As Memorial Day weekend approached two years ago, we were paying under $3 a gallon for gas. Last year? Just over $4, with predictions of $5 gas on every news site. So, if that perspective puts you and your wallet in a driving mood, you've got plenty of choices for Memorial Day 2012 getaways.
To avoid outbound traffic, pick late travel hours Friday evening or early hours Saturday, then be equally strategic coming home. Saturday and Sunday are good days all day for short trips or event-hopping.
Farthest -- Delaware Beaches, Western Maryland
For a three-to-four-hour investment, you can indulge in the Delaware shore's boardwalk fun, outlet shopping, fresh seafood, fruity cocktails and Grotto Pizza. Oh, yes, and pretty Atlantic beaches are included, with dolphin sitings a distinct possibility.
Although it's always crowded beachside on Memorial Day weekend, spots are usually available early in the day, and you can avoid the high price of Boardwalk Fries and soft-serve nutty buddies if you pack a cooler with snacks and drinks.
Cost-saving tip: Go to Tower Road--a state park beach just off Route 1 in Delaware (in between Dewey and Bethany) with concession stands, showers and parking at $8 for the day (with out-of-state tags). Then head over to restaurants on the Rehoboth boardwalk like Grotto Pizza, or Nicola's Stomboli's. Warning: There will be lines.
If you're interested in completely different terrain, Western Maryland tourism officials put it this way: “The ‘Mountain Side of Maryland’ was made with rest and relaxation in mind.”
You can pick up the C&O Canal trail in Cumberland, and visit historic sites in Frostburg, Grantsville, Hagerstown, Oakland and Sharpsburg. There is also Antietam National Battlefield nearby. What does this area have in common with Rehoboth? Outlet malls, in Hagerstown.
Not so far -- Chesapeake Bay, Gettysburg, Harper's Ferry, Annapolis
There's a close-in swimming beach on the Chesapeake Bay at Sandy Point State Park just made for family picnics, with no breakers to worry about if little ones are in tow.
As the state's tourism bureau puts it: "The park’s beaches and picnic areas are well known for their breathtaking scenic water views that overlook one of Maryland’s true treasures, the Chesapeake Bay." The park was first opened on June 25, 1952, which means it's about to turn 60.
Gettysburg, the three-day battleground in 1863 of the Civil War, is remembered for being the largest battle ever fought in North America. More than 165,000 soldiers fought in the Battle of Gettysburg and 51,000 soldiers died.
There's plenty to do like a bus or walking tour of the battlegrounds, a ghost tour, museum visits and more.
On Monday, the town of Gettysburg's 145th Memorial Day Parade and Ceremonies will be held starting at 2 p.m.
At Harpers Ferry, WV, check out this National Park that spans three states - Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. With a $6 entrance to the park, this place is known for the largest surrender of federal troops during the Civil War. But now, it's a park that offers scenic hikes, events and a historic town center.
You can also try horseback riding, fishing or rafting.
There's lots to do Memorial Day weekend in Annapolis. You could take a boat out onto the water, feast on crabs, or check out a free concert.
Note that the Banneker-Douglass Museum is closed Sunday and Monday. However, City Dock is open, full of shops, restaurants and reasons to get out on the water.
Just Down the Street -- Ellicott City, Savage
Two new exhibits have arrived at the . Resident Visual Artists Exhibit 2012 and Elements Within: Brenda Townsend-Kollman & Michael Spears feature different media including ceramics, water colors, glass beads and more.
The galleries are open Friday 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. They will be closed Monday.
For a good scare -- or just a good time -- try . Meander the streets of Old Ellicott City looking for spirits and hear the stories behind the hauntings. The tour begins at the .
Looking to get out? Run around? Shoot at your friends with lasars? Well, there's the this Saturday in Savage.
Here's the gist of it: "Players have to stealthily find their way through the trees and brush, and capture numerous Flags without being eliminated." But there's more. Bunkers, missions, flags, sensors ... check out the for more info.