Best Memorial Day Museums SoCal
Credit: USS Midway Museum

17 Ways to Honor Fallen Veterans This Memorial Day Weekend in SoCal

A Hall for Heroes and Monuments for Military—All in Memoriam on This Special Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend is one of the most beloved weekends of the year. But with the excitement of an extra day off work, not to mention the promise of summer, it can be easy to lose sight of the holiday’s true purpose: to honor those who have served our country and fought bravely to protect our freedom.

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While we encourage you to get out, soak up the sun and enjoy your day off, we also recommend taking some time to show appreciation for our fallen veterans. Luckily, Southern California is home to a variety of memorials, museums and patriotic events. Read on to explore some of the best memorials to visit and gatherings to attend that honor the bravest of the brave.

 

📍 ORANGE COUNTY

Castaways Park in Newport Beach

Credit: Visit Newport Beach

The 1/1 Memorial at Castaways Park in Newport Beach is a poignant tribute to the brave soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, who have given their lives in service to our country. Located amidst the scenic beauty of Castaways Park, the memorial offers a reflective space for visitors. As Memorial Day weekend approaches, this serene location becomes a focal point for remembrance and honor. The park is renowned for its “Field of Honor,” where hundreds of American flags are placed in a stunning display, each one representing a fallen veteran. This powerful visual tribute serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made for our freedoms. It also provides a beautiful space for visitors to pay their respects. The sweeping ocean views and tranquil setting of Castaways Park enhance the solemn beauty of the memorial. It’s an ideal place for paying respects to the heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

 

Heroes Hall at the OC Fair & Event Center

Best Memorial Day Museums SoCal
Credit: OC Fair & Event Center

Located in the heart of Orange County, the Heroes Hall museum at the OC Fair & Events Center is one of the most moving and captivating military museums around. With rotating exhibits, each designed to showcase the unique legacy and service of different fallen OC veterans, Heroes Hall is the perfect place to gather, learn and reflect on Memorial Day weekend. Check out the current featured exhibit titled “The Vietnam War through the Art and Photography of Ed Bowen,” on display until late December 2024.

 

Harbor Lawn-Mount Olive Memorial Park & Mortuary

Credit: Harbor Lawn-Mount Olive Memorial Park

Recently expanded in 2008, the Harbor Lawn-Mount Olive Memorial Park is a thoughtfully designed and respected veterans memorial in Orange County. Centered around a gorgeous brick path that leads to a scenic display, featuring individual stones each with the name and birthdate of a deceased veteran, this monument encapsulates the sacrifices made by those who have served our country. This park is among the most moving Memorial Day observances in Southern California.

 

Anaheim Veterans Monument

Credit: Anaheim Veterans Monument

Another excellent Orange County veterans monument is the Anaheim Veterans Monument. Standing 9 feet tall and flanked by beautiful water features, this monument honors Anaheim locals who served in the military and are no longer with us. This is also the gathering place for a Memorial Day remembrance celebration—the perfect opportunity to show support for our nation’s fallen heroes.

 

Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon 

For those ready to challenge themselves this Memorial Day, the Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon is the perfect way to embody the resilient spirit of our nation’s military. Participants will race right through the heart of Laguna Hills while raising money to support local veterans. This half-marathon is not only a fun and energetic event, but also one that benefits a deserving audience.

 

El Toro Memorial Day Program

This is the 33rd year that the El Toro Memorial Park will host its Annual Memorial Day Program. Funded by the Orange County Cemetery District, this acclaimed ceremony features a special recognition of veterans in attendance, an authentic firing salute, a wreath presentation, as well as musical performances from active duty military band members. This program is as thought-provoking as it is inspiring.

 

Freedom Park Vietnam War Memorial

Freedom Park Vietnam War Memorial is one of a few monuments that acknowledges the cooperation between the US and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. This breathtaking memorial features two 11-foot-tall bronze soldiers and several plaques that honor fallen veterans of the Vietnam War. Powerful and progressive, it’s an excellent place for those looking to remember the soldiers who fought and died during one of our nation’s most tumultuous conflicts.

 

📍 SAN DIEGO

USS Midway Museum 

Best Memorial Day Museums SoCal
Credit: USS Midway Museum

Stationed within San Diego’s stunning harbor, the epic USS Midway Museum stands as one of the most immersive museums in the country. The longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century, the museum acts as the centerpiece of San Diego’s Memorial Day weekend celebrations. It hosts gatherings with active US Navy and Air Force officers, a powerful wreath laying ceremony and more.

 

Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial 

A unique and treasured memorial monument, Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial honors soldiers of all eras. It dates all the way from the Revolutionary War to the present day. But what makes this La Jolla monument truly unique are the faces of the brave men and women being honored. It’s a stark display that offers a captivating glimpse into the eyes of those who served and are no longer with us.

 

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery 

Credit: Ken Lund

One of only seven national cemeteries created between World Wars I and II, the oceanfront grounds of the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery is home to a large and powerful memorial celebration. It is not uncommon to see flowers placed upon nearly every headstone.

 

Veterans Museum at Balboa Park

Credit: U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Trevor Welsh

Once a historic naval hospital, the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park aims to showcase the incredible history of our nation’s military, paying homage to veterans and educating others about brave military happenings dating as far back as World War I. Expect to find exhibits that are dedicated to a remarkable singular event in history—like their “Hold At All Costs—The Battle for Outpost Harry” feature—and other teachings about the evolution of our military over time. Visiting the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park is a great way to show respect and support.

 

📍 LOS ANGELES

Forest Lawn Memorial Day Remembrances

Forest Lawn will pay tribute to our fallen veterans with Memorial Day remembrances at all six of its Southern California locations. These include Cathedral City, Covina Hills, Cypress, Glendale, Hollywood Hills and Long Beach. Taking place on May 27, these heartfelt, family-friendly events will celebrate the courage and sacrifices of American veterans through a series of activities. They will feature patriotic music, wreath layings, flag presentations and retirings, keynote speeches and more. Attendees will also enjoy a variety of giveaways, arts and crafts, coffee, sweet treats and more. The ceremonies at Cathedral City, Covina Hills, Cypress, Hollywood Hills, and Long Beach start at 10 a.m. Glendale’s Field of Honor event will kick off at 11 a.m., with the main Forest Lawn commemoration beginning at 1 p.m.

 

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza

Best Memorial Day Museums SoCal
Credit: Courtesy of Arts Council for Long Beach

Capturing the gratitude and patriotic spirit of the Long Beach community, Long Beach’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors 103 area soldiers who valiantly served in Vietnam. The memorial features an impressive recreation of a soaring Vietnam-era helicopter, as well as some powerful engraved words that express the courage and devotion of these young men, making it an excellent place to visit and pay tribute this Memorial Day.

 

Veterans Memorial Park

Credit: Veterans Memorial Park

Redondo Beach is home to a thriving veteran community, as exemplified by their stellar Memorial Day ceremony held at the scenic and historic Veterans Memorial Park. This celebration features demonstrations by former and active duty military personnel, as well as words from decorated veterans. The ceremony gives locals and visitors a rare opportunity to directly express gratitude to those who have served.

 

LA Fleet Week (May 22-27)

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaylianna Genier/Released

One of the largest and most exciting Memorial Day weekend celebrations, LA Fleet Week showcases the dedication of our nation’s Navy. The weekend-long event includes fun activities such as ship tours, flyovers, a dodgeball tournament and the famous Navy vs. Marine Corps vs. Coast Guard vs. Army cookoff—better known as the “galley wars.” LA Fleet Week is the perfect way to have fun with the family while honoring and celebrating our nation’s heroes.

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📍 GREATER PALM SPRINGS

Joshua Tree Veterans Memorial Park

For those looking to soak up the desert sun, we recommend stopping by the stunning Joshua Tree Veterans Memorial Park. Surrounded by vast, panoramic views of the Mojave Desert, the quiet grounds of this memorial park offer a chance for silent reflection and appreciation. This serene park is the perfect place to uncover new meaning for this treasured holiday.

 

Palm Springs Air Museum

Navy T-28 Trainer at the Palm Springs Air Museum

The Palm Springs Air Museum is an incredible sight year-round, showcasing artifacts of aerospace history, from authentic WWII fighter planes to historical innovations in aviation. On Memorial Day, attendees of their impressive ceremony will witness a B-25 Mitchell bomber drop over 3,000 red and white carnations from above, creating a unique and moving spectacle. This is an event that should be on everyone’s long-weekend to-do list.

 

March Field Air Museum 

Best Memorial Day Museums SoCal
Credit: March Field Air Museum

Once a prestigious US Air Force base, the March Field Air Museum is now home to a revered collection of authentic historic aircraft. The Heritage Courtyard, located adjacent to the museum, houses multiple monuments and a rose garden in memoriam of fallen veterans. The museum hosts daily air shows where you can see aircraft in action! They also offer some of the best educational resources on the history of aircraft development.

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