Below, we answer your questions about protecting yourself from the coronavirus while you toast America’s 245th birthday.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What activities are happening?
- Which activities are canceled?
- Will mask-wearing and social distancing be enforced at public celebrations?
- Speaking of Metro, can I take it to the fireworks?
- <b>Will roads be closed?</b>
- <b>What else is closed?</b>
What activities are happening?
The National Park Service will set off 17 minutes of fireworks near the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, starting at 9:09 p.m. Traditionally, revelers gather on the National Mall and on the city’s many rooftops and hills long before dusk to picnic, socialize and stake out a good view.
In neighborhoods across the District, expect cookouts galore. The Palisades neighborhood, on the city’s western edge, and Barracks Row on Capitol Hill will again host their traditional parades, which went on hiatus last year.
Which activities are canceled?
Washington normally starts July Fourth with a massive parade near the Mall, which won’t take place this year. The traditional Capitol Fourth concert, which normally draws a crowd to the Capitol lawn, will instead be prerecorded and aired on television. (In this case, it’s not just because of the pandemic — the U.S. Capitol grounds remain fenced off since the Jan. 6 attack on the complex.)
Rockville city canceled its festivities, and Takoma Park is replacing its normally whimsical parade and its fireworks show with a “parade of houses,” with prizes for the best-decorated facades.
Will mask-wearing and social distancing be enforced at public celebrations?
The District, where more than 70 percent of adults have at least one vaccine dose and coronavirus cases have plummeted, no longer requires masks outdoors and no longer has any legal limits on the size or distancing of public gatherings. In other words, Fourth of July activities will go on without any pandemic restrictions.
Some towns are still asking those watching their fireworks in crowded areas to wear masks. Those riding the Metro and other public transportation are still required to wear masks.
Speaking of Metro, can I take it to the fireworks?
The transit agency is planning to provide extra service to accommodate crowds for the fireworks at the Mall, Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said.
No station closures or track work will take place on Sunday except for those already occurring for summer construction projects. Stations that are closed for a platform replacement project include West Hyattsville, Prince George’s Plaza, College Park and Greenbelt. Metro is offering shuttle bus service at those stations, but the transit agency suggested customers seek alternatives.
To avoid lines, Metro urged riders to use its mobile app to load and reload fare cards, or to visit fare vending machines in advance to ensure they have enough for a round trip. Since every Metro line has a stop near the Mall, the agency also suggested riders plan their rides to use just one train line, so they can avoid crowds at transfer stations.
After the fireworks display, the Mall entrance at the Smithsonian station might become “entry only,” depending on crowds, Ly said. The Independence Avenue entrance would remain available for both entry and exit.
Will roads be closed?
Yes. Many of the roads in the vicinity of the Mall will be closed for all or part of the day on Sunday. You can find a full list in this article.
What else is closed?
Tourists cannot visit the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial or the World War II Memorial on the Fourth of July, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial will close at 4 p.m. that day. All three are in the vicinity of the fireworks launch sites.
Other activities around the Mall will also close — there will be no paddle boats on the Tidal Basin, and no Circulator buses or Big Bus tour stops. The golf course and tennis courts in East Potomac Park will also close in the midafternoon.
What should I know if I’m planning to visit the Mall?
You’ll need to enter the Mall between 1 and 9 p.m. at one of the designated checkpoints. (You can find a list of checkpoints in this article.)
Be prepared for lines, and make sure you don’t have any prohibited items in your bag. The list is long: No grills, glass containers, aerosols, alcohol, balloons, laser pointers, fireworks, guns, ammunition, folding tables, tents, chairs or coolers larger than 36 quarts (23 inches by 15 inches by 15 inches).
Items that you might want to bring include sunscreen, bottled water, a picnic blanket, a fan, a hat and snacks.
Since the Mall will get very crowded, the National Park Service recommends leaving your pets at home and not planning on playing any games like badminton or volleyball that take up a lot of space.
What precautions should I take to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus while celebrating?
People who are not vaccinated, including children, should take the most precautions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current recommendations encourage all unvaccinated people, ages 2 and older, to wear a mask any time they are socializing with people outside their own household.
It might be a good idea for young kids and other people who haven’t had vaccines yet to skip the barbecues and stick to activities more conducive to mask-wearing, like a fireworks show or a neighborhood parade.
Health experts note that the virus is spread mostly by airborne particles, not by surface contamination. They stress that fully vaccinated people are protected from serious infection or illness and do not need to wear masks.