If there is one holiday Washington, D.C., does well, it's Independence Day. The Fourth of July runs in overdrive in the nation's capital, and nowhere is that better reflected than on Capitol Hill.
Everyone Loves a Parade
Start things off early on Thursday with the Capitol Hill Fourth of July Parade. The floats and participants start to assemble around Eighth and I streets Southeast around 9 a.m., and the parade starts down Barracks Row at 10 a.m. There's even a political element, with Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, a candidate for mayor, serving as grand marshal. The parade doesn't have a particularly long route — it ends at the Eastern Market Metro Station — and it lasts about an hour, but that's kind of a saving grace. Go hang out, watch the silliness and fun, get something to eat at any of the 14,000 restaurants (approximate number) along Barracks Row and move along because there's more to come all day.
Watching a game at Nationals Park on Independence Day is about as American as it gets. After the parade, head down for the 11:05 a.m. first pitch between the Washington Nationals and the Milwaukee Brewers. There is a lot to like in both teams. On the Fourth of July, the Nats can double as everybody's home team. As for the Brewers, it's nice to face off against a team that celebrates one of the nation's other great pastimes, drinking beer.
After the game, and perhaps a dip in The Yards Park Capitol Riverfront's wading pool at 335 Water St. SE, there will be a few hours to kill.
Assuming you and your party aren't stuffed with too many chili half-smokes from Ben's Chili Bowl at Nats Park, it might be time for another piece, or several, of Americana: a fried-chicken feast from the good folks at Boundary Road (414 H St. NE). Eight pieces of chicken, potato salad, corn bread and cookies for $35.
The Things That Go Boom
D.C. has one of the more spectacular fireworks displays for Independence Day. Several jurisdictions set off fireworks throughout the day, of course, but the National Park Service has the grand pappy of them all. The NPS launches the show from the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall, with blast-off set for 9:10 p.m. It's about 17 minutes long, and, while there are great views from all over Washington and Virginia, taking it all in from in and around the Capitol area is pretty special, with the Hill's unique vantage points.
Disclaimer: The Park Service reminds people on its website that, if you weren't quite clear on what goes on with a fireworks display, to "consider wearing hearing protection. These fireworks are BIG and LOUD." Also, just to cover all its bases, the NPS reminds people "to protect yourself from falling debris."
Don't worry, though, Washington. You've been through worse, like sub-zero inaugurations and the Cherry Blossom Festival's tourists. BIG, LOUD falling debris doesn't scare us. Not when it comes to wishing the nation a happy birthday!