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Life and Religion

Memorial Day weekend destinations
Across the U.S., patriotism and parties
Published Thursday, May 23, 2013 12:57 pm
by Michaela L. Duckett

Originally established as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a U.S. federal holiday celebrating the sacrifices made by men and women in the Armed Forces who have lost their lives in combat. A National Moment of Remembrance takes place every year at 3 p.m. local time.

Washington, D.C. goes all out for Memorial Day weekend, including free jazz in the National Gallery of Art, the National Symphony Orchestra in the National Mall and the National Memorial Day Parade down Constitution Avenue.

The American flag flown proudly on Memorial Day across the country is a prominent symbol for the holiday. The day of remembrance is often celebrated with family reunions, parades, picnics, and barbeques.

Memorial Day falls on May 27 and the warm weather that generally coincides with the end of May marks the weekend as “the unofficial start of summer.” Although summer doesn’t officially start until June 21, the extended break and celebratory atmosphere of the holiday mark the beginning of the travel season.

Here are a few great destinations to spend your Memorial Day weekend and get summer off to a great start:
Washington, D.C.
The nation’s capitol is the epitome of patriotism on this national holiday, and the District pulls out all the stops for Memorial Day weekend, kicking off Friday night with free jazz in the National Gallery of Art, followed by a free concert by the National Symphony Orchestra in the National Mall on Sunday evening and a big finale on Monday with a National Memorial Day Parade down Constitution Avenue.

Then on Memorial Day, several historic sites and monuments will be paying tribute to soldiers. At Arlington National Cemetery, soldiers put flags before each gravestone, a wreath-laying ceremony takes place at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and the U.S. Marine Corps Band performs a military concert. Men in uniform also march in the National Memorial Day Parade along the National Mall.

Las Vegas
Las Vegas is a top hot spot for Memorial Day weekend for glitz and glamour. Next to New Year’s Eve, it’s one of the city’s busiest times of year. Parties held around the resorts’ elaborate pools are the big event, and become daylight nightclubs with DJs, drink carts, bottle service, cabanas, and more. To get in on the action, grab a chaise at the Venus Pool Club at Caesars Palace or the Rehab Pool Party at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (if you’re a guest, there is no cover charge for hunkering down poolside, but most properties have food-and-drink minimums, which vary according to day and time. Caesars Palace is one of the few properties that allow non-guests to enjoy the party for a $20 cover charge). To avoid some of the crowds and save a little on hotel rates, consider staying just east of the Strip.

For the past 36 years, the Atlanta Jazz Festival has drawn in thousands of fans in May.
The month-long celebration, which features world-renowned jazz artists and activities throughout the Metro Atlanta area, culminates during Memorial Day weekend with fireworks and a free festival of performances in Piedmont Park. It is one of the largest free jazz festivals in the country — typically bringing in 225,000 attendees over the three-day weekend.

Want to try something different? Take a short drive south of Atlanta on I-85 to Fairburn (Exit 61) and check out the Georgia Renaissance Festival. The festival includes colorfully costumed performers, nonstop entertainment, a 32-acre Artisan Market, rides and games, parades, great food, jousting contests, period activities and more. For more family fun, take the kids to Stone Mountain Park, a 35-minute drive from Atlanta, for some kid-friendly outdoor activities such as the “Sky Hike,” a ropes-and-ladders obstacle course through the treetops. In honor of Memorial Day, the park is hosting evening fireworks, free concerts, and a laser show Saturday through Monday.

Charleston, S.C.
One of the earliest observances of Memorial Day was by a group of freed slaves and took place weeks after the Civil War ended in 1865 in Charleston’s Hampton Park. This weekend, the Spoleto Festival starts its two-week run, filling the historic city’s theaters, churches, and outdoor spaces with opera, theater, jazz, symphonies, choruses, and visual arts. Highlights this year include a Cirque du Soleil-esque spectacle called Le Grand C, tap dance phenom Jared Grimes and performances by a Spanish Flamenco troupe among other events and performances.

Even fun-loving Vegas can’t quite compete with the blowout bash that takes place in Miami over Memorial Day weekend. Each year roughly 250,000 partygoers descend on the area for the booze, music, dancing and lots of skin.

Clubs around town host special Memorial Day kick-off parties, such as the one taking place on May 26 at Cameo with DJ Drama.

But the weekend’s main event is the Best of Best Concert on Sunday. The 10-hour long music extravaganza starts at 2 p.m. in downtown Miami’s Bicentennial Park (general admission tickets start at $52 per person). Of course, the point of the weekend is to honor our veterans, and Miami does so in style with the March of Colors, a parade that starts with a 21-gun salute at All Wars Memorial Park at 10 a.m. and then traverses the Snake Creek Canal Bridge. There is also a wreath laying ceremony on Monday at 10:30 a.m. in front of the Miami Beach Police Headquarters.

New York City
NYC honors the nation’s fallen heroes with parades over its five boroughs. The Little Neck–Douglaston parade in Queens is reputedly the largest, but Brooklyn’s Memorial Day Parade is the oldest, at over 145 years old. There is a smaller parade in upper Manhattan, which begins at Dyckman Street and Broadway. If after the parade you feel like continuing the celebration, Coney Island officially reopens May 25 for swimming. The Brooklyn oceanfront combines three miles of sand and surf with classic carnival rides and games. Another location to pay tribute to America’s service members is at the 9/11 Memorial, a national tribute of remembrance to the men, women and children killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993.


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