Things to Do

Fourth of July Activities in Washington: Fireworks, Festivals, and Parades

The best Fourth of July events in Washington

Capitol Skyline Hotel will host Summer Camp on July 4, with plenty of fun, music, and food to go around. Photo by Dakota Fine

Fireworks on the National Mall
The fireworks on the National Mall are arguably the main attraction of Independence Day in Washington. The fireworks are lit from the Reflecting Pool and appear above the Washington Monument. They begin after dark, usually around 9:15 PM. The US Capitol building, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, East Potomac Park, the Marine Corps War Memorial, and the Air Force Memorial are all popular spots to watch the display. The crowds at many of these landmarks tend to be large, so stake out a spot early. Many nearby hotels and rooftop bars host viewing parties and special rates for the holiday week—check out our guide to the fun. Note: The Smithsonian Metro station is closed until after the evening’s fireworks display, so don’t plan on getting off there.

Here are some other events taking place around Washington to celebrate America’s birthday:

New! Z Burger 3rd Annual Independence Burger Eating Contest
While the deadline to enter this year's contest has already passed, you can still come out to the Tenleytown Z Burger to cheer on contestants. There will be food samples (and free burgers!) for audience members. Friday, July 1; 12:30 PM. 4321 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-966-1999.

New! Independence Grillin' at DC9 
DC9 opens its door early on July 4 for some Independence Day grilling, beer, and live music with DJ Brandon Skall. $4 cans of DC Brau will be available all day. There's no charge for the event, just plenty of hot dogs, burgers, and a killer view of the fireworks from their new rooftop bar come night. Event starts at 2 PM.

New! Policy's Independence Burger Bash 
Join Policy for its free Independence Burger Bash on Sunday, July 3, from 5 PM to 1 AM. Load your $5 beef or veggie burger at the toppings bar and munch on chips and house-made ice cream. Dance around to music with $5 cocktails and local craft beers in your hand or be one of the first five contestants to sign up for a mini burger eating contest. No reservations required. Burgers are first come, first served. 1904 14th St., NW, 202-387-7654.

A Capital Fourth
PBS will once again host its July Fourth concert on the west lawn of the Capitol from 8 to 9:30 PM. This year's performers include an all-star cast with comedian and banjo-fiend Steve Martin, Glee's Matthew Morrison, Jordin Sparks, and this year's host, Jimmy Smits. The event is free, and you can bring food to the lawn. Doors open as early as 3 PM, and it's recommended you get there by 6 if you want a decent seat.

Uncle Sam Jam
Held at National Harbor, this event features three stages of bands and DJs, plus food trucks and plenty of other good American food. The event will also feature a lumberjack log roll courtesy of Dos Equis and, of course, fireworks at the end of the night. July 2 from 2 to 10 PM. General admission is $40 and VIP tickets are $60; ticket prices will increase closer to the event. Get tickets and more information at the event’s Web site.

National Freedom Fest at the Yards Park

It’s two days of Independence Day fun, with more than 40 bands and DJs, plus lots of food (and drinks!), crafts, and a countdown to the big fireworks display on the Mall. July 3 from 2 to 9 PM and July 4 from 1 to 9 PM. Get your $24.99-per-day tickets fast—prices will increase as the event nears. Two-day tickets are $29.99. Children 12 years and under get in free. Click here for tickets.

Independence Day at Mount Vernon

Celebrate America’s birthday at George Washington’s estate. There will be a performance by the National Concert Band of America and daytime smoke fireworks. There will also be military reenactments, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, appearances by General and Mrs. Washington, plenty of birthday cake, and a naturalization ceremony for 100 new US citizens. Take part in the event for the regular admission price (adults $15; children $7). The festivities start at 9:30 AM.

National Independence Day Parade
The Independence Day Parade starts at 11:45 AM and goes down Constitution Avenue from Seventh to 17th streets, Northwest. There’ll be floats, marching and military bands, and other performances. Crowds are big, so stake out a good spot along the route early. Note: The Smithsonian Metro station is closed until after the evening’s fireworks display.

The Capitol Hill Parade
The Capitol Hill Parade begins at 10 AM at Eighth and I streets, Southeast. Complete with classic cars and Mini Coopers, as well as the traditional marching bands and dancers. Following the parade, there will be food, entertainment, and children’s activities in Eastern Market Plaza.

Leesburg and Great Falls Parades

In Virginia, Great Falls and Leesburg are also hosting Fourth of July celebrations. The Great Falls parade runs from Village Green to Safeway, plus there will be a 5K, baby parade, food, and evening activities and fireworks starting at 6. In Leesburg, enjoy a parade running from Ida Lee Park to King and Fairfax streets.

Boom with a View
The W Hotel offers its panoramic view of the National Mall on July 4 with its second annual Boom with a View starting at 6 PM. There will be signature cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and celebrity guest DJ Sky Nellor. Attendees will be able to view the National Mall fireworks at 9:15 PM from the POV Rooftop and indoor lounge. Tickets are $250 a pop. Too partied out to make it home? Rates start at $899 for the night.

Fireworks Cruises
The Odyssey and the Spirit of Washington are offering a dinner cruises on July 4 that will float along the Potomac as the fireworks display goes off. The Odyssey’s dinner cruise will feature live entertainment and dancing. Tickets are $179.90 per adult. The cruise sets sail at 7:30 PM and will return by 11:30 PM. All passengers must be 21 or older with an ID. Or take the kids on the Odyssey’s brunch cruises on July 2 and 3 or on a lunch cruise on July 4.

The Spirit of Washington is another option for July 4. It will also offer plenty of dancing, a bar, and a buffet. All passengers must be 21 or older with an ID. For the whole family, book your tickets for the Spirit’s Independence Day lunch cruise, priced at $41.90 for adults at $20.45 for children ages 3 to 12. The cruise is from 12 PM to 2 PM. To make reserva
tions for either the Odyssey or the Spirit of Washington, call 866-404-8439.

Gaylord National’s Fireworks and Fun Celebration
For $249 for a family of four, Gaylord National Resort at National Harbor will host its third annual Fireworks and Fun Celebration from 6:30 to 9:30 PM along the waterfront. Adults can check out the live entertainment while children can have their fun in the Kids’ Zone, which features carnival rides and activities. A wine and cigar garden will be on the grounds, though additional purchase is required. Call 301-965-4000 to get your tickets.

National Archives July Fourth Celebration

The National Archives, which houses America’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, will kick off its big celebration at 8:30 AM. Get a history lesson with a reading of the document at 10 AM, or from the historical figures strolling the grounds that day—think Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Abigail Adams. Family activities inside the National Archives will go from 11 AM to 2 PM.

National Cathedral Independence Day Organ Recital
Cathedral organist Scott Dettra and artist in residence Jeremy Filsell will play a variety of patriotic marches and tunes at the National Cathedral’s Independence Day Organ Recital. This year, the program will also feature the Washington Symphonic Brass and the US Navy Sea Chanters. The concert starts at 11 AM. No tickets are required, but it’s recommended you get there early before the seats fill up.

See Also:

Fourth of July Weekend Trips

Fourth of July Hotel Deals

Fourth of July Restaurant Deals

Washington Hilton’s Ultimate Fourth of July DC Package
Spend your July 4 at a classy hotel with a home-style twist. The Hilton’s July Fourth festivities include a Fourth of July BBQ on the Heights Courtyard, where you can feast on barbecue hamburgers, ribs, and pulled park from 5 to 11 PM. You’ll have a panoramic view of the fireworks display over the National Mall, but the hotel will broadcast the Independence Day concert and fireworks display on jumbo screens, too. Tickets are $30 per person; children under 12 are free.

Independence Day at Key Bridge Marriott

If the heat is too much to celebrate July Fourth outdoors, head to Key Bridge Marriott’s free Capital View Ballroom event for food, drinks, and a panoramic view of the city from 7 to 10 PM. Complimentary appetizers will be on hand and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will start at $9. It’s a cash-only event and there is a one-drink minimum.

BYT’s Summer Camp Makes a Comeback
Brightest Young Thing brings last year’s super popular Summer Camp pool party series back to the Capitol Skyline Hotel pool for one day only this July 4. The party starts promptly at noon, where the $15 entrance fee gets you all day access to the pool, plus poolside games (and prizes for winners) throughout the day. Members of DJ collectives Fatback and US Royalty will also keep the all-day dance party going.

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