Memorial Day Weekend Kicks Off a New Season in Yorktown

Schooner Alliance Beauty Shot

This Memorial Day Weekend, while many of you fire up the grill, visit your neighborhood pool, catch some rays at the beach—basically any way to celebrate the unofficial return of summer—several community partners want to also gently remind everyone of the real reason behind this three-day weekend. And why you should consider making a trip to Yorktown.

Kids sitting on cannon holding American Flag

Like other communities across the country, Yorktown will pause to honor and mourn all those who died in the line of duty serving in our Armed Forces. 

On Monday, May 31, citizens and visitors are invited to participate in two different ceremonies. The first takes place at Grace Episcopal Church at 10 a.m. There will be a special ceremony followed by the playing of “Taps” and “Honors” and the reading of the names of the 103 known veterans from pre-Revolutionary War to Korea and Vietnam who are buried in the 17th-century cemetery. Attendance will be limited to the first 50-75 people.

couple at monument

Then at noon, guests can gather once again, this time outside York Hall in front of the War Memorial. It will be a time to reflect on the heroism of the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedoms. During this annual remembrance program sponsored by the York County Historical Committee, Keynote Speaker Colonel William E. Townsley, USAF (Ret) will share his experience as a decorated Vietnam veteran and former pilot. Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 824, will serve as Color Guard. There will also be a wreath laying ceremony, playing of "Taps" and performance by the Fifes and Drums of York Town.

2019 reenactors by Mobjack Bay Coffee sign

On Saturday, May 29, take a walking tour at 11 a.m. led by local historians to learn more about some of the prominent citizens of Yorktown buried in the cemetery at Grace Episcopal Church. Other stops along this ticketed experience will include the War Memorial at the Old Courthouse, the Great Valley, and Monument to Victory and Alliance. Images of the French Memorials and National Cemetery will be included in the tour. If you’re interested, stop by Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters at 411 Main Street to get your tickets in person or purchase them here, on their website.

Quilt on display at the Gallery at York Hall

Both On the Hill Gallery and the Gallery at York Hall, also on Main Street, will have special exhibits all weekend. You don’t want to miss the Architecture Show at On the Hill Gallery featuring works in 2D, 3D, jewelry, and textile. This show is open and free for the general public, though the times vary depending on the day you’re visiting. When you stop by the Gallery at York Hall—not only will you see beautiful handcrafted quilts on display, you’ll also be able to purchase several unique patriotic works of art including signs, photographs, books, and ornaments. Beginning June 1, the quilt exhibit will switch over to Pine Needle Baskets. These are handwoven and make beautifully unique gifts!

Throughout the weekend, there are many events, attraction openings, and outdoor recreational opportunities for visitors of all ages to come out and enjoy the fresh air, delicious food, and peaceful views.

Memorial Day produce and fruit farmers market collage

You definitely don’t want to miss the special Yorktown Market Days Memorial Day Market on Saturday May 29 from 8 to 12. Stop by to see why our award-winning farmers market is one of the most popular in Hampton Roads. Pick up fresh tomatoes, onions, and hand-jarred pickles for your burgers. Or barbecue sauce for your grilled chicken. Grab some peppers, potatoes, summer squash, and even homemade chips for your sides. And if the weather cooperates, there should also still be freshly picked strawberries to make shortcakes or homemade ice cream. Several vendors and artists are offering special promotions and discounts so make sure to check out Yorktown Market Days on Facebook ahead of your trip to the waterfront.

Couple sitting on the beach looking out at the York River

In addition to the market and Memorial Day-focused events—there are opportunities to spend time with your family celebrating another crazy school year with ice cream at Ben & Jerry’sIf lounging is more your speed—take time to sit in silence on the beach, soaking in the view or enjoying a good book from Yorktown Bookshop.

Patriot Tours Attractions

Stop by Patriot Tours & Provisions to rent bicycles, kayaks, and paddle boards. And be sure to order your ticket for a memorable history tour out on the York River aboard the Schooner Alliance. There are morning history sails as well as evening sunset tours all weekend long, and Pirate Adventure Cruises for the kids begin on Saturday. Click here to check availability and to purchase tickets. Yorktown Ghost Walks also offers a chance to explore Yorktown after sunset. Book a tour to experience a mix of compelling historical accounts, ghost stories and legends, and personal paranormal experiences.

American Revolution Museum at Yorktown - Artillery - Interpreters at Cannon

If you want to sneak in a little education in a fun way—swing by the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown (free to all York County, James City County, and Williamsburg residents) or support the smaller community Watermen’s Museum just down the street. Colonial NHP - Yorktown Battlefield is another must-see and before you leave down, be sure to stop by the York County Historical Museumlocated on the lower level of York Hall, to learn some local history.

Collage of dining images including oysters, beer, sushi, fish tacos, ice cream, coffee, and desserts

Historic Yorktown’s restaurants serve up craft cocktails, freshly brewed coffee, delicious seafood, brick oven pizzas, sushi, scratch-made desserts…and the list goes on. Plan a romantic dinner for two on the patio of Water Street Grille, or kick back and enjoy some freshly shucked oysters and amazing crab cakes down at Yorktown Pub or a frothy glass of a Larry's Hard Lemonade Slushie. Here’s a complete list of all dining options.

Gangsta Dog Store Merchandise Display

Don’t forget – it isn’t just us who look forward to summer every year. Our dogs do too! While pets are not allowed on our beach, on cooler days you can walk them on the Riverwalk. Be sure to check out the dog-friendly pupcakes, donuts, ice cream, and cookies at the newly opened Gangsta Dog (located in the old Yorktown Onion location). Grab a unique “Made in America” souvenir from Auntie M’s American Cottage, or rent your beach chairs and umbrellas at Patriot Tours & Provisions. There are many local shops you can support while you’re in town!

Collage of Yorktown Onions Blooming around town

Last but not least – two other big draws to our destination this time of year are the Yorktown Onions and the Yorktown Trolley. The tall purple “weeds” you see blooming along Main Street, down at the waterfront, and out in the Battlefields are very special to us locals. Legend has it this beauty arrived to our area during the Revolutionary War by accident—mixed with crop seeds or fodder. It is now a wild plant others may call a wild onion, giant wild garlic, or wild leek. A friendly reminder, especially for those of you who aren’t familiar with these popular purple delights—it’s illegal to pick or disturb them. You can take pictures but please, don't touch.

Guglielmo Family riding the Trolley

The other familiar sight many of us have missed is…the Trolley! Starting Memorial Day, we offer extended hours of 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It’s one of the most exciting (FREE) ways to explore all that Yorktown has to offer. Kids absolutely love it! There are convenient stops outside our museums, restaurants, galleries, and special events. And you can even download the SPOT ETA app to track your wait time. If you end up parking on the outskirts of town—hop on board the Trolley to enjoy the nostalgic details…with that modern air conditioning, of course!