This Monday is Memorial Day, and for many, the day marks the unofficial start of summer. Barbecues, beach parties and similar events may be on the agenda – but it’s important to remember that Memorial Day commemorates the ultimate sacrifice American soldiers have made for our freedom – a sacrifice that stretches far beyond one day of calendar.  If you truly want to get into the spirit of the holiday, consider visiting a historical memorial site or taking part in other Memorial Day events in Florida to pay your respects, learn some valuable history, and enjoy the activities associated with this special holiday. Consider these Memorial Day weekend ideas:

Florida’s "Mini-Arlington”

Located fifty miles north of Tampa in the Withlacoochee State Forest, a visit to the Florida National Cemetery is the perfect event for this Memorial Day weekend. You can honor a fallen hero by leaving flowers at their gravesite or learn the story of a solider’s life simply by typing their name in a fallen soldier search engine. Your family can spend the day enjoying the beautiful landscape and monuments that fill the park. After paying your respects, take time to enjoy all the great features the Withlacoochee State Forest offers such as canoeing, hiking trails, the Croom Motorcycle Area, and world-class bird watching. 

"Florida’s Gettysburg”

Memorial Day’s origins date back to the post-Civil War era, and Florida’s Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park commemorates the site of Florida's largest Civil War battle.  Olustee Battlefield, located 50 miles west of Jacksonville, has a visitor center with historical information and artifacts for your family to explore.  Visitors can also enjoy the picnic area or take a walk along a mile-long trail that has signs describing the events of the battle and the lives of soldiers who fought there.

March and Salute

If you’re looking for a festive event to honor the troops, try taking your family to a Memorial Day parade. You can find a parade in a variety of cities and towns, big and small, throughout Florida including Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami, Sanford, Stuart, and all National Cemeteries. Florida Memorial Day parades provide you and your loved ones a chance to celebrate the sacrifice of American soldiers while honoring current members of the military who often participate in these events. Most parades begin in morning, so check your local newspaper and plan ahead.