What to do on Memorial Day Weekend in Seattle

Memorial Day kicks off summer season—pools around the area open, almost everyone is off for a three-day weekend, and festivals light up the weekend. While many people choose to get out of town or kick back with friends or family at a barbecue, there’s no finer weekend to get out and enjoy some warm-weather fun (well, hopefully the weather is warm…but no guarantees). Plus, why sit in traffic coming and going out of town when you could be having fun right here.

Or if festivals and getaways are just not your thing, you could always go shopping as Memorial Day is a fine day to find sales at local shopping centers and malls in Seattle and the South Sound.

After Memorial Day, Seattle’s real festival season starts with Seafair just around the corner and summer festivals almost every weekend in June, July and August.

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    Memorials in Olympia Capitol Campus
    Memorials at the Capitol Campus. Kristin Kendle

    For anyone with family members who have served, Memorial Day can be more than a three-day weekend. It’s a time of remembrance and respect. There are memorials located throughout Seattle, including on the University of Washington campus and in Bellevue Downtown Park. In Tacoma, visit War Memorial Park to see a number of small memorials all in one place. But by far the most impressive collection of memorials in Western Washington is at the Washington State Capitol Campus in Olympia, where you’ll find memorials for law enforcement, Medal of Honor recipients, as well as those who fought in all major wars.

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    Northwest Folklife

    Northwest Folklife Festival
    Northwest Folklife Festival. Bridget Christian

    Northwest Folklife Festival is one of many festivals at Seattle Center—and one of the best! Each Memorial Day, the Folklife Festival fills Seattle Center with culture, music, art and food. Each year, the festival takes on a theme, usually revolving around a world culture, but despite the theme, there’s always a range of music, food and craftspeople from around the world. While it’s not specifically a music festival, it’s one of the finest places in Seattle to see a huge range of performers from folk singers to people who have invented their own instruments to stage bands. There’s a little bit of everything and a lot of fun for all ages.

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    Throughout the year, Magnuson Park hosts running events, including one for Memorial Day weekend. There’s a 5K, 10K, 15K and a kids dash, too, so everyone can join in, no matter if you’re a practicing runner or not. The course loops through the park and measures as a 5K, so longer distances have runners looping back over the same course, but with such lovely views of Lake Washington for part of the way, the course won’t disappoint.

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    Catch the Bremerton Ferry and ride your way to a festival on the shore opposite downtown Seattle. The Kitsap Harbor Festival fills the Bremerton marina and boardwalk area with food, entertainment and vendors galore. Enjoy car shows, bands on stage, or kick back in a beer garden and enjoy the view. There are also sometimes boats to explore, and there are always vendor booths and a variety of food.

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    Starting on or around Memorial Day, the Blue Star Museums program offers discounts or free admission to active military and their families throughout the country. In the Seattle area, there are several participating museums. In Seattle, the Seattle Art Museum, Burke Museum, Frye Art Museum and Henry Art Gallery all generally join in. In Bellevue, don’t miss KidsQuest Children’s Museum. And in Tacoma, make a day of exploring the Museum of Glass, Tacoma Art Museum and Washington State History Museum—all within walking distance of each other. Make sure to check in advance what documentation you’ll need to bring, but count on at least being required to show a military ID.

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    If you wanted to get out of town, but didn’t quite make it, there are lots of great staycations nearby. Stay in a luxury hotel downtown, enjoy a day at the spa, or venture out to nearby Woodinville—just a half hour outside of Seattle, spend time walking trails, sampling wine or going on a brewery tour at Red Hook.