This month, we observe Memorial Day, a holiday recognized on the last Monday of May to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives while serving in the United States armed forces.

While it can be sombering to remember the lives lost, Memorial Day also marks a joyous occasion to reflect on the freedom we have been granted.

The pandemic has changed the way we celebrate — who we gather with and where. And while, in years past, many have taken the long weekend as an opportunity to get away and experience someplace new, the last year has shown that there are many things to be grateful for, even in our own backyard.

If you’re staying local for the long weekend, here are some fun options and activities to consider:

Go hiking

The beauty of being so close to New Hampshire is that Newburyport residents don’t have to travel far for some amazing views (and a great workout).

From the White Mountains to Franconia, there are an abundance of options for the beginner or experienced hiker to enjoy. And if you’re free the entire weekend, you can explore more than one trail or mountain — if you’re not too exhausted after the first day.

All Trails offers a great resource guide that breaks down trail level and distance and provides directions, photos and reviews from other hikers to help you determine the best option for you and your family. View the guide here.

Tour the area by kayak

One of the (many) benefits of living on the coast is that there are ample waterways to explore. Depending on if you have your own boats, there are plenty of places where you can launch.

Plum Island Kayak offers rentals and tours, which are great for those new to the sport, or who are looking for a new adventure without the fear of getting lost. The shop is located right on Merrimac Street, so it’s an easy home base for residents to start and end. 

Just around the riverbend, the Essex/Ipswich area boasts fantastic entry points, especially for those who have kayaks. Check out the Ipswich River, which is slow moving and especially scenic, with plenty of wetlands, farmland and wildlife to see on its 30-mile stretch. The Foote Brothers Canoe and Kayak Rental at the Willowdale Dam is a great place to start, whether you have boats or not (rentals available).

There’s also Crane Beach, if you want the ocean experience, The Essex River, Salem and even Plum Island!

Explore a Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary  

Step out of the city and into the woods at one of more than 60 wildlife sanctuaries throughout the state.

Depending on how far you want to travel, there are a range of great options on the North Shore, all the way to the Berkshires, Cape and Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket! A full list of options can be found here.

If you’ve never been to one of Mass Audubon’s trails, dress for walking (sometimes through long grass). As one might expect, the trails are left virtually untouched, leaving you to experience all of the area’s natural beauty. Plus, there’s plenty of wildlife around, so keep your eyes peeled. 

Visit a war memorial

This is a great activity for those with veterans in the family. The holiday provides an optimal time to educate youngsters (and yourself) about our country’s history.

There are plenty of memorials to see around Boston, so plan a day in the city to see some or all! 
This guide provides a long list of options, making it easy to fill up your day or plan a stop to your favorite part of the city while paying homage to our fallen heroes.