The first big holiday of summer is held on the last Monday of May. Its origins go back to the Civil War and a ceremony held to decorate the burial places of fallen soldiers, first called Decoration Day in Waterloo, New York where it began. Today, the holiday honors not only men and women who have died in wars or in the service of their country, but is also a day for personal remembrances.
Top Memorial Day Activities in Northern California
- San Francisco: Treasure Island Flea Market
- San Francisco: Carnaval Festival and Parade
- San Francisco: Memorial Day Commemoration, Presidio
- Santa Cruz: Blues Festival
- Morgan Hill: Mushroom Mardi Gras
Memorial Day Fun in Southern California
- Los Angeles: JazzReggae Festival at UCLA
- Topanga: Topanga Days County Fair
- San Diego: Summer Nights Fireworks begin at Sea World
- Palm Springs: The Palm Springs Air Museum celebrates the spirit of Memorial Day in a special way. A World War II-era B-25 Mitchell bomber airplane drops thousand of red and white carnations to salute fallen comrades.
If you're looking for more places to celebrate the Memorial Day in the Los Angeles area, you'll find a full listing at Los Angeles for Visitors.
Memorial Day Fun in the Rest of California
Great Memorial Day Getaways in California
However, with a 3-day weekend, you can get a little further away from home than usual. These are a few places that would make a great Labor Day Getaway:
Catalina Island: An extra day on Catalina is always welcome, and you don't have to worry about driving home in traffic - just take the boat.
Eureka: Not the town in the TV show, but a nice little place on the northern coast that's filled with charming Victorian-style homes.
Rent a Houseboat: For a great beginning-of-summer blowout in a warm year, grab some friends and rent a houseboat on Lake Shasta or the Sacramento River Delta.
Mount Lassen: This volcano last blew its top in 1915, but you'll still find plenty of fire and brimstone simmering beneath the surface - and some great scenery all around.
- Mendocino: Pretty scenery and relaxing surroundings make "Mendo" a good place to rest up after a busy summer.
Memorial Day on California Highways
The California Highway Patrol always increases their presence on highways during Memorial Day weekend, so you'd be prudent to keep your speed in check.
Even though those alcoholic beverages consumed at a Memorial Day barbecue seem like fun, don't get in the car afterward. California's AAA offers their Tipsy Tow program on Memorial Day for anyone in California, whether or not they're a member. Just call 800-222-4357 (AAA-HELP) and tell them you need a "Tipsy Tow." They'll tow you, your friends and anyone else (up to 5 miles).
Memorial Day weekend is also one of Cal Trans' favorite times to work on road projects, which in some years has included closing the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Visit their website to check for road closures or call 800-427-7623.