full day exploring the National Park. Pro Tip – drive all the way in to the farthest corner of the park and plan to get there early. That way you can avoid the crowds that start at the very beginning, and you’ll have some of the most spectacular hikes to yourself before it gets crowded. Various outfitters in Moab will rent you a 4-wheeler or a mountain bike to explore the surrounding red rocks on your own. Do some stargazing after the sun goes down – limited light pollution makes for fine viewing.
Getting There: The biggest challenge for getting to Arches is the remoteness of the location. The airport in Grand Junction, CO is a 90 minute drive to Moab, while Salt Lake City is about a 4.5 drive. From LAX into Grand Junction on American for $457 and nonstop from Phoenix on American for $350*.
Where to Stay: You can camp in the park at Devil’s Garden (but it’s closed for road construction through November 2017). Earmark this one for 2018 and camp at one of the many other great campgrounds and motels/Airbnb options dotted all around Moab.
You will be forgiven for scratching your head a bit at the idea of Yachats – Yach-where? While not the most obvious choice for a 3-day weekend, this town is a real undiscovered treat. Yachats is known as the “Gem of the Oregon Coast” for good reason, not least of which are the world-class tidepools and hiking. Unpretentious but delicious brew pubs and coffee shops and a warm and welcoming local population, round out a few of the top reasons we can think of to recommend Yachats for your casual weekend away.
What to Do: Walk the 804 trail, the rugged trail that travels along the 7 miles of beach, and traverses 3 state parks as well as downtown; pick up a cup of Joe from the Green Salmon Coffee Shoppe (they roast their own beans!); pack a picnic lunch to go tidepooling at Cook’s Chasm; and wind down with a simple seafood dinner at Luna Sea Fish House.
Getting There: Yachats is about a 1.5 hour drive from the Eugene Airport, or a 3 hour push from Portland. Nonstop SFO to Eugene on United for $221*.
Where to Stay: Stick to Airbnb’s if you want to be in town. A short drive up the coast to Waldport (10 miles) offers affordable resort rooms at the Alsi for $139/night**.
Chicago has a vibrant scene any time of the year, but the close of summer brings in some festival and lakeside revelry that will scratch pretty much every itch one might have. Whether you’re into music, sports, family-friendly fare or just want to sample some of the world’s best cuisine (from pizza, to ethnic food, to Michelin starred fine dining), Chi-town’s got you covered for Labor Day.
What to Do: Listen to smooth jazz all weekend long at Chicago Jazz Fest. Head to Navy Pier for the Great American Lobster Fest from September 1-3 if that’s more your thing. The Cubs are hosting the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field (a must-do if there ever was one) all weekend long, and you can join local fitness enthusiasts for an early-morning workout in Millennium Park at Pritzker Pavilion for Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates or Zumba (last classes of the season on Sep 1-2).
Getting There: Reasonable nonstop flights from Detroit for $127 on United or from Milwaukee on American for $223*.
Where to Stay: Chicago has every class of accommodation, from hostels and camping (you can camp in a city park as long as you have a permit!) all the way up to 5-star hotels. Bargain prices are still available. The Hyatt Regency on Wacker has rooms for $189/night. The Fairmont at Millennium Park has rooms available for $203/night**.
The Jersey Shore, Various towns in New Jersey
If you’re looking for a way to satisfy your Cape Cod or Hamptons dreams without the accompanying hefty price tag, may we suggest the Jersey Shore? Now if this immediately conjures up images of Snookie and Pauly D, we totally understand, but we’d ask you to keep an open mind. The Jersey Shore is not just for 24-hour party people (though there’s plenty of that as well). In fact, there are many family friendly events all along the shore every year, and no matter your interest there’s an end of the summer celebration right up your alley.
What to Do: Attend Airfest in Wildwood at the Naval Station. You can watch WWII Bombers flying in formation. There’s a beer garden, kids’ activities and live music all weekend long. If you can score a ticket, Willie Nelson is playing at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park (Bruce Springsteen made them both famous). Or head to Atlantic City, where (in addition to the world-famous boardwalk stroll) you can take in concerts all weekend long – the Zack Brown Band, Florida Georgia Line and Blink 182. For the foodies fest, head on over to Oceanport’s BBQ and Craft Beef Fest going all weekend long.
Getting There: Flights into Newark are your best bet. Boston to Newark nonstop on United for $129*.
Where to Stay: A lot of hotels are selling out, so scoop them up fast. The Red Roof Inn in Neptune has rooms available for $155/night. Splurge at the Berkeley Oceanfront in Asbury Park for $399/night**.
If you’re visiting Memphis, you’re run right up against rock, blues and soul history. You can visit Elvis Presley’s beloved Graceland, while the hours away on Beale Street or even get a taste of the darker moments by visiting the Underground Railroad Museum.
What to Do: The Memphis Music and Heritage Festival takes over downtown Memphis over the Labor Day weekend in a cooperative event mounted by the Center for Southern Folklore. The two-day festival runs from 11am to 11pm on Saturday and Sunday, September 3-4. More than 100 acts are expected to perform this year. Eat barbecue (lots of it)! That’s just how they do in Memphis. Try the BBQ Nachos at Central BBQ.
Getting There: Nonstop flights from Atlanta on Delta for $236*.
Where to Stay: Room for $140/night** at the Crowne Plaza Memphis Downtown.
Enjoy the remaining days of summer and as always, happy travels!
*Fares include taxes and fees and are valid as of 7/10/17 on select dates between 08/31/17 and 9/6/17. Lowest fare seats are capacity controlled and may not be available on every airline, flight, or date. Fares subject to change without notice.
**Double accommodation prices for Labor Day weekend dates are current as of publication date, July 10, 2017.