Given the event in the Capitol this week, there is a Public Emergency Order in place until 1/21/21 which may impact in-person events. Stay safe & call ahead to confirm all in-person events are still happening as scheduled. If events are canceled, check out this list of virtual MLK events or consider a day of service from home using some of these ideas for giving back

MLK Day (Jan. 18) isn’t just a day off, it’s an opportunity for your future leader to learn about one of the greats in pretty special ways. Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a parade or try a hands-on activities that brings the message of love and unity home. Here are our top picks on commemorating the Civil Rights leader in 2021.

6314757763_ee34a931a3_zphoto: Mark Haller via Flickr

Visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
To honor the most powerful voice of the Civil Rights movement, this memorial has 15 quotes etched in granite. And while the words are moving to read, hearing Dr. King give the famous “I Have a Dream” speech under his stone shadow is even more powerful (listening to the speech on the steps of The Lincoln Memorial is also a must do). You can download the speech from PBS (they also offer some educational lessons on the site). Let your youngest kiddos celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. with their own voice; this little diddy is best sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star: Freedom, Freedom, let it ring. “Let it ring, said Dr. King. Let us live in harmony. Peace and love for you and me. Freedom, freedom, let it ring. “Let it ring,” said Dr. King. 

Where: Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, 1964 Independence Ave SW, West Potomac Park


Rock Creek Park Celebrates MLK Weekend of Service
This all-weekend event celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.’s conviction that “all life is interrelated.” By empowering individuals to better their communities, Rock Creek Park Conservancy (in partnership with the National Park Service) aims to honor Dr. King through acts of service. Sign up to remove invasive species along trails, or pick up trash.

When: Jan.16-18
Where: Rock Creek Park

photo: Ted Eytan

15th Annual Peace Walk & Parade
This event kicks off with a community clean up at 9 a.m. on Mon., Jan. 18 followed by a peace walk at 10 a.m. This Anacostia parade is a tradition that started in 1968 and is still going strong today. Over a thousand participants walk for peace each year; registration is not necessary.

When: Jan. 18, 9 a.m.
Where: 2500 MLK Jr. Ave. SE, Anacostia

MLK Day of Service
“A day on. Not a day off.” What started in 1994 continues today with the city’s eight wards participating in over 1300 acts of service to honor Dr. King’s legacy as a civil rights activist and leader. Check out the National Service guide for a volunteer opportunity for you and your tiny tots to work for the greater good (or brush up on our guide to volunteering in the DMV here). 

When: Jan. 18
Where: Various locations

National Parks Free Day
If you are an adventure loving family and you love free then head to the national parks. MLK day marks the first day of entrance fee-free days to National Parks. Bonus: There are a slew of them in the DMV.

When: Jan. 18, all day
Where: Various locations

photo: Frank Tellez via flickr

21st Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade
At the time of publishing, this historic parade is on! Whether Baltimore is more convenient to downtown DC, or you’re just looking for an excuse to hit the road, this annual tradition will have you feeling the spirit of the day in full force.

Update: This event is  canceled.

When: Jan. 18
Where: Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. between Eutaw St. and Baltimore St., Baltimore, MD

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Virtual Shoebox Parade 2021
If you want to enter this virtual parade, you need to hurry! The deadline is today, Jan. 12. Otherwise, log on to Baltimore’s Dept. of Recreation & Parks Facebook page on Jan. 18th for a virtual shoebox parade. Not sure what a shoebox parade is? Check out this video that demonstrates a parade in action and then head over here for a quick tutorial.

When: Jan. 18, 4:30 p.m.

Give Together: A Family Volunteer Day
Start them young. It is one of the best ways to teach wee ones about the values of volunteering and giving back to their community. Volunteer Fairfax celebrates MLK Day with a family-oriented day of service. This teachable opportunity gives families the chance to work on volunteer-based projects with the preschool and elementary set that are both hands-on and fun.

When: Jan. 18
Where: 8900 Little River Turnpike, Fairfax, VA

—Meghan Yudes Meyers and Victoria Mason