Fourth of July 2011: Best Free Spots to Watch Fireworks in Washington

Great Independence Day views that won’t cost you a dime

By: Sommer Mathis

There are plenty of spots around DC to catch the July Fourth fireworks for free. Photo courtesy of flickr user hannah522

We’ve already shared our top picks for Fourth of July events, hotel deals and packages, and restaurants offering special menus to celebrate America’s birthday. But what if you’re just looking for a great, free spot to watch the fireworks? Below we’ve collected tried and true locations that offer easy —and inexpensive—ways to enjoy this year’s pyrotechnic display in the nation’s capital.

Gravelly Point
Metro: Reagan National Airport, Crystal City
Tip: Reflections of the fireworks on the waters of the Potomac make watching from Virginia a superb option. The crowd is always substantial at Gravelly Point on July 4, though, so avoid the rush to get on Metro after the fireworks end by taking a longer walk along the trail and boarding at Pentagon.

East Potomac Park
Metro: L’Entfant Plaza
Tip: The views aren’t quite as good as they can be elsewhere along the river, but there’s often more room for large groups, and grilling is legal in this park, so if you’re looking for a place to host a BBQ, it’s a good option.

Lady Bird Johnson Park
Metro: Arlington Cemetery
Tip: A little tougher to get to, but decidedly less crowded than the National Mall and with possibly even better views. Click here for more information.

Air Force Memorial
Columbia Pike and S. Joyce St., Arlington
Metro: Pentagon
Tip: Don’t skip the 8 PM, pre-fireworks concert by the Air Force Band. Click here for more information.

Iwo Jima Memorial
Meade St. and Marshall Dr., Arlington
Metro: Rosslyn
Tip: Probably the best choice for shutterbugs looking for the most spectacular options to frame their fireworks photographs. For example. Do your best to stake out a clear view of the Lincoln Memorial and try to avoid getting stuck behind any trees. Click here for more information.

Cardozo High School
1300 Clifton St., NW
Metro: U Street/Cardozo
Tip: Get there early and stake out a spot on the top of the grassy hill on the east side of the campus. You can also see the fireworks from the western side, but the 11th Street side offers a neighborhood party atmosphere, with plenty of families setting off their own firecrackers and sparklers all around. Not recommended for those who are skittish about the potential for firecracker-related mishaps.

See Also:

Fourth of July Activities in Washington

Fourth of July Weekend Trips

Fourth of July Hotel Deals

Fourth of July Restaurant Specials

Washington National Cathedral
3101 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Metro: Tenleytown/AU, Cleveland Park
Tip: The bathrooms in the cathedral parking garage are usually kept open until about 8 PM. Click here for more information.

George Washington Masonic Memorial
101 Callahan Dr., Alexandria
Metro: King Street
Tip: The large lawn offers plenty of space to spread out. Click here for more information.

National Mall
Metro: Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter; Smithsonian
Tip: It’s the classic choice for a reason. By far the biggest crowds, which can help make your celebration that much more festive. But don’t forget about how weird things get at the Smithsonian Metro station on July 4: The station will be closed for most of the day, and then re-open right as the fireworks conclude. Our advice? Walk into downtown and avoid the station all together.

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