Fireworks on the Mall: What you need to know to have a fabulous July Fourth in D.C.


A spectacular view: Visitors to the Mall on Independence Day 2010 watch fireworks caught this view near the Washington Monument. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
The Schedule

8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

JULY 4TH AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES

The highlight of this annual event is the 10 a.m. reading of the Declaration of Independence by actors portraying Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Ned Hector. Family activities, including crafts and storytelling, and opportunities to view the Charters of Freedom follow from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Constitution Avenue and Seventh Street NW. www.archives.gov.

11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

SMITHSONIAN FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL


The Smithsonian Folklife Festival will offer performances and exhibits exploring the cultures of China and Kenya all day, and ethnic foods and beverages until 8:45 p.m. (Yue Wu/The Washington Post)

The sprawling cultural festival is exploring the traditions of China and the changing culture of Kenya with 10 days of demonstrations, discussions and concerts ending Sunday. Before the fireworks, hit the festival for a Chinese milk tea, goat stew and performances of opera, puppetry and more. For Independence Day crowds, concessions will remain open until the fireworks and concert. www.festival.si.edu.

11:45 a.m.

INDEPENDENCE DAY PARADE

This two-hour parade brings together floats, marching bands from across the country, members of the military and dignitaries for a procession along Constitution Avenue NW from Seventh to 17th streets. www.july4thparade.com.

11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

U.S. AIR FORCE BAND’S MAX IMPACT

A perfect opportunity to come in from the heat: The Air and Space Museum hosts the U.S. Air Force Band’s six-piece rock band as it performs patriotic favorites (and rock and country staples) in mini-concerts on the hour between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Independence Avenue and Sixth Street SW. www.airandspace.si.edu.

3 p.m.

CAPITOL GROUNDS OPEN

Folks heading to the West Lawn for the evening’s “A Capitol Fourth” concert can begin entering through security checkpoints at Third Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW or Third Street and Maryland Avenue SW.

8 to 9:30 p.m.

“A CAPITOL FOURTH” CONCERT


Neil Diamond performed during last year’s Capitol Fourth concert on the Capitol West Lawn. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for Capital Concerts)

Tom Bergeron hosts this celebrity-studded concert by the National Symphony Orchestra. Former “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks, Michael McDonald, Patti LaBelle and Four Seasons star Frankie Valli are joined by Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy and plenty of others for this year’s live taping from the Capitol’s West Lawn. (Insider tip: The dress rehearsal, featuring most of the guests, is Thursday at 8 p.m., though it won’t culminate in fireworks.) www.pbs.org/capitolfourth.

9:10 to 9:27 p.m.

THE WASHINGTON SKYLINE GLITTERS

If you’re not at the concert, stake a claim on a patch of grass near the Washington Monument or on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for the fireworks display. (Don’t forget to bring a blanket to sit on.) Public access to the Mall begins at 10 a.m. and requires a security screening. Be aware that the fireworks are launched near the Lincoln Memorial, so that will be the loudest spot. All events are free. www.nps.gov/foju.

Need to know

DON’T BRING

• Alcohol (Coolers and bags are subject to search.)

• Glass containers

• Personal fireworks

• Grills

• Weapons, including firearms and knives

• Large sporting equipment (Footballs, Frisbees and other small items are fine, but caution is advised to avoid injuring others.)

• Pets (If you must bring them, they must be leashed.)

[Related: Lawn seats 101: How to perch on a patch of grass like a pro]

WHERE ARE THE RESTROOMS?

Typically, portable toilets are brought onto the Mall for the Fourth of July, as well as for the Folklife Festival. Smithsonian museum bathrooms are another option; Air and Space and Natural History will stay open until 7:30 p.m., while American History and the Freer and Sackler galleries close at 5:30 p.m.

Permanent park restrooms are open till just after the ceremonies and include:

• Lincoln Memorial

• Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

• Thomas Jefferson Memorial

• Washington Monument Lodge

• West Potomac Park between Independence Avenue SW and the Reflecting Pool

WHERE SHOULD I EAT?

Definitely consider packing small, soft coolers for a picnic, and bring refillable water bottles.

Places to buy food:

• The Smithsonian Folklife Festival will offer food and beverages at several tents and stands between 11 a.m. and 8:45 p.m. Alcohol will not be served after 6:30.

• Museum food courts will be open during museum hours.

• Concession stands are at the Lincoln Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument.

WHERE CAN I GO TO COOL OFF?

Spend time inside one of the museums on the Mall. Or find a slew of restaurants, coffee and frozen yogurt shops in the Chinatown and Penn Quarter area along Seventh Street NW between D and H streets NW. Other options are along 13th and 14th streets between G Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

GETTING THERE

Metro will be your best bet; but to avoid long lines at the turnstiles, enter and exit at such stations as Foggy Bottom or L’Enfant Plaza, rather than Smithsonian. (John McDonnell)

METRO

Metrorail will open at 7 a.m. and close at 3 a.m. Parking will be free at all Metro-operated facilities. The best Metro stops for getting close to the Mall are Federal Triangle, L’Enfant Plaza, Metro Center, Capitol South or Foggy Bottom. Note that there’s a Nationals home game against the Chicago Cubs at 11:05 a.m., so plan for crowds accordingly. Be sure to purchase a fare card with enough fare for both legs of your trip.

The Smithsonian station will become “entry only” shortly after the fireworks start. (Related: Metro transit guide for July 4 from Dr. Gridlock)

BY BIKE

Capital Bikeshare stations inside the National Mall will be open, and Bikeshare bikes will be permitted through the checkpoints.

There will be free bike valet parking (riders must provide lock) until 10:30 p.m. on Independence Avenue NW between 14th and 15th.

BY CAR

Numerous roads around the Mall will be closed, so taking public transportation is encouraged. (Related: July 4 traffic tips from Dr. Gridlock)


The National Independence Day Parade begins at 11:45 a.m. and the fireworks display on the Mall begins at 9:10 p.m. Street closures will be in effect through 10 p.m. to accommodate crowds. (Click on the map to enlarge.)

More coverage: Five suburban spots for an independent Fourth of July

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Lavanya Ramanathan is a professional eater/drinker/thinker for Weekend and the Going Out Guide. University of Texas. Northwestern University. Rap fan.
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