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20+ Ways to Celebrate Independence Day 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. Check out all of the entertaining places where revelers can experience the fun and spirit of Independence Day in the most American of settings.
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 begins at 11:45 a.m. and is held between 7th and 17th streets.
Find a spot on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for A Capitol Fourth, which begins at 8 p.m. The concert commonly features a star-studded lineup of musicians and a performance of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture by the National Symphony Orchestra. The grand finale features jaw-dropping fireworks over the National Mall.
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 from a few rooftop bars, sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or across the river in Arlington. The fireworks show in the nation's capital begins right around nightfall, typically just after 9 p.m.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival (June 27 – July 1, July 4-8) is one of DC’s greatest summertime traditions. The free event is held on the National Mall, with concerts, a marketplace, food, dances and presentations all part of the festivities. This year, the festival focuses on the cultures of Armenia and Catalonia and celebrates women artists with the Sisterfire Concert on July 8.
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 Boston Red Sox, one of Major League Baseball's best teams in 2018. Expect an exciting game and a lively atmosphere at Nats Park for the early holiday game.
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.
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.
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 dining, entertainment and exciting waterfront activities.
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.
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.
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, including beautiful sculptures and famous paintings – including a stunning new portrait of Barack Obama by Kehinde Wileythe. The exhibit was also renovated recently, with new interactive elements added to make your experience that much more presidential.
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.
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.
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 and its POV Lounge. Both the Rosewood Washington, D.C. in Georgetown and The Embassy Row Hotel in Dupont Circle have stylish rooftop pools with bar service as well.
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 that has caused a sensation since her birth in August of 2015. Line up early at the Panda House (around 9 a.m.) for the best viewing opportunities.
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 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.
The Renwick Gallery hosts the major national exhibition, No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, through Jan. 21, 2019. It is the first exhibit to focus on the large-scale participatory work from the annual gathering of bohemians who construct a city of 70,000 in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for one week every year. You will be dazzled by the room-sized installations, jaw-dropping costumes, jewelry and more. The exhibit also extends into the surrounding neighborhood, with sculptures in parks and on streets.
Each year, the National Building Museum opens an exciting new installation on July 4 as part of its Summer Block Party series. This year, reputable design firm Snarkitecture will display its first comprehensive exhibit at the museum, Fun House. The installation will feature a series of interactive rooms that reimagine the built environment, including both well-known Snarkitecture objects and new concepts. Fun House will be open through Labor Day.
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.
DC will proudly host MLB All-Star Week soon after Independence Day, from July 11-17. If you’re not sticking around in town for that, you can still embrace the national pastime during your visit. Beyond attending a Nationals game, you can see exhibits at the National Portrait Gallery and the Library of Congress, take to a local park and play and so much more.
Being in the city over the Fourth of July is the perfect time to witness the beauty of the National Mall. DC 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.
If you’re in town for the weekend leading up to the Fourth, the Kennedy Center has outstanding programming to enjoy. You can learn the story of The Temptations and hear their classic music during Ain't Too Proud - The Life and Times of The Temptations (June 19 – July 22) or enjoy hearty laughs during The Second City's Generation Gap (June 16 – Aug. 12). Of course, Hamilton (June 12 – Sept. 16) will also be in town, but you'll need to look to the secondary market for tickets. Millennium Stage also offers free, family-friendly performances every single day.