Labor Day weekend (September 2-4) is your last chance to get away before summer unofficially ends. Here are five cities that stand out from the crowd as ideal Labor Day weekend destinations.
Chicago may be the “City of Big Shoulders," but Chicagoans don't just know how to work hard. They play hard, too, especially while celebrating Labor Day at several festivals throughout the long weekend. At the 39th annual Chicago Jazz Festival, you'll enjoy 46 free performances at four outdoor venues scattered around Millennium Park. The Great American Lobster Fest has live lobsters flown in from the East Coast and about two dozen live bands performing at Navy Pier. Or you can hit one of the smaller festivals: the North Coast Music Festival in Union Park, the African Festival of the Arts in Washington Park, Taste of Polonia in Jefferson Park featuring all things Polish, or Chicago SummerDance in Grant Park.
The 24th annual American Music Festival has one particular thing that helps it stand out from most major music festivals — it's on the beach in one of the East Coast's best beach cities. Headliners taking the main stage are Rebelution, Michael Franti & Spearhead, 3 Doors Down, The Wallflowers, 311 and Big Something. Just down the shore at three other beach-park stages are free nightly performances by a variety of rock, country and party bands, including Night Ranger, Vertical Horizon and the Little River Band. During the day you can do the same thing, minus the music — go to the beach.
Drained by the long, sweaty days of summer? San Francisco is cooled by summer fog and ocean breezes, so it's rarely hot on Labor Day weekend. Average high: 69 degrees. Besides exploring the city's museums and attractions each day, and taking an exhilarating boat ride under the Golden Gate Bridge, you can hike up from the Italian North Beach neighborhood to Coit Tower with its memorable view and historic murals that tell the story of local labor-movement struggles. Just across the bay, the 65th annual Sausalito Art Festival features daily live music on two stages.
Seattle features the same ocean-cooled mild weather of San Francisco, plus the blessing of a superb Labor Day-weekend music festival like Virginia Beach's. The festival is Bumbershoot, one of America's biggest contemporary music and arts festivals. Performers this year include comedian Margaret Cho and Grammy winner Lorde. The celebration of music, comedy, dance, film, performing arts, visual arts and literary arts brings big crowds to its venues at Seattle Center, home of the Space Needle, near downtown.
There are no ocean breezes, but the 8,000-foot altitude keeps it pleasantly cool on Labor Day weekends at the mountain resort of Aspen Snowmass. Making it even cooler on Labor Day weekend is the Jazz Aspen Snowmass festival, where headliners Keith Urban, Hall & Oates and Maroon 5 make it obvious that the festival has expanded far beyond jazz. The surrounding mountains inspire visitors to see more of them from a hot-air balloon, rented mountain bike or hiking trail between concerts.
If you go
United Airlines offers numerous nonstop flights to all of these cities, including Norfolk, Virginia, the closest airport to Virginia Beach. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your Labor Day weekend getaway.