How to Safely Celebrate the Fourth of July in DC This Year

And we thought last year’s Fourth was weird.

Last year, we remarked on how DC’s Fourth of July celebrations would be a bit... different, referring to the grandiose display of music, flyovers, and military demonstrations orchestrated by President Trump and his staff. But, after we used the word “atypical” to describe the holiday last year, 2020 stepped up and essentially said, “hold my beer.”

Indeed, this year has been anything but typical, first rocked by an ongoing global health pandemic. Recently, the world was also shook by the death of George Floyd and demonstrations and mostly peaceful protests continue around the country daily, as people fed up with systemic racism and inequality take to the streets.

A widing public acknowledgement of systemic issues that currently plague BIPOCs has also led to many engaging in a more thorough self re-education of American history, as people learn, in some cases for the first time, about another important independence day for this country, Juneteenth -- a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the US.

And now as we turn our attention toward the quickly approaching Fourth of July, a typically triumphant day festooned with fireworks in the air and hot dogs on the grill, Washingtonians are wondering what to expect during a year with a seemingly endless amount of surprises.

What is the White House planning for the Fourth of July?

This year’s Fourth of July celebration will include music, military demonstrations, and flyovers “to honor our nation’s service members and veterans,” according to a recent press release from The White House. The scaled down sequel will include remarks by President Trump and a fireworks show over the Mall, though notably absent will be the tanks from last year’s celebration, as well as a traditional parade.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s festivities will also feature a pretty dramatic change in format, shifting from the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn to a pre taped, 90-minute special to be aired by PBS starting at 8pm on July 4. According to PBS, this year’s show will be co-hosted by actor John Stamos of Full House fame and musician Vanessa Williams, and will feature “a tribute to our nation’s workers on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic,” as well as “a segment honoring the contributions of African-American heroes from our nation’s past and present.”

What other ways are there to celebrate in DC?

Capitol Hill Community 4th of July Parade
Though Mayor Bowser has reiterated that she does not plan to sign off on any permits for in-person parades, the 18th annual Capitol Hill Community 4th of July Parade will go on -- virtually. The parade is a local tradition, so instead of tromping down 8th Street organizers are assembling a virtual parade full of short videos from many of the organizations who usually march in the parade, such as marching bands and locals driving their classic cars. You can even submit your own video for consideration.

Virtual Fourth of July Celebration
The National Archives
is also throwing a virtual celebration to begin at 11am with programming all day long. The fun starts with opening remarks from the Archivist of the United States, followed by online activities and a broadcast of the traditional reading ceremony of the Declaration of Independence. 

Dine Al Fresco to Celebrate
You might be watching the fireworks display from the comfort of your home, but you can still grab brunch or dinner out with friends and family thanks to the introduction of Phase Two of reopening in the city, which allowed restaurants to open for outdoor dining. Try some Chesapeake-inspired picnic fare in Calico’s urban backyard, grab a beer al fresco at Wunder Garten or The Brig, or pop a cork on the patio at Lulu’s Winegarden.

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Austa Somvichian-Clausen covers dining and lifestyle for Thrillist and InsideHook, as well as equality and accessibility for The Hill.