Washington, D.C., is a spectacular place to celebrate the Fourth of July. Settings like the National Mall, Washington, D.C. monuments and the U.S. Capitol, provide a patriotic backdrop to the celebrations. This is an all-day event in the nation's capital, beginning with a parade along Constitution Avenue and ending with a spectacular display of fireworks over the Washington Monument.
The Fourth of July celebrations in Washington, D.C., are among the most attended events of the year, and many people arrive early to stake out a seat on the lawn of the National Mall, where the main festivities take place. July 4 is not just a national holiday, it's also smack-dab in the middle of the summer vacation season, so you'll want to be sure to book your accommodation far in advance if you hope to stay in Washington, D.C. And if it's your first time visiting the city, it wouldn't hurt to book your sightseeing tours ahead of time also.
However, if you can't find accommodation in the capital, you'll also find that there's no shortage of patriotic spirit surrounding D.C. in Maryland and Northern Virginia. From small-town parades to special programming at parks like Colonial Williamsburg and Six Flags America, there are a lot of places to celebrate America's birthday.
Fourth of July Fireworks at the National Mall
The city's main fireworks are usually launched from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, lighting up the sky over the Washington Monument. The second annual “Salute to America” Independence Day event has not been canceled for 2020, though details about how the event could take place amid the coronavirus pandemic have not been released as of June 18, 2020.
Public access to the National Mall usually begins at 10 a.m., with all visitors required to enter via a security checkpoint. Parking will be hard to come by, so the best way to get to the National Mall is to take the Metro. Stations nearby include Smithsonian, Metro Center, Gallery Place–Chinatown, Judiciary Square, Federal Triangle, and L'Enfant Plaza. The Smithsonian station will be “entry-only” after the fireworks display. It typically takes 90 minutes to two hours to clear the Mall after the fireworks.
Spectacular views of the fireworks can also be seen nearby Arlington, Virginia, right across the Potomac River, at the Marine Corps War Memorial or the Air Force Memorial. However, D.C. on the Fourth of July has more to offer than just fireworks. These events typically take place in downtown D.C. and although some have been canceled for 2020, others still plan to take place virtually:
- National Independence Day Parade: Although officially canceled for 2020, Washington's Fourth of July parade typically features marching bands, military and specialty units, floats, and VIPs. The parade always draws a large crowd, so plan to arrive early to stake out a good viewing spot.
- Smithsonian Folklife Festival: This annual event typically includes daily and evening music and dance performances, crafts and cooking demonstrations, storytelling, and discussions of cultural issues. From June 24 to July 5, 2020, the Smithsonian will be hosting the festival virtually with daily online events streaming on Facebook and Youtube.
- Fourth of July at the National Archives: The National Archives celebrates the Fourth of July with special programming about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which typically includes patriotic music, a dramatic reading of the Declaration by historical re-enactors, free family activities, and entertainment by U.S. military bands. In 2020, the event will be streamed on Facebook and YouTube on July 4, starting at 4 p.m.
- A Capitol Fourth Concert: A Fourth of July tradition in the nation's capital includes a live concert by the National Symphony Orchestra and several pop artists performing patriotic music on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol building. The concert and show are followed by a spectacular display of fireworks over the Washington Monument. As of June 18, 2020, the broadcast is still scheduled to take place for 2020.
Fourth of July Fireworks in Maryland
If you prefer a small-town celebration to Washington's grand production, consider Maryland. You'll typically find plenty of firework displays and parties of all sizes kicking off throughout the state, but in 2020 all of the following events have been canceled and amusement parks like Six Flags America are temporarily closed until further notice.
- Annapolis: The state usually capital hosts a parade at the City Dock and fireworks over the water accompanied by music.
- Baltimore: The annual fireworks over Baltimore's Inner Harbor can be viewed from several locations in downtown and the surrounding areas, including Federal Hill, Fell’s Point, and Harbor East.
- Chesapeake Beach: One of the largest displays on the Chesapeake Bay, fireworks can be viewed from any spot along the beach.
- College Park: Held at the University of Maryland, food and music start at 7 p.m., with fireworks around 9 p.m for this event.
- Columbia: This event features music and children's entertainment on the lakefront with fireworks at 9:30 p.m.
- Frederick: Held at Baker Park, the city's annual celebrations offer a full day of activities with music and fireworks.
- Gaithersburg: A concert, fireworks, and activities are typically held in Bohrer Park.
- Laurel: Held at Granville Gude Park, the parade usually starts at 11 a.m. with fireworks at 9:15 p.m.
- Ocean City: With two locations at North Division Street and Northside Park at 125th Street, Ocean City celebrates Independence Day with a free concert at 8 p.m. followed by fireworks (in both locations) at 9:30 p.m.
- Rockville: At Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park, Rockville's live entertainment begins at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:15 p.m.
- Six Flags America: The amusement park usually sponsors a spectacular fireworks display every year on July 4 at 9:15 p.m.
- Solomons: Solomons' waterfront community typically hosts an afternoon street fair and fireworks.
- Takoma Park: In Takoma Park, a parade usually begins at 10 a.m. at the intersection of Carroll and Ethan Allen Avenues with fireworks after 9 p.m.
Fourth of July Fireworks in Northern Virginia
In Northern Virginia, you can find many small towns and communities celebrating Independence Day with parades and fireworks. All of the following events have been canceled for 2020, with the exceptions of Mount Vernon and Colonial Williamsburg. Busch Gardens and King's Dominion amusement parks are temporarily closed for the 2020 season.
- Alexandria: With a joint birthday party that commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the town, Alexandria usually celebrates both anniversaries during one event sometime in the first two weeks of July.
- Fairfax: The Independence Day Parade in Fairfax typically goes through the downtown area in the morning and musical entertainment takes place in the evening at Fairfax High School, followed by a fireworks display.
- Falls Church: This town 10 miles from D.C. usually celebrates the holiday with live music and fireworks show.
- King's Dominion: Independence Day activities at this Doswell amusement park usually involves fireworks and military bands. Active and retired military service members are offered free entry for the holiday.
- Leesburg: In Leesburg, you can usually expect a parade, live music, and a fireworks show in Ida Lee Park.
- Manassas: About 30 miles from D.C., the town of Manassas typically organizes live music, children activities, food vendors, and fireworks for the Independence Day celebrations.
- Mount Vernon Estate: The historic estate of George Washington will host a special event on July 4, 2020, featuring a performance by the National Concert Band and a wreath-laying ceremony. Social distancing rules will be enforced and face masks will be required.
- Reston: At Lake Fairfax Park, there is usually an event in the days leading up to July 4, which involves live music, a puppet show, boat rides, swimming at the local waterpark, and fireworks.
- Williamsburg: At Colonial Williamsburg, there will be a reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 2020, as well as the museum theatre experience "Created Equal" which will explore the ideas of the declaration from the African American perspective. There is usually another celebration at the nearby Busch Gardens, but the park is temporarily closed for 2020.