There’s no other place like Washington, DC for the Fourth of July! Whether you're looking to celebrate with a bang or something more low-key, check out these entertaining, and FREE, ways to have a blast this Independence Day!
1. Enjoy the Free 'A Capitol Fourth' Concert at the U.S. Capitol
Celebrate the 4th on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol at the annual "A Capitol Fourth" concert, which begins at 8pm. This year's concert features Boys II Men, Chicago, Belinda Carlisle, the Sesame Streets Muppets, the National Symphony Orchestra and more. The grand finale features awesome fireworks over the National Mall.
2. Explore water activities, music, fireworks and more at DC's waterfronts
From the Anacostia river to the Potomac, DC's waterfronts offer exciting entertainment and recreational activities. Bike ride along the Anacostia River on the Anacostia Trail; rock out to live music and a star-spangled fireworks show on the piers at The Wharf; admire stunning views at restaurants just steps from the river at the Capitol Riverfront; and get out on the water in kayaks and canoes in Georgetown.
3. Take a historical trip to see the country's founding documents (and fathers!)
There's no better time to visit the National Archives than the Fourth of July. Original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the founding documents of the United States, are all on display there. After seeing these essential and historic documents, meet the Founding Fathers who helped establish the birth of a nation with programming featuring costumed actors in Revolutionary-era costumes.
4. Pay a visit to see the presidential portraits at the National Gallery of Art
What better time to pay homage to the former U.S. presidents than on the Fourth of July? The presidents of the United States are forever immortalized in America’s Presidents, the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House. The exhibit features multiple images of every president (the current commander-in-chief excluded), including the famous “Lansdowne” portrait of George Washington (painted by Gilbert Stuart), a stunning portrait of Barack Obama by Kehinde Wileythe, the Alexander Gardner “cracked-plate” portrait of Abraham Lincoln and even caricatured sculptures of Lyndon Johnson, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.
5. Admire the country's First Ladies at the National Museum of American History
Behind every great man, is a great woman. The First Ladies exhibit at the National Museum of American History explores the unofficial but important position of first lady and the ways that different women have shaped the role to make their own contributions to the presidential administrations and the nation. The exhibition features more than two dozen gowns from the Smithsonian’s almost 100-year old First Ladies Collection, including those worn by Frances Cleveland, Lou Hoover, Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama.
6. Visit the Original Star-Spangled Banner
Observe the flag that inspired our national anthem in a two-story display chamber that protects the flag while providing a dramatic view of its “broad stripes and bright stars.” The exhibit tells the dramatic story of the flag and traces its journey from Mary Pickersgill’s house to the Smithsonian.
7. What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?
"What to the slave is the Fourth of July?" posed Frederick Douglass to a gathering of 500-600 abolitionists in Rochester, N.Y., in 1852. Admission to the speech was 12 cents, and the crowd at the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society was enthusiastic, voting unanimously to endorse the speech at its end. This speech would be remembered as one of the most poignant addresses by Douglass, a former slave turned statesman. Douglass gave it on July 5, refusing to celebrate the Fourth of July until all slaves were emancipated.
On July 3, 165 years later, the same question will be asked. Every year on Independence Day (July 4th), the National Park Service offers visitors the opportunity to come to Cedar Hill, the last residence of Frederick Douglass, to see and hear a performance of his most-famous speech, What to the Slave is the 4th of July?, delivered by a Douglass reenactor on the front porch. This year's event will also mark the Grand reopening of the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site!
8. Check out the last day of the annual Folk Life Festival.
July 4th is also the last day of the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. Expect food, films, demonstrations, live music and more. The Independence Day schedule includes a distilling demonstration, live Ozarks concert, and Native American dances.
9. Grab a seat at a local parade
Starting right before noon, the annual National Independence Day Parade will be held on Constitution Avenue. Self-described as “America’s biggest and best Independence Day Parade,” the event will also be livestreamed on Facebook and later available on YouTube.
Before the Constitution Avenue parade kicks off, there’s always the 21st annual Capitol Hill Community 4th of July Parade on Barracks Row. Choose to organize a group to register for the parade itself, or join the crowd lining the street.
10. Visit Constitution Garden
Honoring those 56 visionary men who signed the Declaration of Independence, this memorial in Constitution Garden shows how diverse this group of signers was (it included lawyers, physicians, ironmasters, merchants, farmers, clergymen, writers and surveyors). Located on a little island and accessed via a walkway, it's a a great spot for rest and contemplation.
11. Watch a stunning fireworks display
Red, white and boom! Fireworks are the highlight of any Fourth of July celebration. Set off against a backdrop of magnificent monuments and memorials, DC's are particularly gasp-worthy and there are plenty of places to get a great view. The general rule of thumb: If you can see the monuments, you'll be able to see the fireworks.
Check out our handpicked recommendations for viewing spots beyond the National Mall.
Holiday or an ordinary day of the week, Curious Caravan will plan your custom-designed DC adventures will lead you to explore the city off-the-beaten path like a local.
Look up, down, and all around. Adventures can be found everywhere -- if you're curious enough to look. k for it