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Free Memorial Day Activities in Major US Cities

Free Memorial Day Activities in Major US Cities

Memorial Day in the USA is celebrated on the last Monday of May each year. It is a federal holiday and a time when military personnel, family, and friends pay tribute to those who died fighting for our beloved country. While this day has a serious side to it, it is by no means a day of mourning. If anything, Memorial Day is about family, spontaneity, and fun. Memorial Day heralds the unofficial start of summer, with the main cities offering outdoor movies, festivals, beach parties and summer concerts.

This handy guide will provide you with some of the best free entertainment extravaganzas that are on offer as each of the major cities honor our fallen heroes.


The best of the free activities is undoubtedly the Atlanta Jazz Festival in Piedmont Park. This attraction, now in its 40th year, draws thousands of people who flock to the arena to see the nation’s most electrifying artists. It is the ideal way to celebrate with friends and family.


Kick off the summer with a synchronized fireworks show at the Navy Pier or shop till you drop at the Randolph Street Market. Here you will find a treasure trove of bargain antiques and collectibles. A cornucopia of food, drinks and live music to delight your senses will be on offer.

Let’s not forget bikini season! Yes, folks, Chicago’s beaches will be officially open, and you can get to tan on 26 miles of sandy goodness. Even your dog will get to celebrate Memorial Day!

Chicago’s Memorial Day Parade – Chicago offers one of the nation’s largest parades. Over 10,000 people will gather at this year’s annual event. The wreath laying ceremony begins at 11:00 am on Saturday while the actual parade will start at noon. Be a part of the action!

Free Memorial Day Activities in Major US Cities


Get on down to Denver this Memorial Day for a selection of a large free entertainment. The Denver Day of Rock in downtown Denver transforms into a massive party with over 16 live concerts throughout the day. Beer gardens and food stalls will be set up throughout the pedestrian mall. Although this event is free to join and listen to the music, you can purchase passes to get drinks and food. All the money raised goes towards a good cause, supporting more than 50 different charities. Give them a helping hand!


If you are into a free cultural experience this Memorial Day, you’d better get your dancing shoes on! The Miller Outdoor Theatre will be offering concerts featuring the sounds of classic Motown hits, soul singers, funky dancers, and the Bacement Soul Orchestra.

The Dragon Boat Festival is always a winner and is particularly popular with younger kids. Dads may get a kick out of a visit to the WWII Museum where they not only get to see real World War II aircraft but can actually climb into the cockpit of a WW2 trainer!

For the kids, a free outdoor screening of the very popular Disney movie “UP” will be shown at Central Green Park; an ideal way to keep your kids busy!

Los Angeles

People often complain that everything in LA is so expensive! While there may be some truth to this, not all activities need cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, there are literally hundreds of awesome ways you can celebrate Memorial Day without having to spend so much as a dime.

Catch up on your historical heritage with a free open day at a choice selection of museums. Get outdoors and discover the wonders of nature by hiking the Angeles National Forest or the Topanga State Park. Relax on the Riviera or take in one of the numerous free concerts that are on offer. 

San Diego

Picture the scene – A street festival lined with food trucks, beer gardens, games arenas and live entertainment. It spells summer waiting to happen! Get into the swing of things by attending the Vista Strawberry Festival. This fun activity is hugely popular with kids, and who can resist a delicious bowl of strawberries and cream?

San Francisco

The San Francisco public library has some free walking tours scheduled for the Memorial Day weekend. Among these are informative talks on the various movies legendary director Alfred Hitchcock made in the city.

The 39th annual Carnival Celebration, situated in the city’s colorful Mission District is a two-day street fair promising free live entertainment, food stalls and a large parade. Be sure to check it out!

Washington DC

Free Memorial Day Activities in Major US Cities

Yes, we kept the best for last; guilty as charged! When it comes to Memorial Day celebrations, no other city can compete with our nation’s capital. A televised parade, the largest of its kind, features youth groups, floats, drum majorettes, performers and of course, veterans in their finest dress uniforms!

For motorcycle junkies, the Rolling Thunder Rally “Ride For Freedom” attracts up to 900 000 riders! The ride starts at the North Pentagon parking lot and continues to West Potomac Park. It will be held between 27-29 May and is an event that should NOT be missed!

The National Memorial Day Concert is free! Situated on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, this year’s event will feature the National Symphony Orchestra, Laurence Fishburne and many more celebrities.

The National Memorial Day Choral Festival will feature a mind-boggling 300 strong choir. They will be accompanied by the US Air Force Orchestra. Although the event is free, advance booking is essential if you want to hear this phenomenal group of singers and musicians coming together in perfect harmony.

Closing Remarks

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, the important thing to remember about Memorial Day is the sacrifice made by others so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have in this great country. Be proud of who you are. Have fun, try spend time with family and look forward to the most excellent summer you have yet experienced!

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Free Memorial Day Activities in Major US Cities