Memorial Day Activities for Families

While summer officially begins on the June solstice, the season unofficially begins on the last Monday in May: Memorial Day. It’s the end to what is often a three-day weekend for families across America involving barbeques, swimming pools, and other gatherings.

But it’s important to remember the meaning behind Memorial Day as a federal holiday. The day is designated as a time to remember and honor the people who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Memorial Day Activities for families can include attending a Memorial Day parade, visiting military cemeteries and memorials, or visiting museums to learn more about Memorial Day and military history.

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What should you do on Memorial Day this year? Here’s a list of some educational Memorial Day activities for families:

1. Attend a Memorial Day parade

Traditions in and of themselves, Memorial Day parades are a great way to celebrate this holiday. The National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C. is the biggest and most famous in the country. However, a huge number of cities and towns host their own parades as well.

During the parade, you’ll likely be entertained by:

  • marching bands

  • youth groups

  • floats

  • performers

Moreover, you will be educated by veterans and military officials who will speak about the history of the holiday and some of the fallen soldiers it honors.

2. Visit a memorial honoring fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

Many memorials have been constructed all across the U.S. to honor fallen servicemen and women. Memorials have educational placards, and sometimes even docents who give tours and offer more information.

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Some of the most famous are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and include the National World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Many other well-known war memorials are in New York City, including the Korean War Memorial, Brooklyn War Memorial, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, and New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza.

3. Visit a National Cemetery on Memorial Day

There are 147 National Cemeteries in the U.S., which contain the graves of fallen U.S. military personnel, veterans, and their spouses. Even if you do not have a relative buried in one of these cemeteries, it can be rewarding to visit one and pay respects to fallen soldiers.

One of the most famous National Cemeteries, Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, holds more than 400,000 military veterans and their immediate family members. This cemetery is the final resting place for military veterans who have served since some of the country’s earliest days as a nation, from the Civil War to today. You can tour the cemetery on foot or by bus with a guide.

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One highlight of the Arlington National Cemetery includes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which pays tribute to soldiers who died while fighting in World War II through the Vietnam War. Another is the Changing of the Guard ritual, which is a traditional ceremony done every half hour from April 1 to September 30 and every hour from October 1 to March 31. President John F. Kennedy’s grave and its eternal flame are also open for viewing at Arlington.

4. Visit a museum on Memorial Day

Many national history museums across America have at least one exhibit paying homage to the country’s fallen military heroes. Consider visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., or the National Museum of Jewish Military History, also in Washington, D.C.

Take a guided tour or explore on your own and be prepared to learn!

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