Guide to Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Washington, D.C.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday honoring and commemorative the life and legacy of the civil rights activist who delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the height of the 1960s Civil Rights era. Each year on the third Monday of January, the nation's capital celebrates MLK Day with a variety of events at famous sites around Washington, D.C.

In 1994, to further commemorate a man who lived his life in service to others, Congress transformed the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday into a national day of community service. Since then, the city's event lineup has expanded to include a number of opportunities to give back to the D.C. community or join fellow citizens in exciting marches, parades, and demonstrations.

Whether you're just in town visiting for the holiday or you're a long-term resident of the city, MLK Day is a great day to get involved in the local scene of Washington, D.C. and will take place on January 21, 2019.

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Visit the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial

Martin Luther King Jr memorial, Washington D.C.

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Located adjacent to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial on the National Mall, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. was opened in 1997 and has since remained accessible seven days a week, 24 hours a day, with no fee required to visit.

MLK Day weekend is a great time to visit the Memorial because there will be National Park Service Rangers on-site daily to discuss King's role in the Civil Rights movement. The NPS will also host a wreath-laying service on January 21, 2019, from 8 to 9 a.m. in observance of the birthday-anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Lend a Hand With the MLK Day of Service

Since 1994, communities across the United States have dedicated the third Monday of January to a day of civic engagement, neighborhood cleanup projects, and other forms of community service in honor of Dr. King's legacy as a civil rights activist and community leader.

In Washington, D.C. on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, you can join a community service organization or create your own event to serve the community. In 2019, volunteers are expected to participate in over 1,300 projects spread throughout the city's eight wards, including special days of action organized by Serve D.C., United Planning Organization, and Volunteer Fairfax

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Take Part in the Peace Walk and Parade

On January 21, 2019, starting at 11 a.m., the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade returns to the man's namesake avenue and Milwaukee Place for its annual peace walk event.

The Anacostia parade, which was established by D.C. City Council in 1968 to promote the legacy of Dr. King and help raise up the communities he fought for, features the Ballou Marching Band and representatives from the area's Asian, Bolivian, Jamaican, and African American communities. This hour-long annual event also features a variety of musical performances, dancers, and various civil rights organizations still fighting for equal rights in America.

You can register to join the parade or simply watch from the sidelines—either way, the parade is a great opportunity to see and meet the people who have made a difference and continue fighting for change in the nation's capital.

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Hear Poetry and Music at the National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral

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For a taste of local culture, you can head to the Washington National Cathedral on January 21, 2018, at 2 p.m. for a poetry reading and musical performance by the Cathedral and D.C.'s performing arts community.

This annual celebration honors Dr. King through a variety of special presentations, and following the service, the Cathedral will host a commemorative pilgrimage called "Rosa and Martin, Martin and Rosa" that explores the relationship between Dr. King and fellow civil rights icon Rosa Parks. 

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Listen to a Concert at the John F. Kennedy Center

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, from Potomac River

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Each year on MLK Day, you can attend an annual concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. in honor of Dr. King's legacy. Partnering with Georgetown University, the Kennedy Center will present a free concert called "​Let Freedom Ring" on January 21, 2019, at 6 p.m. featuring the Let Freedom Ring Choir and other special guests.

Admission is free, but tickets are required to attend and will be distributed on the day of the event in front of the Concert Hall beginning at 4:30 p.m. Attendees should enter through the Hall of Nations, and overflow seating will be available at Millennium Stage North (near Eisenhower Theater) for patrons to view a simulcast of the performance.

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Witness a Wreath-Laying at the Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

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In Early January (date to be announced) at noon, the Lincoln Memorial will host a special commemorative wreath-laying ceremony in honor of Dr. King. During the short event, the National Park Service will place a wreath on the steps of the Memorial where Dr. King gave his 1963 speech.

Students of a local Washington, D.C. elementary school will present a special recitation of the "I Have a Dream" speech before the laying of the wreath, which will then be followed by a moment of silence and a ceremonial performance of "Taps."

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