The Fourth of July is our favorite holiday to celebrate. In addition, Washington D.C. is one of our favorite Rv destinations. Therefore, we have celebrated July 4th while in DC several times. In our opinion, there is no better place to celebrate the July 4th holiday. Here we have put together some great ideas and lessons we learned to celebrate July 4th in DC with kids.
The most important tip is to plan and be prepared. If visiting DC on July 4th, you will be among thousands of other people. If you prepare ahead of time, you can enjoy July 4th.
If you are planning a road trip to D.C., be sure to read our guide to planning a memorable RV family vacation.
Activities to Enjoy on July 4th in DC With Kids
The most important thing to remember about celebrating July 4th in DC is to GET THERE EARLY! Every year thousands of people descend on the nation’s Capital to celebrate America’s Independence. If you are not early and don’t plan accordingly it will be difficult to have an enjoyable time. Washington D.C. has a lot to offer, and it is difficult to see all that it offers in one trip. Therefore, you will have to prioritize what is important for you, and your family and plan accordingly.
Unfortunately. we learned this simple lesson the hard way. During our first trip we planned on seeing the parade in the morning, Smithsonian’s throughout the afternoon, and fireworks in the evening. By early afternoon, in the summer heat, we realized we had overdone ourselves. Therefore, we returned the following year for more. The point is there is a lot to do, and see. It’s important to plan accordingly, not overdo yourself, and be able to enjoy the July 4th celebrations.
Below we list all the different things we have done over the years in DC during the fourth of July. When planning your trip be sure to understand how much time you have, and what is important to you, and enjoy the Independence Day celebration.
If you are traveling in an RV and looking for a great campground we highly recommend the Cherry Hill RV Park.
America’s National Independence Day Parade
The National Independence Day Parade takes place annually on July 4th at 11:45 am. It proceeds down Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Street before a street audience of hundreds of thousands of spectators.
If you wish to be able to view this amazing Parade be sure to get there early. We arrived along Constitution Ave. around 10:00 a.m. and the route was already lined with people.
The Parade consists of invited bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military, and specialty units, giant balloons, equestrian, drill teams, VIPs, national dignitaries, and celebrity participants. This Parade is a major national event that seeks to draw the attention of Americans to the real meaning of the holiday.
It is truly a patriotic, flag-waving, red white, and blue celebration of America’s birthday!
This is a great way to celebrate July 4th in DC with kids. Of course, kids of all ages love a good parade. If you plan on being in DC for Independence Day this is a great way to start the celebration.
Take A Break and Enjoy The Sights
After watching the Parade is a great time to take a break indoors. Of course, one of the best indoor places to cool off is in one of the Smithsonian Museums.
The Smithsonian lines the National Mall and is easy to access. There is a museum, and exhibit for everyone to enjoy. However, seeing them all in one day can be difficult. In total there are 19 different museums.
The three below are our favorites. These three have something for everyone. If you are traveling with kids these three will even keep them interested in our experience.
Our Recommended Smithsonian Museums to Visit with Kids
National Air & Space Museum
This museum is huge, and could easily take an entire day to explore. The Air & Space Museum is the home of some of the most historic aircraft including the Wright Brothers Flyer, the Apollo 11 Command Module, and John Glenn’s Mercury Capsule. If you only have one and are traveling with kids, we recommend adding this museum to your plan.
National Museum of American History
This museum is devoted to the scientific, cultural, social, technological, and political development of the United States. Here the Smithsonian outlines American history from colonial times to the present. The American History Museum’s collection contains more than three million historical objects. One of our favorite objects is the famed Star-Spangled Banner. You will also be able to see a piece of the Berlin Wall, George Washington’s Uniform and Chair, and Thomas Jefferson’s desk. The Smithsonian National Museum of American History has many interesting artifacts on display for people of all ages to enjoy.
National Museum of Natural History
This is the world’s most popular natural history museum. Here you will learn the fascinating story of our planet. The museum is larger than 18 football fields and is home to the largest natural history collection in the world. Here you will be able to see the Hope Diamond, Egyptian Mummies, and many other amazing artifacts from the world around us.
Enjoy the National Monuments
The National Mall is our nation’s most historical stretch of land. It is a 2-mile-long piece of land flanked by iconic buildings, historical sites, and memorials.
The National Mall – a beautiful swath of green in the middle of Washington D.C that stretches from the foot of the United States Capitol to the Potomac River – is the premier civic and symbolic space in our nation.
The National Mall and Memorial Parks protect the National Mall and its iconic monuments and memorials and over 1,000 acres of green space in Washington, D.C.
You can learn all about each of the monuments on the NPS National Mall and Memorial Parks website.
Participate in Junior Ranger Program with Kids
In total there are 25 NPS sites throughout Washington D.C.
Due to a large number of NPS locations, this is the perfect location to participate in the Junior Ranger Program, and add a bunch of badges to your collection.
We would recommend visiting Ford’s Theatre and completing the Junior Ranger program there. In addition, the National Mall is a great place to earn a Junior Ranger badge. The National Mall Junior Ranger badge is easy to earn if you are visiting the National Mall, Smithsonian Museums, and the war memorial.
Finish with the Independence Day Fireworks Celebration
Everyone loves a good fireworks display on the Fourth of July. The fireworks display in DC is truly awe-inspiring and should be on everyone’s bucket list. However, you do need to plan ahead.
Washington DC offers numerous places to view this amazing fireworks display. You can find a list of different viewing places on the Washington DC website. However, we highly recommend watching from the National Mall.
The National Mall is certainly the most popular place to watch the fireworks display. Many of the visitors stake out spots near the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and an array of other locales across DC’s most scenic space.
The 17-minute display often starts just after 9:00 p.m. and will be launched from both sides of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to find a spot and familiarize yourself with public access entry points, road closures, prohibited items, and other tips from the National Park Service.
Enjoying July 4th in DC with kids can seem overwhelming. However, it is possible to enjoy this great celebration as a family. You just need to prepare ahead of time and ensure you arrive early to whatever events you wish to participate in.
One important tip is to not overwhelm yourself. There is a lot to see and do, and it is almost impossible to see it all in one trip. However, whatever you choose to do and see you will not be disappointed.
Our Experience Celebrating July 4th in DC with Kids
We have visited Washington DC three times during the July 4th celebration. Of course, we thought we could fit it all in during one visit. However, we quickly learned this could be difficult. It is a long day with the parade starting at 11:45 and the fireworks finishing up after dark.
We learned that we needed to prioritize what we wanted to see and then make a plan. On our first trip, we did the parade, and a few museums before the kids had had enough. Therefore, in the second year, we went later in the afternoon and stayed until the fireworks were over.
There is certainly something special about July 4th in Washington DC, and we highly recommend it for all.
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Have you enjoyed the Fourth of July in Washington DC? How was your experience? Do you have any additional tips for those planning on attending with kids?