5 Road Trips to take this Memorial Day Weekend
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- Lake Tahoe, California
- Saint Louis, Missouri
- Charleston, South Carolina
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Washington D.C.
Haven’t decided where you’ll spend Memorial Day yet? No worries. There are plenty of outdoor and COVID-19 safe activities and festivities that await you across America.
Editor’s note: Check with local municipalities for the most up-to-date COVID-19 travel information before arranging your trip. And always follow CDC guidelines.
Lake Tahoe, California
Your Memorial Day road trip begins miles before you arrive at the largest alpine lake in the country. The 72-mile route starting off I-89 that wraps around the shoreline has been dubbed one of the “most beautiful drives,” featuring scenic views of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Lake Tahoe might be a lionized ski destination, but the spring and summer months might be when Tahoe comes alive. For all the adventure aficionados out there, Lake Tahoe is your one-stop-shop for all outdoor excursions.
Pedal a mountain bike up Ale Trail toward the vista of the Sierra, bird watch from the Emerald Bay Lookout (perched above the Scandinavian-Viking inspired Vikingsholm castle!), grill up a Memorial Day Weekend feast at one of the lake’s 29 beaches, and stargaze lakeside from a chartered watercraft.
For a unique perspective of the lake, take a three-hour, self-guided paddleboard adventure with North Tahoe Paddle launching from Kings Beach. Bonus: dry bags and waterproof phone cases are available so that you can document venturing by natural hot springs, through clear turquoise waters around giant boulder fields, and across the California/Nevada state line beneath the sprawling Sierra Nevada range.
Saint Louis, Missouri
Saint Louis, Missouri is the Midwestern Mecca of amusement.
First on your road trip itinerary: discovering your inner child at the City Museum. A museum-playspace hybrid lives in a 100-year-old warehouse filled with repurposed pieces of St. Louis artists constructed miles of tunnels, climbers, and castles as well as secret passageways, art galleries, and a rooftop Ferris wheel. A vintage arcade-themed candy shop and bar is a treat for everyone.
Then head to the horticultural utopia, the Missouri Botanical Garden, where you can stop and smell the roses, lavender petunias, Manchurian lilac, and more in bloom over 80 acres of flora.
The Climatron, a geodesic dome greenhouse, is home to a synthetic rainforest, is a must. Keep an eye out for the exotic double coconut endemic to the Seychelles. Right now, experience the OrigamiintheGarden art installation brought to you by world-renowned origami masters and sculpturists.
Raise your trip to the next level in a tram ride to the top of the Gateway Arch—standing 630 feet, it’s the tallest monument in the U.S. From the observation deck above, take in sights of the St. Louis cityscape, including the Cardinals’ Busch Stadium, the St. Louis Zoo, and the Mississippi River. When you’ve made it back down to Earth, wind down with a relaxing, one-hour St. Louis Riverfront Cruise.
Cool down for the day with a Ted Drewes frozen custard concrete. Order the St. Louis classic, which features a slice of ooey gooey butter cake layered with signature vanilla custard, sour cherries, and a crispy Dad’s Original rolled-oats cookie—a true archetypal St. Louis delight.
Charleston, South Carolina
Draft horse-drawn carriage tours will appeal to first-time and seasoned Charleson road trippers who are history buffs. Clop along cobblestone streets past antebellum mansions, colonial facades, Civil War sites, city gardens, and more. On foot, you can explore the downtown district, which is teeming with historical landmarks like the Citadel 180-year-old military college.
Rent a bike cruiser and voyage around the city snapping shots of Charleson where city glamour and small-town charm meld into one photogenic municipality. Some Instagrammable locales of note: Waterfront Park’s iconic Pineapple Fountain, Rainbow Row—13 Georgian-style historic candy-hued waterfront houses—in the Battery, and sorbet-colored sunsets melting over the Atlantic ocean.
Downtown Charleston’s Folly Beach, a laid-back coastal outpost, is a surfing and sailing haven. Beach-goers can walk the shoreline with gently crashing waves for unparalleled tranquility.
Dock your party on The Washout’s pet-friendly outdoor patio overlooking the beach and order up locally caught dishes, such as blackened Mahi tacos or the lump and claw crab cakes with fries and coleslaw on the side.
Stay in the city to experience the Spoleto festival, a two-week cultural extravaganza kicking off Friday, May 28. Across Charleston’s theatres, churches, and the Cistern Yard located at the liberal arts College of Charleston, visitors can enjoy jazz, dance, opera, and mellifluous theatrical performances.
Grand Canyon National Park
Those Memorial Day road-trippers looking for respite from the heat should make their way to the Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona.
Those over the age of nine can descend on the vast vista at the vantage point of sure-footed mules. Depart from the canyon’s north rim on one- and three-hour mule tours and wind down 2,300 feet into the canyon along the red-rocked North Kaibab trail to get kaleidoscopic views of the geology.
For a panorama, schedule a Kings of the Canyons Sunset helicopter tour, soar above the river, touch down on the canyon floor for a scenic picnic (complete with sparkling wine), and jet to the Las Vegas Strip.
The Grand Canyon bisects several tribal lands. Head West to the Hualapai Indian Reservation for the canyon’s Skywalk. At an altitude of about 4,000 feet, you’ll stand suspended 70 feet off the canyon’s precipice on a cantilevered glass walk. For those brave enough to look down, you’ll watch white water rafters taking on the Colorado River below.
Aboard the heritage railroad, the Grand Canyon Railway carries you along the Colorado plateau stopping at various attractions, including the San Francisco Peaks and the canyon’s monolith: the Desert View watchtower architecturally inspired by the ancestral Puebloan people.
A Memorial Day Weekend road trip of remembrance starts in Washington D.C.
Several memorials will take place across the capital. Pay your respects to those fallen at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on the National Mall.
At Arlington National Cemetery, the Memorial Day Roses Foundation provides free roses you can place among gravestones. The Rolling to Remember motorcycle rally rides along to raise awareness for veteran suicide awareness.
On Memorial Day eve, gather on the Capitol’s West Lawn for the free annual National Memorial Day Concert honoring those who lost their lives. Among the star-studded performer lineup are Gary Sinise (who portrayed Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump), Gladys Knight, Sara Bareilles, and more.
You’re cordially invited to the National Memorial Day parade. Starting at 5 p.m. local time, veterans, marching military bands, and patriotic floats will proceed down Constitution Avenue for the three-hour ceremony. Can’t make it to the event? The parade will be filmed as a made-for-TV special—airing through July 4.
Learn some Civil War history while you’re in town. Tour the Missing Soldiers Office Museum to peruse Clara Barton’s home during the war. On a guided tour, visitors will walk through preserved rooms and learn how the nurse—and American Red Cross founder—got her moniker: the “Angel of the Battlefield.”
Before you embark on your cross-country Memorial Day Weekend adventure, make sure your car has proper insurance coverage. Use Jerry to find the best rate (and save the most time!).