Top Things to Do in DC on Fourth of July

Visiting DC for the Fourth of July? The nation’s capital is in full Independence swing and there is plenty to do, from fireworks to parades, and we made a list of all there is to enjoy in DC on the Fourth of July.

This post covers things to do in Washington DC on Fourth of July 2019 including a top 5 list, nighttime activities, family-friendly things to do, and free things. Read our master post on things to do in DC any time of year.

 


 

 
 

 


TOP FIVE THINGS TO DO FOURTH OF JULY

DC is the perfect place to spend Independence Day. There are plenty of places to see and things to do to. This section covers our top five list for Fourth of July.

For more ideas on popular things to do in DC, check out our posts on bus tours and walking tours of the city.

Some of the items listed in this post are included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass

 

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1. See the Fireworks on the National Mall

Fireworks in DC has always been the centerfold for celebrating Independence Day. This year, however, things are being done differently, a change from tradition in how the city has celebrated Independence Day for over 50 years. Below are the new logistics:

This year, President Donald Trump has announced plans for a ‘Salute to America’ celebration. This means that the fireworks have moved locations, from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to West Potomac Park. The area immediately around the Lincoln Memorial will be a ticketed area. President Trump is expected to speak at this event, which runs from 6:30-7:30pm and includes a flyover by Air Force One, the U.S. Army Band, Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, and other performances. 

You can still watch the fireworks from the rest of the National Mall, which opens at 10am at various security checkpoints. We recommend bringing a blanket and setting up near the Washington Monument for the best view. 

A lot of roads and memorials will be closed, including most of the memorials around the Tidal Basin (after 4pm). For a full list of closures, click here. Services such as water taxis and the D.C. Circulator Bus’s National Mall Route will also not be in operation, so make sure you plan your arrival accordingly. For the least amount of hassle, we recommend arriving early by Metro

For more nighttime activities, check out our Nighttime section below.

Things to Note: You might see something unusual above you in the skies that day, and that will be the “Trump Baby” balloon. You might have heard of it making appearances around the world, like in the U.K., and it will be at the July 4th celebrations, as the permit for it to fly there has been approved. 


2. National Independence Day Parade

July 4th | 11:45am-2pm

The National Independence Day Parade begins at 11:45am and makes it’s way down Constitution Ave NW from 7th St NW to 17th Street NW.

It features fife and drum corps, military units, drill teams and maybe a celebrity or two. It is scheduled to last until 2pm. 

 

 

We think the best place to watch is outside the National Archives where you can sit on the steps to watch the parade – but this is a popular spot, so get there early!


3. Attend ‘A Capitol Fourth’ concert at the U.S. Capitol

July 4th | 8pm-9:30pm

Join us on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building for the annual ‘A Capitol Fourth’ concert here in Washington, DC. Tickets are free and the event is open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis. Grounds open at 3pm on the Southwest side (Independence Ave side) and you must get through security to enter the are.

Food is permitted but no alcohol, and you might want to bring snacks if you’re coming early. We recommend coming at 6pm to give yourself plenty of time to get a good spot but not have to wait too long, as the concert begins promptly at 8pm. 

Here’s the trailer from last year’s concert:

 

 

If you miss the concert, you can also watch it on PBS from the comfortable of a local restaurant or your hotel room. 

For 2019, performers include The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, Choral Arts Society of Washington, and plenty more. For a full list, click here.  

  


4. See the Declaration of Independence

In the time when you’re not attending a concert or watching fireworks, we recommend a visit to the National Archives Museum to see documents that have shaped our nation. Inside you will find the Charters of Freedom: the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence.

The National Archives is free to visit and is open daily from 10am- 5:30pm.

 

 

For more free things to do, check out our Free section below. 


5. Look into a Tourist Discount Pass 

If you’ll be in Washington DC for more than just the Fourth of July celebrations, take advantage of a Tourist Discount Pass to help save on admission costs to many of the attractions in town.

  • Take a behind the scenes tour of Nats Park while attending a home game over the holiday weekend.
  • This is the perfect time of year for a Potomac River Cruise, including a nighttime option that views the fireworks.
  • Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Estate
  • and more!

 

 

Get free admission to our tours and many top DC attractions with a Tourist Discount Pass.

 


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THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT ON FOURTH OF JULY

There are a number of things to do in DC at night, like watching fireworks from the National Mall in our Top 5 section above.

For additional ideas on how to spend your evening, make sure to check out our master things to do at night in DC post. This section offers other suggestions on things to do at night in DC on the Fourth of July.

 

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Watch Fireworks at Mount Vernon

Visiting George Washington’s beautiful Mount Vernon is always a treat. Each year of the Fourth of July they also put on a spectacular fireworks show, which we have a video of below: 

 

 

You can come for a mansion tour or just the fireworks, which begin at 9:30pm.  You can get tickets here.


Other Places to See Fireworks

While the most exciting place to see the fireworks are on the National Mall, if you’re trying to escape the crows we have some other options:

  • Find a rooftop bar. DC has some incredible rooftop bars, which are great places to watch the fireworks from. One great spot is the W Hotel’s POV rooftop bar, which overlooks the National Mall. 
  • Watch from Virginia. Our favorite place to watch the fireworks across the river is from the Iwo Jima Marine Corp Memorial. There’s plenty of grassy space to stretch out on. Parking will be difficult but taking the Metro is easy and convenient. 
  • Watch on the Potomac. Take a boat cruise! There are a number of options to choose from, and this is a great way to see the show with a unique twist. 

 


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THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS ON FOURTH OF JULY

DC offers a lot of family-friendly activities and attractions to do on the Fourth of July, some of which are free like visiting the National Archives. Here are a few more family-friendly ideas for Fourth of July in DC .

For more family-friendly things to do, read about visiting Washington DC with kids.

 

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Go to a Game

The Washington Nationals are spending Fourth of July at the Nationals Park playing the Miami Marlins at 11:05 am.

If you can’t make it that day, you can get tickets to see the Nationals play the Kansas City Royals later that weekend:

  • July 5 @ 7:05 pm
  • July 6 @ 4:05 pm 
  • July 7 @ 1:35 pm

 

Washington Nationals Baseball Game

 

Nats Park is located in a lively part of Washington DC called Navy Yard and not too far from our newest waterfront development, the Wharf.

You’ll find a number of great restaurants and bars for before or after the game, but Nats Park is an experience in itself.


Visit the National Museum of American History

View the highlights of our nation’s history and accomplishments at the American History Smithsonian Museum. Admission is free and the museum is open from 10am-5:30pm every day except Christmas Day.

See the Star Spangled Banner, the First Ladies’ Inaugural dresses, an exhibit on superheroes, and plenty more! You can even take a private guided tour of the museum if you want to make sure you see all the best highlights of the museum.

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO FOURTH OF JULY

With a little planning, there are a lot of free activities available to do in DC. Some of the events we’ve mentioned in this post like seeing the fireworks are free of charge!

Here are a few more ideas for free activities on Fourth of July but for our comprehensive list, visiting our free things to do in DC post.

And in the video below, the vast majority of the top 50 things to do in DC are free of charge.

 

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Visit the Presidents at the Portrait Gallery 

The National Portrait Gallery is a mix of classic and contemporary artwork for everyone to enjoy. One of our favorite parts of it is the Presidential Gallery, which hosts the most complete collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House.

Take a walk through America’s history from George Washington to the latest Barack Obama Painting. Entry is free and is open from 11:30am-7pm every day except Christmas Day.

There a number of other art museums in DC that are free to enjoy as well, such as the National Gallery of Art.

 


Jazz in the Garden

The National Gallery of Art is hosting Jazz in the Garden all summer long. While there isn’t a performance July 4th, there’s one July 5th if you’re in town for the extra day or the whole weekend.

It a great way to end a day of visiting museums. Feel free to bring a blanket and a picnic, although you can also purchase some refreshments there. The event is free and music is from 5pm-8:30pm.


 

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About the author

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 3 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the host of our podcast, Tour Guide Tell All

With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to 25 countries. Her two children (both under the age of 3) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts.