Get your red, white and blue on – it’s Independence Day Weekend in Washington, D.C., and we’ve got your guide to all the pomp and patriotism our nation’s capital has to offer to celebrate America’s birthday.
A great place to start is at the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence, signed 240 years ago. While you’re there, meet the Founding Fathers (well, costumed actors dressed in period attire) who established our country.
Next, take a tour of the “American Presidents” exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. The collection features images of 43 American Presidents, and in an unprecedented presidential election year, it could be interesting to imagine who might be the next president to have a portrait painted.
A highlight of any trip to D.C. is the visit to the popular National Air and Space Museum, and this weekend marks the grand reopening of the permanent exhibit, Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, on July 1. Check out jumbo jet engines, a lunar module and a model of the Star Trek Starship Enterprise. As part of its 40th anniversary celebration, that same Friday evening, the museum will also host the free All Night at the Museum event, from 8:30 p.m. to 8 a.m., so you can spend the night at the museum with special tours, demonstrations, giveaways, food and films on space and aviation.
What’s more American than baseball, our national pastime? The Washington Nationals are in town all weekend, and NEA’s Read Across America is teaming up with the Nats to promote summer reading to baseball’s youngest fans. A Seussical Reading Lounge will be set up at the ballpark during Nationals games on July 2 and 3. Don’t miss the postgame Freedom Fireworks show.
We love a parade, and so do hundreds of Washingtonians and visitors who line Constitution Avenue for the National Independence Day Parade, featuring everything from floats to fife and drum corps. The parade begins at 11:45 a.m. and is held on Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th streets.
For one of D.C.’s best hot dogs, check out Ben’s Chili Bowl, the historic 1213 U Street, NW, spot where locals like President Obama, celebrities, and tourists flock for spicy hot dogs, chili cheese fries and milk shakes.
On the evening of July 4th, visit the Sylvan Theatre, an outdoor amphitheater on the National Mall at the northwest corner of 15th Street and Independence Avenue near the base of the Washington Monument, to catch a performance of Downrange, the United States Army Band’s music ensemble, performing a variety of rock, pop, country, R & B, and patriotic music. The concert is from 6 to 9 p.m.
For D.C.’s signature Independence Day event, stake a claim with a blanket and basket on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for A Capitol Fourth Beginning at 8 p.m., the concert features a star-spangled cast and a performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture by the National Symphony Orchestra during the grand finale of the fireworks over the National Mall. Get a sneak peek of the concert at the full dress rehearsal held on July 3 at 8 p.m.to 9:30 p.m. Gates open at 3 p.m. and it’s recommended you get there early.
The National Mall is the best but busiest place to watch the fireworks, and this year mark’s the National Park’s 100th birthday, another reason to celebrate! To get a good spot, you might have to spend the afternoon, and while you’re there, check out the 2016 annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, co-sponsored by the National Park Service, which this year highlights the innovative culture of the Basque country and diverse music of California.
The fireworks will be launched at 9:09 from the area of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, and will be visible from many locations throughout D.C. and Northern Virginia, and maybe the Marriott Marquis Rooftop Garden.