Memorial Day is always special for us since we have several family members on both sides who serve or served in the military. I love seeing old pictures of my grandfathers in uniform, one a Sergeant in the Army who served in the Pacific as an airplane repairman, and the other a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force who flew fighters in the Korean War. Memorial Day also serves as a marker for the official start of summertime, which I also love! It’s a perfect time for a quick getaway with the family, or with your spouse, or with your friends, or even by yourself!
Here is a list of a few places that are a quick drive or flight away for Memorial Day Getaways:
How many of you went camping with your family every single year when you were growing up? Sleeping bags on rocky grounds, stinky tents, squirt-gun fights, Coleman lanterns, s’mores and stories by the campfire; we knew how to have a good time roughing it in the wilderness. One of the best places to go was, and still is, Pedernales Falls State Park, just 30 miles west of Austin.
You can go for the day and have a picnic, hike, and a swim, or you can stay overnight in a campsite. They have sites with electricity and water, or they have primitive sites for you rugged types. I have so many fond memories of swimming and floating in the rocky river — which reminds me, bring your water shoes! Bring your own tubes, kayaks, canoes, horses, binoculars and mountain bikes because they have something for everyone! Just be sure to make reservations for campgrounds far in advance, as it is a popular place!
When I think of New Braunfels, I think of the river and I think of Gruene (pronounced: “Green”) Dance Hall and that makes me smile. Many a Memorial Day was spent boot-scootin’ to live music in this little slice of Texas history after a day of tubing the Guadalupe or Comal. Four wooden walls, a bar, a stage and a dance floor, Gruene Hall is the oldest and most famous dance hall in Texas. Bring your boots and dress lightly as there is no air-conditioner in the place, just screened-in windows and fans — why change a good thing? Nothing a little cold beer or wine can’t help manage!
To cool off during the day you can also try Schlitterbahn, the “World’s Best Waterpark” or Texas Ski Ranch, a 70 acre action sports complex offering skiing, skateboarding, wakeboarding and more. For the animal lovers there’s Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch Safari and Animal World Zoo and Snake Farm. For the nature lovers there’s Natural Bridge Caverns and Spacetime Park. For the beer lovers there’s the Hill Country Craft Beer Trail as well as multiple breweries in town. And, of course there are wineries. It’s the hill country. I can almost hear Pat Green now…sometimes you need a little Hill Country.
Grab your lederhosen and your favorite stein and head on out to Fredericksburg! Another gorgeous Hill Country haven and historic German settlement just 78 miles West of Austin, Fredericksburg is home to Enchanted Rock, the amazing National Museum of the Pacific War, several local breweries and, Texas Wine Country: 1851 Winery and Messina Hof are a couple of my favorite that offer tastings and bottles or you can always book a tour if you’re interested in visiting multiple wineries and are able to get away without the kiddos.
There’s shopping, there are Farmer’s Markets; y’all, if you haven’t picked your own Fredericksburg peach, or eaten homemade Fredericksburg peach ice cream, you haven’t lived; there’s live music, there’s dancing (Hondo’s is fun), there’s the Old German Bakery, and of course, there’s Luckenbach, where you are always “willkommen!”
Okay, I’ve probably been to San Antonio one million times, but I still love to go! There’s the big attractions: the Alamo, the Zoo, Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Sea World, and, of course, the Riverwalk. But there are also some smaller attractions that are really fun! The Do-seum children’s museum is a must for littles as well as Morgan’s Wonderland, an all-abilities theme park. The Witte Museum is also pretty awesome, exhibiting everything from fine art to dinosaurs. The Pearl Brewery district is an up and coming area with farmers markets, live music, boutique and eclectic shopping, local brews and outdoor dining.
The best part, San Antonio is an easy drive, straight down I-35, just 79 miles South of Austin. In honor of Memorial Day, many parks will offer free or reduced admission to military members and their families. Check each park’s website for details.
If you don’t mind driving a little farther, you can always spend the weekend at the beach. Only about 4 hours drive southeast of Austin, there’s Galveston Island, home to the Seawall, the Strand, the Pleasure Pier, Moody Gardens, and even Schlitterbahn. Since it will be Memorial Day, you may want to swing by the Lone Star Flight Museum or Seawolf Park where they have actual WWII submarines that you may explore.
There are several fabulous hotels, beach rentals and condos right on the beach or nearby. My advice is to book it now! I suggest getting a place with a pool, or one that is close to a pool, just in case you get a little tired of getting salt and sand in every crevice when you want to swim. Also, if you can get some extra family members or friends to tag along and help pitch in with the rental, that can make the vacation extra memorable and more affordable. I can smell the crab cakes and pina coladas now! Who else is ready to be on island time?
The Big Easy is a direct, hour-and-a –half- flight, or about an 8-hour drive from Austin (road trip!). The National WWII Museum is a great place to visit for Memorial Day. The kids will love grabbing a beignet at Café Monet then checking out the Audubon Zoo or the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. New Orleans has such a rich history and culture, which you and your family can enjoy on a tour or day excursion.
There’s the French Quarter, Jackson Square, Bourbon Street, St. Louis Cathedral and many swamps and bayous, which you may explore via airboat. You may even see some gators! For the more daring, there are ghost tours, haunted mansions in which you may stay, and “city-of-the-dead” tours available. Even if you just go for the food and the jazz, you will have a good time! Laissez le bon temps rouler !
So, if you’re ready to get the helloutta Dodge, and if G-ma can watch the kids, then Vegas may be your ticket. Direct flights from Vegas take about 2.5 hours, and the great thing is, it doesn’t matter what time you get there; it doesn’t matter if you don’t sleep the entire weekend, Vegas never sleeps.
There are out-of-this-world shows, shopping, and dining, plus games and gambling of course, available 24/7. A couple days in Vegas will feel like a week in any other place, so it’s the perfect destination for a quick getaway.
If partying in the desert is not your idea of a vacation, and you crave the feeling of white sand beneath your feet, Miami, Florida is only a 2 hour and 45 min flight away. You can check out the Miami beach boardwalk, rent a boat, visit the Seaquarium or the Zoo, take a duck tour, hop on a speedboat adventure, test out your salsa dancing and chow down on a frita in no time!
For Memorial Day, be sure to check out the Air and Sea Show and The Music Explosion, in honor of the United States military, police, firefighters, and first responder agencies.
If you want to go to the beach, but you don’t want to go to Miami, there’s always Destin or Fort Walton Beach, only a 3-hour flight away. When we traveled there a couple years ago, we found it was more affordable to stay in Fort Walton Beach and just as beautiful! Destin and Fort Walton Beach are known for being family-friendly.
The Buccaneer Pirate Cruise is so much fun for kids, as is AJ’s Water Adventures; the sunset cruise is fabulous. There’s also The Track, a go-cart, mini-golf, and bumper-boat park, and Harborwalk Village has multiple restaurants stores and attractions to keep everyone happy, fed, and entertained.