Labor Day weekend signals the last hurrah of summer, one last chance to get away before recommitting to the rigors of work or school. With less than a month before the holiday, the clock is ticking, but if you think you missed the boat on planning your own close-to-home escape, think again. We’ve rounded up 12 Labor Day weekend travel ideas, to help you get out and enjoy the great outdoors while the days are still warm. With most destinations easily accessible from many major U.S. cities, these trips are tailor-made for a perfect long weekend.
Editor’s Note: While the 2013 deals have since expired, the below are still our favorite destinations for fun, accessible adventures. For deals, check out the 2015’s Labor Day Weekend 4- and 5-Star Hotels From $125.
Related: Top 10 Memorial Day Getaways
San Diego, California
Why Go Now: In many parts of the country, early September means humidity, storms, and indoor activities. San Diego, however, continues to enjoy its signature warm, sunny weather throughout Labor Day weekend. You can simply enjoy the California scenery while sunning yourself at Coronado Beach, or you can take in the Festival of Sail, the largest tall ship festival on the West Coast, at the nearby Maritime Museum. Continue to savor the fresh sea air come evening with fireworks and music at the Ashford University Summer Pops performance.
The Deal: The sleek, art-filled Lafayette Hotel, Swimclub & Bungalows in the the North Park neighborhood has rooms for $159 over Labor Day weekend – a steal when you consider that comparable hotels in the city are going for over $300 a night over the holiday. You have to book in advance, so reserve soon!
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Why Go Now: With 60 miles of beaches, more than 100 golf courses, and enough seafood restaurants to feed a whale, Myrtle Beach is a fantastic place to extend your summer rather than mourn the end of the season. While you’re at the beach, take a stroll down the new boardwalk, shop at local vendors, and dine at some of the cafes along the way. Throughout the Labor Day Weekend, you can also enjoy the Beach, Boogie & BBQ Festival, which serves as the Official BBQ Championship of South Carolina and will leave you licking your fingers clean.
The Deal: A great way to save money on vacation is to book a condo suite with a kitchen. The Wyndham Ocean Blue is offering multi-bedroom units at a great price – as low as $56/night – so there’s room for everyone. Many rooms even have oceanfront balconies.
Why Go Now: If you can resist the urge to just eat lobster rolls while you’re in Portland, you’ll discover that you actually have a choice of beaches surrounding Maine’s largest city. While East End Beach is Portland’s only public beach, Route 77 takes you to Higgins Beach and Crescent Beach, or you can check out Willard Beach, a local favorite with views of the harbor. All three are just a short drive from town. Toast the end of summer with one (or more) of the 75 regional craft beers on tap at the Portland Brew Festival over the holiday weekend.
The Deal: Hotels along Maine’s coast are notoriously full over the summer holidays, but there are still rooms at the cozy, affordable Ramada Saco Old Orchard Beach for $146/night. An easy, 10-minute drive from the beach makes this a great bargain option for families.
Victoria, British Columbia
Why Go Now: British Columbia’s capital city makes an ideal home base for outdoor pursuits thanks to year-round mild weather and a lush landscape, but vibrant museums and world-class events promise a dose of culture, too. Labor Day weekend is the last chance to catch performances of the Victoria Theatre Fringe Festival (through September 1), which features 430 shows from international troupes in comedy, drama, dance, spoken word, and physical theater. Best of all: tickets cost less than $20 (including a mandatory $6 Festival button).
The Deal: Take advantage of non-parallel holidays between the U.S. and Canada and save. Victoria’s grand dame, the 4-star Fairmont Empress, is offering its stately, traditional rooms for $189/night over Labor Day weekend.
San Francisco, California
Why Go Now: The 61th Annual Sausalito Art Festival – one of the country’s oldest and largest outdoor arts events – takes place August 31-September 2 and features 270 artists as well as live music from the likes of Lisa Marie Presley and Creedence Clearwater Revisited. And the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival fetes 31 years of free Shakespeare in the park; weekend performances of Henry V kick off September 1 on the Presidio’s Main Post Parade Ground Lawn.
The Deal: The historic Hotel Whitcomb, with its Austrian crystal and Tiffany glass-adorned lobby, is offering rooms for $169/night over Labor Day.
Why Go Now: Labor Day weekend is packed with activity in the Windy City. During the day, browse works from over 200 artists at the Crush in Old Town street festival September 1-2. In the afternoon and evening, catch a performance from renowned local, national, and international acts at the Chicago Jazz Festival, taking place this year August 29-September 1. Once the sun goes down on August 31, head to Navy Pier for the last summer fireworks show set to music.
The Deal: Chicago’s 4-star Hotel Allegro is a great place to soak up some old-time-y glamour over the holiday weekend. (To give you an idea, there’s a winding, red-carpeted staircase in the lobby.) Rooms are available for $205/night.
Why Go Now: Bordering Phoenix, Scottsdale is shedding its Old West image in exchange for a hip concentration of nightclubs, restaurants, boutiques, and hotels. Labor Day weekend visitors will experience average highs of 103°F. This may be great pool weather but to discover Sonoran Desert life, the take the kids on a nighttime adventure with Flashlight Tours at the Desert Botanical Garden. Between 7-9pm on Thursdays and Saturdays, your little ones can discover insects, lizards, snakes, nighthawks, and even flowers that bloom after sundown.
The Deal: The Courtyard Scottsdale Old Town, with its prime downtown location, offers a tried-and-true option for families looking to kick back over the holiday, and at a great price – just $74/night.
Why Go Now: Before the kids get weighed down with history textbooks, give them a hands-on American history lesson at Colonial Williamsburg, where they’ll experience more than butter churning and candle making. The popular “living history museum” entered the smartphone era in June with RevQuest: The Lion and the Unicorn, an alternate reality game structured like a scavenger hunt. Participants play the role of a Revolutionary figure who risked his life to act as a double agent in support of the patriot cause. After beginning the game online, players can pick up game materials at Colonial Williamsburg’s Regional Visitor Center. The game is free with an admission ticket.
The Deal: After a day of escorting your junior history buff through Colonial Williamsburg, kick back at the budget-minded Hilton Garden Inn for just $133 per night. You’ll be just a 5-minute drive from the park.
Why Go Now: Set in the Ozark Mountains, Branson is touted as the “Live Music Show Capital of the World.” With more than 50 theaters, three lakes, 12 championship golf courses, and a rip-roaring amusement park, this Midwest town is perfect for families, particularly during Labor Day weekend. From August 23-September 2, Silver Dollar City Amusement Park will host the largest southern gospel picnic in the nation, with performances by dozens of superstars and plenty of chances to try the park’s famous southern fried chicken. Finish off your weekend with firework displays at Chateau on the Lake on September 2.
The Deal: Great for both nature lovers and shopaholics, the Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing is a lakeside retreat and a gateway to a vibrant shopping and dining area. Stay over the holiday for just $159 per night.
Off-Season Caribbean Bargains
Why Go Now: Puerto Rico offers skyscrapers and surf, museums and nightclubs, rain forest and desert, all packed into a chunk of Caribbean territory just 111 miles by 36 miles. Rum may be the first drink that comes to mind when you think of the island, but it’s also famous for another kind of addiction: coffee. To see how the beans go from field to frappuccino, visit the coffee plantation Hacienda Pomarrosa during the very beginning of their September to December harvest season. Located about 90 minutes southwest of San Juan, the farm offers tours of the fields and the production and roasting facilities. Reservations are required, so book in advance.
The Deal: Totally doable for just a weekend, the 4-star Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino is one of the top-rated resorts on the island. It’s offering rooms for just $132/night over Labor Day. That’s $70 off current rates.
Why Go Now: Easily accessible at only 50 miles from Florida, The Bahamas still feels wonderfully remote. The straw craft tradition, part of Bahamian culture for years, has a new home in Nassau at the Bay Street Straw Market, which houses over 450 vendors selling handmade gifts like woven baskets, hats, and mats, and 34 booths showcasing local music, dance, and fashion.
The Deal: Bahamas cruises are a fast, easy way to get a taste of the Caribbean for less. This one sails on the Friday before Labor Day, so you won’t even have to take time off of work. Inside cabins cost $299.
Why Go Now: Looking for a little excitement after basking on the Dominican Republic’s glorious beaches? Visit one of these amusement parks: Sirenis Aquagames, a water park in Punta Cana’s Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort Casino & Spa; and ScreamLand in Santo Domingo’s Agora Mall, a family-focused attraction designed by the architects of Florida’s Universal Studios and Legoland.
The Deal: The plush, 4.5-star Barcelo Bavaro Palace in Punta Cana forgoes gaudy palm tree decor in favor of bright minimalism. It’s offering rates of $191 per night for two people, all-inclusive, over the Labor Day holiday.