By Patricia Hall, FairfaxFamilyFun.com
Thousands of motorcycles will roar into town this weekend, as happens on Memorial Day Sunday each year, going down Fairfax Boulevard en route to Washington, DC, where they will join hundreds of thousands more bikes at Rolling Thunder. It’s quite a sight — and fun and exciting to watch — but its purpose is heartfelt: to honor our soldiers.
Ride of the Patriots is a local motorcycle ride related to the well-known Rolling Thunder, and both serve to remember, honor, and thank all soldiers. Rolling Thunder, established in 1983, initially focused on bringing attention to soldiers missing in action (MIA) and prisoners of war (POW), but now honors all veterans. The event attracts more than 400,000 motorcyclists to the DC area for a series of rides, demonstrations, and other activities. (If you’ve always wanted to see Rolling Thunder, don’t miss it in 2019: this is the last year the event is being formally organized as-is, due to logistics and costs.)
But you don’t have to go to DC to get a glimpse of what it’s like: on Sunday morning, May 26, 2019, you can witness the Ride of the Patriots in Fairfax. More than 4,500 motorcyclists ride from Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax to the Rolling Thunder events in DC, where they will meet up with more than 400,000 other riders. Patriot H-D and the Harley Owners Group sponsor this community event that attracts bikers from across Northern Virginia and the DC region, the United States, and Canada, along with police escorts.
Ride of the Patriots is a great thing to see, and a fun family events: kids will be fascinated watching thousands of motorcycles roar down the street, many of them waving flags and other items in tribute to our soldiers and what Memorial Day is really about. The day’s events begin very early in the morning with a parade at 7:20 am, music, the presentation of colors, and remembrance remarks, and the ride starting at 9 am.
Planning on going? Check out our tips:
- If you want to see the parade, arrive super-early to give yourself time to park nearby and walk to Patriot H-D, at 9739 Fairfax Boulevard in Fairfax or nearby; the short parade begins at 7:20 am.
- If you want to be in the ride, you can see all the details, rules and logistics online.
- If you’re going just to see the ride, still get there well before it starts, as there will be road closures to accommodate the riders. Riders will start their engines at 8:55 am for a 9:00 am departure. When we go, we try to arrive by 8 am, park in a lot nearby (there are many office buildings closed on weekends, but still look out for parking and towing restrictions).
- Bring a blanket or folding chair to sit on, plus sunscreen, hats, and snacks, as this is not a festival and there are not many food vendors (though there may be a snack stand). You also may want to bring something to keep the kids occupied both while you wait before and after the event, as it takes some time to move all the bikes through.
- Bring flags, patriotic signs, and anything else that helps you cheer on the riders and show support for our military and remember the fallen.
- Don’t forget your camera! Watching thousands of bikes in the Ride of the Patriots en route to join the other Rolling Thunder participants is quite a sight, and you’ll get great photos and videos.
- ake a full day of it! After you enjoy the Ride of the Patriots, head on over to the ViVa Vienna! festival, which is just 10 minutes away from the bike rally, and then celebrate at night at the free Wolf Trap Summer Blast-off, which is just 10 minutes from the festival!
- Can’t be there at the start but want to watch them from another place? Check out the route at the end of this “About the Ride” page.