The Memorial Day holiday is just around the corner. For many of us, the three-day weekend marks the start of the summer vacation season and all the perks that come with it, such as attending street festivals, enjoying outdoor activities and eating lots and lots of ice cream.
This long weekend is the perfect time to let loose and look ahead to the summer days that are to come, while also staying true to the holiday’s origins and honoring fallen military personnel.
If you’re still looking for something fun to do that’s close to home, here are some of the best ways to celebrate Memorial Day and Memorial Day Weekend around California. And if you already have your three-day weekend all planned out, you just might change your destination plans after you see our picks for an unforgettable weekend.
Best Memorial Day Observances
Palm Springs Air Museum | Palm Springs | May 30
The Palm Springs Air Museum celebrates Memorial Day in a big way. The day is filled with flight exhibitions, musical performances, WWII re-enactors and various children’s activities. The highlight of the day is when a B-25 Mitchell Bomber drops over 3,000 red and white carnations to salute fallen comrades.
Legacy Week | San Diego | May 28-30
The USS Midway Museum’s Legacy Week is the epicenter of Memorial Day celebration in San Diego. Weekend activities and events include the Veterans Wreath Ceremony, a rockin’ concert with former members of Journey, Santana and Boston, fun events for the kiddos and a special flyover.
Not Forgotten | Manteca | May 28-30
The Central Valley town of Manteca takes Memorial Day celebrations to new heights with its annual Not Forgotten event that is packed with fun activities the whole family can enjoy. Memorials, airplane shows, fireworks, song performances, a car show and a 5k run are all part of this exciting event.
Best Music & Cultural Celebrations
BottleRock | Napa Valley | May 27-29
Fairly new to the festival scene, BottleRock is quickly becoming one of the most anticipated tickets on the circuit. This year’s lineup includes Stevie Wonder, Florence + The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lenny Kravitz, Death Cab for Cutie and The Lumineers. In addition to the stellar lineup, BottleRock is a showcase for world-renowned chefs, restaurants and vintners. If you weren’t able to score tickets to the sold out festival, there are several aftershows at venues throughout the Valley.
Carnaval Festival and Parade | San Francisco | May 28 & 29
Carnaval San Francisco is the ultimate celebration of music, dance, color and food. The two-day event features beautifully adorned floats, engaging dance and musical performers, multi-cultural crafts and a lively ambiance that is incomparable.
American Music Festival | Santa Cruz | May 28 & 29
Spend your Memorial Day weekend jammin’ to some great tunes! The Santa Cruz American Music Festival features world-class artists in the Blues, Americana and Country genres performing their hearts out in Santa Cruz’s Aptos Village Park. This event is a definite must for all the music lovers out there!
Memorial Day is sandwiched between peak ski season and summer lake fun, so it’s the perfect time to enjoy the region’s other outdoor amenities, such as hiking, mountain biking and golfing. In between outdoor excursions, head to Squaw Valley and enjoy the Made in Tahoe festival featuring live music and over 100 local vendors offering food, drinks and artisan goods. Over at Tahoe South, Heavenly kicks off summer with the Lake Tahoe Summer Kick Off Car & Bike Show, the Memorial Weekend Sidewalk Sale and the start of the summer’s Free Summer Concert Series.
Santa Barbara is an idyllic destination any time of year, but Memorial Day brings one of the area’s most beloved events to the American Riviera: the I Madonnari Street Painting Festival, the first festival of its kind in North America. Once you get your fill of these pastel on pavement creations, spend the rest of the weekend enjoying the region’s best local cuisine and libations, such as wood-fired focaccia at Nuance, scallops at The Lark or Julia Child’s favorite taco courtesy of La Super Rica.
Which events are you planning on attending this Memorial Day?