1. The lotus and water lilies have begun to bloom at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens! This is my very favorite bloom of all the big blooms in the area, the park stunningly gorgeous when it’s bursting with the pink, white, and peach-hued flowers. It hasn’t yet reached the peak, but it’s still so pretty to see, plus now is a good time to get an early look before the crowds descend. And, FYI, the annual festival to celebrate it will be virtual this year. See scenes from a past bloom here and read about a great way to combine a visit with another activity here. (PS: If you go and post photos on Instagram, please tag @kidfriendlydc (and #kidfriendlydc) to let folks know where you heard about it — and so I can see your pics! 🙂).
2. Glenstone, the indoor/outdoor modern art museum sprawling gloriously over 300 acres in Potomac, releases it’s next batch of tickets on July 1 at 10am. These will be for visits in September, and the free tickets go fast, so be ready to get them here. And note that children under 12 are not permitted, but I highly recommend a KidFree visit there if your kids aren’t old enough to go.
Fort McHenry, the birthplace of The Star Spangled Banner
Monday – Get ready for the holiday with a day trip to Baltimore to visit Fort McHenry, the birthplace of “The Star Spangled Banner” and site of a key battle in the War of 1812. Learn about the history of the national monument through all kinds of interesting exhibits, both in the Visitors Center and throughout the grounds. Children will especially enjoy seeing the cannons, exploring underground spaces, and touring the barracks that now house lots of neat exhibits, including several interactives. Hours are 9am – 6pm. Admission is $10 for ages 16 and up.
Wednesday – Enjoy free admission for kids to the Newseum while you can! The annual Summer Fun Deal, which runs July 1 – Labor Day, waives the entrance fee for youth with one paid adult admission. The deal benefits kids ages 7 and up most, since children 6 and under always get in free, and much of the Newseum’s collection will be better appreciated by older children. Adult tickets are $24.95. For a museum outing with littler ones, head to National Postal Museum, a fantastic but often overlooked museum full of interactive exhibits that all ages can enjoy. Hours are 10am – 5:30pm, and admission is free.
Thursday – See a reimagined version of Beauty and the Beast under a canopy of trees at Wolf Trap. Enchantment Theatre Company brings their take on the classic tale to the outdoor stage of the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods summer series, and you can catch other exciting acts every Tuesday – Saturday at 10:30am through August 5. Tickets are $8-12.
Friday – Drop in to the National Gallery of Art as the museum’s wonderful program for children ages 4-7 returns — with a new name! Formerly called Stories in Art, Art Investigators introduces kids to art and encourages them to make observations and use their imaginations as they discover different works. During this session, explore the art of Helen Frankenthaler. This program will run Friday – Monday from July 7-31. Read a KFDC review of the program from the early KFDC years (it’s old, but still relevant, as the program is very much the same). Sessions are at 10:30am and 12pm. Sign-in takes place in the East Building Atrium, starting at 10am. Admission is free.
What better place to celebrate Independence Day than in our nation’s capital? I mean, the actual Declaration of Independence is housed (and will be read!) here, and celebrations take place place among some of the country’s most iconic landmarks. And the excitement doesn’t stop there. From fireworks on the National Mall and concerts at the Capitol to special events at George Washington’s house to neighborhood parades and ballpark fun, there are loads of ways to revel on July 4th in DC. Here are details on a bunch of them. Happy Independence Day!
National Independence Day Parade
Where: Constitution Avenue NW, 7th-17th Streets
When: July 4, 11:45am
Many national holidays get a parade in DC, and July 4th is no exception. Scores of spectators are expected to line the Constitution Avenue sidewalks to watch the procession celebrating Independence Day make its way from 7th to 17th Streets. Marching bands, floats, giant balloons, equestrian groups, drill teams, and military units will be among the pageantry. Stake out your spot along the route early, as this event attracts hundreds of thousands of viewers every year.
Independence Day Celebration on the Mall
Where: National Mall
When: July 4, all day (and evening)
After the parade (even earlier for some), the National Mall will begin filling up for a day of July 4th festivities — the Smithsonian Folklife Festival from 3rd to 4th Streets, Junior Ranger activities, concerts, and more. And the grand finale of it all: At 9:09pm, the sky above will explode with color when the amazing iconic fireworks display. Fireworks will be launched from the Reflecting Pool area, so plan accordingly.
A Capitol Fourth
Where: West Lawn on the Capitol
When: July 4, 8pm; gates open at 3pm
Down past the other end of the Mall, A Capitol Fourth, the annual Independence Day concert that airs live on PBS, will feature even more musical pageantry. Barry Manilow is headlining this year’s show, and there will also be appearances and performances by Alabama, KC and The Sunshine Band, Nicole Scherzinger, Hunter Hayes, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Choral Arts Society, the U.S. Army Band, and many more exciting acts. And Bradley Whiteford will be the new host. (KFDC tip: Enjoy the show with less crowds at the dress rehearsal on July 3 – same time and place!)
An American Celebration
Where: Mount Vernon
When: July 4, 8am – 5pm
Admission: $17/adults, $9/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under.
The home of George Washington salutes the first commander-in-chief with a dazzling display of made-for-daytime fireworks during its annual Independence Day event. Visitors will be treated to spectacular smoke fireworks in patriotic colors fired over the Potomac River. The event also includes an inspirational naturalization ceremony for 100 new citizens, military reenactments, a special wreathlaying ceremony, and a visit from the “first” first couple, “General and Mrs. Washington.” See the full schedule of events here.
Where: Nationals Park
When: July 4, 11:05am
Admission: Ticket prices vary
A day at the ballpark is about as all-American as it gets when it comes to sports, and you can experience it and celebrate the holiday at Nationals Park. Catch the July 4 game against the San Francisco Giants, which is part of the 2015 Patriotic Series which honors members of the military. And be sure to check this post about ways to save on a Nats game.
Falls Church 4th of July Celebration
Where: George Mason High School
When: July 4, 7pm
The City of Falls Church Recreation and Parks Department will present its annual free July 4th Celebration at George Mason High School (7124 Leesburg Pike). Musical entertainment begins at 7pm with a live performance by the Beach Bumz, with fireworks following at 9:20pm. Blankets and flat-based chairs are allowed for seating on the field. Food and drinks will be sold on site.
Where: Throughout the area
When: Most on July 4, times vary
Keep it close to home at a community celebration. You likely are aware of July 4th events taking place in your neighborhood or nearby, but if you’re still looking for a hyperlocal fête, check out this list of parades around town.
Where: Oregon Ridge State Park
When: July 3 & 4
For something a little different than the usual DC July 4th festivities, head north to Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville, Md, on Friday or Saturday. You can spread out a blanket or set up chairs on the sloping green lawn amidst a gorgeous setting as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs their Star-Spangled Spectacular, culminating with a magnificent fireworks display. The starbursts in the sky as a live symphony plays is truly magical. The park opens at 5pm, and the show begins at 8pm both days. Be sure to note these parking instructions, as on–site parking is $15, but you can park off site and take a shuttle for free.
Fourth of July at the National Archives
Where: National Archives
When: July 4, 8am – 4pm
Celebrate July 4th at the National Archives Building with a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence. There will also be historical guests, patriotic music, and family activities from 11am – 4pm. The full schedule of events is available on the National Archives website.
Rockville 4th of July Celebration
Where: Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park
When: July 4, 7-9:45pm
Rockville’s Independence Day Celebration is hosted by the Mayor and Council of Rockville at Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park in King Farm. Join in a night of music, entertainment and fireworks. See the website for the lineup of entertainment and parking information.
You can’t beat the lovely outdoor setting of Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods
Monday – Deliver on fun at the National Postal Museum, where they just debuted a brand new exhibit. “Behind the Badge” showcases the work of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, one of the nation’s oldest federal law-enforcement agencies. The exhibit features lots interactives, giving visitors opportunities to try their hand at a variety of skills that are part of a postal inspector’s repertoire, like spotting fraud and other mail scams, identifying crime suspects, and analyzing crime scenes. And the rest of the exhibits are always a hit with all ages. Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm. Admission is free.
Tuesday – Explore the nearly 200-year-old history of Decatur House. The White House Historical Association is offering tours of the historic home on Tuesdays and Fridays through September 30 as part of the bicentennial of the burning of Washington and the “Star-Spangled Summer.” Discover its connections to the War of 1812 and its Slave Quarters, one of only a few remaining examples in an urban setting. Tours begin at 11:00am, 12:30pm, and 2pm. Admission is free.
Wednesday – Take the money tour at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It’s a perfect outing during the summer break from school, since tours are only offered on weekdays. This post has all the background and details you need to plan for it.
Friday – Explore the grounds and play in the gardens, specifically the Children’s Gardens, at River Farm. The American Horticulture Society’s headquarters overlooking the Potomac River in Alexandria are as lovely as they are fun. Hours are 9am – 5pm. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
Zip among the trees at the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring
Monday – Play it cool at a spraypark! The Palisades Playground includes a wet area with a water slide, sprinklers, and get rave reviews. And the dry area sounds super fun, too. Hours are 10am – 7pm. Admission is free.
Tuesday – Head to the National Building Museum for play and storytime. The Book of the Month program takes place in the Building Zone at 10:30am and 11:30am with readings of Who Stole My House by Barbara Veit and Anna Laura Cantone. Admission to the Building Zone ($3/non-members) is timed and on the hour, and after you can head up to the PLAY WORK BUILD exhibit (for non-members: $8/adult, $5/child; free for members) or hang out in the magnificent Great Hall.
Wednesday – Hang out in the trees at the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring. Kids as young as 5-years-old can experience fun and adventure on the ropes courses and ziplines in the park’s aerial forest, the largest in North America. For $49, children ages 5-6 and an accompanying adult have access to two of the easier courses. Older kids can do even more. Hours are 9am – dusk, and admission is $39/ages 7-9, $44/ages 10-11, $49/ages 12 and older. And if you’re looking for fun with little ones… Experience adventure on a smaller scale at the Cabin John Regional Park Adventure Playland. Kids can climb, swing, jump, slide, and run amid the lovely wooded setting, and the miniature train that guests can ride ($1.75/passenger) is a fun bonus.
Thursday – Take a day trip out to Luray Caverns to behold the spectacular underground world of stalagmites, stalactites, and other amazing limestone formations in the massive cave system. Afterward, make your way through the Garden Maze or check out vintage rides in the Carriage and Caravan Museum. Hours are 9am – 7pm. Admission for the caverns is $24/adults, $21/seniors, $12/ages 6-12, free for ages 5 and under. Other attractions cost extra.