The National Mall might offer an iconic backdrop for the Fourth of July fireworks display, but it’s hard to be patriotic when you’re surrounded by thousands of people vying for a comfortable spot to watch.
And although Metro is offering off-peak fares all day for the holiday, the Smithsonian station will be closed until the fireworks end, cutting off the most convenient public transit route to the Mall.
So what’s a District-dweller to do on the Fourth? Rethink the Mall and avoid the crowds by heading to one of these off-the-beaten-path places to watch the fireworks. Or if big booms and sparks in the sky don’t mean patriotism to you, check out some of the day’s other America-themed celebrations.
Places to See the Fireworks
• Amateur photogs should set up shop at the Iwo Jima Memorial (Meade Street and Marshall Drive, Arlington, Va.). With breathtaking views of the Lincoln Memorial, shutterbugs will find both the room to relax and perfect images to capture.
• Got kids? Head to the Washington National Cathedral (3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW), where you can find bathrooms open until 8 p.m. That, coupled with a clear view of the fireworks, makes the lawn near the Peace Cross a family friendly area.
• The Georgetown and Southwest waterfronts offer great views and great food for those uninterested in packing a picnic but hungry from a day full of patriotic celebrations. Check out Cantina Marina on the Southwest waterfront (600 Water St. SW) and Sequoia (3000 K St. NW) in Georgetown, but if it’s a hazy day, avoid Georgetown — the show’s finale tends to get shrouded in smoke.
• Speaking of smoke, those looking to barbecue should head to East Potomac Park (1090 Ohio Drive SW), where you might have to sacrifice the perfect view in order to have room for a big celebration.
• Lady Bird Johnson Park (between Arlington Memorial Bridge and George Mason Memorial Bridge in Arlington) offers a great view of the fireworks and much thinner crowds, which will make it worth a slightly longer commute for some.
• Looking to meet new people? Watch the fireworks on the hill next to Cardozo High School (1200 Clifton St. NW), which offers views of downtown and a friendly atmosphere, with folks from across the neighborhood coming out for the festivities. Expect locals to set off small-scale fireworks and sparklers, so if you want to partake in this explosive tradition, Cardozo High’s the place to be.
• You want music, but you don’t want to deal with the crowds at the Capitol for the National Symphony Orchestra’s “A Capitol Fourth” concert? Understandable. Instead, try the Air Force Memorial (1 Air Force Memorial Drive, Arlington) to listen to the U.S. Air Force Band perform, starting at 8 p.m., and enjoy a view of the fireworks as well. Admission is free.
Visitors get their first look at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which opened to the public on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. The new memorial is located off Independence Ave. SW between the Rayburn House Office Building and HHS. Buy photo here.