July Fourth Fireworks on the National Mall: Best Spots to Watch Them in DC

Fireworks light the DC sky on July 4. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography courtesy of washington.org
Fireworks light the DC sky on July 4. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography courtesy of washington.org

Nothing says Independence Day like watching fireworks light up the sky above the iconic memorials and monuments of the nation's capital on the Fourth of July. It's a sight many Washington, DC families are excited to check off of their summer bucket lists, and that means viewing spots tend to get pretty crowded.

Of course, that is not something 2021 will allow. Luckily, we have some ideas to help you navigate safely and great views of this spectacular summer fireworks show.

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 catch the sparklers. 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 events calendar for a whole host of Independence Day celebrations throughout DC, NoVa, and MD during the first week of July.

There are a host of viewing sites available to the public. Photo by Tim Kelley/CC By 2.0

What You Need to Know About the 2021 DC Fireworks Show

Kickoff time is set for 9:09pm on July 4, and the show will last until around 9:30pm. As with any big DC event, expect crowds and security screenings. This year, masks are required if you can't social distance. So have one handy and wear it when you're close to anyone not in your pod. Common sense applies when it comes to what you can/can’t bring (glass containers, alcohol, recreational equipment, such as badminton and volleyball equipment, and grills 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. 

Grab lawn chairs, blankets, snacks, and plenty of water, though, because you’ll want to arrive early and snag a good spot. 

RELATED: Great Summer Day Trips for DC Families

Make a day of it and arrive before the fireworks. photo by m01229/CC By 2.0

Best July 4th Fireworks Viewing Locations

The National Mall is the best, and therefore the busiest, spot to watch the show. Anywhere from the Washington Monument to the Jefferson Memorial is available to the public. There are more spaces on the Mall this year than on previous July Fourths, including at the World War II Memorial, Reflecting Pool, and Constitution Gardens. A Capitol Fourth, the annual free concert that usually precedes the fireworks, is prerecorded and virtual again this year.

The U.S. Supreme Court, with its 252-foot wide plaza, offers an unobstructed view of the fireworks. Or head across the Potomac River. The Marine Corps War Memorial, Netherlands Carillon, along the Mount Vernon Trail, U.S. Air Force Memorial, Hains Point on East Potomac Park, and Lady Bird Johnson Park all offer more viewing spots. For the Mount Vernon Trail, renting bicycles from a place like Bike and Roll or Capital Bikeshare can make the trek easier and more fun, or bring along your own bicycles, scooters, or wagons.

High places, including the grassy slopes around the Washington National Cathedral, are a great bet for a perfect view of the fireworks show.

Make a day of it, and head to the Wharf for Fourth of July fun, and piers and green spaces that are available to the public. It's just four blocks from the Mall and replete with restaurants and ice cream shops, games, and play places for kids. Getting here early enough to get a spot—and keeping the kids entertained—won't be a challenge.

Paid DC Fourth of July Fireworks Viewing Options

You don't have to pay to see the fireworks, but if you want to make the holiday extra special there are plenty of family-friendly river cruises that get you a beautiful view of the fireworks without the crowds. But for a price, of course. Potomac Riverboat Company and Entertainment Cruises both offer multiple boats that evening.

For more fun, take a look at our events calendar for other July Fourth activities. From everyone at Mommy Poppins DC, we hope you have a very Happy Independence Day!

Writer Drew Kristofik contributed to this 2021 update. 

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