Memorial Day 2020: Celebrate Close to Home in Des Moines

Memorial Day 2020: Celebrate Close to Home in Des Moines

The approaching Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer.  However, this year the holiday, and summer for that matter, will probably look much different.  Many events that typically host large crowds, won’t take place. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate the holiday while social distancing at home!

Of course, Memorial Day is more than just an occasion for summer’s first backyard BBQ, it’s an important holiday for our country to pay respect to the men and women who have died in wars or in the service of their country. So, in addition to activities to keep your family entertained we also included a few ideas on how you can help your kids honor the day.

To help you out, we rounded up several activities to keep everyone in your crew happy and entertained over the three-day weekend. Find additional suggestions in our Event CalendarSpring Fun Guide and our Summer Fun Guide.

Memorial Day Weekend in Des Moines:

Fun Ideas to Celebrate Memorial Day at Home

Turn Your Yard into a Water Park

Even if you can’t make it to the water park this Memorial Day, you can still bring the water park to you. Get out the grill, set up a waterslide and play some Beach Boys music. If a waterslide is out of the budget, pull out the sprinkler and let the kids run through it.

Enjoy a Meal Alfresco

Gather the fam and enjoy a meal outside.  Whether you break out the grill for a good old-fashioned BBQ or toss a blanket on the ground and bring along sandwiches in the picnic basket, food tastes better when it’s enjoyed alfresco.  Add in some games, Memorial Day decor, and you’ve got yourself a full day of fun.

Play Yard Games

Lawn games are really popular right now.  Grab yours out of storage for a little friendly competition and enjoy some fun family bonding time that will keep the kids occupied and outside. If you don’t have your own, Smash Park is currently renting some of theirs.  Visit their website for additional info.

Take the Bikes for a Spin

May is National Bike Month and Memorial Day weekend is a great time to go for a family bike ride. Central Iowa has a number of great trails and of course the High Trestle Trail is a great ride for families. Just be sure to adhere to social distancing guidelines. You could also dress up your bike with Memorial Day decorations and host a neighborhood bike parade. 

Visit a Local Park

Head to the park for an active day of family fun this Memorial Day.  Local, county and state parks, trails and preserves are all still open to visitors.  However, due to state mandates, restrooms, playgrounds and shelters are CLOSED.  Before visiting a park, be sure to do a little research so you can plan accordingly.  Also, please be aware of health precautions and the need for physical distancing when visiting.

Go Camping in Your Backyard

Even though parks are open for day visits, only campers with self-contained restrooms are allowed in State run campgrounds. Many county parks are still closed to campers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still pitch a tent.  Dig your camping gear out of the garage and turn your backyard into your favorite campground. Set out some chairs and a cooler, build a campfire, make s’mores and do a little stargazing all from the comfort of your backyard.  

Travel to a National Park Virtually

Outdoor enthusiasts can take in the gorgeous scenery of some of America’s greatest green spaces from home. Several National Parks are streaming virtual visits through live webcams. Kids can also take part in the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger program. Check out their online activities, ranging from scavenger hunts to word scrambles to journaling.

Go Fishing

Fishing has always been an ideal sport for social distancing. Pack a cooler, grab your poles, and head to your favorite fishing hole. Here’s a few Des Moines area parks that allow fishing or visit Iowa DNR for their Weekly Fishing Report. Be sure to purchase any necessary licenses before the weekend kicks off.

Play a Game of Baseball

Whether your kids are missing getting to participate in their favorite sport or your family is missing taking in a game at Principal Park…Memorial Day weekend would be a great opportunity for a pickup game of baseball. 

Hunt for Treasure

Enjoy the unofficial start to summer by celebrating National Scavenger Hunt Day, on May 24, 2020. Create your own scavenger hunt, download one or take it up a notch by purchasing Let’s Roam Scavenger Hunts – Des Moines Scavenger Hunt. This app-led outdoor scavenger hunt will lead you from landmark to landmark to discover art, culture and history. Search plaques, statues and art to solve riddles that can only be found on location.

Memorial Day 2020: Celebrate Close to Home in Des Moines –

Fun Ideas to Commemorate Memorial Day with Kids

Have the Kids Research the Origins of Memorial Day

Challenge the kids to a Memorial Day trivia contest. Let kids research for the who-what-where-when-why details of this important national holiday. (It was originally called Decoration Day, as a way to honor American Civil War soldiers who died serving the country. For the first few decades, the North and the South celebrated it on different days.)

Listen to Patriotic Music

Crank up the volume and queue up some patriotic tunes. Jimmy Hendrix playing the “Star Bangled Banner”, John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” mixed in with Miley Cirus singing “Party in the USA” would make a great collection of tracks that will have you bursting with American pride.

Wear a Poppy

National Poppy Day is May 22, 2020. The red poppy is a nationally recognized symbol of sacrifice worn by Americans since World War I to honor those who served and died for our country in all wars. It reminds Americans of the sacrifices made by our veterans while protecting our freedoms. Wear a poppy to honor those who have worn our nation’s uniform.

Decorate With Flags

Break out the red, white and blue! For many years, it has been a tradition to decorate graves of fallen soldiers with flags on Memorial Day. Bring that tradition home and decorate your house and lawn with the stars and stripes! Another tradition is to fly the flag at half-staff from dawn until noon local time. If you have a flagpole, consider joining the tradition this year. Don’t own a flag? Color your patriotism with markers or crayons.

Take a Virtual Tour of Arlington National Cemetery

While Arlington National Cemetery is closed to visitors, you can still experience its beauty and history from home! Take a virtual walk through the cemetery in springtime, learn about the cemetery’s origins and early history, explore how the variety of grave markers tell their own stories of the cemetery’s history and learn about the services conducted for fallen service members and their families.

Participate in the National Moment of Remembrance

Congress passed The National Moment of Remembrance Act as an added way of honoring America’s fallen heroes. The Act declares 3:00 pm local time on Memorial Day for Americans to have a moment of silence in honor of the men and women of the United States who died in the pursuit of freedom and peace. Have your kids come up with some ideas for how you can honor the moment for fallen soldiers with the rest of the country. Light a candle, sing a song, or salute the flag? Let their imaginations be your guide.

Watch the National Memorial Day Concert

Each year PBS airs the National Memorial Day Concert which features uplifting musical performances, documentary footage and dramatic readings that honor the military service of all our men and women in uniform and their families at home. One of PBS’ highest-rated programs, featuring an all-star lineup, the multi-award-winning television event has become an American tradition.



Will your family celebrate Memorial Day at home? What do you have planned? Tell us in the comments below!

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