A Capitol Fourth – 4th of July

fourth of july fireworks viewing in washington dc

Nearby Attractions

Lincoln Memorial

National Mall

U.S. Capitol

Suggested Tours

Old Town Trolley Tour

Washington DC Power Pass

DC Cruises

What more patriotic way to celebrate American independence than to stand on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and watch fireworks explode over the Washington Monument? No other city celebrates the Fourth of July with as much fervor and pageantry as Washington, D.C. And with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”–complete with cannon fire–in the background.

The West Lawn of the Capitol is the site of “A Capitol Fourth,” the free hour-and-a-half concert put on each year by PBS. The National Symphony Orchestra and the Choral Arts Society of Washington back up a lineup of stars.

It all leads up to a spectacular fireworks show, which usually kicks off shortly after 9:00 p.m. On the West Lawn, you’ll have the best seat in the house–and the best seat in the country.

Travel Tips

Don’t even think about driving. About 700,000 people flock to the National Mall each year for the fireworks, making parking close to impossible, and police close many of the streets around the Capitol for security reasons. The concert fills up so you probably want to come early–gates open as early as 3 p.m.–and bring a blanket or folding chairs and a picnic dinner. Be sure to bring plenty of water (no glass bottles or alcohol, though), because Washington, D.C. gets hot and sticky during the summer, and you don’t want to risk heat exhaustion. Bring sunscreen too.

You can get some of the same effect with smaller crowds, minus the fireworks of course, if you come a day early. The organizers stage a full dress rehearsal on July 3, and that, too, is open to the public.

Whenever you come, expect to pass through a metal detector and have police search through all of your bags, picnic baskets, and coolers.

For more information on A Capitol Fourth, visit www.pbs.org/capitolfourth/.

For information on the National Independence Day Parade, visit http://july4thparade.com/.

For US Capitol Police information about prohibited items, public access points, road closures, parking, and more, click here.

Metro service information for the Fourth of July

Travel Information

A Capitol Fourth – 4th of July
West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC

Hours: On July 3 and 4, gates open at 3 p.m. The concert itself runs from 8 to 9:30 p.m. on July 4. The dress rehearsal runs from about 7:30 to about 10 p.m. on July 3.

Admission: Free.

Parking: Forget it.

Metrorail: Blue and Orange Line stops for Federal Center or Red Line stop for Judiciary Square. Be aware that the Smithsonian station closes on July 4.


  1. Sparklers (no more than 20 inches in length) are legal in DC. However, explosives (including fireworks) are prohibited at A Capitol Fourth. Do sparklers fall into that category or will they be allowed through security?

  2. If we set up an area for our family with a blanket or chairs are we allowed to leave and come back or do we have to stay there? If allowed to leave what if the place fills up and our stuff is inside how will the security know that we were already inside?

  3. Will there be food trucks (asopposed to lousy food vendors) near the Capitol? Also I’ve not been to the Capitol for many years but you used to be able to bring beer & wine–is there anywhere you can picnic with that near the Capitol to watch fireworks or not now? Thanks!

    • The District says:

      Your best bet for food trucks near the National Mall would be over at L’Enfant Plaza. You can track food truck locations at http://www.foodtruckfiesta.com.

      Alcohol is no longer permitted on the National Mall on the 4th of July. Food and water is allowed. For a full list of prohibited items click here.

  4. Can you hear the Concert well up the Mall without having to be on the Capitol grounds? Will there be any large screens on the Mall showing the concert? My group won’t want to sit for 5 hours in one spot waiting for the concert when there is so much else to do and see on the Mall.

    • The District says:

      In the past, I have seen large screens and speakers for the concert, but I do not know where they are placed.

  5. I see chairs available near the main stage. I assume those are reserved correct? Can anyone sit on the capitol steps? What time would you suggest arrival to sit on the steps?

  6. D Scags says:

    We’re visiting from out of town to attend the concert and fireworks. I seem to remember hearing that in certain spots on the lawn you can’t see the fireworks unless you walk down the street. Can anyone provide details as to where to sit at the event to be sure to see the fireworks after the concert.

  7. Rae Ohlert says:

    What about disabled parking? Also can I bring a folding chair for my 90 year old mother? She can’t sit on the ground.

    • The District says:

      The US Capitol Police state the following:

      “A limited number of handicap parking spaces will be available on a first come first served basis along the south curb of Constitution Avenue between First Street, NW and Third Street, NW.”

      Also, all public entry points are wheelchair accessible. I think folding chairs are fine.

      For more information, visit the US Capitol Police’s press release here.

  8. Madeline says:

    Does anyone know if there are chair rentals for th concert and fireworks? We are coming by train and cannot carry them with us.

    • Rosemarie says:

      Have been to the Capitol fireworks many times and your best bet would to bring blankets to sit on. They usually have free water but might want to bring food and water to enjoy while the concert is going on. The earlier you get in line the better chance at good seats. We usually start standing in line around 2:00.

      • Hi
        I have a few questions
        - are there bathrooms there?
        - once you are through security can you go out and come back in again without waiting in line
        - are there food vendors
        - any suggestions on best spots to view the fireworks

        • The District says:

          -There will be portable bathrooms available.
          -If you leave the secure area, you will have to go through security again to come back in.
          -There are food vendors around the National Mall, usually near the museums.
          -The best spots to view the fireworks are on the West Lawn or the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

  9. M. Buxton says:

    I viewed the 4th of July concert on PBS tv channel. GREAT ! I’d like to know if a DVD is available to purchase.

    • The District says:

      PBS has an answer to this question on their Capitol Fourth FAQ page:
      “Unfortunately, copyright restrictions do not permit us to issue video or audio copies of the program.”

      They also suggest looking for replays of the concert in the few days after the 4th.

  10. Does anyone know when the dress rehearsal begins on July 3rd?

  11. Michelle says:

    Can someone please tell me if we will be able to drive into DC from Virginia at 9:00 am on the 4th is it possible?

    • The District says:

      It’s certainly “possible” but you are going to have to deal with traffic and will probably have to park a good ways off the mall.

    • That is very early, yes you’ll make it and somehow find parking.

  12. Jennifer says:

    We are planning to come this year, I see the gates open at 3, do we need to arrive at that time or earlier to get in on the 4th?


  13. Thanks for the helpful information. I have the opposite question. I have two kids 4 and 7 years old. I don’t think they could tolerate waiting outside for 5 hours for a concert. Is there a way I can get Tickets for this concert? I’d be happy to pay for them; what I’m really looking for is a place where I can show up at 6 or so, sit down with the kids and avoid some of the crazy camping around all day stuff. Any ideas for this concert? or alternatively for any fireworks viewing area in DC?

    (I did look at the cruises but they seem to exclude kids under 10.)

    Thank you.

    • The District says:

      Scott- There are plenty of activities on and around the mall to keep the little ones entertained, just be sure to prepare for the heat. The Smithsonian museums will be open so you can always duck into them for a quick blast of air conditioning and some fun distractions for the kids.

      The Iwo Jima memorial and the Pentagon are two popular places to view the fireworks without having to battle the crowds on the mall.

  14. Can you tell me more about the 4th of July schedule? DO I need tickets for the performance? How do I get them?

    What about fireworks? what time and where shoud I observe?


    • The District says:

      If you want to attend the Capitol Fourth Concert, you do not need tickets, but space is limited, so you need to arrive early. Doors typically open around 3:00PM.

      The fireworks show starts around 9:00PM. There are plenty of great places to view the fireworks but the best ones are usually claimed early in the day. The steps of the Lincoln Memorial is one of my favorite spots, and if you want a spot outside of the city, you could try the Iwo Jima Memorial in Rosslyn, VA.

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