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Oh, say, can you see… that Memorial Day weekend is quickly approaching? The holiday that’s become known for cookouts and mattress sales is still an opportune time to see some of America’s most patriotic sites. Here are some of our favorite places to explore, from sea to shining sea.

St. Louis, Missouri

Channel your inner Lewis and Clark with a trip to this Gateway to the West. Instead of roller coasters, give kids a thrill with a 630-foot-ride to the top of the city’s iconic Gateway Arch. Then sneak in some learning with a visit to the Old Courthouse below, followed by a relaxing sightseeing cruise down the Mississippi River in an old-school riverboat. Also pencil in a visit to the Magic House, the city’s popular children’s museum that’s packed with hands-on fun.

St. Louis's iconic Gateway Arch overlooks the Mississippi River. Credit Wikipedia.

St. Louis’s iconic Gateway Arch overlooks the Mississippi River. Credit Wikipedia.

San Diego, California

Tour the USS Midway Museum, a retired Navy aircraft carrier with flight simulators, interactive exhibits and the enticingly named “Ejection Seat Theater.” The floating museum’s lineup of Memorial Day week events including a veterans’ wreath ceremony, live music, kids’ activities and more. While you’re in town, take in some history at Cabrillo National Monument. Then end your trip on a lighter note with a visit to the San Diego Zoo—arguably America’s best.

USS Midway Museum. Credit Jeremy Thompson/Flickr.

USS Midway Museum. Credit Jeremy Thompson/Flickr.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Start things off with a stop inside the National Park Service Museum and Visitor Center, where you’ll watch “A New Birth of Freedom” narrated by Morgan Freeman (we’re feeling more patriotic already.) Then, tour the historic Civil War battleground via car, hike, bicycle or even horseback. Take plenty of time at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery—also the site of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. If time permits, head about 140 miles east for a day trip to Philadelphia, where families can snap a selfie with theLiberty Bell, climb the “Rocky steps” at the Museum of Art and visit the Philadelphia Zoo.

Gettysburg National Cemetery. Credit Sallicio/Wikipedia.

Gettysburg National Cemetery. Credit Sallicio/Wikipedia.

Williamsburg, Virginia

Get the best of both worlds with a trip to this so-called “Revolutionary City,” known for its colonial-style buildings and historic reenactments. On Memorial Day, attend a special service honoring veterans of the American Revolution and Civil War who are buried nearby. Then fast-forward two centuries with a visit to Busch Gardens, a massive amusement park with all the modern-day trimmings—towering roller coasters, a simulator tour of Europe and water rides—making it perhaps the most well-rounded of Memorial Day weekend trips.

Governor's palace at Colonial Williamsburg. Credit Larry Pieniazek/Flickr.

Governor’s palace at Colonial Williamsburg. CreditLarry Pieniazek/Flickr.

Keystone, South Dakota

It’s one thing to see a picture of Mount Rushmore. It’s another thing entirely to view it with your own eyes. But you didn’t come all this way just to gape at the landmark, so head to the onsite amphitheater, museum complex, book store, gift shop (natch) and more. Stick around for the evening lighting ceremony, which takes place all summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Round out your vacation with some all-American activities like canoeing, biking the family-friendly George S. Mickelson Trail Mountain Trailhead or posing with the life-sized presidential statues around downtown Rapid City.

Can you name all four presidents on Mount Rushmore? Credit Dean Franklin/Wikipedia.

Can you name all four presidents on Mount Rushmore? Credit Dean Franklin/Wikipedia.

Fredericksburg, Texas

Nothing against the Alamo, but this town about 80 miles west of Austin packs quite a family-friendly punch.History comes to life at Fredericksburg sites like the Pioneer Museum Complex, National Museum of the Pacific War, the Texas Rangers Heritage Center and other historic buildings. Don’t miss the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, which contains the native-son-turned-president’s boyhood home, family cemetery and other points of interest. And what’s more American than gorging on seafood? Memorial Day weekend blissfully coincides with the Fredericksburg Crawfish Festival.

This log cabin belonged to the grandparents of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Credit National Park Service via Wikipedia.

This log cabin belonged to the grandparents of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Credit National Park Service via Wikipedia.

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Tagged: City, Family, Holidays, Uncategorized

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Two wedding invites for May 28? The verdict: Indiana, because it can be done on one tank.

By Valerie Moloney

In the battle for Memorial Day weekend 2011, it was the classic fly-versus-drive scenario: my third cousin’s wedding in Columbus, Ga., or a good friend’s wedding in Hobart, Ind.

I love my cousin, but economics won.

A prized weekend for barbecues, family reunions and all-around vegging, rarely does it coincide with trips down the aisle. I’ve met brides who wanted to be married around the holidays, even on New Year’s Eve, but no one in my circle ever booked the official start to summer.

Between lodging, car rental and flight, the Chicago-to-Columbus itinerary — what would have amounted to a day and a half’s worth of travel — would have cost around $900. And that’s just for me. The hotel would not allow my cousin to block a set of rooms at a discounted rate due to the timing of the event.

I’m happy to pay $50 for a tank of gas and $100 for an Indiana hotel – especially since my husband and two daughters were invited to the Indiana wedding, which will be feted on an apple orchard. (I realize that this makes me look stingy, but tell me that other folks are in the same boat.)

How have gas prices affected your Memorial Day plans?

Related resources

Valerie Moloney is a writer for Orbitz who was born in the Philippines, lived in Morocco and married a native Irishman. She now covers hotels around the world and contributes to the Orbitz and CheapTickets blogs.

Tagged: Family

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If you want to travel this Memorial Day weekend, CheapTickets has a deal for you. First, check out our Memorial Day Cheapometer for 2008 — a list of some popular travel destinations and alternatives where you can stretch your dollar with cheap flights and cheap hotels. Whether you want to travel to the beach, the mountains or the big city, CheapTickets’ alternative summer travel destinations can save you as much as 60 percent!

Then take advantage of the CheapTickets Summer Sale, where you can save $50 on qualifying vacation packages of three nights or more. Just book your trip by July 6 and travel by August 31.

The Cheapometer reveals the average daily rates for top travel destinations and CheapTickets’ alternative picks.

Memorial Day Cheapometer for 2008
Destination & average daily rate
Alternative
Sedona, AZ – $208.64 Tuscon, AZ – $80.17 (62% savings)
Jackson Hole, WY – $164.94 Denver, CO – $76.23 (52% savings)
Los Angeles, CA – $148 Orange County, CA – $83 (45% savings)
New York City – $207.58 Chicago, IL – $124.29 (40% savings)
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – $116.32 Mazatlan, Mexico – $69.24 (40% savings)
Myrtle Beach, SC – $154.61 Virginia Beach, VA – $122.80 (20% savings)

CheapTickets resources:

Tagged: City, Flights, FREE!, Limited-time Offers, Vacation packages