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Posted at 08:05 AM ET, 06/30/2011

#MyTop5: Fourth of July edition

This may sound cheesy, but I truly feel there’s no better place to celebrate July 4 than Washington. I hope you take advantage of everything our nation’s capital has to offer in celebrating Independence Day. I sure plan to.

Here are #myTop5 things to do this holiday weekend.

1. Watch the fireworks, obviously: Let’s get this one out of the way. Fireworks are a required activity for America’s birthday. The only challenge is deciding where to watch, with potential backgrounds ranging from meaningful monuments to beautiful bodies of water. I’m not sure if this Post graphic will help you or further complicate the decision, but I offer it to you anyway.
Visitors to the National Mall watch fireworks over the Washington monument last year. (Bill O'Leary/WASHINGTON POST)

And here’s a fun fact: The United States imports more than $200 million worth of fireworks from China every year, while exporting only $43 million overall.

2. Beat the crowds: There is a significant downside to spending the Fourth in the District, of course: the massive crowds. But never fear! There is a way to outsmart the throngs of America-obsessed tourists.

One of the best events of the weekend is the “A Capitol Fourth” concert on the step of the U.S. Capitol, which this year features comedian Steve Martin, actor Matthew Morrison and singers Josh Groban and Jordin Sparks. That event is taking place Monday at 8 p.m.

Here’s the tip: On Sunday night, the performers will go through a full rehearsal of the festivities. The rehearsal is public, meaning you can go see essentially all of the same stars (no fireworks) but do so with some breathing room.

3. Check out the Smithsonian Folklife Festival: What better way to celebrate the holiday than by immersing yourself in a diverse array of living cultures. Billing itself as “an exercise in cultural democracy” the 44-year-old Smithsonian Folklife Festival features presentations of traditional cultures. The event typically draws more than a million visitors to the Mall over two weekends. It starts today and runs through July 4 and again from July 7 through July 11.

This year’s festival includes a nod to the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, a special section on the South American county of Colombia and a celebration of rhythm and blues. That strikes me as an especially strong lineup, and not just because I’ve been obsessed with the Peace Corps since they were the national debate competition topic my sophomore year of high school. Oh, and apparently the festival has great food, too. 

4. Relax in a paddle boat on the Tidal Basin: Celebrating and sightseeing are tiring, especially with temperatures forecast to be in the mid-90s or higher. Here’s one way to relax and cool off, D.C.-style: Rent a paddle boat from Tidal Basin Paddle Boats. The rides, which cost $12 per hour for a two-passenger boat, allow stunning views of the
Paddle boats move past the Jefferson Memorial in April. (Susan Walsh/AP)
Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument and other landmarks from a calming spot. Be sure to get there early (or late), as both the temperature and the crowds should be a little more reasonable.

5. Relish not going to work on Monday: Newspapers and their Web sites never take a day off. But if you are lucky enough to get a free day on July 4, be sure to swing by the Independence Day Parade at 11:45 a.m. on Constitution Avenue and take advantage of a variety of special nighttime events.

What are your tips for the weekend? Tell us in the comments section.

By Brian M. Rosenthal  |  08:05 AM ET, 06/30/2011

Categories:  Campus Overload

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