Over the past four years, American’s have been spoiled. Since 2008, the Fourth of July holiday has aligned with a weekend, giving the entire nation three days off.
This year, the holiday falls on a Wednesday, sandwiched between days at the office. For many, that might be a disappointment, and cause people to trim their activities. But here in Washington, D.C., despite the weekday date, there are no shortage of ways to celebrate.
The highlight of any Fourth of July is the fireworks display, but there are many activities leading up to it that shouldn’t be missed. And it begins inside the city limits, which is home to the document that started it all. On the morning of the Fourth, the National Archives on Constitution Avenue will host a celebration dedicated to the Declaration of Independence.
At 10 a.m. a dramatic reading of the document will be held, and many of the speakers are direct descendants of the Declaration’s original signers. Alongside them will be actors portraying leaders of the movement from the time, including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. After the reading, you can test your own John Hancock by autographing a life-size replica of the parchment.
If you head to the Archives in the morning, you’ll be in the perfect location to catch the Independence Day Parade, which begins at the intersection of Constitution Avenue and 7th Street NW at 11:45 a.m. From there, it runs down to 17th Street. Along the way, parade viewers will see marching bands, military units and stunning displays of red white and blue, as everyone is encouraged to show their spirit by wearing the colors of America.
In the evening, the focus turns to the National Mall, beginning with A Capitol Fourth Concert,” held every year on the West Grounds of the Capitol. This year’s event kicks at 8:30 p.m., a musical prelude to the fireworks.
Even though the holiday doesn’t fall on a weekend this year, the concert will still hold its traditional practice session the day before, on July 3rd. If you don’t like the crowds of the holiday, but still want to hear the National Symphony Orchestra play this country’s classic marches, then Tuesday is the day to go.
On the fourth, with the London Olympics just a few short weeks after the holiday, A Capitol Fourth will have a special sendoff to some of America’s medal contenders heading to the summer games. Directing the NSO in this will be none other than composer John Williams, who has scored some of the most famous movies of all time.
After the concert, at 9:15 p.m., the National Mall becomes a launching pad for the area’s biggest fireworks display. But if you can’t make it into the city, or don’t want to, there are still numerous locations to catch the show.
In Virginia, Gravelly Point, next to Ronald Reagan airport, is open for parking, and it is just a short walk from there to the banks of the Potomac River, where you can sit down and look at the exploding display above you.
For a higher vantage point, both the Iwo Jima Memorial as well as the Air Force Memorial in Arlington are available. Both those spots are popular and get crowded early. On the Maryland side, it’s harder to view the Mall’s display, as they take place in the southernmost part of Washington, D.C. But the towns of Bowie, College Park and Gaithersburg all have displays that kick off as the evening turns to dusk, and can satisfy your need to celebrate the Fourth.