Memorial Day is much more than a three-day weekend. On May 30, Americans across the country will once again recognize our nation's thousands of combat veterans with parades and wreath-laying ceremonies. The annual holiday honors veterans from all modern military engagements, including World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq.
With a history stretching back to the Civil War, the former "Decoration Day" has also become an opportunity to thank active military and veterans for their service with special events, sales, sweepstakes and freebies. Herewith are 25 of the best.
1. AAA Tipsy Tow
North Carolina, Nevada and Utah - May 30
The American Automobile Association is once again offering free towing for anyone who drinks and doesn't feel they should drive. AAA membership is not required for the offer. Call 1-800-222-4357 (AAA-HELP) and say you'd like a "Tipsy Tow."
2. National Parade
Washington, D.C. - 2 p.m. May 30
This annual, three-hour parade takes over the National Mall on Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th streets with marching bans from many states, patriotic floats, helium-filled balloons and veterans' units.
3. National Concert
Washington, D.C. - 8 p.m. May 29
PBS sponsors a free concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. This year's event features actors Joe Mantegna and Gay Sinise, the National Symphony Orchestra, and other artists.
4. Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally
Washington, D.C. - 12 p.m. May 29
Thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts ride from the Pentagon to the Lincoln Memorial in an annual demonstration seeking to improve veterans' benefits and resolve POW/MIA issues. Rolling Thunder participants also visit the Navy Memorial for a wreath-laying ceremony at 11 a.m. May 28.
5. National Grave Decorating Ceremony
Arlington National Cemetery - 4 p.m. May 30
Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as The Old Guard, will be joined by other service members in placing more than 250,000 flags on graves.
6. National Wreath Laying Ceremony
Arlington National Cemetery - 11 a.m. May 30
A concert follows this annual ritual at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the cemetery in Arlington, Va.
7. Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Wreath Ceremony
Washington, D.C. Mall - 1 p.m. May 30
This year's ceremony also includes remarks by a special guest and presentation of colors.
8. World War II Memorial
Washington, D.C. Mall - 9 a.m. May 30
Friends of the National WWII Memorial and the National Park Service sponsor a wreath-laying ceremony and remarks by guest speakers. The theme this year is "Honoring Our Fallen Warriors."
9. Air Force Memorial
Arlington, Va. - 9 a.m. May 30
The public is welcome to join in the wreath-laying ceremony at the national memorial honoring the U.S. Air Force.
10. Wolf Trap National Park
Vienna, Va. - 8 p.m. May 29
Located less than 20 minutes from downtown Washington, D.C., Wolf Trap kicks off summer with a free concert by the U.S. Marine Band, followed by a fireworks display.
11. Queen Mary
Long Beach, Calif. - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 30
Entrance to the luxury ocean liner and WWII transport is free for all active and retired military personnel. Admission includes a self-guided tour and the "Ghosts and Legends" show. While there's no charge for entry, you should know parking is $12.
12. Downtown Chicago Parade
State and Lake streets, Chicago, Ill. - 12 p.m. May 28
More than 10,000 participants join this annual procession, billed as one of the largest Memorial Day parades in the country. Features include marching bands, veterans' groups and Gold Star Families.
13. 34th Annual Atlanta Jazz Festival
Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Ga. - May 28 to 30
One of the largest free jazz festivals in the country kicks off summer on a high note. Headliners this year include Audrey Shakir, Regina Clark and the Sean Jones Quintet.
14. Fort Snelling "Military History Timeline"
Between Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn. - 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 30
Historic Fort Snelling hosts a Memorial Day tribute featuring costumed staff who'll interpret military history with characters from America's 225 years. Veterans are admitted free on Memorial Day.
15. Annual Pow-Wow at Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post
Onamia, Minn. - 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. May 30
Take a two-hour drive from Minneapolis for this free pow-wow hosted by AMVets Post 53. The event honors veterans with Native American dancing, music, food, crafts and games.
16. Free Classical Concert
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine - New York, N.Y. - May 30
Free performance by the New York Philharmonic featuring Beethoven's 3rd Symphony, Eorica (Heroic).
17. Memorial Day Marathon
Van Cortlandt Park, 245th Street and Broadway, Bronx, N.Y. - 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 30
This annual free marathon honors active and veteran men and women of the armed forces. The public is invited to join members currently serving in the military. This is the only trail marathon in New York City. Please note: While the race is free, a suggested $10 donation helps cover the cost of refreshments, favors and other supplies.
18. Kennedy Center Concert
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - NW Washington D.C. - 2 p.m. May 29
The 300-voice Memorial Day Festival Chorus and U.S. Army Orchestra will perform a free concert of spiritual and patriotic music.
19. Third Annual Denver Day of Rock Concert
Denver Downtown Area - All day May 28
For the third year running, Downtown Denver will put on a super-sized free rock concert featuring 20 bands on four stages.
20. Pompano Beach Concert
Pompano Beach, Fla. - 1:30 to 6:30 p.m., May 28
Singer/songwriters Ricky Byrd and Kasim Sulton headline a Memorial Day Weekend Concert, created to spread the message of love, recovery and hope.
21. Commemoration and Parade
The Presidio - San Francisco - 10:30 a.m. May 30
The City by the Bay honors veterans with a parade on the Main Post; a program at the National Cemetery featuring music, a color guard and remarks; followed by a ceremony ending in a 21-gun salute.
22. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
465 Huntington Ave., Boston, Mass. - 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. May 30
Join the MFA-Boston for a day of celebration with free general admission for all, including free admission to the special showing of "Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass."
23. FIJI Water Las Vegas Trip
Grand prize for Fiji Water's annual sweepstakes is worth $2,500 for a weekend stay for two at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, including airfare, and one-year home delivery of FIJI Water.
24. Ace Gift Card Giveaway
Win a $100 gift card to Ace Hardware from WinGoodStuff.com. Deadline is May 29 and you can play daily.
25. "Remember Our Heroes" Sweepstakes
Sponsored by the Armed Services Mutual Benefit Association, the grand prize for this Memorial Day sweepstakes is an Apple iPad 16GB with WiFi and 3G. Second prize is a Kindle with 3G and third prize is a $50 American Express gift card. The deadline for entries is May 31.
Find everything you need for summer fun when you shop Kmart online. Beginning May 26, save even more with free shipping on orders of $59 or more with code MEMORIALDAY.
Shop Memorial Day sales at Kohls.com and take an additional 10% off your order with code NEW4217.
28. Linens 'n Things
Linen's 'n Things is so much more than towels and sheets. The merchant offers many products you'll need to make your home cozy and breezy for summer fun. Get 20% off your online order with code D20.
Macy's is the place to kick off your summer with new apparel, housewares and more. Take 15% to 10% off select purchases sitewide with code KICKOFF.
Need a new camera to record summer fun? Ready to upgrade your laptop? Long for the latest in gaming supplies? Then come on over to Newegg.com, where new customers receive $10 off $50 orders with code NEWCUSTOMER10.
Shoes.com is all about footwear, from slinky sandals to kicky Keds. Shop online and get 20% off your order with code SECRET20.
Create memory books and cards with your own photos at Snapfish. Take 50% off everything with code 50ALLCART.
The free Coupon Sherpa mobile app brings hundreds of in-store coupons to your purse or pocket. Learn more and download the exclusive mobile app today.Mobile Coupons
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