WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Monday night, crowds packed the National Mall in Washington D.C. to celebrate Independence Day. It’s one more sign we’re returning to normal after the pandemic put a damper on Fourth of July events for the past two years.

People traveled from near and far to celebrate independence day in our nation’s capital. Some flew in for the festivities, but many drove like the Hemmer family clocked in two days of driving from Illinois. Cheryl and Gary Hemmer were excited to bring their two granddaughters to D.C. for the Independence Day festivities and celebrate their youngest granddaughter’s birthday.

“We talked about flying, but with all of the flight cancellations, we decided to just drive and be safe,” Cheryl explained. “Everyone should have to come and see, spend the Fourth of July at our nation’s capital at least once.”

Others are soaking in the history of the capital. The Poulos family decided to cap off their family vacation to Disney World by driving back home to Massachusetts and stopping in Washington, D.C. For the Fourth of July.

“That’s why we wanted to end our trip in D.C. because just the history and all of the beautiful buildings and it’s so nice for them to see the White House and the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. It’s really awesome,” Jaclyn Poulos explained.

17-year-old Genesis Gracia was also excited for her first visit to D.C.

“I mean, it’s pretty cool for me because I usually just see this in history books and in pictures and stuff like that,” Gracia said.

People told me they were glad to get back out on the Mall after the District scaled back independence day celebrations and canceled some entirely because of the coronavirus.

Rachel Anderson and Adam Park didn’t have to go far to watch the Independence Day Parade go down Constitution Avenue. During the pandemic, the pair moved to the District and were excited to partake in the in-person celebrations that usually fill the Mall. Park explained that the heat wasn’t going to get him down and was ready to celebrate with everyone out on the Mall.

“We saw the fireworks last year, but most of the festivities were either virtual or postponed. We’re really excited to have the full, sort of, experience now,” Anderson said.

The Gracia family is making the most of their holiday, especially after mom Rosa was hospitalized with covid.

“They gave me a 33 percent chance of living and I made it out. I had to learn how to walk, how to breathe, how to do all of that,” Gracia said. “And being here for me, it’s everything. So I said that after I got better, I was going to create memories with my kids and this is what this means to me.”