Best Beaches For Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day, a holiday to honor people who have died in service of the country, has become synonymous with two other important activities – shopping and hitting the beach.

From coast to coast people will be heading out in the sun, probably for the first time this year, to watch parades, air shows, barbecue and relax – all while being a few feet from a cooling swim in the sea, lake or ocean.

The unofficial start of the summer, which falls on May 30 this year, is a great excuse for a road trip to a place you have never seen before.

The beaches on this list have different parties (whether it's parades, dance festivals or yacht shows); provide various forms of entertainment from water sports to more adventurous kinds; and have huge or small crowds, depending on what you're looking for.

1. Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach, the 14 miles where the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean connect, is a popular Memorial Day weekend destination, especially for families, because the number of activities is astounding. Take a picture with the iconic King Neptune statue, walk down the 3-mile boardwalk connecting you to other beaches, or try your luck fishing and kayaking off the coast. A trip to Virginia Beach also guarantees you live music, tasty food, a lively nightlife.

2. Waimea Bay Beach, Hawaii

Want to jump off a scary cliff that is about 18 feet high into the water? Head to Waimea Bay, located on Oahu's North Shore. The more adventurous travelers will like the beach also because it has some of the biggest waves in the Pacific. The park is very popular to spot dolphins and turtles. The beach is ideal for those of you who just want to relax, enjoy a peaceful summer day and swim in the pristine waters.

3. Westport Beach, Washington

Westport in Washington is great surf town. There are miles and miles of public beaches where you can also play in the sand, enjoy amazing views of the water, search for unique shells, watch birds. The southern portion of the beach can be accessed with cars. Biking and boating are other popular activities (The 10 Best U.S. Cities for Boaters). Don't miss climbing the tallest lighthouse in the state, the Westport Lighthouse, for some incredible panoramas.

4. Santa Monica Beach

Santa Monica State Beach is an iconic destination in the city that tourists from all over the world go to see. The beach is three miles long and covers 245 acres of sand along Santa Monica Bay. The sand, waves, bike paths and stunning views make for a perfect Memorial Weekend trip destination. You even have the options to play chess and test your volleyball and beachside gymnastics skills. Bonus: You can watch bodybuilders work out on "Muscle Beach" on the south side of the Santa Monica Pier.

5. North Avenue Beach, Chicago

North Avenue Beach in Chicago near Lincoln Park is located on the shores of Lake Michigan. The beach is one of the most popular destinations for residents every time the weather is nice. It has more than 50 designated volleyball courts and a bike path. The beach is so huge; people outline a football field to play the game. There are many breakwaters for fishing and sunning (Spectacular Kayak Fishing Destinations in the U.S.).

6. Port Aransas Pier, Texas

Most people look to go to South Padre Island for a Spring Break trip, but Texas has a few other gems; you can have a lot of fun without the huge crowds. Port Aransas is one example. The shores are pristine, and you can rent houses or condos right on the beachfront. Forget about driving anywhere as the small island is perfectly designed for biking and walking.

7. Camp Wandawega, Wisconsin

This is not your standard beach. It's a guest camp on the shores of Lake Wandawega. If you are in serious need of escaping the chaotic urban life, rent a vintage cabin or a treehouse and reconnect with nature (Epic Tree Houses You Can Actually Stay In). Fishing, boating, canoeing, biking and hiking are just a few of the options you have to make the most of the 3-day holiday weekend.

8. Hilton Head Beach, South Carolina

From the ocean to the high water mark, the entire Hilton Head Island beach is public. The small island is known  for its East Coast vibe, so whether you go along or with the kids, you are going to have a lot of fun. In addition to soaking up the sun on the beach and enjoying water sports, there are about 100 miles of biking trails you can explore.

9. Del Mar, California

This magnificent beach is only about 30 miles away from San Diego. It's an ideal place for paddling and SUP (stand up paddle boarding). When you're done, relax on the clean white sand beaches on the stunning California coastline. This is not a bad way to spend you day before you head back to the city to enjoy live music and bustling nightlife.

10. Hermosa Beach, California

There is no place like Hermosa Beach during Memorial Day Weekend. The Fiesta Hermosa festival is what draws huge crowds to the city every year for the holiday. Delicious food, live music and interesting drinks – don't miss the beer garden – turn the holiday into a fantastic celebration of the (unofficial) beginning of summer. There is plenty for the children to do as well – they can choose between amusement rides, rock climbing, sand castles, bungee jumps, and many more.

11. Crystal Coast, North Carolina

Walk right to the piers on the shores of Crystal Coast. It's an ideal spot for surfing as there is plenty of wind (How to pick the right board). Other sports like kite surfing are also very popular. For a more relaxed way to experience the coast, try stand up paddle boarding. Watch wild horses race on the shores of Shackleford Banks or climb nearby Cape Lookout Lighthouse. The coast is an 85-mile stretch that extends from the Cape Lookout National Seashore and includes 56 miles of protected beaches.  

12. Cocoa Beach, Florida

Memorial Day is always special in this city. There is a guest speaker, a flag folding ceremony, a gun salute and a moment of silence. Cocoa Beach is just an hour drive from Orlando and is the place to be because surfing, fishing and learning windsurfing are great options for day activities. (The beach is also one of the best places to see rocket launches, if you happen to not be invited to witness the event at the Kennedy Space Center).

13. Race Point Beach, Massachusetts

Race Point Beach, one of the Cape Cod National Seashore beaches in Provincetown, has a wide swath of sand stretching far off into the distance around the point and Coast Guard station, according to Cape Cod Online. Behind the beach are dunes. Biking, boating and surfing are many locals' favorites (World's Best Bike Cities Slideshow). This is also a spectacular beach for sunbathers due to its northern location – the sun shines directly on the sand all day.

14. The Jersey Shore, New Jersey

The Jersey Shore is ideal for family vacations. Just in time for Memorial Day, enjoy the Wildwoods International Kite Festival, the largest kite festival in North America. After the ceremony, visit the legendary boardwalk. It has three amusement piers featuring over 100 rides and attractions — including roller coasters and three beachfront waterparks (14 Totally Terrifying Roller Coasters). Jet skiing, parasailing, wave running and surfing are some other options.

15. Bethany Beach, Delaware

Compared to big beach resorts, Bethany Beach is small and serene (The World's Most Luxurious Resorts). The atmosphere is, purposefully, family-friendly. Bethany is the kind of place that's perfectly suited to beach-house gatherings of extended families, according to the city's site. Bonus: Shopping is tax-free at the shops around town and on the Boardwalk.