Although many of us look forward to Memorial Day weekend for the epic sales, backyard barbecues and boozy summer cocktails, let's not forget what the holiday is really about: honoring the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. Set a plan in place to make sure that your day off incorporates a range of Memorial Day activities that force you and your family to pause, reflect and donate to related causes. Not only is it an opportunity to teach kids facts about the significance of Memorial Day and how it differs from Veteran's Day, but it's also a way for adults to take a step back, count their blessings and brush up on America's history.
Here, you'll find a list of the best things to do on Memorial Day, some fun virtual activities can be enjoyed right at home, while others may take you and your family to nearby cemeteries and donation centers. Once you load up your weekend schedule with enough activities to keep everyone busy, sign up for future volunteer opportunities or donations as a way to consistently commemorate all of those who've given so much.
1 - Shop at a veteran-owned business.
If you're planning on eating out or shopping on Memorial Day, consider visiting businesses owned and operated by veterans or military families.
2 - Learn how to play a patriotic song.
Dust off your guitar and take time to learn how to play a special song fit for the occasion, such as Lee Greenwood's classic, "God Bless the U.S.A." Then when everyone gathers 'round for your Memorial Day picnic, you can impress them with your skills.
3 - Take a virtual tour of the White House.
Even if you're not able to travel to the nation's capital this year, you can take a tour of the White House from the comfort of your living room. Head to Google Arts & Culture for a virtual tour of the historic home, complete with facts about its architecture and important events that took place in each room.
4 - Listen to veterans' stories.
Even if you don't know a veteran personally (FWIW, you probably do), listen to a range of stories from active military members and veterans through Storycorps oral history. Or if you'd rather read your way through history, choose from top military memoirs like Band of Brothers, Guts 'n Gunships or The Things They Cannot Say.
5 - Craft your own Memorial Day poppy.
Come Memorial Day, red poppies are worn as a sign of remembrance. In fact, the Friday before Memorial Day is considered National Poppy Day. While you can buy poppy pins at the store, you can also make your own with tissue paper by following this simple step-by-step tutorial.
6 - Donate to related causes.
If you've already filled your three-day weekend with kid-friendly activities, save extra time (and money!) to research trusted military organizations and nonprofits that need donations. Choose a cause that's most relevant or important to you, wounded soldiers, grieving families, veterans with PTSD and so on, and give whatever you can.
7 - Brush up on American history.
If there was a time to do it, it's now. Before diving into your family's Memorial Day activities, refresh your own memory about the reason why we celebrate Memorial Day and how it differs from Veteran's Day.
8 - Write letters to soldiers and their families.
To your kids, Memorial Day may just be another day off from school. To remind them that it is much more than that, have them write handwritten notes to active American soldiers and veterans. Once your letters are complete, bring them to any A Million Thanks drop-off locations to guarantee a safe, speedy arrival.
9 - Clip coupons.
You know all of those coupons that come tucked inside your Sunday paper? Clip 'em even if they're expired, and mail them to a military base associated with the Overseas Coupon Program. Current soldiers can use coupons up to six months after their expiration date at military commissaries, allowing them to save money to support their families.
10 - Put together care packages for soldiers.
Even though Operation Gratitude encourages people to get join their efforts year-round, they host several events during the Memorial Day weekend. There are many ways to get involved: Convince your kids to donate their Beanie Babies to kids in combat zones, sew special ties to keep troops cool during the hot summer months or a host a neighborhood drive to collect toiletries for soldiers.
11 - Create patriotic chalk art.
Gather the kids in your neighborhood and create a patriotic-inspired mural or just write out a simple thank you to local veterans, using sidewalk chalk.
12 - Fly a flag.
Show your love for America by hanging Old Glory in your front yard. But before you get ahead of yourself, make sure you're following the proper etiquette and guidelines in the U.S. Flag Code established by Congress in 1942.
13 - Take a moment of silence.
No matter where you live, take a moment of silence at 3 p.m. local time for The National Moment of Remembrance. For at least one minute, send your thanks, love and prayers to active soldiers, veterans, and the many men and women who died serving our country.
14 - Attend a Memorial Day parade.
Get the full-fledged holiday experience by cheering on your town's marching band, veterans, and local organizations at the nearest parade. Check your newspaper to find the parade closest to you.
15 - Watch a patriotic movie.
If you're still trying to wrap your head around the sacrifices that these brave men and women continue to make, consider watching a movie like Black Hawk Down or The Hurt Locker to get the full picture.
16 - Donate flowers for soldiers' graves.
Even if your weekend is full of family fun, make sure you still pay your respects to the fallen troops with a donation to Memorial Day Flowers, a national foundation that places a flower on the graves of soldiers. A small donation of $5, for example, honors five soldiers with a red rose in front of their headstone.
17 - Deliver dessert to a local family.
If you're planning to make a dessert for your family, make double. Because the sweetest way to show your thanks is to drop off a homemade treat pie, cake, you name it, at the home of a fallen soldier.
18 - Call a soldier's spouse or parents.
For many, Memorial Day is a day full of emotion, heartbreak and tears. With a simple phone call, you can offer your gratitude and well wishes to the loved ones of a soldier in your community.
19 - DIY red, white and blue décor.
We could all use a little more patriotism, especially on Memorial Day. Get your kids involved in making these easy-to-DIY decorations, and then remember to hold onto them for your Fourth of July festivities.
20 - Visit your local cemetery.
Just because you don't live close to near the Arlington National Cemetery doesn't mean you should nix a Memorial Day cemetery visit altogether. Volunteer to dress graves at a local or military cemetery with flowers and flags. Or simply swing by to pay your respects to our country's heroes.
21 - Post a heartfelt tribute on social media.
Whether you're remembering a loved one or want to shed light on the importance of the holiday, post a tribute to our fallen heroes using quotes for the perfect Instagram caption.
Credit to Good Housekeeping website.