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Your first thoughts about Memorial Day may focus on the long weekend and a Monday off, barbeques, traveling, and the unofficial arrival of the summer season. Before launching into all of these fun things to plan, let’s take a moment to recognize what Memorial Day is all about. Above all, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, honoring military service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending the United States. Established after the Civil War, it was formerly called Decoration Day, and was also observed on a different day. As you formulate your long weekend plans, take a moment to think about the big picture.

This will undoubtedly make you enjoy your weekend even more! Many people flock to the beach for Memorial Day – simple, right? Well, yes and no. Given the popularity of this weekend, high season rates at hotels, and the potential for traffic jams, we have put together a list of off the beaten path Memorial Day beach getaways aimed at keeping your stress low and your enjoyment level high. The main challenges are to find an affordable place to stay as well as keeping your travel time reasonable. While we can’t promise beaches will be deserted, if you are looking for an out of the way place to lay your blanket, here are a few quieter beaches near metropolitan areas.

Boston, MA


Revere Beach

Boston takes pride in being steeped in history that includes a lot of “firsts” for this country, so it should come as no surprise that it is also home to the first public beach in the US. Established in 1896, Revere Beach is just five miles north of downtown Boston. If you don’t have a car, Revere Beach is easily accessible by public transportation, namely, the “T” subway – another first – the first subway in the US. Take the Blue Line and you will be a few blocks away. There is parking along Revere Boulevard. Revere Beach occupies a three-mile stretch of coastline with plenty of space to swim and catch a few rays as well as fishing and kayaking. There are lots of other things to do at the beach and The Revere Beach Partnership provides information on activities throughout the year, not just Memorial Day.

Where to stay

Booking an affordable stay in Revere Beach is simple! Look no further.

Where to Eat

Revere is known for its neighborhood vibe and great seafood. With a menu destined to please everyone, Antonia’s at the Beach serves excellent steaks, fish and chips. For beautiful ocean views with an upscale feel, Dryft focuses on a fantastic raw bar, awesome seafood, and homemade delicious pastas made from local ingredients.

New York City, NY

Jacob Riis Park

Jacob Riis Park is named for the famed Danish-American journalist and photographer who documented the lives of New Yorkers who lived in poor and working-class tenements. Bearing this in mind, it should come as no surprise that this stretch of shoreline near the Rockaways section of Queens, New York City has also earned the nickname “The People’s Beach.” Accessible by car, bus, subway, or ferry, the beach has grown in popularity over time. Jacob Riis Park is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. This impressive 26,000-acre spread spans both New York and New Jersey and the boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. There are 11 sites all told, making Gateway National Recreation Area a place that offers something for everyone. Whether it’s swimming and resting on a beachfront, taking an ecology walk, kayaking, canoeing, or enjoying marine wildlife.

Where to Eat

Riis Bazaar provides information on incredible food available at Riis Park. Info on camping and other events available at the park are included.. Note: information for 2022 hasn’t been posted yet, so check this link regularly for new season updates. A short distance away in Rockaway Park, and not to be missed: Caracas Arepa Bar. If you have never had an authentic arepa, made from masarepa, or pre-cooked cornmeal, you are in for a treat.

Where to Stay

This is where things get interesting. Staying in Manhattan around the time of Memorial Day can be pricey. Finding a reasonable accommodation in Manhattan is not impossible and has its perks, but why not think outside the box and stay close to Jacob Riis park? Places to stay in Far Rockaway, Queens are close to both JFK Airport and LaGuardia Airport. And as we have learned, getting to Jacob Riis park is a snap by public transportation.

Tips

  • Book early but also look for last minute specials: Often to get the best price, you should book accommodations early but make sure you have a free cancellation option. The reason being if you can look for rooms right before you leave for your trip, you may be able to find a last minute special, particularly if staying anywhere in the five boroughs of NYC.
  • Get a MetroCard: There is no better way to get around NYC than by the subway.

Chicago, IL

green-st-patricks-day-river-chicago

12th Street Beach

Although there is no ocean coast, the “windy city” of Chicago is flanked by Lake Michigan, and there are plenty of beaches to choose from. 12th Street Beach has a relaxed atmosphere close to Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. This beach dates to the 1920’s when prominent architect Daniel Burnham, known for city planning, created a manmade island that resulted in a peninsula, eventually leading to the creation of the 12th Street Beach. The beach is accessible by public bus, and for those who like to remain in the water, there is a non-motorized watercraft boat launch.

Kathy Osterman Beach

Kathy Osterman Beach is also a favorite low-key beach, which is located near the Edgewater neighborhood at the tip of Lincoln Park. Originally called Ardmore Beach, it was renamed in 1993 to honor Kathy Osterman, a beloved public servant who served as Alderman for Edgewater, President of the Edgewater Community Council, and Director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events. This beach features a 2750 square-foot beach house and comfort station with a boardwalk that goes out over the lake and allows visitors sweeping views of the city. It is accessible by bus or train. After a day at the beach, head over to the amazing Lincoln Park Zoo.

Where to Eat

Del Campo’s is the go-to place for food and beverages while hanging out at 12th Street Beach.

Lincoln Park, where the Kathy Osterman Beach is located, is known for its availability of diverse cuisine. For a thin crust alternative to Chicago-style pizza, Pat’s Pizza can’t be beat. How about fusion Korean tacos? Del Seoul’s menu will have you licking your chops. For a unique and delicious dining experience, the aptly-named North Pond offers a beautiful view of North Pond Nature Sanctuary. The tasting menu is perfect for special occasions or to make any day you go extra-special.

Where to Stay

Check out these affordable stays for any budget in Chicago.

Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia, pennsylvania, city
While the City of Brotherly Love doesn’t boast local beaches, an hour’s drive will get ocean seekers to several gorgeous New Jersey Shore beaches. Think of Philadelphia as your homebase. As a major city, it facilitates your travel vs. going straight to shore points from your residence. If you live in Philly, all the better! You can decide whether you want to do day trips or enjoy an overnight stay somewhere along the Jersey Shore. Either way, this information will assist you in making your plans.

Getting to the Jersey Shore from Philadelphia

In addition to driving, you can easily get to shore points via train and bus. You can even rent a charter flight from Philadelphia International Airport to Cape May for approximately $9700 for 4 people – hey, why not?

Let’s have a look at three popular Jersey Shore destinations, all appropriate for either a day trip or an overnighter.

Brigantine Beach

Brigantine Beach. Recently voted as a favorite beach on the shore, Brigantine is truly a not to be missed destination. The beach offers a stunning shoreline with swimming, sailing and kayaking. The small rustic town has shops, food, and access to natural resources and wetlands. The local Marine Mammal Stranding Center aids in the rescue and release of stranded species (dolphins, sea turtles too, even though they are not mammals!) with the goal of releasing them back into their natural habitat. The Brigantine Chamber of Commerce is a great resource for local information; given the character of the beach and town, websites for some attractions are not available, so the Chamber is a good place to start.

Where to Stay

A variety of accommodations are available for your stay. Start here for some great examples.

Where to Eat

If you’re going to each in a beach town, it makes sense to enjoy some local seafood. The Crab Shack Market restaurant boasts a large menu of locally-caught seafood. You can either go to the market and select a fresh catch to prepare (or bring back to Philadelphia) or walk through the market to the restaurant area. It can get quite boisterous here, as the tables are very close together, so if you’re looking for a more romantic or remote dining experience, try Andre’s Wine Bar and Grill, an expansive Italian restaurant with seating on their street-facing patio or inside. Try getting to Brigantine Beach as early as possible to enjoy a delicious brunch at Mad Dog Morgans or Pirates Den.

Atlantic City

Other than Las Vegas, Atlantic City is the next most popular gambling haven in the US. Visitors come from all over to hit the slots, challenge the dealer in a game of blackjack, and watch musical acts. Perhaps its most famous feature is the Boardwalk, which gives visitors access to just about everything. Spanning five miles, you will pass massive casinos, shops, and piers jutting out into the ocean, many that lead to a specific attraction. For example, Steel Pier is known for its rides and carnival attractions. Really the best way to experience Atlantic City is to just start walking!

Where to Stay

Whether you are on a budget or have a couple of extra bucks, places to stay in Atlantic City are numerous. Like any other popular destination, book travel early to get the best rates and see the best selection!

Where to Eat

There are too many restaurant choices in Atlantic City to mention but here are a few stand-outs. Are you up for a challenge? Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to secure a reservation at Chef Vola’s, an Italian restaurant with a storied past. This BYOB restaurant has been around since 1921. The website requires a password (which no one has!), and they request a reservation as far in advance as possible. Is it worth the trouble? Absolutely. For something a little less challenging, head over to Maria’s Luncheonette for a delicious breakfast, and Tony Boloney’s for excellent pizza and Italian dishes.

Cape May

The pace in Cape May is decidedly slower and less glitzy than Atlantic City. There are dozens of beaches with activities in and out of the water. From swimming to kayaking to sand sculpting, Cape May has it all. A special event worth putting aside time for: A 40+-year tradition beginning on Memorial Day at Sunset Beach. Every week from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the flags of veteran’s caskets that their families bring are flown to honor the fallen. On the lighter side, visit the Washington Street Mall for shopping, quick bites and a great way to stroll away the day. Cape May has a local vineyard, the Cape May Winery offering tours (and samples to those 21+ of course), while a visit to the Harriet Tubman Museum provides an emotional and educational experience for all. Bringing the kids, bikes and the dog? Cape May Point State Park is the way to go.

Where to Stay

Check out these options ranging from hotels to home rentals. Again, booking early is best!

Where to Eat

Seafood is once again the name of the game. For a spectacular array of fish and shellfish, Cape May Fish Market has it all. Budget conscious? C-View is for you, providing hearty portions of traditional favorites from land and from sea.

Back in Philly

Back in Philly and ready to crash before returning home? Brotherly love starts with an affordable place to stay. You can find that here.

San Francisco, CA

Golden gate bridge, california, bridge

Ocean Beach

If you’re craving an escape that merely involves “dipping a toe” in the water, Ocean Beach is the place for you. This three-mile stretch of beach on the western edge of San Francisco has been offering folks great wading for over 100 years. Although skilled surfers often dot the waters, swimmers are advised to keep close to the shore because of the strong rip currents. This doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had in the form of fishing, cycling, running, walking or having a bonfire on the beach. From 1850-1926, the waters wrecked around 20 ships, including the King Philip in 1878, whose hull can be seen during low tide. Traveling to Ocean Beach can easily be accomplished by car or bus.

Where to Stay

These accommodations in San Francisco will get you to Ocean Beach quicker than you can strap a surfboard to your car roof rack.

Where to Eat

There are some delightful places to eat near Ocean Beach. Beach Chalet serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a beautiful ocean view. Craving Mexican food and a great view, look no further than Sunset Cantina. Want some great joe and great chow? Java Beach Cafe is waiting for you.

Los Angeles, CA

Hollywood sign, los angeles, hollywood

Leo Carrillo State Park

For the swimming pool and movie stars set, Leo Carrillo State Park eagerly awaits. Known for his conservationist and preservationist efforts, Carrillo was also an actor who famously played Pancho in the classic TV series Cisco Kid (1950-1956). His namesake beach park has 1.5 miles of beach where Angelinos and guests can enjoy swimming, surfing, windsurfing, beach combing, camping, and bonfires. Adventurous hikers can also take advantage of its coral reefs and coastal caves.

Topanga Beach

An article about California beaches is incomplete without talking about surfing, which is where Topanga Beach comes in handy. Set on a 21.5-acre property, Topanga Beach is a mile-plus in length beach that surfers have flocked to for years. Despite being unpopular for swimming, visitors to Topanga who opt to stay ashore can still enjoy the sun, listen to the crashing waves and enjoy a picnic. Another great attraction is the nearby Santa Monica Pier where multiple activities await, including an amusement park, shopping and eateries.

Where to Stay

Los Angeles is a large city, and the easiest way to get to beach destinations is by car. Staying near the beaches is best, and here are some suggestions. For proximity to Leo Carrillo State Park, accommodations in Malibu are close and varied, and staying in Santa Monica will keep you just a short ride away from Topanga Beach.

Where to Eat

These restaurants are close to both Leo Carrillo State Park and Topanga Beach, and are easy on the wallet. Neptune’s Net serves up fresh seafood dishes and burgers and fries. At Paradise Cove, sit right at Malibu Beach and eat your breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Houston, TX

Skyline, houston, dusk

Sylvan Beach

Guests looking to enjoy a more family-friendly escape will find it at Sylvan Beach Park. This 32-acre park has playgrounds, a fishing pier, skate park, boat ramp, and two pristine white sand beaches in Galveston Bay. This is a great option to pack up for an entire day and go to one all-inclusive place.

Where to Stay

Fishing for an affordable rental? Staying in Houston means lots of choices. To stay close to Sylvan Beach, check out these accommodations.

Where to Eat

Colonial House of Sandwiches, Cuban Cafe, and The Wooden Spoon are all great choices for dining in or dining out and taking it to the beach.