You can’t pick a more quintessential place to celebrate Independence Day than here in the nation’s capital. And there are so many ways to do so — huge events on the Mall and at the Capitol, family programs at iconic locales, neighborhood parades and gatherings. This list has details on all of ’em. Happy Independence Day!
National Independence Day Parade
Where: Constitution Avenue NW, 7th-17th Streets
When: July 4, 11:45am
Many national holidays get a parade in DC, and July 4th is no exception. Scores of spectators are expected to line the Constitution Avenue sidewalks to watch the procession celebrating Independence Day make its way from 7th to 17th Streets. Marching bands, floats, giant balloons, equestrian groups, drill teams, and military units will be among the pageantry. Stake out your spot along the route early, as this event attracts hundreds of thousands of viewers every year.
Independence Day Celebration on the Mall
Where: National Mall
When: All day (and evening)
After the parade (even earlier for some), the National Mall will begin filling up for a day of July 4th festivities—the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Junior Ranger activities, performances, picnics, and the spectacular fireworks display as the grand finale. The music begins at 6pm with a concert on the Washington Monument grounds, which includes performances by the U.S. Army Blues jazz ensemble and Steppin’ Out Live with Ben Vereen. And at 9:10pm, the sky over the Washington Monument will explode with color when the amazing fireworks show begins.
A Capitol Fourth
Where: West Lawn on the Capitol
When: July 4 8pm, gates open at 3pm
Down past the other end of the Mall, A Capitol Fourth, the annual Independence Day concert that airs live on PBS, will feature even more musical pageantry. Hosted by Tom Bergeron from “Dancing with the Stars,” the show will also feature appearances by Matthew Broderick, Kool and the Gang, Apolo Ohno, the National Symphony Orchestra, and many more exciting performers. (KFDC tip: Enjoy the show with less crowds at the dress rehearsal on July 3 – same time and place!)
Where: White House Visitor Center
When July 4, 9am – 3pm
If you have the “liberty” to stop at the White House Visitor Center, you can experience what it would be like to be a “Signer of the Declaration of Independence for a day,” chat with John Adams, test your quill pen writing skills, roll a beeswax candle, and more fun family activities. See the schedule of events here for specifics.
Where: Nationals Park
When: July 3, 6:35pm & July 4, 11:05am
Admission: Tickets start at $10
A day (or evening) at the ballpark is about as all-American as it gets when it comes to sports, and you can experience it and celebrate the holiday at Nationals Park. Catch the July 3 game against the San Francisco Giants and get treated to a fireworks show after the last out. Or, see the teams match up on the 4th when the Nats don their blue patriotic uniforms as part of the Patriotic Series. (There is also a game on Thursday evening, though there are no holiday-related promos.) Tickets are available for all of the games, and all fans are eligible to take advantage of special ticket offers for the July 4th game – use the code PATRIOTIC when purchasing to access the discounted tickets.
An American Celebration
Where: Mount Vernon
When: July 4, 8am – 5pm
Admission: $15/adults, $7/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under.
The home of George Washington salutes the first commander-in-chief with a dazzling display of made-for-daytime fireworks during its annual Independence Day event. Visitors will be treated to spectacular smoke fireworks in patriotic colors fired over the Potomac River. New this year: From 10am – 12pm, costumed staff will provide a glimpse into the making of one of George Washington’s favorite desserts – ice cream! Watch them demo the process as it was done in the 18th century using reproduction period equipment. The event also includes an inspirational naturalization ceremony for 100 new citizens, military reenactments, a special wreathlaying ceremony, and a visit from the “first” first couple, “General and Mrs. Washington.” See the full schedule of events here.
Where: Oregon Ridge State Park
When: July 3 & 4
Admission: $20/adult, $10/kids 12 and under
For something a little different than the usual DC July 4th festivities, head north to Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville, Md, on Tuesday or Wednesday. There, you can spread out a blanket or set up chairs on the sloping green lawn amidst a gorgeous setting as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs their Star-Spangled Spectacular, culminating with a magnificent fireworks display. The starbursts in the sky as a live symphony plays is truly magical. The park opens at 5pm, and the show begins at 8pm both days. Be sure to note these parking instructions, as on–site parking is $15, but you can park off site and take a shuttle for free.
Reading of the Declaration of Independence
Where: National Archives
When: July 4, 10am – 2pm
Celebrate July 4th at the National Archives Building with a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence. There will also be historical guests and family activities from 11am – 2pm. The full schedule of events is available on the National Archive’s website. The White House Visitor Center is located near the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets NW, on the north side of the Commerce Department building.
Where: Madame Tussauds
When: July 4, 8-10am
Admission: $10/ages 13 and up, free for ages 12 and under
The Presidents Gallery at Madame Tussauds is hosting its 1st Annual Celebrate America event, inviting children and families to join wax figures of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Ben Franklin and other “Founding Fathers” for a fun and educational journey through American history and pop culture. This will include a scavenger hunt, prizes, face painting, music, and a chance to make and take home clay apple pie souvenirs. Incentive to get there early: The first 50 visitors will receive a free slice of good ‘ole American apple pie, and the first 100 will also receive a Buy One Get One Free coupon for hot dogs compliments of Ollie’s Trolley.
Where: Throughout the area
When: Most on July 4, times vary
Keep it mellow and close to home at a community celebration. You are likely aware of July 4th events taking place in your neighborhood or nearby, but if you’re still looking for a hyperlocal fête, check out this list of parades around town.