The Washington, D.C., Independence Day Parade features marching bands, military and specialty units, floats, and esteemed dignitaries. The Fourth of July Parade is a red, white, and blue celebration of America's birthday and always draws a massive crowd. The nation's capital is a spectacular place to celebrate the Fourth of July and the parade is just the beginning of a packed day of celebrations for the ultimate birthday party.
America’s National Independence Day Parade brings out performers from around the country, including marching bands and military units but also cheer groups, dancers, acrobats, and more. Since the National Mall is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service (NPS), it's the NPS that is responsible for organizing this city-wide event.
The 2020 National Independence Day Parade has been canceled, but it will return on July 4, 2021.
The parade route is one mile long and walks along Constitution Avenue at the north end of the National Mall. The starting point is at Consitution Avenue NW and Seventh Street NW, and then it continues west for 10 blocks until it reaches the intersection of Constitution Avenue NW and 17th Street NW.
Every year, the parade begins at 11:45 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m.
Where to See the Parade
The only place along the route with provided seating is on the steps of the National Archives Building, which is at the very beginning of the parade route at Seventh Street NW. However, it's also the first place to fill up with spectators. To avoid the biggest crowds, head toward the end of the parade route. The closer you get to 17th Street NW, the easier it tends to be to find an open spot.
The National Mall opens up to the public beginning at 10 a.m. on July 4, and all visitors are required to enter through a security checkpoint. Lines can be long if you arrive at 10 a.m., so get there as early as possible to snag a desirable spot or you may end up watching the parade from a far-off hill. Shady spots are also limited, so pack appropriately and be prepared to cope with hot and humid weather.
If you can't get a seat or live far away from Washington, D.C., you can also tune in to the National Independence Day Parade's Youtube channel to see a recording of the parade and highlights once the parade is over.
How to Get to the Parade
The National Park Service strongly encourages Fourth of July visitors to take public transportation to activities in Washington, D.C., since public parking will be extremely limited and many roads closed off for the parade. The nearest metro stations are Federal Triangle or Archives.
According to NPS, a few of those limited parking spots will be available on Hains Point, accessible via I-395 or Maine Avenue from the east only. Cars will not be allowed on or around the National Mall, and there will be numerous road closures that will make it tedious to navigate around Washington, D.C., and along the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
After the Parade
The July 4 celebrations don't end at 2 p.m. in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is an annual event that highlights a different living culture every year and hosts music performances, literary readings, language classes, interactive games, and food samples to teach participants about the selected people. Don't miss this enlightening event held on the National Mall.
The Capitol Fourth Concert is a free show performed by the National Symphony Orchestra and a lineup of popular music artists that takes place in the evening on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building. When the concert ends, don't rush away; the West Lawn is a perfect vantage point for viewing the fireworks spectacular over the National Mall and the Washington Monument. If you can't make the concert, don't worry. You can enjoy the fireworks from almost any location on or near the National Mall, but a D.C. rooftop bar or a cruise on Potomac River are perhaps the best places to enjoy them.