Celebrating the Fourth of July in Washington DC — Things to Know

Jun 29, 2019

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There aren’t many better, or more iconic, spots to ring in the 4th of July than Washington DC.

My family has been lucky enough to celebrate the Fourth of July in DC and want to pass along some top tips in case that travel experience is on your radar for this year, or even a future year.

Where to Stay for 4th of July in Washington DC

Where you stay in DC for July 4 matters. A lot. It is not at all easy to get around the city that day, so stay near where you want to play.

We have stayed at both the Grand Hyatt Washington and the W Washington DC during the Fourth of July DC celebrations, and both are great options. At just 15,000 Hyatt points per night and with a club lounge and easy access to the Metro, the Grand Hyatt is a great choice for families. (You can even use a Category 1 — 4 award from the World of Hyatt Credit Card.)

Grand Hyatt Washington DC

However, the extremely fantastic location of the W (60,000 Marriott points per night) was perfect for the night of the 4th itself, when the area is jam-packed and each block matters. This hotel is literally just across the street from the White House. Just be aware that rooms at the W are … cozy.

W Washington DC (photo courtesy of hotel)
W Washington DC (photo courtesy of hotel)

If you are looking at a last-minute trip to DC this 4th of July, the Grand Hyatt and W were both still amazingly bookable using points for next week on our most recent search.

What to Do 

For our visit to DC around the 4th of July, we made good use of our time during the surrounding days by getting a free tour inside the White House, visiting several of the free Smithsonian museums (including Air and Space and Natural History), viewing some of the parades and of course watching the fireworks near the Washington Monument on the evening of July 4th.

The National Independence Parade goes from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. and runs on Constitution Avenue NW from 7th Street NW to 17th Street NW.

New this year around the Lincoln Memorial is a “Salute to America” that honors the armed services with music, military demonstrations and flyovers from the Blue Angels, Air Force One and more beginning at 6:30 p.m. Gates will open at 3:30 p.m. according to the National Park Service.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Capital Sunrise
Sunrise with the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and Capital in the distance. (Photo by beklaus / Getty Images)

Attending the Capitol Fourth Concert

A popular Washington DC 4th of July event is the free Capitol Fourth concert held at the Capitol and broadcast on PBS. Here are Grandpa Points’ thoughts on that experience a few years back.

(Photo by Paul Morigi Stringer / Getty Images)
A Capital Fourth concert featuring Gavin DeGraw on July 4, 2016. (Photo by Paul Morigi / Stringer / Getty Images)

The free concert start time is 8 p.m. and the gates to The Capitol grounds typically open at 3 p.m. There are security checkpoints and a list of no-go items, but you can bring nonalcoholic drinks, food and beach/camp chairs that sit low to the ground. Get there early for the best seats! You really want to prepare for this properly as temperatures look like they will be warm this year and you’ll likely spend many hours outdoors.

On our visit, the steps themselves were full by 5 p.m. and hands were stamped to verify who was there at that time to help with any potential crowding issues later on. Perhaps an even better solution than seeing the concert on the 4th is go to the dress rehearsal at 8 p.m. on July 3 — then you can have more flexibility for the actual Independence Day.

Capital Fourth July 4, 2016Cassadee Pope
A Capital Fourth concert July 4, 2016 featuring Cassadee Pope. (Photo by Paul Morigi / Stringer / Getty Images)

Position Yourself for the Fireworks

The fireworks are set to begin at 9:07 p.m. My dad, Grandpa Points, is a photographer, and he said if he ever made it to DC for the 4th of July again, he would head to the area around the Lincoln Memorial to watch the fireworks. There you would have the dark eastern sky, the Washington Monument, the Capitol and the reflecting pool to accompany your enjoyment of the colors in the air above.

While you can’t get to the actual Lincoln Memorial, this year you can position yourself near the Reflecting Pool. But really, many spots along the National Mall are good. We parked ourselves near the National Monument a couple of hours early, and had a great time hanging out and then watching the show in the sky above as the day faded to night.

WASHINGTON, USA - JULY 4: Independence Day celebration fireworks explode in the air above the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument along the National Mall in Washington, USA on July 4, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA — JULY 4: Independence Day celebration fireworks explode in the air above the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument along the National Mall in Washington, USA on July 4, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The previously mentioned W Washington DC has a rooftop bar that is perfect for firework gazing, but you’ll need a (pricey) ticket do that — ages 21 and up. Here are some other DC fireworks watching suggestions.

Bottom Line

Being in DC for the Fourth of July is a patriotic good time, but it is one that is shared with many others, so be strategic about where you stay, what you put in your backpack for the day and the must-do events you prioritize.

Featured photo by ntn / Getty Images

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