7 Historic Attractions for Your Memorial Day Getaway

Travel Lists Memorial Day
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Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday of May, honors those who lost their lives while serving our country. Because of its timing, it also marks the unofficial start of summer, or roadtrip season, as we like to call it.

To thank those who gave their lives for our country (and created a long weekend), why not explore the land they worked so hard to protect?

For a Memorial Day-themed getaway, add these attractions to your list:

1. Arlington National Cemetery, VA

Photo: Flickr/The U.S. Army

Arlington National Cemetery serves as the final resting place for over 400,000 veterans and their families. As is customary on any day, The Tomb of the Unknowns hosts a Changing of the Guard ceremony every half-hour until the cemetery closes. However, on Memorial Day, each tombstone is adorned with an American flag (pictured above) and there is an official service at 11 a.m., beginning at the Tomb of the Unknowns and ending at the Memorial Amphitheater. The service features a Presidential Armed Forces Full Honor Wreath-Laying ceremony and performance by the United States Marine Band. Best of all, it is free to attend and no tickets are necessary.

While many who are visiting Washington D.C. during the holiday will be at the National Mall or attending the Annual Memorial Day Parade, those who wish to have a more somber day of remembrance will find solace in Arlington National Cemetery.

2. Colonial Williamsburg

Few places allow you to immerse yourself in American history like Colonial Williamsburg does. This traditional village is a living museum featuring interactive exhibits, old-fashioned buildings and a staff in colonial garb. On Memorial Day, there will be a special service from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. honoring military veterans who died while serving their country, featuring a procession with Fife and Drum support and the firing of volleys.

The explosive news here, however, is not the volleys but the fact that between May 22 and 25, 2015, active duty military, reservists, retirees, veterans and their dependents receive free admission (which is usually $60).

3. Gettysburg, PA

Photo via Flickr/fauxto_digit

One of the most famous battlefields in the U.S. and the location of President Lincoln’s legendary Gettysburg Address, it’s no wonder that Gettysburg National Military Park receives an average of 3 million visitors per year. On your trip, you can take a walking tour of the facilities, bike, go on a horseback trail or stop by Soldiers National Cemetery, the resting place of many Union soldiers. There are special observances held on Memorial Day, including a parade and ceremony throughout Gettysburg from 2 to 4 p.m. and live reenactments at the park through their living history program. With temperatures averaging in the low 70s, it should be perfect weather to engage in all the outdoor activities the city has to offer.

4. Washington Crossing

Washington Crossing State Park marks the journey of the Continental Army across the Delaware River, led by General George Washington. This was a significant turning point in the Revolutionary War, and one often depicted in artistic and literary works. Today, the site serves as a national park and historic landmark, attracting visitors year-round due to its scenic landscapes. On Sunday, May 24 at 1 p.m., the park will hold a Memorial Day Observance at the grave site of Continental soldiers. The event is free and open to the public. It will include a colonial color guard, a performance by the Old Barracks Fife & Drum Corps, a Revolutionary War reenactment and more while American flags are placed on the graves.

5. Boston Common, MA

Photo via Flickr/Global Jet

Every year, the Massachusetts Military Heroes organization plants a Garden of Flags in front of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Boston Common to commemorate service members who have given their lives to defend the United States. Approximately 37,000 flags are displayed from Wednesday, May 20, 2015 through sundown Monday, May 25, 2015.

6. Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, NY

If you’re in the New York City area, there will be no shortage of things to do Memorial Day weekend, but one event worth facing the crowds for is the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach. This year, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are making a highly anticipated comeback after a four-year hiatus due to federal budget cuts limiting military air shows. The show is free and open to the public, but boasts up to 200,000 attendees, so be sure to arrive early. This is a great opportunity for those who want to kick their Memorial Day celebrations up a notch.

7. Independence National Historical Park

Photo: Flickr/Jonathan

It’s no secret that Philadelphia has a lot to offer visitors, but this is especially true on Memorial Day. With historic attractions like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia has everything you need to spend a day steeped in American history. There is a Memorial Day Parade and service at Laurel Hill Cemetery Sunday, May 24, 2015, a flag-raising ceremony at Independence Hall on Monday, and the National Constitution Center features a thank-a-vet postcard station the entire weekend.

Jen Ruiz is a Fort Lauderdale-based lawyer and blogger.

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