Let New York City have New Years. Chicago can keep St. Patrick’s Day. No one does the Fourth of July like Washington, D.C.
There is no venue more fitting wherein to celebrate this country’s Independence Day than the nation’s capital. July 4 celebrations in Washington are among the most attended events of the year. The National Mall, swept with national monuments and the US Capitol, is a beautiful backdrop for the city’s all-day event schedule, ending, of course, with a dazzling fireworks display over the Washington Monument.
Everyone this side of the equator knows of Washington’s infamous fireworks celebration, but there is also a wealth of activities going on throughout the day. Public access to the Mall begins at 10 a.m., so get your sunscreen and get ready.
11:45 a.m. marks the start of the Independence Day Parade, featuring marching bands, military and specialty units, floats and VIPs. Running along Constitution Avenue, the parade usually draws a sizable crowd, so get there a little early to secure a good view.
The Airmen of Note will perform at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in the Kogod Courtyard from 1 to 3 p.m. The band will play Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and other classics from the American Big Band era. The event celebrates the opening of a related exhibit, “Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.”
Once again, the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival will be celebrating the cultures of all the lands that helped shape this country. Though the festival runs in two weekend segments, it culminates around the 4th. Music, food, crafts and performances will take place at this year’s event, focused on Asian Pacific Americans and the “Smithsonian, Inside Out.” Visitors are invited to look at how things work at the institution in four areas of concentration: “Unlocking the Mysteris of the Universe,” “Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet,” “Valuing World Cultures,” and “Understanding the American Experience.” The festival also focuses on Mexico and will hold a special tribute to Haiti. The event begins at 11 a.m. and goes until 5 p.m.
The W Hotel presents Boom With A View at 7 p.m. Music will be provided by The Honey Brothers, D.S. Posner, DJ Sky Nellor, a premium open bar, hors d’oeuvres and a great view of the fireworks. The event will take place on the P.O.V. Roof Terrace and Lounge on top of the W.
The National Archives will host its traditional family programming, celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This year, NBC News National Correspondent Bob Dotson will be the MC. Including a dramatic reading of the Declaration by historical reenactors and free family activities and entertainment for all ages.
At the White House Visitor Center, National Park Service rangers and volunteers will give people the opportunity to sample the sights, sounds, activities and personages that helped finalize the Declaration of Independence. Then, at 6 p.m., the US Army Concert Band and the US Army Band Downrange will play on the southwest corner of the grounds of the Washington Monument.
Leading right up to the fireworks, a live concert by the National Symphony Orchestra and several pop artists, “A Capitol Fourth,” will perform patriotic music on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building. The concert is free and open to the public. No tickets necessary. The annual event will also be broadcast on PBS and National Public Radio on WAMU 88.5 FM.
And then, of course, the fireworks. Throughout the day, beginning in the early morning, families toting coolers and lawn chairs stake out prime real estate on the Mall’s lawn for the best views of the fireworks. And it is quite a sight. A smorgasbord of colors and light at the apex of dusk, the Capitol Building being the only other thing in sight, every dazzled eye gets lost in moments of transient patriotism. On top of the memorials lining the Mall and the US Capitol, there are other sites to enjoy the fireworks. East Potomac Park is a wonderfully fun semi-secret, and if you’re willing to ante up for tickets, the Southwest Waterfront 4th of July Festival, the Rooftop of the W Hotel, or a cruise along the Potomac River are all premier venues.