For most people, Memorial Day is about the three Bs: beach, barbecues, and bargains. But if you're looking for Memorial Day events that are more meaningful or memorable, here are a few of the best.
The nation's most solemn Memorial Day events take place at Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The public can view a special wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, followed by a service. Memorial Day is also celebrated at the cemetery with an old tradition called "Flags in." Before the holiday, soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry (the same regiment that guards the Tomb) place flags in front of every service member’s stone or niche. They patrol the cemetery all weekend long, then remove the flags after Memorial Day.
In Wilmington, N.C., a free Memorial Day celebration is held each year on the deck of the decommissioned Battleship North Carolina. The ceremony, which is open to the public, includes a 21-gun salute by a Marine Corps Honor Guard, patriotic musical performances and the casting of a memorial wreath onto the water. Children will especially enjoy roaming the nine-level battleship to see how sailors lived and worked.
One of the best hands-on, kid-friendly Memorial Day events is held each year at the National Museum of the Constitution in Philadelphia. The museum invites the public to participate in its flag-raising and -lowering ceremonies, help fold the 20- by 30-foot flag, make patriotic crafts and write postcards thanking men and women for serving in the military. Best of all, admission is free on Memorial Day.
A moving tribute to all American military servicemen and -women who gave their lives, Washington's National Memorial Day Parade is the largest of its kind in the country. Expect to see marching bands, military vehicles, vintage cars and lavish floats. More than 10,000 people take part in the parade, including veterans from World War II and later wars. The parade begins at 2 p.m. at the corner of Constitution Avenue and 7th Streets, NW.
In New York City, while the largest parade takes place in Queens on Sunday, the best known is the Brooklyn Memorial Day parade, which begins at 78th Street and Third Ave. at 10 a.m. Monday and ends with a memorial service at John Paul Jones Park. Memorial Day weekend also coincides with Fleet Week, when sailors converge on the city and New Yorkers honor sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.
Other great Memorial Day events include big outdoor music festivals. If you're a bluegrass fan, you'll get that peaceful, easy feelin' at DelFest. DelFest is held at the Allegany County Fairgrounds in Cumberland, Md., just 2.5 hours from Baltimore and Washington. Savor views of the Appalachian Mountains and the Potomac River as you listen to artists like Yonder Mountain String Band, Bruce Hornsby and, of course, founder Del McCoury and his band.
The Sasquatch Memorial Day weekend music festival brings 20,000 people to a remote gorge in Washington state to hear indie rock, alt-rock and hip-hop performers. Fans say there's nothing like grooving to the music while the setting sun turns the river to gold. But if the idea of camping in a chaotic, messy campground makes you wrinkle your nose, rent a luxury RV or stay at the nearby Terraces Campground.
Boston Calling is a relatively new music festival, launched in 2013, but it has become so popular that it's now held twice a year, in May and September. More than 20,000 people crowd City Hall Plaza each Memorial Day weekend to hear performers as diverse as Sia, Janelle Monae, Sufjian Stevens and Charles Bradley. All ages are welcome, and children under 10 are free.
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Richmond-based travel writer Muriel Barrett has a terrible sense of direction, and has spent many happy hours getting lost in Barcelona, Venice and Jerusalem. Her favorite travel memories all involve wildlife: watching sea turtles nest in Costa Rica, kayaking with seals in Vancouver and meeting a pink tarantula in Martinique.