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Where to See (and Not See) D.C.’s July 4th Fireworks: A (Short) Roundup

I’ve seen the capital’s Fourth of July fireworks many times, from various locations and vantages. You don’t need to be anywhere near the Capitol Building to see them. If you’re like me, you don’t want to be near the Capitol, with its throngs. I don’t recall security checkpoints the last time I watched from the Mall, but they were set up this year to access the good spots near the monuments, which was an added reason not to go there.

I am on a quest to find the best view with the least number of people. I’m willing to sacrifice on the first to maximize on the second. I would probably watch the fireworks through a brick wall if the area was nearly deserted. A few non-Mall locations:

Air Force Memorial, Arlington

Air Force Memorial - July 4, 2011

Air Force Memorial – July 4, 2011

I can’t recall if we drove, Metroed, or jet-packed to the memorial.

All I really remember about this experience from 2011 was it was a pain in the ass to get there and we had to sit on the grass. More people were around than is optimal. I did get some ok pictures that don’t look too bad thumbnail-sized, if you squint.

Fireworks from Air Force Memorial - July 4, 2011

Fireworks from Air Force Memorial – July 4, 2011

Masonic National Memorial, Alexandria

I have no photos of these fireworks from 2013 because you can’t actually see them from here. There is no clear view to D.C., and if no other area fireworks are happening, there’s not much to see. What’s odd is that a good crowd was also trying to see from this spot. Were we all just total dumbasses? I’m willing to believe that, actually.

Kennedy Center, Northwest

Kennedy Center South Plaza, before all the people arrive - July 4, 2014

Kennedy Center South Plaza, before all the people arrive – July 4, 2014

D.C. in July is often miserably humid and stormy. I remember dashing from the Mall years ago to escape the lightning. This year, 2014, was beautiful. In my shorts and t-shirt, I was even a little chilly after dark. (I also felt out of place because I was wearing normal clothes and about 81% of those around me were in red, white, and blue getups with flags and stars, like we were going to a Springsteen concert in the ‘70s.)

KenCen2014

from Kennedy Center – July 4, 2014

On July 4th the Kennedy Center’s Roof Terrace is open only to members who buy tickets, but the South Plaza is a great location for seeing the fireworks.

Fireworks from KenCen - July 4, 2014

Fireworks from KenCen – July 4, 2014

And it wasn’t terribly crowded either. Be prepared for families carting (literally — they trailed carts in their wake) enough food and toys to keep an elementary school fed and amused for weeks. One group brought in a trampoline and set it up. Not a joke or exaggeration. It prompted this observation from my sister:

“If your kids cannot be entertained for two hours without a ball and trampoline —”

“Well, I’m ok with the ball. A small one.”

“Yes, I’ll give you the ball.”

As the plaza filled up, spectators began creeping into our space. But it wasn’t so crowded that they needed to be that close. It was like those people who sit right next to you in a movie theater with plenty of empty seats.

“I thought you had a special repelling power?” my sister asked me, referring to what I thought was an effective force field that usually kept people at bay.

A whole wall across from us was not being occupied, but one family had to set up their lawn chairs in front of my dangling feet, which I took as an invitation to use them as a foot rest.

I’m already on the lookout for next year’s location. Suggestions welcome!

Here's a pic of the Executive Office Building, just 'cause I thought it looked cool - July 4, 2014

Here’s a pic of the Executive Office Building, just ’cause I thought it looked cool – July 4, 2014

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Didn’t we see fireworks together on the Mall like a decade ago? I remember it being crazy crowded! LOL re: Springsteen mention. 🙂

    July 7, 2014

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