“Ideas on things to do while hosting visitors over 4th of July”

by Prince Of Petworth June 9, 2017 at 1:45 pm 21 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Shamila Chaudhary

“Dear PoPville,

I’m hosting a group of my friends in DC for 4th of July weekend and am wondering what I should include on the itinerary. It will be about 10 of us total, most of whom have never spent time in DC before. They’ll be here from Friday until Tuesday so I’m trying to figure out what to plan for such a large group other than a lot of eating and drinking along with some of the Smithsonians. Any and all recommendations would be appreciated!!”

  • crazydoglady#1

    the 4th at the old soldiers home in petworth is a lot of fun- you can see the mall’s fireworks (and others) above the treeline, there are kids activities, food trucks, you can BYOB/picnic, etc.

  • Willard_Street

    Key Bridge Boathouse does an awesome fireworks paddle-out. You have to get tickets in advance but it’s an unbelievable vantage point to watch the fireworks.

    • JohnH

      For people who’ve never done it, being near the mall for the fireworks is a great experience. The fireworks in DC are not your average joe’s – since they have to reach a certain height, they are incredibly powerful. So viewing them from miles away makes them feel ordinary (I did Cardozo HS one year and it was incredibly underwhelming).
      That being said, the mall can be incredibly not fun. If you want to have a “mall” experience, they do a dress rehearsal of the Capital Fourth the night before and it was not very busy at all when I did that with a visitor from out of town.
      For the actual Fourth, I HIGHLY recommend walking via Rosslyn down along the Potomac on the VA side to across the Potomac from the Lincoln Memorial. There are professional photographers that set up here because it’s a “postcard” view. The best part? They have not allowed cars to park along the GW Parkway in recent years, which means there is a SPARSE crowd. Maybe not sparse, but you definitely get your own extended space if you want. Obviously the Metro is busy after, but it’s not really that much different than a Nats game (and getting on at Rosslyn is nice because if you’re going into DC it’s not that many people going that way).
      This all being said, hopefully the weather cooperates. Last year, you couldn’t see the fireworks because of the low clouds. And if there’s no breeze, the smoke from the fireworks will just sit there (which affects down towards the capitol building more than across the Potomac).
      As much poo-pooing happens from DC residents about the fireworks, they’re an incredible experience that people take for granted. Doesn’t mean you have to go plop yourself on the mall all day!

      • saf

        We used to go every year. Then. 9/11, and suddenly what had been a lovely lawn party became a security nightmare. We don’t go anymore, and I really miss what it was.

        • JohnH

          No security to go through across the Potomac. And you’re still closer to the fireworks than you are at the US Capitol. And no crowds!

          • saf

            We used to go to the Ellipse.

  • Joshua

    The Nats are in town all week starting on Monday the 3rd. There’s usually something for everyone to do at a ballgame.

    • navyard

      To see some fireworks without the crowds, head down to Yards Park on the evening of July 3rd. They shoot fireworks off of barges in the river right behind Nats Park after the game.

      • JohnH

        The Nats fireworks are actually pretty good! But still nothing like the real deal.

  • Elvis’s Mom

    The FDR and MLK memorials are great, and near the Tidal Basin, so if the weather is nice you can spend a decent amount of time outside. I’m also fond of the National Geographic Society for indoor events. Depending on the ages of the group, the Holocaust Museum is well worth the time. I also hear tell that Hill Country BBQ in Chinatown has a karaoke stage and that’s a lot of fun for big groups.

  • saf

    Foklife festival
    Waterlilies at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens should be blooming around then.
    Nighttime monument walk.
    What neighborhood are you in? Something in your neighborhood is cool. For example, I am in Petworth, and like to take people to Lincoln’s Cottage.
    You could choose a theme. I have a friend who is working her way through my Civil War DC itinerary. Fort Stevens. Battleground Cemetery. Lincoln’s Cottage. Ford’s Theater. NY Ave Presbyterian. Epiphany Church. American Art/Portrait Gallery.

  • Anon

    Take them down to the national mall for a great view of the fireworks. This is one of those hidden gems that few people know about. If you do, here’s a tip: Once the fireworks are over, head immediately to the nearest Metro station in order to get home. This way you can try to avoid the crowds.

    • OtisMyHome

      I can’t tell if this comment is being sarcastic or not….

      I really like paddle boating on the tidal basin. It’s pretty cheap and gives you a really cool (different) view of some monuments!

    • Idontgetit


  • DF

    It’ll probably be hot as balls. Go see Wonderwoman!

  • Chai

    If you’re going to do Smithsonians, get up on the morning if the fourth and hit them right as they open. All the tourists show up later so it’s pretty quiet, plus they stage the parade right on the mall, which is an event in itself. Last time my out of town guests got to pet the Budweiser Clydesdales, sit on parade floats, and take stupid photos with ppl dressed as founding fathers. Plus then you’re out of there before it’s stupid hot.

  • BottleRockets

    Head up to your roof at dusk prepared with enough snacks and beverages to last a few hours. Look in any and every direction and watch the locals fire off $$$ of skyrockets. Depending on your neighborhood you may even see the big show on the mall.

    Keep a fire extinguisher handy

    Keep an eye on your dumpster (see previous)

  • Star

    Capital skyline Fourth of July pool!
    Baseball game
    Host or find a cook out

  • Eleanor

    Get over to the Palisades neighborhood in N.W. and enjoy the hometown 4th of July Parade. Line up song the curb on MacArthur Blvd. north of W Street and watch the old cars, decorated bikes, dressed up pets, &c. Then follow the end of the parade to the Palisades Playground for the singing of the national Anthem–yes you will be able to sing it, it is scored in the key of C. Then enjoy the picnic. In election years there are more politicians riding convertibles and throwing candy t the crowd.

  • anon

    If people are comfortable on bikes, I would highly recommend doing a bike tour around the monuments. I used to work as a tour guide for Bike and Roll and there’s no faster way to knock out all the big sights on the mall. With 10 people you could arrange for a private tour. I did this with a group of friends and afterwards we took a quick cab ride to Navy Yard for dinner and drinks!

  • DCSassafras

    The Mansion on O Street! Guaranteed to have something for everyone in there.


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