Memorial Day Weekend is a time to honor the men and women who have fallen while in service to the United States Military. It is a somber time for us to remember those who paid the ultimate price while fighting for our freedom.
For others, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer — schools are getting out, the sun is shining more, and temperatures are rising. Here is a list of things to do to celebrate the first long weekend of the summer.
Memorial Day Weekend begins Saturday, May 27, 2023 and ends on Monday, May 29, 2023.
Memorial Day BBQ with Friends & Family
Fire up the grill! May is after all National BBQ Month and National Hamburger Month, so invite your crew over from some good food and good times. Spend the afternoon playing lawn games or lounging by the pool.
Participate In A Memorial Day Race or Fun Run
There are many marathons and fun runs that take place over Memorial Day weekend. Many of them whose proceeds benefit local military or veteran organizations. Always a great cause to support.
Take A Trip To A National Park
National Parks are America’s gems, and many of them have natural beauty or historic elements that are unique to each location. There are also many National Parks that have been preserved for their military significance like Andersonville in Georgia, the site of the deadliest ground of the Civil War, Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, and even Rosie The Riveter WWII Home Front in Richmond, California.
Go On A Fishing Trip
What better way to enjoy the long weekend than on the water? Book yourself on a charter for the day or do an overnight deep sea fishing trip. Do you prefer fresh water fishing? Spend the weekend at a local lake to fish for bass or trout.
Check Out A Local Night Market
Early summer marks the arrival of night markets! These fun evening events are often like a food festival meets swap meet, with unique vendors, a variety of food and drinks, and activities for the whole family to enjoy from games to live performances.
Visit A Local State Park
Most states have fantastic State Park systems with destinations highlighting the areas natural resources or local history. California State Parks, for example, has 280 state park units to explore with everything from archaeological sites to military history.
Attend A Memorial Day Ceremony
There are many Memorial Day ceremonies, events, and parades throughout the nation. Show your support by attending a ceremony near you. San Juan Capistrano hosts an annual Field Of Honor at the Mission. The flags are a beautiful sight to see.
Explore Local Attractions
Spend the weekend exploring local attractions, activities, and amusement parks. Get a Go City Pass to save money on admission and have access to a variety of local attractions and activities all weekend long!
Attend A Local Fair Or Festival
Many communities use Memorial Day weekend to kick off the summer with a three-day fair or festival, completed with fried food, carnival games, and rides.
Spend The Day At The Park
Local and regional parks are great for gathering with friends and family for the day. Enjoy the outdoors, the open space, and good times together. Explore the playgrounds and park trails, and bring some chairs, lawn games, picnic supplies, and blankets.
Spend The Day (Or Weekend) Poolside
Spend the weekend at a local or nearby resort, or get a hotel day pass to get pool access for the day. Lounging around by the pool is always a great way to relax and recharge.
Memorial Day weekend is one of the biggest camping weekends of the year. Round up your friends and head to a campground for the weekend. Enjoy s’mores over the fire, cool nights under the stars, and time away from the TVs and computers.
Go On A Weekend Getaway
Go explore a new city! Rent an Air BNB or a hotel room somewhere you’ve never been before. From quirky small towns to bright, busy cities, step out to learn about the area, find their hometown hidden gems, do some shopping, and enjoy the nightlife.
Go Hiking or Mountain Biking
You don’t need a 3-day weekend to enjoy the great outdoors while hiking or biking, but this is a great time to get out there and hit the trails. The weather is just right – not too hot, not too cold, and the trails should be in great condition.
Visit A Local Farm
Head out to a local farm and see what growing. Many locations offer u-pick opportunities. Depending on what’s in season, you can take home some fresh, hand-picked goodies like strawberries, blackberries, summer squash, and melons. They may even have some friendly farm animals to visit while you’re there.
Have A Beach Bonfire
The weather should be just right for a beach bonfire over Memorial Day weekend. Grab your kids or your friends and gather your sand toys, footballs, beach gear, and fire up the fire pit. Don’t forget the hot dogs and smores.
Go On A Picnic
Pick your perfect picnic spot — beachside, on a hilltop, in a meadow, at a local park, or even your backyard. Part of the fun is planning and getting all your goodies together. So round up the crew and get your basket packed!
Spend A Day At The Beach
There’s nothing quite like a day at the beach. Splashing in the waves, building sandcastles, and soaking in the sun is one of America’s favorite pastimes. Bring your boogie boards, sand toys, and beach games for a day full of fun. Don’t forget the sunscreen and a shade structure!
Visit The Zoo
A day at the zoo is always fun for the whole family. It’s usually not too hot yet, so this is a great time to get out and see the animals. Whether you visit a small local zoo, or one of the major zoos like San Diego, there are lots of animals to learn about and the kids will have memories that last.
Go Horseback Riding
Giddyup! Grab a buddy and head out for a trail ride on horseback. There are lots of places that offer guided trail rides, but you’ll definitely enjoy a beach ride. If you live near the coast, you should definitely give this a try!
Stock Up For Summer
Get started shopping for all your summer needs, from bathing suits and beach gear to goods for your backyard patios. Visit your favorite outlet stores to make the most of those Memorial Day discounts and get all your shopping done in one spot.
Spend A Day Cruising On The Water
Living near the ocean has its perks. The harbor is a great place to spend a day. Rent a duffy boat and spend the afternoon motoring around with your kids or with friends. You can even bring your pups on board with some vendors.
Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding
More water fun! Stand up paddle boarding is a fun activity to do on the water. Try it on calm waters like lakes or harbors if you’re new to the sport, but if you’re up for a challenge, give it a shot in the ocean!
Visit A Waterpark
Most waterparks are open by or on Memorial Day weekend! Make a splash on the waterslides, float around the lazy river, a have a go at body surfing in the wave pool.
Head To A Local Museum
Museums are a great way to enjoy the day and get a dose of art, history, or science. There are a number of museums in Southern California to explore, from local art to children’s museums and more.
Catch A Ball Game
Baseball is in season! Head to the ball park and catch a game over the holiday weekend. Here in Southern California, the Angels and the Dodgers are both playing nearby, and San Diego Padres are just a short drive away!
Get A Dose Of Nature
Explore a local nature center or explore some of the wilderness preserves in the area. Southern California has many gardens, arboretums, open space preserves, and wetlands to explore, so you have plenty of options for the type of natural environment you want to immerse yourself in.
Have A Blast At A Splash Pad
Splash pads and spraygrounds are a great alternative to those expensive water parks. These are great for the kids to spend the day splashing around with friends, no life jacket required! Most splash pads are open by Memorial Day weekend.
Spend The Day At An Amusement Park
Amusement Parks are a popular place to go, and for good reason. The weather is just right, so you won’t be overwhelmed by the intense summer heat, or rained out by winter storms. Southern California has plenty of options to offer like Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, or smaller destinations like Adventure City.
Attend A Concert Or Live Music Event
Summer Concerts are kicking off around this time of year, so most venues are open with a full calendar of headline acts that are worth seeing! Five Point Amphitheatre, House Of Blues, and The Forum are just a few Southern California locations to see live music.
Go On An RV Roadtrip
An RV road trip is a great way to spend the weekend with your family. You’ve got everything you need on four wheels and you can stop and take your time at any place that strikes your fancy. Head to those quirky roadside stops and pull-outs for panoramic views.
Go On A Mountain Getaway
We’re pretty lucky here in Southern California. Local mountains are just a short drive away. Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead are beautiful this time of year. While there may not be snow for skiing and snowboarding, there is plenty to do with trails to explore, local attractions to enjoy, and lakes for fishing and boating.
Here in Southern California, you’re just a short drive to the resort town of Rosarito Beach in Baja California, and you’re only a 2 1/2 hour flight away to beautiful Cabo San Lucas and the Los Cabos area. Take a weekend trip to relax and enjoy!
Remember, Memorial Day is a time of remembrance. Many people gave their lives for our freedom. While we can never truly repay them for their sacrifice, we can honor them by giving back. Spend a day or two volunteering with a military or veteran related organization.
Nearby Destinations For A 3-Day Getaway
- Catalina Island
- Hearst Castle/San Simeon
- Joshua Tree
- Lake Havasu
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- Mammoth Mountain
- Morro Bay
- Palm Springs
- San Francisco
- Santa Barbara
- Salton Sea & Salvation Mountain
- San Diego
- Scottsdale, Arizona
- Solvang & Buellton
- Ventura, Camarillo, & Ojai
- Blue Lantern Inn – Dana Point
- Doryman’s Inn – Newport Beach
- Great Wolf Lodge – Garden Grove
- Hotel La Casa Del Camino – Laguna
- Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa – Huntington Beach
- JW Marriott – Anaheim
- Lido House Hotel – Newport Beach
- Pelican Hill Resort – Newport Beach
- Marriott Newport Villas – Newport Beach
- Shorebreak Hotel – Huntington Beach
- Waterfront Beach Resort – Huntington Beach
- See the Best Beach Resorts in Orange County
- Disneyland Hotels in Anaheim
More Things To Do On Memorial Day
- Host a backyard movie night
- Host a BBQ or Burger cook-off
- Make a fresh dessert with your favorite summer fruits
- Host a backyard campout
- Go golfing or mini golfing
- Go stargazing or visit a local observatory
- Play tennis or pickleball
- Go whale watching
- Team up with the neighbors for a block party
- Go wine tasting
- Have dinner or drinks at a rooftop bar and watch the Disneyland fireworks
- Unplug for the weekend
- Have fun and eat a Balboa Bar at the Fun Zone
- Go To A Petting Zoo
- Do something fun and free
- Find a deal at the swap meets
- Try locally sourced goods at a Farmer’s Market
Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.