Fourth of July Events in Washington

From parades to pie-eating contests, how to get your red, white, and blue fix.

By: Laura Wainman

Fireworks on the National Mall in 2009. Photograph courtesy of Flicker user muohace_dc.

There is no show quite like the Fourth of July in Washington, DC. And even though this year’s celebration falls on a Wednesday, our fair city has an action-packed day of fun lined up. So whether you want low-key or crazy, here are the best things happening around town to celebrate America’s birthday.

Jump start your patriotic pride with a mid-morning parade downtown. The National Independence Day Parade starts at 11:45 AM and goes down Constitution Avenue from Seventh to 17th streets, Northwest. You’ll see bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military and specialty units, and plenty of flag-waving red-white-and-blue-clad onlookers. Get there early if you want to beat the crowds.

If you have time to kill before the parade, catch a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence by C-SPAN host Steve Scully. Stay for a presentation of colors by the Continental Color Guard, a performance by the Fife and Drum Corps, and meeting with historical figures like John Adams and Ben Franklin. Other family-friendly activities will be conducted from 11 to 2 on Constitution Avenue between Seventh and Ninth streets, Northwest.

No Fourth of July would be complete without a fireworks show, and DC’s Fireworks on the National Mall are arguably the big kahuna of all shows. They start after dark (typically around 9) and are set off from the Reflecting Pool. If you want to snag a seat on the Mall, plan on getting there no later than 6 PM. They can also be seen from a variety of lesser known (read: less jam-packed) locations, including the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Air Force Memorial.

Get your rock on at Kastles Stadium for the annual Red, White & Boom party. Chill by the Southwest waterfront as you listen to Atlanta-based band Yacht Rock Revue covering songs by the gods of ’70s rock. The Morrison Brothers Band, DJ Ricky Schramm and singer Drew Dixon will also perform. A $79 ticket gets you a five-hour open bar (4:30 to 9:30), games of bocce and beanbag toss, and food truck fare. If you pre-purchase your ticket you are invited to attend the pre-party tonight (at Mason Inn with an open bar from 8 to 10 PM) and the after-party on Wednesday.

Celebrate America’s 236th birthday with evening performances by Philip Phillips, Kool & the Gang, and Matthew Broderick during the annual A Capitol Fourth. Join Emmy award-winning host Tom Bergeron on the west lawn of the capital as he hosts the city’s traditional Independence Day concert. Eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Anton Ohno will also give Team USA a warm sendoff as they head to London to represent our nation. And if you can’t make it out on Wednesday, be sure to catch the preview show on Tuesday. It offers all the same performances, minus the nauseatingly large crowds.

Enjoy a relaxing afternoon of great food and design at Take Pride in America, hosted by Made: In America at the Washington Design Center from 1 to 3 PM. You can take a taste of America from seven of Washington’s finest chefs, such as Dan O’Brien and Bryan Voltaggio, as they transform traditional menus enjoyed by presidents from Washington to Obama. Once you have a full belly, explore the “At Home in America” show house and see award-winning furniture collections. Tickets are $75 for individuals and $125 for couples, available online.

Cool down at the don’t-miss annual Fat Camp Pool Party hosted by Brightest Young Things. Rage all day at Capitol Skyline Hotel from 11 to 7 with waterslides, deejays, and even a pie-eating contest courtesy of Dangerously Delicious. Tickets are $15, and all ages are welcome.

Head straight for the rooftop deck at the Brixton to catch the best fireworks view. The Bangers and Bubbles party will feature $8 glasses of Chandon sparkling wine and $9 bangers on homemade brioche buns. Doors open at 5 PM.

Try your hand at a little catch-and-release fishing on the southern grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home. From 4 to 9:30 the whole family can enjoy time together as you hike, bike, picnic, or enjoy a game of tug-o-war before the fireworks start.

And if mid-week celebratory events are just not your thing, get your Fourth fix on the seventh at Virtue Feed and Grain. From 11:30 AM to 9 PM you can indulge in a backyard barbecue complete with chicken, ribs, potato salad, corn on the cob, sweets, and refreshing lemonade. Fireworks courtesy of the city of Alexandria will begin at 9:30. Admission is $21.95 for adults and $12 for kids.