Top Things to Do for Memorial Day in DC (2019)

Visiting DC for Memorial Day? At the end of May every year, hundreds of thousands of people pour into Washington, DC to honor all of our nation’s veterans on Memorial Day.

There are a number of different events and ceremonies that commemorate this special weekend including a national concert, parade, and motorcycle rally. This post covers things to do in Washington DC on Memorial Day 2019 including a top 5 list, nighttime activities, family-friendly things to do, and free things. Read our master post on things to do in DC any time of year.




DC is the perfect place to spend Memorial Day. There are plenty of places to see and things to do to honor our fallen service members. This section covers our top five list for Memorial Day.

For more ideas on popular things to do in DC, check out our posts on bus tours and walking tours of the city.

Some of the items listed in this post are included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass


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1. Memorial Day Parade

March 27, 2019 2pm

Come see the nation’s largest Memorial Day parade right here in the nation’s capital. Marching bands, floats, performers, and veterans will promenade down Constitution for this exciting televised event. The parade begins at 2 pm, but come early to catch a good spot!

This video is from a past Memorial Day parade:



You can easily get to the parade by Metro so you don’t have to worry about parking in the area. 

2. Memorial Day Tours

What better way to honor veterans than visiting their memorials? Our National Mall walking tour is the perfect way to experience the WW2 Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Korean Memorial, and others. 

We also offer tours of Arlington National Cemetery.  

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See when they are offered on our schedule of tours.

3. Visit Arlington National Cemetery

Honor our fallen heroes by visiting Arlington National Cemetery. Take a free tour with us to learn their stories, or take a self-guided tour if you’d like to explore at your own pace. You can also take an audio tour of the cemetery. Be sure to catch the Changing of the Guard Ceremony on the hour. You will see flags decorating each of the over 250,000 tombs and free roses will be provided for visitors to pay tribute thanks to the Memorial Day Roses F0undation.  

Be sure to read our post on Arlington National Cemetery to better plan your trip!

4. National Memorial Day Concert

May 26, 2019

One of the best Memorial Day traditions is PBS’s annual National Memorial Day Concert hosted this year by actors Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna. This free concert takes place on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Sunday at 8 pm. Enjoy the spectacle that salutes the sacrifices of our service men and women and their families. 

There are no tickets required but it is best to show up early for a good spot. Gates open at 5 pm and all bags will be checked at security checkpoints. For more information, click here

For more nighttime activities, visit our Things to do at Night in DC post.

5. Look into a Tourist Discount Pass 

Did you know that you could join our highly rated ticketed Ghosts and Scandals tours for free with the DC Explorer Pass?

With warmer weather, our late evening Adults Only tours are a perfect night out activity in a city that closes at 5 pm!



Get free admission to our tours and many top DC attractions with a Tourist Discount Pass.


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There are a number of things to do in DC at night. For additional ideas on how to spend your evening, make sure to check out our master things to do at night in DC post. Some of our other sections offer nighttime options.


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Visit Iwo Jima at Night

The Marine Corp Memorial, (or the Iwo Jima Memorial, as it’s often unofficially referred to) is an impressive sight during the day but especially lit up at night.

It features six 32-foot figures raising a 20-foot bronze flagpole in honor of every Marine who has served since the founding of the Marines in 1775. We recommend coming back after dark because lit up the memorial is extra imposing. Feel free to stop by anytime between 6 am and midnight to pay tribute to our Marines.

Read more about the Iwo Jima Memorial here. This memorial can be harder to get to but its included in many of the nightime bus tour options!

See a Concert

DC has some great concerts scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend from big-name acts to local bands.

You can also attend the free Memorial Day concert listed in our Top 5 Things To Do section.


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DC offers a lot of family-friendly activities and attractions any day of the year. Here are a few more family-friendly ideas for Memorial Day.

For more read about visiting Washington DC with kids.


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Go to a Game

May 24 – May 26, 2019

The Washington Nationals are spending Memorial Day at the Nationals Park playing the Miami Marlins at 1:05 pm. If you’re already busy that day taking a tour, you can catch the Nationals play the Marlins another time that weekend:

Washington Nationals Baseball Game

Nat’s Park is located in a lively part of Washington DC called Navy Yard and not too far from our newest waterfront development, the Wharf.

You’ll find a number of great restaurants and bars for before or after the game, but Nat’s Park is an experience in itself.

May is also postseason for NBA (basketball) and NHL (hockey) so keep an eye on the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals!

National Memorial Day Chorus Festival

May 26, 2019 

The Kennedy Center hosts the free National Memorial Day Chorus Festival to celebrate Memorial Day. This concert begins at 3 pm and features a 300-voice choir and the U.S. Air Force Orchestra performing patriotic classics in honor of our fallen heroes. Be sure to reserve a ticket here.

Before or after the concert be sure to go up to the Terrace of the Kennedy Center for an incredible view of the city!

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With a little planning, there are a lot of free activities available to do in DC. Some of the events we’ve mentioned in this post like our walking tours are free of charge!

Here are a few more ideas for free activities on Memorial Day but for our comprehensive list, visiting our free things to do in DC post.

And in the video below, the vast majority of the top 50 things to do in DC are free of charge.


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See Rolling Thunder roll by

May 26, 2019

Rolling Thunder, the nation’s most iconic display of support for veterans, takes its last ride this year. This motorcycle rally attracts nearly 1 million riders and spectators who join together to raise awareness about POW/MIA issues and to honor and support all veterans.

Make sure you catch the last “ride for freedom” on Sunday.



Visit the Air Force Memorial

The Air Force Memorial is just outside of Arlington National Cemetery, or about a 25-minute walk from the Pentagon Metro Station. It honors Air Force men and women who have served since its beginning in 1992. If you’re surprised we have an Air Force Memorial, it’s probably because it wasn’t until 2006 that it was completed and dedicated, so you might have visited before it was around.

Come out and visit it on Memorial Day to honor our Air Force and to catch a breathtaking view of Arlington Cemetery and the city.

Navy Memorial

Honor our Navy veterans past and present by visiting their memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue. There is a wreath-laying ceremony Monday, May 27th at 1 pm hosted by the U.S. Navy Memorial. The ceremony features the Navy Band & Ceremonial Guard and is completely free to the public. Afterwards, you can go across the street and visit the National Archives to see our Charters of Freedom: the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence, the documents of our freedom that our veterans have fought for.

For our comprehensive list, visit our Free Things to Do in DC post.  

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About the author

Boglarka is a tour guide and content writer residing in Washington, DC. While obtaining her degree in Professional Writing from The University of Texas at San Antonio, she visited DC and went on her very first Free Tours by Foot. She loved it so much that when life brought her to DC she applied and has been part of FTBF since 2015. Working as a guide has given her the freedom to travel, including trips to the Bunny Island off Japan, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, eating her way around Italy, hunting for the Loch Ness monster in Scotland, and finally seeing her first Broadway show in New York.

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