The Top 5 Ways to Get Outside on Memorial Day

From park picnics to water sports, Camping & Hiking Expert Katie Benoit shares her five favorite way to soak up the sun this Memorial Day.

The author jumps in the air with her arms outstretched and her knees tucked under her. The grass is lush and green and dotted with yellow wildflowers. There are rolling hills in the background.

Max Patch in Western North Carolina. Photo by Katie Benoit

Memorial Day is one of our nation’s ways to honor soldiers who lost their lives while serving in the U.S. military. Many Americans spend the day with family, going to parades or grilling in the backyard. Maybe you’re ready to switch things up a bit! Are you looking for a way to get outdoors this year? Here are five of the best ways you can soak up the sun for Memorial Day.

1. Have a Barbeque at a Local Park!

Best For: Families or Gatherings

There’s nothing quite like a hamburger (or veggie burger) being pulled fresh off the grill with melted cheese and a toasted bun. It’s even better when you’re spending time with friends and family in a park! Finding a spot to set up shop can seem daunting when you’ve got a group of 30, but there are resources to make it less stressful and give you more time to soak up the sun! A good way to start is to search for your local Parks and Recreation Department. If there is one established, they will have what you need to make a reservation for a shelter with the right amenities, or they can point you in the right direction.

Looking to travel to a new park? Search for the top ten parks in your state and follow the same process. All designated parks should have a way of speaking to a ranger and setting up a space for your Memorial Day barbeque!

Expert Rating: 4 out of 5 This option is great for families and friends who don’t want to get their own backyards messy, but it definitely comes with some set-backs. Parks do tend to get crowded on holiday weekends, so this option will require some planning ahead to reserve space! Once you’ve got the space, the rest is easy! Just enjoy the sunshine and do what I do—load up on the potato chips!

2. Head for a Local Hike!

A waterfall pours off a natural rock shelf. The author and other visitors stand under the shelf.

Waterfall at Hocking Hills State Park, OH. Photo by Katie Benoit

Best For: Beginner Hikers

Looking for a way to get outdoors and stretch your legs? Find a local park to hike in! Similar to finding a park for a barbeque, there are many resources out there to plan a successful hike. New to hiking? Aim for a 1-3 mile hike with little elevation change. Been on a few short hikes and are ready to step it up a notch? Try going on a 5-6 mile hike with a few hills thrown in. Feel ready to tackle a strenuous hike? Ask your park ranger about hikes eight miles or further that have more significant elevation changes. It’s important to remember—it’s not about the distance, it’s about the time spent outdoors!

Expert Rating: 5 out of 5 Maybe I’m a bit biased as a Camping & Hiking Expert, but I think that this is the best option for getting outdoors on Memorial Day. With the possibility of seeing waterfalls, hiking next to rivers, and getting amazing views, you can’t beat the “choose your challenge” aspect of hiking! There’s a hike out there for everyone, kids or no kids, dog-friendly or not, just search for a park that looks interesting and talk to a local ranger!

3. Play in the Waves at the Beach!

Nine people, four in life jackets, wade into shallow water on a tropical beach.

Taking a swim break in Bahía las Cabezas, Puerto Rico. Photo by Katie Benoit

Best For: Relaxation

When most people think of the beach, their minds tend to picture miles of sand packed with people and the ocean crashing in. You know the image! Colorful umbrellas, kids building sandcastles, and seagulls stalking any visible food. While that is one of the ways to catch the rays, there are also other options for beaches!

Another great place to find beaches are lakes and sometimes even rivers. Lakes are great for those of us looking for more solitude than the scene we painted before. You can get in touch with park rangers at the lake or do some searching on your own to see if there’s a public beach. The same goes for rivers, although those may also be more secret and word of mouth due to the real serenity you can find there!

Expert Rating: 3 out of 5 A day by the water can be relaxing sometimes, but this also seems to be a popular option for a lot of people on Memorial Day. For this reason, I give it a 3 out of 5 rating. Sometimes there are long lines to get a parking pass, and for a lot of people, the beach is a multi-hour drive. There seem to be better options for staying cool and getting outdoors on Memorial Day! But, it still makes the top five list because a beach day is always fun!

4. Set Up Games in a Local Park!

Best For: The Competitive Family Who doesn’t like a little friendly competition, right? Spend your Memorial Day playing a few rounds of yard games with family and friends! This can take place in any public green space or even in your own backyard. Some of the more popular games are cornhole, KanJam, volleyball, or Spikeball. Each can be played with multiple people, offer different levels of competition, and are a good laugh for everyone involved! It’s up to you how competitive you get, but a wager for ice cream is always a fun twist!

Expert Rating: 4 out of 5 I definitely have a competitive side to me, which is why I love this option for Memorial Day fun! Being outdoors, recreational play with friends and family, and a friendly wager for ice cream? That sounds like the perfect day for me! I love finding local green spaces to set up, and maybe a few passers-by join in throughout the day to extend the fun! It’s all about making memories outdoors on Memorial Day.

5. Go for a Paddle!

An image of the tip of a yellow canoe on extremely blue, flat, still water with low-lying green foliage on the banks in the distance.

Canoeing in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. Photo by Katie Benoit

Best For: Cooling Off Paddling can seem daunting to those who have never done it, but many state parks have begun offering rental boats for people who want to try it out! Usually around $20-30 for a multi-hour rental, this can be an affordable and fun way to try something new in the outdoors on Memorial Day. Different types of paddling can include kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding. Each comes with fun and different ways of traveling in water, and you’ll want to try out each before deciding which is your favorite! Like most of the other options, your local park ranger will be a great resource for finding these rentals or an outfitter to help. Grab a group of friends or the family and head on the water for a day of paddling!

Expert Rating: 5 out of 5 Being out on water paddling has a great feeling of calm to it, which is why I gave it a 5 out of 5 rating. Whether you're a first-time paddler or have owned your own boat for years, it can still bring the same level of fun each time. Grab a friend and hit the water at a lake, and don’t forget to pack a lunch and sunscreen for catching the rays on Memorial Day!

As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, there are so many great options for getting outside on Memorial Day. Whether you’re honoring a family member or friend who lost their life, showing your support for others, or just taking the day to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who served, getting outside is a great place to do that. Thank you to all the brave folks who have served and are currently serving the U.S. military—your sacrifices are not unnoticed.

If you have any questions or are looking for the perfect equipment for your Memorial Day adventures, reach out to a Camping and Hiking Expert here on Curated. We'd be happy to help!

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Written By
Katie Benoit
Katie Benoit
Camping & Hiking Expert
Hey there! My name is Katie and I am a Curated Camping and Hiking Expert! ​ Throughout my undergraduate college experience, I worked as an Outdoor Adventure trip leader for my fellow undergraduates. I led backpacking, hiking, and even paddling trips every weekend to some amazing places! Shenandoah N...
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