Published April 2022
As many return to their regularly scheduled travel plans, this summer could very well be one of the busiest tourism periods since the onset of the pandemic—and the kickoff is just around the corner. Synonymous with fun in the sun, family getaways, and festive cookouts, Memorial Day weekend marks the official start of summer vacation and, arguably, our favorite time of the year.
According to our 2022 Summer Travel Trends report, nearly one-third of Americans (31%) are planning to hit the road for the holiday weekend. And that percentage is even higher for residents in the northeast, 40% of whom are taking advantage of the extra day off—and may be heading to Ocean City, Maryland, based on our search data.
Whether you’re looking to embrace the energy of our most searched-destinations or prefer to keep it laid-back in a locale that still has plenty of vacation rentals to choose from, these are our top places to go for Memorial Day weekend—and start the summer off right.
This popular beach town, tucked into Florida’s Panhandle, is known for its white-sand shores, glittering emerald water, and challenging golf courses, so it’s no surprise that it’s among the best (and most-searched) places to visit for Memorial Day weekend. Sitting on a diverse coastline dotted with pine and oak trees, the area is often referred to as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” Angler or not, you’ll want to stay close to the water by booking a breezy beach house like Southern Nights at Destin Pointe, where you can take full advantage of beach thanks to private access.
Deep in the northwestern corner of Florida, one wrong turn during a visit to Perdido Key might land you in the neighboring state of Alabama. The thin strip of land and its eponymous state park offers VIP access to rolling white-sand dunes and stunning views of the calm Gulf waters. With a more relaxed vibe than its counterparts to the east, the key is perfect for quiet picnics or nature hikes along the coast. You’ll find yourself steps away from the shore almost anywhere in this oversized sandbar, but a place like Indigo E 1701 will elevate your laid-back lifestyle with chic decor and a private washer/dryer, in case you go through your beach clothes quicker than expected.
First things first—Maryland is famous for its seafood (namely its blue crabs), so you may want to plan your long weekend around your meals. Ocean City, in particular, is known for its world-famous boardwalk that’s full of attractions, with three miles of games and rides to keep your kids (or your inner child) entertained. Abundant options for food, shopping, and live music give grown-ups a thrill. Start your vacation home search on the strip’s southern tip to score a cozy bungalow like Wix House 8. On this end of the island, you’ll be walking distance from the boardwalk and a short jaunt away from Assateague Island National Seashore, home of the city’s beloved wild ponies.
Located just off of I-10, Dauphin Island is an easy drive-in destination for most of the southeast that still offers flights on and off of the island via Jeremiah Denton Airport on Mobile Bay. This quaint, southern town hosts a strong marine culture, an eclectic mix of homegrown shops, and a bevy of restaurants serving local seafood. Best of all, you’ll discover miles of uncrowded beaches where you can fully embrace the “Sunset Capital of Alabama.” You’ll have a great view of the evening sky from a vacation home like High Point that boasts not one, but two porches, where you can also enjoy a weekend of alfresco meals prepared in the home’s fully equipped kitchen.
Offering up a sweet serving of small-town charm and unspoiled beauty, Holden Beach is a family-oriented gem on North Carolina’s southern coast. Pedal to the island’s easternmost end, then stroll around the Lockwood Folly Inlet or navigate a kayak along the Intracoastal Waterway before finishing the day at one of the waterfront restaurants. Seek out one of the area’s distinctive stilted houses like Luna’s Sea with a gas grill and an abundance of outdoor space, ideal for a holiday cookout.
Known for its massive, boat-filled harbor, Newport Beach is a hub for aquatic activities. Situated on 10 miles of California coastline, this buzzy little city boasts some of the west coast’s best fishing, swimming, surfing, and water sports. It’s also ideal for lazing on idyllic beaches, watching the sunset from seaside cliffs, or strolling harbor-front promenades to create lasting vacation memories. Embrace the Cali cool vibes with a colorful accommodation like Newport Beach Blue Heaven where mid-century design meets modern amenities in the desirable Balboa peninsula.