Things to Do

Fun Ideas for a Bang-Up Fourth of July in and Around DC

OMG, your Fourth of July beach weekend fell through?! Worry not, city-bound friend—we’ve got a roundup of events to make the most of the holiday. Check out our guide to the Fourth, and start planning a day of America-rific fun!

Related: Ooh! Aah! Where to Watch the Fireworks in Washington—From Traditional Spots to the Unexpected

It’s been 232 years since the Declaration of Independence was adopted. Celebrate with a visit to the National Archives, where a dramatic reading of the document by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Ben Franklin will start at 10 AM on the Constitution Avenue steps. Afterward, until 2 PM, patriotic music and family fun—with temporary tattoos!—will abound.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival runs June 25 through 29 and July 2 through 6, so you can brave the crowds and check out this year’s cultural offerings on the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets. If you’ve never been, the Smithsonian packs the two-week event with music, food, dancing, crafts, cooking demonstrations, and outdoor exhibits from a diverse sampling of world cultures: this year, Bhutan, Texas, and. . . NASA. (Hey, we said it was diverse!) Open 11 to 5:30.

At 11 AM, head to the Washington National Cathedral for the free Annual Independence Day Organ Concert. This year’s featured organists are Scott Dettra and Christopher Jacobson, who will be playing an all-American program of classical and popular music. There’s also an organ concert at St. Paul’s Church in Alexandria at 10 AM.

The annual Independence Day Parade kicks off this year at 11:45 and runs down Constitution Avenue from 7th Street to 17th Street. More than 100 military and specialty units will participate along with marching bands, floats, and Washington VIPs. During the afternoon, live entertainment will be on the Mall, and at the White House Visitor Center, from 10 to 3, there will be games, crafts and other activities for kids.

The Fourth of July kicks off the annual Liberty Festival and Bastille Day at Anthony Bourdain’s Brasserie Les Halles. The 11-day celebration features family-friendly events and a special menu of French and American favorites.

From 8 to 9:30 PM, the National Symphony Orchestra takes the stage on the west lawn of the Capitol for the annual concert “A Capitol Fourth.” This year, the NSO will be joined by host Jimmy Smits and performers Huey Lewis and the News, Taylor Hicks, Jerry Lee Lewis, Hayley Westenra, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Harolyn Blackwell.

[NOTE: This cruise is now sold out, but keep it in mind for next year!] If the crowds of tourists make you want to head for the water, hop aboard The Spirit of Washington for its Fireworks Dinner Cruise. From 8 to 11 PM, enjoy an open bar, dinner buffet, music, and a unique view of the fireworks over the Washington Monument. The boat boards at 7:30; tickets are $138.35 a person.

Want to get out of DC? Try Mount Vernon, the site of George Washington’s home, for a daylong Fourth of July celebration complete with 18th-century music, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a performance by the National Concert Band of America, and a free slice of birthday cake. Admission is $13 for ages 12 and up, $6 for ages 6 through 11, free under age 6.

Decide you want to try a quick trip out of town? Check out our Great Weekends package for hikes, spiritual retreats, adventure outings, yoga getaways, old-fashioned small towns, and more.

Where to Watch the Fireworks in Washington—From Traditional Spots to the Unexpected
Local Pools to Swim In
Where to Rent a Boat on the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay
Fun Things to Do Outdoors in Washington

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