The Fourth of July doesn’t begin and end with the festivities on the Mall. Celebrate your independence with nature hikes, picnics, water slides, local beer and, of course, fireworks.
How to spend the afternoon: Spend the lazy morning hours hiking the relatively easy terrain of Sugarloaf Mountain, about 20 minutes north of Gaithersburg (www.sugarloafmd.com), then take a load off at Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard (18125 Comus Rd., Dickerson, www.smvwinery.com), the popular chill-out point at the base of the popular hike.
What to do with the kids: Pack a picnic and spend the morning and early afternoon grilling and taking out a rowboat at Rockville’s shady, bucolic Lake Needwood. Boat rentals are a steal at less than $10 an hour (15700 Needwood Lake Cir., Rockville. Boathouse: 301-563-7544, www.lakeneedwoodboats.com).
Where to grab a bite or drink: Foodies often stake out seats in the Greek-run Peruvian-style chicken joint Sardi’s Pollo a la Brasa (430 N. Frederick Ave., Gaithersburg, 301-977-3222, www.sardischicken.com), where the sides, including yuca fries and herb-laden green sauce, make for half the fun.
Fireworks: As evening nears, head to Lakeforest Mall, where you can park and hop on a shuttle to the free Fourth of July celebration at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, where a grand fireworks display draws families from across the region. Gates open at 5 p.m., so catch music and other entertainers until dark, when the sky comes to life. (Montgomery County Fairgrounds, 16 Chestnut St., Gaithersburg, 301-258-6350, www.gaithersburgmd.gov)
— Lavanya Ramanathan
How to spend the afternoon: Cool off under the summer sun at the AV Symington Aquatic Center, Leesburg’s sprawling version of the neighborhood pool, with tall slides and a lazy river. Get there early: The pool closes at 4 p.m. for Independence Day events. (80 Ida Lee Dr., 703-777-1368, www.idalee.org.)
What to do with the kids: Independence Day in this historic Loudoun County town is an all-day affair. Head to the quaint, patriotic parade in the morning, featuring fife and drum corps and local residents showing off their Fourth of July flair (steps off at 10 a.m. on King Street between Ida Lee Park and Fairfax Street). It’s perfect for little ones still skittish about the evening’s big booms.
Where to grab a bite or drink: It’s a destination restaurant in town, but you’d hardly know it from the exterior of Thai Pan, a popular Southeast Asian restaurant inside a Liberty gas station (2 Harrison St. SE, Leesburg, 703-777-9487, www.thethaipan.com). If you do choose Thai over a traditional picnic, save room for dessert. The night’s festivities feature funnel cake and other county-fair-style treats.
Fireworks: The evening’s events at Ida Lee Park are decidedly less traditional, kicking off at 6:30 p.m. with a performance of ’80s rock by the Breakfast Club. Fireworks start at 9:30. Gates open at 6 p.m. (Ida Lee Park, 60 Ida Lee Dr. NW, Leesburg, 703-777-1368, www.idalee.org.)
— Lavanya Ramanathan
How to spend the afternoon: Poke around in the numerous antique shops in historic Old Bowie. Allen Pond Park (3330 Northview Dr., Bowie, 301-809-3011) has a 10-acre lake for fishing and paddleboats. The historic 18th-century Belair Mansion (12207 Tulip Grove Dr., 301-809-3089, www.cityofbowie.org), home to Governor Samuel Ogle, will be closed on the holiday, but its rolling grounds will be open and perfect for a picnic.
What to do with the kids: Opportunity Park at Allen Pond is a fully accessible playground with separate areas for children 5 and older and 5 and younger.
Where to grab a bite or drink: Rips Country Inn (3809 Crain Hwy., 301-805-5900, www.ripscountryinn.com) is an old-school restaurant where meatloaf and liver and onions are house favorites, alongside steaks, crab cakes and Maryland fried chicken. Grace’s Fortune (15500 Annapolis Rd., 301-805-1108, www.gracesrestaurants.com) is the place to go for formal Chinese, accompanied by a pianist playing classical music. After the fireworks, you’re not far from DuClaw Brewing Company (4000 Town Center Blvd., 301-809-6943, www.duclaw.com), which serves beers from the Baltimore-area brewery.
Fireworks: In 2013, Bowie moved its annual Fourth of July celebration to Prince George’s Stadium (4101 Crain Hwy., Bowie, 301-805-6000, www.cityofbowie.org), home of the Bowie Baysox. The festivities return to the 10,000-seat stadium at 9:15 p.m. The Fabulous Hubcaps perform oldies before and after the main event. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the band plays at 7:30.
— Fritz Hahn
How to spend the afternoon: Frederick is full of boutiques and more than 200 antique shops, including the sprawling Wonder Books used-book warehouse (1306 W. Patrick St., Frederick, 301-694-5955, www.wonderbk.com). The area is also rich in Civil War history: The Battle of Monocacy, fought July 9, 1864, took place about two miles from downtown Frederick, and Monocacy National Battlefield (5201 Urbana Pike, Frederick, 301-662-3515, www.nps.gov/mono) is celebrating its sesquicentennial this month. Don’t miss the gory surgical implements at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine (48 E. Patrick St., Frederick, 301-695-1864, www.civilwarmed.org).
What to do with the kids: Cunningham Falls State Park (14039 Catoctin Hollow Rd., Thurmont, 301-271-7574, www.dnr.maryland.gov) is a wonderland spot for families. Beyond playgrounds, kids can swim in lakes and explore the nature center.
Where to grab a bite or drink: Brian Voltaggio’s Family Meal (880 N. East St., Frederick, 301-378-2895, www.voltfamilymeal.com) features twists on comfort food: fried chicken and biscuits, chicken pot pie fritters, deviled eggs with bacon. Isabella’s Taverna (44 N. Market St., Frederick, 301-698-8922, www.isabellas-tavern.com) is a reliable spot for Spanish tapas and paella, served with pitchers of sangria. For good, fresh beer, head to Brewer’s Alley (124 N. Market St., 301-631-0089,
www.brewers-alley.com), a downtown brewpub, which will have music outdoors July 4.
Fireworks: Frederick’s 4th is more than just fireworks at dusk: It’s a free, day-long party at downtown Baker Park. There are multiple stages for music, including Blues Brothers and Journey cover acts and a lineup of country performers sponsored by WFRE FM. Bathtubs race across Culler Lake. Frederick celebrities, ranging from the mayor to the reigning Miss Frederick, jump in a dunk tank for charity. Beer gardens feature brews from Flying Dog and cornhole tournaments. Fireworks begin at dusk. The best viewing locations are in Baker Park (121 N. Bentz St., Frederick, 301-600-2844, www.celebratefrederick.com) along West College Terrace.
— Fritz Hahn
How to spend the afternoon: A 20-minute drive from Southside Park, Great Falls Park (9200 Old Dominion Dr., McLean, 703-285-2965, www.nps.gov/grfa) has hiking trails appropriate for all skill levels. Closer to the action, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens (9750 Meadowlark Gardens Ct., Vienna, 703-255-3631, www.nvrpa.org/park) is an idyllic spot where you can wander through a butterfly garden and look at blooming hydrangea, lush ferns and colorful crape myrtles.
What to do with kids: Both Great Falls and Meadowlark are great for children, but a specifically kid-centric destination is the Reston Zoo (1228 Hunter Mill Rd., Vienna, 703-757-6222. www.restonzoo.com), which has a petting barn and pony rides.
Where to grab a bite or drink: For a quick bite, head to the fast-casual Amma’s Vegetarian Kitchen (344 Maple Ave. E., Vienna, 703-938-5328, www.ammavegkitchen.com) where the specialty is South Indian. The menu includes an array of delicious dosas stuffed with everything from shredded tofu to the more traditional spiced potatoes. There is no shortage of fancier sit-down options, including Maple Ave Restaurant (147 Maple Ave. W., Vienna, 703-319-2177, www.mapleaverestaurant.com), a tiny restaurant with an eclectic menu of seasonal food sourced from local farms.
Fireworks:The festivities in Vienna get started long before the free 9:15 p.m. display of colorful pyrotechnics at Southside Park (1315 Ross Dr. SW., Vienna, www.viennava.gov). At 11 a.m., the Vienna Community Center (20 Cherry St. SE) hosts a free chili cookoff, an antique car show, a parade of dogs decked out in their red-white-and-blue best and, for those looking for a respite from the heat, indoor arts-and-crafts.
— Stephanie Merry