Fourth of July

What to do on July 4 in the DC area, from National Mall celebrations to community parades

How to spend Fourth of July on the National Mall, plus details on fireworks and community events in Maryland and Virginia

NBC Universal, Inc.

Happy Fourth of July! The United States is turning 248 years old, and the Washington, D.C., area is going all out with tons of fireworks, free concerts, historical events and parades.

Fourth of July on the National Mall

If there’s one holiday to celebrate on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., it’s Independence Day.

But with big crowds, road closures and extra security measures, you’ll want to make a plan. Here’s what to know about road closures, Metro and National Mall access points. The bottom line: Budget time to take Metro, navigate crowds and undergo a security screening at the National Mall access points.

National Park Service fireworks

The National Park Service’s big fireworks display will fire from either side of the Lincoln Memorial. It’s scheduled to begin at 9:09 p.m. and last for 17 minutes.

Access points to the National Mall are scheduled to open at 1 p.m. Expect a security screening and bag check. Here’s a list of prohibited items.

The fireworks can be viewed from A Capitol Fourth concert, Fourth on The Wharf and many locations in the District and in Virginia. Our Fireworks Finder lists our favorite viewing spots. Or, check our list of watch parties on rooftops, boats and more.

Daytime activities on the National Mall

Want to get started early? Daytime activities in the National Mall zone include:

  • The National Independence Day Parade, which is set to begin at 11:45 a.m. The parade will go along Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Street NW. The steps of the National Archives are a good place to watch, and the museum has a lot of special activities planned…
  • Independence Day at the National Archives: Party with the Declaration of Independence itself. Not only can you visit the museum to see the United States’ founding documents, but you can enjoy a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a live performance from The Experience Band and Show and family activities including hands-on crafts. Here’s the full schedule.
  • The Capital Jewish Museum’s family day is set to feature history talks, mezuzah activities, crafts, music and outdoor games. It’s located an easy walk from the National Mall, and could make a good stop between the Judiciary Square and the mall.
  • The National Park Service will host espionage-themed activities from the Sylvan Theater near the Washington Monument. They're geared toward kids aged 10 and up.
  • The Smithsonian museums will be open, providing a nice refuge from the weather.

Best Metro stations for National Mall access

  • The Smithsonian/National Mall or Federal Triangle (both on the Orange, Blue, Silver lines) are very close to the National Mall, but the National Park Service recommends considering other stations that are a little further, but less crowded.
  • L’Enfant Plaza (Silver, Orange, Blue, Green, Yellow lines), Metro Center (Red, Blue, Orange, Silver lines), Judiciary Square (Red Line) and Archives/Navy Memorial (Green, Yellow lines) are all within walking distance of the National Mall.

Fireworks in Maryland and Virginia

Our Fireworks Finder lists the big displays in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, including several shows happening over the weekend like Mid-County Sparkles in Kensington and a Wild West-themed festival in Bladensburg.

Things to do on July 4

Reading of "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
Thurs., July 4, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 1411 W St. SE
🔗 Details

Frederick Douglass famously asked an audience in 1852, "What to the slave is the Fourth of July?" His now-famous speech pointedly criticized the irony of celebrating freedom in a country in which it was legal to enslave people.

In one of D.C.’s most reflective and moving July 4 traditions, actor Michael Crutcher will portray Douglass and deliver the speech on the front porch of Douglass's former home in Anacostia. After the reading, DC Strings Workshop will perform historic music. Visitors can take photos with the Crutcher and tour the first floor of the historic home.

An American Celebration
Thurs., July 4, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mount Vernon, included with admission
🔗 Details

If most fireworks shows are after your kids’ bed time, Mount Vernon might be a good alternative.

Made-for-daytime fireworks are set to go off over the Potomac River at 1 p.m.

That’s just one part of a day-long Independence Celebration at the former home of George Washington. Performances, history talks and tours are also on tap.

A Capitol Fourth
Gates open at 3 p.m., concert begins at 8 p.m., U.S. Capitol grounds
🔗 Details

The annual concert on the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn will be a star-studded show featuring Smokey Robinson celebrating Motown, Fantasia, “Glee’s” Darren Criss, Sister Sledge, the National Symphony Orchestra, a send-off for Team USA and views of the National Mall fireworks.

The show and the dress rehearsal on Wednesday are free and open to the public. Gates will open at 3 p.m. on both days. 

Fourth at The Wharf
5-9 p.m.
🔗 Details

Head to The Wharf for a free day of country music on four stages and family-friendly activities. As long as the weather is decent, you can expect great views of the fireworks going off over the National Mall.

Food and drinks are available all around The Wharf. You can bring a low-back chair to the District Pier, but come early as space is limited.

Community parades

Get patriotic with the whole neighborhood at these community parades:

Contact Us