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Memorial Day Weekend Events in the Nation's Capital

Netherlands Carillon in Arlington, VA.

The Netherlands Carillon in Arlington, Virginia. Photo by by mhiran1

NPS areas in and around the nation's capital will host or assist in special activities during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, including an unusual concert and opportunity to view the city from a unique location.

Here's just a sampling of events this coming weekend in the Washington, D.C. area:

On Saturday, May 25, you have the opportunity to enjoy a rare view of Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas along a rather unusual musical experience. That afternoon between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. visitors will be allowed to climb the tower of the 50-bell Netherlands Carillon located at Route 50 and the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Arlington.

A guest artist will be performing a concert, and those who make the climb can watch the carillonneur perform in addition to enjoying the view of the city. Carillon concerts will be presented on Saturdays and national holidays from May through September. More details are available on the website for the George Washington Memorial Parkway, or by calling 703/289-2500/2552.

The carillon concert is especially appropriate for Memorial Day weekend. According to a park publication,

...the Netherlands Carillon expresses the gratitude of the Dutch people for American aid received during and after World War II. The carillon itself symbolizes the friendship between the people of the Netherlands and those of the United States.

In 1954 the 49-bell carillon was installed in a temporary tower in West Potomac Park, where it was formally accepted by the United States. The present tower was built near the United States Marine Corps War Memorial and the bells were installed in 1960. The carillon was officially dedicated on May 5, 1960, on the 15th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands from the Nazis.

With the imminent 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands in 1995, a group of prominent Dutch businessmen decided to establish a foundation to assist in the modernization and refurbishment of the carillon and the tower. These men were mindful of the original motivation of the Netherlands Carillon as a token of gratitude for American assistance in restoring Holland's freedom...The 50th bell of the Netherlands Carillon was officially dedicated on Friday May 5, 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands.

If you plan to visit during a concert and climb the tower, keep in mind that it's about 127 feet high.

A rectangular staircase leads to an observatory platform from which a small circular staircase winds up to the glass-enclosed playing cabin 83 feet above the ground.

The Netherlands Carillon is located on the Virginia shore of the Potomac River opposite Washington, D.C. and bordering the northern end of Arlington National Cemetery, adjacent to the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial.

On Sunday, May 24, the National Symphony Orchestra will perform a free outdoor holiday concert on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The National Memorial Day Concert will begin at 8 p.m. and is also broadcast live on PBS. Click here for some tips if you plan to attend the concert.

Another option for a concert that same evening is the Summer Blast Off at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, which kicks off the summer season with a free performance at 8:00 p.m. by the U.S. Marine Band, followed by fireworks. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and the park closes once capacity is reached, so organizers suggest you arrive early for this event. Click here for directions, metro shuttle information, and other details.

The NPS staff at the National Mall and Memorial Parks will be busy with other events in and near parks in the area. According to local media reports, activities on Monday, May 25 include:

• A wreath-laying ceremony and concert at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery at 11 a.m.

• The annual Memorial Day Observance at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial pays tribute to those who served and died in Vietnam. The event starts at 1 p.m. and will include Presentation of the Colors, remarks by a special guest, and a laying of wreaths by patriotic organizations.

• The National Memorial Day Parade begins at 2 p.m. at the corner of Constitution Avenue and 7th Streets, NW and proceeds along Constitution Avenue, past the White House, ending at 17th Street. The parade is sponsored by the World War II Veterans Committee, and includes marching ands and veterans units from all 50 states, patriotic floats and helium-filled balloons.


Rolling Thunder - the other big event in DC on Memorial Day Weekend takes place in part on the National Mall.

There is an event on Saturday at the Reflecting Pool at the Base of the Lincoln Memorial. And another on Sunday in the same location.

Full info on the Rolling Thunder events are at

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