08.25.12

Wine Tasting, Zip Lining & Mexico: Last-Minute Labor Day Getaways

It’s not too late to make plans to stretch what’s left of the summer into one more weekend to remember. From coast to coast, destinations and deals to check out for the holiday.

Certain holidays can be hell for travelers—sky-high airfares, packed museums, traffic jams for miles—and Labor Day is no exception. But with a little digging, deals and relaxation can still be found. Not to mention wine-tasting, zip-lining and hanging out by the pool. Any of those sound good? As Sept. 3 nears, here are the best places to go for procrastinators and budget-conscious travelers looking to get out of town for the long weekend.

Around the East Coast

Catch a Flight

Mario Nicholas, a travel agent for Liberty Travel stresses tight-knit relationships in the travel industry can help tourists more effectively plan their getaways. At the company’s Manhattan bureau, he says the most popular Labor Day getaway spots are the Caribbean and Mexico because they’re so close. For those staying in the U.S., Napa Valley, Miami, and Las Vegas are popular—especially since Prince Harry’s wild Vegas week, he notes. He says a flight from New York to the Bahamas for Labor Day weekend runs around $400. To Cancun, non-stop airfare is around $500 for a weekend under the Mexican sun. Flights to Europe, on the other hand, have skyrocketed, and customers willing to pay $1,200 in airfare for just weekend jaunt are getting rare, Nicholas says. One thing in travelers’ favor: “When airfares get higher, hotels drop their prices,” he advises.

Miami

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South Beach, Miami. (Radius Images / Corbis)

With sun, beaches, and endless parties, Florida may be the ideal escape from the cooler temperatures about to descend on the rest of the country. Travel booking sites often boast special flight/hotel combo deals, and their Labor Day offers don’t disappoint. A recent search on Booking Buddy found Orbitz offering flights leaving New York’s JFK airport on Friday and returning from sunny Miami on Monday of Labor Day weekend combined with a three-night stay at the Miami Marriott Hotel in a room with a king bed or two doubles for around $1,200 total for two people. The same price got you from NYC to LAX and into a similarly rated hotel.

From Miami, Expedia is offering a four-night Bahamas cruise for $45 a night on Norwegian Cruise Line.

Dansville, N.Y.

For a small-town escape, check out Dansville’s annual New York State Festival of Balloons. In its 31st year, the event consists of five days of hot-air fun with six official launches (also concerts, vintage snowmobiles and lots of food). It’s about a five-hour drive from New York City and—here’s the clincher—hotel rooms will only put you out between $60 and $140.

Food Festivals

If you’re holding out for a food-filled weekend, check out these East Coast festivals dedicated to culinary delights:

Buffalo honors its namesake delicacy with a Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival on Sept. 1 and 2. Vendors from across the country will be there hawking their versions of the popular treat. There’s also a wing-eating championship and Miss Buffalo Wing pageant will be crowned.

In Hamburg, Penn., the cleverly named Taste of Hamburger Festival will be held Sept. 1. Admission is free, but you’ll want to open that wallet for samples from the local hamburger joints.

The Southern Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival kicks off for two days on Sept. 1 in Bennington, Vt. Fans will be treated to garlic ice cream, pickled garlic, and garlic jelly along with a corn maze, live music, and beer and wine garden.

Around the West Coast

Catch a Flight

Los Angelenos know there’s no such thing as too much sun. Rinat Shemesh, office manager at New Act Travel in Los Angeles, says her customers are flocking to Mexican resort towns like Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta for Labor Day weekend. A luxurious all-inclusive resort with airfare for three nights sets travelers back around $1,300. Local vacation spots like Palm Springs and La Joya are more accessible for Southern Californians who want to brave the traffic, and up north, Napa Valley appeals with nice hotels charging around $300, according to Shemesh. But hot spots aren’t for everyone, and Shemesh says she recently booked a cabin for a family spending their Labor Day in Big Bear Lake for a quieter, more isolated nature weekend.

Napa Valley

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Napa Valley (Getty Images)

Famed for its wines and gorgeous vistas, California’s Vino Central is a popular Labor Day stop that can be buzzing with crowds or romantically isolated, depending where you go. Hop on the ferry that will shuttle you between Napa and San Francisco, or if you’re coming from sunny SoCal, a recent Kayak search found roundtrip flights from $140 between LAX and SFO. A short drive away from the wineries is the Sausalito Art Festival, which, in its 60th year, is considered one of the country’s most prestigious and oldest art shows.

Oahu, Hawaii

To preemptively chase the winter blues, Frommer’s Travel is offering readers a hotel and airfare deal for four nights in a hotel on Waikiki Beach. The deal starts Sept. 1 and run around $714 if departing from Seattle, $747 from LA, and varying prices for other cities.

Portland and the Oregon Coast

Allegiant Air offers cheap flights from San Francisco to Eugene, where you can rent a car and head to uber-hip Portland or a laid-back weekend on the coast. A roundtrip Friday-to-Monday weekend runs $175 in airfare. Since Oregon is one of only five states without sales tax, leave room in your luggage for some shopping.

The Oregon coast may not have white-sand beaches and five-star resorts, but it’s a haven for those seeking eccentric small-town fun. On Labor Day weekend, coastal towns are offering events such as an old-fashioned beach carnival, eco treks, a fish fry, International Vulture Awareness Day, and a Civil War reenactment. For a detailed roundup check out this site.

From LAX, flights and three nights in the Hilton Garden Inn Lake Oswego just on the outskirts of Portland comes out to only $541 a person on Expedia. Rent a car, drive into Portland and fear not, Californians—parking in Portland isn’t nearly as bad as LA.

Portlandia viewers know the city has many unusual attractions, but none so adrenaline-packed as its Tree to Tree Adventure Park. It’s offering a package of one night at a nearby hotel, three hours of zip-lining, a wine tasting and lunch for $245 (for two adults) along with the possibility of extending your stay at a price easy on a budget. Check out the details here.

Southern Charm, Mountains and Other Destinations

Colorado

In Denver, the festival A Taste of Colorado showcases local cuisine, in a four-day event full of food trucks, live music, and restaurant tastings. The Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival boasts performances by Mumford & Sons, Michael Franti, and Spearhead. It’s a steal with a new promo they’re offering: three nights lodging plus Friday, Saturday, and Sunday concert tickets all for $118 per person (based on four people in a two bed/two bath deluxe condo). For other Colorado deals look here.

Savannah, Ga.

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Savannah, Georgia. (Wendell Metzen / Getty Images)

Charming Savannah will kick off its craft brewing festival for a week of beer tasting on Aug. 26. The Grand Tasting Festival on Sept. 1 will offer samples from 45 breweries, seminars, and live music. A day before that is the International Grand Tasting, which includes a Lowcountry Oyster Roast. Tickets are between $40 to $100 (for VIP access) and, in case of an excess of sampling, you can even shell out $10 more for your very own designated driver.

Toronto

Ontario’s bustling hub has a variety of offerings for “Labour” Day weekend. From the International Air Show, The Hispanic Fiesta, the Canadian National Exhibit, to the Brazilian Day Festival, there’s no shortage of happenings. Flights from Washington Dulles average $260 each way on Porter and discounted hotel rooms on Expedia are going from $105 and up.

Branson, Mo.

This town’s tourism board has put together the ultimate Labor Day weekend package. It’s offering three nights at a local hotel, tickets to the theater and other local attractions, and a dining certificate for one of the featured restaurants for $359 for two people. With Memphis, St. Louis, and Tulsa just a few hours away, Branson is a pretty good hub for day trips.

For more hotel deals within the United States check out this list compiled by Get a Room.