Independence Day in the nation’s capital means parties, music and going out with a bang, but not all little ears enjoy the percussion of pyrotechnics. Luckily there are plenty of ways to celebrate America’s 241st birthday that don’t involve fireworks (even though we’ve got those, too). Petite patriots can take in some U.S. history, watch a parade or attend a festival without having to worry about the biggest light show of the year. Here are 12 options.
Photo: National Independence Day Parade
National Independence Day Parade
Along the one-mile parade route, hundreds of thousands of spectators can watch bands, floats, giant balloons, drill teams and celebrities go by. Co–hosted by the National Park Service and Diversified Events, an NPS contractor, the parade includes elements from all parts of the country. Attendees are encouraged to wear red, white and blue.
Where: Along Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th and 7th Sts.
When: July 4, 11:45 a.m.-2 p.m.
A Capitol Fourth
Grab a spot on the lawn for a pre-fireworks concert. In the show’s 30 years, performers have included the Muppets from Sesame Street and Josh Groban. This year, catch Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi as The Blues Brothers, the Beach Boys and the Four Tops in addition to performances by the National Symphony Orchestra, the Army Ceremonial Band and the Choral Arts Society of Washington. John Stamos will host. Be sure to skedaddle a few minutes early; the fireworks show starts when the concert ends. Note: See a fireworks-free rehearsal on July 3 at 8 p.m.
Where: West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol
When: July 4, 8 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
July 4th at the National Archives
See and hear the words of the original documents that created America: the original Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Events include the Declaration of Independence Reading Ceremony at 10 a.m., including musical performances; hands-on activities such as a Declaring Independence Scavenger Hunt, stories of the past, making colonial-style wigs and dressing up in period clothing, writing with a quill pen, and meeting Revolutionary figures such as Abigail and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.
Where: Constitution Avenue, between 7th and 9th Sts.
When: July 4, 9 a.m.
Sylvan Theater Stage Concert
The U.S. Navy Band performs at the Sylvan Theater on Washington Monument grounds, allowing for quick access to the fireworks show for those who want to see it.
Where: Washington Monument grounds
When: July 4, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Photo: Kalexander2010 via Flickr
Falls Church 4th of July Celebration
Grab a seat on the field and listen to classic rock music by the Darby Brothers. Food and drink will be available for purchase, but bring your own blankets and flat-based chairs. The fireworks show will start at 9:20 p.m., so be sure to head out a little early if you want to skip it.
Where: George Mason High School, 7124 Leesburg Pike (Falls Church, Va.)
When: July 4, 7 p.m.
July 4th Celebration at Long Bridge Park
Events at this celebration include a food truck rally, drop-in kickball games and contests, drop-in lawn games, free face p ainting, moon bounces, and balloon art in addition to live music. Family-friendly games include a hula hoop contest, parachute fun and a lifeboat group game. Giant blocks, tunnels and floor puzzles will also be available. Again, head out before the fireworks start.
Where: 475 Long Bridge Dr. (Arlington, Va.)
When: July 4, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Rockville Independence Day Celebration
The second annual event, sponsored by the mayor and Council of Rockville, will offer concerts starting at 6 p.m. Food and drinks will not be available for purchase, so pack a picnic and set up camp, although no barbecuing is allowed.
Where: 1800 Piccard Dr. (Rockville, Md.)
When: 5 to 10 p.m. on July 4
Smithsonian Folklife Festival
The 50th anniversary of this event presents circus acts and school, acrobatics, food, musical performance, and art. Two main themes will emerge: circus fun and the effect of migration and immigration on America.
Where: National Mall, between 7th and 12th Sts.
When: June 29-July 4 and July 6-9, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., with evening dance parties at 5:30 p.m. and circus performances at 7 p.m.
Photo: kymberlyanne via Flickr
City of Fairfax 51st Annual Independence Day Parade
Want to feel like you’re in a small American town? Check out this very kid-friendly parade featuring marching bands, giant balloons, floats and clowns. Dating to 1967, this event is the largest July Fourth parade in Northern Virginia, according to the city’s website. Other events include Superhero Fest at noon, Old Fashioned Fireman’s Day at Station 3 (4081 University Drive) at 12:30, including a competition, food and drinks, and children’s activities from 5:30 to p.m. before the fireworks show at Fairfax High School (3501 Rebel Run).
Where: 4100 Chain Bridge Rd. (Fairfax, Va.)
When: July 4, 10 a.m. to noon on July 4
See the Star-Spangled Banner
Check out the enormous flag that’s preserved at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The tattered remnants of the flag that flew over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry on Sept. 14, 1814, to celebrate a victory over the British during the Revolutionary War can be seen in a specially lot room within the museum. This is the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song that became the U.S. national anthem.
Where: 14th S. and Constitution Ave.
When: Open daily except Dec. 25 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Happy Birthday, America! At Tudor Place
Get a jumpstart on the holiday with a party at the 200-year-old home of Martha Washington’s granddaughter and five generations that followed. Play traditional American outdoor games, tour verdant garden rooms, make patriotic crafts and taste patriotic treats.
Cost: $10/non-member child, $5/adult chaperone, free for veterans and military families
Where: 14th St. and Constitution Ave.
When: July 1, 10 a.m. to noon
USA/Alexandria Birthday Celebration
Keep the party going by with a joint celebration of America’s 241st birthday and Alexandria’s 268th. There will be entertainment, a cannon salute during the 1812 Overture, food and beverage sales, and fireworks at 9:30 p.m. that you can avoid (or watch from your quiet car) if you leave by 9 p.m.
Where: 100 Madison St., Alexandria, Va.
When: July 8, 6 p.m.-10 p.m.
Where do you go to avoid the boom of fireworks blasts? Tell us below.