5 Lake Destinations to Enjoy Labor Day Weekend
How is summer already coming to an end? It seems like only yesterday that we were rejoicing at the opportunity to discover new destinations (or revisit old favorites), take those long-awaited road trips, and sit by a body of water of choice to just relax.
Yes, the dog days of summer are nearly over, but don’t cry over spilled margaritas just yet. Labor Day, the last summertime hurrah before the leaves start to turn, is just around the corner, which means you have one last chance to get out of town and have one more family outing or get one last use out of your outdoor gear before it gets stashed away in the attic.
For us, Labor Day means getting a final long weekend to spend in the water (because what is more synonymous with summer than being on the water?) Whether that means working on a tan, catching a few more fish, or heading out on a boat to float the worries away, these destinations are perfect for gathering with family or friends (or both!) for a final farewell to summertime.
Lake Erie Shores, OH
It may technically be a lake, but with 152 miles of shoreline in Ohio alone, a smattering of islands each with their own unique character, and water as far as the eye can see, Lake Erie can easily be mistaken for a coastal destination. 100 miles of that stretch of the lakeshore is formally known as Lake Erie Shores & Islands — a popular year-round destination full of resort towns and secluded islands that offers a little something for everyone.
If Labor Day spent by the water means a waterpark with the kids, you’ve got no less than five to choose from. Labor Day weekend is usually the last summer weekend the outdoor parks are open before closing for the season, so we recommend an outdoor park such as the Watering Hole Cedar Point Shores Waterpark.
Those looking to escape the crowds that flock to the area’s popular amusement parks can find the relaxation they’re seeking in one of the quieter, Victorian-era towns such as Put-in-Bay for a weekend spent lying on the beach and sipping a local wine.
Bonus: Check out the Labor Day Bash in Put-in-Bay if you’re in a party mood, or the Perch, Peach, Pierogi, and Polka Festival for an authentic Lake Erie experience.
White Mountains, NH
Forming a sizeable part of the northern Appalachian Mountains, the White Mountains and surrounding area cover about a quarter of the entire state of New Hampshire making it impossible to see everything the region has to offer in one 3-day weekend.
But today, we’re talking water, so we would be remiss in not directing all of your attention to the most popular beach in the region: Lake Winnipesaukee’s Weir’s Beach. Here you can rest easy knowing that the entire family will have something to keep them entertained, from an unusually high number of arcades for the kids, to a large stretch of sandy beach perfect for lying about and enjoying that last bit of sweet summertime.
If lying about isn’t your thing but being in the water is, the White Mountains are also home to a collection of lakes and ponds that are well worth the hike out. Topping that list are the breathtaking Lakes of the Cloud which, in fact, aren’t lakes at all but a collection of small ponds that sit between Mt. Washington and Mt. Monroe.
Keep in mind that this is a difficult hike; you’ll need proper footwear and stamina to make the steep climb up! If you’re traveling with young kids, we recommend taking the much easier (but just as beautiful!) 1.6-mile hike to Lonesome Lake. You’ll be glad to have a glacial lake to take a dip in after all of that hard work!
Bonus: Don’t miss the massive fireworks show over the water at Lake Winnipesaukee! The festivities start at 10 pm on Sunday.
Lake Vermillion, MN
Lake Vermillion is a sight to be seen. It’s surrounded, almost entirely, by the Superior National Forest. It’s got hundreds of bays and coves, sandy beaches and rocky outcrops, remote campgrounds and luxurious resorts.
Known as one of the most scenic lakes in the country, Lake Vermillion is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise and an idyllic destination to spend Labor Day Weekend.
You can bring your speedboat, bring your canoe, bring your kayak, or rent them on location. Over 40,000 acres of water makes it the ultimate boating destination and the collection of small islands in the lake make it so that you’re only a short boat trip away from feeling like you have your own private island to spend the day on. If you’re feeling adventurous, head over to the Vermillion River for a whitewater rafting trip that takes you through a canyon among the pines.
Bonus: Lake Vermillion is a popular geocaching destination! Get out your GPS and spend the weekend finding the various caches around the lake.
Klamath Co., OR
Imagine seeing a lake so blue, you think to ask a park ranger if it’s artificial. It may sound outlandish, but that’s a common question the crew at Crater Lake get from visitors! The reason for the lake’s astonishing blue color is attributed to the fact that no rivers or streams flow in or out of the lake, keeping the water pure enough to absorb every color in the spectrum but blue – no dyes needed!
If you’re heading to Crater Lake for LDW, make sure to book a boat tour to Wizard Island, one of only two island formations in the entire lake. It’s a prime spot to go fishing for Crater Lake favorites: rainbow trout and kokanee salmon. They’re so overpopulated, that there’s no limit on how many you can catch and take home – you don’t even need a fishing license!
If you’re truly fancying a swim, you’d better bring your hiking boots! The only legal swimming spot in the entire lake is at the bottom of the Cleetwood Cove Trail: a 1.1 mile hike that descends 700 feet in elevation. Getting down may be easy but remember, you’ll have to hike back up!
Bonus: Take a break from the wilderness and learn about Oregon’s rich logging history at the Collier Logging Museum.
Smoky Mountains, TN
Heading to good ‘ol Rocky Top for a long weekend? You’re not alone. Tourists flood the Smokies on Labor Day Weekend, so be sure to book your lodging early!
Locals and regulars know that there’s only one way to go swimming in the Smokies, and that’s in a swimming hole by a waterfall. There’s a seemingly endless amount of spots to choose from, but these are some of our favorites:
- The Sinks – Once a waterway used by loggers to transport logs downriver, The Sinks is an easily-accessible spot just off the Little River Road Drive. Natural pools form in the “S” shape of the flowing mountain rivers, flanked on each side by massive boulders.
- Greenbrier – A local favorite, this swimming hole is located on the Little Pigeon River and easy-to-access on route 321.
- The Townsend Wye – This popular swimming hole forms at the point where the two branches of the Little River meet to form a swimming area nearly 30 ft. wide and 7-8 ft. deep. It’s sizable beach area make it a perfect spot to catch some sun in an idyllic mountain setting. Find it right at the Townsend entrance to the National Park. Parking for the Wye fills up pretty quickly, so try to get there early to snag a spot!
Here’s a pro tip: avoid the crowds in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge by making your home base one of the charming mountain towns in Blount county such as Tremont or Townsend. They’re some of the closest towns to Cades Cove, a popular albeit must-see spot in the park.
Bonus: If you have the time, cross the border over to North Carolina and spend a day exploring Bryson City, a historic mountain town with a whole lot to offer. Be sure to take a scenic ride on Great Smoky Mountains Railroad aboard the city’s steam-powered train!