First created to memorialize the death of Civil War Union soldiers, Memorial Day has become a popular holiday for traveling and enjoying outdoor activities. Throughout the Northwest, numerous Memorial Day activities take place to honor service members who have departed as well as help kick off the beginning of summer.
Oregon Memorial Day Weekend Destinations
- Head to the beach. Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer events at the Oregon coast, no matter how moody the coastal weather is. Campgrounds are usually full for this holiday if you do not reserve a space 6-9 months in advance, so check with local inns, bed and breakfasts, hotels and rental houses. In addition to Memorial Day activities, you can head Cannon Beach to poke around in the tide pool, take advantage of Tillamook’s free tour of its famous cheese factory, spend an afternoon at the Newport Aquarium, or stop by Seaside to take a walk on the prom and visit the museum, where you can feed the sea lions and peruse unique gift shops.
- Tour the Willamette Valley. World-famous Willamette Valley wineries will open their doors to the public simultaneously for the annual Memorial Weekend in the Wine Country. Admission into the wineries is free, but tasting fees will vary.
- Visit a memorial tree farm. The World Forestry Center has an outdoor educational site near Wilsonville called Magness Memorial. Great for a gentle hike, this demonstration forest boasts 80 acres with a stream, nine different forest management zones and 2.5 miles of hiking trails. In addition, there are picnic areas for dining and the historic Clatskanie fire tower to admire. Admission to the site for day use is free.
- Be patriotic in Portland. Memorial Day weekend begins a week of festivities with fireworks and an opening celebration at the Waterfront Village. The activities during the weekend center on American patriotism and community pride as the city honors and celebrate its national heroes. On Memorial Day, festivities will include a 21-gun salute, a National Guard fly-over, a “people’s parade,” guest speakers, patriotic songs, memorial services and a Remembrance Concert.
Washington Memorial Day Weekend Destinations
- Listen to music at the Gorge. The Gorge Amphitheater in Quincy, WA hosts the annual Sasquatch! Music Festival, which SPIN magazine describes as “a pick-your-poison selection for your party at the edge of the earth.” The music festival’s goal is to feature established artists in the music industry alongside emerging artists. While at the Gorge, take advantage of the many outdoor activities offered, which include windsurfing, boating and hiking. Drive past waterfalls on your way to see ancient petroglyphs at Horsethief Lake State Park.
- Visit Stonehenge. You will not have to take a trip to Wiltshire, England, as the Columbia River Gorge has a full-scale replica of Stonehenge in Maryhill. The Maryhill Stonehenge War Memorial commemorates World War I soldiers and sailors. Near the memorial site are the Klickitat County Veterans Memorial and the Quaker Farming Community. Admission to the two memorials is free of charge.
- Welcome summer in Seattle. The Northwest Folklife Festival takes place annually during the Memorial Day weekend. It brings local artists and musicians together to present concerts, visual displays, activities for kids, crafts, workshops and food. Many of the Memorial Day activities are interactive, and admission into Seattle Center to participate in the festivities is free.
- Go whale watching on the Olympic Peninsula. When it’s time to take a break from the land-loving crowds, hop on a ferry and head to the San Juan Islands to go kayaking or take a whale watching tour. This part of Washington will not only have people visiting for the Memorial Day festivities, but orcas will begin making appearances as they migrate north to dine on local salmon for the summer.
No matter how you spend your Memorial Day weekend, keep safety a top priority and remember the true reason we get the last Monday in May off work.
~Flora Richards-Gustafson, 2010