Don’t get us wrong: Fireworks are totally AMAZING! But truth be told, there are many families (with little babies or kids with sensitive ears) for whom fireworks are more scary than spectacular. The good news is that there are plenty of activities to get involved in around July 4th that don’t involve big explosions in the sky!

photo: Kate Loweth

1. Many national holidays get a parade in DC, and July 4th is no exception. At the National Independence Day Parade, 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.

2. 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. The National Symphony Orchestra, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, the U.S. Army Ceremonial Band, and many more exciting acts.

3. On the July 4th holiday, catch the annual dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence. There will also be historical guests, patriotic music, and family activities before and after that.

4. Grab a picnic blanket and take in an outdoor family movie. Places like the NOMA Summer Screen and Arlington Mill show films like The Sandlot and A Wrinkle In Time the week of the 4th .  

5. Check out the brand new Port Discovery Children’s Museum with its two new exhibits—SkyClimber and The Port.

photo: catd_mitchell via flickr

6. Celebrate the 4th of July at Germantown Glory and Mid-County Sparkles! Enjoy live music and a skip out before the fireworks display. Food vendors will be on site.

7.Throw on your swimsuits and jump into the spray at one of these wet and wonderful spray grounds

8. Head over to  Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre in the Woods and check out Hopalong Andrew on July 3rd.

9. The popular Kids in Canal series offers weekly kid-friendly entertainment at the Capitol Waterfront from June 12 to August 28. Shows are every Wednesday at 10:30 am and include magic and puppet shows, science demos, and family concerts. After the performances, kids can splash around in the Canal Park dancing water fountains. Get spangle ready with Earth Conservation Corps Raptors on July 3rd!

10. Check out some dinosaurs at the National Museum of Natural History’s new 31,000-square-foot dinosaur and fossil hall.

photo: Sometimes Sweet

11. Continuing on the dino train, head to the National Zoo for “Dino Summer.” See six jumbo animatronic dinos and a live theatrical show. 

12. After the parade (even earlier for some) at the Independence Day Celebration on the Mall, the National Mall will begin filling up for a day of July 4th festivities —  Junior Ranger activities, concerts, and more. Fireworks start around 9PM so leave before then, if you want to avoid them!

13. Cool down at the National Building Museum and check out their new, summer installation  Lawn. Located in the museum’s great hall, it opens July 4.

14. The Kensington Fourth of July Bike Parade is open to all kids, and those young at heart, that wish to decorate their bike, scooter, wagon or stroller and follow a Kensington Volunteer Fire Department truck through the streets of Kensington!

15. Dress your pet and come strut your stuff at the American Visionary Art Museum’s July 4th Visionary Pets on Parade‘s annual July 4th event at the American Visionary Art Museum. It’s free to participate, parade, or spectate. Then, sit and stay for a rousing game of pet musical chairs!

photo: Cherrywood 78722 via flickr

16. At the Catonsville 4th of July Celebration, Catonsville High School Athletic Fields host old fashioned fun for kids  including a Decorated Bike Contest, Lollipop Scramble, Quarter Hunt, Ball on Spoon Race, Shoe Scramble, Leapfrog, Wheelbarrow and Sack Races, and Water Balloon Toss. The Annual Grand Parade starts at 3 p.m., followed by a Family Fun Fest at 6:30 p.m.

17. It’s Red, White & Zoo Enrichment Day at Maryland Zoo! Come to the Maryland Zoo on July 4th between 10-4 for a day of special enrichment! Watch as the Zoo’s animals receive special Fourth of July treats, including “fishsicles” and paper mache toys, and listen as zookeepers explain the importance of enrichment activities.

18. Kick off your 4th of July with a 5K bang at the Firecracker 5K for the Troops!. Enjoy live music and show off your patriotism by waving American flags. Root for your favorite military branch in the “Battle of the Branches” competition! Free Tot Dash Fun Run at 8:55 a.m., followed by the 5K finish. All Tot Dash finishers will receive a bib and medal. 

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19. The U.S. Air Force Concert Band and Singing Sergeants 4th of July Concert is a special 4th of July concert featuring the U.S. Air Force Concert Band and Singing Sergeants. Additionally, there will be a special performance by the USAF Honor Guard Drill Team prior to the concert at 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public, no tickets required.

20. The 53rd annual Palisades Citizens’ Association‘s Fourth of July Parade is an old-fashioned neighborhood parade that attracts participants and spectators from throughout the Washington area. District officials will march down MacArthur Boulevard along with neighbors, local businesses, schools and families.

—Guiomar Ochoa