Memorial Day Weekend In The National Park System

Celebrate Memorial Day Weekend in the National Park System/NPS file

Memorial Day Weekend is the traditional kickoff to summer recreational travel. If you’re looking to do something in the National Park System this Memorial Day Weekend, there are a number of parks that have announced special activities. Here’s a look at some of the scheduled events.

Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument, Kentucky

On Saturday, May 25, Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument is hosting engaging ranger programming for all ages connecting visitors to Civil War soldier’s wartime experiences and the evolution of commemorating the nation’s military sacrifices from post-Civil War Decoration Day through today’s Memorial Day.

From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., hands-on interactive programming will discuss how soldiers joined the Civil War armies, the uniforms and equipment they were issued, and will be followed by participating in Civil War artillery drill on the park’s reproduction cannon. Rangers will conduct interpretive programs on the history of Decoration Day (Memorial Day) throughout the United States after the Civil War and a special program entitled “The Frightful Horrors of Battle: Soldiers Lost at Mill Springs.”

The park’s Visitor Center and museum will be open for holiday hours on Monday, May 27, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., in conjunction with the Mill Springs National Cemetery commemorative ceremony held by the Veterans Administration.

Programming Schedule:

Saturday, May 25, 2024

10 a.m.: Dress Like a Soldier – Kids and adults can learn about Civil War uniforms and what the soldiers carried.

10:30 a.m.: Drill Like an Artillerist – The Mill Springs cannon will be outside for visitors to learn and participate in how cannoneers were trained.

11 a.m.: The History of Decoration Day – How the casualties of the Civil War prompted this modern holiday.

1 p.m.: Dress Like a Soldier – Kids and adults can learn about Civil War uniforms and what the soldiers carried.

1:30 p.m.: Drill Like an Artillerist – The Mill Springs cannon will be outside for visitors to learn and participate in how cannoneers were trained.

2 p.m.:  “The Frightful Horrors of Battle: Soldiers Lost at Mill Springs.” – Selected soldiers who gave their lives during the Battle of Mill Springs.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Kansas

Come to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve on Memorial Day Saturday May 25th, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and enjoy kid’s activities geared toward learning and making memories. Bring a picnic lunch and spend the day. There is no entrance fee and all activities are free at the preserve.

Children will be able to experience life on a working ranch and learn what it was like to be a child in the 1880s. Living history interpreters will assist children in doing authentic ranch chores such as gathering eggs, feeding the chickens, milking the goats, and cleaning the stalls. After completing each chore, children will collect sticker tokens and earn a Spring Hill Ranch certificate for all their hard work. From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. visitors can experience the prairie grasses and wide-open spaces with a horse-drawn wagon ride, while learning about modes of transportation in the 1880s. Wagon rides are given approximately every 20 minutes and cowboys will be available to answer questions, as they go about their daily tasks.

Fort Scott National Historic Site, Kansas

Fort Scott National Historic Site invites you to join the park in placing the flags for the “Symbols of Sacrifice” Field of Honor Friday morning, May 24. Park staff will welcome everyone to participate and encourage individuals and groups to plan on arriving at 8:30 a.m. and help as long as you are available. 

Symbols of Sacrifice continues the entire Memorial Day Weekend, Friday, May 24th through Monday, May 27th. The Field of Honor will be open throughout during normal park grounds hours from a half hour before sunrise until a half hour after sunset all weekend. Fort Scott National Historic Site also encourages volunteers to help staff retire the display on Tuesday, May 28th. This is an all-weather event.

The Field of Honor with its approximately 8,500 flags commemorates the ultimate sacrifice members of the United States Armed Forces have made to keep this country free. Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day. It originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi, Louisiana

The National Park Service and the Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park & Campaign will be hosting events at Vicksburg National Military Park in observance of Memorial Day. 

Flag Placement in the National Cemetery 

Date: Friday, May 24
Time: 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Check-in begins at 7:30 a.m.

Located within Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg National Cemetery is the final resting place for over 18,000 U.S. Veterans – 17,000 of those being Union Civil War soldiers – a number unmatched by any other National Cemetery. 

Every year on the Friday before Memorial Day, a United States flag is placed at each individual grave site in remembrance of the sacrifice so many have made for our country. Join other volunteers, National Park Service staff, and the Friends of Vicksburg Military Park & Campaign in continuing this tradition. 

Homestead National Historical Park, Nebraska

Join park staff on Sunday, May 26, to see Hillary Klug. Klug will participate with guests in a jam session and buck dancing workshop from noon-1 p.m., so bring your instruments and dancing shoes. She will then perform a concert with local musicians from 1 p.m.-2 p.m.

Hillary Klug is a dancing fiddler and social media sensation with two million followers online and two billion views. She’s a national champion dancer, and she’s toured and performed in 16 countries. Klug has two CDs, and she’s working on a third, which is set for release in September.

The Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival is a two-day event that remembers the important role music played in the lives of homesteaders. The Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival Competition will take place on the first day of the event, on Saturday, May 25. This event is possible due to the generosity of the Leigh F Coffin, Jane M Coffin, and Leigh M Coffin Foundation, Humanities Nebraska, and The Friends of Homestead National Historical Park.

Boston National Historical Park, Massachusetts

On Monday, May 27 at 3 p.m., the National Parks of Boston, USS Constitution, and the USS Constitution Museum will commemorate Memorial Day by participating in “Taps Across America.” This national event honors our nation’s veterans and those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States of America.

At 3 p.m. in their respective locations and time zones, thousands of buglers from around the country play “Taps” to acknowledge those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. The sites include private ceremonies and public spaces. Observers are asked to remain silent during this time of remembrance.

It is the first time the National Parks of Boston is participating in this program. Taps for Veterans assisted the park in finding buglers to play “Taps” at the Bunker Hill Monument (at the Colonel William Prescott statue) and Charlestown Navy Yard (at the large flagpole at the base of Pier 1). Lisa Mula of Somerville, Massachusetts, a retired Massachusetts state trooper, will perform at the Bunker Hill Monument. John Vetere of Andover, Massachusetts, will play at the Charlestown Navy Yard. Vetere is the father of two active-duty service members, one in the U.S. Marine Corps and one in the U.S. Navy.

Park staff members will also lay wreaths on Memorial Day at the Bunker Hill Monument and Charlestown Navy Yard.

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Virginia

Visit the Fredericksburg National Cemetery this Memorial Day Weekend. On Saturday, May 25, the National Park Service will host the 29th annual luminaria at the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. On Monday, May 27, visit the cemetery for a quiet observance. Reflect on the history of Memorial Day and how the country can honor those who lost their lives in service of the United States.

All events are free and open to the public.

Saturday, May 25, 2024: Fredericksburg National Cemetery Luminaria

The Fredericksburg National Cemetery Luminaria runs from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. In the event of rain, the date will be moved to Sunday, May 26th.

The luminaria honors those who died in the service of this country. Local scouts will light 15,300 candles in the cemetery – one for each grave there. In addition, a bugler will play “Taps” every 30 minutes during the evening as park staff posted throughout the cemetery relate stories about some of the soldiers.

The cemetery is located at the intersection of Sunken Road and Lafayette Boulevard. Event parking is available at the University of Mary Washington lot at the corner of William Street and Sunken Road. The Fredericksburg Trolley will provide shuttle service between the parking area and the national cemetery. Accessible parking will be located at the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center parking lot. Golf carts will be available for transport up to the cemetery for people with mobility needs.

Monday, May 27, 2024: Memorial Day Observance

On Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, visit the Fredericksburg National Cemetery for a quiet observance of this hallowed holiday.

The event will begin at 10 a.m. with a playing of taps and the presenting of the colors of the 23rd USCT living history group. From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. park staff will be stationed throughout the cemetery to share stories about the history of Memorial Day in Fredericksburg and facilitate remembrance activities to honor those who lost their lives in service to the United States. Golf carts will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to facilitate access up to the cemetery.

Join staff at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. for walking tours of the Sunken Road. Park staff will be in the cemetery for informal conversation until 5 p.m.

Martin van Buren National Historic Site, New York

Martin Van Buren National Historic Site will open for summer programs and tours on May 24. The Visitor Center will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Eastern National Bookstore is open after tours only. The bookstore is cashless.

Guided tours of Lindenwald, Martin Van Buren’s home, are offered daily at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. Tours last 45 minutes and cover the interior of the home, the Van Buren family, and history of the site.

Rangers also offer a First Floor House Tour at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. This shortened tour visits the first floor of the house and lasts a half hour.

Limited spaces for tours are available. First come, first served. Sign up for the tour at the visitor center. Sign-up opens a half hour before each tour. Tours are free.

Park grounds remain open daily from dawn to sunset. Follow the three-quarter mile wayside loop starting near the parking area to learn more about Martin Van Buren’s post-presidency home.

Check your favorite park’s website to see if they have anything scheduled for the holiday weekend.

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