The summer season doesn’t actually begin until June 20th, but for most people, when Memorial Day weekend rolls around, it can only mean one thing, summer is definitely in the air. Of course, Memorial Day is a three-day weekend with a majority of adults and kids having an extra day off from work and school. It is always celebrated on the last Monday in May and is a day to honor the memory of those who have died during military service.
Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1971 though its origins date all the way back to the Civil War as Decoration Day. In 1868, General John Logan made May 30th the official day to honor soldiers who died in the Civil War by placing flowers on their grave. Some felt the day was chosen since it was one of the few that didn’t have a battle attached to it while others thought it was picked to assure an abundance of fresh flowers.
The idea caught on quickly, spreading to many states, but it would take a long time before the practice became a federal holiday. Today most Americans take the time to remember fallen soldiers, but Memorial Day weekend has also evolved to include three days of fun in the sun as well as other traditions. Here are six exciting and relaxing ways to spend your upcoming Memorial Day weekend.
6. Enjoy a Parade
Who doesn’t enjoy a parade? And what better way to remember the lives of those lost in military service than by throwing a parade in their honor. Many American towns still hold Memorial Day parades every May either on the actual Memorial Day or at some point during the long weekend. Of course, quite a few Main Streets across America have their own celebrations, but here are three that are considered the largest in the nation.
- National Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C.
- Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade in Little Neck-Douglaston, New York
- Memorial Day Parade in Chicago
Myrtle Beach, Carolina dedicates the entire month of May for Military Appreciation with bike-fests and more. It all culminates with a huge parade on Memorial Day. New York City’s annual Fleet Week attracts thousands of visitors for a seven-day celebration honoring members of the Coast Guard, Navy and Marines. It begins with a parade of ships in the harbor and concludes with a special Memorial Day ceremony.
5. Run a Race
Memorial Day is a prime race day for recreational and serious runners who enjoy lacing up the sneakers and heading out for a run this holiday weekend. There isn’t a shortage of 5K’s and longer distance races taking place on this three day weekend, honoring fallen soldiers.
The Spring Lake 5 in New Jersey is held on Memorial Day Saturday every year and attracts more than 12,000 runners to this Jersey Shore town. Registration takes place in February because this race is a popular one. The race began in 1977 with five hundred runners. Now, it is one of the largest road races in the country.
Other noteworthy Memorial Day races include Boston’s Run to Remember, Cincinnati’s Memorial Day Race 42, Long Beach, California’s Rock Memorial Day Marathon and Half Marathon and the Boys Town National Research Hospital Memorial Day Run in Nebraska. Of course, many towns across the nation host local 5Ks and fun runs, making it easy to find the one that suits your style.
4. Head to the Beach
Since Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, many people pack up the kids or grab the significant other and head to their favorite patch of beach or another locale featuring sun, sand, and surf.
There really isn’t a shortage of gorgeous beaches or lakes in the United States to spend three days off, but if you are looking to discover a new oasis try Cape May, New Jersey, Long Beach, New York or Hilton Head, South Carolina. Let’s not forget Minnesota. It is after all the land of 10,000 lakes, which means there’s a lot of water fun on the menu. Of course, a trip to Cape Cod, Massachusetts is always a delight as is hopping on the ferry and heading to Nantucket. This island off the coast of Massachusetts is an absolute delight any time of year, but its population from Memorial Day to Labor Day swells for a reason.
3. Grill it Up
While a large number of Americans pack their cars and hit the road for a Memorial Day vacation, an equally large amount won’t stray far, preferring to spend the long holiday weekend right in or near their own backyard. Many pool clubs open this weekend, hosting family swims and BBQs. Social butterflies open up their own backyard pools and fire up the grill for a family-friendly day of swimming and a cookout or invite over friends for a party. Some keep it simple and others have a long guest list. Either way, chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob and watermelon are usually on the menu.
Memorial Day weekend is also prime planting time with many green thumbs getting their hands dirty in the garden, planting perennials and annuals to welcome the impending arrival of summer. Usually, a day of planting ends with firing up the grill for a nice relaxing barbeque and an evening on the backyard deck enjoying the new garden colors.
2. Pop the Popcorn
Much of the focus on Memorial Day weekend is usually on outside activities like parades, cookouts, and fireworks. However, the last weekend in May typically includes the release of blockbuster movies. Perhaps it’s the three days off from work or school, but many scrap the sun and sand to head indoors to savor a good flick.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is the only nationwide release for Memorial Day Weekend 2018. “Future World” starring Milla Jovovich and James Franco and “Mary Shelley” starring Elle Fanning has limited releases. Of course, if there is anyone who hasn’t seen “Avengers: Infinity War,” it is still a major box office draw and most likely will be at the end of the month as well.
Of course, you don’t have to head to the movie theater to enjoy a good film or to binge-watch the most talked about Netflix shows there hasn’t been time to watch during the always busy work week. Pop the popcorn and curl up on the couch.
1. Rock Out
A concert is a cool time to combine two summer wonders; music and BBQ. It’s tough to head to a concert when you have to get up for work the next day or herd the kiddos off to school, but there are so many musical possibilities on a three day weekend. Memorial Day often kicks off the summer concert season as well with music festivals and rockin’ shows.
Music festival enthusiasts can head to New Orleans for the Bayou Country Music Fest. This Big Easy event features George Strait and Chris Stapelton. Napa, California will host the Bottlerock Festival. This ultra-cool festival showcases musical appearances from Bruno Mars, the Killers, and Muse along with a tasty menu of wine and food.