HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


Two days in Washington for July 4th

I'm finding suggestions for a solo business traveller having two freer days in Washington during next July 4th. Restaurants,hotel,things to see and do and best place to see fireworks.
I exchange help for your next trips to Italy :-)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. More information would be helpful. What part of town would he like to stay / eat in? Does he have budgetary restrictions? Will he have a car? What kind of food does he like?

    If he would like to see the fireworks from the Mall, where most people go to see them, it would be wonderful to be staying in a hotel in Penn Quarter (or maybe L'Enfant Plaza as an alternative) - that way, he can walk to his hotel after the fireworks. Waiting to get on the Metro afterwards is torture, and takes forever.

    2 Replies
    1. re: woodleyparkhound

      I would take woodley's advice DC is a mad house during July 4th weekend the city is packed with people and Metro is always an exercise in patience after the fireworks

      1. re: woodleyparkhound

        Solo traveller is me. Any part of the town is ok,but not too much expensive hotels. I have a car.Any food but Italian (I'm italian).

      2. While not a food-focused event, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is held on the Mall during this time period. Several different subjects are explored, crafts, dance and music demonstrated and food is available. Every once in a while, one of the vendors provides a pretty good snack. Check this board after the first weekend for advice on the food.

        Here is a link -- at my very quick glance, I can't tell if they've announced the themes for this summer. I always enjoy myself -- some years are more interesting than others. http://www.festival.si.edu/

        1 Reply
        1. re: Terrie H.

          I have been to that festival a few time the food is hit or miss the exhibits are cool one year that had reconstructed a Tibetan Monastery

        2. fireworks? contact every lawyer or politician you have ever known and wangle an invite to a roof party downtown, good eats and drinks and a great view, otherwise room service and a bottle of wine watching it on simulcast. the Mall is a madhouse and adjacent restaurants/bars are mobbed. Metro on a night like that is a ring of Dante's Hell that has yet to be determined. although I suppose carryout from somewhere in Adams-Morgan and a perch in Meridian Hill Park would be very nice (just don't wander into the trees after dark unless...).

          to clarify - the Mall itself on that day has a no outside food or drink policy and one has to show up HOURS before the event. sounds like misery to me. never even tried. some years I just went to a nearby park (Marion) with a cocktail and watched the ones that shot over the trees. my food. my drink. my neighbors. no stress.

          1. If you rent a room at the Willard Intercontinental or W in downton DC, they should have rooms with a fireworks view. And decent room service. Perhaps request that when booking?

            That would also put you close to the museums for sightseeing and near some great restaurants such as Rasika and Proof. Restaurants with views will be pretty busy, at the W POV lounge has a great view, so does Charlie Palmer. Other good restaurants are Corduroy, Little Serow, Mintwood Place, Vidalia, City Zen, the list goes on depending on what you want to eat.

            1. Roberto - I like your syntax, the use of "your next trips to Italy" makes me wish I could be that optimistic and gives me hope that there will be more (and many).

              3 Replies
              1. re: hill food

                unfortunately my syntax is only because my poor english by an Italian :-))

                1. re: roberto353

                  no no, your English is fine (much better than my Italian - I seem to lapse into French when I try). I liked the idea that we in the US can hope (and plan) for multiple trips to Italy!

                  1. re: hill food

                    I'm an happy Italian who is travelling every birthday to US: this is may birthday present.I don't like celebration at home after 50.:-))

              2. Hmmmm... I think your only choices for fireworks are to do as hillfood suggested and wrangle a private invitation to some balcony to watch fireworks - or - suck it up and go to the Mall, realizing that it will take you 1-2 hours to get out of there on the Metro. (Penn Quarter hotels and The Willard are expensive). L'Enfant might be cheaper - it's worth checking.

                I recommend Rasika - very inventive, modern food based on Indian cuisine.

                You said you don't want Italian, and I don't blame you, but are there other kinds of food that you especially like or want to try while you are here?

                2 Replies
                1. re: woodleyparkhound

                  friends have stayed at Windsor Park Hotel and been happy, relatively affordable (for DC). although if you can get a deal on a South facing room the Hinckley Hilton and the Washington Plaza Hotel would have killer views (and nice pools).

                  I absolutely agree on Rasika. forget everything you have known Indian to be. DC gets lots of solo travelers who can almost always get a seat and eat at the bar if a place is busy.

                  1. re: woodleyparkhound

                    I said not an Italian restaurant because I'm happy to have good Italian food everyday living in Italy.As Romans says "quando sei a Roma mangia come un romano" (shortly when in Rome eat as the locals). Any food is good for me,but junk food.

                  2. As others have stated, stay away from the Mall. The best place to watch the fireworks is from a roofdeck. Usually, DC residents make sure to have at least one friend with a roofdeck or a high-rise with southern windows.

                    Without access to a roof deck, your best option is Meridian Hill Park. The view there is good and while it's crowded, you can usually still see. Other less crowded options are bars and restaurants with roof decks uptown (U street has a few). The view isn't as good but at least there's food and alcohol, which the folks in the Mall/Fourth of July temporary police state can't have. (I once made the mistake of going for a 6am run on the Mall on the Fourth of July, and was chased down by four police officers and escorted away.)

                    So do your Mall sightseeing another day, and spend the fourth itself exploring uptown DC. Georgetown is a pleasant place to walk around, as is Capitol Hill. Some of my favorite museums are not part of the Smithsonian - The Hillwood, The Philips Museum. The zoo is great - and free! There's great food in many neighborhoods (not Italian, however) - so much it's hard to give advice without knowing what might interest you.

                    Have a great trip!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: emcentar

                      thank you for all good advices. I have a (stupid) question from an abroad visitors. Do fireworks take place on 3th to 4th or 4th to 5th night?

                      1. re: roberto353

                        Fireworks on the Mall take place on the night of the 4th. You may see some on the 3rd if the Washington Nationals beat the Giants at National Stadium

                        1. re: roberto353

                          It sounds like you think fireworks go late into the night, ending after midnight. That isn't the case. They start at dark on the 4th, around 9:00 and last an hour or so.


                          1. re: woodleyparkhound

                            and hence our comments on the hours before and after required for approximately an hour's worth of spectacle, sure the National Symphony Orchestra plays patriotic favorites for a while but...

                            if you were going to be around on a Friday for July 4th type music with easy nearby choices for food I'd suggest requesting (free) tickets to the "President's Own" marching band concert every Friday in Summer at the old Barracks on 8th SE (cannons only, no fireworks and gotta reserve early as in soon, for anyone else reading http://www.marines.mil/unit/barracks/...)

                            1. re: woodleyparkhound

                              The fireworks on The Mall last about 18 minutes.

                        2. If I were coming into town with a perfectly clean slate, I would - Stay at the Latham in Georgetown and make sure that I ate at Citronelle on the evening that isn't the 4th of July. A solo diner could even just grab a bite the lounge if you don't want the whole over the top experience of a formal dining experience. You can order from a lounge menu that contains some of the same items that are served in the restaurant prepared by the same chefs in a less formal setting.

                          For the Fourth I would:
                          Head down to the Georgetown Waterfront in the mid-afternoon and linger at one of the outside bars down along the river. (Its official name is the Washington Harbor - but there isn't a harbor in any real sense of the word.)

                          I would go early enough in the day to be able to eventually work myself into a seat along the rail at one of the bars. (Sequoia - Tony and Joes - or Nick's Riverside Grill)

                          Then I would proceed to drink and watch the people (girls) walk by in their skimpy little summer outfits, and where you should have no trouble striking up a whole slew of conversations throughout the afternoon. (A comfortable, light-colored cotton shirt, shorts and a hat to protect yourself from the sun would be wise.)

                          By the time night falls and the fireworks starts you won't care if you see them or not, but if you do you can generally catch some of the show from along the river and perhaps even from your seat at the bar. Depending on where you may be camped out some of the view will be obstructed but the people watching makes up for it in my opinion.

                          None of these places have the slightest redeeming value to them except on the Fourth of July. The drinks are overpriced - the food is awful - and frankly the clientele tends to be the worst of DC suburbanites - but on a hot day during summer and particularly on the Fourth . . . . it is absolutely the best place to see a bunch attractive people losing their inhibitions and being social.

                          After the show you can stay where you are to keep the party going or move to one of Georgetown’s other establishment for a change of venue.

                          If your hotel is in Georgetown, and you party there as well on the Fourth, you will avoid the horror of trying to navigate the city while the closest thing we have to a "zombie apocalypse" hits us.

                          Other's on the board will dismiss these suggestions and you should probably listen to them . . . .unless you want to have a no-stress good time . . . .

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: drewpbalzac

                            oh drewp - while I find G'town kinda boring you did sort of nail its description (the waterfront anyway)

                            1. re: hill food

                              I hate Georgetown as well. Thus I would only recomend it to an out of town visitor on the Fourth of July - when trversing the city is a nightmare for even those of us who live here.

                            2. re: drewpbalzac

                              The thing about Georgetown is that there isn't a Metro station.

                              1. re: Terrie H.

                                Its not that far of a walk from Foggy Bottom

                            3. I have a different suggestion for how to view the fireworks.

                              If you find a good vantage point, they can be seen from miles away from the Mall. So I would go to one of those vantage points.

                              I live in Rosslyn (Virginia, across the Potomac river from DC), which has several of those. Many people actually come to Rosslyn to view the fireworks from the grounds of the Iwo Jima memorial. Many also stand on the Key Bridge to view them. You can easily get there via Metro. I imagine the metro gets crowded afterwards (I don't take it since I live here), but probably not the mob scene it is near the mall. Dinner at one of the Ray's restaurants would be a good choice if you decide to do this. The Key Bridge connects DC with Virginia at Georgetown on the DC side, so dinner in Georgetown would work if you decide to go to the Key Bridge.

                              There are also several apartments in Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights (neighborhoods in DC) that have great views, but I don't know how you would go there unless you knew someone who lived in one of them.

                              1. My wife and I went to the fireworks on the Mall once. I don't remember getting there all that early - maybe an hour or 2. We brought a blanket and laid out on the lawn not too far from the base of the Washington Monument. We could only hear snippets of the orchestra at the Capitol, but it was an amazing experience. We took the Metro back out into VA where we were staying with friends. Yes it was a zoo, but it was a blast. If you could manage to stay somewhere nearby, that would be ideal, but don't let crowded mass transit put you off.