Need some ideas on how to spend Memorial Day? We’ve gathered some interesting ways to spend Memorial Day inside, outside, or on the trail.
Jump ahead to these sections:
Just don’t forget to take the time to pay homage to the veterans in your family or down at the local nursing home.
Here are the dates for Memorial Day in the next few years:
2021: Monday, May 31
2022: Monday, May 30
2023: Monday, May 29
2024: Monday, May 27
2025: Monday, May 26
Keep reading for some Memorial Day party ideas. Note that because of pandemic-related restrictions, you may need to adapt your plans to be online or socially distanced.
Ideas for a Barbecue or Outdoor Party
Whether you’re off to the woods or staying at home for Memorial Day, here are a couple of unique ways to spend your last Monday in May.
Whether you camp, grill out, canoe, or make cocktails, it’s time to relax.
Take camp cooking to the next level. Start by preparing your favorite recipes ahead of time. Then, when you get to the campsite, meal prep is a snap because you don’t have to julienne vegetables or brown the butter on site.
You can make your picnic table as lively as you want with a colorful tablecloth and fresh flowers from the garden. You can also find eco-friendly travel plates and utensils in every color.
If you pre-moisten some cloths and store them in a container, you can avoid paper towel waste and offer a ready aid for spills.
Weekend at the family’s river/beach/lake property
Chances are your family has a traditional retreat spot. If so, then Memorial Day becomes the perfect time to have a mini family reunion! After you’ve figured out food and the sleeping situations, let loose.
Spend the day canoeing, fishing, pontoon boating, kayaking, hiking, and then end with a campfire. Attach a white sheet to the side of a building and bring an extension cord to show family movies using your old projector.
Park pavilion grille-out
Park pavilions are a full-package deal with the tables, grill, faucet access, garbage cans, toilets, and especially the shade! All you need to do is bring food, decorations, and fun.
Paint the insides of some Mason jars white to use for vases — they’ll work for many other holidays, too. Use white plates, blue napkins, and red silverware with colorful frosting on the desserts. You won’t need much else.
Host a neighborhood trivia contest
Does your neighborhood traditionally get together for a potluck on holidays? Then you’re already halfway done with the planning. Scan the Internet for some great U.S. history trivia and create your own contest.
Ask questions like “Who’s on Mount Rushmore?” and even “Who can name the presidents in order?” Skip the political banter and keep it fun.
The early bird catches the worm and the football! It may be your day to sleep in, but why waste the sunshine? Call up some friends, head to a nearby park (unless someone has a giant backyard), and get in the day’s exercise.
Make the gathering festive. Have one team wear red while the other team wears blue.
Invite all of the neighbors, play some street hockey, turn up the music, get a keg (don’t forget the tap), and elect the BBQ maestro. If you’ve got the funds and the ambition, then the sky’s the limit.
Alternatively, if all you do is rent a bouncy house and hire a face painter, then the kids will be kept busy while you find a comfortable chair to perfect the art of sitting. Have the event catered so you have to move even less.
Family and Kid-Friendly Memorial Day Party Ideas
Some families love sharing Memorial Day with their neighbors and community. When you find opportunities to entertain the kids, stress can be removed from the day. If your kids happen to be dogs, your commitments can belong to the trail and fresh air instead.
Take a drive
Pack up the family (including the dogs), then take a long drive up the coast, into the mountains, or over the river and through the woods. Spend the day with the windows open, singing songs, or playing license plate games.
Stop the car, get out, and go for a walk as often as you can. Pull the picnic basket out of the trunk once you’ve found the perfect vista and enjoy your family without the noise of traffic or phones. Just don’t forget to snap a photo before you head back home.
Go dog wild
Head into the wilderness with your dogs. You can get lost in the day for as long as you like if you pack a lunch. Don’t forget to pack essentials for your pups.
Take a first aid kit, water bowl, some dog treats, a towel, and some paw wax. When you’re back at the vehicle, use the towel to clean their dirty paws or wet fur. Spread on some paw wax to help those tired feet.
For many families, it’s tradition to visit local and national cemeteries on Memorial Day to place flags and flowers. The one hurdle is that parents know kids do not do well stuck in a car for very long, so if you can make the day enjoyable, you’ll hear fewer complaints.
Options include telling them stories about each of the people you’ll visit. You can make it a day to talk about military history, including military funerals — and why we celebrate our veterans in the United States. Midway through the day, make sure to stop somewhere outdoorsy for lunch so the kids can play and stretch their legs.
Plan a mystery hunt for the neighborhood
Before you head to the town parade (see next idea), set up a neighborhood scavenger hunt for the kids. You’ll accomplish two things: The first is that you’ll wear out your youngsters. Next, you’ll add to the overall neighborhood goodwill.
Attend the town parade
Now that the kids have lost some internal battery power from the morning mystery hunt, the whole neighborhood crew can stroll to the town parade together.
Bring water, blankets, and a backpack of yummy food. Sit and enjoy the day before you meander back home. If you want to show off your patriotism, wear red, white, and blue, and make food that is only red, white, or blue. Get creative with food coloring if necessary!
Visit a nursing home
First, call ahead to see if there are any dietary restrictions you’ll need to avoid. Then, start a few days in advance by making some hand-dipped pretzel sticks (or cookies, dried fruit, or anything else).
Use food coloring to make white chocolate into red and blue. Add sprinkles or dust with candy — if allowed. Then, tie some patriotic ribbons around the pretzel sticks and hand them out to the residents.
Attend the local church gathering
Local hometown events like this warm the heart. Because time moves so quickly these days, it’s also nice to enter into one of those places in time and relationships where life slows down.
A committee usually plans the meal and events, so all you have to do is bring the potluck dish.
Handmade Memorial Day cards
Gather the kids and make some cards to send out to all the servicemembers in the family — or spouses who have been left behind.
Turn this into a fun lesson about history, geography, and remembering your family members for their service. There are a lot of resources out there on the internet to turn this into a cultural experience, not just a lesson in strife.
Off-grid game day
Have an off-grid day. Find an old tub to fill up with water to bob for apples. Get out all of the old board games to play if you still have some. If not, there’s plenty of old-fashioned games to fill up an afternoon, like potato sack races, Simon says, wheelbarrow and relay races, or even egg and spoon races.
Hand out little and simple prizes wrapped in patriotic paper to the winners of each event. You’ll have a worn and happy bunch of little ones by the end of the last race.
Chances are, someone in your family has served in the military. This is the day to send a thank you and let them know how much you appreciate all that he or she sacrificed.