So your family finds itself with a three-day weekend coming up. You want to do something fun, but also feel like you should, you know, actually appreciate the significance of what the Memorial Day holiday really entails. Well, why not do both?

Our country's National Park Service operates 29 National Memorials in locations all around our great land, many of which are not only near you, but near the kind of attractions the whole family can enjoy. Today we'll take a look at five of these locations simply as a way to get your creative juices flowing. By no means do we intend to be exhaustive, nor does our exclusion of other memorials, historical sites, battlefields or cemeteries mean they aren't equally worthy of a visit! Our goal here is to help you consider what's nearby, what you want to "memorialize" this year, what lessons might be learned at each stop, and how else you might combine fun and reflection as a family!

Let's journey from west to east today, and begin our tour in California...

THE PORT CHICAGO NAVAL MAGAZINE NATIONAL MEMORIAL (Concord, CA)

What it Commemorates

  • The largest domestic loss of life during World War II (320 sailors and civilians), July 17, 1944
  • Ships being loaded with ammunition and bombs exploded
  • Most of the lives lost were of African-American descent
  • The tragedy played an important role in the eventual desegregation of the United States Navy

Travel-Time Talking Points

  • The horrors of war are not limited to far-away battlefields; accidents can and do occur, so we must not take life for granted
  • Soldiers and sailors who die at home are no less deserving of our respect and honor than those killed in action
  • Racism has no place anywhere, especially not among those fighting for the same cause of freedom

Follow-Up Fun Spots

You're in Northern California, so the opportunities are everywhere! Yosemite Park or Napa Valley not your thing? Port Chicago is near Oakland, so all the opportunities of the Bay Area await: 

THE CHAMIZAL NATIONAL MEMORIAL (El Paso, TX)

What it Commemorates

  • The peaceful resolution of the Chamizal Dispute
  • The boundary between the U.S. and Mexico was in question due to a course change in the Rio Grande
  • The cooperation of neighboring countries to allocate river waters, provide for flood control, and sanitation

Travel-Time Talking Points

  • Death and tragedy are not the only things worth "memorializing." It is also fitting to remember times when skirmishes were amicably prevented through international cooperation
  • We are to love our neighbors individually; does the same commandment apply to countries? What does that look like?
  • While we can be thankful the U.S. and Mexico have a border without war or dispute, it is not always peaceful. What are some issues involving the border or immigration, and what do you think should be done about them?

Follow-Up Fun Spots