06 Jun Plan to spend July 4th in DC
When you think of iconic places to celebrate holidays a few come to mind: NYC for NYE, Springtime in Paris, Easter in Rome, and DC for July 4th. The July 4th celebration in DC is something that you really should do once – it’s easy enough to get to/from, it’s well planned, safe, and has a true energy to it. But, yes, it’s also crowded, you’re not allowed to bring alcohol, and since literally everyone leaves the mall at the exact same (after the fireworks) it’s a huge cluster trying to leave at the end of the night. But, it’s all worth it.
Some tips: If you come to DC from out of town, everyone who lives here will tell you to go to the Iwo Jima Memorial (Arlington Cemetery) instead of the Mall to watch the fireworks – and that is a superb and hassle-free place to view them – however, to get the full experience you really should head to the Mall. Also, if you’re from out of town, pay extra for a hotel walking distance from the Washington Monument – you’ll be glad you did.
There is absolutely no reason to go to the Mall at 6am or even 11am or even 3pm – the Mall is a big place and it won’t fill up. I’d suggest having a leisurely morning enjoying DC then a late lunch and head to the mall after happy hour in the early evening. I wouldn’t bother trying to get a good seat to see the Capitol Fourth concert on the steps of the capitol (although many people try to do just that –if it is your thing perhaps attend the rehearsal on July 3 with almost no one else at the Capitol). I’d simply bring your friends and family as well as a very large picnic blanket, sunhat and sunscreen and cash for buying snacks, water, soda (and bring a small backpack full of provisions too) and get to the Mall around 6:00pm. You want to be looking at the Washington Monument from the mid-Mall area but not directly in front of it (it will obscure your view); try for around 13th or 12th street on the grass of the Mall. After the display walk back to your hotel (the metros are crowded and you won’t find a taxi or Uber). Enjoy the July 4th in DC!