4th of July Fireworks on the National Mall: Best Spots to Watch the DC Fireworks

DC is one of the most beautiful places to see 4th of July fireworks. Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service
DC is one of the most beautiful places to see 4th of July fireworks. Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service
6/19/23 - By Christine Mooney

Nothing says Independence Day like watching the 4th of July fireworks light up the night sky above the iconic memorials and monuments of Washington, DC. It's a sight many families are excited to check off their summer fun list, and that means viewing spots tend to get pretty crowded. Luckily, we have some ideas to help you navigate safely and get great views of the DC fireworks this year.

While it might pay to grab tickets to a family-friendly river cruise for the evening, you don't need to spend a dime to see the DC 4th of July fireworks in person. You just need to know where—and when—to go and what you might want to bring to make the most out of the evening.

Don't forget to check out our event calendar for a whole host of Independence Day celebrations throughout DC, Northern Virginia, and MD during the first week of July. Happy 4th of July!


4th of July fireworks over the DC monuments and memorials
See the 4th of July fireworks light up the DC monuments and memorials. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

What to Know About the DC 4th of July Fireworks 

The DC fireworks will launch from both sides of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool at 9:09pm on July 4 and end around 9:30pm. As with any big DC event, expect crowds and security screenings. Common sense applies when it comes to what you can and can’t bring: glass containers, guns, knives, ammunition, unmanned aerial systems, explosives, and fireworks aren't allowed. Be sure to check over the prohibited items list on the National Parks Service website, which will be updated for road closures and other important day-of information.

For getting through the checkpoints with ease, take a few minutes to clean and organize diaper bags or other totes you might be taking. And just like going through airport security, placing items in clear zip-top plastic bags makes the whole process go more smoothly.

Arrive early to snag a good spot, and don't forget to bring lawn chairs, blankets, snacks, sunscreen, and plenty of water—temperatures can climb to well above 90 degrees in DC in July.

RELATED: 100 Things To Do in DC with Kids Before They Grow Up

View of the DC 4th of July fireworks over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial has never looked so good! Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Best DC 4th of July Fireworks Viewing Locations

1. The National Mall

The National Mall is the best, and therefore the busiest, spot to watch the DC fireworks show. Anywhere from the Washington Monument to the Jefferson Memorial is available to the public. There are also viewing spots at the World War II Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, and Constitution Gardens. Look up the public-access entry points ahead of time so you'll know where to go. A Capitol Fourth, the annual free concert that precedes the fireworks, will be prerecorded and broadcast live.

2. The US Supreme Court Plaza

The Supreme Court's spacious, 252-foot-wide oval plaza offers an unobstructed view of the 4th of July fireworks in DC.

RELATED: Best Fourth of July Activities for Kids That Aren't Fireworks

4th of July fireworks over the US Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington, DC
The DC fireworks look stunning over the Marine Corps War Memorial. Photo by Lance Cheung, courtesy of the US Department of Agriculture

3. Arlington, Virginia

Another option is to head across the Potomac River to view the 4th of July fireworks from several spots in Arlington. The US Marine Corps War Memorial, the Netherlands Carillon, and the US Air Force Memorial all offer great viewing spots.You can also rent bicycles from a place like Unlimited Biking or Capital Bikeshare—or bring along your own bikes, scooters, or wagons for free—and find a spot along the Mount Vernon Trail near the Pentagon to catch the spectacular show.

4. Hains Point in East Potomac Park

This peninsula stretching into the Potomac River provides fabulous views of the Potomac, the Anacostia River, and the Washington Channel, making it a prime location for viewing the DC fireworks. If you get there early enough, you may even be able to snag one of the picnic tables or benches!

5. Washington National Cathedral

Pack a picnic and head to the grassy slope of the Washington National Cathedral, one of the highest points in the DC area (the top of the Cathedral's tower is the highest), which offers a perfect view of the 4th of July fireworks show.

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4th of July fireworks over the DC Wharf
The 4th of July fireworks reflect off the Potomac River at the Wharf. Photo courtesy of wharfdc.com

6. The Wharf

Just four blocks from the National Mall, the Wharf provides plenty of vantage points from which to view the 4th of July fireworks. These include public piers, green spaces, and hotel rooftops. And with so many restaurants, ice cream shops, games, and play places for kids, keeping the little ones entertained while waiting for the fireworks to start shouldn't be too difficult.

7. Lady Bird Johnson Park

This gorgeous park, located on an island in the Potomac River near the Pentagon, provides breathtaking, unobstructed views of the DC fireworks. Access the park from the southbound lanes of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

8. Francis L. Cardozo Education Campus

This middle school and high school at 1200 Clifton Street NW is a lesser-known DC fireworks viewing spot that offers expansive views of the show.

9. A 4th of July Fireworks Cruise

Though we have listed many places to watch the DC fireworks for free, a family-friendly river cruise will get you a spectacular view of the fireworks without the crowds—for a price, of course. City Cruises offers a Fireworks Cruise from Alexandria, as well as a 4th of July Fireworks Signature Dinner Cruise. You can also shell out for a private boat through Embark DC that will leave from the Wharf, Georgetown, The Yards, Alexandria, National Harbor, and several other locations.

Writers Drew Kristofik and Jennifer Marino Walters contributed to this 2024 update.

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