Even as local officials are discouraging people from joining the traditional Fourth of July festivities on the Mall out of fear that crowds could spread the novel coronavirus, President Trump has decided the tradition will continue and, come Saturday, fireworks will light up the skies of the nation’s capital, the Interior Department said Wednesday.

The year’s festivities also will include flyovers by the Air Force’s Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels, and a showing of World War II aircraft such as the P-51 Mustang fighter and the B-29 bomber.

It’s unclear how many people will show up for America’s freedom celebration, but those who do will be joined downtown by scores of protesters.

The protests spurred by George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis police custody in May are expected to continue this weekend and draw large crowds. As many as 20 protests are scheduled for Saturday, and they could extend through the night.

Anyone planning to join the events should have a “how to get around” plan, considering the region’s reduced transit operations, road closures and other travel challenges.

Most traffic disruptions will be near and around the Mall. Other smaller Independence Day parades and fireworks across the region have been canceled. Protests may affect traffic outside downtown and the Mall area.

Drivers should expect day-long — and rolling — street closures. If you’re planning to use the Metro, expect long waits at stations as well as crowded platforms and trains.

Metro will run more trains and stay open longer to accommodate crowds. The transit agency says, however, that Metro should be travelers’ last choice because it cannot guarantee social distancing aboard. Riders are required to wear face coverings in stations and aboard trains.

Expect tight security, including bag checks, to enter the events on the Mall through designated access points. Leave large backpacks and other prohibited items, such as weapons and drones, at home.

And plan for hot weather. The Capital Weather Gang is forecasting temperatures in the high 80s to low 90s and the possibility of thunderstorms in the late afternoon.

Visitors are encouraged to stay six feet away from anyone who isn’t a family member, wear masks and wash hands at any of the more than 100 hand-washing stations throughout the Mall. The Trump administration plans to give away as many as 300,000 masks to those who go to the Mall.

If you are attending the events or the protests, here’s what you need to know.

The events

This year’s Independence Day festivities are not as big as in past years.

The National Independence Day Parade, which brings marching bands, giant balloons and floats to Constitution Avenue, has been canceled. And the annual concert, “A Capitol Fourth,” on the West Lawn of the Capitol will be an online and television affair with taped performances and highlights from previous years.

The location: The Mall area.

The schedule:

  • 6:30 to 8 p.m. Salute to America. This is the second year of Trump’s program in homage to the U.S. armed forces, with music and military demonstrations, including flyovers.
  • 9:07 p.m. Fireworks display. This year’s celebration includes a 35-minute firework show that will be launched from an area more than a mile in length, stretching from Inlet Bridge at the south end of West Potomac Park to north of the Lincoln Memorial, as well as on the grounds of the Washington Monument. The fireworks will be canceled in case of heavy rain, thunderstorms or high winds, according to the National Park Service.

Access to the Mall: Entry to the Mall area where spectators will gather to view the fireworks will be restricted to specific points with security checks. These are the entry points:

  • Constitution Avenue NW at 20th Street NW
  • Constitution Avenue NW between 23rd Street NW and Henry Bacon Drive NW
  • 17th Street NW between Constitution Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW (near the World War II Memorial)
  • East Basin Drive just south of the Jefferson Memorial (visitors will not be able to access the Mall from here)

Prohibited items: A long list of prohibited items includes alcohol, balloons, glass containers and personal fireworks. No firearms or ammunition are allowed.

The protests

More than 20 protests have been scheduled for Saturday. But more could pop up as many of these demonstrations are organic. The following are expected to be among the largest demonstrations:

George Floyd Memorial March on Washington. Starting at 9:30 a.m., participants will march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument and rally at the Ellipse near the White House.

All Americans Unite. Protesters will gather at 10 a.m. at the Washington Monument for a march in solidarity with all communities regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Black Out March. Organized by the Freedom Day Foundation, this event includes a rally at noon at the U.S. Capitol, followed by a march.

Power to the People March. An anti-Trump march will begin at noon on the Mall.

Black Lives Matter Protest and Unity Human Flag. A 12:30 p.m. commemoration of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others killed by police, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

D.C. Protest March. Marchers will gather for a rally at 3 p.m. at Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park, and proceed downtown.


Hours of operation: Metro will open at 8 a.m. and remain open for 30 minutes after the conclusion of the fireworks.

Getting to the Mall: The Smithsonian station is the closest Metro station to the Mall, but it becomes very crowded during big events. To avoid the crush, you can exit at another station within walking distance of the Mall. Your options include Federal Triangle, Foggy Bottom, Metro Center, Gallery Place, Archives, L’Enfant Plaza and Federal Center SW.

Scheduled track work: The platform reconstruction project on the western end of the Orange and Silver lines continues. Passengers in that area should consider using an open station on another line, rather than taking shuttle buses from stations west of Ballston. The Arlington Cemetery station remains closed.

Metrobus: The bus system will operate on a “covid-19 weekend schedule” meaning fewer routes are operating. Buses will run from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Passengers are required to enter and exit through the rear door. Detours are likely near the Mall area.

Other tips: Load or buy your SmarTrip cards in advance to avoid lines at the fare machines in Metro stations. Some stations may be entry-only and exit-only to facilitate moving people through the system, so be prepared to walk to another station in the event you encounter one of these.

Other transportation services: The D.C. Circulator Mall route is canceled during the pandemic and will not be operating Saturday. Water taxi service to the Mall is also canceled.

Watercraft restrictions

D.C. police announced that the following water restrictions will be in place from 4 a.m. to midnight July 4.

  • The area south of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge to the Arlington Memorial Bridge will be a no-anchorage zone
  • A designated anchorage zone will be north of the 14th Street Bridge on the west side of the Potomac River (Virginia shore side)
  • There will be a fireworks fallout exclusion zone north of the 14th Street Bridge on the east side of the Potomac River (on the D.C. side).
  • Watercraft will be allowed to anchor outside of the channel north of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and south of the 14th Street Bridge
  • There will be intermittent travel restrictions between the 14th Street Bridge and the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge between 8:30 and 10 p.m.

Road Closures

The National Park Service has a long list of road closures that will begin about midnight Saturday. Parking also will be prohibited inside this perimeter for the duration of the closures.

The following map shows you the restricted areas and access points:

A few highlights to keep in mind: The Arlington Memorial Bridge will close to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic this July 4, complicating travel for visitors arriving from Northern Virginia who would have walked from Arlington to get to the Mall.

Closed from about midnight to 11 p.m.:

  • Arlington Memorial Bridge and Arlington Memorial Circle, to and including Lincoln Memorial Circle
  • Rock Creek Parkway south of Virginia Avenue NW to Lincoln Memorial Circle, including all approaches and ramps
  • Parkway Drive from Rock Creek Parkway to Lincoln Memorial Circle
  • Henry Bacon Drive NW from Constitution Avenue to Lincoln Memorial Circle NW
  • Daniel Chester French Drive SW
  • Lincoln Memorial Circle and all approaches and ramps into and out of Lincoln Memorial Circle, including Henry Bacon Drive NW, Daniel Chester French Drive SW, 23rd Street NW and 23rd Street SW
  • Ramp from Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge to Constitution Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW and Ohio Drive SW; all inbound traffic from the bridge will be directed to the E Street Expressway
  • Constitution Avenue NW from 23rd Street NW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • Third Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to Independence Avenue SW
  • Fourth Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to Independence Avenue SW
  • Sixth Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to Constitution Avenue NW
  • Seventh Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to Independence Avenue SW
  • Ninth Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to Constitution Avenue NW
  • 12th Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to Constitution Avenue NW
  • 14th Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to Independence Avenue SW
  • 15th Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue NW south to Independence Ave SW
  • 17th Street NW from New York Avenue NW south to Independence Avenue SW
  • 18th Street NW between Constitution Avenue NW and Virginia Avenue NW
  • 19th Street NW from Constitution Avenue NW to Virginia Avenue NW
  • 20th Street NW from Constitution Avenue NW to C Street NW
  • 21st Street NW from Constitution Avenue NW to C Street NW
  • 22nd Street NW from Constitution Avenue NW to C Street NW
  • Virginia Avenue NW from Constitution Avenue NW to 18th Street NW
  • C Street NW from 17th Street NW to 18th Streets NW
  • D Street NW from 17th Street NW to 18th Street NW
  • Raoul Wallenberg Place SW to Maine Avenue SW
  • Independence Avenue SW from 14th Street SW to 23rd Street SW including the merge with Rock Creek Parkway
  • Madison Drive NW from 15th Street NW to Third Street NW
  • Jefferson Drive SW from 15th Street SW to Third Street SW
  • Ohio Drive SW from the Inlet Bridge to Independence Avenue SW
  • West Basin Drive SW from Ohio Drive SW to Independence Avenue SW
  • East Basin Drive SW east of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial to Ohio Drive SW
  • Ramp from southbound and northbound George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP) to Memorial Avenue/Circle
  • Ramp from northbound Va. Route 110 to Memorial Avenue/Circle
  • Ramp from Va. Route 27 to Memorial Avenue/Circle
  • The right lane of northbound George Washington Memorial Parkway from the 14th Street Bridge to Theodore Roosevelt Island
  • After 4 p.m., access to East Potomac Park from Interstate 395 will be by National Park Service permit only.

Closed from 11 a.m. until about 10 p.m.:

  • Third Street from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to Maryland Avenue SW
  • Constitution Avenue NW from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to 14th Street NW
  • 14th Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to Independence Avenue SW

Closed from 3 p.m. July 4 until midnight July 5:

  • Eastbound U.S. Route 50 ramps to the George Washington Memorial Parkway and roads in the immediate area of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
  • Southbound GWMP ramp to 14th Street Bridge (9 to 9:45 p.m. as necessary)
  • Northbound GWMP ramp to 14th Street Bridge (9 to 9:45 p.m. as necessary)

Marissa Lang contributed to this report.