Our research is editorially independent but we may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
It may be hard to believe that summer’s end is just around the corner, but the reality is. Labor Day Weekend, often considered to be the season’s “last hurrah,” is just about upon this. If you haven’t made your travel plans, now is the time to do it.
YOU'RE ALL SET!
Look out for our newsletters in your inbox soon.
Grand Teton National Park offers some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the country, along with an abundance of wildlife like moose, elk, and bison. Enjoy hiking scenic trails that lead to waterfalls, a horseback riding excursion, or casting your line in one of the many great trout fishing spots along the Jenny Lake shoreline. Jenny Lake is one of the highlights of the park, and a great place to base your stay whether you want to camp or enjoy a more upscale experience. Jenny Lake Lodge, a luxury eco-resort, features private cabins with incredible views as well as fantastic gourmet cuisine in its dining room.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic escape, outdoor adventure, or a family-friendly trip, the San Juan Islands are just a scenic ferry ride from Washington state and offer a long list of things to do. On Orcas Island, you’ll discover a lush, green paradise that’s home to the highest mountain in the archipelago. It sits in Moran State Park, which offers miles and miles of hiking trails, including a trip to the top of Mount Constitution where breathtaking panoramic views of the island-dotted waters and surrounding snow-capped mountains await. San Juan Island, the most populous of the San Juan Islands, offers a wealth of things to do. Visitors can enjoy everything from biking and kayaking to whale watching, exploring museums, and even visiting an alpaca farm. In the picturesque town of Friday Harbor, streets are lined with art galleries, unique shops, and plenty of outstanding eateries, many of which base their dishes on fresh, local ingredients.
The seaside town of Cannon Beach on Oregon’s beautiful coast is a fabulous early September destination, with the weather often ideal. It’s often recognized by its well-known landmark, Haystack Rock, a mammoth monolith that sits on the magnificent stretch of coastline. It was formed as a result of lava flow 10 to 17 million years ago. Here you can collect sand dollars at low tide, search through tide pools that are home to all sorts of interesting marine life, build sandcastles, or fly a kite. At nearby Ecola State Park, you’ll find hiking trails that wind through a lush forest, providing glimpses of the glistening Pacific and Tillamook Rock Light, a lonely lighthouse battered by the waves. In town, there are a number of restaurants, gift shops, and art galleries to keep you busy too.
The Black Hills offer opportunities for outdoor adventures along with lots for history buffs and animal lovers too. Located in the southwest corner of South Dakota, this densely forested area is filled with sparkling lakes, waterfalls and wildlife. You can’t see and do it all in three days, so if you have to choose, head to Custer State Park. One of the country’s largest state parks, it boasts miles of scenic hiking trails, the legendary Scenic Needles Highway with its unique rock formations, tranquil lakes for swimming, fishing, and paddle boating, as well as an array of wildlife, including wild burros, bison, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and elk. Just outside the park is iconic Mount Rushmore, a sculpting feat that honors four presidents. To delve into Old West history, head to Deadwood, less than an hour north. The popular HBO series “Deadwood,” was filmed here, and you’ll also find interesting museums, gambling and lots more.
Located seven miles from the Cape Cod coast, Martha’s Vineyard has long been a favorite weekend destination with east coasters. The “Vineyard” is the summer home for a number of celebrities, like singer Carly Simon and news anchor Diane Sawyer, likely because it’s far less developed than its neighbor. Its busy main port, Vineyard Haven, welcomes visitors off the ferries and features a wide array of shops. In Oak Bluffs, you’ll find pizza and ice cream emporiums, and Edgartown is popular for its boutiques, grand whaling captains’ homes, and charming inns. For the most authentic feel, the tiny fishing village of Menemsha is the place to go. Here you’ll have your pick of fresh seafood at a number of colorful seafood shacks along the harbor, and you can enjoy just watching the draggers come in with their nets, and fishermen and lobstermen unloading their catches.
Martha’s Vineyard also hosts the annual Labor Day Weekend Festival, featuring Island Artists with unique furniture, clothing, ceramics, jewelry and fine art, all made by some of the island’s top artists.
New Orleans is a year-round party destination, and a whole lot more. If you’re looking for a weekend filled with excitement, head to New Orleans for the amazing nightlife, including live jazz, as well as the fabulous cuisine. It’s just about guaranteed that Labor Day weekend will be wild, as it draws people from around the world to join in on parties, parades and contests for its annual Southern Decadence event. The celebration of LGBT culture is open to all, and you’ll see lots of people strutting around in elaborate costumes. Bars hosts all sorts of events, including live music, DJs, and drag shows.
Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in America, and one of its most beautiful. Set across the border of California and Nevada, its brilliant waters vary in color from emerald to Caribbean blue. Along its shores are 55 acres of sandy beaches, rocky coves and forest areas. As it still tends to be quite warm, if not sizzling hot, in early September, it’s ideal for swimming over Labor Day weekend, and even scuba diving. Visitors can also enjoy lake cruises and kayaking, as well as hiking and biking in the surrounding mountains. This is also the time many arrive to watch a huge fireworks extravaganza that’s shot right over the lake after dusk. While the display can be seen throughout town, the view from the lake is the most spectacular, and the Mississippi-style paddle-wheeler known as the M.S. Dixie II offers the opportunity to watch from the water while enjoying live entertainment too.
Charleston is a charming city oozing with Southern hospitality and a whole lot more. Boasting some of the prettiest beaches on the east coast, it’s a haven for sun worshipers, ocean enthusiasts, surfers, and kiteboarders too. Sunset cruises around the harbor, picking up fresh produce at the festive farmers market and attending the annual Greater Charleston Lowcountry Jazz Festival, which features big name musicians are just a few of the popular things on top for Labor Day weekend.
Sedona has long been considered a sacred place by Native Americans, and many visitors head here for its healing energies as well as its gorgeous red rock scenery and multiple recreational opportunities. If you’re in need of a potentially life-changing escape, this is the spot. Renowned for its vortexes, you can sit with a spiritual guide to take part in healing meditations and breathing exercises in these powerful spots, or take a mystical tour with a Native guide who shares spiritual wisdom and sacred songs. If that’s not up your alley, you can always go on a scenic hike, rent a 4X4 and hit the back roads, indulge in spa treatments, or just browse the many galleries and boutiques in town.
Northern Outdoors Adventure Resort in The Forks, Maine, known as the state’s mecca for whitewater rafting, is a great place to spend a long weekend. Located where the Dead River and Kennebec River meet, it’s the starting point for riding these two rivers. A stay at the resort offers the chance to jump into a raft with a group of friends, family members or both, and experience the thrill of paddling down class III-IV rapids. After conquering the river, you can relax with a cold microbrew at the resort, soothe sore muscles in the hot tub and then relax by a campfire. The resort offers individual rooms as well as cozy log cabins and condos as well as campgrounds with cabin tents, RV and tent sites.