Spending the Fourth of July in the nation’s capital is a bucket list item for many people, and if you live in or near Washington, D.C. — and plan on sticking around for the holiday — you’re already at an obvious advantage. But chances are, whether you’re a longtime resident of the District or if you’re a visitor for July 4th, you’re probably looking for a place to watch the fireworks.
And if that’s the case, we’re here to help.
Without skyscrapers, D.C. offers a wide variety of places with great views of the fireworks. However, selecting the right location is paramount to a fun day and evening — and obviously to a clear look at the fireworks on Independence Day.
So we rounded up our favorite places to catch the fireworks — plus the decidedly worst one.
The most important thing to remember, though, is that everything on this list — like the bars and restaurants and sidewalks and practically everything outside — could get crowded long before the sun sets. If fireworks are a priority, there’s no such thing as arriving too early on July 4th.
Washington, D.C.'s best views of July 4th fireworks
The Best: The trick to a successful D.C. fireworks show is to find a friend with an accessible apartment building rooftop — as long as it’s not the shortest rooftop on the block — and watch from there. And this isn’t limited to a specific area, so there are tons of options around the city. You just have to see who you know with a rooftop.
2. The Supreme Court
1 First Street NE
It’s not quite on the National Mall, and there will surely be a lot of people waiting for fireworks on the steps of the Supreme Court but not as many as other landmarks around the city, like the Lincoln Memorial or Washington Monument.
3. The Yards Park
355 Water Street SE
The upside to this area of the waterfront in Southeast is there is a lot of space for blankets, a little pool area for kids and plenty of restaurants and bars. There’s also a boardwalk and space near the pier. The downside is that for all those reasons and more, this area could get ridiculous crowded early in the day (especially with the Nationals game) and clear out until after the fireworks.
A similar choice in Southwest is the Wharf Marina, but it also has many of the same pros and cons to the waterfront by the Navy Yard.
4. Cardozo High School
1200 Clifton Street NW
While not downtown or anywhere near the water, the school (and the area) is on a hill just big enough that it offers a fantastic view.
5. Meridian Hill Park
15th and 16th streets NW
A couple of blocks away from Cardozo, this park has a similar view with a bit more space that’s away from the masses near the waterfront.
6. St. Albans School
3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW
There’s a lot of space around the school for crowds and a popular option for locals. And because Wisconsin Ave. more or less is an uphill climb, there are numerous places up and down the street where you can get a clear look at the sky above the waterfront.
7. Lady Bird Johnson Park
George Washington Parkway
This park is on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, but it’s also right on the banks of the river with a clear and perfect view of where the fireworks will happen. Can’t forget about excellent options on the other side of the river, which will still be crowded but possibly not as much.
8. Anacostia Park
1900 Anacostia Drive SE
Like the park above, this one lines the Anacostia River and has a lot of space for large groups who might be interested in spending the day there. However, like everything on this list, it’s likely no time is too early to get there and secure a spot for your group.
9. Giesboro Park
MacDill Blvd. SE
Farther south than Anacostia Park, this area of Southeast is a great alternative to the mall for a picnic/blanket style of watching fireworks. About where the Potomac and Anacostia rivers intersect, this park has several baseball diamonds and a ton of space in general, and it should get you a great view of the fireworks.
10. The W Hotel
515 15th Street NW
Certainly the most expensive option, the downtown hotel features a rooftop that’s among the best in the city when it’s not the Fourth of July. And with fireworks exploding almost directly above your head, this view is a spectacular choice.
11. Francis Scott Key Bridge
D.C.: M Street NW between 34th and 35th; Virginia: N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn
A quick walk from Georgetown, the bridge is a perfect place to see the fireworks, but there’s obviously a finite amount of space. But if there isn’t a lot of room once you get there, you could always head to the Georgetown waterfront or to the other side and watch from Rosslyn.
Similar choices without the proximity to Georgetown include the 14th Street Bridge (which is not far from downtown) and Memorial Bridge.
The Worst: The National Mall
This is certainly one of the most popular locations. Yes, the view is incomparable, but it doesn’t come close to outweighing all the cons. First, remember that it’s the middle of summer, so it's reasonable that it could be 100 degrees with so much humidity. The mall is also fairly wide open, meaning there aren’t a ton of trees and opportunities for shade. And countless people want to watch the fireworks on the mall, so people get there super early. Maybe noon, maybe 10 a.m., maybe 6 a.m.?
Whatever time you’d plan to arrive, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll be standing outside in an increasingly growing crowd in the heat and humidity for hours, probably without shade and without an easily accessible bathroom. Oh, and you can’t really leave without sacrificing your place, so you’ll need a day’s worth of drinks and food and sunscreen. No thanks.