The fireworks on the National Mall are one of the most spectacular shows in town. Set against the Washington Monument, there are a couple key vantage points for optimal viewing (check out our insider tips below), but a number of other area fireworks are also stunning (and many promise lesser crowds). Whether you want to celebrate America’s birthday in our nation’s capitol or you’re looking to venture further out of the city, we’ve found the best places to catch a dazzling display of fireworks in Washington, DC and beyond.

In the City

National Mall Fireworks 
The National Mall becomes the ultimate amphitheater every July 4th.  Grab your picnic blanket and park your family on any patch of grass  on the National Mall and you’ll have a front row seat to the show. This is the most crowded place to watch the celebration, so pack some snacks to help distract overtired kids (it can take up to an hour to leave the area). If you’re looking for something more low-key, you can still catch this awe-inspiring show beyond the Mall.

For a quiet, sensory-friendly evening: head to the National Cathedral. Boasting the highest point in the city, you can take the DC fireworks without all the noise. Another high vantage point can be found at Cardozo High School near U St. This is a hot spot with locals that guarantees a low-key vibe.

For an active evening: spend the night at The Wharf where you can have dinner, grab a s’mores kit  for dessert and gather around the fire, watch fireworks.

For a unique experience: For a dazzling view, watch the fireworks on the Potomac. You don’t need to be on a boat for this view. The 14th Street Bridge, the Francis Scott Key Bridge and the Arlington Memorial Bridge all are great spots to take in the July 4th celebrations. There are also a number of Firework Cruise options including the Signature Dinner Cruise by CityExperiences and the Alexandria City Water Taxi and for those wanting an intimate evening with just the fam, private charters, like this tour by sailboat from Reflections DC.


Baltimore’s Inner Harbor Spectacular 
Immerse yourself in Revolutionary Americana in the city of Baltimore. Spend some time at Fort McHenry where the bombardment by the British inspired Francis Scott Key to pen “The Defense of Fort M’Henry” better known today as the “Star Spangled Banner.” You can also visit the home of the seamstress who made the garrison flag made famous by Key’s song.  More ways celebrate Independence Day include live music in the Inner Harbor amphitheater starting at 4 p.m , a live spoken word performance of Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” at Rash Field Park at 7:39 p.m and  the main event—fireworks—over the Inner Harbor at 9:30 p.m. Event details. 

photo: Roven Images via Unsplash 

Annapolis’s July 4th Celebration
Kick start America’s birthday with a parade down Main Street at 6:30 p.m. Any spot along the route is a good spot to take in this small town parade. There will be antique cars, firetrucks, marching bands and more. Fireworks light up the sky starting at 8 p.m The best places to take in Annapolis’s display is on the City Dock or standing on Naval Academy Bridge. Event details.

a happy kid wears red white and blue sunglasses on 4th of july

photo: iStock 

An All-Day Celebration in Frederick 
It’s an all day celebration in Frederick where festivities start at noon. Baker Park is the backdrop for this city’s 4th of July party that features entertainment on two stages, kids rides and games, a dunk tank (because, let’s face it, it’s hot!) and local food vendors. The fireworks show starts at dusk and while you can see the fireworks from most areas in the park, some parts may be obstructed. For optimal viewing, head towards the Fleming Ave. Swimming Pool, the Frederick High School lawn or the Carillon Area of Baker Park. Event details.

Fireworks. And More Fireworks in Columbia
If there is no such thing as too many fireworks for you and your crew, Howard County might be the 4th of July roadtrip you need this year. Boasting the largest display in the area, this fireworks show goes on for a solid 20 minutes (longer than the National Mall!). Live music starts at 6 p.m. and the grand finale in the sky starts at 9:20 p.m. Event details. 


Vienna’s Independence Day Celebration & Fireworks
This NOVA suburb is Virginia’s answer to the Howard County Display. For over twenty minutes, the sky over Vienna is illuminated with one of the area’s most epic firework shows. The evening starts with a performance by the United States Navy Concert Band at 8 p.m. followed by fireworks (estimated to be 9:30 p.m.). Event details.

Celebrate America in Manassas
Come celebrate with one of the largest displays of fireworks in Northern Virginia. This event has small town feels with face painting, eating contests and a bike decorating competition.  Families can park themselves (and their snacks) on the Manassas Museum lawn to watch the fireworks show. Event details. 


—Meghan Yudes Meyers


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