Things to do in DC on Memorial Day weekend 2019

The D.C. area will host many events and opportunities to honor fallen military members throughout Memorial Day weekend. Here’s what you need to know.

National Memorial Day Concert

It’s an American tradition dating back to 1989 that brings in various talent to the stage on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol to honor the nation’s fallen soldiers.

This year’s performers include Patti LaBelle, Gavin DeGraw, Justin Moore and Alison Kraus, to name a few.

Patti LaBelle, Alison Krauss, Gavin DeGraw headline Memorial Day Concert

Tickets are not needed to watch the concert live on the lawn. The gates to enter — located on the southwest corner of the Capitol grounds — open at 5 p.m. and the public will not be admitted to the West Lawn before then. The concert begins at 8 p.m.

At the Saturday dress rehearsal for the concert, Executive Producer of the event Michael Colbert told WTOP the concert is an hour and a half dedicated to showing appreciation toward servicemen and women.

“We want to honor, to remember, to let our military, our veterans, their families, let them know — ‘hey, we love you,’” said Executive Producer of the concert Michael Colbert.

This year’s concert will feature a guest star.

“This year’s Academy Award nominee, Sam Elliott, is here and he’s going to tell the story of Sergeant Ray Lambert, a medic,” Colbert said. Sgt. Lambert landed on Omaha Beach and was shot twice.

“Glee” star Amber Riley will perform “I’ll Stand By You”. Patty LaBelle will close out this year’s concert with a rendition of Mariah Cary’s song “Hero” in honor of all military families.

Public entrances to the concert are:

  • On the north (Senate) side of Capitol Square on Third Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
  • On the south (House) side of Capitol Square on Third Street and Maryland Avenue, SW

All bags will be checked at the various checkpoints. The following items are prohibited:

  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Glass Bottles
  • Animals (other than service animals)
  • Bicycles
  • Firearms and Ammunition (either real or simulated)
  • Explosives of any kind (including Fireworks)
  • Knives, Blades or Sharp Objects (of any length)
  • Laser Pointers, Signs, Posters
  • Mace, Pepper Spray, Sticks, Poles
  • Electric Stun Guns
  • Martial Arts Weapons or devices
  • Umbrellas larger 36” in diameter (those smaller than 36” will be allowed)
  • Pocket or Hand Tools such as a “Leatherman”
  • Sealed Packages, Large boxes, Duffel bags, Suitcases
  • Drones, Model rockets, Remote or Manually-controlled Model Gliders, Model Airplanes or Unmanned Aircrafts, Model Boats and/or Cars, and other unmanned ground or aircraft systems

Temporary street closures will take effect beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 25 through Monday, May 28 at 4 a.m.

  • First Street, SW/NW from Independence Avenue to Constitution Avenue
  • Maryland Avenue, SW, from First Street to Third Street
  • Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, from First Street to Third Street

If you can’t make it to the concert in person or want to avoid all the traffic and people, tune in to the live broadcast on your local PBS station.

Memorial Day Parade

It’s the nation’s largest Memorial Day event, drawing thousands of spectators along Constitution Avenue. The National Memorial Day Parade marks its 15th year and honors all members of the military, especially those who died during service.

The American Veterans Center describes the event as a moving timeline of American history that draws on traditions from past Memorial Day parades, going back to the beginning of the holiday just after the Civil War.

This year’s grand marshals and special celebrity guests include the heroes of D-Day, “Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna and celebrity chef Robert Irvine as well as musical performances by Justin Moore, Quaid & James, Kiefer Sutherland, the winner of “The Voice” and The USO Show Troupe.

The parade kicks off at 2 p.m. and goes along Constitution Avenue, Northwest from 7th to 17th street.

The best place to watch is anywhere along the parade route, but the American Veterans Center said the steps of the National Archives provide a great view. The National Archives/Penn Quarter/Navy Memorial stops on the Green and Yellow lines are one block away from the parade route. Those who can’ make it out to the parade can also tune into a livestream on YouTube.

National Memorial Day Parade 2019 road closures

Poppy Wall of Honor

It’ll be impossible to miss the 133-foot long, 8 1/2-foot-tall wall quickly filling with thousands of vibrant red poppies on the National Mall this Memorial Day weekend.

The poppies — approximately 645,000 of them — are meant to represent the American servicemen and women who have given their lives since World War I. The USAA Poppy Wall of Honor this year will also commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

The wall will be on the southwest side of the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Korean War Memorial — the Reflecting Pool due north, and the World War II Memorial to the East.

It will be open for visitors from Friday, May 24 through Sunday, May 26.

Last Rolling Thunder

A tradition for the last 31 years comes to an end this Memorial Day. The Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom, will do one final bike ride throughout D.C. The motorcycle ride first started as a demonstration to advocate for prisoners of war and those who are missing in action.

The Rolling Thunder XXXII First Amendment Demonstration Run will kick off at noon on Sunday, May 26, as bikes take off from the North Pentagon parking lot and ride their way through the Mall area. Riders will pay tribute to their fallen military service members at West Potomac Park after the ride.

Road closures for Rolling Thunder


Alexandria’s Memorial Day Jazz Festival 

Alexandria’s 42nd annual festival will take place from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, May 27 at Waterfront Park. The event, which highlights the diverse style of jazz, is free and open to the public.

The U.S. Army Blues will kick it off with big band jazz at 1 p.m. VERONNEAU, with global jazz music, will continue at 2:30 p.m. Contemporary jazz musicians Dave Kline Band will take the stage at 3:30 p.m. and big band swing jazz band Good Shot Judy will be the final act at 4:30 p.m.

The Waterfront Park has lawn seating and those attending the festival can bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnic baskets. Food is available for purchase. Grilling, pets and alcohol are not allowed.

If it rains, the festival will be relocated to the Lee Center Kauffman Auditorium.

Viva! Vienna! 

From Saturday through Monday, Vienna will be packed with fun activities for the family.

The Memorial Day festivities kick off every day at 10 a.m. There will be amusement rides, vendors, carnival food and live music until 10 p.m.

WTOP’s Melissa Howell contributed to this report.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2019 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.