If you’re hoping to catch the fireworks on the Mall, stay close to home, or hit a rooftop on the Fourth of July, it’s time to start making plans.
Consider this your guide to the fireworks celebrations, places with the best view away from the Mall, and where you can find picnic-worthy sandwiches on the holiday. And before you head out, be sure to check out our updates on which area celebrations will be cancelled or postponed due to last week’s devastating storm.
Where can I see the fireworks?
The big celebration on the Mall is really two events in one. You can pack up a blanket and picnic and head to the Capitol for the Capitol Fourth concert featuring Matthew Broderick, Javier Colon, Josh Turner, Kool and the Gang, not to mention the National Symphony Orchestra (the concert precedes the fireworks). Or you can just stake out a favorite spot elsewhere on the Mall to catch the fireworks when they’re set off at 9:15 p.m. sharp.
If you’re looking to head instead to one of the many other smaller local celebrations, check out our list of area Fourth of July events, with events in Laurel, Manassas and Reston.
I don’t want to deal with The Mall — where else has a good view?
There may be no better year than this to forgo the trip to the Mall. Construction (on the new Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as rehabbing of the Mall grounds and Reflecting Pool, which is all but gutted) has made much of the Mall a serious eyesore, and could obstruct your view.
The National Park Service’s web site offers some better ideas, including laying out your picnic blanket at Arlington’s Netherlands Carillon, Iwo Jima, Columbia Island/Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove, or Gravelly Point and skipping a trek into the city altogether.
In Washington, favorite viewing spots besides the Mall include Meridian Hill Park and the Kennedy Center terrace, where you’ll get the fireworks and a waterfront view. (Heading to the Jefferson Memorial or Memorial Bridge, which will be open only to pedestrians might also offer that kind of effect). Note: For folks who like to catch the view from Cardozo Senior High School, be aware that it’s under heavy construction this year and the grounds won’t be open for fireworks-watchers.
I’m looking for cocktails and fun instead.
National Harbor will play host to the Great American Festival the weekend before the festival with Ozomatli; Brightest Young Things host a summer pool party at the Capitol Skyline and Kastles Stadium will offer a waterfront view at its Red White and Boom party.
For more: Check out Fritz Hahn’s full list of where to go for Fourth of July nightlife.
How should I get there?
Metro. If you’re going to the Mall, the Smithsonian station will be open, but it’s the most obvious choice, and the glut of tourists and residents will make exiting and entering an ordeal. Try using Federal Triangle, or better, Foggy Bottom.
If you’re planning to stay all day, you could feasibly drive and squeeze into a spot downtown if you arrive in the city early — as early as 9 or 10 a.m. Hains Point will be the only official parking for the fireworks, but across the city, meter fees and time limits are suspended on federal holidays.
Check out the National Park Service’s suggestions for getting to the Mall on Independence Day here.
Where can I get food or use a bathroom?
Food near the Mall is always hard to find. There are concession stands, but a better bet is to try the Folklife Festival, which is offering food at its tents, including barbecue and Southern Comfort food, grub that will remind you of your college dorm days and Azerbaijani cuisine (veggie options were available). Make a stop at the lemonade stands for the most delicious fresh-squeezed juice around.
If you just want to grab a sandwich to supplement a picnic, we’ve confirmed that sandwich shops including A.M. Wine Shoppe, Earl’s Sandwiches, Gilly’s in Rockville, Sundevich, and Wagshal’s are open on July 4, at least until 4 p.m.
Finally, museums are a great option for food — try Natural History or the Museum of the American Indian. Museum of American History, Natural History, and Air and Space are your friends if you’re in search of air-conditioning or a full bathroom.
Other bathrooms include the hundreds of portable toilets brought in for the event, and restrooms at the Lincoln, FDR and Jefferson memorials, and at the Washington Monument Lodge. They will stay open till after the fireworks.