DIY Lawn Care & Gardening

The Story Behind Arbor Day—And 6 Local Celebrations That Have Us Green With Envy

Celebrate Arbor Day by attending a local event and planting new trees with other members of your community.
Deirdre Mundorf Avatar
A multigenerational group of people wearing matching green t-shirts work together to plant a tree.

Photo: Tiffany Fant via

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Planting new trees offers so many benefits to local communities and the planet as a whole. Trees absorb chemicals that contribute to fighting climate change, offer habitats for wildlife, minimize soil erosion, provide cleaner air for us to breathe, offer cooling shade, and much more. To celebrate trees’ benefits, Arbor Day is held every year with the goal of encouraging individuals to plant more trees and make these potential benefits a reality. 

While you can always learn how to plant a tree on your own property, you also might be interested in linking arms with other members of your community to maximize your impact. There are several Arbor Day activities taking place; read on to learn more about this important day and discover ways to celebrate it and support our Earth.

What Is Arbor Day?

Chimney Rock, Nebraska with a Pioneer Wagon

The roots of Arbor Day trace back farther than you may guess—all the way to 1872. Pioneers were exploring and heading West, and many settled in the Nebraska Territory. The new territory lacked the green trees settlers were accustomed to seeing. They recognized the value of trees to help prevent soil from eroding and that they could eventually use to build structures and burn as fuel for heating and cooking. 

One of the fiercest advocates for planting more trees was J. Sterling Morton. Morton once was secretary of the territory and served on the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture. He proposed a tree-planting holiday and the first celebration took place on April 10, 1872, when more than 1 million trees were planted across Nebraska.

When Is Arbor Day Celebrated?

View of tree tops from the ground.

Today, National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday of April. However, because of varying climates and different tree-planting times, some states celebrate Arbor Day In other weeks of the year. Below is a list of the states where Arbor Day is not celebrated in the last week of April:

  • Alabama: Last full week of February
  • Alaska: Third Monday in May
  • Arkansas: Third Monday in March
  • California: March 7-14
  • Colorado: Third Friday in April
  • Florida: Third Friday in January
  • Georgia: Third Friday in February
  • Hawaii: First Friday in November
  • Louisiana: Third Friday in January
  • Maine: Third full week of May
  • Maryland: First Wednesday in April
  • Mississippi: Second Friday in February
  • New Mexico: Second Friday in March
  • North Carolina: First Friday after March 15
  • North Dakota: First Friday in May
  • Oklahoma: Last full week of March
  • Oregon: Month of April
  • South Carolina: First Friday in December
  • Tennessee: First Friday in March
  • Texas: First Friday in November
  • Vermont: First Friday in May
  • Washington: Second Wednesday in April
  • West Virginia: Second Friday in April
  • Wyoming: Last Monday in April

Find Arbor Day Activities Near You

Group of people planting trees in matching blue shirts.

The best way to celebrate Arbor Day is by planting new trees on your property and in your community. The Arbor Day Foundation has compiled a list of Arbor Day events and celebrations that are taking place across the country. If you haven’t heard about any local events, visit the site website and filter by the name of the state where you live. You can also filter by event type, such as tree planting, education, or tree distribution. 

Below are highlights of a few Arbor Day events in various parts of the country. Take a look at what some cities and organizations are planning to celebrate the day and encourage residents to plant new trees in their communities.

City of Highland Park Arbor Day Celebration—Chicago, Illinois

Highland Park in Chicago will be holding their sixth annual Arbor Day Celebration on Saturday, April 27, 2024. “The City’s goal is to remind residents of the importance and value of trees in the Highland Park community,” says Ben Miller, City of Highland Park Forester. “As stewards of the Highland Park ecosystem, we are all tasked with ensuring the urban forest endures the challenges of climate change, in particular, the community’s heritage as an Oak-Hickory forest,” Miller says.

This year’s Arbor Day event promises to be an exciting one, with tree and plant giveaways, a tree-planting demonstration, a meet and greet with various birds of prey, an electric vehicle showcase, a Touch-A-Truck exhibit for the little ones, and much more.

Arbor Day Celebration—Nebraska City, Nebraska

Celebrate Arbor Day in the city where the holiday was first started with this event in Nebraska City, Neb. The celebrations span multiple days, officially kicking off on Friday, April 26, with special events throughout the city. Participate in a foraging walk, help pick up trash and clean up the city. In addition, you can visit the Arbor Lodge on Morton’s family estate to learn more about the founder of the holiday, enjoy special discounts at local shops and restaurants, and, of course, plant some new trees.

ArborFest—Grand Rapids, Michigan

A group of people walk with shovels and buckets down a sidewalk for an Arbor Day activity in Grand Rapids.
Photo: Tiffany Fant via

The city of Grand Rapids, Michigan is holding its annual ArborFest on Friday, April 26th and Saturday, April 27th at Martin Luther King Park. “In partnership with the Mayor’s Greening Initiative, which engages the entire community in the city’s 40 percent tree canopy goal, ArborFest brings community and corporate volunteers together to plant 450+ trees in a different neighborhood through community tree plantings each year,” shares Evie Dzomba, the Communications Manager for Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. 

ArborFest has been a success in years past. According to Dzomba, “Last year’s ArborFest attracted over 400 volunteers, who collectively put in over 1,200 hours of work planting 201 trees in the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood.” This year’s ArborFest will leave a lasting impact. As Dzomba explains, “Once these new trees are 25 years old, they will collectively, on an annual basis, sequester 120 tons of carbon each year, intercept 2.4 million gallons of stormwater, remove 8,000 pounds of pollution, provide 151 acres of new forest canopy, and have a replacement value of $18.2 million.” 

TreeFest—Charlotte, North Carolina

April 27, 2024, will be the second annual TreeFest in Charlotte, N.C. TreesCharlotte, the organizer of the event, plans lots of activities and events that will get the entire family excited about Arbor Day. Attendees will receive free seedlings, which they can have potted before bringing them home. There will also be arts and crafts, raffles, live music, and more.

Arbor Day Celebration and Volunteer Event—Huntington, Indiana

Huntington, Indiana’s Arbor Day Celebration takes place on April 27th this year. The event, which is being held at The Arboretum at Evergreen Park, features multiple activities for tree lovers, young and old. You can plant a tree, take part in a scavenger hunt, join fellow community members on a nature walk, listen to live music, enjoy delicious food, and more. The Huntington Parks & Recreation Department will also be giving away free tree seedlings that event-goers can bring back to their own homes.

Youth Arboriculture Career Expo—Washington, D.C.

Middle and high school students in the District of Columbia who have a passion for trees and nature may want to take part in the Youth Arboriculture Career Expo. The expo takes place on April 19 and 20 at Gallaudet University; it will give students a chance to learn more about arboriculture and urban forestry, participate in skill challenges, and earn community service hours. Students can also learn tree-climbing techniques from professionals and practice climbing a tree.