4th of July in DC

Old Mar 5th, 2013, 07:37 AM
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4th of July in DC

This summer, we are taking our 9 and 7 year old boys to Washington DC, Wiliamsburg, Gettysburg, and a few other civil war/historical sites. We are going to be in Gettysburg July 1, for the 150th anniversary, and I'm trying to decide if we should then head directly to DC afterwards (breaking up my rental car period) so that we can be there for the 4th of July.

My husband is concerned (understatement) about the crowds, and thinks it would be better to continue our travels down to Antietam, Harpers Ferry, Shenandoah, Williamsburg, before ending in DC. The idea of being on the National Mall, for the symphony and fireworks, is highly appealing to me. It also seems kind of crazy to me to be in this area of the world on the 4th and not do it. But... the crowds are a concern. Has anyone ever been in DC for the 4th, and gone to the Mall for the fireworks? Is it crazy hot and crowded, and you wish you hadn't done it? We're from Texas, so used to the heat. But my husband grew up outside NYC and has bad memories of Times Square at New Years and thinks this would be like that. Any insight?
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 08:06 AM
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What about the crowds in particular concerns you? Yes, it is crowded and can be hot. I did it twice and enjoyed it.
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 08:11 AM
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Its more my husband than me, so I suppose I'm looking for someone to say its crowded, but wow, is it ever worth the crowds. When he did the New Years Eve at Times Square, it was wall-to-wall people, no one could get to the bathroom, so they just, ahem, squatted in their places. I'm assuming this is nothing like that, which is an adults-themed event, and that DC's 4th of July is more family-friendly with people on blankets on the Mall, and with ample port-a-pottys nearby.
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 09:00 AM
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annalynn, I haven't been to the 4th of July festivities in DC for a few years, but as I recall it IS family friendly. And hot and crowded, but IMO not horribly crowded, nor are people hideously drunk The biggest issue is getting back to your lodging after the fireworks are over: Metro and buses run but take forever to absorb that number of people, so it's best if you can walk.
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 09:01 AM
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Friends who live in Williamsburg say that the celebration there is fabulous.
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 09:33 AM
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It isn't like Times Square on NYE. Lot of special activities going on all over the National Mall and near by culminating in the fireworks. As noted it's hot, humid and crowded but not insanely so. I will say that being able to hear the National Symphony will require you staking out a spot much earlier in the day -- not so great for younger kids.

Stay downtown where you can walk or walk from a near by metro station. As mentioned the biggest issue for people is getting in and out of the city. Staying downtown will also give you the option to head back to the hotel for a break or if the weather doesn't cooperate.

Williamsburg has a very nice 4th of July day celebration -- not as big and would be very engaging for your kids.
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 09:34 AM
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We did the Mall thing for the fireorks for YEARS. A lot of people are content to watch from the Virginia side or from some of the hotel viewing spots.

yes, it will be crowded and yes a lot of people spend the entire day there with the BBQ grills, etc., etc.

There are long lines to get into the Metro afterwards; there can be traffic jams of sorts if you park nearby.

A lot of people believe it is all worth it as did we.

I think you could miss it in favor of the other things you have planned.
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 11:52 AM
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I have gone many, many times and think it's definitely worth it. As others have said it is crowded, but not insanely so. And it is usually hot and humid, but that's DC in July. Never been to Times Square on NYE, but from the looks of it on TV, the 4th in DC is nothing like that in terms of crowds. If you stay within walking distance, then you can leisurely leave and walk to your hotel.
Many people go to the rehearsal on July 3 of the Nat'l Symphony. Also fun and interesting is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival which is on the Mall
http://www.festival.si.edu.

I now seek out small town 4th festivities and enjoy them, but they can't compare to being on the Mall on the 4th.
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 12:23 PM
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Thanks for all the feedback! I looked into Williamsburg's 4th festivities, and it looks fabulous, and quite possibly something the kids and my husband would enjoy more.

Alas, I just can't make that work with being in Gettysburg on July 1. We fly home out of Dulles July 6, and with my plans, I want five nights in Williamsburg (traveling with kids means I have to build in rest times and a day spent at Busch Gardens). Even assuming we left Gettysburg on July 2, I'd have to eliminate my pitstops at Monticello and Shenandoah. Is that worth it? It might be, because I have some fears that the children will get "histor"ied out on this trip, and Monticello would be one of cuts if so. Decisions, decisions ...
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 12:48 PM
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Monticello is pretty great, but maybe not for such young kids who've had their fill of history... tough choice!

Back to the 4th in DC, the National Symphony does a dress rehearsal at the Capitol on July 3rd--show starts at 8, gates open well before that. It's a little-known but great way to hear the music!
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 04:34 PM
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> Has anyone ever been in DC for the 4th, and gone to the Mall for the fireworks?

Did it once. Glad I did, glad I will never try to do it again! But then I don't like crowds of ANY sort and I don't like the sound of fireworks, just the lights. Afterwards, I ended up walking about 3 miles, which wasn't nearly as bad as it sounds, as there were many people around who were in good spirits without being drunk (no alcohol on the mall for the 4th). BUT I didn't have children with me. If you do try to fit this event into your itinerary, the idea of making sure you book a hotel within your family's walking distance of the mall is IMHO very well worth considering.

Enjoy your trip!
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 07:13 PM
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I don't think Monticello is a great choice for 7 and 9 year olds. You'd want to know a bit about Thomas Jefferson and his place in American History. Otherwise it's "just a house". I'd skip it in favor of the Williamsburg area.
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 07:25 PM
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Living in the D.C. area, we have gone downtown to see the fireworks many times. It's crowded, but nothing like NYC on New Years Eve. We generally get there about 30 - 45 minutes before the fireworks begin and have no trouble finding a good place to watch them.

Because getting back to our home in Northern Virginia can take so long after the fireworks, for the past 2 years we have gone to the Air Force Memorial (near the Pentagon) to see the fireworks. The Air Force Band plays for about an hour before the fireworks begin and the view from the Memorial is fabulous! Not only do you see the fireworks from the Mall, but also fireworks displays from various places in Maryland!

And as NewB says, the dress rehearsal of the July 4th concert is great! That's when we always go.
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Old Mar 6th, 2013, 09:19 PM
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Our family did the National Mall last year. Well worth it and we were there during a heat wave. Staying closer in than we did would be a good idea.

I had expected something like Times Square at New Years, and as the locals have pointed out, this was not the case. Nor do you need to stake a spot out starting at dawn. For the symphony concert on the capitol lawn, they did not open the gate until 3 pm or so last year. Husband and I took turns guarding our place while the others did some sight seeing on the mall.

However, I think with younger kids, I'd try to visit the military band concert at the other end of the mall and then you would also be closer to the fireworks.

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...omment-7858146

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...in-the-usa.cfm
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Old Mar 6th, 2013, 09:20 PM
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Sorry, I posted too soon. There are several options for DC and someone posted this link which I was attempting to add directly:

http://washington.org/article/10-way...-washington-dc
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Old Mar 7th, 2013, 11:33 AM
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Thanks so much 5alive, for the links and the trip report. And thanks to everyone for all the great advice.

SF307, my children are both historians in the making. The 7 year old is a coin collector, and knows almost more than I (a history major) about any president who appears on coins and dollar bills. And my 9 year old can't get enough of the Civil War and Lincoln, so I do feel that its the right time for a lot of this trip. And on a selfish note, I have not been to Monticello, and want to go. But it might get cut... sniff.
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Old Mar 7th, 2013, 12:32 PM
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Annalyn, when you're in DC, try to make it up to the Lincoln Cottage, it's a little-known historical gem. The Lincolns spent their summers there to escape the heat of the city, so it's out of the way, and you may not have time, but I hope you do. One gets such a moving, personal sense of Lincoln the man in those rooms. If you have a choice of guide, ask for Brittany.
http://lincolncottage.org
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Old Mar 7th, 2013, 12:54 PM
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The Lincoln Cottage looks great! You are the first person to mention it in any of my pre-trip research so far - thanks so much. It doesn't seem to make its way into too mahy guidebooks.

And they do birthday parties! Not that there is any way I could throw a birthday party there, but my son would kill for a Lincoln Hat birthday party. And I would be much happier with that than another rock climbing/laser tag/bowling event.
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Old Mar 7th, 2013, 12:57 PM
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A Lincoln Hat birthday party, too funny!
It's a relatively new attraction--I think Hillary Clinton championed it and it hans't been open long. And it's really off the beaten path, as I said. But it's not usually crowded, either!
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