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The Best Things to Do This Memorial Day Weekend in Washington, DC
Pay tribute to America’s heroes and celebrate the start of summer with these Memorial Day weekend events and more 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.
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 27 at 2 p.m. Arrive early for the best viewing options.
The Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally will bring together motorcycle riders from all over the U.S. one final time 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 last Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally goes down on Sunday, May 26.
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 26 at 8 p.m. Actors Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna will host the proceedings, which will feature numerous other celebrity performers.
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.
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 27), 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.
Held on Sunday, May 26 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.
The always-exciting Washington Nationals take on division rival Miami Marlins in a four-game series capped off with a 1:05 p.m. game on Memorial Day (you can save big with promo code VISITDC). This year, the Nationals are offering two complimentary tickets to all active duty military personnel and veterans with military ID or proof of service (while tickets last). Expect an exciting game and a lively atmosphere at Nats Park for this holiday game.
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 Top of the Gate at The Watergate Hotel, The Rooftop at The Embassy Row Hotel and Crimson View at the Pod Hotel.
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 19th season. Kick back, relax and listen to tunes best paired with food and beverages from the nearby Pavilion Café.
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. Before or after, shop 'til you drop in this historic neighborhood.
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 the 9/11 Gallery, the Berlin Wall Gallery and Inside Today’s FBI. The whole family will also enjoy the engaging NBC News Interactive Newsroom.
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.
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. To start, there’s the sophistication of Dirty Habit, the rustic vibes of Lupo Verde, Italian delights at Osteria Morini and tasty craft brews at Right Proper Brewing Company's Shaw Brewpub & Kitchen.
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.
‘In Peak Bloom,’ an immersive digital art installation influenced by the breathtaking beauty of cherry blossoms at ARTECHOUSE, will close after Memorial Day weekend. Don't miss your last chance to celebrate the cherry blossoms at this interactive attraction, where the symbolism of the mystical and fragile tree is showcased by a range of artists in the exhibit. Other themes also bleed through in the pieces, including the transient nature of life (known as “hakanai” in Japan) and the genre of Ukiyo-e, which translates to “pictures of the floating world.”