The 4th of July is such a fun holiday, especially here in our nation’s capital. There are countless ways to celebrate America’s 242nd birthday in our Washington, DC community. We have pulled together a list of some of our favorite events and hope that it helps you plan a fun-filled and safe celebration. Please note that all events listed are scheduled for July 4th, unless otherwise indicated.
Washington Nationals vs. Boston Red Sox
July 3rd at 6:05pm
July 4th at 11:05am
Start off your celebration of America’s birthday by watching America’s favorite pastime. Enjoy family-friendly food and fun, cheer on the Racing Presidents, and enjoy postgame fireworks (only after the July 3rd game). It’s sure to be a hit! (My apologies…I just couldn’t resist that pun.)
“A Fort Washington Fourth!” at Fort Washington Park
7 am – 9:45 pm
Fort Washington, MD
This historic fort is situated on the banks of the Potomac River. It stays open late on July 4th so that guests can enjoy views of fireworks displays in DC and the Virginia shore. There are no entrance fees after 7pm and the fort will close at 9:45 pm, after the fireworks are over.
“An American Celebration” at Mount Vernon
8am – 5pm
Mount Vernon, VA
This annual Independence Day event held at the verdant estate of our nation’s first President will include military re-enactments, cannon fire, and daytime fireworks. Your family can also partake in free birthday cake, enjoy a performance by the National Concert Band, and observe a naturalization ceremony for new citizens. It is suggested that tickets be purchased in advance.
“What to the slave is the Fourth of July?” at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
9am – after the conclusion of the fireworks display
This event is part of a year-long bicentennial celebration of the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass. Activities are scheduled throughout the day at Cedar Hill, the estate Douglass moved into in 1877. During the free event, your family can tour the home, hear performances of Douglass’ “What to the slave is the Fourth of July?” speech, earn limited edition Junior Ranger badges, play croquet, and enjoy an orchestra concert by DC Strings. You can also view the National Mall fireworks display from the high vantage point of Cedar Hill.
Visit the National Archives Museum
8am – 5:30pm
We are so fortunate to have our nation’s founding documents in our own backyard. Consider visiting the National Archives as a sort of pre-game for the National Independence Day Parade (which begins at 11:45), and note that the steps of the Archives are a great spot to view the parade. At 8am, the first 1,000 guests will receive a free T-shirt. A Declaration of Independence Reading Ceremony will take place at 10am and will include a fife and drum corps performance. Throughout the day, visitors can enjoy family activities such as a “Declaring Independence” scavenger hunt, make colonial-style wigs and dress in period costumes, setting your name in type, and much more. If you want to view the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights, you can reserve timed-entry tickets or space in a once-daily docent-led tour online. Admission is free, but there is a service charge for online reservations.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival
11am – 6pm (evening concerts at 6:30, except on July 4th)
The National Mall between 12th and 14th Streets NW
This annual festival aims to strengthen and preserve the traditions of cultures by inviting visitors to learn recipes, try crafts and games, singing and dancing, and more. This year, the Festival will feature the cultures of Armenia and Catalonia. The Marketplace will be set up in the Smithsonian American History Museum, wherein artisans from the featured cultures will sell their wares. There will be special hands-on activities for kids at 11am each day in The Marketplace. The festival days are capped off with free evening concerts that will begin at 6:30pm. Please note there will not be an evening concert on July 4th.
National Independence Day Parade
11:45am – 2pm
Constitution Ave between 7th and 17th Streets NW
This parade is a fun-filled, flag-waving, patriotic way to celebrate July 4th. It will include marching bands from across the United States, fife and drum corps, military and specialty units, floats, giant balloons, dignitaries, and more. It is free and no ticket is required. The parade organizers suggest that it gets less crowded as one moves toward 17th Street, so viewing may be better at that end of the route.
A Capitol Fourth Concert
8pm – 9:30pm
West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol
This annual concert tradition precedes the fireworks display over the National Mall. It is televised live on PBS and the American Forces Network. This year, John Stamos will host the event and performers include Jimmy Buffett, The Beach Boys, Pentatonix, The Temptations, Chita Rivera, Luke Combs, CeCe Winans, and more. The National Symphony Orchestra will perform as well, including their grand finale of the “1812 Overture” during the fireworks display. This event is free and no ticket is required. However, if you want to attend the concert, plan on arriving early to get a spot. Gates open at 3pm. See the event website for a list of prohibited items and security information.
Insider tip: If you want a sample of the concert without the hassle of the July 4th crowds, you can attend the concert rehearsal. The rehearsal will begin at 8pm on July 3rd.
Fireworks over the National Mall
9pm (a little after nightfall)
No matter how cynical I may be feeling, I can’t help but feel patriotic when I watch the July 4th fireworks display over our national monuments with thousands of other people. If you are the hearty sort and a want to make a day of it, you can claim your spot on the Mall in the morning beginning at 10am. There are also other great vantage points for this show all over the city, from the steps of the House and Senate office buildings to Hains Point, from rooftop bars to river cruises. And don’t forget that there are good places to view the display in Virginia, such as the Air Force Memorial.
The National Park Service provides all sorts of useful information to help ensure that your family has a safe and enjoyable 4th of July on the Mall. Take a look at their site for security information, lists of prohibited items, and maps (which has information such as where bathrooms will be located).
With all of these fun events come the requisite road closures and transportation issues. Check out the National Park Service site for a list of road and site closures. The list is marked as “tentative” at the time of this publication, so please make sure you check out the finalized list closer to the 4th of July.
Last year, WTOP created a July 4th transportation guide to help folks get around DC. Although it is from 2017, it contains some useful information that can be used this year. Again, check back closer to the 4th for an updated version.