It might feel like St. Patrick's Day was just a few weeks ago, but the unofficial start to summer is just around the corner. Although some people have been planning their lake excursions and barbecues for weeks, the procrastinators of the world (myself included) are just now getting around to making last-minute Memorial Day plans. Unfortunately, swooping in on other people's barbecues unannounced like a guacamole-bearing Maleficent is frowned upon in some social circles, so you should probably score an invite for any group excursions. Better yet, though, you should plan one of your own. After all, there's no better excuse than a long weekend to get out of town.
The holiday has been around since the late 19th century. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, an organization of Union veterans set aside a day in May to remember soldiers who had died in the Civil War. Originally known as Decoration Day, a reference to the practice of decorating veterans' graves with flowers, the holiday eventually expanded to include those who died in any American war. It was named an official federal holiday in 1966.
Today, it's both a chance to remember fallen soldiers and to celebrate the approach of summer. If you're still deciding how to observe the holiday, here are ten trips you can plan at the last minute for the long weekend.
Take A Road Trip
Do you have a car, a driver's license, and enough money for several tanks of gas? Congratulations! You have all the materials you need for a road trip. Look up places to visit in your state and those surrounding you, grab your BFF or your mom, and try to visit as many as you can before you have to be back at work on Tuesday. Or, in the spirit of true American wanderlust, you can just pick a direction and start driving. Don't forget to create a playlist.
State and national parks will probably be swamped on Memorial Day weekend, but that's no reason to stay indoors when you could go enjoy the sunshine. If you're worried about crowds, look up the lesser-traveled parks within a couple hours of your area — preferably one you haven't visited before.
Hit The Lake
If there's a lake near(ish) your home, go splash around for a day. If you can round up enough friends, you might even be able to split the cost of renting a boat, so you can have a picnic on the water.
Head To The Beach
It's basically tradition to spend Memorial Day by a large body of water, and there's no larger one than the ocean. Pack your towel, a poorly-written paperback, and oodles of sunscreen for a trip to the beach.
Rent A Cabin
Renting a cabin in the mountains will cost you, but last-minute plans don't come cheap. If you can scrape together enough cash and people to go with you, though, it's a perfect way to get away from civilization for a while without having to forgo toilets and running water.
If you don't actually need the aforementioned indoor plumbing, or you're at least willing to forgo it for the sake of saving money, you can always go camping for a night or two. Just be sure to reserve your spot before showing up to the grounds, and pack the stuff to make s'mores. (Duh.)
Arrange A Rafting Trip
Check out group discounts online, and you might be able to find a coupon for a rafting trip. If you can find some equally outdoorsy friends to come along, you can spend your time off floating down a river in the middle of nowhere. Depending on how much you love nature (and hate wearing a helmet), this can be either nightmarish or totally relaxing.
Visit A Theme Park
If all this talk about nature is giving you hives, you can still get outside for the day by visiting a theme park. Don't leave until you've eaten all the cotton candy and ridden all the roller coasters you can stomach.
Find Weird Attractions
In case you missed it, the good ole U.S. of A. is full of weird roadside attractions. If you're in Florida, visit Coral Castle. Alaska? Find Igloo City. California? Time for Salvation Mountain. The possibilities are limited only by your willingness to drive around hunting down the world's largest rocking chair.
Head To A Vineyard Or Brewery
In the grand American tradition of spending holidays getting tipsy, visit a craft brewery or vineyard. Tastings are usually fairly cheap and require no reservations — perfect for the Memorial Day procrastinator.