Steer clear of this one if you hate crowds (nearly 700,000 people generally turn up), or if the now rather pervasive security makes you think of Mr. Orwell (the legacy of 9/11 means that Fourth of July revelers now enter a fenced-off National Mall via checkpoints). Official events begin at 10am at the National Archives, with a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence, demonstrations of colonial military manoeuvres, and more. Just before noon, the Independence Day parade starts to wind its way down Constitution Avenue (from the National Archives to 17th Street), and later (5–9:15pm) the grounds of the Washington Monument host entertainment—folk music, jazz, marching bands, military singers—and hordes of revelers. The National Symphony Orchestra performs a concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol building at 8pm, traditionally concluding with a battery of cannons assisting in the finale of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture; then, at roughly 9pm, a stupendous array of fireworks is set off over the Washington Monument. Logistical hassles aside, it’s a grand sight: The monuments are lovely in the summer dusk, and the barrages involve thousands of rounds of explosives. Walk to the festivities if you can: Fourth of July crowds eat up parking spots and test the limits of the public transportation system.
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