A Star Spangled Birthday — Celebrating Freedom in Washington, D.C.

Article written by Barbara May, owner of Travel Leaders.

Pictures provided by Travel Leaders




There’s no better place to visit on Independence Day than Washington, D.C. With the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol in the background, the National Mall is a spectacular place to watch fireworks. It forms a beautiful and patriotic backdrop to America’s Independence Day celebrations. The Fourth of July events are among Washington’s best attended of the year and many people arrive early to stake out a seat on the lawn.


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The day begins with a parade along Constitution Avenue from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a concert from 5-9 p.m. and ending with the display of fireworks at 9:10 p.m.  There are no fees to visit the National Mall and Memorial Parks or to attend the Independence Day Celebration.


The concert will be at Washington Monument Grounds where Tom Bergeron, along with a cast of legendary performers will broadcast live on PBS from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. This top-rated extravaganza features 20 cameras positioned around the city.


Spectacular views of the fireworks can be seen from the National Mall, the U.S. Capitol, the Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima) in Arlington, VA, the Rosslyn Metro station and areas along the Virginia side of the Potomac River that can be reached from George Washington Memorial Parkway. Another great place to watch the fireworks is from the Air Force Memorial on Columbia Pike.


National Mall Visiting Washington

There are plenty of free things to do in Washington, D.C. all year-round. Whether you seek family fun, an excursion with friends or even a quiet day to yourself, the nation’s capital is a great place to experience a wide variety of cultural and recreational activities. You will find free attractions, festivals and events, educational programs and much more.


No vacation to Washington is complete without a visit to the National Mall. It is the nation’s most important civic space and home to some of the most iconic monuments and memorials in our country. The Metrorail system provides easy access to the Mall. Other sites nearby include the Smithsonian, Metro Center, the World War II Memorial, Gallery Place-Chinatown, Judiciary Square and L’Enfant Plaza.


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The Smithsonian

The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation’s first art collection, is an unparalleled record of the American experience from the colonial period to today. The museum is the home to one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world and visitors can browse more than 3,300 works from the Luce collection. It adjoins the Lunder Conservation Center, the first art conservation facility to allow the public permanent behind-the-scenes views of the preservation of artworks.

Judiciary Square

The vast majority of the Judiciary Square neighborhood in Northwest Washington is occupied by various federal and municipal courthouses and office buildings. Located roughly between Pennsylvania Avenue to the south, H Street to the north, 6th Street to the west, and the Interstate 395 access tunnel to the east, Judiciary Square is home to Georgetown University Law Center, on New Jersey Avenue NW.


Chinatown 2 Gallery Place-Chinatown

The Chinatown Community Cultural Center is a 501©(3) non-profit organization, located in the thriving Chinatown neighborhood of Downtown Washington D.C. The center seeks to preserve and promote Chinatown and celebrate Chinese culture, history, language and heritage. The organization enriches the lives of its members and visitors alike through a variety of programs focused on Chinese cultural exploration while simultaneously offering the necessary job skills and training for immigrant populations. The Chinatown Community Cultural Center is the heartbeat of Chinatown and is Washington’s premier destination where East meets West. Shops and restaurants abound, including Clyde’s Gallery Place, a favorite dinner destination for Shakespeare and Ford’s theatergoers.



Visitors to the World War II Memorial are greeted by the words “Here we mark the price of freedom” engraved in front of a wall of 4,048 gold stars. Each star represents 100 Americans lost during the war. The Korean War Veterans Memorial displays the message “Freedom is not free,” and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial holds the names of 58,261 lives honored for their courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country. Abraham Lincoln is draped in the Stars and Stripes at the Lincoln Memorial. Not only did he preserve our flag during the American Civil War, his policies helped end slavery. Six-hundred and twenty thousand Americans from the north and the south died during the most costly war in U.S. history. The message becomes clear as visitors experience these memorials—freedom has come at a great cost.


L’Enfant Plaza.

The new L’Enfant Plaza showcases a stunning three-story glass gateway entrance, an outdoor square, more retail, and enhanced office space to enliven this popular destination just two blocks from the National Mall in Southwest Washington, D.C. — an area undergoing an exciting waterfront transformation. It has over 40 shops and restaurants, and indoor access to the Metro.


Getting around, be sure to use the Metro Center… The Metro Center is the central hub station of Washington’s Metro rapid transit system. One of the original Metro stations, Metro Center has been in service since 1976.


History and Heritage: 

Sit in the lobby of the Willard InterContinental Washington and imagine history unfolding. The hotel is where Julia Ward Howe wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” where President Ulysses S. Grant popularized the term “lobbyist” and where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his renowned “I Have a Dream” speech.  For an off-the-beaten-path twist tour Abraham Lincoln’s summer home. Only three miles from the White House, President Lincoln’s Cottage reveals the distinctly domestic side of a historic presidency. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children, and Girl Scouts can earn a badge. Stop by the National Archives to see the original Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, then research your family’s immigration records. Check out the Library of Congress’ interactive elements including a re-creation of Thomas Jefferson’s library. Schedule your visit around one of the free lectures, concerts, exhibits and poetry readings that are held at the library regularly. For a meaningful experience plan a visit to Arlington National Cemetery to include the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns or trace the name of a loved one from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, a place of reflection for many visitors.


From history and heritage, to the arts and culture there’s a lot to do in Washington!  


Just Remember… The Fourth of July is about remembering our nation’s important history; it’s also about celebrating with friends and family — creatively expressing our love of country and just having fun and celebrating the holiday spirit!


For more on a Washington, D.C. vacation contact the travel professionals at Travel Leaders, located at 2765 Wolf Creek Parkway, Ste. 104, Memphis, 901.377.6600.