Washington DC is known for being a tourist destination with a lot of free options- including Washington DC 4th of July celebrations. Celebrating the 4th of July in Washington DC doesn’t have to cost you much! Here are my top 5 Washington DC 4th of July free events. This post was originally part of a sponsored campagin, but all nerdy DC and 4th of July love is my own!
Brace yourself: Fourth of July in Washington, DC pictures are coming. I mean, you knew this had to happen with me, right? The Cherry Blossom posts probably tipped you off that I’m embracing my new hometown in a massive way. We’ve been here over a year now, and I love it as much as the day we moved!
And my entire family is heading east this year to experience the awesome of the Washington DC 4th of July free events after they saw my pictures last year. My Dad texted me after I sent him a picture of us at the Capitol 4th concert and I think his words were, “I call dibs on the guest room next year.” This year is going to be one heck of a birthday party, America!
Washington DC 4th of July Free Events
What you may not know about me is that I am a total Sue Heck when it comes to patriotism. I just love America so much! (Side note: I’m super sad that The Middle is over, but so happy with the way they wrapped the series up!).
Every Fourth of July you could find me in front the TV watching the celebrations from some of my favorite historical locations: Boston, New York, and of course, Washington, DC!
Perhaps above all others, I dreamed of spending the Fourth of July in Washington, DC.
And guess what… that dream came true with this new move. East coast does have its perks as we’re coming to find out.
Before anyone feels the need to tell me how insanely crowded this is going to be: I know. I promise I know. We went in 2017 so I know exactly what to expect when it comes to the Washington DC 4th of July crowds.
I’ve got a plan AND a dream, my friends. Plus we are veterans when it comes to navigating crazy crowds.
I’ve got this! And now you’ll know my five favorite Washington DC 4th of July free events to celebrate the nation’s birth.
1. A Capitol Fourth Concert
Patriotic music? Fabulous Stars? All for free? Have mercy… I’m in!
One of my TV highlights was watching the concert before the fireworks in DC. People hanging out on the west lawn in the shadow of the Capitol building, singing and waving flags… ‘Merica!
A Capitol Fourth is the annual event that is number one on my list. Now I’m just trying to decide if I want to be smart and show up for the dress rehearsal the night before (fewer crowds, less waiting- but also free!) or if I want to go all in be there on the night of 4th.
Last year we showed up for the rehearsal and grabbed a great spot up on the lawn. It was not too close, not too far, and not too crowded. It was just right.
If you go:
Folks are allowed into the lawn area starting at 3 pm; bring your picnic & alcohol-free drinks and sit a spell. And do not bring carts of any sort. Strollers are ok, but a wagon or cart will have you returning to your hotel to get rid of it! Ask us how we know… ugh.
2. The Reading of the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives
One of my family’s favorite things about being in the DC area: the Smithsonian Museums. They are all free and open to the public, including on the 4th of July.
I love visiting because of the history and because it’s FREE. My kids love to visit because it makes me happy.
Not really, but I can pretend, right?
And on the 4th of July, you simply have to go to the National Archives for the reading of the Declaration of Independence. It was the most American of things I have ever done.
This is the number one must do on my list for first timers to Washington DC 4th of July. It was an experience like no other and you MUST head to the National Archives on the 4th of July.
Fun Fact: The Declaration of Independence was meant to be read out loud. And the cos-play actors and actresses that put on the reading are incredible! You really get a sense of what this document means when they are in character and reading with passion. It was not the dry, boring document that our textbooks make us think it is!
Show up early as there is usually a t-shirt giveaway to the first 1000 visitors; get a seat on the steps and wait. We arrived around 9 am and missed out on the shirts, but still had a front row seat.
And there is plenty going on all around you! Bands, music, dancing… the kids were not too bored as we waited. But bring something for them to read or do just in case.
Additional museums to visit for Washington DC 4th of July: the National Portrait Gallery and the American History Museum. Due to their incredible exhibits (the Presidental portraits, the First Lady’s exhibit, the Star Spangled Banner, and of course, the Declaration of Independence), these are my personal top 3 museums that I’ve visited thus far.
Oh my goodness, my nerd flag is flying right now because I’m getting a little giddy just thinking about it!
3. Washington DC 4th of July Parade
What Fourth of July in Washington, DC would be complete without a parade? Constitution Avenue is the place to be for this Washington DC 4th of July free event.
The Parade consists of invited bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military and specialty units, giant balloons, equestrian, drill teams, VIP’s, national dignitaries, and celebrity participants.
Can you hear the sobbing coming from me yet? I just might be *that* lady over there openly weeping as the fife and drum corp passes by.
The National Independence Parade starts at 11:45 am between 7th and 17th streets. Typically the end of the parade has less of a crowd, so if you are looking to avoid people (ha- as if on the 4th!) that might be the best bet.
4. Visit the Washington DC Monuments on the 4th of July
There is nothing I’ve loved more about moving to Washington than visiting the monuments. We’ve been dozens of times since we moved here and they are always worth making a trip into the city to see.
For the Fourth of July with my family, saying thank you to a couple of founding fathers are a must-do.
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is tucked away from the action near the Tidal Basin but is an easy walk from the mall area. I’m also banking that it might be a smidge less crowded after the chaos of the Mall.
And of course, you can’t miss the George Washington Memorial which takes center stage on the National Mall. While the tour is closed to visitors right now, it’s still a mighty fine sight to see on a day celebrating our hard-won independence.
If you can’t make it over to them on the 4th, just know that the monuments are always open and they are always free to visit!
5. Washington DC 4th of July Fireworks
This is the big show, and I’m ready to be front and center on the National Mall for this one! Or maybe across the Potomac at Iwo Jima. Or up on the hill of the National Cathedral.
Both of which, I hear, offer stunning and meaningful views of the Washington DC 4th of July firework show.
Gah! I can’t decide! So many choices, so many viewpoints for the Washington DC 4th of July fireworks!
Last year we chose to sit on the Mall, smack dab in between the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial was right in front of us and the view could not have been better! I mean, swoon.
But there’s only one me and only one night. I’m still working on the plan and my kids are saying Ma, please, another month of obsessing over this?
It’s like they don’t even know me…
There you go: 5 of the top Washington DC 4th of July free events to check out this year. What’s on your list?
Things to Take With you for your Washington DC 4th of July free events
We went in pretty light, but if you are making a whole day of the events, here are some items you might want to consider taking with you. (Amazon Affiliate Links)
- An Umbrella (for shade or rain)
- A Picnic Blanket (love this one! It’s extra large and folds up to a nice carrying case. Check it out!)
- A travel backpack
- A small cooler with wheels
- Water. Lots of water.
- Snacks (you can check out my suggestions for a road trip here)
- Phone chargers (just keeping it real!)
- A hat
- A Chair
- Uber or Lyft apps on your phone. At the end of the night, you might want to skip the mile walk back to the hotel!
- YOUR PATIENCE. There’s a lot of folks out there just trying to have a good time, too!
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Patty Holliday is a Marvel loving, Disney obsessed wife, and mother of four. She’s a travel agent specializing in Disney & Universal vacations- and loves a candid confession. Find her in Virginia (or anywhere frequent flyer miles or her trusty minivan takes her.)