An All American Weekend in Washington D.C.

30 Jun
June 30, 2011

When enjoying America’s birthday on the Fourth of July, there is no better place to be than the nation’s capital.

Washington, D.C. and its surrounding areas take this holiday seriously, with a multitude of events and celebrations throughout the three-day weekend, culminating with many Monday night fireworks displays.

Kicking off the holiday weekend on Saturday, is one of the area’s more somber traditions, a concert and fireworks show held an hour-and-a-half northwest of the city.

At Antietam National Battlefield, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra holds its annual Salute to Independence. Antietam is the site of the deadliest one-day battle on U.S. soil, with over 23,000 people perishing on September 17, 1862. The Civil War historical site is open all day and visitors can arrive as they please. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and ends with a fireworks display at 9:45. It’s best to arrive early, as the show routinely attracts upwards of 30,000 people.

On Sunday, a unique opportunity occurs. Locals know that the annual “A Capitol Fourth” concert on the National Mall attracts massive hordes of people. This year’s concert, featuring singers Josh Groban, Little Richard, Jordin Sparks and Glee’s Matthew Morrison and comedian Steve Martin, will be no different.

What many people don’t know is that every July 3rd, the day before, a rehearsal with all the same performers is held. It’s open to the public and free of charge.  At eight p.m., visit the stage located on the West Lawn of the Capitol, where you can see almost the full performance, minus the wave of people there to catch the fireworks.

On Monday, fireworks are what everyone wants to see. The biggest display is, of course, the one put on in concert with “A Capitol Fourth,” with fireworks exploding high above Washington, D.C.’s white marble monuments.

For the best view, head to the National Mall. There, it’s free to set up blankets, pack a cooler and spend the day reveling. Be sure to arrive early, because the Mall is easily the most popular place in the area to go. It fills up fast. If you do go, take the metro, because there are numerous street closures due to the event.

If heading into the city and fighting crowds isn’t to your liking, there are great spots outside of the district to catch the main display. All along the George Washington Parkway, especially at Lady Byrd Park near the 14th Street Bridge, there are places to pitch a tent, fire up a grill and catch the show. Also in Arlington you can set up near the Iwo Jima Memorial, which provides perfect perspective. It’s also popular, so again, be sure to arrive early.

In Alexandria, the hill on the George Washington Masonic Memorial is also available to the public, with its high perch offering excellent views of the city below.

Because the mall is so far south in D.C., viewing options in Maryland for the Mall fireworks are limited. However, there are plenty of excellent displays north of the city to enjoy.

In Gaithersburg, at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, there is live music at 7:00 p.m. and fireworks at dusk. The same goes for Rockville, where entertainment also starts at 7:00 p.m. and the fireworks shoot off around 9:30 p.m..

Much farther north, in Annapolis, there is a fireworks display at the city’s main dock. A parade kicks things off at 6:30 p.m., music is played by the Naval Academy Band, and fireworks are sent into the sky around 9:15 p.m..

So whether you are in Virginia, Washington, D.C or Maryland this Fourth of July, opportunities abound to celebrate the nation’s birthday.

-David

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