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Spending the 4th of July in Washington, DC has got to be one of the most iconic of American experiences. If you are fortunate enough to travel to DC for the Independence Day festivities, or if you live in the greater DC area, the National Independence Day Parade is a must-do item for an iconic 4th of July with kids. This parade is one of the most apple pie American experiences that exists and it is absolutely one of the best ‘Fun Things to Do With Kids.‘ However, wouldn’t you like to know how to maximize your fun, especially if you are celebrating with young kids? Well, read on to find out some great insider tips!
How to Plan an Iconic DC 4th of July With Kids: Part Two- The Parade
Thank for joining me for part two of this three-part series on how to maximize your family fun for the Washington DC 4th of July celebration. So, you might be thinking, ‘Why do I want to drag my kids to a parade?’ Or maybe, ‘This will make the day wayyyy too long.’ Well, if you follow my insider tips from part one of this series, you will be in a great position to enjoy the full day of 4th of July festivities. You can read those tips here.
Let me tell you, you absolutely WANT to see the National Independence Day Parade. This parade is phenomenal and it kept Sweet Pea’s attention (she was 2 years old at the time) for just about the entire time. There are bands, floats, balloons, and other exciting theatrics. Plus, everyone is wearing red, white, and blue, and waving the American flag. If this parade doesn’t get you into the patriotic spirit, nothing will. Of course, if you will experience it with a toddler or preschooler, there are about 1000 ways your great time could devolve into tears and screaming very quickly. Don’t let that happen to you!
- The National Independence Day Parade starts at 1145AM and lasts a few hours.
- The parade route runs along Constitution Avenue starting at 7th Avenue and stops in front of the White House.
- The grandstand is located on the steps of the National Archives.
- There are limited food and bathroom options along the parade route.
- Starting at 8AM, the National Archives plans activities that include a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence, a Fife and Drum Corps performance, and other live performances.
Tips for Enjoying the Parade With Young Kids
- The best view of the parade is in front of the National Archives. Well, I might suggest trying to grab a spot directly across the street from the Archives. That way, when you take your amazing photos, the dramatic backdrop of the National Archives will be your photo background.
- It will be very difficult to secure a spot alongside the road or in the immediate vicinity of the National Archives. If this is important to you, plan to arrive on location when the 8AM festivities begin.
- If location is not important to you, all of the parade attractions can be seen along the entire parade route. You can be sure to see and hear all of the performances if you are near the grandstand area though.
- Bring lawn chairs. Seriously… this tip saved us much heartache. Sweet Pea did end up standing a bit, as well as sitting on the curb. It was really nice for her to have her own spot though. Likewise, it was awesome for us to have a front row seat (not stand) for the duration of the parade. No one minded us sitting in lawn chairs, because that meant we were lower to the ground, and the rows of people standing behind us could see. It also meant Sweet Pea didn’t get too tired.
- Bring snacks and more water than you think you need. I will repeat.. there are limited food options in the immediate vicinity of the parade. Pick up some fruit from your hotel and bring some crackers or other snacks. Also, bring at least two bottles of water per person. Honestly, I would bring more than that if the day is expected to be a scorcher. You do not want to get heat exhaustion in the middle of a crowd.
- If your young child is still within stroller range… bring the stroller. I know, this sounds like a cop-out. I think it is key for ensuring a seamless experience though. Not only will you be able to roll your exhausted and overstimulated kiddo back to the hotel after the parade, but you will be able to make that transition quickly. Also, strollers have storage.. for food, drinks, hats, flags, umbrellas, sunscreen, etc… Bring the stroller.
- Unless you preschooler or toddler is 100% fully potty trained, put them in a pull-up. Again, limited access to bathroom facilities. Seriously, you do not want to die on this hill. The worst thing ever would be for your child to wet their pants in the middle of the parade.. or lose it because they have to go potty and you can’t get to one in time.
- Dress appropriately for the weather and prepare for everything. Bring sunscreen. Bring hats. Bring umbrellas. Unless the weather report is 100% clear or 100% rainy, don’t assume that the weather at 9AM will be the weather at noon. (see below)
- You will likely be waiting a few hours for the main parade to start. Bring a few fun time-passers… books, an iPad, a card game. You get the idea. Don’t risk the meltdown before the fun even starts!
- Bring flags! Ok, this isn’t totally imperative. You can buy them from flag sellers on the scene. I bet the flags you buy at Target will be cheaper and nicer though. Just sayin’.
But What if It Rains?
Oh, Washington D.C. Your weather patterns are so fickle and unpredictable. When you plan your iconic DC 4th of July adventure with your kids, you will not be able to predict the weather. You just won’t. I would like to suggest that you should plan to go regardless of the weather (unless it is 100% rain and the parade is cancelled. Then, by all means, go see a movie instead). Bottom line: roll with it and you might get lucky enough to snag that front row seat.
Case in point: July 4th, 2015. When we left our hotel after breakfast it was pouring.. absolutely miserable outside. However, we pushed on and figured that we would be ok as long as we had umbrellas.
Well, we got wet. We got really, really wet. Despite rain jackets and umbrellas, we were soaked. I suppose standing outside in a rain storm for over 2 hours would do that to you. But you know what? That rain literally drove the crowds away. The National Archives moved most of their festivities indoors and Constitution Avenue was mostly deserted until about an hour before the parade started. The weather report said 40% chance of rain. Well, we were unlucky in that regard. You know what though? About 30 minutes before the parade started, it stopped raining and by the end of the parade, the sun was even out! The only real disappointment for me was that the super cute Sparkly Star Wands Sweet Pea and I made were ruined.
However, the sun came out, the parade was fantastic, and we literally had the best seats in the house. So, the rain isn’t all bad. Don’t be afraid of the rain!
What Attractions Will You See at the Parade?
Well, you will see marching bands from all over the country.
You will see parade floats and balloons.
You will see all manner of Americana, from the Fife and Drum Corps to Uncle Sam walking on stilts.
So, have I convinced you yet? If you want to truly have the full iconic DC 4th of July experience with your kids, your plans must include this phenomenal parade!
Thanks for reading and check back for part three soon!
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