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20 Things to Do Memorial Day Weekend in Washington, DC

Rolling Thunder Memorial Day Route over the Arlington Memorial Bridge

Pay tribute to America’s heroes in the nation’s capital during this start-of-summer holiday.

There’s no better place to spend Memorial Day weekend than in Washington, DC. Memorials are our specialty, and the nation’s capital celebrates with unique and meaningful events designed to recognize the selfless service of our active duty military and veterans. So get ready for three days of action, music and flag waving. It’s going to be a blast.

1 Attend the largest Memorial Day parade in the country
Attend the largest Memorial Day parade in the country Chase McAlpine

The National Memorial Day Parade ushers marching bands, youth groups, floats, performers and, of course, veterans, down Constitution Avenue. This televised parade is the largest of its kind in the U.S and honors those who have served in the U.S Military past and present. This year's parade is scheduled for Monday, May 30 at 2 p.m. Arrive early for the best viewing options.

2 Honor vets at the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally
Honor vets at the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally Ron Cogswell

Every year since 1998, the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally brings together motorcycle riders from all over the United States to honor POW’s and MIA’s who served their country during the Vietnam War. This “ride for freedom” draws more than 900,000 riders. While the riding rally, a route that starts at the North Pentagon parking lot to West Potomac Park, held on Sunday, May 29, is the main event, there are other Rolling Thunder activities too, like a candlelight vigil at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Friday, May 27. Thunder Alley opens on 22nd and Constitution Avenue NW at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 28.

3 Salute the sacrifice of vets at the National Memorial Day Concert
Salute the sacrifice of vets at the National Memorial Day Concert Mathieu Marquer

PBS’s National Memorial Day Concert salutes the sacrifice made by the men and women in uniform as well as their families. The free annual concert is held on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, on Sunday, May 29th, at 8-9:30 p.m. Celebrity participants include actors Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna, Chef Robert Irvine, famed ‘90s band Smashing Pumpkins, Miss America and American Idol’s Caleb Johnson.

4 Stroll down the National Mall
Stroll down the National Mall Elvert Barnes

Tour the memorials on the National Mall dedicated to brave men and women who served in America’s wars. Visit the magnificent National World War II Memorial and feel the splash from the effervescent fountain. Stop to pay your respects at the somber Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial; take a piece of paper from one of the volunteers and etch a name from the wall. Admire the steely faces of the 19 servicemen depicted in the Field of Service at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Finish by climbing the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and then turn around and behold the dignified layout of America’s capital city.

5 See the art of one of America's greatest collectors
See the art of one of America's greatest collectors

Marking its 75th Anniversary, the National Gallery of Art debuts the In Celebration of Paul Mellon exhibition. Mellon has been one of the NGA’s leading benefactors, and this special exhibit features 80 of the finest prints, pastels, paintings and watercolors selected from his donations. The exhibit includes work by Van Gogh, Manet, Homer, Degas, Bellows, Picasso, Klee and Toulouse-Lautrec on display from May 8 until Sept. 18, 2016 in the West Building.

6 Spend an idyllic summer evening watching Major League Baseball
Spend an idyllic summer evening watching Major League Baseball Keith Allison

Bryce Harper, last year’s reigning MVP, and the hometown heroes, the Washington Nationals, challenge the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park in a three-game stint: Friday, May 27 at 7:05 p.m., Saturday, May 28 at 7:15 p.m. and Sunday, May 29, at 1:35 p.m. While you’re there, try Washington’s signature half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl, grab a cauliflower sandwich at G Sandwich Shop by Mike Isabella or sample a crab cake from the Chesapeake Crab Company. For the best seats, buy tickets online in advance.

7 Observe the Flag-In during Memorial Day Weekend
Observe the Flag-In during Memorial Day Weekend Wounded Warrior Regiment

At Arlington National Cemetery servicemen and women place American flags at more than 250,000 graves. On Memorial Day, May 30, the Memorial Day Roses Foundation provides free roses to visitors who’ve come to pay their respects.

8 Hear inspiring sounds at the National Memorial Day Choral Festival
Hear inspiring sounds at the National Memorial Day Choral Festival National Memorial Day Choral Festival

Held on Sunday, May 29 at the Kennedy Center, the National Memorial Day Choral Festival. his powerful concert experience features a 300-voice choir accompanied by the U.S. Airforce Orchestra. The musicians and singers come together in perfect harmony with patriotic classics like “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The event is free, but requires advance ticket purchase for the popular afternoon performance.

9 Take a tour of important, but lesser-known historical sites in DC
Take a tour of important, but lesser-known historical sites in DC

Make reservations for a free guided tour the USSAH National Cemetery (U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home Cemetery, one of the country’s oldest national cemeteries pre-dating Arlington National Cemetery) on Monday, May 30 at 10:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Earlier that morning, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at 10 a.m. at the Soldiers' Home. On the same property, tours of the Lincoln Cottage will be available from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children. Stick around and admire the incredible view of the U.S. Capitol from this serene spot. There are no food or drink concessions, so pack your own.

10 Some Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall have extended hours
Some Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall have extended hours m01229 via Flickr

 The National Museum of Natural History extends hours from 10 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on May 28-30, 2016. The National Air and Space Museum will begin late hours on Friday, May 27, remaining open from 10 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. through Labor Day.

11 Explore one of Dupont Circle’s grandest houses
Explore one of Dupont Circle’s grandest houses Heurich House Museum

The Heurich House Museum, also known as “the Brewmaster’s Castle,” has docent-led tours at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Friday, May 27 and Saturday, May 28. You’ll see the original and ornate furnishings from the late Victorian era, when Christian Heurich, an immigrant from Germany began his successful brewing business.

12 Celebrate the start of summer at one of DC’s acclaimed tapas restaurants
Celebrate the start of summer at one of DC’s acclaimed tapas restaurants Boqueria

Boqueria, a Spanish restaurant in Dupont Circle that serves up refreshing sangria with soulful small plates. Relax in Boveda, the Latin-influenced cocktail bar in the Westin Hotel features their antojitos with traditional caipirinhas. Make a night of it at Cuba Libre in Penn Quarter; after a few mojitos, you might feel like salsa dancing, which happens on Friday and Saturday nights. Dig into Del Campo’s arepas, romantic South American street food and sip on a pisco sour.

13 Explore DC’s incredible lineup of museums
Explore DC’s incredible lineup of museums Sam Kittner/Newseum

The nation’s capital is full of lively, interactive and historic museums that cater to a multitude of interests, from entire collections dedicated to the First Amendment or the previously untold history of espionage to landmark estates with lush gardens and more than 50 other unique topics. Through Sunday, May 29, DC celebrates with Museum Week DC – a showcase of the city’s museums and attractions. Scroll through our article (filled with important info and exhibits on display) and plan your destinations for the weekend.

14 Admire the work of legendary American craft artist Martin Puryear
Admire the work of legendary American craft artist Martin Puryear chadmagiera via Flickr

A master craftsman, Martin Puryear has dabbled in sculpture, print and drawing, creating a stunning body of work across a 50-year career. Revel in more than 70 of Puryear’s pieces, along with a small-scale model for a major public sculpture in DC, in Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimension, which opens this Friday at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

15 Head to Farragut Square for Friday fun
Head to Farragut Square for Friday fun Golden Triangle BID

The Golden Triangle BID turns the scenic Farragut Square into a work/play station every Friday this summer. Farragut Fridays features an outdoor office space that is perfect for collaboration (and includes free Wi-Fi) and a picnic in the park with lawn games and table tennis, and on select Fridays, pop-up programming and movie screenings under the stars.

16 Combine yoga and brunch at The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
Combine yoga and brunch at The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, Washington, D.C. The Ritz Carlton Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

One of DC’s most elegant hotels combines exercise and a delicious meal at its in-house restaurant, Degrees, for the perfect summer Saturday. Start off with yoga from 10 – 11 a.m. in the urban garden at The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, Washington, D.C., then head inside for a small plate, entrée and unlimited mimosas and Bloody Mary’s for 90 minutes. The whole package is just $49.

17 Shuck some raw oysters, listen to live music and drink beer at City Tap House
Shuck some raw oysters, listen to live music and drink beer at City Tap House City Tap House

City Tap House has teamed up with sister restaurant Pennsylvania 6 for a day that is sure to conjure up those summer vibes. Dine on a slew of oysters (grilled, fried, raw and even oyster shooters) while jamming out to live tunes. City Tap House also sports New England brews and will have the game cornhole set up for eager participants. Happy summer, indeed.

18 Experience the newest play at one of DC’s cutting-edge theatres

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company is well-known for its bold approach to theater, and the new An Octoroon, which opens on Monday, May 30, continues that tradition. The acclaimed play is set in 1859 and follows several elements of a plantation in disarray. Penned by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, An Octoroon has been praised by The New York Times and promises to be an unforgettable night at the theatre on Memorial Day.

19 Kick back with the sounds of jazz at the Sculpture Garden
Kick back with the sounds of jazz at the Sculpture Garden Mr.TinDC via Flickr

With the dawn of summer comes Jazz in the Garden at the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden, a popular Friday evening event embarking on its 16th season. The first performance goes down Friday from 5 – 8:30 p.m., with the 19th Street Band as the main act. Food and beverages are available at the nearby Pavilion Café.

20 Pamper yourself during at one of the most luxurious spas in DC
Pamper yourself during at one of the most luxurious spas in DC Mandarin Oriental

Notable among them are the Spa at Mandarin Oriental Washington D.C., Spa and Sport Club at the Omni Shoreham and the Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown.

 

Memorial Day kicks off a busy summer holiday and festival schedule in Washington, DC. For the most all-American event of the season, be here during the Fourth of July.