You can enjoy the trappings of the Fourth of July anywhere–the neighborhood parades, the cookouts, the parties–but when you’re celebrating the nation’s birthday, the Nation’s Capital really is the place to be. The hard part is deciding the best spot to view the fireworks: up close with the crowds, from a rooftop downtown, or from a hillside across the bridge.

Here’s a roundup of some of the best options, tips, and alternatives for a fantastic Fourth: 

National Mall:  Every year, crowds fill the viewing grounds around the Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool on the National Mall to watch the big show up close. The televised Capitol Fourth concert, held on the west lawn of the Capitol, draws celebrity performers and goes for about 90 minutes until the fireworks start.

Logistical Tips: Arrive early. Take the Metro; bikes are prohibited. Smithsonian Metro is the closest stop, but consider using Federal Triangle, Foggy Bottom, L’Enfant Plaza, Archives/Navy Memorial, or Metro Center. You can only access the event from select entry points and there will be street closures. You can also watch from many other Mall spots including monuments, the Capitol, and the White House Ellipse. The National Park Service website has you covered for event info including entrance locations and street closures.

Other Viewing Spots and Festivities


  • Steps of the Lincoln Memorial
  • East Potomac Point (Hains Point)
  • Meridian Hill Park for the elevated view and reflective fountain


  • Arlington: The Long Bridge Park 4th of July Festival offers a full day of family-friendly activities followed by great views of the National Mall fireworks display. Food trucks, live music, kids’ activities, and lawn games including bocce and cornhole start at 5. Get a shuttle from Crystal City Metro or Pentagon City Metro.
  • Gravelly Point Park – just off of GW Parkway
  • The rotating Skydome Lounge at DoubleTree by Hilton, Crystal City


  • Chesapeake Beach for big fireworks over the bay
  • Annapolis: Pedestrians and boaters alike take in the fireworks from the City Dock area along Annapolis’s historic seaport. Annapolis hosts events all day including an Independence Day parade and US Naval Academy Concert Band performances. Around 9:15, the fireworks are set off from a barge in the harbor.

Featured image by Mrs. Gemstone on Flickr.