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Last Min Trip to D.C - stay in Alexandria? Parking? To Do?

Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
18 posts
Last Min Trip to D.C - stay in Alexandria? Parking? To Do?

We are planning a last minute trip to D.C. We will be driving up from Atlanta and will be staying for 4-5 days around the 4th of July.

#1) We are flexible with our dates anytime between June 28th and July 6th. Should we avoid July 4th and go earlier?

#2) A friend suggested that we stay in Alexandria and should avoid D.C. Are there hotels that you suggested with 2 children 8&10?

#3) Heard that some hotels charge for Parking? Are there any hotels with free parking?

#4) Suggestions for Itinerary for 2 kids 8&10?

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Level Contributor
4 posts
130 reviews
1. Re: Last Min Trip to D.C - stay in Alexandria? Parking? To Do?

For the most part you should avoid staying in DC especially if you're going on July 4th weekend. There will be a massive crowd for the fireworks and it will be impossible to park anywhere or maybe even to get any hotel reservations. It is a good idea to go earlier if it's not necessary to see fireworks. With kids, a good idea for the itinerary is you can go to the museums. There is also a Six Flags which is 40 minutes away from DC. For hotels in the DC area, most will charge for parking. In the Alexandria area, some hotels will give free parking, like some Marriott hotels.

Alexandria, Virginia
Destination Expert
for Alexandria
Level Contributor
606 posts
172 reviews
2. Re: Last Min Trip to D.C - stay in Alexandria? Parking? To Do?

If you have never been to DC for the 4th, it is like Times Square on New Years Eve! You MUST do it at least once in your lifetime! The weather (heat/humidity) and the crush of people may not be for the feignt of heart, but it is simply something you must do once!

I agree that Alexandria (or Crystal City in Arlington) would be my destination of choice. If only for the experience, DC can be a convenience because you can walk almost anywhere! Parking is guaranteed an extra $45 a night, tho and you will want a swimming pool to cool down after a tough day of museums and monuments hopping! I've stayed local in DC recently myself and love the Kimpton Hotels for their fun and imaginative experiences (a tad pricey depending on your budget). The Donovan has a pool on the roof and is walking distance to most venues! Also, consider the Washington Plaza! We also stayed at The George on Capital Hill. The concert at the Capitol is the best place to listen to music and watch the fire works as the National Symphony plays on! It's directly across from the Union Station Metro. (See my hotel reviews!).

As for Crystal City (Arlington), any of the hotels there will afford you views of the fireworks possibly from your hotel or a short walk away! There is a metro stop to get you in and out of the city. Again, parking will be extra in most cases around $30/nt.

Alexandria (Old Town zip code 22314) is my home, and if I was toting young kids, would love the quaint 18th Century villiage where George Washington's imprint is everywhere to be seen! Pools are indoors and limited, however, there is a city pool that is a few dollars a block away from the King Street Metro.

If your budget is tight, parking will be free once you are outside (or near) the beltway. Check Springfield (, and note Alexandria also encompasses the County of Fairfax! So use the interactive maps to find something nearby in zips 22150 or 22305!

Note you will have to factor in your Metro costs minimum $3.5/one way/pp! So factor that back into your budget and rethink staying in DC where you can walk and avoid Metro!

My itinerary would be as follows:

1st Day Take the DC Tours Sightseeing Bus to get oriented and saves your soles (literally). It's the best way to take in the entire city and stops everywhere you want to go!


(Museum hopping). Depending on your interests, I find 3 hours for each, so pace yourself and consider the weather!

Arlington Cemetery is approximately 2-3 hours and lots of walking

Mount Vernon is a must see and can be made into a whole day event if combined with taking the River Boat from Old Town Alexandria.

The fourth is all about positioning yourself for the view if you are down town. As above, for safety and family oriented viewing, the West Lawn of the Capitol is the place to experience DC in total safety with the National Symphony playing to the fireworks.

Consider an external trip to Dulles Airport to the Udvar Hazy Center where all of the best air craft are housed at this Smithsonian Annex of the Air and Space Museum.

The Spy Museum and Newseum are at a fee, but worthy!

Save some time to visit Old Town Alexandria, which is worth a half day to stroll through quaint shops and restaurants, along with historic venues.

I hope this gives you a starting point! Happy to help if you have more questions!

King George...
Level Contributor
12 posts
225 reviews
3. Re: Last Min Trip to D.C - stay in Alexandria? Parking? To Do?

My kids are 7 & 9. I would NOT go to DC on the 4th because it will be a zoo. I can't argue with the "like Times Square on New Year's" comparison, and I wouldn't do that with small kids either.

The Air & Space Museum, Natural History, and American History museums are all free and appropriate for your kid's age.

The Air & Space annex at Dulles is also worth the trip. National Zoo is nice (pandas!). Mount Vernon south of Alexandria is nice but expensive.

Everywhere in DC will charge you for parking. You can find places close to Metro and take the train in as an option. (And always a highlight for my kids to ride the subway, which is safe.)

Washington Monument has re-opened, you can go to www.nps.gov and follow links to being able to reserve timed tickets to go up for $1.50 each.

Can't make any specific hotel recommendations; there are too many options with too many price points.

Alexandria, Virginia
Level Contributor
12 posts
18 reviews
4. Re: Last Min Trip to D.C - stay in Alexandria? Parking? To Do?

Alexandria is a great destination in itself with a wonderful Old Town full dining, shops, famers market, and a wonderful waterfront that kids love!

The Kimptons have some great hotels in Alexandria and are really kid-friendly (pools, kid happy hour along with adult happy hour, gold fish in the rooms for kids. They hotels are on the main drag, King Street, and the free trolley can take you up and down the street including up to the metro where you can go directly to DC and most attractions. Any trip to this area would be incomplete without a visit to Mount Vernon, about 6 miles down the road.

There is also a Residence Inn and Holiday Inn about 1/2 mile further away from the main drag on King Street. These hotels are adjacent to the Eisenhower metro stop which makes them very convenient.

Falls Church...
Level Contributor
3,516 posts
7 reviews
5. Re: Last Min Trip to D.C - stay in Alexandria? Parking? To Do?

Whether you would enjoy DC on the 4th is up to you and your personality. It is crowded but its also special.

If you're just interested in the fireworks you could drive to the top of the parking garage at the huntington metro station (just outside of the city of Alexandria proper) and watch them from there. I've done that before and they're just as impressive. Plus you might see fireworks from other parts of the region as well.

Alexandria is a sizeable city on its own so it's important to be specific when looking for your hotel. I say it's not worth staying in Alexandria if you can't walk to the metro station. Some stations do have parking (not Old Town though) but it costs money and it's a longer trip overall. But, almost every major hotel chain has a hotel in Old Town and walkable to metro.

- you basically can't avoid paying for parking at a DC hotel. I'm not sure about the hotels in Old Town. But there are a few in Arlington (county next to Alexandria AND DC) that are walkable to metro with free parking. They're often discussed on this board.

Level Contributor
1 post
72 reviews
6. Re: Last Min Trip to D.C - stay in Alexandria? Parking? To Do?

If I were you with kids, avoid DC during the 4th. It would be a memory but not necessarily a good one. You have a large number of great suggestions above but my two cents would be to come at the earliest possible date you can during that period. Stay in the Vienna/ Falls Church area along I66 so you have access to the Metro end stops. On the first couple of days, head into DC to do Smithsonian, walk the Mall, see the monuments, etc. but do it on Metro. Once the heat and crowds get too much (day 2 or 3), Metro over to Alexandria to have the old town experience and good meals. On the 3rd or 4th day, drive over to Mt. Vernon to tour that for the kids. Then closer to the actual holiday, stay nearer your hotel and head west out to Centreville to the Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum. If you enjoy the outdoors at all, head to Luray to the caverns there (much cooler than the heat you will experience) and then drive up to and along Skyline Drive. That will be plenty of history and learning for the kids with entertainment for the parents also. There is so much to do in the area, but I truly would avoid DC and even Six Flags during the holiday. Unless you just LOVE crowds, heat and rude people. :) Good luck!

Level Contributor
23 posts
2 reviews
7. Re: Last Min Trip to D.C - stay in Alexandria? Parking? To Do?

Lots of great replies. We are also heading to Alexandria/DC next week and I don't have a plan yet. So thanks for all the info! It will be easier to me to map out!

8. Re: Last Min Trip to D.C - stay in Alexandria? Parking? To Do?

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