Red and white fireworks at Mount Vernon during the 4th of July in Washington, DC

Can’t Miss Events for the 4th of July in Washington, DC

The best way to see the fireworks on the National Mall is to arrive very early and claim a spot. I’m warning you now, this is going to be an extremely long day if you want to try to avoid fighting crowds and get a good spot. I’ve read comments in travel groups that say you can arrive around dinner time or a few hours before dark to get a spot but in my experience, this is very risky.

If you don’t want to spend all day claiming a spot on the National Mall, here are a few other ways to celebrate the 4th of July in Washington, DC.

But first, a note about transportation. Do not drive to the National Mall on the 4th of July. Honestly, I would never recommend driving near the National Mall, but it is highly recommended to use public transportation on the 4th of July. Metro stops that will get you close to the National Mall are the Smithsonian (Orange, Blue, Silver), Metro Center (Red, Orange, Blue, Silver), and Archives (Green, Yellow).

Celebrate the 4th of July in Washington, DC

Head to the Museums

If you want to be on the National Mall but don’t care about claiming a spot for fireworks, you can still enjoy some American History. First, head to the National Archives around 9 am to get a good spot for special performances and a reading of the Declaration of Independence from 10 to 11 am. In the morning to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and other important documents from the country’s early history. Next, head to the American History Museum to see many exhibits about democracy and early American history. No timed tickets are required, but expect higher crowds during the holiday weekend. Finally, head to Chinatown, where you can see all the Presidential portraits at the National Portrait Gallery.

Concerts on the National Mall

If you want to be on the National Mall for the 4th of July but don’t care about staking out a spot for fireworks, there is a lot to see. Check out the parade on Consitution Ave NW between 7th and 17th Streets from 11:45 am to 2 pm. From 1 to 8 pm, the southeast grounds of the Washington Monument will feature the Sylvan Theater Family Activity Area. Then check out A Capitol Fourth Concert at 8 pm on the West Lawn of the US Capitol.

Attend a Nationals Game

The Nationals will be in town for home games from July 1 to 8, 2024, and what better way to celebrate the 4th than with America’s pastime? My favorite day to go this week is July 3rd because there are always post-game fireworks. On the 4th, the game starts at 11:05 am so you’ll be able to find a spot for other fireworks later that evening. Or, if you are visiting all week, consider the game on Tuesday for Deals and Steals, where you can save up to 30% on tickets and find deals on select concessions.

Visit Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon has extra special programming on the 4th of July. Festivities last all day, but arrive early for a reading of the Declaration of Independence at 9:30 a.m. and a Naturalization Ceremony at 10 a.m. I always think watching a Naturalization Ceremony on the 4th is extra special. You’ll also find daytime fireworks (1 pm), meet-and-greet opportunities with historical figures, and concessions. All 4th of July programming is included in regular admission. Mount Vernon also has evening fireworks on June 28 and 29.

Red and white fireworks at Mount Vernon during the 4th of July in Washington, DC
Fireworks at Mount Vernon

4th of July Musical Celebration at the National Cathedral

Join the National Cathedral at 11 am on July 4 for a free concert featuring the US Army Ban “Pershing’s Own” Brass Quintet and Timpani and Cathedral Organist Thomas Sheehan. No tickets are required but arrive early to get a spot.

Celebrations on The Wharf

The Wharf is always busy on a holiday weekend, but they have many ways to celebrate the week of July 4th. Grab brunch at your favorite restaurant on June 30 and July 7 for Brunch and Beats. After brunch, live music will play from 3 to 6 p.m. On the 3rd, enjoy Rock the Dock with Jimi Smooth and HitTime starting at 7 pm. On the 6th, enjoy Singalong Saturdays with free karaoke from 7 to 9 pm. The main event, Fourth on the Wharf, runs from 7 to 9 pm with live music and fireworks. Capacity is limited so arrive early! Low-back chairs are allowed. (All events except Fourth and the Wharf are recurring summer programs.)

4th of July Cookout at Metrobar

Join Metrobar near the Rhode Island metro stop on July 4th for a cookout and go-go party from 12 to 9 pm. There will be food trucks, ice cream, games, and live music throughout the afternoon. The event is free to enter but reserve a spot on Eventbrite in advance.

July 13th: The City of Alexandria’s 275th Birthday

If you completely miss the 4th of July or just need more fireworks in your life, head to Old Town Alexandria on July 13th. The city will be celebrating its 275th birthday with live music, fireworks (9:30 pm), local vendors, and special activities throughout the day.

Where to Stay for the 4th of July in Washington, DC

If you aren’t local, I’d recommend booking a hotel near The Wharf, Navy Yard, Capitol Hill, or Metro Center. These locations also have good Metro access to the National Mall and other areas around the city.

If you prefer to stay outside the city to save some money, consider Old Town Alexandria, Arlington (near Clarendon, Ballston, or Rosslyn), or Falls Church. Many Metro stops outside the city have parking spots so you can drive to the station and Metro in. Just remember to add additional travel time to your day.