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How to celebrate Independence Day in the Washington, D.C., area

Whether you’re really into history, small-town charm or fireworks, there’s an event for you

The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington is a popular vantage point for watching fireworks over the National Mall. (Kevin Ambrose for The Washington Post)
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For the first time since 2019, Independence Day in the nation’s capital will look almost normal. Parades, cookouts, fireworks — even the National Symphony Orchestra performing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. Whether you want a traditional Fourth of July, a community parade or just colorful explosions in the sky, this is a weekend to celebrate.

All events are free unless otherwise noted. This post has been updated.

I want to have a classic D.C. Fourth

Start the day at the National Archives, with performances by the Third U.S. Infantry (“The Old Guard”) fife and drum corps and singer D.C. Washington, and a reading of the Declaration of Independence with actors portraying Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and other Founding Fathers, beginning at 10 a.m. The National Independence Day Parade, which includes marching bands from around the country, military units, floats and balloons, sets off from Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue NW at 11:45 a.m. and ends at 17th Street, where the last participants are expected to finish around 2 p.m.

From the parade, head to the National Mall. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, back in person after two years of virtual experiences, returns with programs dedicated to the United Arab Emirates and the Smithsonian’s sustainability-focused Earth Optimism project. Activities include falconry and cooking demonstrations, performances of the songs of pearl divers, and short environmental film screenings. The festival is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Over at the Sylvan Theater’s family area, kids can earn a junior ranger badge by completing activities related to the Washington Monument between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

A Capitol Fourth, the long-running concert performed on the Capitol’s West Lawn, is once again open to the public. Hosted by country singer Mickey Guyton, this year’s concert includes performances by Yolanda Adams, Gloria Gaynor and Keb’ Mo', accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra and the U.S. Army Band (“Pershing’s Own”). Gates on Third Street NW and SW open at 3 p.m., according to the Capitol Police. The concert runs from 8 to 9:30 p.m. and is broadcast live on PBS.

Fireworks are scheduled to begin at 9:09 p.m. Fireworks are launched from the sides of the Lincoln Memorial’s Reflecting Pool, and areas on and around the Mall are closed to the public or require visitors to go through security, including a bag check. The National Park Service website has maps of these areas, including the four security access points.

I prefer community celebrations to National Mall crowds

Two long-running parades make D.C. feel like a small town on Independence Day. The 56-year-old Palisades Parade and Picnic draws politicians and community groups, but anyone is encouraged to participate: All you have to do is show up and get in line between 10 and 11 a.m., when the parade starts moving down Whitehaven Parkway NW. The procession ends at the Palisades Rec Center with food, moon bounces and music. On Capitol Hill, the 20th edition of the Capitol Hill Community 4th of July Parade is led by the Marine Corps’ Drum and Bugle Corps, but it features Scout groups, youth sports teams and floats sponsored by local businesses. It heads up Barracks Row at 10 a.m., ending at the Eastern Market Metro plaza.

Takoma Park boasts that the city has held a July Fourth celebration for 133 years. The 1.3-mile parade, which winds through the city from the intersection of Carroll and Ethan Allen avenues beginning at 10 a.m., includes marching bands, drill teams, floats, art cars, costumed characters and veterans groups, as well as plenty of politicians. Instead of fireworks, the city closes Maple Avenue for a street party with bands, food trucks, a beer garden and family activities from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

The Little Patriot Parade, which features children dressed as “Young George Washington” or “Little Miss Betsy Ross,” is a staple of Great Falls’ parade, first held in 1955. The Little Patriots parade around the Village Centre Green at 9 a.m. before the main parade, with antique cars and floats, begins at 10 a.m. After the parade, there’s a family party on the Green with a bounce house, inflatable slides, snow cones and cotton candy. The evening party at Turner Farm park features live music and a cornhole tournament before the fireworks begin at about 9 p.m.

July Fourth in Leesburg begins with a parade through the heart of its historic downtown, starting at Ida Lee Park at 10 a.m. Look for fifes and drums, decorated automobiles, tractor-pulled floats, marching dance teams and pageant winners. The action returns to Ida Lee Park at 6 p.m. for a night of live music, food trucks and what’s billed as the largest fireworks show in the region.

Unlike some cities that host parades in the morning and fireworks at night, Annapolis arranges its celebration with the main events back to back. The parade, which runs down West Street and Main Street to the City Dock, begins at 6:30 p.m. That’s where you’ll find the U.S. Naval Academy Band and the academy’s Blues & Gold blues band performing at 8 p.m. Fireworks, which are launched from a barge anchored off the Naval Academy, begin at 9:15.

Give me all the fireworks

While most communities shoot off their fireworks on July Fourth proper, some communities celebrate throughout the long holiday weekend. In fact, it’s possible to enjoy bombs bursting in air every night between Friday and Tuesday. On Friday, Vienna’s Independence Day Celebration in George C. Yeonas Park features music from Anansegro of Ghana and the U.S. Navy Concert Band beginning at 7:30 p.m., before fireworks at 9:30. The city of Bladensburg returns to Bladensburg Waterfront Park for a community festival with a performance by Coco J, music from DJ Flava of WKYS (93.9 FM), food trucks and children’s activities before the firework finale. The event runs from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Back in D.C., the Washington Nationals launch “Freedom Fireworks” after the conclusion of their 6:05 game against the Miami Marlins. It’s part of a full weekend of events that include appearances by the Budweiser Clydesdales on Saturday and a free beer for adults on Monday. Game tickets are required for entry.

Saturday brings Laurel’s 43-year-old celebration, which begins at 2 p.m. with a parade and classic car show, followed by live music at 5:15 p.m. and fireworks at Laurel Lake at 9:15 p.m. Summerfest returns to Gaithersburg with music, a beer garden filled with local craft breweries and food trucks, and family activities. Gates at Bohrer Park open at 6 p.m., and the fireworks begin around 9:25 p.m. The SummerGlo After Party, with glow-in-the-dark performers, follows.

The Bowie Baysox launch fireworks after both Saturday and Sunday games against the Richmond Flying Squirrels. There are slight differences: Saturday features a “huge fireworks show,” and kids run the bases after the game. Sunday is promoted as the biggest fireworks show of the season, and all fans, not just kids, are allowed to run the bases after the final out. Admission requires game tickets.

While Fairfax holds its Independence Day Parade on July Fourth as usual, the Evening Show and Fireworks display has been postponed until Tuesday. Local cover band Party Like It’s … performs beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Fairfax High School. Fireworks start at 9:30 p.m.

I’m really into history

In addition to public activities on Independence Day, the National Archives Museum is staying open until 7 p.m. Saturday through Monday to allow visitors more time to see the original Declaration of Independence.

Mount Vernon’s “An American Celebration” on July Fourth features daytime fireworks, Revolutionary War-era military drills and music, a wreath-laying ceremony at Washington’s tomb, and, as the centerpiece, a naturalization ceremony in which immigrants become American citizens. Events are included in regular admission to Mount Vernon.

Historic Annapolis has planned a full weekend of events at multiple locations around Maryland’s capital, including the home of William Paca, who signed the Declaration of Independence. Talk to reenactors portraying Paca and other Marylanders; tour historic properties, including Paca’s Georgian mansion and landscaped gardens; participate in family activities at the Museum of Historic Annapolis; and watch a July Fourth naturalization ceremony. Properties are open Saturday through Monday, but the schedule varies. Timed entry tickets are required on Monday.