Where To Commemorate Juneteenth

Photo: NPS

Learn about the emancipation of enslaved African Americans at sites where you can celebrate cultural events and enjoy other outdoor activities.

Juneteenth National Independence Day became a recent federal holiday in 2021, but Juneteenth, as it’s commonly called, has been around for more than 150 years. Its name is a combination of June and 19, and it commemorates the day in 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston, Texas, with General Order No. 3 to announce that the Civil War had ended and enslaved African Americans were free. 

Juneteenth is celebrated on the third Saturday in June. Most celebrations include a public reading of the Emancipation Proclamation and the singing of traditional songs. Picnics and barbecues are Juneteenth staples, and depending on where you celebrate, you might see a rodeo or a historical reenactment. This year, whether you’ve been to many Juneteenth celebrations or you’d like to check it out for the first time, keep these sites in mind as ways to honor and enjoy this important national holiday. 

Galveston Island State Park

Galveston, Texas  

Galveston Island State Park offers a beach side and a bay side with places to hike, bike, fish, and enjoy time on the water canoeing, kayaking, or standup paddling. Galveston Island is a great place to celebrate Juneteenth because, in addition to time outdoors, visiting this state park connects visitors with sites and celebrations in the place where Juneteenth began. More Info: tpwd.texas.gov  

Nearby Activities

Galveston is the birthplace of Juneteenth, and although there are no national parks or historic sites in the area, there is no better place to learn about Juneteenth and celebrate the holiday. While there, go to Ashton Villa, where General Order No. 3 was read, see the Juneteenth Marker at the former site of the Osterman Building, another place where General Granger announced enslaved African Americans were free. And take in the city’s numerous readings, arts and cultural events, parades, and celebrations. More Info: visitgalveston.com  

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park 

Church Creek, Maryland

Harriet Tubman, often considered “the Moses of her people,” led dozens of slaves to freedom. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park celebrates a national hero and is a great destination for Juneteenth commemoration. The park includes a beautiful visitor’s center, exhibits, a film about Tubman’s life and impact, and a legacy garden. The park also connects to The Tubman Byway, a self-guided driving tour through prominent sites in Tubman’s life and work. More Info: nps.gov

Nearby Activities

Sailwinds Park offers an ideal entry point for activities and attractions in and around Dorchester County. About 20 minutes away from the national park, make sure to see The Harriet Tubman Museum & Education Center in Cambridge, Md. The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge—30,000 acres of woodland, tidal marsh, ponds, and croplands noted for birdwatching, cycling, hiking, paddling, and other outdoor activities—is another destination that’s popular for good reason. Also make sure to check out the Chesapeake Mural Trail

Visitors congregate outside of the Bucktown store in Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park Photo: NPS

National Museum of African American History & Culture

Washington, D.C.

A jewel among the many jewels in the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of African American History and Culture offers multiple options to connect African-American history to our shared past and life in America. At the museum, Juneteenth celebrations begin on June 11 and continue through June 20, including lectures and discussions on topics like the Texas Freedom Colonies, a Taste of Juneteenth, a commemoration of Juneteenth as a federal holiday, and a community day of celebration. More Info: nmaahc.si.edu

Nearby Activities

Washington, D.C., offers a concentrated number of public offerings commemorating Juneteenth. Visit the National Archives where the original Emancipation Proclamation and General Order No. 3 will be available for viewing June 18-20 (and for the days around Juneteenth through 2028). Pharrell Williams’ Something in the Water Festival celebrates the music and art of African-American culture. Simply put, D.C. is a can’t-miss Juneteenth destination, hosting many other celebrations, exhibits, parades and picnics. In 2023, when the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site reopens after renovations, make sure to include it in your travels to the nation’s capital. 

African Burial Ground National Monument

New York, NY

In the 1990s, the federal government was building new offices when workers discovered human remains 25 to 30 feet underground. Scientists, historians, and the public helped connect those remains to 419 enslaved African Americans who helped build New York City. The African American Burial Ground National Monument honors the memory and contributions of those men and women. It includes a visitor’s center, and an Ancestral Chamber with a memorial wall. More Info: nps.gov

Nearby Activities

The African American Burial Ground National Monument is in Lower Manhattan. The National Historic Site hosts a Juneteenth celebration, and New York City is rich with outdoor activities to do on Juneteenth weekend. Hint: Head west to the Hudson River where paddling outfitters like Manhattan Kayak Co. can provide an unforgettable way to experience the Manhattan skyline and storied waterway. 

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world. Before it became a National Park, the guides who mapped a lot of the cave and helped visitors experience it were enslaved African Americans. In the early 1990s, the Bransford Summer Resort (owned by Mat Bransford, the grandson of one of the original enslaved guides) allowed African-American visitors to enjoy the same accommodations white visitors enjoyed when they traveled to see Mammoth Cave. More Info: nps.gov

Nearby Activities

Above ground, Mammoth Cave National Park includes more than 52,000 acres for exploration. The area includes river valleys, forests, sinkholes, and historic sites—best known for bicycling, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and many other activities. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.