10 Ideas for Memorial Day Adventures Under $100

Looking for something fun to do this Memorial Day? As spring slides into summer, here are 10 inexpensive ways to get outside and enjoy the sun.

Two men jump into a lake. There are snow-topped mountains in the background.

Photo by Eleanor Carter

Memorial Day weekend marks the start of summer. The school year ends, pools and campgrounds open, grills get fired up, and families get outside to enjoy the great outdoors. Kicking off your summer with an outdoor adventure doesn’t have to break the bank! Here are 10 ideas for enjoying your long Memorial Day weekend for under $100.

1. Camp at a Local State Park

A group of people walk along the ridge of a sand dune at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Photo by Joshua Sukoff

State parks are everywhere, and they are often cheaper, less crowded, and just as awe-inspiring as any national park. If you want my recommendation, head to Utah! Though Utah is best known for its “Mighty Five” national parks—Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion—these parks are well known and highly visited, with over 11 million yearly visitors! The “Mighty Five” are worth a visit, but Utah’s 46 state parks deserve some attention too! From expansive sand dunes at Coral Pink San Dunes to boating opportunities at Utah’s many state reservoirs, there is accessible fun for everyone.

An added bonus is that state parks often have better amenities than other campgrounds, such as free showers and, for us backcountry campers, the luxury of flush toilets! Check out recreation.gov for more details on campsites or search for your state’s recreation website. Day use passes start around $10 per vehicle and campsites from $25. You can also chat with a Camping & Hiking Expert to get geared up for your next camping trip to a state park. A Curated Expert will work with you to find the best possible gear for you and your trip!

2. Hike a New Trail

A woman walks through the redwoods in Muir Woods National Monument.

Muir Woods National Monument. Photo by Kevin Wolf

The warmer weather over Memorial Day weekend offers a great chance to check out a new hiking trail. While I love the familiarity and ease of hiking a trail dozens of times, it is super fun to find something new. Sites like AllTrails are great resources to find new trails with tons of helpful information. Users often leave reviews of the trails, which is helpful for learning more about current trail conditions or what kind of gear you need to bring with you. Another option for finding a new trail is to go to your local ranger station or chamber of commerce. They often have free or very cheap maps (think under $5) and lots of local knowledge. Some of my best travel memories are on trails that were recommended to me by a ranger!

3. Visit Your Local Nature Center

An elevated plank walk in the trees at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, New York.

On the Wild Walk at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, New York. Photo by Elizabeth H.

Nature centers are a great way to learn more about your local environment. With interactive activities, guided walks, art exhibits, educational centers, and much more, nature centers are a great way to play and learn about the outdoors.

The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, New York is a fun visit. Animal exhibits, a treetop walking trail, forest music, and artwork by Patrick Dougherty offer memorable experiences that are accessible to all. Nature centers are often run in conjunction with universities, state parks, cities, or by non-profits and can be found almost anywhere.

4. Have a Picnic

A group of people has a picnic on rocks above the ocean with a charcuterie board.

Photo by Tyler Nix

For those of us who are food-centric, having a picnic is a wonderful way to enjoy some outdoor time and gather with family or friends. Picnicking can be as simple as taking your lunch to the backyard or as elaborate as a many-course meal at a local park. Start with an outdoor blanket and a table set. If you are feeling fancy, add some wine glasses too—drinking anything out of a wine glass makes you feel fancy! Picnic food can be whatever you like. I like having a grazing plate, a char-camp-erie if you will, with some cheese, grapes, nuts or seeds, and salami or prosciutto. Just be sure to pack out any trash or food scraps with you.

5. Drive a Scenic Byway

A winding highway snakes along the coast in Big Sur, California.

Big Sur Coast Highway along Route One. Photo by Venti Views

Scenic byways are a great way to explore beautiful places and find hidden gems, all without having to leave your car—unless you want to! For family members with mobility issues, this is a nice way to accessibly adventure and see summer descending on the landscape. The National Scenic Byway Program was started in 1991 to protect and promote America’s best roads. 184 roads across 48 states have a National Scenic Byway designation, and this database from Scenic America is a great resource to find a byway near you.

6. Find a New City Park

A park on the outskirts of Toronto shines in the sun. The skyline of the city is visible in the background.

Riverdale Park in Toronto. Photo by James Thomas

Even if you’re deep within the urban jungle, city parks are a great way to enjoy the outdoors for free. You have probably been to all of the well-known parks in your area, but this Memorial Day, try finding a hidden gem! Small city parks are often not very busy and are just as lovely as more well-known parks. Places like Central Park in New York or City Park in Denver are quite lovely, but seek out a new neighborhood park that is tucked away. Once you find the perfect spot, have a lovely picnic or lazy afternoon reading in the shade. You can even break out some lawn games! Check out your city government’s recreation website to find more information about your local city park system.

7. Have a Backyard Campout

Someone's yard is set up with three tents. A light dog stands in the foreground.

Photo by Michael McCullough

Camping in your backyard is the cheapest and easiest way to go camping. You have all of the luxuries of being at home (hello clean and warm bathrooms and a fully stocked kitchen) with the added thrill of being able to sleep under the stars. Get a fire pit and roast marshmallows or hot dogs or try one of the gourmet camping recipes from Curated Expert Kat Smith. For those of us who like to indulge in an adult beverage, try one of these camp cocktails from Expert Jessica LaPolla. Backyard campouts are also a great way to test out your new gear to make sure that everything runs smoothly before your summer trip in the backcountry!

8. Organize a Trash Pick-Up at a Trail, Park, or Beach

A wodden sign next to a lake reads "Please don't litter."

Photo by Cam Bradford

A trash pick-up can be as easy as picking up trash in the parking lot after a hike or as big as an organized community cleanup of a local recreation spot. I always carry several trash bags and some disposable gloves with me on my outdoor adventures so that I can clean up trash that is left by others. Instead of slowly meandering the beach or trotting down a trail, add some purpose to your excursion and see how much trash you can collect!

It is sad that this is something that has to be done, but with more people enjoying the outdoors these days, it is a necessary task. Always practice Leave No Trace principles and leave the outdoors better than you found it. More information on the 7 principles of Leave No Trace can be found at LNT.org.

9. Go Swimming

Someone floats on an inflatable and someone else sits in a kayak on a lake.

Enjoying a float at Bear Lake State Park, Idaho. Photo by Elizabeth H.

Memorial Day weekend often marks the opening of local swimming pools. I always loved going to the pool on Memorial Day to kick off the summer by swimming with my friends and getting a snow cone. If you don't have a community pool, check out a natural water feature such as a river, lake, or pond. Wade in a river and look for interesting rocks or aquatic insects, but be respectful and don’t disturb them too much. Many lakes or reservoirs also have kayak or paddleboard rentals available for more water fun!

10. Go Mini Golfing

A mini golf course.

Photo by Sherise VD

Mini golfing is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the summer. Beat the heat at an indoor course or spend the evening at an outdoor course. It’s a fun activity for families, groups of friends, or for a romantic date night—just don’t get too competitive and keep it fun.

I hope that you are inspired to adventure outside this Memorial Day weekend and kick off a summer full of fun adventures. Chat with a Curated Expert today to get personalized gear recommendations to help you get outside and enjoy this summer season. Happy trails!

Camping & Hiking Expert Elizabeth H.
Elizabeth H.
Camping & Hiking Expert
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Written By
I've grown up in a family of outdoor lovers. I've been camping and being carried on hikes since before I could walk and that love has continued throughout my life. I absolutely love spending time outdoors and exploring the National Parks and Monuments. My early years hiking, camping, and rafting ins...

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