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Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day Around the Country

Use this 3 day weekend to participate in some of the activities local organizations and cities have planned to honor the iconic civil rights leader.
Anadolu Agency

Martin Luther King Jr. Day has become recognized as a day of service across the country, since first observed as national holiday in 1986. Thousands around the country take this day to give back to their communities as King did in his lifetime.

There are thousands of service projects, events, tributes, and marches happening in various parts of the country. Use this three day weekend to participate in some of the activities local organizations and cities have planned to honor the iconic civil rights leader.

New York City

From church services to musical performances, New York City has plenty of options to celebrate MLK day. Many volunteer events will be dedicated to the homeless. Once you’ve done your part, venture out to these events to learn more about MLK and celebrate his accomplishments.

Head to Harlem and Brooklyn to experience a majority of these activities, from a Historic Harlem Walking Tour to the 30th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to MLK. The famous Apollo Theatre is hosting a panel discussion on Sunday, January 17 entitled, “Race and Privilege: Exploring MLK's Two Americas”.

Learn more about MLK Day in New York City here.


The City of Brotherly Love is home to one of the largest MLK Day events in the country, the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. With over 135,000 volunteers and 1,000 service events, Philly will probably outdo itself this year. The city has a range of free and inexpensive events to enjoy throughout the weekend.

The African American History Museum is offering $2 admission all weekend. Eastern State Penitentiary will hold a reading of MLK’s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" Saturday through Monday. Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center has $5 admission on Monday and the museum goers can engage in the many activities being offered, from service projects to listening to the famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

Visit the National Constitution Center website to learn more.

Philadelphia Exteriors And Landmarks
PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 30: A general view of the National Constitution Center on December 30, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)Paul Marotta / Getty Images

Washington D.C.

Our nation’s capital played a huge role in the platform of the Civil Rights Movement. The Lincoln Memorial is where MLK delivered his most quoted speech, “I Have A Dream”. The city is full of volunteer events, but also filled with historical sights.

Martin Luther King has his own memorial constructed in the National Mall. It’s the first memorial dedicated to a non-president and the first African-American, which is pretty monumental. Visit the Lincoln Memorial to remember the Million Man March and MLK’s famous speech. There will even be a marker on the steps in the exact spot Dr. King stood.

Learn more about Washington D.C.’s events here.


Atlanta provides many options to celebrate “King Week” starting this weekend and continuing through early February to kick off Black History Month. From lectures to concerts, it’s a great way to get involved with all the city has to offer on this day of service.

The Center for Human and Civil Rights will be holding a number of lectures and a film screening of “A Force More Powerful” starting Monday and continuing through the rest of the month. Admission to national parks and the city’s museums will be free on Monday, including the King Center, a self-guided park created in honor of Dr. King. There’s even a King Day 5K on the Saturday before, for the fitness buffs.

Learn more about Atlanta’s King Week here and the King Center here.

Atlanta Cityscapes And City Views
ATLANTA - JULY 17: Tombs of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change on July 17, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)Getty Images

Los Angeles

Celebrate the city’s 31st annual Kingdom Day Parade. LA’s Kingdom Day parade may be the largest parade in the country in honor of Dr. King.

Citizens in the area can celebrate by doing volunteer work and beautifying projects, or more notably called in the city, A Day On, Not a Day Off. Museums like the LA County Museum of Art will offer free admission to all visitors. The California African American Museum will hold their annual “Cake for King” Community Celebration and serve birthday cake for Dr. King’s birthday. Hope they have enough for everyone.

Here’s more about the California African American Museum’s event here.

San Francisco

In partner with the Northern California Martin Luther King Jr. Community Foundation, the weekend events are collectively called MLK 2016—The Reality of the Dream. The main program and march/parade both take place on Monday to commemorate the March to Selma.

The days before Monday are jammed packed with activities. The city offers events such as a film, music, and health festivals. Programs for children and religious services will be occurring throughout the city, as well as a number of volunteer organizations participating in celebration. There’s something for everyone!

Check out more about the NORCAL MLK Day events here.

Bonus! Birmingham, AL

Birmingham is another iconic city for Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King spent days in a jail in the city and wrote his now famous, Letter from Birmingham Jail Cell. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will be open to the public and offer free tours of their gallery from Martin Luther King Jr. Day until the end of February. Hands On Birmingham, a volunteer opportunity organization, will have service projects all around the city with other organizations and corporations.

Check out the full list here!

A casting of the original jail cell door behind which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was confined after his April 1963 arrest for leading non-violent protests in Birmingham, Alabama, is seen at the Newseum in Washington on February 1, 2013. To celebrate the beginning of Black History Month, the Newseum opened "Jailed in Birmingham," a new exhibit featuring the casting of the original jail cell door. It was in this cell that the civil rights leader penned his historic letter defending civil disobedience. The "Letter From Birmingham Jail," written in response to a statement by a group of eight white Alabama clergymen, includes the now famous quote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)AFP/Getty Images