Beating the crowds is always a plus, but a little hoopla never hurt anyone, either. Whatever your style, the key to celebrating the Fourth of July in Washington is a little bit of planning. Braving the Mall? Get there early. In the mood for something different? Check out these alternatives for Independence Day fun. We’ve got everything from restaurant roof decks to off-the-beaten-track fireworks-viewing spots. What are your best spots for watching fireworks? Let us know your favorite viewing spots in the comments.
Related: Fun Ideas for a Bang-Up Fourth of July in and Around DC
Sticking With Tradition
Cardozo High School
1300 Clifton St., NW
Metro: U Street/Cardozo
Cardozo High School is on a hill high above downtown DC, and its playing field has views of the Mall. The Independence Day crowd is a diverse group of locals with a friendly community feel. It’s a well-known viewing area within the neighborhood, so arrive early to secure your spot.
George Washington Masonic Memorial (Masonic Temple)
101 Callahan Dr., Alexandria
Metro: King Street
Alexandria’s Masonic temple sits atop Shuters Hill, just a mile from the Potomac River’s banks. Its large lawn, which overlooks downtown DC, is a choice spot to spread out the blanket. Go early to get an unobstructed view.
Gravelly Point/Mount Vernon Trail
Metro: Reagan National Airport, Rosslyn, Pentagon
A multipurpose trail runs along the grassy banks on the Potomac’s Virginia side from Theodore Roosevelt Island to Mount Vernon. Enjoy views of the fireworks and their watery reflections. Gravelly Point is popular, but expect to hear planes as they take off and land just a few hundred feet away. Parking is limited along the trail, but the National Park Service sets up designated areas for pedestrians to cross the GW Parkway from Rosslyn and the Pentagon.
Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial)
Meade St. and Marshall Dr., Arlington
If the patriotism of the fireworks show and the red-white-and-blue attire aren’t enough, spice it up a notch by viewing the fireworks from the Iwo Jima memorial’s grounds. Convenient, accessible and with clear views of the Mall stretching across the Potomac, this Arlington locale will not disappoint.
Pentagon Heights/Navy Annex
Metro: Pentagon or Pentagon City
Some of the best views of the show are from across the river in Arlington. For something less crowded, try the hill below the Navy Annex at the end of Columbia Pike. The wide, grassy slope is across from the southern gate of Arlington National Cemetery and looks down over the Pentagon. You can’t beat the clear view of the Mall.
Washington National Cathedral
3101 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Metro: Tenleytown/AU, Cleveland Park
On the south side of the cathedral is a grassy hill overlooking much of DC with great views and room for kids to run around. Bonus: The cathedral keeps its parking-garage restrooms open until about 8 PM.
Going the Nontraditional Route
NOTE: Beacon Bar and Grill is now fully booked.
Beacon Bar and Grill
1615 Rhode Island Ave., NW; 202-872-1126
Metro: Farragut North
Starting at 5 PM, $15 gets you a three-course picniclike meal, including pork shoulder and fried chicken. At 9, head to the rooftop bar for the fireworks.
Charlie Palmer Steak
101 Constitution Ave., NW; 202-547-8100
Metro: Union Station
Celebrate just steps from the Mall with a festive menu featuring Kobe-beef hot dogs, miniature crab cakes, and cotton candy from 4 to 10 PM. Reservations are encouraged; $39 for adults, $15 for kids under 13.
1811 Columbia Rd., NW; 202-234-6218
Metro: Woodley Park/Zoo/Adams Morgan
The view of the fireworks will be limited, but the food and drink specials start at $5. Festivities begin at 5:30 PM and last until 11:15.
1 Lafayette Sq.; 202-638-6600
Metro: Farragut West
Feeling ritzy? There are a few rooms left at this luxurious downtown-DC staple where guests will receive a special full-course dinner between 5:30 and 8 in the Lafayette Room. The rooftop terrace will open shortly thereafter with a dessert cart, open bar, and a perfect view of the fireworks.
1 Marina Dr., Alexandria; 703-548-0001
Sit waterside for this holiday-inspired buffet from 5 to 7 or from 7 to 9. Standard grill fare and picnic sides are on the menu. Seating is first come, first served, but reservations are required; $50 for adults and $25 for children under 12 at the early seating; $75 for adults and $37.50 for children starting at 7.
Key Bridge Marriott
1401 Lee Hwy., Arlington; 703-524-6400
Sticking with the festive theme but at a slightly more affordable price, you can dine at this comfort-food buffet before a dessert reception on the top floor of the Capitol View Ballroom. Standing 14 floors above the Potomac surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, you’ll have an ideal viewing spot for the fireworks; $50 for the entire evening, $25 for dessert and fireworks only. Reservations required, but no hotel stay is necessary.
Other Hotel Balconies and Rooftops
Feeling reclusive? Create your own private event in a hotel room with a view. DC hotels offering rooms with a balcony view of the fireworks include the Mandarin Oriental and the Willard InterContinental. In Arlington, try the Sheraton National or the Doubletree Inn in Crystal City.
Margarita Cruise on the Potomac
Metro: Foggy Bottom
Sip on $3 margaritas from 6:30 to 8 on this early-evening monument cruise and get back just in time to secure a spot for the fireworks. Tickets are $30 in advance, and the boat leaves from Washington Harbour.
For next year, step it up a notch and plan even further ahead. Fireworks cruises with the Potomac Riverboat company, The Spirit of Washington, and The Odyssey are sold out, but look to be a good time!