The 4th of July is on Fire in the Nation’s Capitol. Washington, DC is the quintessential spot to celebrate the Fourth of July. Just imagine a night watching fireworks burst above a city known for its history, worldwide importance, and abundance of monuments honoring our nation’s soldiers and leaders.
The beauty of the District is that there are many meaningful places to celebrate the holiday. One doesn’t need to trek to the National Mall, where the majority of out-of-town tourists go, to have a memorable experience. If you love large crowds, parallel parking, and hours in sweltering heat, trekking to the Mall may be just the experience for you. If you prefer to enjoy the fireworks without breaking too much of a sweat, we’ve got some better ideas.
While some of these sites are well known, they’re typically local favorites where crowds are lighter, transportation is a little easier, and one doesn’t need to wait outside idly for hours to get a great view of fireworks.
Iwo Jima Memorial: While this is still a popular fireworks location where you can view the fireworks launched over the Washington Monument, the Iwo Jima Memorial has one major advantage: its location. It’s in Virginia, which means that you won’t need to brave the traffic on the winding streets or confusing traffic circles of the District. It’s also perfectly situated about fifteen minutes (by foot) from the Rosslyn Metro Station or Arlington National Cemetery. The Metro will be crowded, but at least you won’t have to drive!
The Memorial is also wonderful because you can still view the Washington Monument, as well as the Capitol Building. You’ll get three sites for the “price” of one! It’s predominantly populated by locals, which means fewer people are jostling you for that perfect picture (hopefully).
Hometown Tourist Tip: Arrive early (by 7 pm) to get your favorite spot, and avoid too much overcrowding on the Metro. Also, try to get on the Metro at the beginning of the Orange, Blue or Silver lines; this way, you’re more likely to get a seat, and not be jostled by the crowd on the train.
Mount Vernon Trail: This is a top spot to view fireworks for anyone who doesn’t like crowds. You can view the fireworks over the National Mall from a variety of spots along the trail, which means no one place will be particularly crowded. This is a biking/walking/running trail with lots of grassy areas for you to set up shop. Venture towards the Roosevelt Island side of the trail if you want an even quieter viewing experience.
We highly recommend forgoing parking along the trail. There just isn’t much parking available, unless you want to get there very early. Instead, take the Metro to the Pentagon or Rosslyn, and walk; there are designated pedestrian crossing areas on the Fourth so you can venture across the GW Parkway to your destination!
Hometown Tourist Tip: You’ll be disappointed if you go to popular Gravelly Point, along the trail, to watch the fireworks. Don’t let the hype fool you. You can hear planes take off and land at Reagan National, which isn’t ideal if you’re looking for ambiance.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival: Ongoing from the last week of June into the first week of July, this is a great way to spend the day on the Fourth. The Festival is focused on Peru this year; you can view the schedule for Fourth of July here. Enjoy traditional food, learn traditional dances, and savor a (hopefully) sunny day outside. Admission is free.
Hometown Tourist Tip: If you go the Festival, which is already on the Mall, you’ll be in a great area to see fireworks later that night. This year, the Festival will incorporate a marketplace inside of the National Museum of the American Indian, filled with craftspeople selling their wares. Be sure to check it out to get a break from the heat!
Willard InterContinental: This hotel knows how to party. You can book a room at the hotel and enjoy views of the fireworks from behind glass windows. Or, you can simply take part in their annual July 4th block party. There’s live music, barbecue and crepes from Café du Parc. This party typically lasts from 5 pm until 9, allowing you time to get ready for fireworks!
Hometown Tourist Tip: Depending on your budget, getting a room at this hotel is a great way to avoid Metro and/or beltway traffic. You can walk back to your room from the fireworks, and head home in the morning.
Long Bridge Park Fourth of July: Enjoy everything in one place. This park in Crystal City features music, food, games for kids, fireworks, and a lot more. The best part is, once you get there (aim to arrive by 5 pm when festivities start), you can entertain yourself until the fireworks in DC begin. You’ll see fireworks easily from the park.
Hometown Tourist Tip: Delicious and diverse food trucks are one of the many things that make DC great. Take advantage of having many of them in one place. There’s no parking here, so take a shuttle from the Pentagon City Metro or Crystal City.
A concern about crowds, traffic, and cost keeps a lot of people from taking advantage of Washington DC and Virginia’s amazing Fourth of July celebrations. Don’t spend the Fourth on your couch when you’re in the District. These five spots will enable you to celebrate a quintessential DC holiday without the added stress. And remember, if you’re up for it, there are lots of hotel parties that offer food, music, and fireworks…for a price. If you’re looking to get a room, we also highly recommend The W for its idyllic firework views.