What could be more patriotic than celebrating our countries Independence in the nations capital? Absolutely nothing, unless you did it with a hot dog in one hand and apple pie in the other. Washington DC is full of choices to help you celebrate the 4th of July, and the best part is most of them are FREE! Below is a list of some of our favorite events available in the DC area for the 4th of July.
Area: On the Mall
America’s National Independence Day Parade: Parade starts at 11:45 am on Constitution Avenue and 7th Street NW. You can expect to see marching bands from both academic institutions and the military, giant balloons, dignitaries and celebrities, military personnel and of course floats. Arrive early to stake out the best place. For all you photographers out there make sure to consider the sun when you stake out you viewing spot.
A Capital Fourth: Set on the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn is a 90 min musical performance featuring the National Symphony Orchestra. The concerts conclusion is of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” complete with live cannon fire provided by the United States Army Presidential Salute Battery. The Gates open at 3 pm and the show begins at 8 pm. Pick your seats carefully. Not all seats at the concert will allow for viewing of the National Mall Fireworks.
Fireworks on the National Mall: The National Symphony Orchestra provides the soundtrack for “A Capital Forth” and the fireworks display simultaneously. The fireworks are shot from the reflection pool over the Washington Monument and typically begin around 9 pm. The Mall is a big draw and gets pretty full for the festivities, so it is advised to arrive early. If you aren’t able to arrive early, don’t let the large crowd intimidate you. Bring a blanket or something to sit on and plenty of water. The mall is spread out and there will be plenty of open spaces from Washington Memorial to the Capitol. Make note if you want to sit near the Washington Monument you will need to go through a brief security screening.
Alternative viewing spots include Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and even the Marine Corp Memorial in Arlington. Anywhere you can see the Washington Monument you will be able to see the fireworks.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival: The National Mall is transformed into a grand bazaar with music, dancing, crafts and demonstrations exploring different cultures. The festival runs from June 25-29 and July 2-6. Bring an umbrella for shade and keep hydrated.
National Archives: Visit the home of the Declaration of Independence for a patriotic ceremony involving many performances all leading up to a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence. 11 am – 2 pm.
National Museum of American History: This year marks the 200th birthday of our national anthem “The Star Spangled Banner” and you can view the original manuscript from Francis Scott Key next to the flag that inspired it. The manuscript will be on display for the duration of the summer.
Café du Parc at Willard InterContinental Hotel: Take part in the annual Fourth of July block party at Café du Parc on Pennsylvania Avenue. The outdoor fest will feature grilled burgers, hot dogs, a crepes bar and American classics performed by a live band; picnic tables will be provided. Beer and wine available for those 21+. Noon – 10:00 pm.
Area: Off the Mall
Annual Independence Day Organ Recital: The Washington National Cathedral hosts an organ concert that begins at 11 am. The U.S. Navy Sea Chanters, the Washington Symphonic Brass are featured at the concert with Michael Barone, Christopher Betts and Benjamin Straley presiding over the event.
Getting to/from the celebrations: We highly recommend taking the metro at all times on the 4th. To keep your sanity plan on hanging around after the fireworks for at least an hour. The mass exodus for the metro after the fireworks is overwhelming. If you can’t wait to leave be prepared for crowding and waiting. If you decide to drive be sure to check all road closures for the entire day. Roads open in the morning may not be open in the evening.
Can’t make the fireworks on the 4th? Head to Oronoco Bay Park, 100 Madison St. in Old Town Alexandria, VA on the first weekend following the 4th. Old Town celebrates their own birthday with a concert at 9:00 pm by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra and fireworks show at about 9:30 pm.