The Insider’s Guide to Summer in Washington, D.C. for Milfams


I absolutely love the summertime!

It means warm weather. It also means lots of beautiful sunny days. Perhaps you can enjoy a nice long summer weekends as well. Let’s not forget water fun!

Before marrying my husband, I always made the most of it when I was a kid and even into adulthood. My friends and I would participate in block parties, museum visits and outdoorsy fun. I was happy to discover early on that my husband shared the same joy for summer activity as I did.

We first met while he was stationed in Fort Drum, so we had a lot of summer fun there. Then, Fort Huachuca was next. Despite being a little bit unreasonably hot, I was used to it coming from Texas before New York.

Now, we’ve settled into the Washington, D.C. area, and there are so many amazing history and contemporary experiences to be had. In February, we hit our two-year mark here and I feel like we’ve only brushed the surface!

Saving this for when we PCS to Washington, DC. Lots of great ideas for military families in the summer!

With summer knocking on our door, I had to share some of my favorite Washington, D.C. summer must-do activities! Seriously, if you’re stationed here or will be coming here eventually, bookmark this page STAT!

Patriotic Adventures

National Memorial Day Parade  – This parade has a relatively short history, but that doesn’t mean anything in regards to influence! It’s said to be one of the biggest Memorial Day parades in our country that commemorates the lives of those lost from the Revolutionary War to today. It starts at 7th Street at Constitution Avenue and follows Constitution Avenue to 17th Street. Visit the amazing war memorials that are nearby to end the day appropriately.

Saving this for when we PCS to Washington, DC. Lots of great ideas for military families in the summer!

An American Celebration at Mount Vernon  – Last year, my family totally geeked out at Mount Vernon’s July 4th celebration. Mount Vernon is only about 20 miles away from Washington DC. This one is an amazing family-friendly event that starts at 9:30am with George Washington reenactment of the “inspection of the troops.” I particularly loved witnesses hundreds of individuals get Naturalized to be US Citizens, what an amazing and moving experience! Then, there are some more wonderful programs and an afternoon illumination of the sky. The last programs is at 2:30pm, which allows for plenty of time to get to the next July 4th event!

Saving this for when we PCS to Washington, DC. Lots of great ideas for military families in the summer!

National Mall Fourth of July Celebration  – What better way to watch the Fourth of July fireworks than at our nation’s capital! Luckily, there are several strategic spots that could be great places to witness the fireworks. The National Parks Service does have checkpoints and suggested spots outlined on their website, so if you’re planning to take your family, plan ahead. We didn’t go on the Mall, but went to the Iwo Jima Memorial. I suggest taking the train where ever you decide to go. Also, if you do opt for Iwo Jima, there are checkpoints there too, unless you want to park yourselves outside it.

Tasty Experiences

Red, White & Brew DC  – My husband and I have a great time at the Drink the District events because it’s pretty much all inclusive meaning the admission and unlimited drinks! Try a sampling of local brews and wines for a couple of hours in the day and my favorite part, check out one of the many delicious food trucks that come to feed spectators (additional fees for the food)! There is also live music that will keep you entertained the afternoon or evening, depending on the time slot you pick. We did the Cherry Blossom one this year and I had some killer ramen and tapas. Be mindful that this one is a 21+ event, so leave the kiddos at home to enjoy this one.

Giant National Barbecue Battle – Um, so who doesn’t love barbeque? I was recently made aware that barbeque is one of the only food styles that is unique to America. Mind blowing, right? Another amazing fact is that the barbeque will be different depending on where you are in this great country. For example, Carolina-style will be more vinegar based, while Texas-style will be more smoky and earthy. CNN boasted that the Giant National Barbecue Battle is “one of five can’t miss summer festivals in the country,” which should encourage you to go. And if that didn’t convince you, they donate food to the USO as well!

Brew at the Zoo  – The National Zoo has to make it on your Washington DC bucket list, but if you’re looking for a fun adult summer event, Brew at the Zoo is great! “Drink Beer. Save Wildlife.” is the slogan and with 70+ craft breweries participating this year, I know my husband and I will be scheduling it in our calendars. There will also be live entertainment, food trucks and games! Of course, don’t forget to bring the little ones to the zoo on a kid-friendly day. It’s absolutely FREE to visit, so take advantage of it on any available summer day you have.

Outdoor Events

Smithsonian Folklife Festival – It’s amazing how many wonderful events the Smithsonian arrange, but the Folklife Festival is by fun one of the most unique! Each year, they feature a different cultural phenomenon. For 2016, the Folklife Festival will be celebrating resilient communities like the Basque culture. Trust me, you will definitely learn something new each time you go.

Washington Nationals  – Luckily, you have a lot of time in the summer months to catch a baseball game. It’s a must for me because I am a HUGE baseball fan (well, technically a Yankee fan). National Park is located near the Navy Yard close to the water. My parents and I have taken the baseball ferry from Old Town Alexandria to it before and that was a whole lot of fun! Otherwise, you can use the Navy Yard Metro stop. I love that the stadium offers local food and I guarantee your family will have a lot of fun, even if they aren’t as big of a baseball fan as I am!

Saving this for when we PCS to Washington, DC. Lots of great ideas for military families in the summer!

I have to chime in and mention the Mount Vernon Trail. Your family can enjoy the trail all year-round, but my husband and I love the summer months to bike ride around.

Beloved Standards

These places go without saying: Smithsonian Museums (like the American History Museum, Natural History Museum, Postal Museum, etc.), National Archives (seeing the Declaration of Independence and Constitution was ah-mazing!) and the Library of Congress (awesome old books are everywhere!). And obviously, all the Monuments, Memorials, White House and Capital should be visited and a beautiful summer day would make for great family memories!

Saving this for when we PCS to Washington, DC. Lots of great ideas for military families in the summer!

Photo credits:
S Pakhrin from DC, USA – 4th of July Independence Day Parade 2014 DC, CC BY 2.0
Martin Falbisoner – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
 U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Abraham Essenmacher [Public domain]

Rachel Tringali Marston is an Army spouse and daughter to an Air Force retiree. Rachel’s family settled in Texas and that’s where she calls home. Before getting married, she lived in New York City for almost 10 years and considers that her second home. Rachel enjoys learning and exploring the area around her husband’s duty station and is embracing life in the military. In her spare time, she shares her adventures on her personal blog called The Professional Army Wife.