Things to do in DC for July 4

By Mary Morgan


What better way to spend America’s birthday than in its capital? There is nothing more patriotic place to celebrate the most patriotic day. Million dollar fireworks, musical performances, lavish parties, rooftop cocktails – the options are endless. With all of the fun and excitement around the holiday, it can be easy to be overwhelmed making plans. Focus Washington is here to help sift through your options.


1. America’s National Independence Day Parade

The parade annually begins at 11:45 a.m. on Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Streets. The parade’s audience will experience bands from across the country, fife and drum corps, military units and patriotic floats. Thousands gather to witness the sea of red, white and blue.

2. A Capitol Fourth

PBS hosts the free 90-minute concert extravaganza, featuring the National Symphony Orchestra and live cannon fire by the U.S. Army Presidential Salute Battery. The concert begins at 8 p.m. on the Capitol’s West Lawn. Get there early, though. The lawn fills up fast. The symphony is also the soundtrack for the spectacular fireworks show, which begins at 9.

3. Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The festival runs over two long weekends around the holiday in dedication to America’s birthday. Enjoy music, dancing, crafts and demonstrations that showcase culture from every corner of the world. Over a million visitors are drawn to the cultural expose every year. There are daily and evening programs, usually divided into programs featuring a nation, region, state or theme. Nearly 100 nations feature their traditions, as well as every region of the U.S., ethnic communities and nearly 100 different occupations. Like all Smithsonian events, this one is free.

4. Declaration of Independence

What’s more American than seeing the document that announced the formation of the United States of America? Check it out at the National Archives, where you can experience a presentation of colors, patriotic performances and a dramatic reading of the document itself starting at 10 a.m. An hour later, other family-friendly activities are schedule, with appearances from historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

5. Nationals’ Baseball Game

Enjoy America’s favorite past-time on America’s favorite day! America’s team plays the Milwaukee Brewers.

6. Tudor’s Place Ice Cream Social

A tour of the historical mansion on July 3 from 1-3 p.m. is followed by ice cream sundaes in the garden. There are plenty of children’s games and crafts led by Tudor Place educators. Non-member children are $10; adults are $5. Participants receive a special copy of a rare, personal letter from Washington that belongs to the Tudor Place archives.

7. BYT’s Rooftop Pool Party

If you’re looking for a way to rage in the 4th, Brightest Young Things have you covered. Their DJ’ed party on the roof of the Capitol skyline Hotel goes for 8 hours, and is equipped with games. Tickets are $15, and do not include food or alcohol. The party ends at 7 p.m. — before the fireworks — so you will still need to make plans for the national sparks.

8. Get on a boat

There are a couple fireworks cruises to choose from. The Spirit of Washington July 4th cruises run during dinner and lunch, with dinner occurring during the nighttime fireworks. DC Harbor Cruises run during the fireworks, and include small bites to snack on. Considering how packed other locations are to watch the fireworks, the boat cruises offer a unique — and less crowded — way to take in their beauty.

9. Red White and Boom Party

If you’re a recent college grad or a freshly turned 21-year-old DC resident, this party was designed with you in mind. The $70 ticket includes 5 hours of open bar access from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Mason Inn. Unfortunately, you will  miss the evening fireworks if you stay until 9:30. The Mason Inn rooftop deck is still under construction. Also be warned that the event is reported to be extremely crowded.

10. POV Rooftop

For a classier option (sorry Red White and Boom,) consider the P.O.V. for exclusive views of the fireworks. The roof-deck overlooks the National Mall, and spectators are encouraged to stay and socialize with fashionable cocktails and live DJ music.

11. Watch the Fireworks

No matter where you are, make sure to watch the fireworks. Whether you camp out on the National Mall with a picnic blanket, purchase an event ticket to ensure a spot for viewing, or simply go to a rooftop bar, the site is not to be missed. To see the sky lined with America’s classical monuments burst to life with light is something you will not forget.

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