• Take a nighttime cruise and enjoy not only a view of the fireworks but also dinner and music on the Potomac. The Odyssey cruise offers a live band, and the Spirit of Washington cruise has a disc jockey spinning all night. The Odyssey cruise is $199.90 per person and runs from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. The Spirit of Washington cruise is $149.90 and runs from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
• Gravelly Point (off the northbound George Washington Memorial Parkway, Arlington) is a well-known place to set up for the fireworks but still secret enough — and far enough away — to avoid the crowds that swarm to the Mall. Come early to get a good spot, and leave early to beat the rush home.
Other Things to Do
Need something to do before the fireworks? The city hosts an array of events throughout the weekend. From parades and military re-enactments to theme parks and concerts, there’s something for everyone.
• The National Independence Day Parade (Constitution Avenue Northeast from Seventh Street to 17th Street) includes bands from each of the 50 states, fife and drum corps, floats, military and specialty units, giant balloons, equestrian and drill teams, VIPs, national dignitaries and celebrities.
July 4 at 11:45 a.m. Admission is free.
• The 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival (National Mall) celebrates cultures from around the world with music and dance performances, crafts and cooking demonstrations, storytelling and discussions of cultural issues. This year, the festival’s themes are Colombia, the Peace Corps and Rhythm and Blues.
Open daily June 30 to July 4 from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Evening events begin at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free.
• Show your holiday patriotism with military re-enactments, daytime smoke fireworks in patriotic colors, free birthday cake and a performance by the National Concert Band of America. Independence Day at Mount Vernon (3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, Va.) will also feature a naturalization ceremony for 100 new citizens, a wreath-laying ceremony and a visit from the General and Mrs. Washington, according to the Mount Vernon website.
July 4 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $7 for children ages 6-11 and free for children 5 and younger.
• National FreedomFest at Yards Park (Water Street Southeast) is D.C.’s largest Independence Day music festival, spanning five massive stages with more than 40 bands and DJs, along with food and craft vendors.
July 3 and 4 from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $24.99 for one day and $34.99 for two days, with extra charges for VIP passes.
• Uncle Sam Jam at National Harbor (137 National Plaza, Oxon Hill, Md.) features 10 bands and DJs on three stages, Famous Dave’s BBQ and D.C.’s popular food trucks. A fireworks display will be launched from the pier at the close of the concerts. The lineup includes the Pat McGee Band, the Wailers, Blind Melon, the Doug Segree Band and Lethal Peanut.
July 2 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is $40, and the event is open only to people ages 21 and older.
• After a full day of riding rides and enjoying attractions at Six Flags America (13710 Central Ave., Bowie, Md.), experience a live concert series and fireworks at dusk throughout the holiday weekend.