See it all, far from the madding Mall: Great views of D.C. fireworks from a distance


Fireworks are seen from the Potomac harbor on July 4, 2010. (Sarah L. Voisin/WASHINGTON POST)
July 2, 2013

What would the Fourth of July in Washington be without fireworks?

If you live in the area, you know that the display in the nation’s capital is not to be missed.

What is to be missed? The traffic, crowds and parking nightmares that come with finding a spot on the Mall to watch them.

If you want to avoid the Mall, there are plenty of locations in the Districtand Virginia that offer good views of the annual show without the hassle.

Not only do each of the spots below have unobstructed views, but all are free of charge and — with some walking — Metro-accessible.

Remember to plan ahead for travel, whether you’re walking, driving or using public transportation. The fireworks are expected to start around 9 p.m. Metrorail will open at 7 a.m. and close at midnight, and operate on a Saturday schedule for most of the day.

Map: Great views of fireworks from a distance

Local hot spots

Cardozo High School

1300 Clifton St. NW. 202-673-7385

Construction on the Columbia Heights school wraps up next month, not quite in time for the fireworks display. The school has several grassy slopes where D.C. residents typically sit, but the major renovation project has cut off those areas from access. Stake out a spot near Clifton Street or 13th Street NW and face south for the best view.

McKinley Tech Senior High School

151 T St. NE. 202-281-3950

Not far from Cardozo in the District’s Eckington neighborhood is McKinley Tech, another spot to catch the fireworks far north of the Mall. And unlike Cardozo High, no construction is underway here.

Long Bridge Park

475 Long Bridge Dr., Arlington. 703-228-7529

The Fourth of July celebration in Arlington starts at 3 p.m. and includes everything from live music to free face-painting and kickball. Drivers take note: There is no on-site parking, but free shuttles will run from 2:30 to 10:30 p.m. from the Crystal City and the Pentagon City Metro stations.

Gravelly Point Park

Off northbound George Washington Parkway, Arlington. 703-289-2500

A popular spot for watching planes land at Reagan National Airport, Gravelly Point Park should have an unobstructed view of the fireworks and room for kids to run around. Travel is the trickiest part; the park is accessible only from the George Washington Parkway northbound and parking is limited. Road closures in the area will also hinder vehicular traffic. If you’re packing light or have a bike, the park is about 21 / 2 miles from the Arlington National Cemetery Metro station, and two miles from the Crystal City Metro station — both via the Mount Vernon Trail.

Washington National Cathedral

Wisconsin and Massachusetts avenues NW. 202-537-6200

On the southern end of the cathedral grounds is a hill with great views of the District skyline. The cathedral also plans on keeping its parking-garage bathrooms open until 8 p.m.

Holy Rood Cemetery

2100 Wisconsin Ave. NW

Owned by Georgetown University, this large cemetery is on the southern end of the District’s Glover Park neighborhood. It has impressive views of the Washington Monument, and locals congregate on the hillside overlooking Wisconsin Avenue to watch the fireworks display.

National Parks

Marine Corps Memorial

N. Meade Street, Arlington. 703-289-2500

The Marine Corps Memorial (commonly referred to as the Iwo Jima Memorial) is a National Park Service landmark in Virginia. Walk or bike from the Rosslyn Metro station to a spot that offers a clear view of the display close to the city but far from the Mall crowds.

Meridian Hill Park

16th and Euclid streets NW. 202-619-7111, 202-619-7256

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994, this National Park Service park is a picturesque spot, despite the steep climb to the top. But the walk is worth it — the upper half of the park is perfect for scoping out the fireworks. There are trees and limited grassy spots for sitting, so get there early with a blanket and friends.

Washington Sailing Marina

1 Marina Dr., Alexandria. 703-548-9027

Just south of National Airport, the National Park Service marina will open at 9 a.m., with two separate security checkpoints. No alcohol, fireworks or firearms will be allowed, but food and coolers are okay. The main parking lot of the marina is for boat owners and visitors with reservations to the marina’s restaurant. There are two overfill lots, but they fill up fast. When no parking spots are left, the marina will be closed to all car traffic. Want to walk? The marina is a bit more than a mile from the airport along the Mount Vernon Trail.

Rooftop Bars

Rock and Roll Hotel

1353 H St. NE. 202-388-7625

Opening at 6 p.m. and closing at about 12:30 a.m., the H Street nightclub and live music venue will have two DJs on its second-floor rooftop. There is no cover charge, and the nighttime view of the Capitol makes this an Instagram-ready Independence Day destination.

H Street Country Club

1335 H St. NE. 202-399-4722

Two blocks down H Street is another Capitol Hill option; this unusual bar — it boasts an indoor miniature golf course modeled on the District — opens at 3 p.m. and closes at 1:30 a.m. Friday. There’s no cover charge, and the rooftop deck offers unobstructed views of the Washington Monument.

The Brixton

901 U St. NW. 202-560-5045

If you want to see the fireworks from a different vantage point, get there early to claim a spot on the roof of this U.K.-meets-U-Street bar and eatery, which opens at 2 p.m. and closes at 2 a.m. Friday. Won’t have: a cover charge. Will have: a 5 p.m. hot-dog-eating contest.

Margaret Ely is a digital editor for Lifestyle. Previously, she was an intern for the Post’s Metro section.
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