Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer. Rather than heading to a crowded beach, make the season’s end even more memorable at one of these five unexpected destinations.
From the Space Needle to Pike Place Market, there’s plenty to do in Seattle any time of the year; but on Labor Day weekend, the city hosts Bumbershoot, the largest urban arts festival in the country. The 46-year-old event features live music by acts such as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Death Cab for Cutie, along with film, theater, dance, comedy, and visual arts. (Three-day passes start at $180; hotel packages available.)
Free alternative: The Chicago Jazz Festival, held in downtown Millennium Park over Labor Day weekend, is free.
The Mile High City is an inland alternative to an active beach vacation. Not only does it boast 300-plus days of sunshine and an average daily September high of 78, but Denver has 18,000 acres of parks, including 14,000 acres of mountain parks, as well as 85-miles of paved biking trails. (No need to bring your bike. You can rent one at Denver B-Cycle’s 88 citywide stations.)
Extra: Spend a day at A Taste of Colorado, a free Labor Day weekend event featuring more than 50 restaurants, six stages with live entertainment, and 275 arts and crafts vendors.
Get wet and wild Labor Day weekend in Charlotte, home of the U.S. National Whitewater Center. In addition to everyday activities including kayaking, whitewater rafting, stand-up paddle boarding, rock climbing, and ziplining, the center goes all out Labor Day weekend with trail races, live music, corn hole tournament, and fireworks.
Need for speed: Head to the Charlotte Motor Speedway to watch the world’s best Motocross riders compete in the Monster Energy MXGP of the Americas on the world’s largest HDTV screen (200 feet wide and 80 feet tall).
Door County, Wisconsin
If the beach is a must, can we suggest a lake beach, instead? Door County boasts 53 public beaches, including Schoolhouse Beach, one of just five limestone beaches in the world. When you need to take a break from the waves and coastal lighthouses, you can hike in Peninsula State Park and stroll through the art galleries in Fish Creek. In the evening, partake in a traditional fish boil — like the one at the historic White Gull Inn in Fish Creek — where white fish, potatoes, and sometimes onions bubble in a black pot over flames, culminating in a fiery “boil over” of fish oils.
The theme park capital of the world is usually less crowded in September, even on Labor Day Weekend, according to Undercover Tourist’s crowd calendar. In light of the recent tragedies to hit Orlando, local parks including Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal Studios Florida may have even fewer visitors. Now is a great time to visit and support the local attractions, hotels, and restaurants.