When in California, look forward to enjoying pristine beaches, lively festivals, stunning mountain golf courses, and soothing natural hot springs. Additionally, view the vast ocean from atop a Ferris wheel; go snorkeling in a cave; drive your car through a redwood tree; or celebrate Mule Days, an annual event in honor of the humble mule. As for accommodations, book a stay at one of numerous California vacation rentals for an unforgettable getaway. Take a look at the nine best Memorial Day weekend getaway spots in California.
1. San Francisco
San Francisco partners with the Presidio Trust and the Veterans of Foreign Wars to present the annual Memorial Day Commemoration that began in 1868. The program includes a parade, a ceremony, speakers, live music, and a 21-gun salute. Following the ceremony, stay for the community picnic and children’s activities. Beginning in 1978, another tradition — Carnaval — celebrates the city’s roots with a parade, stories, dances, colors, and music. Join the festivities to enjoy global cuisine and international music, art, and activities for the entire family.
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Bring the golf clubs to your Truckee vacation rental, and hit the links at Coyote Moon Golf Course in the stunning Lake Tahoe area. Take in the fresh mountain air on 250 acres of pine forests, wildflowers, and a blissful creek. The enjoyable course challenges golfers with rolling greens surrounded by trees, water, and sand. Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake open for the summer on Memorial Day weekend, giving you the option to enjoy the lakes for boating, paddle boarding, and swimming. Enjoy some spring skiing or snow boarding in Squaw Valley in your tee shirt during the morning, and then kick back on your deck for a BBQ in the afternoon.
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3. Santa Monica
Santa Monica kicks off Memorial Day weekend with a fun twist–MAINopoly. The city transforms part of Main Street into an interactive game of Monopoly. You receive MAINopoly money to trade in for food tastings, draft beers, and cocktails. Feel free to dress up in costumes inspired by the board game, and join the walking tour to visit the 20 participating spots for a chance to win a prize. Santa Monica Pier includes diverse entertainment, shopping, dining, thrill rides, and an old-fashioned soda fountain. There’s even a 1922 carousel and an interactive aquarium. As you stroll along, stop to enjoy the street performers, buy treats from vendor carts, and enjoy the stunning sunsets.
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4. San Diego
Whether your family loves the beach, museums, water parks, or amusement parks, your Memorial Day weekend in San Diego gives you many options for fun. Take your kids who are age six and older on a guided kayak and snorkel tour of La Jolla’s sea caves. La Jolla Kayak guides you into the caves where you dive to swim with the bright orange Garibaldi damsel fish, leopard sharks, and sea lions. Sea World ushers in Memorial Day weekend a spectacular fireworks display on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights. The site includes performing aquatic animals, aquariums, and an amusement park with rides and carnival-style foods.
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During the week leading up to Memorial Day, Bishop Mule Days celebrates mules in a festival that began in 1969. Over 700 mules compete in more than 180 events, including the country’s largest non-motorized parade. Amenities and events include food, live music, and cowboy church. Take the time to unwind at Keough’s Hot Springs, where locals and visitors enjoy two pools. The warm pool stays at about 92 F, and the hot pool stays at 104 F. Keough’s includes dressing rooms, restrooms, deck chairs, a gift shop, and a snack bar.
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Your Leggett vacation rental puts you close to the famous Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree. Measuring 21 feet wide, this tall coast redwood tower more than 300 feet tall. The Underwood family bought the private grove where the tree stands in 1922; and, in 1937, Mr. Underwood cut a car-sized hole in the tree as a tourist attraction. For a fee, visitors drive through the tree, and usually stop to take photos. There’s a gift shop, a scenic lake, and a small park with picnic facilities. Just a mile or so from Leggett, the Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area on the South Fork of the Eel River features hiking, picnicking, fishing, and swimming. Hike the Grove Trail to see one of the last remaining redwood stands in the area.
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Ring in Memorial Day Weekend at Humboldt County’s Kinetic Grand Championship, the human-powered all-terrain triathlon of the art world. Artists combine their artistic and engineering skills to build racing sculptures that feature animations, working cannons, and mechanisms. Pilots power and steer their sculptures, and pit crews assist with transforming the vehicles for land, sand, and water legs of the three-day race. Day one begins in Arcata. Day two begins in Eureka. At the end of each day, visitors get a chance to inspect the racing vehicles and talk to the pilots and crew members during the after-party. On day three, the corner of Main and Brown Streets in Ferndale you find the best party of the event, with food, drinks, and Kinetic merchandise.
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8. Huntington Beach
The longest beachfront on the West Coast makes Huntington Beach the most popular Memorial Day weekend vacation destination in Southern California. Regular weekend events include a car show near Adams Avenue Donuts to swap stories and show off their classic cars. You can catch live reggae music at Don the Beachcomber, a tiki bar that welcomes all ages to enjoy the music and good food. The American Legion hosts the annual Memorial Day ceremony, with members firing a 21-gun salute, raising the flag, and playing taps.
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Sacramento hosts Cal Expo, an agricultural fair that kicks off summer during Memorial Day weekend. Look for corn dogs, s’mores, funnel cakes, and traditional fair goodies along the midway. Bands cover everything from hard rock to pop music on the main stage. Check out the monster truck derby and the bull riding contests. Head downtown for dancing in the streets during the Sacramento Music Festival, an annual tradition since 19974. Jive to New Orleans Jazz and get down to the sounds of bluegrass. Catch the parade on Saturday morning in the historic district, and then wander among classic hot rods. For a unique experience, enjoy a meal and a cruise on the Sacramento River aboard the Delta King. The famous paddle wheel river boat features breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the Pilothouse Restaurant. The Delta Bar & Grill serves lunch and dinner.
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