By Memorial Day weekend, Florida has left winter behind and transitioned into its famous hot, balmy weather. Kick off the summer with an outdoor adventure! Whether you’re in the mood for down-home seafood in Palatka or a patriotic spectacular in Miami, Florida has you covered. As for accommodations, there are an abundance of incredible Florida vacation rentals to choose from. Check out the most exciting cities and towns in the area.

1. Jacksonville

fort george island
Source: visitjacksonville.com

Beautiful Jacksonville comes to life on Memorial Day weekend, thanks to the annual Jacksonville Jazz Festival. This weekend-long event, which is one of the largest jazz festivals in the country, offers three stages and 15 blocks of food trucks, shopping, and live music. Avoid the holiday traffic by booking vacation rentals downtown. Elsewhere in the city, you can celebrate the holiday with the Florida Striders’ Memorial Day 5K race, or attend the annual Memorial Day ceremony at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Wall.

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2. Fort Lauderdale

fort lauderdale
Source: Flickr/Henry li

Enjoy the energetic seaside atmosphere in Fort Lauderdale, which celebrates Memorial Day with the annual Great American Beach Party. Each year, Las Olas Boulevard comes to live with stunning vintage cars, live music, and plenty of family-friendly activities. Be sure to check out the sand sculptors and the kids’ beach games at this free event. If you’re riding bikes, make use of the convenient bike valet. If you’re bringing the kids, don’t miss the KidzFest at Flamingo Gardens, where little ones can enjoy free pony rides, butterfly experiences, and crafts.

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3. Everglades City

everglades national park
Source: Flickr/Reinhard Link

Memorial Day brings sunny days and warm temperatures to Everglades City – enjoy the weather with a boat trip through the Everglades. If you want to get a workout, take a canoe or kayak through the mangrove tunnels in Big Cypress Swamp National Preserve or Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park; rent boats from Everglades Adventures or Everglades Kayak Company. Alternatively, try a high-speed airboat tour through the park’s exciting channels with companies such as Captain Jack’s or Speedy’s. Book as far in advance as possible, as Memorial Day weekend spots tend to fill up quickly.

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4. Miami

miami beach
Source: Flickr/Roman Boed

If you’re feeling patriotic on Memorial Day weekend, Miami is a must-visit destination. Each year, the city hosts the Air and Sea Show and the Music Explosion as part of the National Salute to America’s Heroes. Head to Miami Beach to watch powerboats, extreme water sports, and thrilling airplane demonstrations. Then, pop over to the Music Explosion Stage to listen to the Army and Air Force bands, as well as a variety of other headliners. The event also features food booths, shopping stations, and more, all set up along Ocean Drive for easy access.

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5. Orlando

universal orlando resort
Source: universalorlando.com

Nothing says summer quite like a water park, and Orlando is arguably the theme park capital of the world. If Memorial Day temperatures in Central Florida are off the charts, take the whole family to Universal’s Volcano Bay. Ride the waves under a giant volcano at Waturi Beach, get a thrill on the Krakatau Aqua Coaster, and enjoy the view through the clear tubes on the Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides. Don’t worry about lines; simply hop into the lazy river to cool off while you wait for a lull.

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6. New Smyrna Beach

new smyrna beach
Source: Flickr/Gary J. Wood

When you want a relaxing beach getaway without the crowds, head to New Smyrna Beach for Memorial Day weekend. With its independent businesses, casual coastal vibe, and thriving surf culture, this small town is impossibly charming. Spend your weekend on the beach, swimming in the waves and watching surfers; if you want to learn, Surfin NSB offers lessons. With nine different beach parks in town, it’s a breeze to find a private stretch of sand. If you’re bringing a pet, head for the dog-friendly Smyrna Dunes Park. Another way to enjoy the late-May weather is the Spruce Creek Paddling Trail, which winds through the trees and offers calm, easy conditions.

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7. Palatka

north palatka river
Source: Flickr/JaxStrong

Take part in a true Florida tradition in Palatka, which hosts the Blue Crab Festival every Memorial Day weekend. This cheerful celebration offers something for everyone: a Memorial Day Parade, carnival rides, and live music, just to name a few. Don’t miss the seafood cook-off, and be sure to try the signature blue crabs from one of the many food stands. When you’re all partied out, try bass fishing in the St. Johns River, or explore the local section of the Great Florida Birding Trail to see the early summer birds in action.

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8. Tampa

shell key beach
Source: Flickr/Nick Ares

Fun and friendly, Tampa is the perfect city for a Memorial Day getaway. This vibrant town hosts a variety of celebrations for the holiday weekend, including the annual Tampa Bay Margarita Festival, the kick-off of the Friday Concerts in the Park at Lowry Park, and the Fallen Veterans Ride to Bushnell. Brave the crowds to experience the first roller coaster ride of the summer at Busch Gardens, or simply head to the beach in nearby Clearwater or St. Petersburg.

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9. St. Augustine

anastasia state park beach
Source: floridashistoriccoast.com

Celebrate Memorial Day by learning about history in St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States. Start your trip at the lovely Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, a fort that has been standing since the late 1600s; go in the morning to avoid the midday heat. Another must-see is the Colonial Quarter, a living museum that offers a fascinating glimpse into the buildings and activities of the early American settlement. Don’t miss the musket drills and ship-building demonstrations. At the St. Augustine National Cemetery, you can honor fallen veterans in a yearly Memorial Day ceremony.

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