Memorial Day, which honors our nation’s fallen soldiers, is traditionally a holiday of commemoration. And while we’re all for honoring those who served, we happen to think it’s possible to both pay homage to our brave service members AND celebrate America’s great cities. Call it double duty.
With their sprawling parks, history-laden houses, and educational exhibits, these six cities are Memorial Day hotspots. Whether you’re up for a parade through the streets or a quiet museum tour, we’ve found the most exciting attractions each of these places have to offer through Memorial Day weekend. Beating the Washington, D.C. crowds while brushing up on your history has never been easier!
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina is a city teeming with rich Southern history. From its pastel plantation houses to its scenic Battery Promenade, Charleston will greet you with incredible views and a whole lot of southern hospitality. Hit the legendary Middleton Place, the former home of Arthur Middleton (a signer of the Declaration of Independence), to frolic around 65 acres of what the Garden Club of America dubbed “the most important garden in America.”
You’ll even catch a glimpse of 18th and 19th-century plantation life thanks to costumed craftspeople stationed on the grounds and a stable yard complete with live heritage breeds. When you’re through, take a stroll along the Battery Promenade for a view of Fort Sumter, where the shots that marked the beginning of the Civil War were fired.
Saint Louis, Missouri
A Saint Louis weekend getaway is idyllic for families with small kids in tow. Think picnics, lounge chairs, open spaces, and prices that won’t drain your savings account – plus plenty of free activities. No, it’s not the seashore, but you’ll still enjoy the open air and sunny skies.
While tourists pack themselves into either D.C. or every beach imaginable, the Alton Memorial Day Parade marches on without an absurd number of onlookers. The first Alton parade was organized a mere three years after the Civil War’s close and the tradition continues to this day. Free and open to the public, it honors our veterans with floats, flags, and true American spirit. And since Saint Louis enjoys putting the “free” in freedom, head over to Compton Heights Concert Band’s Memorial Day concert in Tower Grove Park to lounge on the green grass as patriotic music plays in the background.
New York, New York
If you need an excuse to finally embark on your dream Big Apple getaway this Memorial Day weekend, we have a solid one: the Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade. Now in its 150th year, this parade is an NYC institution that kicks off at 11 am, makes its way along Fourth Avenue and ends with a 21-gun salute by the U.S. Army at Fort Hamilton.
On top of that, New York has a whole host of other wonderful Memorial Day weekend events including the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit, The Great Brooklyn Grill Out and there will also be a ton of military fun during Fleet Week 2017 (a seven-day celebration in New York City, which honors the members of the United States Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps).
This seaside Florida town is more than just pretty. Spend an afternoon at Riverbend Park to experience Florida wildlife and embark on a family canoe ride under the canopy trees. Bring your own goodies to snack on in one of several scenic picnic areas. You’ll even find a preserved battlefield from the early 19th century Seminole War, which was waged between the War of 1812 and the Civil War, in the park’s historic district.
Once you’ve experienced all the green you could handle (don’t forget the bug spray!), a trip to the historic Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum should be next on your list. While it’s closed on Memorial Day, you’ll be able to purchase admission Tuesday-Sunday. Once overtaken by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, your family will have the chance to tour the WWII Naval housing building’s exhibit on the local history and enjoy picturesque outdoor attractions including the Keeper’s Workshop, Tindall Pioneer Homestead, and Pennock Plantation Bell. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, follow the nearby Hiking Trail (to the north of Beach Road) to a mangrove-encased manatee refuge.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Each Memorial Day, this quiet little New England town pays homage to our brave veterans at one of the country’s oldest and most history-rich seaports. Head to the USS Albacore Museum & Memorial Park, one of Portsmouth’s most celebrated Memorial Day attractions, where the U.S. Navy hosts an annual ceremony to honor servicemen and women who lost their lives in battles far below the ocean’s surface.
These five cities prove that you don’t need to visit D.C. to honor our veterans. Which destinations will you add to your vacation list? Tell us in the comments below!
Palm Springs, California
Perfect for some quality R&R, this resort city, smack-dab in the California desert is an excellent getaway for the Memorial Day Weekend. Whether you channel those chilled out vibes through golfing, art gallery browsing or poolside bathing — you are sure to lose yourself in the stunning natural beauty of the desert landscape.
This Memorial Day, don’t miss the Palm Springs Air Museum’s Annual Memorial Day Flower Drop, during which 3,000 red and white carnations are dropped from a B-25 bomber in dedication to America’s servicemen.