From walking tours and cooking demonstrations to festivals, museum exhibits, and firework displays, here are a range of free Memorial Day events that will make it easy to unofficially kick off summer in a budget-friendly way.

By Talia Avakian
Updated: March 20, 2019
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Whether you're planning on traveling or staying local this Memorial Day, cities across the U.S. are gearing up with free Memorial Day events throughout the weekend.

From walking tours and cooking demonstrations to festivals, museum exhibits, and firework displays, here are a range of free Memorial Day events that will make it easy to unofficially kick off summer in a budget-friendly way.

Memorial Day Freebies and Events:

Denver Day of Rock: Taking place on May 25, Denver Day of Rock will transform the city's 16th Street pedestrian mall into a giant block party filled with five stages that will host more than 24 free rock concerts. There will also be food and beer gardens throughout downtown Denver for the event.

National Memorial Day Parade: Many cities will be hosting free military parades for the occasion, but the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., is the nation’s largest. The parade features marching bands, elaborate floats, performers, and veterans who are honored as part of the ceremony. This year’s event will be held on May 27 at 2 p.m., but participants should arrive early to secure the best viewing spots.

Fish-for-Free Day: Spend the day out in the sun fishing with Pennsylvania’s fish-for-free days, the first of which will be on Sunday, May 26. The days allow both residents and non-residents to legally fish on the state’s waterways without a license. The second day of 2019 will be on July 4. 

L.A. Zine Fest: This year’s L.A. Zine Fest falls on Sunday, May 26, giving visitors the chance to catch a range of zines, writers, illustrations, photographers, and comic creators at the Los Angeles-based event. Take a look at their work and catch free readings from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Helms Bakery District.

Great American Beach Party: Taking place on May 25 from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Fort Lauderdale beach, this oceanside celebration transforms the area with stages where six bands perform everything from country to funk. Activities range from beach movie screenings to sandcastle contests with award-winning sand artist John May, and classic car displays featuring more than 70 cars. 

Free walking tours: Non-profit organization City Guides will be hosting a range of free walking tours across San Francisco through a sponsorship with the San Francisco Public Library. Tours happen year-round, with various options available throughout Memorial Day weekend and on Memorial Day itself that range from tours of Japanese tea gardens and hidden parks to architecture tours and looks at attractions hidden in Fisherman’s Wharf.

Related: A Perfect Weekend in San Francisco for $25 a Day

Denver Arts Festival: Explore the works of both local and national artists at the Denver Arts Festival, taking place from May 25-26 at Stapleton’s Conservatory Green. The event also features live music, a wine and beer garden, and an art section for kids to make their own paintings as souvenirs.

2019 Hyundai Air and Sea Show: The two-day Air and Sea Show on Miami Beach takes place on May 25-26, when participants can catch everything from offshore powerboat racing to extreme watersport performances and flying demonstrations. The show continues with a musical performance by Miami local Flo Rida, nighttime pyrotechnics shows, and firework displays. 

Carnaval, San Francisco: The 41st Annual Carnaval San Francisco celebration will take place from May 25-26. The two-day street fair includes live music, cuisine from around the world, dance performances, arts and crafts, and a parade that includes wonderfully adorned floats and performers.

Washington Nationals game: The Washington Nationals will be playing the Miami Marlins in a four-game series, including a game that will take place on Memorial Day in Washington, D.C. All active duty military personnel and veterans with a military ID or proof of service can get two free tickets to the game (as long as tickets last), while others can get a discount by using the code VISITDC.

St. Charles Fine Art Show: Roughly 100 artists will be showcasing works ranging from ceramics and digital art to illustrations, jewelry, glass, and sculptures at the St. Charles Fine Art Show in St. Charles, Illinois. The event, which is located along the banks of the Fox River, also features bold sidewalk chalk art by artists to admire while strolling through the rows of art. Families are invited to participate in making chalk art of their own.

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market cooking demonstrations: San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market teams up with chefs to offer cooking classes and demonstrations using the market’s fresh bounty. This year, the market will be hosting a course with Chef Gavin Schmidt of The Morris and products from Devil’s Gulch Ranch, where Mark Pasternak and his wife raise pastured pork, grass-fed lamb, and rabbit, and grow grapes and asparagus. 

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Topanga Days Country Fair: Taking place from May 25-27 in Topanga, California, the Topanga Days Country Fair has been running for more than 40 years and includes a combination of music, crafts, a variety of food vendors, and a candy-filled Memorial Day parade. The event is ticketed, but those with a military ID will get in free of charge.

The National Gallery of Art: Washington, D.C's National Gallery of Art is always free and is open every day of the year, except for Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, making it a great option for those who happen to be in the area and want to explore art. The park features an array of works that range from renowned Renaissance artists to contemporary works.

Exploring the Lakefront Trail: With Chicago’s beaches opening on Memorial Day weekend, the 18-mile-long Lakefront Trail straddling Lake Michigan is a scenic way to admire the city’s beaches and boardwalks, boat harbors, and nature sanctuaries.

Blue Star Museums: Each summer, active-duty military personnel and their families can get free admission to participating museums across the U.S., with this year's program running from May 18 through Labor Day. Participating museums include everywhere from Washington's Tacoma Museum of Glass to The Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis and Fairbanks Children’s Museum in Alaska.