My first 3 years in DC I spent the 4th of July on the National Mall.
The first year when I was here to choose an apartment, not even a full-time DC resident yet. We wandered over to the National Mall, which was impossibly empty due to the threatening thunderclouds. I think we left long before fireworks to escape the rain.
I mean, look how close we were to the Washington Monument!? Unreal on a national holiday. (And look at the scary stormclouds!)
Little did I know, 2008 was an anomaly. Returning in 2009, and then 2010, showed a very different scene on the 4th of July. The National Mall packed, literally teeming, with people camped out to wait for the fireworks.
Amye’s Advice? This is a great way to spend Independence Day – at least once. There is something special about being among so many people, in the nation’s capital, seeing celebratory fireworks explode over our national monuments. It is exciting! It is patriotic. If you’re in DC you just gotta do it, just once. And I’ve got some survival tips.
To make the most of your Fourth of July on the National Mall:
GRAB A SPOT:
- To get a good spot, arrive early. Technically there isn’t a bad view, but if you have a certain area in mind you want to stake your claim by midday at the latest.
- Avoid sitting too close to trash cans. These will be overflowing long before dark.
- Spots along the perimeter may seem less desirable, but may allow you to get some shade from nearby trees in the heat of the afternoon. Most of the National Mall is in direct sunlight all day long.
- Take note of the location of the nearest porta-potty – awful but necessary.
- Comfortable, cool clothing in patriotic hues. (And please, show some respect to our nation and stay covered up, no matter how hot.)
- Sunscreen is a must! Even if it is cloudy.
- Likewise, wear a hat (this one from our friends at Harding Lane shows your national spirit!)
BRING SOME STUFF
- A picnic blanket – water resistant if it has rained in the past few days. This one is patriotic and rolls up for easy carrying!
- Low beach-style chairs are acceptable. Taller, camping-style chairs are frowned upon.
- The National Mall is a veritable food desert, so unless you want to stand in line and pay big bucks for a tiny food cart snack, you’ll want to come prepared with snacks, dinner, and plenty of hydration.
- (As tempting as it might be, do not bring alcohol. Officers patrol through the crowds all day long and they are definitely enforcing policy. Don’t ruin a nice day by pushing the limits!)
- Games and activities! I love Bananagrams, of course CAH, or just plain old playing cards are a good idea to help pass the time until dusk.
The show begins pretty nearly on-time, since it is also televised. Then begins the mass-exodus toward the various metro stations nearby. Follow the flow of people and you’ll get to a stop before very long.
For the best advice on how to get there, and all the official stuff, visit the National Park Service website.
Oh, and one last tip? If you’re meeting a group, bring a visible identifier such as a helium balloon, a small flag (not an American flag, since there will be plenty of those!), something you can wave around and see from a distance. It can be really hard to describe “I’m in the middle, by the castle, near the monument…” just like five thousand other people. That moment is when you’ll be wishing you had an inflatable giraffe to point to. [wink].
Any Fourth of July on the National Mall survival tips to add? Have you celebrated the 4th in DC, or another awesome spot? Please share!