Ways to Celebrate MLK Day Around the DC Area (2022)


Whether you’re looking for ways to teach kids about MLK, want to give back on the Day of Service, or hope to partake in another special activity to observe the holiday, these recommendations will have you covered.

Day of Service
Where: Various locations around the DMV
When: January 17
Admission: Just your time

If you want to volunteer on the MLK, Jr. Day of Service, there are many ways and places you can do so around the area. Start here to find opportunities that suit your family. And during this Covid time, outdoor volunteer clean-ups are a good option — here are some taking place around the area:
Roaches Run River Cleanup | Arlington, VA | January 15, 10am – 12pm
Jones Point Park Cleanup | Alexandria, VA | January 15, 10am – 2pm
Four Mile Run Cleanup | Alexandria, VA | January 15, 10am – 12pm
Turkey Run Cleanup | McLean, VA | January 15, 10am – 12pm
Mount Vernon Trail | Alexandria, VA | January 17, 10am – 12pm
Stream & Park Cleanups | MoCo, MD | January 15-22 (several opportunities)
Clean Waterways Cleanup | Southeast DC | January 17, 10am – 1pm
Rock Creek Park | Northwest DC | January 15-17 (several opportunities)

More Family Volunteer Ops
Where: Various locations around the DMV
When: Ongoing
Admission: Just your time

For more places to volunteer as a family that aren’t included in the official MLK Day of Service database, this KFDC post has suggestions — whether on the actual day or at a later time inspired by the holiday. All of the organizations listed welcome kids to help out, though some have age requirements, so be sure to note them.

African American History & Culture
Where: NMAAHC | National Mall, DC
When: January 17, 10am – 5:30pm
Admission: Free, but timed entry passes required

Tickets to the National Museum of African American History & Culture can be some of toughest to get in DC. But this weekend, the museum, which is usually closed on Mondays, will be open an extra day in honor of MLK Day. Currently, there are lots of tickets available for many time slots, but they’ll likely go quickly. Reserve them here.

FUTURES We Dream Family Day
Where: Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building | National Mall, DC
When: January 16, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free

The recently opened Arts & Industries Building is hosting an in-person, Covid-safe event to honor MLK.  Celebrate the spirit of his dream with a day full of hope, justice seeking, and collaboration. Learn about the Smithsonian’s 175 years of changemaking and reckoning with its history on the SI Story wall. Join family-friendly guided tours exploring social justice and more equitable futures (10:30am and 2pm). Take inspiration from Dr. King’s speeches and many other future thinkers to craft your inspirational messages for the future you dream in drop-in workshops (11am and 1pm). Pop in for hands-on activities for the youngest future makers throughout the day. Get a glimpse of the museum’s fascinating FUTURES exhibit here.

Peace Walk
Where: Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge | Southeast DC
When: January 17, 9:30am
Admission: Free

The annual MLK Day Peace Walk is on this year and taking place at the recently opened beautiful Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge that spans from Anacostia to the Navy Yard. Notable DC peops are always in attendance — who will it be this year? Register to join the event, and note that the annual parade is NOT taking place due to Covid.

Artsy MLK Days
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden | Lusby, MD
When: January 15-17, 11am – 4pm
Admission: Free, but reservations required

Celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King with community art activities. Each year on this weekend, Annmarie Sculpture Garden invites guests of all ages to help create a community art installation in honor of a dream. Join visiting artist, Sarah Matthews, for a project is inspired by Dr. King’s quote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Learn how to create your own stamps to design and print uplifting posters to hang in your community. Make two posters, one to leave here and one to hang in your favorite gathering spot. Read more about the wonderful Annmarie Sculpture Garden here.

Free Parking
Where: National Parks
When: January 17
Admission: Free!

In honor of MLK Day, it’s the first fee free day of the year for national parks, which means there’s no cost for entry where they usually charge to get in. Take advantage of complimentary admission and the day off from school. Some ideas: Hit the trail at Shenandoah or Great Falls, explore Prince William Forest Park, go to Fort McHenry in Baltimore, or enjoy hiking and history at Harpers Ferry. Find even more national parks around the area and beyond. (PS: You can do your own trash cleanup while you’re there!)

Visit Memorials
Where: National Mall & Tidal Basin, DC
When: January 17 (and ongoing)
Admission: Free

Pay tribute to Dr. King at places that honor his legacy. Visit the MLK Memorial, a powerful and poignant site along the Tidal Basin. From there, you can head to the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and look for his words etched in the stone at the top of the steps.

All Ages Virtual Art Class: I Have a Dream
Where: Art Jamz Online
When: January 16
Admission: $12.50

The whole family can join Art Jamz online for this live painting class.  In honor of MLK Day, they are donating 50% of all proceeds directly to Martha’s Table.  During the Live Virtual Paint Session, they encourage the creation of original art under the guidance of a talented local artist. Need art materials? Purchase an ArtJamz® At-Home Paint Kit — they’ll even throw in a novelty artist mustache.



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