Things to Do

10 Memorial Day Events Around DC

TV specials, wreath-laying ceremonies, live music, and more.

Arlington National Cemetery. Photograph by Tim Brown/iStock.

This Memorial Day weekend’s commemorations will be relatively muted— many local events are still cancelled due to pandemic safety concerns. Still, here are some ways to mark the somber occasion around town, both online and in-person.

Visiting Arlington National Cemetery

Open everyday from 8 AM to 5 PM

Arlington Cemetery just loosened its restrictions, reopening the Welcome Center and now allowing vaccinated visitors to forego masks in its outdoor areas (unvaccinated folks must still mask up, indoors or out). The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is open to those who wish to pay their respects; according to Yahoo News, the U.S. Army Military District of Washington will lay wreaths at the tomb as part of its annual Memorial Day ceremony, though the specific details remain TBD.

National Memorial Day Concert

Sunday, May 30 at 8 PM

Tune into a pre-taped TV celebration on PBS, with a lineup that includes Sara Bareilles, Gladys Knight, the National Symphony Orchestra, and bands from various branches of the military. Actors Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise will host; other speakers include Colin Powell, Steve Buscemi, and Joe Morton. The ceremony will honor nurses who served in the Vietnam War, and mark the 70th anniversary of the Korean War and 20th anniversary of 9/11. Rising country star Mickey Guyton will sing the National Anthem. Watch it on PBS or stream it on the PBS website here.

Battleground National Cemetery

Sunday, May 30 through Friday, June 4

Visit the small yet storied Battleground National Cemetery on Georgia Avenue, Northwest, and walk through the American flags placed at the graves honoring Union soldiers who died in the Civil War’s Battle of Fort Stevens in 1864.

Fort Washington Park

Sunday, May 30 at 11 AM

Local tour guide Ed Moser is hosting a tour at Fort Washington. Meet up for a two-hour talk-and-walk that will cover the War of 1812, explain the historic importance of the preserved fort, and dig into other quirky stories about the area’s military moments. Admission: $21, buy tickets here.

National Memorial Day Parade

Monday, May 31 at 8 AM and 2 PM

The parade honoring military members who have died in service will go on this year in DC, but is not open to the public for Covid safety reasons. Viewers can instead watch the TV special on ABC to see the parade and catch performances by Lee Brice, the U.S. Air Force Band, the U.S. Army Field Band, and the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Band. Other appearances include George W. Bush, Magic Johnson, Matthew Broderick, Kathy Bates, and more.

The World War II Memorial

Monday, May 31 at 9 AM

Friends of the National World War II Memorial will host a special morning event at the Independence Avenue, Southwest landmark, during which WWII veterans will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Freedom Wall. The commemoration is free and open to the public to attend in-person (registration required) or you can watch it on Facebook Live here.

The Military Women’s Memorial

Monday, May 31 at 4 PM

At the gateway to Arlington Cemetery, the Military Women’s Memorial will hold its own ceremony. The event is free and open to all, and features speakers from each branch of the military who will acknowledge the women who have died in service to the country by placing rose petals along the memorial.

Soldiers’ Home National Cemetery

Monday, May 31 at 10 AM

Take a guided tour of the Soldiers’ Home National Cemetery, one of the oldest resting places in the country. The cemetery holds more than 14,000 veterans, including John Logan, who organized the first formal Memorial Day festivities in 1868. Learn about Logan, Abraham Lincoln’s connection, and more DC history from President Lincoln’s Cottage. Admission: $10, buy tickets here.

City of Falls Church Commemorations

Monday, May 31 from 11 AM to 4 PM

Although most local Memorial Day commemorations have been canceled due to the pandemic, Falls Church is still offering family-friendly events. At 11 AM, there will be a Memorial Day Ceremony at the Veterans’ Memorial (outside the Community Center) with performances from the Falls Church Concert Band and Falls Church Veterans Council. At 12:30 PM, catch a show from the Quantico Marine Corps Band Concert in Cherry Hill Park (BYO blankets and chairs). For both the ceremony and concert, registration is required. Finally, the city’s Memorial Day Parade will kick off at 2:30 PM; note that the parade route is not limited to Park Avenue, as it’s been in years past.

Rolling to Remember

Various events, Friday, May 28 through Monday, May 31 

The prominent veterans organization AMVETS annually organizes Rolling to Remember, a motorcycle ride demonstration that aims to call attention to the crisis of suicide among veterans, and the thousands of military members who are missing in action. Friday at 9 PM, AMVETS will host a candlelight vigil and lay wreaths at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. On Saturday, participants will gather at different memorials and motorcycle-friendly spots in the area, with outdoor food and entertainment at Harley-Davidson of Washington DC and Crystal City Sports Pub . The main event is on Sunday starting at noon: The bikers will ride from RFK Stadium across the city to circle part of the National Mall. On Monday, there will be another wreath-laying ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at 1 PM and the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 PM. See the full itinerary here.

Rosa is a senior editor at Bitch Magazine. She’s written for Washingtonian and Smithsonian magazine.