How to Celebrate the Fourth of July in DC This Year

Watch the fireworks, party the long weekend away, or see a parade on the National Mall.

Capitol Building | gary718/Shutterstock
Capitol Building | gary718/Shutterstock

Independence Day in Washington, DC is a pretty big deal, considering it’s the nation’s capital and all. Throughout the year, millions of visitors flock to the District to learn about American history and witness iconic sites and monuments, from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial.

For Washingtonians, though, a stroll through one of DC’s best museums or a jog around the Jefferson Memorial is just another day. That changes on the night of the Fourth of July, when the sky above the National Mall is transformed into a patriotic display of fireworks. Beyond the fireworks, there’s so much more to do like party at the nearest outdoor watering hole, take advantage of special daytime programming at historic sites such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and, of course, see the annual National Independence Day Parade stomp its way down Constitution Avenue.

So, fire up those grills, grab a pack of cold ones, and get ready to toast to the occasion. From rooftop parties to under-the-radar fireworks viewing locations, here’s what to look forward to in Washington, DC this year on the Fourth of July.

Capitol Hill 4th of July Parade
Capitol Hill 4th of July Parade | Flickr/Hilary Woodward

Have some family-friendly fun

This year, the National Independence Day Parade is finally returning after a two year COVID hiatus and will be bigger than ever. Starting at 11:45 am, the parade will travel along Constitution Avenue NW from 7th over to 17th Street, with marching bands, floats, equestrian riders, drill teams and much more in tow. There are also smaller local parades happening, like the 20th annual Capitol Hill 4th of July Parade, starting by the Eastern Market Metro Station at 10 am and set to head north along Barracks Row.

Catch the tail end of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, happening June 22-27 and June 30-July 4 on the Mall, or head over to George Washington’s former pad, Mount Vernon, where you can celebrate America’s independence like its 1798. Admission costs $26, and gets you in to watch daytime fireworks, observe a moving ceremony in which people from across the world become US citizens, and dance along to some of the Founding Fathers’ favorite hit singles.

Just make sure, whatever you do, that you’re in position for the main event, the Fourth of July fireworks show, by the oddly specific time of 9:09 pm. Fireworks will be launched from both sides of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and should be visible from the National Mall and across the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.

Dirt Farm Brewing
Dirt Farm Brewing

Toast to the red, white and brews

For those who want to get an early start on celebrating, Hi-Lawn, one of the District’s largest, most expansive open-air rooftop bars, is celebrating the 4th with a free-to-attend, four-day-long Independence Day rooftop picnic party from Friday through Monday. The celebration will feature fantastic city views of neighborhood fireworks, live music, DJs, grilled eats, summer cocktails, and extended hours.

Over at Hotel Hive they’re putting on their annual Fourth of July Great American Bash with &Pizza. Enjoy a rooftop view of the fireworks and an all-American barbecue buffet that includes hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and other Independence Day staples.

For something a little more interactive, participate in a Heritage Beer Hunt at The Mansion on O Street in Dupont. The event starts bright and early at 9 am, and features free beer and a hunt that takes you across 100 rooms and 70 secret doors, embracing DC history while searching for hidden patriotic items.

Another chance for some interactive fun is at Hook Hall’s Big Flip Cup Tournament starting at 2 pm. This pet-friendly event will also feature a Dog Eat Dog competition where adoptable rescue pups will race to finish a hot dog, and donations will also be welcome during the event to help even more dogs to get adopted.

If you feel like getting out of the city, Dirt Farm Brewing in Virginia is hosting a Fourth of July bash starting at 5 pm. The brewery’s 1,100 foot elevation means pristine views of multiple firework displays, and it doesn’t hurt that there will be a whole roasted pig, charcuterie boards, shrimp tacos, and snow cones available.

Flickr/m01229

Where to watch the fireworks

Let’s admit it: all that grilling and beer crushing you’re doing earlier in the day is pretty much an extended pregame for the fireworks show. This year, Washingtonians are spoiled for viewing options, from scenic lawns and parks to rooftops and boats.

Head to the highest rooftop restaurant and lounge in the Mount Vernon Triangle, Ciel Social Club, which boasts nearly 360-degree views of the US Capitol dome, Washington Monument, and downtown DC. They’re throwing a National Fireworks Viewing Party from 7 to 10 pm featuring incredible views of the fireworks, passed hors d'oeuvres, a two-hour premium open bar, and a live band.

Meanwhile in Georgetown, the Rosewood and CUT Above (the hotel’s rooftop bar and lounge) are hosting an elevated July 4th dinner for guests to enjoy the fireworks and celebrations from new heights. The dinner includes chef Andrew Skala's family-style menu and a bottle of Krug Cuvée Champagne, followed by a prime view of the fireworks display.

For something a bit more relaxed, Victura Park at the Kennedy Center makes a great place to watch the fireworks, with its ample green space and prime Potomac views. On the Fourth they’ll be open from 10 am until the fireworks end, with food trucks and grilled hot dogs and hamburgers. Guests are welcome to bring blankets, but chairs and outside food are a no-go.

At the District Wharf’s Tiki TNT, the fourth annual viewing party starts at 7 pm on the rooftop. Watch the fireworks while you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dig into American classics, followed by dessert. Other rooftop bars with great views include the Conrad Hotel’s Summit Rooftop, CityBarDC, Top of the Gate at the Watergate Hotel, La Vie, Flight Wine Bar, and more.

One of the perks of living on the Potomac is that you can also find yourself floating on top of it that night by way of a fireworks cruise. Go all out with a cruise that offers three hours of a top shelf open bar with reserved tables, or opt for something a little more understated and classic aboard the Washington Spirit.

Finally, for those on the search for low-key fireworks viewing experiences, just head to a park with a blanket and your favorite brews. Any park will do, but Lady Bird Johnson Park provides some of the best unobstructed views of the display (from land). Located on an island in the Potomac River, the park is right across the water from the show, which translates to an extremely epic fireworks viewing.

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Austa Somvichian-Clausen is a freelance food and travel writer, who lives in Brooklyn with her girlfriend and two fur babies.