Are you someone who keeps a running list of travel goals? Do you know the places you want to visit, the events you want to experience, and the sights you want to see before your voyaging days are done? If so, then allow me to suggest the following addition to your travel countdown: Washington, DC on the 4th of July. DC is a great place to visit any time of the year, but if you really want to have a powerful and unique experience in the U.S. capital, there's not better time than Independence Day. Saturday was the third 4th of July I've spent here, and I've picked up a few tips to help you make the most out of your patriotic visit.
For starters, if you plan on entering The National Mall and its surrounding areas, remember that you'll need to pass through security checkpoints. Sometimes they'll ask you to drink your liquids in front of them, other times they'll ignore one of the two bags you're holding, but they probably won't allow you to bring a large cooler into the secured area. Before the fireworks begin at dusk, there are concerts and patriotic ceremonies that take place on The Mall and at the various memorials. Don't worry, the crowd won't be as intense as it was on Inauguration Day; you will be able to move around the area freely. The best spot for watching the fireworks is the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. This location puts the entire city out in front of you for a beautiful view, and also lets you see the fireworks as they're reflected off the tidal basin. It's absolutely gorgeous. Bring some snacks, arrive before 7:30 to have your choice of a step, sit back and enjoy. After the show, avoid the Smithsonian and L'Enfant Plaza metro stations like the plague. To ensure you get a seat on the train and have as enjoyable of a ride home as possible, walk an extra few blocks to a station past the popular ones.
The atmosphere in Washington, DC on the 4th of July is unlike anything else I've experienced. Independence Day has always been one of my favorite holidays, and there are enjoyable celebrations all over the country, but here in the nation's capital it feels even more special. Surrounded by the monuments, memorials and symbols of American society and government you will truly feel the beauty and power of this day. When the fireworks end in a rousing grand finale, you'll wander home in the DC heat with ash in your hair, a smile on your face, and one more item to cross off your travel goals list.