What began as a workingman's holiday is now synonymous with summer's last hurrah. Labor Day — recognized in the USA and Canada — is one of the rare occasions when it's socially acceptable to look forward to a Monday and start celebrating on the Friday before. Temperatures are dipping and school is starting, but with the finality of the season front-of-mind, the beach beckons even more than it did on Memorial Day. Here are a few shorelines you'll want to share with friends and family before fall sinks in.
Ogunquit Beach, Maine
In the tiny town of Ogunquit — meaning "beautiful place by the sea" — Labor Day marks the beginning of Capriccio, a two-week long festival of the arts. Special exhibitions and performances celebrate dancing, fine arts, music, poetry and theater. One of the most colorful events is the kite fair where kids can decorate and fly their own kites or swim below a show put on by professional kite flyers.
Victoria Inner Harbour, Canada
It's certainly not Swan Lake, but Victoria Harbour's ferry ballet is a delightful dance experience in which the iconic boats put on a show. For more than two decades, "ballet captains" have choreographed routines and maneuvered their empty ferries in front of thousands of people visiting or working in the port. Free performances can be seen on Saturday and Sunday from the inner harbor, where the likes of Bach and Beethoven play over the loudspeakers.
Corcoran's Pond Beach, N.H.
The holiday weekend is all about waterfowl in Waterville Valley where the "Just Ducky" End of Summer Bash and Duck Race raise money for charity. All ages can buy duck numbers at businesses around town and cash prizes are awarded to the first rubber ducks that make it across Corcoran's Pond. Last year, the 500+ ducks received a little help from the local fire department's hose. The best viewing is at the beach and from the bridge in Town Square.
Silver Lake Sand Dunes, Mich.
If laying on the beach isn't your speed, rent an off-road vehicle and spend Labor Day riding on 2,000 acres of moving sand. The "living" dunes are the result of Lake Michigan's strong winds, and Silver Lake State Park is one of the most popular destinations on the lake's eastern shore. In addition to driving dune buggies, beachgoers can also visit Little Sable Point Light lighthouse and spend time searching for fulgurites — glass-like hollow tubes formed where lightning strikes sand.
Cannon Beach, Ore.
Since Oregon was the first state to establish a Labor Day holiday, it's fitting to pay a visit to the Beaver State's Cannon Beach. The four-mile long beach, which was explored by members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, borders the enchanting Ecola State Park. A highlight for hikers is trekking down to the beach to capture shots of the formidable sea stacks that rise up out of the ocean. The highest, Haystack Rock, is one of Oregon's most photographed sites.
Powerhouse Beach, Calif.
Popular with local surfers, this beach is also a hit with families who appreciate the accessibility factor and the tot-friendly playground. Labor Day weekend is an especially fun time to visit when less than a mile away the Wienerschnitzel Wiener Dog Nationals go down at Del Mar Race Track. Hundreds of dachshunds, and their owners, come out to watch the fastest and most elite wieners race for the title of top dog.
Palm Beach, Texas
Beer meets beach at the 5th Annual BrewMasters Beer Festival this Labor Day weekend. The three-day event, which takes place at several venues on the island of Galveston, features more than 400 craft brews. Activities for adults include tasting tours and food pairings, and for everyone, dancing at nearby Palm Beach where Bands on Sand features live music followed by fireworks over the bayou.
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
If you're looking for a lively crowd of carnivores, make a beeline for Myrtle Beach. The state's largest BBQ competition gets underway on Friday, August 29 when more than 50,000 people partake in the 9th Annual Beach, Boogie & BBQ Festival. Sample sauces, pick your protein and then dance to live music or play at the beach to work up another appetite. The two-day event is even more family-friendly this year with the addition of the Kids 'Q Competition.
London Bridge Beach, Ariz.
Stretching for 45 miles and meaning "blue water," Havasu is an impressive desert oasis. One of the lake's most family and fido-friendly beaches is London Bridge Beach near the iconic, and imported, London Bridge. The bridge, which once spanned the River Thames, is a major attraction but most of the action takes place at the beach where swimmers take advantage of picnic tables, barbecues, sand volleyball courts, playgrounds, a well-equipped dog park and a community stage.
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Gulfport Beach, Fla.
Labor Day weekend is prime people-watching time for beachgoers who find themselves in the artsy enclave of Gulfport on Tampa's Boca Ciega Bay. Aptly named for the area's unofficial mascot, Geckofest is a Mardi Gras-esque event with a family-friendly lineup featuring acrobats, costumed characters, fire dancers, musicians and street performers. Every form of eccentricity revolves around the reptile and a chosen theme. This year's theme, the Roaring Geckos, revisits the 1920s.
Million Dollar Beach, N.Y.
Beachgoers at Lake George's southernmost beach will have front-row seats to several exciting competitions that take place during Labor Day weekend. The Lake George Triathlon and the Kids' Splash-N-Dash take place on Saturday, followed by the Big George Half Ironman and the Big George Aqua Bike, which attract just as many spectators on Sunday.
Nevada Beach, Calif.
A decades-old rivalry returns with fervor to Lake Tahoe every Labor Day weekend. In a battle of the paddles, California's Tahoe Queen takes on Nevada's M.S. Dixie II in the annual Great Lake Tahoe Sternwheeler Race. For those that don't want to participate as passengers in the four-mile race, the next best place to catch the action is Nevada Beach near the start and finish lines.
Wellington Beach, Md.
Leave it to the self-proclaimed "Crab Capital of the World" to usher in Labor Day weekend with the coronation of Miss Crustacean. The fun continues with a parade, carnival rides, fireworks, live concerts, crab-picking contests and the highly entertaining National Hard Crab Derby Races. Local watermen bring in hundreds of Chesapeake Bay crabs and launch them on tracks where they demonstrate their speed and agility in front of thousands of spectators.