About 2 p.m. on the Fourth of July, Brooke Ramey will hoist an 8-by-5 foot Texas flag onto a six-foot pole on the lawn right in front of where the National Symphony will play later in the evening. The flag will guide about 15 of her friends to Ramey's chosen gathering spot for the Independence Day festivities on the Mall.

"The key is to get there very early," said Ramey, a native Texan who now lives on Capitol Hill.

Ramey's method of picking a spot on the Mall is one way to make the most of the holiday.

Fireworks watchers should especially note that Arlington police have announced that parking near the Iwo Jima Memorial, a favorite vantage point, is being restricted this year for safety reasons.

Following are other tips.

"USE THE METRO SYSTEM" appears to be the number one rule. "There just isn't enough parking downtown," said Earl Kittleman, a spokesman for the National Parks Service.

About half of the people who spent last year's Fourth on the Mall traveled to and from there by Metro, according to Mary Bucklew, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Many of those used the Smithsonian Metro station.

Metro officials suggest that passengers on the Red Line exit at the Union Station, Judiciary Square or Gallery Place stations, and walk. Passengers on the Blue and Orange lines should exit at L'Enfant Plaza, Federal Center or Federal Triangle, and those on the Yellow Line should walk from the Gallery Place or L'Enfant Plaza stations.

Near the Iwo Jima Memorial, parking in the area bounded by Meade Street, Rte. 50, Rolfe Street, and the back of Fort Myer will be limited to residents, guests for whom residents can provide legal parking, and persons with businesses in the area.

Metro authorities plan to have 120 to 130 buses waiting at 12th Street and Independence Avenue after the fireworks to take riders to Rosslyn and Stadium Armory.

Another frequent tip is "arrive early." Kittleman said people will be "streaming" down during the morning hours to the area by the Washington Monument where the Beach Boys and others will perform beginning at 5 p.m., and that the best spots may be gone by 10 or 11 a.m.

If you are not interested in the stage entertainment, said Kittleman, there are plenty of other places near the Mall from which to view the fireworks.

Constitution Gardens, just east of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, is "a prime spot for watching the fireworks," and one which has been little used in past years, said Kittleman. He also suggested The Ellipse, Bolivar Park on C and 18th streets, and other downtown parks.

Although the shoulders of the George Washington Parkway are a favorite viewing place for the fireworks demonstration, U.S. Park Police warn that parking in those reas is illegal and motorists are subject to fines.

Partly sunny, highs in the 80s, and some humidity is the forecast for the Fourth, so the National Weather Service recommends that those who plan to spend the day on the Mall wear light-colored summer clothing, drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, and avoid overexposure to the sun.

Other tips offered by officials include: wear shoes at all times and don't wade in the reflecting pools; don't bring glass containers; leave your pets at home, and consider putting identification on young children. Also, groups should plan a place to meet.