Pay tribute to America’s heroes and celebrate the start of summer with virtual and in-person events during Memorial Day weekend.
Washington, DC celebrates Memorial Day (May 31) like few other cities can. A mix of virtual and in-person events, to go along with the city's monuments, memorials and museums, shine a light on the selfless service of our active duty military and veterans. Read below for a selection of things to do in the lead-up to or the day of this start-of-summer holiday.
Experience an epic Memorial Day parade
An annual tradition returns to Washington, DC in a brand new form: The National Memorial Day Parade: Our Sacred Honor. The story of American sacrifice from the Revolution to today will be told along Constitution Avenue through live, on site historical re-enactors, veterans, and active duty military personnel, joined by musical performances and celebrity appearances. All will take place ‘live’ in Washington, filmed for a television special airing from Memorial Day through July 4 on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox stations nationwide.
The return of this holiday tradition will be accompanied by special remote celebrity tributes and musical performances from around the nation, including Independence Hall in Philadelphia, New York City, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, and more. In a fitting return, The National Memorial Day Parade: Our Sacred Honor will go truly national.
Honor vets at Rolling to Remember
This motorcycle rally on May 30 is held to raise awareness of critical issues faced by veterans every day, as well as in tribute to those missing in action and prisoners of war. Rolling to Remember aims to deliver a message to Congress and the American people that veterans are in need of assistance, as the group struggles with a suicide crisis. Visit the event website for scheduling updates, registration and attendance info for this year's procession.
Salute the sacrifice of vets at the National Memorial Day Concert
The National Memorial Day Concert salutes the sacrifice made by the men and women in uniform, as well as their families. The free annual concert will be aired on PBS from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Sunday, May 30 at 8 p.m. Actors Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna will host the proceedings, which will feature numerous other celebrity performers. The event will also be live-streamed online and will be available on-demand for two weeks after the performance.
Pay your respects at National Mall memorials
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.
Observe "Flags In" at Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery is the country’s largest military cemetery, with thousands of veterans and members of their immediate family resting there. In the lead up to Memorial Day (May 31), 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.
Catch baseball at Nationals Park
Chill out on a DC rooftop
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, delicious bar bites and plenty of social distancing to ensure safety. Standouts include the Top of the Gate at The Watergate Hotel, La Vie and Whiskey Charlie at the Canopy by Hilton.
Welcome summer by visiting Georgetown’s waterfront
Historic Georgetown's river waterfront is home to tons of great restaurants – many, including Sequoia, Tony and Joe's Seafood Place, Nick's Riverside Grill 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.
Witness the majesty of the Iwo Jima Memorial
Located just outside of 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.
Kick back at an outdoor patio
Take in the summer sun and the sights and sounds of the city, all while safely dining and drinking, at one of the District’s delightful outdoor patios. To start, there’s the sophistication of Opaline, the rustic vibes of Lupo Verde, Italian delights at Osteria Morini and tasty craft brews at Right Proper Brewing Company's Shaw Brewpub & Kitchen.
Learn enthralling Civil War history at the Clara Barton Missing Solders Office Museum
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. Currently, tours are available by appointment only, which you can book online. You can also read up on the museum's safety policies.
Travel into the future with ARETCHOUSE's 'Renewal 2121'
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising concerns over climate change, this installation (use that link for a 10% discount) at ARTECHOUSE transports you 100 years into the future. You’ll be immersed in an industrial city where nature is combating the onslaught of an overreaching metropolis, a stark warning if mankind continues at its current pace. Hope is found through cherry blossoms peeking through neon lights, showing the way for those ready to take action. Renewal 2121 is an original ARTECHOUSE production and was inspired by DC’s illustrious cherry blossom season.