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20+ Ways to Celebrate Independence Day in Washington, DC

Fourth of July Fireworks over the Lincoln Memorial - Things to Do Independence Day Weekend in Washington, DC

Savor summer’s biggest holiday – the Fourth of July – in the nation’s capital with fireworks on the National Mall, free festivities and so much more.

Each year Washington, DC celebrates the Fourth of July with a bang. Along with viewing the dynamic fireworks show on the National Mall and attending the free A Capitol Fourth concert, visitors can celebrate America’s birthday in dozens of venues and in a multitude of ways. For getting around, we recommend using the Metro and familiarizing yourself with its July Fourth service info. Check out all of the entertaining ways revelers can experience the fun and spirit of Independence Day in the most American of settings.

Your ultimate guide to summer in Washington, DC

1 Wave the stars and stripes at the National Independence Day Parade

National Independence Day Parade - Fourth of July Family Friendly Activities in Washington, DC

Line up along Constitution Avenue to observe DC’s annual National Independence Day Parade. Expect to see fife and drum corps, military servicemen and women, elaborate floats and VIPs galore. The parade is held on Constitution Avenue NW between 7th and 17th streets from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.

2 Experience the free 'A Capitol Fourth' concert at the U.S. Capitol

A Capitol Fourth Concert - KC and the Sunshine Band - Washington, DC

Find a spot on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for A Capitol Fourth, which begins at 8 p.m. This year's concert features a star-studded lineup including the legendary Carole King alongside the Broadway cast of Beautiful starring Vanessa Carlton, as well as a 50th anniversary tribute to Sesame Street and a performance of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture by the National Symphony Orchestra. The grand finale features jaw-dropping fireworks over the National Mall.

3 Watch the fireworks against the DC skyline of monuments and memorials

@abpanphoto - Fourth of July Fireworks on the National Mall in Washington, DC - Summer Holidays in DC

Watching the fireworks is one of the highlights of DC’s Independence Day celebrations, and there are plenty of great spots to view them. You’ll find excellent vantage points everywhere from the National Mall to rooftop bars to across the river in Arlington. The fireworks show in the nation's capital will run from 9:07 p.m. to 9:27 p.m. With the launch site of the fireworks in West Potomac Park this year, the National Mall will feature more viewing areas than year's past including the World War II Memorial, Reflecting Pool and Constitution Gardens. Visitors should arrive early and expect to pass through security screenings. Security information will be announced closer to the events, in the meantime, visitors can familiarize themselves with the National Park Service's prohibited items and safety information ahead of the fireworks.

4 New this year: 'Salute to America'

Lincoln Memorial at night - National Mall - Washington, DC

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, this year's Independence Day agenda will include a Salute to America with an hour-long address from President Trump on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial starting at 6:30 p.m. Attendees can hear live music from the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the U.S. Army Band (“Pershing’s Own”), the Armed Forces Chorus and the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Team. Military demonstrations and flyovers are also expected to be part of the programming. Gates will open at 3:30 p.m.

5 Catch daytime baseball at Nationals Park

Plane flyover at Washington Nationals game at Nationals Park - Things to do in Washington, DC

The Washington Nationals annually play at Nationals Park on Independence Day, holding an 11:05 a.m. game to accommodate the activities throughout the city the rest of the day. This year, the Nats will take on the division rival Miami Marlins. Expect an exciting game and a lively atmosphere at Nats Park for the early holiday game.

6 Explore waterfronts in and around the District

Friends kayaking and paddling on the Anacostia River at sunset - The best things to do this spring and summer in Washington, DC

The banks of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers are flourishing with some of the DC region’s most exciting destinations for live music, sports, concerts and on-the-water activities. During your Independence Day visit, check out all there is to see and do on the The Wharf, at Georgetown’s waterfront and many more waterfronts in and around the District.

7 Honor the Founding Fathers (and documents) at the National Archives

Children viewing United States founding documents at the National Archives Building and Museum - Free history and heritage museum experience in Washington, DC

Original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights are all on display at the National Archives. After seeing these essential and historic documents, meet the Founding Fathers who helped establish the birth of a nation with programming featuring costumed actors in Revolutionary-era attire.

8 Chill out at the Capitol Riverfront

Children playing in Yards Park on the Capitol Riverfront - Things to do on the water in Washington, DC

Set along nearly two miles of the beautiful Anacostia River, the booming Capitol Riverfront neighborhood is the ideal setting to share the outdoors with friends and family while celebrating summer's biggest holiday. The possibilities are seemingly endless here, so be sure to discover all of the neighborhood's diningentertainment and exciting waterfront activities.

9 Watch the fireworks matinee at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

George Washington's Mount Vernon - Things to Do Independence Day Weekend Near Washington, DC

Get out to George Washington’s Mount Vernon, about 30 minutes outside of the city by car or bus, for an all-day, turn-back-the-clock Fourth of July. Marvel at gorgeous scenes of the Potomac River from the Founding Father’s estate, and listen to Revolutionary War-era music while savoring Colonial-style ice cream. The event also includes a special daytime fireworks display.

10 Enjoy a gourmet meal and riverside views at the Georgetown waterfront

Summer sunset at the Washington Harbour at the Georgetown Waterfront - Waterfront activities and things to do in Washington, DC

The Washington Harbour on Georgetown's waterfront is an ideal location for a full day of on-the-water fun or a celebratory dinner before or after watching the fireworks. The restaurants in this waterfront plaza provide convenient access to a fireworks viewing spot, as well as simple riverside relaxation. Make sure to make a reservation at Farmers Fishers Bakers, Sequoia, Nick's Riverside Grill or Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place.

11 Pay homage to America’s Presidents at the National Portrait Gallery

@jschliev - Barack Obama official portrait at Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery's America's Presidents Exhibit - Free museum in Washington, DC

The National Portrait Gallery's America’s Presidents exhibit is ideal for an Independence Day visit for obvious reasons. The collection displays images of all past presidents, as well as beautiful sculptures and famous paintings – including a stunning portrait of Barack Obama by Kehinde Wileythe. The exhibit also features interactive elements to make your experience that much more presidential.

12 Marvel at the DC skyline while cruising on the Potomac River

@nicholasjboyle - Fireworks over the Potomac River and Lincoln Memorial - View of Fourth of July fireworks from Lady Bird Johnson Park

Enjoy a lunch or dinner cruise with Entertainment Cruises, which will provide stunning views of DC monuments and landmarks from an on-the-water perspective. There's also Embark DC, which offers customized tours that depart from the Georgetown waterfront, and Potomac Riverboat Company, which features a variety of narrated cruises on the river.

13 Have fun with history at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Star Spangled Banner Exhibit at Smithsonian National Museum of American History - Washington, DC

Dig deep into our country’s history at the fascinating National Museum of American History, an activity that aligns perfectly with the holiday. Observe the flag that inspired our national anthem, then take your young historians to Wegmans Wonderplace, an interactive and educational exhibit geared towards kids. There is also the dynamic Spark!Lab, where kids can experiment and invent on their own terms. And perhaps best of all, the museum is free to enter.

14 Stay at a hotel with a five-star view

@watergatehotel - Top of the Gate rooftop bar at The Watergate Hotel - Sunset overlooking Potomac River in Washington, DC

When making hotel reservations for Independence Day, find out if your hotel offers a fireworks-viewing station for guests. Hotels with rooftop bars are especially festive – be sure to check out the W Hotel's POV Rooftop Lounge and Terrace, The Watergate Hotel's stunning views from Top of the Gate and The Embassy Row Hotel in Dupont Circle.

15 Spend Independence Day with the animals of the National Zoo

Smithsonian National Zoo Giant Panda - Washington, DC

Smithsonian’s National Zoo offers free programs throughout the day. Observe elephants in training, help to feed the fish, meet a Great Ape keeper or explore a rainforest habitat. You can also see Bei Bei, the adorable panda cub sensation. Line up early at the Panda House (around 9 a.m.) for the best viewing opportunities.

16 Discover the culinary capital

Outdoor dining at Osteria Morini - Italian restaurant on the Capitol Riverfront in Washington, DC

DC has been endowed with the Michelin Guide treatment, cementing the city’s position in the upper echelon of dining experiences. The options for an unforgettable meal are plentiful, from family-friendly eateries and Michelin-starred hot spots to gorgeous outdoor locales and brunch favorites. No matter what type of diner you are, you’ll find something to dig into in the nation’s capital.

17 Check out 'Lawn,' the National Building Museum’s Summer Block Party installation

'The Lawn' summer museum exhibit in DC - The National Building Museum's Summer Block Party exhibit

Each year, the National Building Museum opens an exciting new installation on July 4 as part of its Summer Block Party series. This year will feature Lawn, an immersive exhibit in the museum's Great Hall that will be open through Labor Day. Lawn recreates summertime experiences, offering a green expanse and interactive hammocks with built-in speakers that play summertime stories, a scaffolding tower that provides amazing views of the museum and communal areas for lounging.

18 Take in DC’s wild side

@tatyana_tati___ - Woman at the National Arboretum during summer - Outdoor things to do in Washington, DC

There is no shortage of outdoor recreation options in Washington, DC. You can bring the entire family to any of its gorgeous public parks and gardens, many of which are free to enter. The city and the surrounding area also feature numerous national parks, which give you and your fam even more space to run free in honor of the national holiday.

19 Embark on a tour of DC’s monuments and memorials

@handmadebydanasol - Summer day in front of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool - Free things to do in Washington, DC

Being in the city over the Fourth of July is the perfect time to witness the beauty of the National Mall. The District offers numerous tour and sightseeing options so that you can make the most of your sightseeing. Book an excursion with DC Design Tours, Fiat Luxe Tours, DC by Foot or any of the other operations that will guide you through the wonders of the nation’s capital and its landmarks.

20 Take in a spectacular show at the Kennedy Center

@jim_malone - Balcony at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - Theater and performing arts in Washington, DC

If you’re in town for the weekend leading up to the Fourth, the Kennedy Center has outstanding programming to enjoy. You can witness Broadway legend Betty Buckley take the stage in Hello, Dolly! (June 4 – July 7) or enjoy hearty laughs during The Second City's America; It's Complicated! (June 15 – Aug. 11). Millennium Stage also offers free, family-friendly performances every single day and you can save up to 60% on last-minute theater tickets to the best DC shows with TodayTix.

21 Go back in time at the National Museum of Natural History's Hall of Fossils

Dinosaur fossil at Fossil Hall at the National Museum of Natural History - Free Smithsonian Museum exhibit in Washington, DC

Everyone in your group will love the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's new 31,000-square-foot fossil hall, a can't-miss free exhibit that connects our planet’s very distant past to the present and future. Visitors will be transported to ancient ecosystems, navigate through the evolution of life across billions of years and encounter roughly 700 fossil specimens along the way, including a T-rex and a woolly mammoth.

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