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The Best Things to Do This Memorial Day Weekend in Washington, DC

Rolling Thunder Memorial Day Route over the Arlington Memorial Bridge

Pay tribute to America’s heroes and celebrate the start of summer this Memorial Day weekend in the nation’s capital.

There’s no better place to spend Memorial Day weekend than Washington, DC. Memorials are our specialty, and DC celebrates with unique and meaningful events and exhibits designed to recognize the selfless service of our active duty military and veterans. Experience the country’s largest Memorial Day parade, hear thousands of motorcycles roar through the District during Rolling Thunder and more during this start-of-summer holiday.

1 Attend the largest Memorial Day parade in the country

National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, DC - Things to Do This Summer in DC

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 or presently serve in the U.S. military. This year's parade is scheduled for Monday, May 28 at 2 p.m. Arrive early for the best viewing options.

2 Honor vets at the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally

@canowine - Rolling Thunder Memorial Day Weekend Parade on the National Mall - Memorial Day Events in Washington, DC

The Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally brings together motorcycle riders from all over the U.S. to honor POWs and MIAs who served their country during the Vietnam War. This “ride for freedom” draws more than 900,000 riders, featuring a route that starts at the Pentagon and winds through West Potomac Park. The rally goes down on Sunday, May 27.

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

National Memorial Day Concert, United States Capitol, Washington DC

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 27 from 8 - 9:30 p.m. Actors Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna will host the proceedings, which will feature numerous other celebrity performers. 

4 Pay your respects at National Mall memorials

Vietnam Veteran at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Memorial Day, Washington, DC

The National Mall features plenty of ways to honor American servicemen and women. Visit the magnificent National World War II Memorial and its famous effervescent fountain. Stop to pay your respects at the 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 famous wall included in the former. Admire the steely faces of the 19 servicemen depicted in the Field of Service at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. And a visit to the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial is a solemn and powerful reminder of the very human cost of war. 

5 Observe the Flag-In during Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Flag-In at Arlington National Cemetery - Things to Do Memorial Day Weekend In and Around Washington, DC

The Arlington National Cemetery is the country’s largest military cemetery, with thousands of veterans and members of their immediate family resting there. On Memorial Day (May 29), servicemen and women place American flags at more than 250,000 graves, with the Memorial Day Roses Foundation providing free roses to visitors who come in tribute.

6 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 27 at the Kennedy Center, the free National Memorial Day Choral Festival is a powerful concert experience that features a 300-voice choir accompanied by the U.S. Air Force Orchestra. The musicians and singers come together in perfect harmony, performing patriotic classics in honor of those who have fallen while defending the U.S.

7 Chill out on a DC rooftop

@watergatehotel - Top of the Gate rooftop bar at The Watergate Hotel - Sunset overlooking Potomac River in Washington, DC

Memorial Day weekend signals the start of summer, so why not take the crew to one of DC’s many scenic rooftop bars? You can find them throughout the city’s neighborhoods, and many feature craft cocktails and delicious bar bites. Standouts include the POV Rooftop Lounge and Terrace at the W Hotel, The Rooftop at The Embassy Row Hotel and Crimson View at the Pod Hotel.

8 Kick back with the sounds of jazz at the Sculpture Garden

Friends at Jazz in the Garden at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden - Free Outdoor Summer Concert in Washington, DC

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 18th season. On May 25, catch cool jazz from Tony Craddock Jr. & Cold Front at 5 p.m. Food and beverages are available at the nearby Pavilion Café.

9 Welcome summer by visiting Georgetown’s waterfront

The Washington Harbour at the Georgetown Waterfront - Things to Do and Places to Eat in Washington, DC

Georgetown’s river waterfront is home to tons of great restaurants – many, including SequoiaTony and Joe's Seafood Place and Farmers Fishers Bakers, offer patio seating in warm weather – and plenty of outdoor activities. In summer, children (and adults, too) can splash in the sprinkler-style water fountain, watch the boats and feed the ducks. Before or after, shop 'til you drop in this historic neighborhood.

10 Encounter historical reporting inside the Newseum

Visitors at the Newseum in Washington, DC - Family-friendly museum in DC

Newseum showcases important historical events through the lens of journalism, revealing the intricacies of some of the world’s most famous conflicts and incidents. Must-see exhibits include 1968: Civil Rights at 50, the 9/11 Gallery, the Berlin Wall Gallery and Inside Today’s FBI. The family will also enjoy the engaging NBC News Interactive Newsroom.

11 Discover the impact of World War I on artistic expression at the National Air and Space Museum

Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall at Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall - Free Museum in Washington, DC

The National Air and Space Museum is one of the most popular museums in the nation, and the dynamic locale features an exhibit like few others in its history this summer. Artist Soldiers shows how war art drastically changed during World War I, when depictions went from heroic and romanticized to first-person accounts by professional artists and soldiers themselves. The exhibit is perfect for a Memorial Day visit.

12 Witness the majesty of the Iwo Jima Memorial

@michaeldphotos - sunset at Marine Corps Memorial

Located just outside of the Arlington National Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial (also known as the Marine Corps War Memorial) is one of the most moving monuments in the region. From 6 a.m. to midnight, you can view this breathtaking sculpture that depicts the six American soldiers who raised the second American flag at Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945, signifying a U.S. victory in the Pacific during World War II.

13 Kick back at an outdoor patio

Outdoor dining on patio at Lupo Verde on 14th Street - Best restaurant patios in Washington, DC

Take in the summer sun and the sights and sounds of the city, all while dining and drinking, at one of the District’s delightful outdoor patios. There’s the sophistication of Dirty Habit, the rustic vibes of Lupo Verde, the Bayou cuisine at Acadiana and the mix of gorgeous river views and tasty wine at The Rosé Garden at Whaley’s.

14 Learn enthralling Civil War history at the Clara Barton Missing Solders Office Museum

Clara Barton's Missing Soldiers Office Museum - Museum off the National Mall in Washington, DC

The famous Clara Barton lived at the site of this DC museum in Chinatown during and immediately after the Civil War. The building was set for demolition in 1996, until Richard Lyons (an employee of the General Services Administration) discovered artifacts that revealed the building’s incredible story. Inside, you can be treated to a guided tour of preserved rooms where Clara Barton helped families who had tragically lost loved ones during the bloodiest war on American soil.

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