Just two weeks into the new year, on the third Monday in January, Americans are already slotting that first vacation in the books. MLK weekend, for many, marks the first three-day weekend of the year, traditionally used for ski trips to take advantage of the dead of winter and quick jaunts within driving distance. Travel + Leisure is your resource for planning the perfect MLK weekend.
The history of the MLK holiday
A chief spokesman for nonviolent activism and racial equality during America’s Civil Rights Movement, King became such a prominent figure in the shaping of the nation that his birthday—January 15—was designated a national holiday in 1983 during the Reagan administration, at the time an honor only reserved for George Washington.
Things to do during MLK weekend
To celebrate his legacy, cities nationwide hold events that pay homage to his life and story, from art gallery lectures to musical and dance performances and walking tours. Aspiring historians might consider heading to the source for a powerful introduction to one of America’s great citizens: Atlanta. There, visitors can see the Old Fourth Ward, King’s birthplace, or the Center for Civil and Human Rights, which houses a collection of his personal papers.
Memphis is another great pilgrimage, where many locations featured in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement are found, including the place of King’s assassination which has since been turned into the National Civil Rights Museum.
The Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail is another great monument. In 1965, supporters led by Dr. King marched 54 miles from Brown Chapel in Selma, Alabama to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery to vie for equal voting rights, resulting in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s historic presentation of a bill to Congress that would become the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The National Park Service has preserved this historic walk, with sign markers and interpretive centers set up for all to see.